Imet a 60 year old small business owner the other day. He asked me “I work with a very small team of busy executives with no time to blog. Yet, I still want the search engine to love me, my customers to respect me and sales to grow. Can you help me with that?”
My answer was a bit of a shock to him: “No, I absolutely can’t help you. No one will be able to help you, unless you set up a proper company blog and start telling nice stories to the world. This is called Content Marketing. Look it up!”.
Early in our discussion, I realized that this small business owner was well aware of the need to create online content, yet not knowing exactly why and not knowing what to blog about. There was the fear of the unknown to him and this fear made him very reluctant to pay to for services like this. During our discussion he also said “That’s something big enterprises do. We are only a company of 30 people.”
After this, I knew I did not want this guy as my customer. And I never quoted him a price for my services. He was ignorant and arrogant. However, I felt that I had to show him he was wrong. To that, I offered to present to him and his team the true benefits of business blogging as part of an effective content marketing strategy. He agreed to listen to me.
So this is what I shared with him and his team:
Welcome to the benefits of business blogging as part of an effective content marketing strategy for modern businesses!
We are in 2016 and for those who are not yet sure what this means in marketing terms, it means that we live in a time where marketing is completely shifting. Traditional ways for market positioning and public relations are becoming less and less effective. Marketing is “all things online” and even the terms “online marketing or digital marketing” are now outdated. It is just marketing and we know it is 99% online!
The core marketing platform for organization is the blog!
So what does it take for brands to effectively market their products or services at a time when a new industrial revolution is just imminent?
Well, it takes a million things indeed. It certainly requires huge knowledge and great resources, including a reasonable budget. In practice though, it all starts from having a company blog. This platform is well positioned at the core of all the communication efforts a brand is making. It is the ultimate tool for all types of organizations to reach out to their market effectively and tell interesting and engaging stories.
The actual benefits behind business blogging and content marketing are just numerous and you probably already know most of them. Let’s try to explain the most important ones here.
So, business blogging:
Successful brands in the fully connected era we live in have become proper media publishers and it is their company blog that works best for the majority as their main publishing mediums. Why is that? Because it is a rather efficient way for them to educate, inform and entertain their prospect and existing customers. A very inexpensive way to make their community cleverer. Thus, together with the social media of course, it is a simple and effective vehicle to increase revenues from people with organic interest in the actual products and/or services offered. We’ll see later in this post what kind of content organizations should publish to achieve this.
At this point some may claim that it is native advertising that does all these nice things for brands. Well, it was like that until some time ago. Things have changed a lot. According to a recent study by Media Dynamics, Inc., adults in the western economies are now exposed to across all five media platforms (TV, radio, internet, newspapers and magazines) to about 360 ads per day. If you add to this the ads we see on the street, on our computers, on our mobile devices, the actual number of native ads we see per day is actually even larger.
Are not we all a bit fed up with this? Do we really appreciate native advertising anymore? Does this affect our buying decisions at the end of the day I think it does not anymore!
In fact, what we appreciate now are brands that educate us, that make us feel good, that inform us and that make become actual opinion leaders, through sharing their knowledge and insights.
Not to mention of course, that our actual attention has greatly shifted from TV to our mobile devises. For example, do you remember this last time when you watched a football match? What did you do immediately after the referee whistled for half time? Did you watch the advertisements?
I bet you did not! I bet that just grabbed your phone and your attention was on your social media feed which was full of informative content from an organizations and people who wrote or filmed or picture some cool stuff. Ok, perhaps you run into a run into this blogpost or this article of that company after the feed told you what your friends were reading.
Google algorithms now scan the quality and readability of webpages. Well written content gets rewarded with better search engine results more than anything else. Google absolutely loves organizations that blog with specific rules and blog often. To put it simply, it is blogging that tells the search engine if a website is active and constantly attracts organic interest which means that it has good content and thus, the search users might find relevant information in it. It is exactly these websites that Google wants to show the search engine users!
Practicing business blogging and Content Marketing effectively can be so much cheaper than native advertising. Once an organization has found what to blog about, who will create the content, where the content will be distributed, expenses can be budgeted at quite reasonable amounts.
On the other hand, we all know how notoriously expensive native advertising can be, especially in the mainstream media.
Even if you use the most targeted tools offered nowadays for native advertising (Adwords, social media etc.), you may have noticed that sometimes the leads you get are people who are not really interested in what you are offering. It happens because often people click on creative ads to explore what is behind it. Then they just end up quickly abandoning your landing page once they realize that your business is not relevant to them.
Blogging, on the other hand, will attract mostly people who are truly actually interested in what you do. This is almost inevitable since online users will click on a blogpost/article after reading the title or after seeing the image or the video attached. Providing this information upfront, you know you will be able to drive the right people to your landing page.
Of course, this has to do with adding new customers on the top of your sales funnel. In the meantime, your blog will be serving as the main tool to retain existing customers.
Together with the social media, the company blog is a great tool for creating a fully engaged and active online community of people. Whether you wish to call these people followers, fans, customers, subscribers or anything else, the end-game is the same. They are the people who are close to your brand. Most of them have already paid at least once for your product or services. By providing them with useful and informative content, it is most likely they will do it again or they will refer you to their friends, family of business partners as a trustworthy organization.
We should not forget of course that this engaged community of people will also be the first among others who will receive your offers and/or discounts. They are the core customers you need!
Try to think about being able to tell people how things are in your industry currently. How about explaining everyone the fantastic way your products are made? Or perhaps being able to share insights on the future of products or services like the ones you provide. Would not this turn you into an opinion leader among the other organizations involved in the same business? It most certainly would.
Trust me. This is a serious reason for people to appreciate your business!
Most business owners nowadays are struggling to find ways to tell people that what they offer has some kind of unique value. Perhaps it serves as a solution to a problem these customers already have. Or perhaps, it adds significant value to something they already have. In any case, a company blog allows brands to speak loudly and clearly to their audiences. It allows them to broadcast their qualities and their actual values. It helps them explain in a few words what sets them apart from their competition.
There are some organizations out there that they could not continue to run without being transparent. NGOs are a good example for this. Their blog is then their best tool to share with the world what they are doing, how they are doing it, how much it costs them, where they get funding from, what they need further etc.
However, it is not only for NGOs. Transparency is a fantastic communication tool for every modern brand.
Let’s use another example here. Would you choose to buy from a company that you know only the name of and nothing else? I would not. Instead, I would choose to buy from a brand that I know I can trust, simply because I can read all about who is behind it, how its products/services are made, about who are the actual people doing what etc. Yes, I would choose a brand that looks human to me.
Let’s say you have these new leads. They asked about your business during an event and they shared with you their contacts. But you already know that they are the kind of people who receive tens of selling emails everyday and they just hate it. Also, they constantly try to avoid cold selling phone calls since they are very busy. I am sure you know a lot of potential customers like these ones, right?
So, how would you attract their attention and drive them from simple leads to hot leads and then to potential customers?
The answer is simple: With content from your company blog.
Let’s think about it. Don’t you think they would be interested in reading some industry insights? How about offering them some further knowledge with the statistics you have gathered on similar products/services.
Would that work as a tool to overtake anyone who is trying to cold call or cold email them? Would that work as a tool to get an appointment with them? Would that help them quickly understand the value of your business?
The answer to these questions is YES! At least, you need to go ahead and try it before you end up cold-calling them.
What should active brands and organizations blog about?
Now that we have talked about the most important benefits of blogging for all types of organizations, it is time to see what they should be blogging about to trigger actual results.
Using their blog as the core communication and marketing platform, brands can publish: Plain text and image/video blogposts, eBooks, Newsletters, infographics, White Papers, interviews, Press Releases, Videos, Surveys, Webinars, Podcasts. These are the usual formats of course.
Here is a list of ideas and topics that brands can blog about:
“How To’s” for their product or service.
Insights on the way they work.
Details about their team.
Opinion on industry trends.
Articles “hijacking” the news by adding extra value and info.
Answering customer questions based on feedback received.
Raising new industry issues.
Explaining future plans.
Providing useful product or industry insights.
Giving their partners a voice (i.e through guest blogging).
To close this blogpost, we need to have a look at
How can business blogging be really effective and drive sales?
Here is what businesses that blog should do before hitting the “publish” button on their blog:
Align blogging (marketing) with sales purposes. BUT, the content published should always be informative and useful.
Use marketing automation software.
Employ creative writers and content creators.
Create content applicable across all platforms and mediums.
Try to make evergreen and rich format content.
Last, just remember:
Consumers nowadays don’t buy from brands that are just simply trying to sell them things. They buy from brands that tell them nice stories!