Why Your Business Blog Shouldn’t Act like Other Blogs

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – and if you’re considering launching a business blog you might be tempted to imitate some of the top blogs online.  It’s a great strategy to imitate success – but if you do choose to imitate some of the top blogs online – you may very well find yourself wasting a lot of time and energy.

When it comes launching and maintaining a business blog, you have to define your goals carefully.   Long ago, I applauded Liz Strauss when she wrote, “Your business is not your blog.”   Those words of wisdom still apply for the business owner who wants to use a business blog to promote his or her business.

Today there are some blogs which are acting as a “business”.  If a business blog is classified as “marketing” – these blogs would have to be classified as “media channels”.

You’re already familiar with the concept of different channels offering different content through television.  What began as three national channels has exploded into hundreds of channels – each targeting a different demographic. Many of the top blogs have become their own “television network” so to speak.  The primary goal of these blogs is providing entertaining and informative content.  In essence they’re “competing” with other content providers – like the television networks.

In these cases – contrary to Liz’s word’s of wisdom – the blog is the business.  When it comes to this style of blogging – you’ll notice there are lots of ads being displayed.  Those ads are the way those blogs are paying the bills which is why – in these cases – the blog is the business.

In the 8 Week Power Blog Launch – in the first lessons I ask the bloggers to define their blogging goals.  It’s important to define your blogging goals because if you’re going to become a competitor for network television  you’re going to have to take a different approach than the business owner who wants to position his or her blog posts in the path  of prospective customers as they research an upcoming purchase.

Creating your own “network” with your own programming is a huge task – an insurmountable one if you’re trying to do it yourself.  These “network blogs” often employ full tine writers,editors and even advertising sales people.  The content of the blog IS the job.   So while you may be a huge fan of a blog which provides daily content and breaking news – chances are you won’t want to imitate that big time blog when it comes time to launching your business blog.

Instead – you’ll want to adopt the blogging style of writing informative blog posts which are written with the end consumer in mind.  If you’re selling widgets – then your business blog should be filled with articles on all the many amazing uses of widgets around the home or business. When that’s your goal, writing a blog post or two each week is often all you need to build that kind of business blog.

On the other hand, if your blog goal is to compete with Oprah’s new television network – that’s going to require full time effort by a team of talented writers.  You’re going to be churning out content on a daily – in some cases hourly – basis.

This is why you must first define your business blogging goal before you begin blogging.  In many cases, your business blog shouldn’t act like other blogs because it’s goal is not to become the go to source for widespread information rather the goal is for your business blog to provide great information for prospective buyers of your product or service.

Business blogging is a marathon – not a sprint. Keeping the goal in sight is a great way to keep your business blog on track and can prevent you from “burning out” before the race is over.

Business Blogging: Tools for Marketing

Business blogging is a tool – a tool you can use to promote your business as part of your social media marketing campaign.  However, just like any other tool – your business blogging success depends upon how you use it to promote your business.

Last night – I watched the latest episode of “Iron Chef America” where the winner of Season 3’s “Next Iron Chef” Marc Forgione faced his first challenger in Kitchen Stadium.  It was a twist of fate which allowed me to catch the first episode of the third season of “The Next Iron Chef” and I was instantly hooked.  In the end, Marc Forgione was crowned the champion and this episode of Iron Chef America was the first challenge for the newest Iron Chef.

The challenge of the competition was bell peppers and Forgione demonstrated why he is has been crowned an “Iron Chef”  by making the ingredient the “star” of all five of his dishes.  Meanwhile,  the challenger’s food while exceptionally prepared – failed to make the bell pepper “the star” according to the judges.

Business blogging  is the bell pepper of marketing.

Making an ingredient that is usually a supporting player the “star” of a not just one course – but all five courses in a gourmet a meal is what sets an “Iron Chef” apart.

Business blogging is often the “bell pepper” of marketing – used as a “supporting” player and not the “star” of most marketing strategies. For most marketing strategies- business blogging is an ingredient – sometimes an essential ingredient – but not the “star” of the show.

While it’s enjoyable to watch marketing masters use business blogging in a way that is the equivalent to red pepper sorbet – you first must master the “basics” of business blogging before attempting more “advanced” social media marketing dishes.

I like this analogy because marketing has a LOT in common with cooking.

Most people begin by following recipes created by more experienced cooks.  Faithfully follow a recipe and you can usually achieve edible results.  Epic kitchen disasters are usually the result of “tweaking” the recipe.   You can’t successfully “tweak” a recipe without first understanding the “why” behind an ingredient or a step.   Substituting ingredients may not destroy a dish – skipping a step may not destroy the final outcome- but stepping off the established recipe path without knowing the why behind the directions is usually a recipe for disaster in the kittchen.

Disaster awaits when you tweak without knowing the “why”.

My son has been passionately pursuing sports for the past decade but recently discovered he has a gift for food preparation.  (We watch Iron Chef and he’s seen “real men cook” which has inspired him to try his hand in the kitchen.)  He recently saw a cheesecake featured on the cover of a magazine – and purchased the magazine determined to achieve the same results.

However, even though it was his first cheesecake – and he doesn’t have a lot of experience in the kitchen – he began tweaking the recipe.

The tweaking began when didn’t have one ingredient – instant coffee – so he skipped adding it.  Next he substituted peanut butter candy for the crushed toffee bars.

These two “tweaks”  actually worked well together. The absence of the first ingredient made the substitution of the 2nd acceptable.  It was a “happy” accident and since the “core” ingredients of the recipe were still intact – he was still on the path to a tasty outcome for his efforts.

Then the recipe instructed that he line the spring form pan with foil and he  didn’t want to do that.  He wanted instead “grease the sh*t” out of the pan.  At this point, I stepped in and STRONGLY suggested that this time –  he follow the directions.   Maybe – just maybe – there was a reason WHY the recipe included this step.

Later the recipe called for filling the pan in which the spring form pan was sitting with water to bake the cheesecake.   When the cheesecake emerged from the pan, the reason for the foil became apparent.  Obviously my ancient cookware is not water tight and had he not followed the instructions – his cheesecake would have been ruined.

While substituting and omitting minor ingredients didn’t destroy his creation, the cheesecake was “saved” because he followed a really important step in the directions.  His inexperience in the kitchen however didn’t allow him to recognize the “why” so he could know what could be substituted or skipped and what could not.

Marketing is a lot like that.  There are a lot of “recipes” online for how to achieve success in social media marketing but if you want to create your own recipe variation – it’s important to know the WHY behind what you’re doing.  Begin by following the “recipes” prepared by others… then begin modifying the recipe once you’ve mastered the basics.

I’ve always taken a “teach you to cook” approach when working with clients… and I recently was reminded by a new client that this consulting style is truly “unique”. Digging into the “why” behind what you’re doing is what sets my business blogging tutorials apart from other business blogging “recipes” available.  It’s also what sets my consulting services apart as well.

Not everyone wants to learn to cook – or bake a cheesecake.  After all, you can pick up a cheesecake ready made at the grocery store – often for only a fraction more than the cost of the raw ingredients.  But if you want to some day become an Iron Chef – you’d better know the why behind every step of every dish you create.

If you want to become an “Iron Chef” of marketing your business- you’d also better learn the reasons “why” you’re doing what you’re doing.

What’s your favorite “business blogging” tool or ingredient for success?  Feel free to showcase your Iron Chef business blogging abilities in the comments section below.

Blogging Off Topic

One of the most challenging aspects of business blogging is deciding upon a topic.  Not only do I hear the many “reasons” (a.k.a. excuses) for not choosing a topic and sticking with it,  but I’ve uttered a few of them to myself along the way.

Admittedly – it’s hard to stick to a tightly targeted topic.  It requires effort and creativity to compose blog posts that somehow – someway –  take a cursory pass at the topic of your blog.  Once again – I’d like to offer here a bit of advice for anyone who would rather learn from my experience than their own.

Blogging off topic

Why are you blogging?  It’s the most important question to ask as you launch your business blog.   If you’re enveloped in a fog created by the various “gurus” who tout business blogging as the way to get rich quick for your business – you’ll quickly discover that business blogging is not a get rich quick sport.

Business blogging is a GREAT way to build an impressive array of articles which showcase the value of your products and services.  Business blogging makes publishing these informative articles to the web quick and easy.   Through these articles – you can allow prospective customers/clients/patients to “see” what’s in store after they do business with you.

One important lesson I’ve learned over the past few years when it comes to business blogging is this:

Blog posts should be timeless.

However, when you are blogging – it’s often easier to write about what’s happening at the moment than to lay out a blogging “plan” for your upcoming posts. Don’t get me wrong – sometimes “the moment” is the fodder for the best blog posts.

SOMETIMES

Other times – “the moment” takes your blog horrifically off track and off topic.

A few years ago – I wrote such a “blogging off topic in the moment” post.  At the time, I was feeling abused by a local business and very angry.   I also had shiny new  powerful Weapon of Mass Destruction – my blog.  I vented my frustration under the title “When a pest control company becomes your biggest pest.”

That blog post did everything I wanted it to do at that moment in time.    My account with the company was quickly adjusted and I was pleased.  Not only did I achieve satisfaction – but once again I saw the benefits of maintaining a business blog.

That was then – this is now.

Today that blog post seems to have become an internet lightning rod for Floridians frustrated by their pest control company.  (Pest control services are a necessity when you live in the Sunshine State.) So what’s not to love about a blog post that gets so popular that it becomes the target of an internal online reputation repair campaign?

Well – it’s the fact that the blog post is completely and totally off topic for my blog.

When visitors arrive at my blog via search – they see that blog post as their “opening page”.    Keep in mind, many of those visitors are here for information about pest control companies in Florida.   There isn’t much information here beyond that single post – so these visitors bounce.  They aren’t here for information about social media marketing or business blogging – they’re here because they’re upset with their pest control company.

Business blogging is definitely a horse of a different color than “traditional” blogging.

As a business blogger – you need to create TIMELESS blog posts that are on target – because the older those blog posts get – the more likely they are to show up in a search.

“A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.”  ~Mark Twain

I blogged in the moment – and I inadvertently picked a cat up  by the tail.

A word to the wise – if you’re blogging for your business – focus upon keeping your blog posts on topic and timeless.

First Impressions Mean Everything

It turns out the first impression your business makes on consumers may be the only impression you ever get a chance to make.

Studies have shown that first impressions are actually more powerful than previously thought.  It’s possible our brains are actually wired so that the first impression made upon us by others actually become self-fulfilling prophecies.

One such study was done by psychologist Nalini Ambady.  During her time at Havard, she performed an experiment to examine the effect of first impressions on perception.  In this study, she divided students enrolled in a college class  into two groups.  She showed each group video clip of the professor “in action”.  One group saw clips which depicted the professor as cold and uncaring.  The other group saw clips which portrayed the professor as warm and caring.  Each student was asked to write an evaluation of the professor after viewing the clip.  Of course, their first impressions of the professor were carefully crafted – and students who were shown one set of clips had a distinctly different first impression that the group shown the second set of clips.  The students in both groups then took the class with the professor in question.

I wanted to believe that once the students EXPERIENCED the professor’s teaching firsthand that they would then be able to form an “accurate” opinion.  I wanted to believe that Instead of the carefully crafted first hand impression they had formed based on watching a few brief video clips, the students would end the class seeing the professor for who and what he really was.

However, that’s not what happened in the study.  Instead of the students revising their original first impressions based on first hand experience, they instead fiercely clung to their carefully orchestrated first impression.

At the end of the semester – the students who saw the videos depicting the professors as warm and caring still described him as warm and caring.  Those who began the semester thinking the professor was cold and uncaring ended by describing the professor as cold and uncaring.

This study – and several others that followed – seem to illustrate this disturbing fact:

The first impressions actually become self-fulfilling prophecies.

This study shows why it’s essential that your business make a good first impressions on consumers.  That’s one of the reasons business blogging is becoming such a powerful force for businesses big and small.

When you begin blogging for your business – it gives your business an opportunity to “speak” in a warm and caring manner.  You can influence consumers by “speaking” in a warm, caring voice via your blog.  You can write to address their problems and provide answers.  You can carefully craft the first impression your business makes on consumers.

So often, small businesses craft their web site trying to appear “cold and uncaring”…. a.k.a. “professional”.   I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with a static web presence that has a professional appearance – but the real question is –

Is that what consumers want when they visit your web site?

Your professional static web site may offer basic information consumers need – but chances are they need more.  They need a carefully crafted first impression maker which casts your business as the problem solver they need.

That’s the type of first impression your business blog can make.

Your business blog can do more than your static web site because it can tell daily, weekly or monthly stories of how others have used your products/services to conquer evil and save the world.

Maybe your stories won’t be Star Wars epic and grand – but you get the picture.

Your business blog can share real life customer testimonials – via the written word, via audio or even via video.  As you create those stories and share those testimonials – you’ll find that your business blog begins to almost magically begin attracting visitors who were searching for “keywords” contained within those stories.

That’s a “warm and caring” first impression every business owner should be striving to make.

Social Media’s Role in Branding

Before social media, branding was the buzzword of the marketing and advertising industry.  Like social media today – many in the “biz” were familiar with the term branding – but really didn’t “get” what it was really all about.  As a result a lot of “noise” has been made about branding which focuses upon the choice of colors, logo or other visual elements used in marketing.   But branding is so much more than just the visual packaging of your business or even your business name.  While the name and the visual elements are a way to quickly communicate the “core” or DNA of your business to consumers who don’t know you yet – your true BRAND is built through interaction with your customers.

I’ve always said that branding is not something you do to your business – but rather it’s something your customers do to your business.  Just as a calf does not control the hot metal which sears a symbol into it’s flesh – your company’s brand is controlled consumers.  This is why focusing upon the consumer and striving to meet their expectations is the foundation of branding.  Social media gives businesses a way to make that connection – to collect that information – and to actually see your business from the consumer’s point of view.

Peter Drucker was a self-described “social ecologist” whose insight helped to build some of the most successful companies in the world including General Electric, Coca-Cola, Citicorp, IBM, and Intel. Drucker attempted to unveil some of the “mystique” surrounding branding,

“Suppliers and especially manufacturers have market power because they have information about a product or a service that the customer does not and cannot have, and does not need if he can trust the brand. This explains the profitability of brands.”

According to Drucker – the essence of branding is building trust and long term business profitability ultimately depends upon building trust with consumers.  Branding is all about building trust with consumers.   When consumers can trust you – they’re more likely to buy from you.  Social media provide the communication tools necessary to engage consumers and build that trust.

The process of building trust with consumers used to be as mysterious and abstract as quantum mechanics.   Companies had no way of knowing whether they had made a “connection” with consumers other than to watch for the cash register to tally up another sale.    Social media is providing revolutionary insight into this once obscure concept but  it’s increasing the importance of actively striving to build trust with consumers as well.