As popular as blogs have become since introduced in the late 1990s, the question of whether to develop one remains unanswered by many small business owners. This post is designed to help you determine if a blog is right for your distributorship.
Blogs have value. Take the concern of effectiveness off the table. The B2B Content Marketing 2012 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report indicates that B2B marketers increased their use of blogs last year by 27%, making blogs the third most common content marketing activity (articles and other types of social media placed first and second, respectively). HubSpot’s 2012 State of Inbound Marketing indicates that 81% of businesses surveyed rated their company blogs as useful, important, or critical.
Setup is relatively simple. Getting a blog up and running is much simpler today, thanks to WordPress, MoveableType, Tumblr, Blogger, TypePad and other self-publishing platforms. If it isn’t practical for you to handle setup, or you want to customize your site, you can enlist the help of an HTML designer for a one-time fee.
Blogs improve search engine rankings. This is due to creating keyword-rich content and cross-linking to other content on the web. Enhanced search engine optimization only occurs when you use your own domain (e.g., www.mapleridgeblog.com), however, versus hosting your site on a free third-party blogging platform mentioned above.
Once you get past the initial hurdle of “to blog or not to blog” you still have two challenges to address.
First, are you equipped to create meaningful content for your readers? Of course you are. You have a wealth of promotional marketing ideas in your head. Day after day you propose ways to use merchandise to help organizations say thank you, welcome, we appreciate you, congrats, we want you back, or check out our new service. To ensure that you deliver ideas in a format your audience finds useful, consider the following:
- Share stories. Remember when you proposed a moisture-wicking shirt to the client whose employees sweat profusely? The shared food gift concept you introduced to a client whose budget no longer allowed for personal gifts? The pre-show mailing you created with one glove that enticed three dozen key prospects to visit your client’s trade show booth to get the other glove? You undoubtedly share success stories in person and over the phone on an ongoing basis. Sharing them via blog will extend your reach. You’ll also increase buyers’ understanding of your capabilities and their comfort level with you. (Be sure to include photos with captions, or short videos with customers’ testimonials.)
- Vary the format. Use different approaches with your posts. If you work closely with HR directors, write a checklist of 10 ideas for welcoming new employees, including cost ranges for the recommended products. Interview a customer about the experience of creating a company store and present the information in Q&A format. Compile a how-to article on introducing a staff uniform for the first time, including often-overlooked issues such as who will be responsible for dry-cleaning if some of the staff are lousy launderers?
- Establish a voice. It’s your blog – have fun with it! Let your style and personality come through in each post. It will help keep buyers interested in what you have to say.
- Invite guest contributors. Your blog goals include educating your audience. If there is meaningful content that extends beyond your capabilities, be it signage, point-of-purchase displays, mobile messaging, or any other marketing tool, ask service providers who specialize in these areas to contribute periodic posts. They’ll welcome the exposure, and you’ll be perceived as a great resource.
When you brainstorm a list of topics, make sure it includes a mix of “evergreen” articles that will always be relevant, as well as pieces tied to holidays, new merchandise, the cost of nuts, the new color palette for the season, and so on.
Your second challenge is adhering to a publishing schedule. Experienced bloggers will tell you that an editorial calendar is key to publishing with regularity. Set up production deadlines for yourself as well as contributors, including the date materials are due and when posts are scheduled to publish. (TIP: Give yourself a running start. Don’t launch your blog until you have several posts written and ready to use.)
A recent post in the SocialMedia Examiner discussed blogging frequency. Studies by HubSpot and Edison Research indicate that more frequent blog posts bring greater traffic and leads. Still, your customers and prospects aren’t likely to expect you to post as frequently as a publishing house or Fortune 500 company with a content marketing staff. You’re better off posting useful content twice a month than posting twice a week only to drop off a few months later. (P.S. You’ll have an easier time sticking to your schedule if you line up a few guest contributors!)