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How to make blogging work for your business

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Are you looking to grow a business? Do you want to break the demoralizing cycle of cold-call, pitch and knock-back, while attracting the custom, respect and recognition that you surely deserve?

The good news is you can, and many people are doing just that every day. Even better, the answer is simpler than you might have been led to believe. [Gary Vaynerchuk](http://tv.winelibrary.com/about/) (see image below) channelled his enthusiasm and passion to communicate a love of wine and powered his family store into a $50million business.

Wine Library blog

 

Woot was launched July 12, 2004 and sold its 1,000,000th item, a 4GB micro hard drive, on February 5, 2007. Customers stampede to buy its products, and the company does hardly any advertising. I advise business owners all over the world and, fortunately as an introvert, I do not have to do any sales or ever have to pitch; people call me for internet marketing and blogging advice

It’s not just mail order and consulting businesses who benefit from this approach. Thomas Mahon is a tailor working from the world-famous Saville Row in London, and sells bespoke suits using only articles on his website, and word of mouth, as marketing. He is constantly booked and has suited up celebrities from Prince Charles to Brian Ferry.

English Cut blog

What do all these stories have in common? Blogs.

Now I realize there are some ideas and perceptions about blogs out there. Some of them true, most of them wildly inaccurate. Like most buzzwords, 'blogs' and 'bloggers' have taken on a fair amount of baggage that we need to cut away to get to the truth, and most importantly, get to what is in it for you and your business.

What are blogs really?

Watch TV news pundits, or read a newspaper, and you might be forgiven for thinking that all bloggers are armchair quarterbacks, chugging back beer, gobbling up mountains of salty snacks, while offering the world choice cuts of their 'wisdom'. Anything from which football coach should be sacked, to demanding a say in Mr Obama’s first 100 days in office.

Another distorted and slightly disturbing view of bloggers is that they are amateur diarists, offering daily entries with such fascinating nuggets as what they ate for breakfast, fascinating things their many cats have brought into the house, and that strange dream they had last night.

Thankfully, while folks like this do exist, this is not what blogging is about when it comes to business! For business, think of blogs as online content and information that attracts your target market in growing numbers, keeps them engaged and interested, and produces leads and sales for you and your company. Best of all it doesn’t cost you anything but a little time and creativity. If you have a website then you are likely to have paid for everything you need already.

The benefits of blogs for business

As I mention above, there are sound business reasons why you would want to have a blog, but to really understand what this is all about, I need to go deeper into what having a blog really would mean for your company and for your profits.

Attraction versus interruption

Traditionally most businesses that want to increase their sales will do so by buying up some (what they hope will be) well placed advertising with compelling creative.

It makes sense, it is what has been done for years, and it seems to work. OK, famously fully half of advertising is a waste but we do not know which half. If the sales come in, and the advertising is not too expensive, then it kind-of works out in the end.

In fact most advertising is a waste. If for every $1 you spend you don’t get more than $1 back into your business over the long term then it is a waste. Further, if you do not know what your advertising is doing for your business it is worse than a waste, it could actually be doing real damage.

As business people we get conditioned into doing things that are established practices. The Yellow Pages ad, trade journals, perhaps some radio or television.

Some of it works.

What we forget though is what it is like being on the receiving end; what it is like to be bombarded with these messages.

There is so much noise in the marketplace, so many sales messages and so much interruption to our lives that we are blanking it out more and more from our collective consciousness in order to just get through the day.

On top of all that, some advertising is only memorable because it is just plain annoying. So it is irritating, increasingly ineffective and expensive.

The solution is to change our approach from shouting to attracting. Instead of louder and more obnoxious methods of getting in your prospects' faces, find ways to have them come to you; happy, pre-sold and wallet in hand.

Consider how people find products and services online. They turn to Google, they search for what they are hunting for, they do their research, make a decision, and either make a call or put in their credit card number.

Create content that answers your prospects' questions, challenges, wants and needs using the words and language of your customers, and you are well placed to attract people looking for exactly what you have to offer. Blogs are famously effective in producing excellent search engine rankings.

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Retention, trust and long-term value

But there is more. We don’t just want one-off sales. We want a long-term business stuffed with happy, loyal customers, right? Plus, all too often we don’t get the sale on the first visit. Prospects need some warming up. They need to trust we can deliver on our promises, and perhaps they have been burned in the past.

This is another reason why blogs are an ideal business companion. Rather than plugging away at your prospects with sales pitches, you offer them valuable tips, news, and information. Instead of hitting delete or hanging up the phone, they begin to look forward to hearing from you! The relationship changes and you demonstrate expertise and grow trust through regular, useful communication. Get it right and not only do you convert more of your visitors into sales, but you sell more to your existing customers and keep them loyal for longer.

Be realistic

Of course I have painted a rosy picture, but it is true that not everything involved in blogging is a walk in the park.

The web is littered with blogs that were started in a rush of enthusiasm and then abandoned. People forget that it takes consistent effort and sustained creativity to keep a blog going. This is why businesses often hire freelance bloggers or coaches to keep the momentum going and share some of the load.

A successful blog doesn’t happen overnight, but then neither does a successful business. Another aspect to be aware of is that anyone who puts their thoughts out into the internet is going to attract criticism, both justified and just plain weird.

The internet is full of life’s diverse characters, and they are emboldened by the relative anonymity afforded by having a fake name, and several thousands of miles protecting them. Fact is though, the internet will increasingly be talking about you anyway. Better to have a means to answer criticism early and effectively rather than let tempers and egos boil over.

Blog checklist for success

Here are some tips for establishing a better business blog:

  • Put the audience first. Rather than focus on what you want and need, what does the audience want and need? Do keyword research, talk to prospects, and answer their questions.
  • Prioritize value over flair. People often say to me that they can’t blog because they are not brilliant writers. It doesn’t matter! What counts is offering something useful. People will forgive small writing issues if you do not waste their time, plus writing gets better with practice.
  • Don’t overdo it. Blogging and all the associated tasks can get addictive or turn into a time suck. Allocate a certain amount of time in your week and don’t feel you have to write every day.
  • Find the watering holes. Discover where your prospects and peers hang out, meet them there and bring them home to your blog.
  • Network. Other people will have a profound impact on your success, from links through to advice - so networking is essential.
  • Get them to subscribe. You want to keep hold of as many visitors as possible so get them to subscribe to your email list or blog feed! Give them good reasons why they should - perhaps with a freebie incentive, special offer, discount, or other goodies.
  • Write compelling stories. Engage your readers with attractive headlines, draw them further in with introductions, entertain with anecdotes, and leave them with inspiration, new knowledge or fresh motivation.

Summary

Copywriting has been called "salesmanship in print". A good business blog is like the best kind of salesperson; someone who waits to be approached, listens, offers advice and solutions, leaves you to close the sale yourself, is someone you would return to again and again, and best of all, someone you would want to tell all your friends about. Wouldn’t you want some of that in your business? Related articles: See how Stylista used blogging to double their sales

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About Chris Garrett

Chris Garrett is an internet consultant, writer, web geek and co-author of the popular ProBlogger Book. Since 1994, Chris has helped thousands of individuals, non-profits, small businesses and blue chips make the most of the web. In 2005 Chris founded OMIQ to help organizations attract, engage and retain audiences online. You can find out more, and grab two free ebooks, by visiting his blog at chrisg.com

Chris is the author of Wordtracker's new e-book, Blogging for Business.