When small or medium-sized businesses first arrive on the scene in Canada, it might be daunting to see how many similar companies are offering the same kinds of products and services. Take a look at the blogs that cover the topics relating to those areas, though, and you’ll really get a sense of how competitive your market has become.
Ten or 15 years ago, it might still have been a bit unusual for a SMB to have its own blog. As they become highly helpful tools for brand-building and even driving sales efforts, however, that’s changed. Blogs are everywhere (even if they aren’t always kept up to date), and a newer entity will be struggling to figure out how to make sure their posts land on the first page of search engine results when a customer or prospect goes looking for information.
As with traditional media like newspapers and magazines, people often seem willing to explore new sources of information, as long as the content is relevant and high-quality. It may take time before a new SMB’s blog becomes the go-to authority on a given topic, but weave in some of these tactics alongside creating a robust editorial calendar and using tools like Marketing Cloud to track the results of everything you publish.
This will seem counter-intuitive to some SMB owners. Aren’t blogs supposed to be a “free” way to get their message into the world? Wouldn’t they be better off allocating more of their marketing budget towards paid promotion for their actual products and services?
If you think of your blog as a product, on the other hand -- a collection of the expertise that informs everything you sell to customers -- you might look at it differently. It wouldn’t be unusual to spend a little money advertising the grand opening of a new branch location, for example. An ad campaign for a blog, especially as it launches, could be a quick and effective way to get noticed, for several reasons.
First of all, managing paid campaigns is made easier with Advertising Studio, one of the components within Marketing Cloud. Second, blog content can come across as a genuine desire to educate and inspire, versus trying to sell directly through an ad. And third, blog content can be used in many different ways -- think about a retargeting campaign that repurposes the graphics and headlines of your three most popular or best-written posts, for example.
Lots of SMBs try to raise their profile by attending and participating in live events, conferences and trade shows where they can meet customers and prospects in person. If you’re fortunate enough to get a chance to be on stage, don’t do what most speakers do, which is end their talk or presentation with a slide containing their name and email address.
Instead, end with links to three different posts on your blog which can build upon the remarks you’ve just given, with a simple URL that will guide them to those posts without a lot of searching around. Think about including a direct link to your blog on your business cards and in your email signatures, if you haven’t done so already. Too many companies bury their blogs under “About Us” pages, which makes it difficult to build an audience.
Everyone now knows what a blog is, so a lot of companies have taken the easy way out and simply referred to it as such. Some have gone a little further and called it “The XYZ Corp. Blog.” In some cases, though, a blog can be positioned as more of an entity in its own right.
Think of Coca-Cola, which has a blog called “Unbottled,” suggesting a behind-the-scenes look at its inner workings. Or “Whole Story,” the blog by grocery firm Whole Foods that reminds customers of its work in local communities and supporting healthy lifestyles. At Home Depot, “The Apron” focuses on those buying building products and the projects they care about, rather than just the building products themselves.
If you have a particular kind of customer and a higher purpose that appeals to them, a blog with its own brand name might start to look like the one thing that can rise above the “noise” all the other blogs are trying to make.
There is so much dialogue happening across platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter, but in many cases there is only so much room to make your point. The great thing about blog posts is they can be short-form, long-form and everything in between -- the only best practice is to give the topic the length it truly deserves.
As you monitor social media, weigh in where it makes sense and consider using links to your blog as pointers to a more in-depth sense of your perspective. Do this judiciously, of course -- you don’t want to seem like you’re exploiting a particular platform. But if there’s something you’ve published that genuinely deserves greater attention, calling it out in comments could lead to more readers than simply putting it out on your company’s own social channels periodically.
Building a strong blog audience for an SMB doesn’t happen overnight, but also remember that an audience that contributes to the growth of your business doesn’t have to number in the millions.
In fact, the more you use Marketing Cloud, the better you’ll be able to define the right targets for all your posts. Then you can use the right channels and strategies to get the critical mass that leads to increased sales.
Even if you’ve only convinced a small percentage of active, loyal people to read and convert into paying customers, your blogging efforts will be far more successful than any of the other competitors for traffic and clicks.