Blogs: Opportunity or Waste of Time?

image of a door knockerTelephones. Automobiles. Television. Personal computers. Cell phones. At one point each one of these inventions was seen as an excessive luxury embraced only by a fringe population. Today it’s difficult to imagine our lives without them. It’s time to add blogs to that list.

Blogs have redefined the way we gather information and share opinions. A recent MarketingSherpa article states that many B2B marketers report that it’s their team’s blog, not the company homepage that is now the most popular entry point for visitors. When it comes to total views, time spent on site, and number of pages viewed, blogs outpaced the homepage.

Why is this? Blogs occupy the social media sweet spot by providing credible content in a conversational voice that encourages interaction.

If you’re still on the fence about blogs consider this: a recent survey by DemandGen Report reveals that 65 percent of buyers indicated they used social media in their research and vendor selection process. Here’s the catch: Only 38 percent of marketers actually budget for social media initiatives.
That sounds like opportunity knocking. Are you going to answer?

Opportunity

At their core a blog is a media channel that you control. They have the capacity to deliver a marketing and communication medium with unlimited potential. A blog offers a solution for the following seven challenges faced by marketing leaders.

1. Footprint
The way search engines determine page rank is always evolving. While the methods used change one thing remains constant: they continually strive to rank pages based on popularity, content relevance, and timeliness. A quality blog fits this description by delivering fresh, relevant content that expands the real estate of your website (another factor considered by the engines).

2. Who Are You?
Blogs reveal your company’s personality. Look, I’ll be honest. It’s no secret that content is a necessary part of a successful marketing strategy. In an attempt to develop mass amounts of content some businesses use services that allow them to purchase pre-written material. That’s great on short-term gain but the real price is paid when they realize they’ve established a brand that looks, feels, and sounds exactly like others who have pursued the same strategy. That gives the buyer freedom to make a purchase decision based on price. In other words, the lowest-bidder wins.
Use your blog to emphasize your unique selling proposition. If you’ve done your homework you ought to know what sets you apart from the competition and what it is about your company that your customers value. What does your company believe? Share it. Be authentic. Be generous with your information. It will set you apart and make you memorable.
Quick story–I receive newsletters from two realtors: one uses an article service, the other uses fully customized material. The latter has robust material specific to the Rochester area. This has relevance to me (even if I’m not in the market to buy or sell). The former provides generic advice on choosing paint colors for a room. Ho-hum, yawn. When I need a realtor I’m going with the one who takes the time to provide tailored material. I’m not generic and don’t want generic service. Do you?

3. Two Places at Once.
Blogs are your stand-in double. They do the talking for you when a prospect is cruising your site at 11:00 p.m. and you’re sleeping. Blogs also continue any interactions you’ve had with a prospect. When you share your website address with someone, your blog is continuing the professional conversation. Think of it as the perpetual touch point source.

4. The Ever-Expanding Pipeline
No matter where a prospect is in their purchase cycle your blog keeps moving them towards the point of purchase. Even if someone is simply window-shopping, your blog gives them a place to visit and chime in their opinion. They’ll remember that.
Want numbers? The DemandGen Report survey reveals that 93 percent of buyers said the solution provider they chose supplied ample content to navigate through each phase of the buying process.

5. Social Media Strategy
Blogs are a core tool in a social media strategy. Do you appreciate receiving messages on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter from people who do nothing but repeatedly advertise their wares? Write something meaningful on your blog then tweet, share, or post the link. Now you’re not advertising, you’re contributing to the conversation.

6. Repurpose for Off-Line Tools or Vice-Versa
Want to write a white paper or book? Test your ideas in a series of blog posts. Need a place to re-use a press release or article? Rewrite it to fit your blog.

7. Creative Effort
To keep your blog fueled with solid content and offerings you will be forced to dedicate effort, insist on teamwork, and deliver ingenuity. While these things require additional energy you may feel your team can’t spare, it’s this effort that fuels ideas and growth.

What to Expect

Blogging, like anything of value comes with a price. Here are four considerations to make before adding a blog to your content toolbox.

1. Time.
It takes roughly six months or longer for a blog to develop a trickle of traffic. Six months! Then again, once you make it past this benchmark you begin to reap on-going positive word of mouth, a more robust pipeline, credibility and visibility.

2. Money.
Blogs are an investment. Churning out thoughtful, meaningful posts on regular basis demands commitment. You should get staff to contribute but typically, you will need a writer to provide an on-going backbone of posts. Purchasing cheap content is an option but what you save in your immediate pocketbook will be outweighed by what it costs your overall brand. And to be fair, when compared to traditional media outlets (purchasing email lists, advertising in print, television or radio) blogs quickly become a cost-effective marketing tool.

3. Vulnerability
Blogs are an invitation to let people share their comments and opinions on your posts giving you a convenient way to track the pulse of how your company is doing in the eyes of your customers. Generally, if you do your best to provide quality information and services people respond in kind. Public recognition is an excellent way to build credibility. The flip side is a reality too. Someone can broadcast their bad experience to which you can use that opportunity to explain and respond. Yes, blogs make you feel a little vulnerable, but that’s something we can all understand.

4. Creative Effort
Creative effort is an asset and a liability. As a liability a blog demands dedicated creativity at regular intervals. This kind of creativity does not occupy the comfort zone. It demands real effort, teamwork, and ingenuity. Just be prepared.

One Parting Thought

You don’t have to start with the blogging equivalent of a parade and fireworks. Do you what you can, do it regularly, and choose quality over quantity. Once you start, article ideas will develop along with your reputation.

Karen Marley is an independent business writer who uses content to connect businesses to people.

Photo Attribution: J.L. Settle from Flickr

Originally published on: Aug 5, 2010

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