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Do you really need a business blog in your digital marketing mix
A few years ago, I shared a belief, with many, that businesses need to be blogging. I no longer believe this is true as a generalisation, or blanket statement; however unlike those who dismissed this without qualifiying or investigating, my evaluation has evolved with the experience of many digital marketing campaigns over the last few years. Let me elaborate as to why 'blogging' is no longer a blanket marketing recommendation :) (Being 2011, I probably don't need to explain what a 'blog' is, but just in case: you're reading one ;))
Inbound marketing using a business blog
Some of the strategic business benefits of maintaining a blog:
- Establish thought leadership. Use the blog to ruminate on business, product and service topics; giving voice to your experience and expertise. For example, for a niche plant nursery such as previously profiled Sydney Wildflower Nursery, they could cover a range of topics from seasonal planting, tips to cultiavting native plants, etc.
- Engage prospects and customers. Most blogs have comments sections, and when these are used they're a great way to engage and get a dialogue going with your blog readers.
- Search engine optimisation (SEO) and website traffic. As your blog readership grows, with smart linking you'll be able to divert traffic back to your website; providing you with more opportunities to convert visitors into leads. Good blog content will also benefit your search engine rankings.
All great reasons to incorporate blogging into your digital marketing toolbox. This post was sparked by a blanket statement over at StartupSmart.com.au (one of my daily news reads), which proclaimed How blogs boost your business:
Your blog is an insight into who you are as a company. The things you update it with, the frequency with which you post, all say a lot about who you are and what you value. The rewards aren't always immediate but it's not all about cheap thrills.
How will blogging work for your businesses
Not all businesses are the same. 'Cookie cutter' solutions don't work, even across companies in the same industry. To fully understand how any project or process is going to benefit your specific business, let's look at two key aspects:
Understanding your customers
A recurring theme in this blog is our insistence that you view and decide on any marketing strategy through the lens of customers' requirements and behaviours. What types of blogs do your prospects and customers read, and do they leave comments on those blogs?
- Business news e.g. http://smartcompany.com.au
- Industry news e.g. http://www.insideretailing.com.au
- competitors' blogs
Put yourself in your prospects' shoes and explore what if any blogs you would take the time to read, and how you access that blog (via an e-newsletter, visiting the site daily/weekly/etc or a super-savvy RSS feed subscriber. Ask your customers, when you meet with them or via an e-poll:
You may find your prospects don't sufficiently value the information from/spend time on reading blogs; in which case you may decide not to engage with them using that particular digital marketing format. Instead, if they participate in niche industry forums or are more responsive to social networking campaigns, you're marketing spend can be more effective in those alterantive channels.
Examples of businesses at different stages of blogging
Leading electronics retailer, Kogan, relies solely on e-commerce for its revenues. Given their pure-play-online model and the extensive research electronics' consumers are known to conduct online, Kogan unsurprisingly, blog regularly (~weekly) and get good engagement in the comments.
Popular Surry Hills cafe
Single Origin, a Surry Hills cafe deservedly crowded at most times of the day and week, maintains a distincly branded http://whatsinthehopper.com.au blog. Catering to iPhone wielding creatives and digitalists who are likely to be avid blog consumers, with regularly updated content and tightly to the coffee beans they also sell online, this is an probably a highly effective marketing vehicle for them.
These high-end furniture retailers use 'news' and 'blog' interchangeably http://bit.ly/nu34RW http://bit.ly/qMQ7xN. I can spot a few factors indicating weak execution, probably resulting in weak business benefits, and why there the content isn't a compelling read or reason to revisit the website.
Internal capacity to include regular blogging
Once you've determined your prospective customers are likely invest the time to read well written, relevant blog content; then examine your company's capacity to regularly produce this content. We will discuss workflows and processes for streamlining content production in detail in the future.
Summary: strategically deciding whether your business will benefit from a blog
1. Gauge your prospects' and customers' blog/news reading habits and trends
2. Assess your own capacity to develop blog content
3. Set your blogging 'success metrics'. Tactical must have: If your strategic objective is to extend reach, the equivalent metric is web traffic; incentivise readers to share the blog and direct friends-of-friends to visit
4. Develop a content calendar, use your marketing calendar as a base. Tactical must have: content is for your readers/customers, make it relevant to them don't just spit sales-speak at them
5. Use existing marketing collateral to point people towards the blog