The Power of the Blog

I love blogs… WordPress self hosted blogs in particular. Like any great love affair, there are ups and downs.

The down side…Wordpress has announced version 2.6 is released today. UGH! I’m currently installing 2.6 on my “test” blog EZ Marketing Tool. I’ll soon know what works and what doesn’t in WordPress 2.6. The frequent updates are a downer for me because I not only have to bring my blogs up to speed but also roughly 100 other blogs as well.

On the up side though, there are several blogging stories out there to make the minor inconvenience of frequent updates seem minor in comparison.

Isn’t that the way a great love affair works? Sure there’s a pinch of G&A (grief and aggravation), but that pinch of G&A just adds a level of texture and flavor to the 101 things that are great about the relationship. (I’ll have been been married for 24 years this December 1, so my G&A thresh hold is obviously very, very high!)

Micheal Martine begins the singing the praises of blogging hit parade with his post How I Brought My Business Back from the Dead with Blogging.

I’m quote Ben Yoskotiz so often, I don’t have to check on how to spell his name lately (grin). Yet, here he is again with his story of how he was Quoted in The New York Times – The Power of Blogging.

To that I’ll add the story of my own client.  Janet Simpson is an AMAZING woman who has truly “been there, done that.”   She’s a lifestyle coach who survived a car crash against the odds.  Her tale of survival is documented in Junkyard Janet.  About six months ago, Janet decided to convert her static website Nourish Your Life to a self hosted WordPress blog. This week, film crews are visiting Janet at her home to document her tale of survival against the odds.

One of the things that fuels my love affair with blogs is how search engine friendly they can be.  Ben found that an article he posted over a year ago was the source of his claim to fame in the NY Times article.  The title of the post probably matched the exact search terms the NY Times reporter was using to find information.

Janet’s blog includes this line on her about pager which probably included the keywords A&E researchers were using to find stories for their series:

Life took an unexpected turn when a car accident/miracle changed everything.

What story do you have to share?   Share your story here.

Viral Marketing and Your Business

For those who don’t know, viral marketing is when you create a marketing piece which recipients naturally want to “pass on” to others.

For example, when an employee of an Indianapolis, IN suburb flower shop put out a sign with a serious spelling error, it became an viral marketing piece. (See the photo here at Funny Marketing Blunders: Flower of the Month)

This example shows one of the key elements for “viral marketing”…it includes a powerful image.  The example of the above situation is a “you aren’t going to believe this unless you see it with your own eyes” type of marketing blunder.

It also illustrates another “viral marketing truth”…. use humor.  If it’s funny, people will be prone to pass it along.  (Fortunately, the flower shop wasn’t selling tutoring services!)

Funny is hard to pull off for most of us… but there are other tools which can be put to use in the creation of the “viral marketing” campaign.  Viral marketing campaigns tend to live on the edge… in the land of the extreme if you will.

Another viral image that found its way to me is this one:

viral marketing image

The only difference between this “viral” picture and a “viral marketing campaign” is that this picture isn’t “selling” anything.

That’s the biggest problem with most viral marketing campaigns, it’s hard to sell and be “viral” at the same time.

Viral requires extremes and most businesses aren’t comfortable venturing into the land of extremes.

Both Digg and Stumbleupon are both sites blogs and businesses use to try to ignite various viral marketing campaigns.  Caroline Middlebrook offers a great example of creating viral marketing campaigns for StumbleUpon in her post Stumble Bait – Harnessing the Viral Power of StumbleUpon.

Her advice is good no matter WHAT type of viral marketing campaign you want to create.

Is a Blog the Best Marketing Tool for Your Business?

There is an adage in advertising that says, “I know that half my advertising dollars are wasted – I just don’t know which half!” Several authors claim credit for this quote, but no matter what the origin, I can assure you the saying is wishful thinking.

Not only is it possible that more half of your advertising dollars are wasted, on the flip side, it’s also possible that your marketing efforts are working very hard – against your business!

One every popular “advertising” avenue being touted is using blogs to promote your business. With all the hype surrounding blogs, you may be wondering if a blog could help your business.

The answer is easier than you might imagine. But in order to answer this question, you must first recognize that there are two different types of sales your business can be making.

Neil Rackham is the founder of The Huthwaite Corporation, which launched a 12-year, $1 million research study into effective sales performance. Rackham is not your typical “sales guy” but rather he’s a psychologist who studies the sales process. The study results are available in the book, Spin Selling, where Rackham differentiates sales into two categories… the Minor Sale and the Major Sale.

While Rackham applies this theory to sales people who make sales calls, I have taken this theory and applied it to advertising and marketing, because these activities are “selling” activities.

If your business is making Minor Sales, then a blog probably won’t be a really effective marketing tool for your business. However; if you’re making a Major Sale, then a blog can be a GREAT marketing tool for your business.

Are you making a Major Sale?

The elements that make up the Major Sale extend beyond the financial investment required. Asking a customer to spend a lot of money is one way you know you’re making a Major Sale… however, it’s not the only factor in play. To determine how much of a Major Sale you’re making, ask yourself the following questions:

QUESTION 1: How much risk is there in purchasing your product or service for your customers?

In other words, how much trust do they need to have to become your client or customer? How “high” is the risk if your customers make a wrong choice? Most businesses doing business on the internet need to establish a level of trust, but some require more trust to be built than others.

For example, if you’re selling office supplies, the consequences fof your customer of making a mistake and purchasing the wrong kind of copy paper is very, very low. If your customer orders the wrong kind of paper and then finds out that he/she made a mistake… the consequences aren’t very high. If the customer has children, then he or she merely brings home the reams of paper and the kids will take care of it in short order.

On the other hand, the choice of a financial planner is a VERY high risk decision for most consumers.

Several years ago, a financial planning firm in my home town made BIG news when it was discovered that the “investments” offered by the “financial planners” were not investments at all but actually a complex Ponzi scheme. As a result, several thousand of the firm’s clients in the area lost their retirement savings.

If you need to establish TRUST with your potential clients… then a blog is a GREAT marketing tool for your business.

If you’re selling baseball gloves to Little Leaguers… well, then trust isn’t quite as important as it may be if you’re a CPA or a financial planner. On the other hand, if you’re selling copy paper, trust may be downright irrelevant!

QUESTION 2: How much TIME will customers invest in researching their purchasing options?

The higher the “risk” is for your client or customer in purchasing your products or services, the more time he or shee will spend researching providers and searching for alternatives.

It’s important to note that devoting a lot of TIME to making a decision about buying changes the buying process significantly. Just because someone is spending time researching a purchase, it doesn’t mean that the decision will be made based ENTIRELY upon which provider has the lowest price.

If your customers are spending a lot of time researching options, then a blog is a great marketing tool because, via regular posts, you can illustrate time and time again why they should make an investment and build a relationship with you. You can use those blog posts to clearly illustrate WHY the lowest PRICE provider may not be the BEST provider.

If your potential clients spend a lot of time researching their options… then a blog is a GREAT marketing tool for your business.

Blogs are MAGNIFICENT COMMUNICATION TOOLS!! If you’ve got a good “handle” on the information you want to communicate to potential customers and your customers are SEEKING more information to make an informed choice.

QUESTION 3: How much TIME will your customers be spending with you after the sale?

Yet another factor that moves a sale from Minor Sale status to Major Sale status is the RELATIONSHIP that you’ll have with your customers or clients once the sale is completed.

The more interaction you expect to have with customers or clients, the more information those clients or customers need BEFORE they make the final decision. If you expect to have a lot of interaction with clients or customers AFTER the sale, then even if customers aren’t making a major financial investment, they still treat the transaction as a major sale. After all, breaking up with a service provider is hard to do!

So while the investment in choosing a baby sitter for a Saturday Night out on the town may not require taking out a loan, it still falls into the Major Sale category.

If your potential clients will develop a relationship with you after the sale… then a blog is a GREAT marketing tool for your business.

If your business is involved with making Major Sales, then establishing communication with customers BEFORE they make a purchasing decision is essential. When communication is key, a blog is a GREAT way to communicate with customers and clients.

This article was published at BizNik
Biznik - Business Networking

Shining Example: Monk at Work

Monk at Work by Adam Kayce is truly a SHINING EXAMPLE of a blog that does an EXCEPTIONAL job of “connecting” with readers.

There’s a nice little box in the sidebar that expresses quite eloquently Adam’s services:

  • Unclear on your purpose?
  • Not working at your potential?
  • Trouble expressing yourself?
  • Personal issues getting in the way of your work?

However, you don’t need to read the box to “get” what it is Adam is offering.

Adam has brilliantly branded himself and extends that branding through his blog’s name (Monk at work) to his offerings (White Papers are called Monkifestos”… CUTE!!!)

However, what makes this truly a shining example is, even without the “branding elements” in place, his brand comes through quite clearly through his writing. So even if you were presented with his content in a plain text ASCII file, you’d still “see” his brand.

Adam has done a LOT of work on this blog and it shows. It’s truly a shining example of how a blog can act as a powerful marketing tool.

Help! My blog’s not working

trafficLast week I had an appointment out of my home office… and I got stuck in rush hour traffic on my way home. I had forgotten how DRAINING being stuck in traffic can be.

On that day, I got two contrasting emails. The first came in from a client who has been blogging for 10 months now. His is a “traditional” business based in the “real world” where his clients have to battle traffic to get to him and receive his services. (There’s an interesting and probably overlooked entry for your SWOT analysis…. THREAT: TRAFFIC.) It’s the second email this year from him on this subject. The last one came in January when he got his first “referral” from his blog. He was thrilled. It gave him the “boost” to keep blogging.

One of the gifts this client possesses is the gift of “gab”. He’s a GREAT speaker, comes across well on camera and can construct a compelling word picture to illustrate complex concepts on the fly. He’s smart, he’s funny and he’s personable too boot! To capitalize upon this “gift”… he’s creating video versions of his radio commercials and posting them to YouTube (paying attention to proper tagging). He can then feature the clips on his blog AS WELL as making them available to a world wide audience.

Well, yesterday, a member of that world wide audience called him… from Brazil. (He’s in the US) He was shocked and amazed.

It’s working!!! It’s working!!! After almost a year, it’s working!

blogging solutionsThis is in stark contrast to another email I got yesterday. This business owner launched a blog 6 weeks ago. The posts to the blog are along the lines of “and this is what I had for breakfast this morning.” (The posts aren’t that bad… but they did remind me of another blog where that was the ACTUAL content of the posts. It’s almost possible to compute that person’s daily fiber intake from the blog entries!) The email from this client read, “My blog isn’t working and I think I’m going to take it down if something doesn’t happen FAST.”

Wow… what can I say. Six weeks and eight blog posts later it seems that the blog isn’t “working”.

First, read my post io9.com created 700 posts before launch.

My next question for the business owner will be: “What was it the blog was supposed to do?”

Is it supposed to magically funnel potential clients into your practice?

I use the term “magically” because filling the sales funnel for an independent service professional is a lot like pushing a 500 lb giant lead ball up a steep hill. If you think that 500 lb lead ball is going to roll up the hill on it’s own power… well, I hope you’re a graduate of Hogwarts if you think that is going to happen.

Instead, think of your blog as a bulldozer to help you move that heavy lead ball to the top of the hill.

Remember that your blog is a GREAT communication tool. It’s a GREAT way to communicate with potential clients… to convince them you are the answer to their most pressing problem. Your blog can get potential clients to that magical “90% sure” state…. just by reading your posts and watching your videos. That 90% sure state… where they’re 90% sure you’re the one who can help them…. is necessary for them to pick up the phone or shoot off an email.

I get those phone calls occasionally as a result of my blog. Someone has stumbled upon this blog, reads a few posts and then picks up the phone and calls. “I think you can help me” is how those conversations begin.

The service based professional NEEDS to provide that kind of assurance to potential clients and customers. The WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) question playing in their head is, “Can this person really help? Does he/she “get” my problem? Can he/she really provide a solution?”

Dosh Dosh asks “Why are you giving away content for free?

If you’re a service based professional, the answer should be “To gain the level of trust needed to begin a conversation with potential clients.”