Business Blogging Basics

Business Blogging Basics

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When it comes to connecting with customers, an engaging and interesting blog is one of the most important marketing tools a retail business can leverage. According to Bloghology, over 57 million Americans read blogs. Marketing research firm MarketingSherpa noted that a recent survey indicated business blogs ranked as the fourth most important marketing tool to create sales leads.

Now, before you dismiss blogs as simply an online personal diary where people record painstakingly-detailed descriptions of their lives including what they ate for breakfast and what funny joke a co-worker shared, remember that we’re talking about a BUSINESS blog. This isn’t your high school daughter’s personal online diary; this is a powerful marketing vehicle designed to build a long-term relationship with customers that will help you combat the ‘lowest price’ shopping criteria many consumers currently use. So, if you haven’t set up a blog, we’ll show you how to do it in 30 minutes or less.  For those retailers who already have a blog, we’ll provide some guidelines to help you make the most of this powerful new-media medium.
 
  Many blogging sites are free or require a very nominal one-time fee. Two of the most popular sites are Blogger (www.blogger.com) and Word Press (www.wordpress.com). Both sites offer a plethora of different templates, and all you need to do is create an account to get started.  Both sites will walk you through how to choose a template and create posts. Spend a few minutes experimenting – it’s easy to get started.

 A blog is a perfect vehicle for showcasing the unique attributes of your business, but you’ll want to spend a few minutes thinking about what kinds of posts you’ll create and what you want customers to know. Don’t get overwhelmed with trying to create a detailed communication strategy. Just think about what makes you special and how you can connect. Maybe you can write a profile of a regular customer who has a flourishing small business of her own (and the profile can highlight all the services you provide). Is your business active in the community? Do you support a local cause, and if so, how?

Consider writing a paragraph or two about why this organization is important to your business and how you are supporting your community. You can also write blog posts that highlight the history of service your business has offered. Maybe you’re the oldest camera store in town, or maybe your business is the only one that offers a particular service. You can also comment on the latest digital photography trends; readers love to get an ‘insider’s perspective’ on what is happening today in digital photography – be the expert.

How To Kill A Blog
If you want to make sure your blog suffers a painful death, use it as a hard-sell sales tool. People read blogs because they want to learn things, to be engaged by the content and to pick up some new tips or ideas.  Populating your blog with manufacturer copy and ads is a sure-fire way to make sure that your blog is ignored.

Also, think about which blogs, newsletters or online sites you enjoy reading.  What is it about those particular sites that is so compelling? How is the information presented? Do they use catchy headlines? Do they clearly explain technology in a way that other sites fall short?  Understand and apply those techniques to your own blog.  

Batch Your Processes
When you think of creating regular blog posts, do your eyes glaze over? Do you have a sudden desire to bolt out the door or down three cups of coffee? While the initial idea can be overwhelming, the reality can be quite the opposite. For your first attempt, just spend fifteen minutes writing down ideas for blog posts. You may decide to write a weekly digital photography tip and a ‘did you know’ paragraph about your business. Once you have this list, you can pick another time where you sit to write several blog posts at one time.

Batching your posts in this manner allows you to have several weeks of content ready to go, taking the pressure off of having to write something new each week. Others, however, prefer to have thirty minutes scheduled each week to write  blog posts. They like the regular schedule as it keeps them in a frame of mind that encourages creative marketing.

Don’t Forget Pictures

When it comes to creating an effective blog, a picture really is worth a thousand words. You can use an online stock photography service, and many of these sites offer substantial photo libraries that are incredibly inexpensive to use, or use your own images. After all, if there’s one business that doesn’t have an excuse for not using fantastic photography, it’s those of us in the picture business!

Also consider approaching a local professional photographer or some other community figure to write a relevant blog post for you.  It will provide them with some publicity while positioning your business as one that is connected to other experts.  

Tech Tips
One of the ways to keep conversations going is by encouraging them on your blog.  A blog has a setting for comments, so if you want to encourage conversations, keep the comments setting ‘on’ so people can post their own ideas, comments or even links to relevant information.  You can preview and approve the comments before they are posted.  

You may also want to include ‘backlinks’ in your posts. Backlinks are just incoming links posted on another site that like back to your site. Backlinks can help raise your ranking in online searches and can help potential customers find your business. If you write a few photo tips for your blog, offer those posts to other blogs (such as parenting blogs) with a link to your blog and website.

Frequency and Timing

This question has different answers for different businesses.  Some bloggers prefer to offer more comprehensive ‘article style’ posts once a month; others prefer to post two quick paragraphs twice a month, while others feel they must post something each week.  You can experiment to find what works best for you, but don’t post something just for the sake of posting something; remember that every post is a representation of what your business has to offer. Always think value. Your blog can be the one thing that will help your customers view you in a new light.  It can also help you realize and appreciate your offerings in a fresh way.  It’s the start of some wonderful new conversations, so don’t delay.  It’s time to get the conversation started!

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