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Attracting, Retaining and Converting Prospects With Blogs

Blog BusinessBusiness Blogs are a mystery to many people.

  • How does content produce customers?
  • Aren’t blogs a lot of work?
  • What is the least you can do to make a blog work for your business?

In this overview I aim to show you that, yes, there is work to be done, but it need not consume all your time.

Let’s start with the standard small business web approach of the last ten years.

  • Brochure website containing some content
  • Contact us form
  • Adventurous might pay for some advertising, but not always the type that works
  • Perhaps opt-in email list
  • Rarely a web accessible archive

Seem about right? Most of the businesses, unless they are guided well by their designer or have developed their own knowledge of online marketing will find varying results from this approach.

I can’t count how many times people have told me the web doesn’t work for their business, that they have had a website for years and never gotten any sales from it. Of course what they don’t tell you is they haven’t marketed it other than paying to be in some directory that was sold them over the phone along with “Search Engine Submission” service for $50 a year.

Even larger companies can be found throwing their money away on 100% flash all-singing-all-dancing extravaganza “brand” sites that few prospects can find once the expensive banners are switched off, and fewer care about if they do find it.

What is wrong with this approach?

  1. It’s all Me Me Me – Customers want to know what you can do for them, not what the directors wife does in her spare time and how pretty the new factory in Belgium is.
  2. No marketing РBuild it and they will come. So clich̩, so not true.
  3. No relationship – Sending out a newsletter is not a relationship if all you are doing is telling prospects and customers about your office bowling party results

The Business Blog Approach:

  1. Set up your blog with full RSS feed, with ability to subscribe to via email via FeedBurner
  2. In addition build a monthly newsletter through Aweber
  3. Create Flagship Content, one large piece as a sign up incentive, and monthly Flagship Articles
  4. Post several times a week, whatever you can manage (or afford if outsourcing) while maintaining quality. Twice a week is often enough.
  5. Link out, comment on other blogs, guest-post, all to get noticed by fellow bloggers
  6. Build community on your own blog by participating and encouraging conversation
  7. Become active member of social media sites or hire someone who is

Why Flagship Content?

I know some of you will be thinking that looks like a lot of work. It is, but it is work that will pay off if you do it right. Right now there are thousands of business blogs being launched but one of the vital ingredients they miss is to provide Flagship Content. Why is this type of content so important?

  • Useful – so people bookmark it, keep it
  • Viral – gives you something positive to talk about and for them to talk about
  • Gets you known for something good, represents you
  • Promotes your site long term, not short term spike
  • Attracts links, which attract more links
  • Search engine rankings boost
  • Attracts social media attention
  • Strong Foundation to build on

Contrast this to what you often see on business blogs, rushed, half-hearted, self-referential, so-called news. You have to do something valuable, something that sets you apart. You have the content within you and your company, you just have to bring it out and share it!

Subscriptions and Offers

I mention you should have both feed and email subscriptions, and in particular an additional newsletter. Why is that?

You need to keep in touch with your prospects and customers. Remind them that you are there and can help them. Does your blog do that? Yes, but I would recommend your blog be all about giving information while your email blasts can offer them something or give them something.

A feed subscriber is one level of commitment, an email subscriber a bit more, customers and gold customers are your best buddies. Segment the lists, customers are ten times more valuable to you than prospects and they need to feel extra loved. Don’t be sending the same big offers to your feed subscribers and long term customers!
In most cases your list subscribers will enjoy your list if you just send them occasional offers, but even better if they can feel like a part of something useful to them.

Advantages of lists

  • Customization and Personalization– With a feed what you write is what you get. Catering your message to an individual improves results and makes recipients feel more valued (when not done in a cheesy way)
  • Sent on your schedule – Automated services send on their schedule, you can choose when you want to send an email
  • Immediate alerts – Got some hot news or want people to react fast before a deadline? Send an alert.
  • Segmented offers – A common approach is to split your customers into quintiles, with the top 20% customers getting the best deals. Maybe you will segment based on how long since you last heard from a customer, approaching defectors to bring them back into the fold?
  • Valuable Asset – Your prospect and customer lists are like gold. They are so valuable. When you grow, nurture and control your own list, you are building an asset.

If lists are so good, why not just have a website with a list?

Well, you could, and sometimes a website with articles and an email list is all you need or should do based on your circumstances. Blogs are to be recommended though because they still have several advantages.

Bottom Line for Part 1

  • Build something of value to customers
  • Communicate with customers and prospects appropriately and regularly
  • If you want to sell, make an offer

In the next post in this series I will outline why blogs have an advantage for business and how to get the best results from them.

»crosslinked«

Table of contents for Business Blogs

  1. Attracting, Retaining and Converting Prospects With Blogs
  2. The ROI of Business Blogging
  3. How to Get Maximum Bang for your Blog
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Comments

  1. Great overview, Chris! This is my territory, as well, so I feel well-qualified to agree with you. It’s really interesting to see how differently another person will frame and communicate these ideas.

    I think the most important goal of a business blog is to strengthen and build true, genuine relationships between the business and its customers. The effect that this has on potential customers cannot be overstated: it attracts new business, period. There are many ways to build up relationships, and you hit on some good ones. The relevancy and usefulness of the blog’s content is the key in this.

  2. Great overview, Chris! This is my territory, as well, so I feel well-qualified to agree with you. It’s really interesting to see how differently another person will frame and communicate these ideas.

    I think the most important goal of a business blog is to strengthen and build true, genuine relationships between the business and its customers. The effect that this has on potential customers cannot be overstated: it attracts new business, period. There are many ways to build up relationships, and you hit on some good ones. The relevancy and usefulness of the blog’s content is the key in this.

  3. I saw IT consultant’s small biz website with the guy’s house on the front page he was then in the process of selling. Bit of a no-no that!

  4. I saw IT consultant’s small biz website with the guy’s house on the front page he was then in the process of selling. Bit of a no-no that!

  5. Excellent write-up, Chris.

    I’ve not developed that many website for clients, but in my own case, using a blog has been so much more worthwhile than a static portfolio / about page / contact me option.

  6. Excellent write-up, Chris.

    I’ve not developed that many website for clients, but in my own case, using a blog has been so much more worthwhile than a static portfolio / about page / contact me option.

  7. Chris and readers of this post–are there examples where you can share links of businesses who are practicing these principles? I like this outline of “best practices” but it would be helpful to see business folks who are putting them in practice. Here in the middle of Michigan there’s still a lot of work to do to raise the blog and social media IQ of businesses and organizations–WES

  8. Chris and readers of this post–are there examples where you can share links of businesses who are practicing these principles? I like this outline of “best practices” but it would be helpful to see business folks who are putting them in practice. Here in the middle of Michigan there’s still a lot of work to do to raise the blog and social media IQ of businesses and organizations–WES

  9. Exceptionally well-explained Chris. If only more online businesses would listen to this advice. 🙂

  10. Exceptionally well-explained Chris. If only more online businesses would listen to this advice. 🙂

  11. @Michael – Yes, absolutely, I think many focus on just the attraction without the retention, things like turning off comments, which could be dangerous.

    @Jack – Heh, a little off-topic nonsense is fine occasionally but that is a bit much 🙂

    @David – Exactly. Even if you just gain one or two contacts I think blogging really pays off. I can’t count the opportunities that have arrived through my blogging over the years.

    @Wes – I couldn’t name a single example of anyone doing all of this perfectly, and I include myself. I’m going to have a think to see if I can round up examples of elements that if they all were done together would make a perfect example 🙂

    @Patricia – Thanks, and very true 🙂

  12. @Michael – Yes, absolutely, I think many focus on just the attraction without the retention, things like turning off comments, which could be dangerous.

    @Jack – Heh, a little off-topic nonsense is fine occasionally but that is a bit much 🙂

    @David – Exactly. Even if you just gain one or two contacts I think blogging really pays off. I can’t count the opportunities that have arrived through my blogging over the years.

    @Wes – I couldn’t name a single example of anyone doing all of this perfectly, and I include myself. I’m going to have a think to see if I can round up examples of elements that if they all were done together would make a perfect example 🙂

    @Patricia – Thanks, and very true 🙂