Business Blogs Save the Day

I recently wrote about how great business blog content helped one of my clients land not one but two clients over the course of a few weeks.  That’s why most business owners begin blogging – they want to connect with consumers.

Connecting with consumers is the holy grail of online marketing.  Each day – thousands of people head online to search for information.  Many times – those searches are very, very specific.  That’s where business blogs really shine – because often those really super specific search queries are made by people who are actively seeking solutions to problems – problems for which your business offers a solution.

Connecting with consumers did not begin when Facebook opened its doors to the general public.  The goal of connecting with consumers was the goal of advertising agencies LONG before the first Twitter fail whale appeared on the scene.

Back in those days – it was a real challenge to make a connection with consumers.  Information flowed down predictable paths which were almost literally etched in stone.  You had to have pockets filled with gold to even consider charting a course down the well worn path of traditional media.

Back in those days – just as today – connecting with consumers began with an idea.

“Hey – I’ll bet THIS will really connect with our target audience!”

In those days – that “aha” moment was followed by creating a campaign which delivered that message.   Sometimes it was television – sometimes it was print – other times it was direct mail – but in every case the journey to making a connection began by opening up your business checkbook and writing more than a few checks. Production of your marketing message was only the beginning – because once the marketing message was produced it then had to be DELIVERED via your chosen media.

With all of this upfront expense – you had to be pretty confident that your “aha” moment – or the “aha” moment provided by your agency – would TRULY connect with consumers.

Even today – companies are still stumbling across such “aha” moments and connecting with consumers via traditional media.  From the All State’s Mayhem guy – to the Old Spice guy – traditional media campaigns are successfully making the initial connection with consumers. Social media is just an afterthought in those cases-  serving to fan the flames of an already roaring fire.

It’s “easier” for big companies to make that kind of connection via traditional media simply because they have the budget for it.  When a large corporation runs an ad campaign that falls flat – there isn’t the slightest possibility that it will destroy the company’s financial future.  When a big company runs a campaign that flops – they simply fire their agency and hire a new one.

But if you’re an SMB – an advertising campaign that flops can mean the difference between red ink and black ink on your balance sheet.  That makes it much harder to take that leap of faith and start writing checks to produce a marketing message that may or may not connect with consumers.

Which is exactly why a business blog can save the day for an SMB.

Your business blog allows you to “test” the waters economically with your marketing message.  Take your message – and post it.  Now take that post – and tweak it – and then post it again.  I’m not saying to “re-run” the same content over and over – that would be redundant and silly.  Take your message and “massage” it – shape it – try to view it from different angles.

Which is why business blogs can literally save the day for small and medium sized business owners.  Business blogs give you the ability to “tweak” your marketing message before you spend a DIME on production costs.   Your business blog can give you the confidence to invest in producing a television spot.

Not only can your business blog give you a heads up on which message really “connects” with consumers – it also gives you a place to “air” that spot on demand 24/7.  So once your television ad has done it’s job airing on television – it can still continue to “work” by providing information on your business blog.

It’s not just television ads which can be “re-purposed” for life on the web – but virtually any ad in any media can find new life – quickly and easily – on your business blog.

Business blogs really can save the day for SMB – effectively and efficiently providing a marketing beacon for your business.

Creating Great Business Blog Content

If you didn’t know by now, a business blog is a great way for your business to reach out and capture the attention of prospective customers or clients.   Business blogs grab the attention of machines (the search engines) and people alike and business owners are sitting up and taking notice.

Recently, I began sharing about the mechanics of creating a great business blog post and the fact that a great business blog post begins with the title.  The title delivers the promise of what’s to come – but that brings us to the next step which is actually creating the business blog content.

This is where the way gets murky.  This is the point where the questions a professional is going to ask you will get tough.  This is where you have to KNOW your product or service inside and out.  You have to KNOW the who, what, when, where and why.

Who? – Who is your target audience?

What? – What need or desire is the product or service satisfying.

When? –  When does your target audience plan to make a purchase?  Are they researching before they buy?

Where? – Where will they complete their purchase?  Some products simply can’t be purchased online while others can.  Sometimes – prospective clients are simply trying to find information and will make their buying decision in the “real world” vs online.

Why? –  Why are they online?  Did they log on with the intention of buying or did they log on searching for the answer to a problem they’re having?

A ready answer to these questions is essential to creating great business blog content.

I recently got an email from a client – very excitedly telling me that her business blog just helped her to land 2 new clients.   When I look back at our initial conversation – I realize that she had the answers to all of these questions at the ready when she began blogging for her business.

If you were to ask her about business blogging – she would tell you how EASY it is – because she simply began composing blog posts with her target audience and their problems in mind.   To be honest, she created this content regularly for a few months and then quit blogging.  She ignored her blog for more than a year – and then – one day she checked her log file analysis  and saw that she was getting hundreds of views a day on a particular blog post.  She began writing blog posts again and VIOLA – she started to get potential clients leaving comments asking for her to contact them about her service.  Two of those initial conversations have resulted in long term client commitments.

So if you’re wanting to create great business blog content – begin by examining your target audience.  Answer the questions above – especially the “why”.  In my client’s case – she KNEW that her prospective client wasn’t logging on with the intent of hiring her.   She KNEW they were looking for a solution to a problem – but they didn’t know exactly what that solution was.  Because they weren’t searching for a solution – she simply wrote blog posts about those problems and then artfully wove how her service helped to solve those problems.

That’s where the power of business blogging lies.  Sure, you can optimize a blog post for specific keywords that YOU think are important – but if your customers aren’t using those words to find what you do then your efforts are wasted.  When you create a business blog post addressing the specific problems consumers are facing – problems your product or service “solves” – you may find as my client did that the web is FULL of people who need your products or service but don’t know it yet.

When you start blogging for your business – those people can not only find you – they can also get to know more by reading your other blog posts.

Anatomy of a great business blog post

I’ll begin this post with a disclaimer.  Most blog posts of this nature are pure Pablum –  general enough in nature to be completely worthless to anyone who truly needs help in this area.   Such posts must be so general that they tend to be worthless because each business blog post is simply a single MARKETING TACTIC which is performing a role in your overall MARKETING STRATEGY.

Launching a business blog is not a marketing strategy – it’s a marketing tactic.  The business blog posts you write have a job to do – and that’s to carry your business’ marketing message.

The reality is that a great business blog post for one business is not a great business blog post for another.  Business blogs not only have to be different than “regular” blog posts – but they also differ amongst themselves.

That’s why it’s really hard for me to offer “quick and easy” one size fits all advice on how to create a great business blog post.

However, I can share one common element of every great business blog post.  The one thing ALL great business blog posts share is a great blog post title.

The business blog post title

The words you type into the title box of your blog post are the hardest working words on your site. Assuming you’ve tweaked your blog’s permalink settings, the words you choose to type into the title box above your blog post become part of your blog post DNA. Those words become part of the url – and that plays a huge role in how the search engines will “view” your blog post today and for years to come.

Pleasing the search engines isn’t the only reason to create a creative blog post title. Because while it plays a role in how your blog post is seen by the search engines, even more important is how that title affects the HUMAN visitors to your site.

The blog post title holds the promise of the content to come – it’s what entices human visitors to click and to read more. In the end, we must never forget that the only reason any of us CARES what the soulless programs that index the web do with our content is because those soulless programs can bring us the eyes of soulful human beings.

The blog post title is the first point of connection. Those words will often be used to spread your post to the social media network. Whether it’s through Twitter, Facebook or even through your RSS feed – your blog post title is often the foundation for the message which is spread.

Your business blog post title sets the reader’s expectations – and puts the content contained within the post into context for the reader. Without a great blog post title – the best blog post in the world will be overlooked and ignored.

So what makes a great blog post title?

It’s one that grabs the attention of your target audience.

“Rats” – you may think.  “There she goes again – prattling on about targeting your audience for effective marketing.”  (I thought writing a book –  Beyond the Niche – would help end my endless ranting  on the subject- but it hasn’t.)

You can’t create a great blog post title if you don’t know your target audience intimately!

Your great blog post title catches the attention of your target audience  and entices them to read more – the more being your compelling, tightly targeted content which was created as part of a sound marketing strategy.

Your business blog post title is the “headline” that will excite, entice and motivate your target audience to go further and read the post.

This past weekend – an email listserv of which I am a member “blew up” because of a well titled blog post.  The post title acted as a literal lightning rod – causing one member of the list to share the blog post title on the list which drove hundreds of other members to the blog post.

A well worded blog post title created a lot of traffic.

By the time I followed the link – the blog post in question had over 300 comments approved less than 72 hours after posting.   The blog post author’s most recent tweet was expressing delight at the traffic her blog was getting.

By choosing the right five words – the author was able to “push” an emotional button in her target audience. By simply knowing what makes her intended target audience “tick” – she was able to create a blog post title which motivated her audience to not only take action – but motivate others to action as well.

What’s happening on this listserv is probably happening other places as well – including Facebook and Twitter – where people are sharing her blog post by simply sharing the title of the post.

I call this kind of blog post a Pillar Blog Post in the 8 Week Power Blog Launch course and your blog should definitely strive to include this type of attention getting blog posts – but expecting to create such blog posts – or blog post titles – daily is not realistic.   Trying to achieve that can lead to business blog paralysis  – which is the worst business blogging affliction of all.

Business blog paralysis is where you fail to create ANY blog posts for your business blog because it’s not “good enough”.  The blogger I mention here as been blogging for several years – and has made several “stabs” at connecting with this audience in previous blog posts.  Because blogging is so easy – she’s been able to “tweak”her message over hundreds of blog posts until she finally created one which hit it’s mark and called people to action.

However, because while the mechanics of blogging are “easy” the ART of blogging isn’t – this blog post wasn’t the author’s her first attempt to “connect”with her target audience.

It wasn’t her first attempt – but it’s obviously the most successful and it all began with a great blog post title.

Feel free to share your most compelling business blog post title in the comments below.

Your website is great – too bad your business sucks

This is the story of a locally owned business with a fabulous website.   The website “worked” – it brought a new potential customer into the store and the staff went to work to make sure that a potential new customer  left – never to return.

Our story begins many years ago when  I purchased a small fish tank for my small children for Christmas.   My son chose as “his” fish a specimen called an iridescent shark which is not really a shark but a catfish.  This demonstrates the power of “branding” – because I’m sure my little tyke would not have been nearly as passionate about the prospect of owning an iridescent catfish.

At the time, I encouraged the kids not to name their fish because surely they wouldn’t survive long enough to justify a name.  I was wrong.  That darned fish lived for more than 7 years.   Over the years, I had to buy a 10 gallon and then a 20 gallon tank to accommodate the growing fish.  When he passed – we had to bury him in the backyard instead of flushing him down the toilet… he was that big.

Fast forward to another Christmas when I again purchased small fish tanks for my much older children.  This time the aquariums were more of a “gag” gift – and once again the joke was on me.  We originally purchased 3 fish and awoke the next morning to find a swarm of teenie, tiny fish trying to avoid the bigger fish.  We filled the additional tanks with these “bonus” fish.  A year later we purchased a 28 gallon tank to accommodate our fishy pets.  The new larger tank means purchasing more fishy friends.

This blog post isn’t about looking ahead  and acting accordingly- though it could be.  🙂  This blog post also isn’t about something becoming bigger than you ever thought it would be – and it could be as it happens often in the world of blogging.

This blog post is about being disappointed by the business I found lurking behind the effective website.

There is a locally owned pet store which is housed in a building with elaborate decorative images painted on the exterior.  I’m kind of surprised that it never caught my attention before.  See – even though I’ve driven past this particular pet store dozens — perhaps hundreds of times – the elaborate paintings on the building and the prominent signage never registered with me.  I have regularly ignored this pet store’s signage – until I became an aquarium owner.  Now, the signage declaring this pet store was voted #1 caught my attention- breaking through the cacophony of advertising messages and singing a sweet melody compelling me to come hither.  My inner chatter changes to focus upon this new discovery….

“Voted #1 you say?  Isn’t that giant panda painted on the front interesting and unique?  Gee – I need to check this place out.”

I talk about this phenomenon in my book Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results.

I didn’t stop at the store on that trip – but I did check out the store’s website when I got home.  The website did a GREAT job of “selling” visitors on why this pet store was indeed the best in the region.   The next day, I piled my family into the car with the intention of filling our fish tank with fishy friends from the interesting and unique pet store we had just discovered.

Unfortunately, the store displayed and described on the website was very different from the real thing.  Warm and inviting?  Hardly.  Try disheveled and stinky.  Forget the fact that the tanks were streaked and dirty and that there was water standing on the floor – what truly horrified me was how the store’s three employees huddled behind the cash wrap area talking amongst themselves.  Despite spending more than 20 minutes in the store, we were never acknowledged and we left empty handed.

I pity the person who handles this pet store’s internet marketing because it’s inevitable that the business owner will complain that “the website isn’t working.”

I can attest that the website DID work – perfectly.  Bravo to the architect.

That website was the reason we hopped in the car and made a trip to their store.  Unfortunately, the store’s employees are the reason we hopped back into our car and headed over to the big chain pet store across town.

We weren’t the only people to leave that store empty handed that day though I have no idea whether the others were compelled to visit based on the signage or the website.  It doesn’t matter – because non of us received any customer service from the staff of this store.

Dear Store Owner:

Your website worked.  It motivate my family to take action – but your staff obviously wasn’t prepared for our arrival.

As a result, one of your competitors “ate your lunch” this past weekend.

Sincerely,

Just one of the many lost customers last Sunday afternoon.

Honestly, I could have forgiven the disheveled appearance of the store’s interior if a smiling, helpful clerk had offered friendly assistance.  A simple acknowledgment of our presence would have gone a long way that day.

You never get a second chance to make a great first impression.  That’s why it’s important that your website makes a great first impression.  However, it’s even more important that your business lives up to the expectations set by your website.

Indecent Business Blogging Exposure and other forms of TMI

a.k.a. yet another reason why your business blog shouldn’t act like other blogs.

Blogging is great.  It allows you to publish content quickly and easily to the world wide web.  That content will live on long after it’s dropped from the front page of your blog and will continue playing a significant role in shaping your online reputation for years to come.

Business blogging allows you to create a search engine friendly comprehensive information archive about your business.  You can share the answers to frequently asked questions and share testimonials quickly and easily.  You can also choose to share any other content via your business blog as well.  The 30 second television commercial you paid to produce can “air” any time and the digital copy of your brochure can be downloaded  instantly.

Business blogging is truly a marvel- but like any other powerful weapon – it has a dark side.

Business blogging provides ample opportunity to create TMI business blog posts.

For some mystical, magical reason – writing on a regular basis seems to have the ability to “reveal” more than what is displayed on the page.

It’s called a Freudian slip when someone says something which unintentionally reveals what they’re really thinking.   Austin Power’s movie Goldmember provides an exaggerated illustration of this concept:

Austin: “Now who has my father?”

Dr. Evil: “Uh oh! Someone has some daddy issues.”

Austin: “Nothing could be my father from the truth.”

Dr. Evil: “Oops! You said ‘my father’.”

Austin: “No I dadn’t.”

Dr. Evil: “Did too!”

Austin: “Didn’t! Did not!”

Dr. Evil: “Shebah!”

Austin: “For me, this is a dad issue.”

Dr. Evil: “Hooh!”

Austin: “Dead issue! Dead dad! Dead beat dad.”

It’s funny when Mike Meyers does it – but if you’re not careful, it’s very easy to commit such Freudian slips.

Business blogging is at its best when it is authentic.

Business blogging works best when it’s authentic.  As you blog, you’ll be writing in a distinct “voice” – just as when you speak, you speak in a distinct voice.  The way you write – the way you share stories – the tone of your writing all comes together to create your authentic blogging “voice”.  The more of you that you share, the more distinct this blogging voice will be.

Like every good thing –  authenticity can easily cross the line and become TMI which is a BAD thing. You must be aware of this “danger” and be careful, that personal turmoil doesn’t find it’s way into your blog posts.

Like most things I share here, this “lesson” is roote in personal experience. A few months ago, I was launching another business and asked a colleague to help with the branding and design elements.  She read the posts on that blog and assumed that I had hired a ghostwriter who failed to capture my “spark”.

OUCH!

I hadn’t hired a ghostwriter – but I was having serious reservations about launching that business.

Quick aside – Some businesses are like selling  encyclopedias door to door.  Back in the old days, prior to the internet, when someone purchased an encyclopedia set, it was a one time sale.  Few customers would be willing to buy a second set of encyclopedias no matter how happy they were with the original purchase.  These types of businesses don’t have repeat sales or repeat customers  and as a result, are tough to launch and then grow.

I hadn’t wanted to face the fact that the business I was preparing to launch was looking like it was definitely a “high tech” version of encyclopedia sales.  That internal conflict had come through loud and clear despite my refusal to acknowledge it.

Should you avoid transparency in your business blog?

I don’t think you can successfully blog without some element of transparency.  With that said, business blogging is too important to take a “I’ll wait to blog for my business as long as life is perfect” mentality.  It’s the most powerful social networking tool available and one that – like fine wine – improves with age.

If you’re waiting for the perfect time to launch a business blog – that time was five years ago.  You’re behind – get moving and get started.

However, if your business is in a state of turmoil – if your personal life is in a state of chaos – I would recommend that you hire a copywriter to assume your business blogging activities.

There are a lot of benefits to hiring a writing professional.  First and foremost, a true ghostwriting “pro” can write in your voice – without ever making a Freudian slip.

Your clients or customers may love you – but they don’t need to know the intricate details of your latest bout with the flu.  🙂 Just one of many things that are better left “unblogged”.

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.

Succeeding in Social Media

You’ve got a business – and you’d love to find new customers online.  You’ve heard that social media can do that for your business- but you don’t know where to begin.

If that’s where you find yourself, then you must know that there are TWO things you MUST have in place in order to succeed in social media:

You need two – and only two – KEY elements in place to succeed in social media.

1.  You must have a plan.

2. You must be proactive.

First – you must have a solid plan.

I’m not talking about a “social media plan” or even a “social media strategy”. I’m talking about a solid business plan which includes as part of your business’ DNA a DESIRE to serve your customer base.

Social media sucks for the business running a “pump and dump” style business plan.  If you view customer comments as “noise” then chances are your “social media strategy” is going to focus upon making your customers SHUT UP and “kwitcherbitchin”.

The current “trend” appears to be that consumers voices are becoming more easily “heard” online that the many professional marketers.  Google is actively searching for online reviews and including them as part of the Google Places Page – a free page one website which business owners can claim and utilize.

In other words,  the search engines appear to be interested in magnifying the voice of the “little guy” a.k.a. the consumer online.  The wise business owner and CEO will keep this trend in mind as they plan for the future in ALL areas of their business.

Think of social media as a huge cocktail party where the conversations are being etched in stone and run your business accordingly.

Creating a free standing “social media plan” – one that is separate and distinct from the overall business plan – is kind of like a resident of Spokane, Washington  planning a road trip to Miami Beach and buying a map of  Florida to plan the trip.   While that map will help once you’ve actually arrived in Florida- but it’s not going to help you navigate the lower 48 and get you to the Sunshine State border.

The best social media plan is one that is integrated with your other means of customer communication… because that’s what social media is – communication with both existing customers and prospective customers.

Which brings me to the 2nd element needed for success in social media.

You must be proactive – not reactive.

Most humans don’t live proactively.  As a species – we didn’t immediately and universally adopt the habit of wearing seat belts and had to be “legislated” or forced into using them.  Sure, there were a few proactive thinkers who buckled up for safety – but these proactive thinkers were definitely in the minority.

So when I say “you must be proactive” when it comes to social media – that advice assumes you’ve already got a business plan that has customer satisfaction ingrained as part of your business DNA.   Then – being proactive simply means not only listening to consumers but actively ENCOURAGING them to speak positively about your business.  Giving consumers a place to be ‘heard” is a great start -but then the real job is cultivating the positive conversations.

When satisfying your customers is part of your business goals – then listening to your customers becomes a priority.  You want them to come back – you want customers to buy from you again – because you realize that it’s 5-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to sell another product to an existing customer – you will eventually realize that listening to your customers is the best way to keep them.

In a recent article over at Mashable…Social Media Success: 5 Lessons from In-House Corporate Teams Amy Mae Elliott  interviewed Kerry Bridge, head of digital media communications, EMEA and global public sector at Dell Computers.    Bridge offers this simple reason for why Dell has been so successful using social media to generate sales for their business:

“Listening to our customers has always been at the heart of what we do.  Dell’s heritage of direct customer connections and online leadership are the seeds of our drive to be a social media success.”

Throughout the article – you’ll see the same “thread” repeated over and over again.

The Social Media Success Formula outlined in that article can be summed up as this:

Strong products + a sincere desire to improve customer experience + a proactive commitment to communicating effectively with consumers = social media success.

I get a lot of inquiries from business owners who want to “get started” using social media to grow their business.  They read stories where a companies like Dell have generated millions of dollars in revenue using the free social media communication service Twitter and they want to tap into that kind of business building social media action for their business.

These business owners are frequently disappointed to learn that the social media strategy is not a “set it and forget it” type of proposition.  While many of the communication tools which are an integral part of social media are “free” – using those tools takes time to learn to use – and they require a significant investment of time on the part of the business owner.  Companies like Dell, Ford and Southwest have teams of social media pros who work full time participating in the social media conversations online.

You may not have the resource to fund a full time social media team dedicated to communicating with consumers- but almost every business can launch a self hosted blog where consumers can come and share their thoughts.  Sure – you have to put forth a bit of effort in crafting those blog posts – and if you do that well then you might have to drudge through spammy comments – but if you’ll invest that limited amount of time into your business blog – you’ll find REAL gold in the authentic comments from actual consumers.

Keys to Success in Business

I absolutely ADORE Denny Hatch.  I subscribed to his email newsletter Denny Hatch’s Business Common Sense YEARS ago and he has yet to disappoint.  Every month he regularly delivers on the promise of “Business Common Sense” promised in his newsletter’s name and continues to generously share his wisdom and experience with his newsletter subscribers.  In each newsletter, he includes Takeaways to consider – and the quote above is from the December issue.

“Your new business can only make money two ways: creating wants and satisfying needs.”  ~Denny Hatch

I talk a lot about your target audience’s GDP – Goals, Desires and Problems.  Goals, Desires and Problems are simply three different types of “needs” that consumers experience.

Assuming you’ve zeroed in on the needs your product or service satisfies – it becomes “easy, peasy – lemon squeezy” to put your business blog to work  outlining the many different ways your product or service can satisfy your target audiences various needs.

When I work one on one with clients – that is the most important and productive work we do – identifying the needs of a particular target audience.

In my book Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results I share an example about how three different people can purchase candles and while each is purchasing the same item – each consumer is satisfying a different “need”.  One is purchasing candles for emergency lighting – while another is purchasing candles to create a romantic mood for dinner.  The third is purchasing candles to cover the odor of the family dog.

Even though each consumer is purchasing candles – each is purchasing the candle to satisfy a need.  As you blog for your business, you must keep in mind the need your target audience is seeking to satisfy.

Satisfying needs is easy – creating wants is another story.

Creating “want” is the most difficult task you can ask your marketing campaigns to accomplish.

It’s not done quickly, cheaply – nor easily.

I want to go on the record at this point in saying that it’s possible to create a successful marketing campaign on a shoe-string budget.  Your business blog can be a literal marketing powerhouse which can  do a BEAUTIFUL job of positioning blog posts right in the path of prospective customers and clients who are seeking the solutions your product or service offers –when that product or service is tapping into an existing “want”.

The most successful problem solving products and services don’t need to create an awareness of the problem – they only need to offer a solution.

By the way – if you’re a government – creating a problem is easy.    All you need only to pass a law in order to create problems on a MASSIVE scale.  Fortunately, in America – there’s a ready supply of entrepreneurial minded business owners ready to jump in and make a profit solving those problems.

For most small and medium business owners who don’t possess government’s far reaching problem creating power-it’s far easier to tap into existing wants than it is to try to create a demand.

What wants does your product or service satisfy?   Answering that question is the key to success in business.  The answer to that question can then be put to work – via your business blog – via your Tweets – via your Facebook Page- via your LinkedIn profile – via your  [insert latest social media craze].

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.

Business Details: The Devil known as Domain Names

William Feather – an American author – once cautioned,

Beware of the person who can’t be bothered by details.

As a business owner, the hardest part of owning and running your own business is paying attention to all the tens of thousands “loose threads” which make up your business.

For the past few years, I’ve been helping business owners set up self hosted WordPress blogs to power their online marketing message.  We walk through all the hundreds of tiny details which have to be addressed in order to create a powerful online communication tool for their business.

Why would you want to invest the time and money in launching YOUR OWN business blog instead of a starting with a FREE business blog?

Launching a new business blog is a LOT like launching the space shuttle.   When NASA launches the space shuttle -the 1,200,000 lbs of thrust generated by the main engines isn’t enough to break Earth’s gravitational pull.   NASA needs additional rockets to generate the additional 6,000,000 lbs of thrust.  However, once the shuttle has broken free of the Earth’s gravitational pull – those additional rockets are jettisoned having performed their job.

When you launch your business blog – there’s a lot of work that is done “up front”.  Just like launching the space shuttle – it takes a lot more effort to start a business blog than it does to maintain one. (By the way, this up front work has to start anew when you decide to “switch” to your free blog to your own self hosted business blog.)

The good news is that once that initial work is done (pick ujp a copy of the 8 Week Power Blog Launch to learn how to shorten that launch period to 8 weeks or less.)  – your business blog can easily “glide” with minimal effort on your part.

A few of my clients have actually “ignored” their business blogs for periods of 12-15 months at a time.  In several cases, this period of inattention has actually been a good thing. One client was pleased to discover that after a prolonged absence from business blogging -that her blog was enjoying quite a bit of success with long tail searches for her services.  Her blog was getting 100 unique visitors a day via search and when she returned she discovered that more than a dozen of those visitors had left comments requesting more information about her services.

Ok- it wasn’t “good news” from the visitor’s point of view.  Visitors left comments – asked for information – and got deafening silence.   However, the silver lining was when this business blog owner returned to see those comments, it ignited a renewed passion to begin really using her business blog as a marketing tool for her business.

Fortunately she had subscribed to the Cyber Angel hosting services which automatically updates WordPress and essential plugins – so when she did turn her attention back to her business blog she didn’t return to a blog which had been ruthlessly hacked or hijacked by someone who wanted to capitalize upon her tightly targeted niche position.

This is a happy tale of how one business owner “lost track” of one of the many details of her business and it ended well.  Because she had carefully crafted her business blog’s foundation – even a 13 month absence didn’t “destroy” her business blog.  As a matter of fact, she returned to a blog stronger than it was when she last logged in – a blog with an additional 13 months of “credibility” with the search engines.

Then there’s the other side the coin – when an inattention to detail has disastrous results.  It begins with an innocent email that reads, “Help!  My business blog is down and I don’t know why.” What follows is an “on your way to the top you might fall down” types of experience.

I’ve received various forms of this email over the past few weeks and in every case, the reason the blog is “down” is because the domain name registration expired.  When a domain name registration expires – everything associated with the domain name comes to a screeching halt.

When you register a domain name for your business blog – you’re only “renting” the name – you do not “own” it.   Because you’re renting it – you have to “renew” it on a yearly basis.

You might also be surprised how many business owners are not the registered owners of the domain name for their business.  Instead, they’ve chosen to register their domain name for “free” as part of their hosting set up.  When you choose that option, the hosting company – NOT YOU – is listed as the administrative contact for the domain name.   That means the hosting company is in control of www.yourcompanyname.com.  (Yes- domain names are considered “real” property and if your hosting company refuses to transfer www.yourcompanyname.com to your business, you CAN choose to pursue legal remedies.  However,  have you priced a lawyer’s services lately?  That “free” domain name is going to get really expensive once lawyers are involved. I J S)

This year alone I’ve had several business owners contact me – anxious to begin the adventure of business blogging – only to discover that their web developer or their hosting company “controls” (a.k.a. “owns”) the domain name that they thought “belonged” to their business.

Why is “registration” of a domain name critical?

Think of your domain name as the “address marker” for your business blog.  The real “address” is a series of numbers known as an IP address .  Your domain name is simply the “human friendly” way of finding where websites and blogs “live” on the web.

In addition to serving as an address market – domain name information is used extensively by the search engines.  Keywords contained within a particular domain name can bring hundreds of visitors a day via search to a blog.  (Just ask my client who “checked out” for 13 months to return to a blog full of comments from potential clients awaiting moderation.)  However, the search engine look at a lot more than just the phrases and word contained within the domain name – they also look at the HISTORY of a domain name.

It’s commonly accepted “web wisdom” that older content – and older domain names – get more search engine “luv” than new content and newly registered domain names.

Domain names and great original web content get better with age.

Which is why – it’s so heartbreaking for me to get an email from a client who has invested the time and effort building a brand new blog under a brand new domain name into a blossoming business blog which is climbing the SERP charts only to have the rug pulled out from beneath their feet by an expired domain name.  It’s even more frustrating because it is so easily avoided.

As I write this blog post, I am reminded of an earlier email from a client who is currently experiencing this heartbreak.  She had hired a new virtual assistant and needed her blog log in information so her VA could handle the many web based details which were overwhelming her.    Obviously this “detail” of renewing her domain name had slipped by unnoticed by this cut rate VA.  (Read “Avoid Hiring the VA from Hell” for more tales of VA horror.)

Meanwhile, her product is almost ready for beta testing – and the firmly established web position she had staked out is now gone.

My client’s VA dropped the ball  and now she’s got to choose whether she will invest more time and money into launching this business.

Personally – I hope she fires her virtual assistant and continues her journey to launching a product which targets an emerging online trend.  I hope this doesn’t derail her vision or cool her passion for creating her product.  I hope the fact that her domain name was snapped up so quickly serves as evidence of the potential that lies ahead.

But in the end – it’s up to her whether she decides to get up or stay down.  What would you do?