Me: “I want to tell you what a blog can do.”
Client: “You mean, other than waste my time?”
Yes. I’ll admit it. Blogging can be a huge time suck. But for those who learn how to effectively blog for business, it is a powerful marketing tool:
- Companies who blog get 97% more links to their websites.
- Blogs have been rated as the 5th most trustworthy source for gathering online information.
- Over 80% of travel planning is done through the internet and is growing.
- 33% of US travelers use travel blogs for travel advice.
So what separates those who effectively blog for business from those who don’t?
The answer: Strategy.
A blog is a tactic, not a strategy
Writing a blog is not a marketing strategy. You can blog until the cows come home and still never win a sale because of it.
But when you combine blogging with other marketing tactics--such as social media, pay per click, and email marketing (especially email marketing!)--you begin to realize what blogging is really all about.
This is commonly referred to as building a sales funnel, but I prefer to think of it as laying out a trail of breadcrumbs for your customers to follow.
Before you begin: choose your destination
Before you can blog effectively for your business you need to define your goals. Answering the question “Why am I blogging?” will affect how you blog. So take a moment to consider the purpose of your blog and what it would take to call it a success.
For most businesses a blog serves one or more of the following purposes:
- Search engine optimization (SEO) - Blogs dramatically increase your ability to get found via search engines like Google, Yahoo, or Bing.
- Thought leadership - A blog is an opportunity to display your knowledge and expertise to the world.
- Lead generation - A blog can build your email list giving you opportunities to further promote your business.
- Revenue - If your blog has a large enough readership you can monetize it directly with ads and sponsorships.
- Customer education - If your customers have frequently asked questions, a blog is an efficient way to provide the answers they seek.
- Announcements/PR - Get the word out about what your company is doing.
(Have I missed any? Feel free to let me know in the comments.)
Next: Who you are blogging for?
You can’t give directions unless you know where people are coming from. So it’s vital to identify who you are writing for.
Too often, business blogs are ineffective because they aren’t written for the right audience. You need to choose topics they find interesting in and write in a style they can relate to.
Getting readers from point A to point C
Now that you know why you’re blogging and who you’re blogging for, you need a plan for taking your readers from point A (cold lead who's never heard of you before) to point C (a paying customer).
Rarely should your blog be used to outright pitch products and services. That makes you sound like a used car salesman and turns people off. But if you’re not using blog posts to sell, how do you convert readers to customers?
You lay out a tempting breadcrumb at point B: the lead capture form.
Lead capture forms come in all shapes and sizes. The ones you’re probably most familiar with those pop-ups that interrupt you when you’re reading online. They can be annoying (especially when poorly executed) but they are good at their job - collecting email addresses.
“Why do I want to collect email addresses?” you ask. Because email is an even more powerful marketing tactic than blogging (and part of your new content strategy).
- 59% of respondents say marketing emails influence their purchase decisions.
- 59% of marketers say email is their biggest source of ROI.
- 49% of consumers said that they would like to receive promotional emails from their favorite brands on a weekly basis
The most effective lead capture forms offer a bribe—a travel guide, coupon code, exclusive content, or a product demo—in return for the reader’s email. The trick is to pick a bribe that will be irresistible to your specific audience.
So start thinking now about what kind of breadcrumbs you can sprinkle around your blog posts to entice your readers.
OK, I’ve got their email address now what?
Fully answering this question is going to take another blog post, but here are a few ideas to get you thinking:
- Send out a weekly newsletter (containing your blog posts of course!)
- Send out promotional or discount codes
- Invite readers to meetups or events where you can network with them
- Share what your company is up to
- Make new product announcements
- Send out a survey and get feedback from your customers and potential customers
- Share customer success stories and testimonials
- Feature individual products or services
- Send out birthday wishes and holiday greetings
But how do I get people to my blog in the first place?
You’ll have to lay out more breadcrumbs.
Once you’ve written really great content, you can begin to promote it in places where your target audience gathers. This might mean posting links in travel forums, or developing a Facebook following, or paying for advertising. . . it all comes back to knowing your audience and how you can reach them online.
That sounds like a lot of work
It is. And you’re going to have to experiment, measure results, and make adjustments over time before you find the secret sauce that works for you.
Yet, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing endeavors and generates 3x the amount of leads! So... it’s really worth it.