Your Business Blog is Good for Business

I’ve been saying for a long time that business blogging is by far the best investment of time/energy/resources you can make for your business.  Well’ now it’s official –  a recent study proves that your business blog is good for business.  Emarketing commerce reports:

Majority of Business Blog Traffic Comes From First-Time Visitors

Two-thirds of respondents to a survey conducted by Compendium Blogware found that more than 80 percent of all of their blog traffic was from first-time visitors.  For the survey, Compendium Blogware, a social media and search platform provider, gathered data from 266 companies about blogging traffic, visitor trends and Twitter usage. … First-time visitors come from two major sources, Compendium said: referring sites and search engines.

These results are hardly surprising.   Blogs – especially the WordPress variety – are extremely search engine friendly in their architecture.  Combine that with the fact that the act of blogging about your business tends to create content which is rich in the keywords your desired prospective customers/clients are using to find the very solutions you and your business offer.

However, the fact that your business blog can be found more easily by your ideal customers is just the tip of the iceberg.   Once those prospective customers/clients discover your business blog – the blog posts you’ve created over the months/years go to work establishing your authority.

So if blogging is indeed good for business – why aren’t more business owners blogging?

One of the most common objections I hear from business owners about blogging is that they don’t have time to blog.  Sometimes this objection is based upon the mistaken belief that to “blog” means to write incessantly – creating multiple blog posts each and every day.   However, it’s been my experience that most objections about perceived time poverty are instead a cover for the “real” objection to business blogging: not knowing what to write about.

In Unseen Business Killers, I offer a sure fire way to determine if  “I don’t have time to blog” is a reason or an excuse.

It’s easy to determine if “I don’t have time to blog” is an excuse or a reason.  If you really don’t have time to blog for your business, you can either

  • hire someone to blog for your business or
  • hire someone to assume some of your duties so you can find time to blog.

It’s just that simple.  You can usually find time to do what’s important – and blogging is important for your business.  It’s a great way to get found by prospective clients/customers – and it’s a great way to establish enough trust with them so they’ll take the next step and contact you.

The act of business blogging can be as simple as reworking emails you (or members of your staff)  have sent to both current and prospective clients/customers. As a matter of fact, sometimes the subject lines of those incoming emails make GREAT blog post titles.

Once you’ve got a great blog post title that gets your blog found by the search engines, then get to work creating relationships.  Once people find your business via the search engines, they then needed to form a relationship with the people behind your business.   Building a relationship is part of  the whole TRUST thing I go on about here.  Building trust is what social media does best.

THAT is why business blogging is so darned good for your business.  Not only can those blog posts act as bait to bring in first time visitors who are seeking the solutions your business provides – those same posts can also carry some of the “trust building” weight as well.  Prospective clients/customers find your blog – read your blog posts – and decide after reading a few dozen articles that – yeah – you really can help them achieve their Goals – quench their Desires – or solve their Problems.  In other words, not only can your blog posts act as bait – they can also start to work on establishing your connection to your prospective client/customer’s GDP.

No wonder business blogs are so good for business!

Creating Authority with Your Business Blog

I’ve talked a lot about how your business blog can be used to build trust with prospective clients – especially if you’re in the business of “selling your knowledge.”  However, there’s another term which is emerging which may be an even more compelling reason to begin blogging for your business.

That term is AUTHORITY and it’s becoming a buzz word in the world of business blogging because business blogging is a powerful and effective tool you can use to establish your authority.

Authority is powerful stuff.  According to Dictionary.com, one of the definitions of authority reads:

“right to respect or acceptance of one’s word, command, thought, etc.; commanding influence: the authority of a parent; the authority of a great writer.”

Think of authority as the natural next step in the whole “trust building” process.

Authority =  trust + power… the power to motivate people to take action.

There have been lots of behavioral studies surrounding the power of authority.  One of the most cited works on obedience to authority is the Yale study conducted by Stanley Milgram.  In the study, inspired by the trial of the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, Milgram sought to answer the deeply troubling question of whether authority could cause a person to contradict their deeply held beliefs.

In the study – volunteers were recruited and told they were part of an experiment which tested memory and learning in different situations.  The “administrator” was dressed in a lab coat and armed only with a clip board. and  the “student” was actually an actor.  The true subject of the study was the volunteer – who was assigned the role of “teacher” in the experiment.   The volunteer was instructed  to administer increasing electric shocks to the “student”.  The results of the experiment were sobering to say the least… 26 of the 40 volunteers went on to administer the maximum (fatal) voltage three times, despite the student’s pleas for mercy and apparent impending death.   Only one participant refused to administer shocks to the student.

That’s the power of authority.

In the study – the stage for the administrator’s authority was planned carefully.  The administrator was dressed in a lab coat and given a clipboard.    In later subsequent studies, it appears the “uniform” is an important control in creating the appearance of authority.  While the uniform in the original experiment was a lab coat and clipboard, subsequent experiments and a few well known scams have used police uniforms to create the authority required to quickly gain the trust needed to influence people to act in ways they would not without the misuse of the  power of authority.

Blogs are the “uniform” of authority on the web

So if you’ve been wondering what all the “fuss” is over business blogging – it’s this:  Business blogs are great tools for building authority.  Bloggers in every niche are constantly being cited regularly as “reliable sources” by various media outlets.  Search is a tool used by journalists worldwide – and blogs are very search engine friendly.

Which is why – blogs are quickly becoming the “uniform” of authority on the web.

However, it’s important to remember that trust – and the resulting authority – are not earned quickly nor easily.  The newly minted police officer who abuses the privileges his uniform imparts is quickly dismissed from the police force.  The same is true of your business blog.

Blogging authority does not come from a single blog post.  It doesn’t even come from a dozen or so blog posts.  In many cases, it comes from literally HUNDREDS of blog posts on a specific subject.

The path to authority begins with building a foundation of trust.  You gain the trust of your blog readers by providing lots and lots of quality content.  You answer the questions your readers are struggling to answer with your blog posts.  You give behind the scenes “glimpses” of how you solve problems.  You demonstrate your expertise time and time again through your blog posts.

Lather – rinse – repeat.

That’s how you “earn”the uniform of authority via blogging on the web.  It doesn’t happen overnight – but it does happen – one authority building business blog post at a time

The impact of social media…

social-media-marketingI’m beginning to wonder if the rise of social media may be playing an unseen and unmeasured  role in the US economic crisis.

This thought train began a few months ago while watching Mad Money.  Jim Cramer was talking about Nokia and Dell – two companies who were blaming dismal sales on the state of the economy. Cramer correctly pointed out that if it’s “raining” for one business then it should be “raining” on everyone in the neighborhood.  So while both these companies were complaining about the dismal economy and how it’s the reason for their suffering sales, both these companies have competitors who are:

a) kicking their respective asses with better products and better customer service

b) doing great in sectors with strong growth despite the “dismal” economy.

Which made me wonder -are Nokia and Dell’s sales figures victims of social media? After all, if there were ever going to be two products heavily affected by negative buzz in social media circles, two sectors which would be appropriate “canaries” would be the mobile phone and computers.

Is is possible social media is responsible for slowly killing these giant companies?

Social Media – it’s a moral imperative

Social media makes communication easy, fun but most importantly PERMANENT!

There was a time – when your advertising and other marketing messages didn’t live forever, easily accessed by the search engines.

That was then – this is now.

Disappoint customers today and they’ll take to the tools of social media to share their experience with others. Those disparaging remarks will live on – and if you’re not on top of your online reputation’s SERPS – those customer complaints may end up being featured front and center.

The consequences of disappointing your customers can be more severe than just a negative rating on a single website. Disappointed customers who feel strongly can now easily, post a Tweet, create a video – create a Facebook Fan Pages – or worse yet – blog about your current customer service.

I’m working on a Dell computer.  Well, it’s a Dell wearing an Alienware mask.  I was sold on Alienware – not from an ad in a magazine but from personal recommendations from other Alienware users. I purchased my Alienware shortly after they were acquired by Dell.  In short, I spent $2500 on a freaking POS Dell computer with a souped up power supply and a glowing alien face.  I bought the BS being spread that Dell wouldn’t impose their shitty quality upon the Alienware line.

To say I’ve been disappointed with my Dell purchase would be an understatement.  Let’s just say – tears were shed, threats were issued and I was loading up my Sunpass for a trip to Miami to visit the Alienware headquarters to voice my displeasure in person.  When I heard Dell’s earning suck – my thought was  “GOOD!!! If they’re still in business – their earnings don’t suck enough!!!!”

Is it possible that the Dell “economic slow down” is really just the result of information flowing freely online? Is it possible Dell’s woes are not rooted in poor economic conditions but rather the fact that they sell crappy computers?   Is it possible their users are WARNING others via social media?

Which got me to thinking… is it possible that Betsy Wuebker’s post WELLS FARGO DUMPS ON A GRIEVING MOTHER is joining forces with literally hundreds of other Wells Fargo customer service horror stories?  Is it possible that these individual blog posts could eventually create a tsunami for Wells Fargo?

Which brings up the question…

Is social media already making a real economic impact on businesses?

Jim Cramer only stated that poorly run companies often blame their poor performance on the market instead of upon management where it belongs.  However, as Cramer  talks about products that don’t perform – I keep thinking of blog posts which have “outed” those products long ago and still linger online today.

How many blog posts does it take to bring down a corporate giant?  Has social media as a medium reached the point of being capable of taking down a company of any size?

I don’t believe that we’ve reached that “critical mass” yet – but I believe that day is coming.  Stay tuned!

Social Media Tells Customer Service Stories

transparency in social mediaWay back in 1980 – long before the days of the internet – in a time when “social media” meant a party organized around watching a sporting event on television – executives at Braniff had a problem.  They needed to find a way to differentiate their airline from other airlines.  The question they asked was simple,

“What can we offer to our customers that they will perceive as having high value yet costs us virtually nothing to provide?”

The answer to that question is what we now know as the “frequent flier miles” program.  It was a GREAT idea so  – of course, other airlines quickly copied the concept.   While in Braniff’s case it was a great idea which came too late – other airlines instantly recognized the brilliance of offering repeat customers an intangible which cost virtually nothing yet was valued highly by those customers.

The success of the customer loyalty programs in general is well documented.   Since the cost to acquire a customer is commonly accepted to be from 4- 15 times more than the cost to retain a current customer – finding a way to retain current customers by simply providing discounted fares – on seats that normally would be empty- was nothing short of a marketing miracle. When one considers that a business traveler may spend over a half a million dollars on airline tickets during the course of his/her career – it’s easy to see why frequent flier programs are a staple in the airline industry.   The airline industry as a whole has struggled over the past decade as the dual horrors of market maturity met national security for the sector.   However, while airline executives blame fluctuating fuel costs and labor woes on their troubles- a quick trip around the blogosphere reveals quite a different picture.

With the exception of South West – the major airlines are struggling to provide basic customer service – and customer service woes make GREAT blog fodder.  Dave Carroll created a social media shit storm with his “United Breaks Guitars” music video.  The creation of that video wasn’t the result of a single “dropped the ball” in the customer service department at United Arilines – it was the result of consistent and blatant disrespect of the customer.  No amount of frequent flier miles could placate Dave Carroll. On the heels of that debacle – United’s social media woes continued to make news when Wang Jianshuo – a famous Chinese blogger – documented his horrific experience in flying United Airlines.

Now  however – the customer service horror stories are moving from the plane to the computer and the lack of customer attention is infecting the very lifeblood of a major airline’s frequent flier program.   Matt Cutts documents his own Bad Experience with U.S. Airways Dividend Miles and the post does not paint a pretty picture for US Airways.  The post is acting as a sounding board for others who feel free to share their bad experiences inside a US Airways flight as well.  For those of you don’t know – Matt Cutts is Google’s “front man” who blogs frequently about how to get your web site to get better visibility with the search engine giant.

Talk about a worst case scenario when it comes to social media in action – if there’s one blogger I would HATE to have “bitching” about my business – it would be the man who is the front man for Google’s search.

The PURPOSE of the frequent flier program was to create customer loyalty.  By implementing this game of “bait and switch” – US Airway’s frequent flier program is beginning to look like a shell game.  Matt Cutts is blowing the whistle.  It will be interesting to see (if) how US Airways responds.

If there’s one thing business owners MUST know about social media – it’s the unadulterated view of your business it provides.  You can sit in your office, close the blinds and tunr off the lights and tellyourself that your vision of your business is shared by your customer.. However, a quick trip via social media airlines will give you the “real” picture.  Whether or not it’s a picture you want to see is another story.

If there’s one lesson for businesses big and small to learn from social media – it’s that your customers are talking just as they’ve always done.  However, thanks to social media – you now have an “insider’s view” of what’s being said when the customer service stories are being told.

When social media isn’t enough…

social media marketingLong long ago, Liz Strauss wrote the immortal words – “Your blog is not your business”.  Recently – I had a conversation with a client who learned that lesson – the HARD way.

“Amy” [not her real name] was referred to my business a couple of years ago.  The story behind how she came to me is very common – at least in my practice.  Years earlier, she had paid BIG money to a web developer to create a web site for her brand new business.  Because she didn’t know a lot about this strange world known as “the internet” she assumed that her web site would cause people to line up to hire her to do work for their business.  When that didn’t happen – she began doing some homework.

When she began doing her homework she learned that the search engines drive most of the traffic on the internet.  So, she typed in some words she thought people would use to find her business.   Her web site – the one she paid BIG buck (five figures) to have developed – didn’t show up.  So she tried some other words and her site STILL didn’t show up – ANYWHERE.  She contacted her web developer and asked what was up – and he told her to be patient.  Things like that take time, he said.  She she was patient – she waited a couple of YEARS and still nothing.

She began talking to other people and eventually had a conversation with one of my clients.  She contacted me and asked me to take a look at her site.  Long story short- even though her page LOOKED great through a browser – it had been cobbled together in such a manner that it was anything but search engine friendly.  Even though the site “looked” fine through a browser – that’s not how the search engines see a web site.  They look at the code – and in this case, it was a real mess.

She told me she loved the site and didn’t want to change the way it looked.  (I later learned the web developer is a friend of her husband’s and I suspect she didn’t want to have a show down with him.)  I assured her we could accomplish her objective in a much more cost effective manner by launching a self hosted WordPress blog to work in concert with her web site.

Her problem: she wanted her web site to be found in Google.  The solution: we launched a self hosted WordPress blog to act as “bait”.  She could link liberally to her “traditional” web site using the blog  and when potential clients found her blog – she could send them to her site to “close” the sale.

When you go fishing – it’s not realistic to expect fish to jump into your boat.  So, you take fishing poles, hooks and various bait to catch the fish.  We were going to set up her blog to act as bait.  Of course, because there is no such thing as “marketing magic”, Amy had to learn how to USE her WordPress blog correctly.  Amy is one of the inspirations for my 8 Week Power Blog Launch product.  Her questions – combined with the questions asked by other clients – are the basis for the “curriculum” in the course.

Page One in Google

Recently, Amy contacted me.  Her blog articles had achieved her objective.  Her content is now appearing on the first page of Google’s results for her desired keyword – a fairly competitive keyword by the way.  However, if you think that the phone call was filled with rejoicing – it wasn’t.

Amy was disheartened and discouraged.  Even though she had achieved her objective of her blog content being found on Google’s first page – her business still wasn’t thriving.  As a matter of fact, she didn’t have a single client – and she had recently had to get a job to make ends meet.  She was ready to throw in the towel.

So, the first question I asked Amy was to describe her business model to me.  She launched into an exhaustive commentary on her marketing efforts.

“Amy, you’ve just listed the various marketing tactics you’re using to promote your business.  What is your business model?  How do you expect to make money from your business?”

“Well, people read my blog posts, go to my web site and then hire me.   I’m getting lots of traffic – but no one is contacting me to hire me.”

What followed was a distillation of my book, Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results In a nutshell – Amy’s business is engaged in making what is known as a Major Sale.  However, most of the “marketing tactics” Amy had been engaging in are only effective in marking Minor Sales.  Most of the sales/marketing advice you find (online and offline)  is geared towards  Minor Sale products, which is why Neil Rackham spent a small fortune and 12 years of his life defining and documenting the difference between Major Sales and Minor Sales.

When I first read Spin Selling – where Rackham documents his findings – I immediately recognized that many popular “marketing tactics” are geared towards making Minor Sales.  I’d been working with businesses on their advertising as an advertising account executive for over a decade when I first read the book – and it was truly an “aha” moment for me.  The Major/Minor Sale definition explained why marketing tactics – from radio remote broadcasts to midnight madness sales-  would work so well for one client, yet fail miserably for another.

Amy had been blogging with the goal of being found in the search engines.  She focused on creating creative blog post titles instead of creating relationships.  She didn’t recognize that once people found her via the search engines, they then needed to form a relationship with her so they could TRUST her.  See,  TRUST is an integral part of making the Major Sale – and social media is a GREAT way to build your business with social media– by establishing a relationship with potential clients and customers.

This  is why I cringe when I see an article which touts “the importance of search engine optimizing your Facebook profile” – or when I read someone touting Twitter or Facebook as the “quick easy way” to build your business.  Twitter, Facebook, and blogging are all tactics and nothing more.  Tactics are great when you’re on a mission to accomplish a pre-defined goal as part of a marketing strategy.  Tactics are exhausting when deployed using the “spray and pray” method of marketing.

When you read that “blogging” is dead – you’re probably reading the rant of someone who didn’t understand the difference between tactics and strategy.  A blog is a GREAT communication tool which – when used correctly.