My last post covered the potential pitfalls of business association blogs, and how to approach them strategically, starting with key questions about available resources and goals. This post is a sequel to that, as it constitutes most of the “meat” of the “Blogging for Business Goals“ presentation I gave to a local business association.
That presentation addressed:
- Technical aspects of business blogging;
- The general concept of inbound marketing (of which blogs are a key part); and
- How blogging can deliver results.
I was warned in advance I would be talking to a largely non-tech savvy, non-blogging crowd for this presentation. When I asked how many had blogs, I think 3 of about 70 people raised their hands. (Whether I should have taken that as a sign of impending doom or a great conversion opportunity is open for debate. In 2014 if someone isn’t blogging, it’s probably not high on their bucket list).
Business people are pressed for time; smaller business owners may be acting as the COO, CEO, CFO, Director of Human Resources, and Director of Marketing all at once. That doesn’t leave much time for blogging. Let’s be honest, most business owners would have to outsource their content marketing (including blogging) in order to see real results; it takes time.
My goal for the presentation was to illuminate potential results and methods so that business owners could make an informed decision about whether a blog is worth pursuing. (And also to make them think twice about attempting to blog if they were just going to create something awful. There is enough awful content out there and it does more harm than good.)
Here’s My “Inbound vs. Outbound in a Nutshell”
Outbound marketing is dated, and (to me) all that is unholy. Inbound is consistent with customer-oriented business practices and taking a long-term approach to customer-relationship building. It’s considerate of prospects’ needs, wants, and boundaries, and it engenders a positive impression of your brand. For most businesses, that’s just smart practice as it’s cheaper to keep an existing customer than it is to get a new one. It’s a win-win for businesses and clients.
[Update: I was recently schooled on some history of inbound marketing positioning and semantics by Ryan Malone of SmartBug, a Hubspot Partner Agency (see comments here). I have backed away from my original position that outbound marketing is inherently evil; that is an oversimplification. I do use and will continue to use so-called outbound tactics as part of a successful marketing mix. I still believe, though, that inbound is more closely associated with best practices and customer-centric marketing. By the way, if you refer to yourself as an “Outbound Marketer,” please weigh in! I’d love to know your reasons for choosing to position yourself that way.]
Blogging, as a key part of content which supports inbound marketing strategy, is a fantastic opportunity for businesses to establish themselves as thought leaders, to let the world know what they think and what they are about, and to sell the stories behind their business and products or services. It’s PR, it’s SEO, it’s marketing, it feeds the sales funnel, it’s cheap (relative to other marketing tactics), and that makes it very smart for businesses looking to position themselves for growth and competitive advantage.
For many people, the relationship between blogs and website content to actual profit is pretty fuzzy. My good friends at Hubspot never want for data and statistics to support the value proposition of inbound marketing.
Here is my own nutshell version of how blogs (as content which drives inbound marketing) work:
- In order to get results of any kind, you must be seen.
- In order to be seen, you must be found in search results
- In order to be found in search results, you must have a site that is up to Google’s standards, based on quality content (including your blog!), and which is considered likeable and shareable.
- If likeable and shareable, other people will link to your site and share your content (including your blog!) across the internet and social media channels, all of which can elevate your ranking in search results and help you be seen.
- Each page of content on your site creates an additional opportunity for you to be seen, both by the search engines, and by people. Each blog post is a new page of content.
- The more people that see you, the greater your potential site traffic.
- The greater your site traffic, the greater your potential inbound leads (people who are a match for your service or product, who are actively looking for you when they need you).
- Having trustworthy, clear, helpful content available on your blog and website can help visitors get to know your business and what it can do for them on their own terms. This works for new potential customers as well as existing ones.
- The larger your pool of engaged leads, the larger your potential number of high-quality, marketing and sales-qualified leads which you can move into targeted workflows and which you and your sales team can close.
There is no shortage of existing information about technical aspects of blog writing (in fact, I’ve compiled some of my favorites here). However, here are a few key points to keep in mind:
- Keep it helpful and interesting versus promotional or sales-y. It may seem counter-intuitive, but in the long run, this is a better SALES strategy!
- Write with your target audience in mind.
- Don’t write an email (couple of sentences) or an essay and then post it on your blog. Break the text up, use whitespace, images, make it easy to scan, and include appropriate links (to your site and elsewhere).
- Make it shareable- include buttons for people to email and share your content on social media channels.
- Pay attention to your meta description, meta keywords, and authorship.
Finally, be a good community member! Seek out online communities of your professional peers and customers, and respond to their needs and posts as a person, not a SALESperson. You wouldn’t go to a tradeshow and sit in the corner by yourself, and you wouldn’t go to a networking event and talk all about yourself without asking about the other person (I believe the rule is 80/20). If you did, you’d not be likely to get good results, and the same is true for online marketing.
20 years ago, not all businesses had websites. Now they do, though many of them are awful. Full-fledged adoption of inbound methods and blogging by smaller businesses is increasingly the norm (just look at the recent rapid growth of Hubspot, which targets small to mid-size businesses for inbound marketing). Just as not having a website and doing telemarketing and mega-blast SPAM emails now seem like relics of the past, it won’t be long before not doing inbound is a relic of the past- and the ones who get there last are ceding advantage to their competitors. That’s why you should consider blogging for your business.
If you found this interesting, you should also check out the presentation slides here.
Written by Kirsten Meyer | Website
Kirsten Meyer is the owner of KM Strategic Content Marketing, an inbound marketing services provider. She designs and executes user-centric marketing strategies for business growth.