Elance Blog

Using a Blog to Attract New Business

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?

About
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.

Comments

Great advice! We will look into these points for our own blog. We will write more actively when we have Blue Chip Community up and running.

I enjoyed reading this post. It has many great tips and tricks the blog owner can effectively use to be able to attract new visitors and clients and expand its audience. Thanks for sharing this information. - Javier.

Thanks Javier, for the nice words. I appreciate them.

And Martin, my loyal friend, thank you for dropping by at Elance to read this article. Hopefully you explored some of the rest of the site while here. There's a lot to see.

Anita

hey anita, great input. knowing donts about something is as important as knowing its do's. your tips can help definitely minimizing mistakes during blogging and hence prevent visitors running away on reading the blog.. if a blog cannot generate a buz atleast it should not lose its visitors for the next 1.thanks - Regards, amrita.

Great advice. :) Along the lines of #6, I think using blog software that puts you in a blogging community is also helpful. Using a place like blogger, for example, gives you a chance to be seen and listed as a "blog of note" or in the brief "blogs updated" section.

~Kendra

Hi Anita,
All your points assume that prospective visitors know about your blog and will type in www.yourblogname.com. 'Engaing Readers' - Yes, Blogs are Great - But 'Getting New Readers ' - ???.

Great Content, discounts, links are all good strategies for creating stickiness or repeat visits or Conversion BUT how will you announce & get the traffic onto a new blog amongst the zillions already out there.

The Article would have been great if it was titled 'Use Blogs to get Repeat Visits'

Just my two cents worth.

Cheers
http://www.maverickmav.com.au

Hi Anita
We have realised the importance of a Blog and reading your article has convinced us to Blog more than ever. But for a complete novice, where do we start? Can this be outsourced at relatively low cost? Thanks

Really useful commentary on business blogging. Its a whole different kettle of fish from personal blogging. But one of the great things is that a blog allows you to be you. We all know that people buy people. I know that a client is more likley to buy if I have met them personally. Therefore your blog is a better marketing tool if it does reflect your personality. After all it would be no good if you met a potential prospect who then commented "Oh you are nothing like I thought you would be from reading your blog"! Just be you. Its also true that anyone will see through a made up online personality very quickly

Anita
Ref No.2 Integrate the blog into your website navigation.

I was under the impression that a blog should stand alone with its own url.(like a wordpress blog) and not as part of a website.
What do you think?
Ross

Hi,

Yes indeed a great rticle. I also believe that blog is a good tool however in this fast pace world do people really read blogs. I had this feeling that people write blogs to impress search engines more than the real readers am I wrong?

Jamal

Great article!

We also recognise that the approach to blogging can vary from person to person...what is one man's tin is another man's silver.

Don;t forget the headline....often appealing to the emotion of the reader or offering a quantified benefit to the reader. With many blogs our their to read and limited time a choice over which blog to read is generally determined by the headline and subsequently the first paragraph. In fact I do exactly this with google news....although find the odd mind capturing headline not to be what I thought.

Ross, and others that want greater exposure across multiple sites and don't desire your blog to be on your own web site, the (automatic) service that we provide does exactly this.

thanks for sharing. you say a lot of things - all appororiate but I am still trying to convert these to action:
...as the net becomes global and that there is less and less time to do more and more things - your advice posts on SMB gives me mixed feelings.
It feels too general and not specific enough - it is just a list of ideas that is repeated every so often in blogs, books and the internet . For many new users of the net who are struggling to get the "damn thing" working well , it would be better if you focus on just 2 ideas and go deep and develop the content like a tutorial so we can all learn to do the things rather than just read about it.

Hi! Anita,

Thanks for the a very beautiful writeup about the usage of blogs other wise we have always used blog for just fun. We will surely will take care and will try to use this tool for our marketing purpose in near future.

Hi Anita,

I am enjoying your writing, learning lots as a new blogger. As it stands right now, I'm in the content loading stage for my new blog, which will be an info hub for my network marketing business. Following your advice, I am NOT looking for drive-by sales thru this blog, as the content will reflect. Looking for quality blogs to link with and provide a quality link for them as well. Would you please consider this?

Thanks,

Forrest
http://forrestbivens.com