Yes, Your Business Needs A Blog
When I talk to business owners about their marketing, many executives (and even some marketing directors) think of content marketing as a kind of window dressing that pumps up the size of the website but doesn’t move people to action.
There are three key reasons for this, but they don’t make it right.
Blogs Get A Bad Rap
Like a shopping mall toilet, the Internet is overflowing with useless “content.” The Internet’s barrier to entry dropped to zero with the advent of wordpress.com’s free blogging tools. Now, anyone with the ability to form words on a computer can pour out their stream of consciousness about any topic for the whole world to consume. Blogs, the thinking goes, are for people who don’t have real jobs and are trying to monetize their hobbies.
The fact that this trend continues unabated indicates that nobody is tracking results. My hunch is that most of the businesses and marketing specialists who churn out endless low-value content don’t know how to measure its impact or are measuring the wrong things. Otherwise, they wouldn’t spend the money it costs to produce it.
With all that trash floating around, it doesn’t take much effort to stand out.
Blogs Are Seen As Being Too Soft
The fact is, most businesses need a solid web presence to be found and trusted. That said, there’s a right way to do it.
There is also an assumption, especially among executives, that all customer-facing materials must include a hard “call to action.” As a result, many articles published by businesses under the banner of “content marketing” end up as self-serving promotional pieces.
The fact of the matter is that content marketing (done right) is a highly-effective tool for attracting new prospects and converting them into leads (and ultimately customers). Pound for pound, content marketing generates more, better-vetted leads than traditional advertising for a fraction of the cost.
Good content marketing overcomes the normal barriers that advertising tends to create. While advertising shouts at the prospect about your company, content marketing engages them in a conversation. More importantly, it lets them pick the topic and terms of the conversation.
Give The Reader What They Want
The prospect has no control over where your ads appear. In fact, there is a growing sense that advertising has become invasive, as some ads seem to appear in response to things your devices are hearing when you don’t think they are listening. Have you had the experience of talking with a friend about a product and the next time you open your smartphone an ad for that product appears? That’s disconcerting for people. It makes people feel unsafe and pressured.
By contrast, content marketing answers a question the prospect is already asking. Our content satisfies their inquiry.
If we’re really honest with ourselves, our prospects don’t care about us or our businesses. They don’t care what we can do or how well we do it. What they care about is how to solve their own problems. To the extent that you can help them solve that problem, you have earned their attention. If you answer the question to their satisfaction, you might earn their trust. Earn their trust, and you are more likely to earn a second chance to help them.
Don’t Do This
A common mistake marketers make at this point is to trigger an avalanche of “hard” marketing messages in response to the first visit. Some marketing execs might not think aggressive marketing is a “mistake,” but it is. It’s similar to meeting someone at a trade show, getting their business card, and then calling them every few hours asking them to marry you.
That’s a great way to accelerate your opt-out rate.
Content marketing has a longer sales cycle than other marketing forms, but the transaction is not the goal; the goal is to build a relationship that will produce fruit over time.
What A Blog Will Do
While a blog isn’t as direct as ad copy, it can be at least as persuasive. That’s because it does the following things in a prospect’s mind:
- Engages them in conversation
- Solves a problem
- Answers their question
- Builds their trust in you
- Gives them something of value
- Establishes you as an expert
- Breaks through the mental clutter of constant advertising
In doing these things, a good blog pumps up your SEO naturally, because it creates a reason for visitors to intentionally seek you out as a reliable source of information they want.
The Difference Between Blog Copy and Sales Copy
I hear my friends in Sales bristling at this idea. It sounds too soft, like pushing a string. That’s because it seems to violate the rigid rules of sales copy in their minds.
The lines between sales copy and blogging have blurred a little over time. There are whole websites dedicated to how to use the natural strengths of the blog format as a sales tool.
One of those strengths is the casual, conversational tone most blogs take. While traditional sales copy is sometimes perceived as pushy or too direct, a blog tends to be less formal.
Blogs are also more informational in nature. I might follow a blog to learn more about camping or be entertained by someone’s travel experiences, not to be sold a piece of gear. Where some bloggers have found a way to monetize their blog — and this is really ingenious — is by carefully weaving in a pitch and call to action for the reader to buy a product.
How many times have you read a blog about some topic that interested you and their advocacy for a certain product was so compelling that you felt you needed to have it? Done well, this can be an incredibly effective sales tool, because it bypasses most readers’ natural objections to sales copy. It is also easier to share on social media because it comes across as a value-add.
Less Rigid Structure
Well-written sales copy follows a clear outline with specific steps that move the reader through the decision cycle from “unaware” to “here’s my credit card.” While well-written blogs also follow an outline, the emphasis is on education and conversation, not closing a deal. Again, this is actually a superpower of the blog format, because it establishes you as a trustworthy resource for information.
Think about great sales people you’ve known. What made your encounter with them so positive? The great salespeople lead with relationship, not the product. They break down barriers by building a type of friendship. A good blog does exactly that.
Take Your Audience By The Hand
I have a weird kind of admiration for those guys who stand in the middle of the sales mall during the holidays and hawk remote control toys and cell phone accessories to passers-by. My heart goes out to them for their hustle and determination, but I can’t help but feel bad for them. Few things in life are as off-putting as having someone yell their sales pitch as you. I get it: I’ve been to the trading markets in the Middle East and across Asia. At least there, it works consistently. But still…
Sales copy has a well-earned reputation for screaming at people as they walk by:
- “Hey buddy, buy my fitness program!”
- “Sign up now and I’ll give you this free eBook!!”
- “Hey lady, get 90% off my already-low membership fee, if you sign up in the next 3 minutes!!”
A smart copywriter invites the prospect in with the promise of something they want (and they always deliver on that promise). While they are talking about the topic of interest, the writer will provide links to other resources the reader might find interesting – inside and outside the website. I’m not talking about trashy ads for “how to clear your driving record with one click.” I mean resources that really help the prospect find what they are looking for.
Build A Relationship Around Value
As the writer becomes a trusted source of information, they build a relationship. If it’s really good content, the prospect will click through to read other articles on that site. They might make a note (or a bookmark) to come back and read other articles later.
Really good blogs provide value by educating the reader on topics that matter to them and leave them feeling enabled to do things for themselves. If I were writing a blog about fly fishing, for example, I might include some instructions for how to get started, the best times to go fishing, and what to look for when the fish are biting. I would share stories of great days out in the river or favorite places to fish. I would also include reviews on specific pieces of equipment (with links to purchase, of course) and insider tips for how to get the most out of each piece.
If they trust your tips, they are more likely to trust your product recommendations.
Make Your Customer The Hero Of A Story
Good writing takes the reader on a journey. Great writing makes the reader the hero of the story. The reason story-telling is such an effective way to move a prospect through the decision cycle is that when the human brain recognizes that it is entering a story, it switches off certain functions and focuses on experiencing the story.
If you’ve ever read a business book and each chapter starts with an anecdote, this is why. The writer understands how to use story to bypass the reader’s objection defense mechanism. A brain in “story mode” is more relaxed, more receptive to underlying messaging, and less resistant.
Sell The Piano
Let’s say you sell pianos.
An interesting blog might share three ways learning to play the piano helps seniors maintain brain health. As it turns out, this is actually backed by research.
I might draw a picture in the reader’s mind of a warm summer sunset with the windows open and a gentle breeze sweeping the drapes along the edges of the living room windows. The room is buzzing with voices: small children giggling, young adults recounting scenes from a movie, older men laughing about a disastrous fishing trip, and older women laughing about the older men. A hint of grilled chicken and red wine swirls silently around the room.
And over there, in the corner between the sofa and the sliding patio door, is a black baby grand piano. The gloss finish of the lid catches the dying rays of the sun as the tune drifts from room to room.
As the reader begins to paint the picture in her mind, I would invite her to imagine herself seated at that piano, weaving a tapestry of music for her gathered family. Imagine that she is advanced in years — a white-crowned matriarch to this whole group — but just as sharp and sprightly as ever. Her strokes along the keyboard are smooth and effortless. She is enjoying this time with her family and they are enjoying her. How is this possible? Because her mind is constantly generating fresh new cells as she learns new pieces to play.
Are You At Least Thinking About A Piano Now?
Are you interested in being vigorous and vibrant in your golden years? Would you want to enjoy family gatherings long after your peers have gone on? If you knew that learning to play the piano could help you achieve those goals, would you pursue it? Would you consider it a wise investment to have a good quality piano in your home to keep your mind sharp?
The power of story. A blog can do this. Sales copy would have a much harder time keeping the reader engaged.
Let My Team Help You With Your Marketing
I consider myself very fortunate to have a team of highly-skilled writers around me because they help me engage my clients and prospects at a different level through good writing. And they advance our marketing strategies beyond what I could do myself. If you want to know more about how to leverage creative writers to take your marketing to the next level, the next thing you want to do is click here to schedule a “fit call.”
Our “fit calls” are just an introductory conversation to see where you are in your business, where you want to go, and whether the Venture Studio team is the right group to help you make that journey. It’s free to those who listen to our “Messes To Successes” podcast. You can find the podcast on Spotify, iHeartRadio, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, TuneIn, and several other places. I think you’ll find that it answers many of the questions you have about your business.