We all have nodding acquaintances, neighbours with whom we have snatched conversations, but how often do those chance encounters develop into lasting friendships? There has to be an incentive – perhaps a mutual interest in sport or shopping – and the invitation to share it at a live match or a day trip to Bluewater – for the relationship to blossom.
In the online world, it’s really no different. You might exchange the odd tweet, make posts and respond to them, but to build a meaningful relationship with potential customers you need a place to really engage with them, and that place is your company blog. It is the foundation of all social media, and helps to develop better customer relationships regardless of whether you’re a small business or multinational company.
Of course, maintaining a lively, informative blog that stimulates sales is easier said than done, but the following tips should prove effective:
Draw them in
Good content is key, but you also need a hook: something to attract readers’ attention in the first place. An arresting headline or a catchy slogan works as well on line as it does in print. So don’t just make your heading descriptive, make it compelling. Strong headlines also make great tweets, which you can link back to your blog. Experiment with one or two to see which works best.
For example: ‘Stemming the flood: what to do before the plumber arrives’ will catch the eye and promises a practical solution to a homeowner who is seeking advice on how to stop their bathroom being flooded out. Or ask a question that the blog will answer, like: ‘Is solar heating a better investment than an ISA?’ is a great way to draw in cost conscious consumers.
Be an Expert
Business blogs that work best are not self-advertisements, they should offer professional tips and advice and your take on market trends and developments. Your aim should be to establish yourself as an expert in your field – a consultant rather than a sales person. Then when your customers have a need they will come to you first as a trusted supplier.
Remember that when searching for a professional or tradesperson they will type in phrases like ‘Dentist, Bishop’s Stortford’ or ‘Plumber, Harlow’, and when looking for help they may key in ‘Where can I buy home brew kit?’ or ‘Where can I find a design agency?’ Try and anticipate the key words your potential readers will use and make sure they are included in your blog. Also talk to your web developer they will be able to help you to maximise its SEO (search engine optimisation) and this will help you to rise up the search engine rankings.
Give Stuff Away
Do you think Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsey worry about ‘giving away’ their trade secrets on TV? Not on your life! Celebrity chef programmes may be hugely popular, but their stars know that half their audience couldn’t boil an egg on their own and when they want to eat out in style they’ll go to one of their signature restaurants. It’s a recipe for success you’d do well to follow in your blog!
Besides free advice, the offer of a free service will also pay dividends. One of our clients offers pensioners a free gas safety check on their central heating systems, with the aim that if any problems are discovered he will be asked to carry out necessary repairs.
Your blog is an extension of your brand. In fact it’s much more than that: in the digital world it’s the very core of your brand – a chance to stand out from the competition and express your individuality and uniqueness. People relate and respond to personalities more than they do to organisations, so let your knowledge and wisdom shine through. Give your business a human face and a distinctive tone of voice. Over time search engines will start to index your blogs driving more traffic to your website and generating more business.
Spread Yourself Around
They say the best way to make friends is to be a friend, and that applies as much on line as it does in life. Take the initiative to comment on or provide links to fellow professionals and news sources. And think about writing or exchanging blogs with trade customers, suppliers and others. It fosters good will and generates back links to your own web site, which is all grist to the digital mill. Our MD Richard Taylor, for example writes as a guest blogger on Brand Aid, a blog that offers a distinctly individual take on the advertising and marketing world for Business Weekly.
Play the Long Game
It takes an investment of time and effort to build a following, so think long term and don’t get discouraged if you’re not yet in Justin Bieber or Katy Perry’s league! In business a blog is more public relations than advertising, and its main function is to build and maintain your brand. Long blogs – over 1000 words – will get you noticed on Google – and establish you as an authority in your field.
To keep the conversation going and the style consistent, it’s a good idea to make your company blog the responsibility of a particular member of staff – ideally the same person who manages your Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Social media is a hungry beast, and one that needs to be fed regularly with meaningful content. If you can’t spare a staff member for the job we at Simpsons Creative can help you out with creative and editorial support – it is, after all, what we’re here for.