The One Essential Key to Business Blog Success

I recently got an email from a blog reader who wanted to know how to get started blogging for his business.  However, he had a “problem”… he didn’t have any clients yet.

“How can I blog about problems my clients are having when I don’t have any clients yet?”

This is a surprisingly easy problem to solve with a business blog. I’ve had SEVERAL client begin blogging for their business without a single client on their roster who have successfully used their business blog to land their first client for their fledgling business.

Not having any clients is by far the EASIEST problem a business blog can “solve” for any business.  However, there’s an insidious issue which can prove to be insurmountable which business blogging can not overcome.  That problem is…

Not knowing WHY people choose to spend their money with your business.

The critical KEY to success when you’re blogging to increase sales for your business is to know WHY people are doing business with your business.

If your product/service is solving a problem – then your business blogging mission is easy.  Simply create blog posts which illustrate how your products or services can “solve” the problem.  These types of business blog posts are the types of posts often shared via social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.  I’ve even seen such types of blog posts enthusiastically shared via email.

Tapping into this essential business truth is the KEY to business blog success.

Far too often, business owners do not recognize the problem their product or service is solving.  When that happens – business blogging becomes foggy – unfocused – and unproductive.

You can’t simply bang the “buy now” drum and expect consumers to flock to your business blog.  Business blogging simply doesn’t work like that.  Jason over at A Smart Bear writes in his post “Why business blogs should focus on cheerleaders – not leads” writes:

Your “cheerleaders” are those rare people who are not only fans of your company, but who put their own reputation on the line on your behalf. … [A] blog, as one of your marketing tools, is better suited for cultivating cheerleaders than for generating vast numbers of new leads.

Discovering the REAL reasons people are using your products and services  is truly the key to not only business blogging success but to the overall success of your business.

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.

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.

When is it time to stop business blogging?

Launching a business blog is an exciting time.  The opportunities that open up as a result of blogging for your business are positively staggering.  There’s no way to predict specifically how blogging will impact your business – but if you give blogging for your business a six month commitment – you will no doubt witness some form of benefit that more than justifies the time and expense.

Perhaps you’re like a lot of business owners and one of the reasons you haven’t started blogging for your business is that you’re afraid it’s a never ending commitment.   If the prospect of making an open ended commitment to business blogging  makes you nervous, take heart.

Every business owner who maintains a business blog will have to answer the question, “Is it time to stop blogging?”

Jim Kukral is a blogging superstar.  He’s an author – a speaker and a consultant who began blogging way back in 2001.  Blogging has helped to establish Kukral as a sought after speaker,  author and business thought leader.   Last week – he announced that he has quit blogging and  his announcement has created quite a stir. Many have offered their take on Kukral’s decision to quit blogging.  Jonathan Fields writes in his post “Should YOU stop blogging

[T]he bigger message we should all take from his announcement is not that blogging is dead, but that:

  1. We need to examine why we’re doing what we’re doing on a regular basis, then
  2. Respond and evolve to accommodate change, both external market-imposed change, and internal shifts in where we want to take our businesses and lives.

We’re all hostages to the constraints that time places upon us.  We all have a mere 168  hours available each and every week.  Work – play – sleep –  all have to fit within the confines of 24/7.  It’s no secret that launching and maintaining a business blog takes time and we all have to budget our time effectively.

We make  dozens of” time budgeting” decisions daily – many of them without much conscious thought.

I like to equate blogging with exercise because both require a regular commitment and the benefits tend to accumulate over time.  When we say that we’re “too busy” to exercise – what we’re really doing is valuing the benefits of other activities over the benefits of exercising.

There’s one key difference.

The benefits of business blogging don’t stop when you quit blogging.

Stop exercising for three months and your body will definitely tell the tale.  On the other hand, assuming you’ve created a solid business blog foundation – you can take 3 months off from business blogging and come back to find a business blog that is stronger – not weaker – as a result.

The time you devote to business blogging today will continue to benefit your business long after you’ve stopped blogging.

Lisa Barone over at Outspoken Media gets it.  In her blog post, she is encouraging business owners to ask the right questions about using social media.  She writes:

Ask yourself:

  • What are your business reasons for doing X?
  • What actions are important to help you see a benefit from X?
  • What are the rules for the organization when participating in X?
  • Is X the best thing for your business, or could you see a better reward if you switched your focus to something else?

I love the way Lisa phrased these questions – because they’re questions that every business owner needs to ask about EVERY business activity – not just business blogging.

One of my clients recently let her membership to the local Chamber of Commerce expire.  She enjoyed the networking activities but her business is “bigger” than the small Tennessee town in which she resides.  As her practice has grown – she has had to evaluate whether the time she spends socializing at local Chamber events is the most profitable use of her time.  This year, her answer to whether to remain active is”No”.  For her,  that 2 hours a month is better spent finishing her book and blogging than socializing.

For Jim Kukral – when he asked those questions – his evaluation of the time he was spending blogging lead him to quit investing time in creating new blog posts.

But notice – he is NOT taking DOWN his business blog.

That’s not what Jim means when he says he is “quitting blogging”.  There’s a big difference between taking DOWN your blog and choosing to stop actively creating new content for your business blog.

Over the past nine years, Jim has created hundreds – perhaps thousands of blog posts.   Even though Jim won’t be creating new blog posts, the posts he has created in the past will continue to serve him well.   When visitors arrive at Kukral’s now static blog – they will still be able to click on the links in the sidebar – they’ll still be greeted with a pop-up window to ask them to sign up for Jim’s newsletter – they can still become a “doer” and part of his private inner circle.

In other words, Jim’s blog will continue to do what his blog has been doing for the past nine years – building trust, establishing his expertise, collecting leads and selling his book.  The point is – now his blog has reached a point where he doesn’t HAVE to keep adding posts.  He can simply let his blog continue to do what he created it to do.

One of the biggest”fears” I hear expressed about business blogging is that business owners confuse business blogging with “blogging”.  Business blogging does not require that you post three times a day 7 days a week.  The only reason for blogging on that type of schedule  is if your primary competition is the 24/7 cable news networks.

For most business bloggers – posting one or two articles a week will result in a robust offering of informative articles about the benefits of doing business with you.  Two blog posts a day for five years will yield a “website” with over 500 pages of content.

That’s 500 opportunities to share 500 different ways your product or service has been used to solve your target audiences problems.

So when is it time to stop business blogging? My answer would be when you’ve stopped offering new products and services and you’ve covered every possible angle on the products and services you currently offer.

  • Stop blogging for your business when you can’t think of another way to illustrate the value of your product.
  • Stop blogging for your business when every consumer in your target audience knows why your the natural choice.
  • Stop blogging for your business when you run out of ways to share with potential consumers the benefits of your product or service.

Of course, you won’t achieve any of the above in five blog posts or less.   The act of blogging is easy – the art of packaging your products and services into a a cohesive marketing message is the hard part.

Of course, in order to stop blogging for your business you have to start – and for many business owners – they have yet to clear that hurdle.