If you have a business, a blog (short for web log) is a marketing tool that can further position you as the expert in your industry. Your prospects and clients want information about your products and services. They are hungry for it! And a blog gives you the opportunity to share your expertise with people across the globe.
Once they are set up, blogs are easy to update. The typical blog entry is short and informal, making it easy for you to write – and easy for your customers to read. Because blogs are filled with a bunch of little blurbs, your readers are more likely to visit on a regular basis to read your latest comments. They also feature a search function, which your readers can use to find blog entries on a specific topic.
But like every form of marketing, a blog requires you to lead it in a strategic direction. Before you start your blog, make a decision about the blog's theme and "voice." Once you determine your goals, stick to the topic. You can weave your personality and stories into the blog, but always keep these relevant to your target audience. Make your blog a tool that provides helpful advice, tips, and musings to your readers. A blog that is really a sales pitch or advertisement will NOT garner a wide audience.
Here are some examples of the types of business blogs and the various types companies that might benefit from them:
1) Consultant Blog: This type of blog is broadly used by a variety of service-based companies including marketers, interior designers, event planners, financial advisors, and so on. In fact, this is the type of blog that I write. The Consultant Blog primarily features a single person writing about their advice and observations. It is a way of highlighting your expertise in an area and building an active readership who trust your opinion to guide them.
2) Tourist Blog: Every Bed and Breakfast can benefit from this type of blog. It features the local area with pictures of surrounding vistas and updates about upcoming events. It can feature links to local weather and favorite places to visit. The Tourist Blog can help sway people to use your business services over that of a competitor, as well as keep in touch with them until they visit your city again. It can also save your business time by providing people the answers to frequent questions. Other businesses that benefit from this style include rafting companies, ski areas, fishing guides, festivals, and so on.
3) Industry Blog: There are a number of companies that specialize in a very narrow area of their industry. For example, many manufacturers are highly specialized in what their company produces. These companies often sell to other businesses. In this case, it is often helpful to blog about new products lines, materials, trade shows, equipment innovations, industry news, and shipping news. Examples of industries that would benefit from these blogs include fabrication, machining, printing, engineering, insurance, and stamping.
4) Specialty Blog: Many businesses, associations, and hobbyists enjoy this type of blog. It focuses on a specific subject. Examples include golf, sailing, stamp collecting, dog breeds, wedding planning, weight loss, and so on. The Specialty Blog can be written by one or multiple contributors. It is a wonderful way to build an online community and encourage comments because the readers share a common interest.
5) Feature Blog: I primarily see this type of blog being used by people who are in a creative type of business. It incorporates lots of pictures of recent projects and how-to entries. Sometimes there are video posts or audio recordings. It often has links to an online store where a visitor can purchase the project or sign up for an event. A Feature Blog is very useful for artists, designers. musicians, performers, illustrators, quilters, and writers. Another type of business that could benefit is one that produces custom products such as a furniture maker or a bike builder.
When you are writing a blog, do not be bland. The key is to be yourself and to reflect the core personality of your company. If there are things that make you mad or get you excited, your blog can be a place to post these things. If you do not keep your blog on topic, lively, and engaging, your readers will quickly get bored. Write in your blog regularly – I recommend at least once a week or more.
To drive traffic to your blog, list it in blog directories such as Technorati. You should also incorporate keywords in your entries to help people find you via search engines. For example, an insurance company in San Francisco should incorporate the terms "San Francisco insurance" into their posts with a link back to their website. In this way people can easily get more information. Be sure to set up an About page with your contact information so people can get in touch.
Action Tip: So, ready to start blogging? You can set up a blog easily with Blogger, Typepad, and WordPress depending on your marketing goals and level of technical knowledge. This week, sit down and decide on your Blog Type, who in your company will write it, and how you will schedule regular blog updates. When you are ready, contact a designer to create a blog header and set up your blog. Then … Blog Away!