Social media and marketing pros share tips for how to use your business blog to attract new customers, improve customer loyalty and strengthen your brand.
Not every company needs to have a blog or will benefit from having one. Indeed, many companies that create business blogs often forget about them, publish stale or me-too content or use their business blog purely as an advertising vehicle. And, as a result, they fail to gain a following or attract new customers.
So how can you make your business blog a go-to destination for customers and influencers? Just follow these simple suggestions.
1. Post regularly. “Any form of online communication suffers from lapses in content,” says Linda Pophal, marketing communication consultant, Strategic Communications. And if you’re not posting meaningful content on a regular basis, “your audience will turn elsewhere,” she says. So to avoid a vacuum, “commit to a regular schedule.”
“If that means once a week, that’s OK,” says Brian Whalley, director of marketing, InsightSquared, a provider of business analytics. “It’s much better to be consistent than to be prolific for a week [and then] disappear for a month. When you have a burst of creativity, schedule your work to go out over a longer period and build up a backlog of content [to be used later].”
2. Speak your audience’s language. “Who are you trying to reach? What language do they use? If you are a B2C but your blog is full of industry jargon, then you are speaking the wrong language,” says Ashley Kubiszyn, marketing & communications director, TicketCity, an online ticket broker. “If your audience is the tech community, but you are watering your blog down so that even your mom can understand it, you are speaking the wrong language. Don’t just talk to your audience. Talk like them.”
3. Write for your customers, not yourself, and address typical customer pain points. “Blog about what your readers want to know, not what you want to tell them,” says Susanna James, a copywriter at HighQ, a provider of enterprise collaboration and data room software. “It’s tempting to see your blog as a platform to promote your business and your services, but you have to hold back and remember that the blog is meant to be a source of valuable information for readers, not just sales talk,” she says. “Find out what your target audience wants to know and use this to populate your blog with valuable, genuinely useful content that answers your readers’ questions and makes them want to come back for more.”
“Write about solutions to common problems or pain points,” says Hillary Reed, director of marketing at 3Q Digital, a digital marketing company. “Talk to your client services [and sales] teams and figure out what issues they’re trying to address for their clients or customers and how they recommend solving them.” Then write a thoughtful post addressing these problems and share it with a wider audience via social media. “If your clients or customers are experiencing those issues, chances are your prospects are as well,” says Reed.
4. Educate and help readers. “Instead of pushing readers to buy your product, offer them value: information, advice and insight,” says Ed McNamara, director of communications and marketing, SHI International, a provider of software, hardware and custom IT services. For example, “educate them on the types of questions they should be asking themselves and their vendors/providers [or] if your product or service has obtained industry certifications, explain the process involved.”
You can also use your blog to “define [and discuss potential confusing] industry terms or buzzwords,” he says. The goal is to “create a more informed buyer and build a relationship with your readers so that when they’re ready to buy, they come to the trusted source, not the salesperson.”
5. Keep content timely – and capitalize on trends. “Try to find ways to bring trending topics into the fold,” says DJ Waldow, director of marketing of Zignal Labs, a real-time, cross-media, story-tracking platform. “For example, if your company specializes in data analytics, you could regularly feature data analysis on pop culture moments, like the recent Mayweather-Pacquiao fight [or the Triple Crown], to both showcase your company’s technology and provide fun and interesting statistics on popular brands, events and people,” he says. It’s a great way to engage readers “and often leads to potential customers wanting to know more about [your] company.”
“We always look for opportunities to tie [our] Hard Hat Chat [blog] posts to what’s happening in our industry and the world around us,” says Chuck Taylor, director of operations, Englewood Construction. “For example, after a fire in a local mall, we wrote ‘Commercial Construction Lessons Learned from the Sephora Fire at The Shops at North Bridge.’ And in the wake of the BP Deepwater Horizon rig explosion, we posted ‘Lessons from BP: The Ultimate Checklist for Commercial Construction.’ These timely topics keep our blog relevant and have landed Hard Hat Chat on the blogrolls and news feeds of industry websites.”
6. Feature posts about or written by customers (and employees). “Your customers add credibility to your brand and your blog,” says Josh Manion, CEO, Ensighten, a digital marketing firm. “Featuring them in blog posts, as authors or in Q&A interviews [or case studies], can be mutually beneficial.”
Similarly, have different employees contribute posts, or do employee Q&As and human interest pieces. They can help readers relate better to your company or brand.
An added bonus: When you “highlight people, [they will] do the marketing for you,” says Travis Marziani, co-owner, B Dancewear. “Everyone loves good press, and they will share it with all their friends and their entire network.”
7. Reward your readers. Reward blog readers by informing them of new product releases, changes to your products or services and providing them with coupon codes and discounts on your products or services.
8. Leverage keywords. “By using rich key words in our optimized blog, we now appear at the top of a Google search when typing in terms such as ‘commercial construction trends,’ ‘retail construction trends,’ or ‘commercial construction blog,’ which has driven new clients to us,” says Taylor. “In fact, more than one client has told us they ultimately chose Englewood because of the plethora of easily searchable online content about Englewood Construction, including [our blog,] Hard Hat Chat.”
Just take the time to research keywords and phrases that are relevant to your business or product or service – and avoid short generic or common terms that are used by everyone.
9. Include attractive photos, useful (or funny, but relevant) videos and/or helpful infographics. “Blog posts that utilize infographics and quality imagery [and videos] are more likely to be shared,” says Joshua Ballard, PR & content coordinator at SilverDoor, a serviced apartment provider.
10. Determine the best day and time(s) to post. “Finding the right time to post is crucial in order to reach the bulk of your target audience,” says Austin Paley, corporate marketing communications manager, Blue Fountain Media, a digital agency. “The best time of day to schedule your posts will vary depending on your audience and vertical,” he says. “To identify what time is going to be the best to post, install Google Analytics [on your blog] so you can tell when users are the most active. Whatever time of day that is should be close to the time that you post. “At Blue Fountain Media, we find that if we publish posts at 2 p.m., they tend to have a 5 to 10 percent lower bounce rate, and a page value that is anywhere from 200 to 300 percent higher than posts published at other times.”
11. Make sure your blog is searchable. Allow visitors to your blog to search for content by category, date (month) or keyword or phrase. That way they can find older, valuable content quickly and easily.
12. Share your blog posts on social media and via email. “Share content and insights through relevant channels: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook… ,” says Jennifer Halloran, vice president of marketing at Mobiquity, a professional services firm focused on mobile engagement. “Promote blog [posts] via social [sites] – and not just when you release [them]. Simple social scheduling tools like Hootsuite make this an easy thing to do. If you know the content will be part of a series, link back to it in future posts.”
And be sure to include an email opt-in on your blog, too, so you can email customers your latest blog post as soon as you publish it.
13. Use analytics to find out what’s working – and what’s not. “Web analytics are your friend (as are your social analytics if you’re pushing out posts through your social channels),” says Beth Monaghan, principal and cofounder, InkHouse, a PR firm. “What search terms are bringing people to your site? Which blog posts are garnering the highest traffic? Which ones are keeping people the longest? By quickly revisiting and analyzing your analytics every few weeks [or weekly], you can be strategic about which topics resonate the most, and which ones do not,” she explains.
“You should also look to see what content is being amplified through social channels using a tool like Brandwatch,” she adds. “With [that] data in hand, you can create a strategy (including a calendar) that looks to leverage the topics that are of most interest to your audience.”
Jennifer Lonoff Schiff
Jennifer Lonoff Schiff is a business and technology writer and a contributor to CIO.com. She also runs Schiff & Schiff Communications, a marketing firm focused on helping organizations better interact with their customers, employees and partners.