Using a Blog to Attract New BusinessGuest_Blogger | Mar 17, 2008
Blogs, like email house lists, can be excellent tools to communicate with existing customers. They can keep you top of mind with existing customers or contacts, provide customer service information, short tutorials and other information for existing customers.
But what about using a blog specifically to attract new business? How good is a blog as a prospecting method, or demand-generation method, or whatever phrase you want to give to the concept of “getting new business”?
Having blogged for over 4 years now, I have found a blog to be an excellent source of new business. But I’ve also learned what a blog is NOT.
It would be a mistake to think of a blog as direct response vehicle. It’s not the same as sending out direct mail or email offers and the like. Here are two rules of thumb to keep in mind:
First, think of your blog as a way to get permission to market. In this one respect a blog is like a house email list. You have to first convince someone to sign up for your email list before they grant you permission to send them communications.
Similarly, with a blog the first step is to engage your readers – get them interested. When they become a loyal reader, they will be more receptive to your sales messages. They may seek out your products or services because they come to trust you through your blog. If a friend or relative asks for a recommendation, they may think of your brand and spread the word.
Just don’t make the mistake of expecting a sale from a visitor the first time he or she happens on your blog. Blogs are terrible for generating drive-by sales.
Second, avoid the hard sell like the plague. A blog is more like a lead generator than an online shopping cart. People are attracted to blogs because they are informative, engaging, sometimes entertaining. Visitors don’t want to read a sales pitch. You can talk about your company, but keep it conversational and informative -- and subtle. Don’t scream “sales pitch!” at them. They’ll go away. And won’t come back.
With those two rules of thumb in mind, here are some specific actions you can take to use a blog to help generate new business:
1. Add subscribe boxes – Include a signup box for your email list. Blogs can be great sources of getting new subscribers to your house list, because the person reading a blog is already in information-gathering mode. While you are at it, include a prominent button to sign up for your blog’s RSS feed. Both should be “above the fold” for greatest visibility.
2. Integrate the blog into your website navigation – Obvious, right? But some blogs are surprisingly hard to find on websites. Think of it this way: a blog may convince a casual visitor to your website to hang around longer or return again if they are not ready to buy on that visit. Many people will silently research before making a decision to buy. This is particularly true for B2B products or services.
3. Add a link to a lead form or a product demo – Give people something to do or explore about your products, right there on your blog, without having to click too many times to get to. Just keep it subtle.
4. Use discounts and specials sparingly on your blog -- Can you sprinkle in a post now and then about a special offer or discount your company is running? Sure. Just do it very sparingly between many other information-based posts. Or put a small, clickable offer graphic on your side column and don’t harp on it in posts.
5. Write something on your blog that is quotable or a resource reference – Great content creates a reason for others to link to your blog, and will draw in outside visitors, something that should be one of your main goals with a blog. Offer general advice or tips that are not specific to your own products. Just remember that with so many blogs offering tips and advice today, the bar has gotten higher as to what constitutes a “helpful resource”. So you’ll need to cover information that can’t be found easily elsewhere, or spend some effort putting together comprehensive lists of resources, how-tos, etc. Or run a poll on some timely topic with a link to immediately view results – this creates curiosity. Remember, if all you write are commercial pitches, no one will link to them. And that means your blog won’t be working to draw in new potential prospects.
6. Reach out to other bloggers – You want to attract attention to your blog from new people. One way to do that is to link to other bloggers. Create a short blogroll (list of links to other blogs). Choose blogs written by bloggers who fit the profile of your target audience. And spend some time visiting and commenting on other blogs – not link dropping, but leaving thoughtful comments and participating in THEIR community. And respond to comments on your blog – make it a conversation.
7. Remember to appeal to the visitor’s emotion – All sales are based on emotion. In your writing, appeal to what matters to a prospect – speak to his or her pain, wants or needs. Blogs are perfect for appealing to emotion, because you can let your personality show through. You can speak intimately, “me to you” on a blog. Strive to be likeable on your blog, too. It matters.
This just scratches the surface of what you can do to use a blog to get new business. What about you? Have you used any techniques that have worked particularly well? Has anything backfired or bombed on you?
Anita Campbell is a writer, speaker and radio talk show host who closely follows trends in the small business market at her site, Small Business Trends.