Blogging for Your Business

When I say “blogs” – many business owners start seeing horrible visions in their mind’s eye.   Some see self-obsessed, narcissistic egomaniacs for whom the ultimate goal is fame – or infamy – either one, as long as people remember their name.  Others see blogging as a six inch thick chain, locking them to their computer – forced to compose dozens of blog posts daily without the benefit of spell or grammar check.

However, when I talk about blogging for your business, I don”t see the distorted visions most business owners see.  What I see when I talk about business blogging is a cost effective, powerful and affordable business building tool.

Most of today’s popular blogging software programs began as CMS – Content Management Software.  Their express purpose was to make publishing information to the web quick and easy for those who didn’t want to learn the intricacies of HTML, CSS, FTP and a dozen other alphabet soup web terms which were needed to get your marketing message published to the web not so very long ago.

So when I’m talking about blogging for your business – I’m talking about using software to make it easy to get your marketing message onto the web.    When you see an egomaniac who is using the software for shameless self promotion – your thought as a business owner should be, “If that idiot can operate a blog to get his/her message onto the web – I can use a blog to do something useful – like educate my customers via the web.”

While wild visions of colorful – and sometimes offensive characters – may fill your mind’s eye when it comes to business blogging – in reality business blogging is actually best suited for those with an eye to the future.  Business blogs do a great job of building authority and authority (authority =  trust + power… the power to motivate people to take action.) takes a lot longer to create than a fleeting case of infamy.

Creating a business blog post today takes a certain amount of time – which causes many business owners to join in the battle cry of  I don’t have time to blog.  However, while your blog posts do take some time to create – they continue to live on your blog for as long as your blog is in existence – and sometimes beyond as  it seems the internet never forgets.

Imagine if the radio ad you ran last week could continue to be aired indefinitely – and it only aired when a radio listener announced to the radio that he/she was interested in the products and services your business provides.  That’s exactly the way your business blog posts can work to promote your business.

So when you hear the term “blogging for your business” try to erase from your mind visions of reminiscent of an episode of Jerry Springer – and instead view business blogging through a new lens.  Business blogging is a way for your business to quickly and easily communicate with prospective customers via the web.  The informative blog post you create today will live on to continue working with other blog posts – bringing real customers to your business.  That’s the real beauty of business blogging.

Treating people like people

When you start treating people like people, they become people.  ~Paul Vitale

Social media is becoming a force to be reckoned with in the world of business. The consumer controlled conversations happening online are literally reshaping the way brands are perceived.  Consumers have more power today than ever before in history.  You’d think that would be a good thing.  You might even think that everyone from marketing managers to CEOs would be mining those conversations to get a “ground zero” view of how their brand is perceived.

Instead a common reaction to this burgeoning phenomenon – other than the popular ignoring it and hoping it will go away – is to try desperately to depersonalize social media which  is – by nature – a truly personal phenomenon.

Figures Lie and Liars Figure

One way to depersonalize social media is to focus upon the stats.  Make sure you only pay attention to statistics that can be easily imported into impressive PowerPoint graphics like graphs and pie charts.    Focusing on visitors, RSS subscribers and comment numbers is a great way to depersonalize your blog.

The bean counters in companies love stats – and quit honestly statistics have value – but allowing statistics to take center stage is a great way to depersonalize your social media presence.

One of the first places I start when I work with a client is to get a handle on the “stats” of their web presence.  I once had a client who had a 75% sign up rate for her email newsletter who contacted me because she wanted to change the copy one her web site to “improve” her newsletter sign up numbers.  Instead of changing her copy – we took a look BEHIND the stats.  She wasn’t getting a lot of traffic to her site – but the traffic she was getting was tightly targeted and very interested in her products and services.   The stats in this case gave us an opportunity to dig deeper – and discover what the “real” problem was.

The “real” problem – by the way – was that she had been making the rounds of the “internet marketing gurus” who were promising her quick, exponential, sustainable and profitable business growth.  (The preceding statement is an intentional oxymoron.  No morons were harmed in the creation of that statement.)

By digging into the “stats” – we could see that she was on track to create slow but sustainable and profitable growth.

Bots – Bots – Bots

Another way to depersonalize social media is to employ bots – automated programs which are poor attempts at mimicking human behavior.  Bots can be do -gooders.  Without bots you’d have no way to find the content you want on the trillions of pages available online.  However, bots can be evil.  Bots are why you have to enter characters displayed in an image to access content across the web.

In the early days of social media – you could purchase a bot program which would automatically go through and “befriend” people on MySpace.  Launch the program today and by next week you could have thousands of MySpace “friends” for your business. The problem with this strategy is that none of those “friends” – none of those connections – were “real”.

Those easily gained connections were great for the stats – they were great for inflating super sized egos – but they were absolutely awful when it came to conversions.

The real value of a blog for your business.

Blogs are great for your business because you can begin composing the never ending story of what your business does for real people.  As you create those blog posts they can actually rise to the top of long tail search queries – you know, the kind of search queries made by prospective customers who are seeking real information before they make an online purchase.

Then – when people who are actually looking for the products and services your business offers can – GASP- actually make a connection with you via your blog.   They can read – and then – they can ask a question – make a comment or even subscribe to your RSS feed to see when you share more information they need to know in order to buy.

So often – in the “web world” – we are guilty of using the term “visitors” or “users” instead of calling them what they really are – PEOPLE. In her blog post The Benefits Of Visualizing Your Future Customers, Cath Lawson shares that visualizing your future customers is a technique used by some of the most successful people in the world.  She points out that by visualizing your customers – as people and not faceless “visitors” – you can begin to shape your business to meet your customer’s needs.  I go on and on about the subject of viewing your customers as people with Goals – Desires – and Problems (GDP) and how to create marketing messages which speak to your target audience’s GDP in my book Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results.

You can’t expect a mindless bot to generate an insightful diagnosis based on a simple log file analysis.  However, when you start treating social media like it’s powered by people – people who want real connections – you’ll find social media is literally a goldmine of information you can use to connect with customers and build your business.

Blogs for Business – The Never Ending Story

In 1984 – the tale of a boy who steals a book called The Neverending Story” was brought to life on the movie screen.  In the movie, the book magically transports the boy to the fantasy world of Fantasia where a dark force called “The Nothing” threatens it’s existence.  In the end – the boy’s mere wishes banish the dark forces from not only Fantasia but also in the “real” world as well.

Two decades later – it takes more than mere wishes to banish the dark force of “The Nothing” from your business web presence.

A few years ago – I began introducing business owners to a new type of web presence for their business – a business blog.  These business blogs were great for businesses on so many levels.  Because of the flat site architecture imposed by the blog – the search engines have an easy time getting around inside the site to index the content.  Because content is easy to add – updating and adding new tasty “spider food” for the web bots is a snap.

Yet even though business blogs are great marketing tools for business owners,  I still recieve constant “push back” from business owners when it comes to launching a business blog.

A recent conversation gave me fresh insight as to the “why” behind the push back regarding business blogs.  This prospective client had a vision of her business web presence as a “finished” product.  She thought of her web site like a movie – a movie on VHS – with a definite beginning, middle and end.  She didn’t want the visitor to have the option available on DVD’s to “select a scene” – she wanted the visitor to read the opening page followed by the next page in the navigation menu, and so forth.

It’s nice to dream – and it’s nice to wish.  However, wishing and dreaming won’t change the way things REALLY work on the web.

The way it really works on the web is that every page of your web presence is a potential “entry” page.  If your web presence were to take the form of a house –  every room would have a door which leads outside but no windows.  Second story rooms would also have doors which lead outside – although in the words of ancient Saturday morning cartoons, “Watch that first step – it’s a loo loo.”  Those precarious second story rooms would be pages that are more than 1 click from any other page.  Internal links on your site are the interconnecting hallways which allow visitors to navigate your site without going “back” outside.

Admittedly – this doesn’t sound like an appealing physical structure for your business – but online this is “reality.”   Any attempts to block those doors to the outside and “funnel” visitors through the site according to your plan will only result in the dark force of “The Nothing” taking over your site.

The key to a healthy, wealth producing business website is to be constantly creating new rooms for visitors -and search engines alike – to explore.  If each page on your business website is a room – then your goal should be to set up a table in the center of that room – and provide cookies, finger sandwiches and a wide assortment of beverages you know your visitors will enjoy.

Which is why – blogs make such a GREAT foundation for your business web presence – especially if you’re a small business owner.  Your business blog allows you to create new rooms at will for your business home on the web.  If you discover a new customer base – you simply start creating new content on your business blog – creating new rooms filled with tasty morsels loved by humans and search spiders alike.

As for the client who wanted to create a static web presence with only one way in – think of what would happen in the “real” world if a room was devoid of light and the only way in or out was through an inner hallway.  As for the once tasty morsels on the tables in the various rooms – well, since those won’t be consumed by either search engine spiders or visitors – they won’t be tasty morsels for long.

Your blog for your business allows you the opportunity to easily create lots of compelling content for prospective clients/customers.  Admittedly – business blogging is like writing the Neverending Story – but the good news is that the more content you create – the more tables you set out for prospective customers/clients who visit your business blog  a.k.a. web site.

Overcome Business Fear of Sharing

It’s not uncommon for people who sell their knowledge and expertise to  fear that if they give too much information away – that they’ll eliminate their potential client’s need for their services.

When it comes to sharing your knowledge and expertise – the more you give, the more you get.  The more you share knowledge and expertise – the more recognition and authority you accumulate.

Many knowledge professionals are engaged in making what Neil Rackham defines as “The Major Sale“.  Major sales require a large investment of either time, energy or money.   Major sales are more than simple transactions – they’re full blown relationships and relationships are the foundation of social media.

Relationships begin by building a foundation of trust.  Build enough trust with your audience and you’ll eventually find you’re creating authority.

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

Building authority does not happen overnight. It happens gradually – as you reveal and share your expertise via the many opportunities made possible thanks to social media.

I don’t have much time these days to bake- but over the years I have learned the hard way how important a tiny ingredient like baking powder can be in a recipe.  It’s such a tiny amount of a seemingly inert powder that surely it won’t be missed if the box in the pantry is empty- right?  WRONG!  That tiny bit of baking powder makes a HUGE difference in any recipe.  Without going into the science behind it – baking powder causes the bubbles in the batter to expand.  This “fizz” helps to make baked goods tasty treats which when combined with long periods of inactivity – cause one’s ass to grow to a mind blowing size.  Thus my retirement from baking as a hobby.

Dietary issues aside, when it comes to marketing your business – your knowledge and expertise are the “fizz” that makes your business rise and grow.  Sure, people can get a plethora of information “for free” on the internet – but there comes a time when general free advice isn’t enough.  It’s at the time when the rubber meets the road and prospective clients NEED your wisdom and hard won insight into solving their most pressing problems.

For example, if you think the self serve legal document service Legal Zoom replaces the need for a good attorney – then you’ve obviously never NEEDED a good attorney.  A good attorney has the education, the experience and the critical thinking skills to either avoid trouble ahead or get you out of trouble.

If you think one of the $25 tax preparation software programs replaces the need for a good CPA – then you’ve never worked with a good CPA.  A good CPA has the education, the experience and the critical thinking skills to either help you avoid tax problems in the future or can keep you out of tax trouble.

If you think an electronic back massage pad is an effective substitute for a good chiropractor – then you’ve never experienced a good chiropractor.  A good chiropractor has the education, the experience and the diagnostic skills to treat current back problems and can help you avoid back problems in the future.

If you think a self help book replaces the need for your services as a therapist or a coach – then you’ve never worked with a good therapist or coach…. yada, yada, yada.

You get the idea.

Which is why – if you’re good – you shouldn’t fear sharing too much of the WHY people should work with you.  There’s no way to give too many reasons WHY someone should want to work with you.  There’s no such thing as sharing”too much” information when it comes to making the major sale which is why blogs ROCK as marketing tools for anyone in the business of selling their expertise.

Are you a young bull or an old bull?

business parable story of two bullsThere’s a popular parable which illustrates the importance of planning and patience called Two Bulls.

The story goes that there are two bulls standing side by side in a field.  One is a young bull, full of energy and what Austin Powers calls “MoJo.” The other bull is older with less energy but he still has his MoJo.

The young bull catches the scent of a herd of cows on a distant hill.  As he sniffs the air, he announces, “I’m going to run over there and have my way with one of those cows!”

The older bull demonstrates his wisdom by replying, “You do that.  I’m going to walk up that hill and have my way with all of those cows.”

Measuring SuccessYoung bulls charge ahead, full of energy.  They aren’t trying to conserve energy because they have plenty to spare.  However, because they don’t try to conserve that energy, much of it is wasted.  They run when they should walk.  Young bulls tend to think in the here and now, and not worry about tomorrow.

Meanwhile, old bulls recognize that their energy is limited – and they focus upon making the most of it.  Old bulls stop, think and plan.  They recognize the need to think about not only tomorrow, but next year as well. Because they recognize that they don’t have the energy of their youth, they are willing to take the time to map out a strategy that makes the most of all of their resources.

In the story of the two bulls, once the old bull shares his wisdom with the young bull, he creates a formidable competitor when they reach the herd of cows.  If instead he had keeps his strategy under wraps – the old bull gains a considerable advantage.

social media marketing strategyThis parable is used a lot in business.  It not only illustrated the importance of planning and patience, but it also demonstrates the advantages gained with you keep your strategy under wraps.

When I look back on my earlier entrepreneurial efforts, I can see where I acted like the young bull. When I saw an opportunity, I moved quickly so I could seized it.  I didn’t spend nearly enough time creating a strategic plan, just like the young bull in the story of two bulls.

Experience is what you get when you make mistakes.  Wisdom is learning from other people’s mistakes.