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Business Blogging – How to Succeed

February 15th, 2012

The Premise

As businesses continue to discover the blogosphere and the benefits and repercussions that come along with it, too many marketing managers are simply applying the principals and practices learned in Advertising 101 and/or sales training seminars to construct their blogging strategies. In other words, I have noticed several blogs on corporate Web sites that have been written in a manner similar to what one would find on a product description page. This is in fact a significant blunder in blog creation because it dilutes the true purpose of a blog; which is to organically engage with people in meaningful and purpose driven dialog. The fact is, consumers don’t read blogs because they’re interested in hearing a sales pitch, but rather they desire to scratch beneath the surface so as to discover the degree of actual value a product, service, or brand may provide to them personally.

How to Write a Blog

In actuality, there is no set formula or templated prescription for writing a successful blog other than to keep the content real and relevant for the reader. The content should be structured so as to capture the emotions of the reader/consumer and in a manner to solicit feedback. In many cases, this strategy goes beyond product-centric content and taps into the lifestyle of the audience; creating a customer-centric forum that harnesses emotions and develops a level of interest with significant impact for the reader.

In summarizing the elements required to produce a successful blog, remember to:

  • Develop content that is beyond the scope of your product
  • Emotionally engage the target audience by talking about values, lifestyles, and subjects that keep people awake at night
  • Ask for honest feedback
  • Develop a mechanism to pass the blog along to other readers

How to Promote a Blog

Truth be told, successful blogs really don’t require a major media blitz to create a following if they are constructed around relevant content, as mentioned above, and if they incorporate a technological infrastructure to support a loyal following. For instance, RSS integration is a tool that is designed to build traffic to a blog site while encouraging repeat visits through a syndication method that is non-intrusive. In other words, RSS doesn’t clog up email and it helps the audience discriminate relevant information from spam through keywords and descriptions.

The Benefits of Blogging

Cutting through all the complex definitions of blogging, the most direct description is that of an online forum for authors to post comments and/or questions so as to solicit feedback. For businesses, blogging should not be viewed as an extension of an advertising campaign, but rather a medium to connect with customers and stakeholders. Companies that utilize blogs effectively will discover that their audience is more than willing to provide constructive feedback, in some cases eliminating the need for focus group style market research.

Additionally, blogs provide consumers with content they can search out for themselves, without having to rely solely on corporate-generated commentary. As a consumer, I appreciate the chance to view reader responses to corporate-generated content since it allows me the opportunity to experience the product/service from a peer’s perspective. For instance, if I’m preparing to make a purchasing decision, I as a consumer want to be well informed of the value that I would possibly receive from others that have bought before me. This is a great lead in for some common objections companies hold toward blogging.

The Objections

In my experience as a consultant, the two most common blogging objections that I run into include 1) the risk of negative feedback and 2) the lack of time. Starting with the negative feedback dilemma, companies must come to grips with the fact that not everyone can be overwhelmingly satisfied; and whether marketing managers like to hear it or not, the conversation about their company’s products and services is already taking place amongst consumers. Blogging simply provides an avenue for sellers to participate in the discussion.

To overcome this first objection, any company of worth will have loyal customer evangelists who are willing to extol the company’s virtues and provide testimonials via an online forum if provided the opportunity to do so. For companies wondering how to accomplish this feat, the key is in identifying those customer evangelists and inviting them to participate in the online discussion. Although almost any company will have its share of detractors, it also has a large network of customers who will willingly go to bat for the company so as to defend it from critics. If a company is unable to identify any customer evangelists, that organization is in serious need of evaluating their customer service program because they probably won’t be doing business 5 years from now.

To address the second objection, time is always a factor in business operations, one of the critical resources that is severely limited and often leads to the downfall of organizations that are unable to manage it wisely. However, blogging shouldn’t be viewed along the same lines as a company picnic or corporate birthday celebration, but as a critical component of customer relations. Without a doubt, blogging requires a significant commitment, however the burden of blog management can be mitigated through a smart and comprehensive strategy involving multi-blogger participation, strategic content parameters, and scheduled posting dates.

The Conclusion

In all, blogging is merely a tool that companies should leverage to envelop customers into brand loyalty and evangelism. If thought of as an extension of traditional advertising, the blog will ultimately fail because there will be a disconnect between the corporate message and the expectations of the reader. To succeed, keep the content real and customer-centric, and remember to implement technical mechanisms such as RSS or pass along links to broaden participation via social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

YOUR FEEDBACK is appreciated, please reply to this blog with any questions or comments.

Make Sure Your Website Content is Legitimate

April 28th, 2011

In February, Google made a significant change to its search algorithm in order to penalize and weed out shady SEO tactics such as keyword stuffing, content copying, etc. The Google change has actually forced some companies who practiced such tactics to layoff significant portions of their workforce because their Google search engine result listings dropped so severely. Take a look at this brief article from Website Magazine to read more: Crop Devastation – Google’s Farmer Update Retools Rankings.

As we’ve preached for years, your overall strategy should be to write Website content for your users, not  just to bait Google with keywords. Even if this tactic works for a brief time, in the long run this strategy will be detrimental to your online presence as has been demonstrated by Google over the last few months.

Search engine optimization is still a legitimate and very important component of your online strategy. It just has to be implemented correctly and with correct expectations need to be set for the client by a legitimate SEO firm (which can be hard to find). There is no shortcut or get rich quick scheme with SEO regardless of all the many claims of so-called SEO professionals who fill our in-boxes with their spam. As I’ve observed before, if these people are really so good at SEO why don’t they impart their skills on their own Website and reap the benefit instead of sending out spam?

To get started down the right path simply write your Website content and messaging solely for the benefit or your prospects and customers; in other words with true unique value. With that done then hire a legitimate SEO firm and copywriter to insure that your content is in line with your target keyword market which may require some slight adjustments to your copy.

There is a lot more to a long term SEO strategy but the above will give any Website a great foundation and insure that they are positioned for a successful future.

Secrets of Successful Blogging

March 29th, 2011

Blogging can be compared to retail in terms of generating “foot traffic.” Many people venture into retailing because they enjoy interacting directly with customers, they’re passionate about a product or service and they’re certain that others will be as well. So they’ll lease a storefront, flip the sign on the front door to read “Open,” and wait for the customers to rush in and buy their goods. However, what separates a successful retailer from a bankrupt retailer is the realization that rewards are derived from hard work, quality, attention to detail, and evolving a passion to match the market need. Retailers can even spend a significant portion of their budget to advertise their product or service, but if they haven’t addressed these variables, they’ll never generate interest nor will they develop a loyal following. And yes, these same principals apply to blogging.

So why do so many blogs fail? In my estimation, I’d narrow it down to these 5 reasons:

CONSISTENCY – The blogger has failed to consistently develop content on a regular schedule; which in turn leaves whatever viewer he or she has previously attracted clueless as to when updates or newsworthy items will appear on the blog. Although many business owners say they don’t have the time to blog consistently, they need to change their perception of the blogging function and recognize it as a legitimate portion of their sales and marketing activities.

RELEVANCE – Just because a blogger may have a passion for nude para sailing, that activity doesn’t necessarily equate to like minded interest within the public at large. Similar to the retailer example above, a blogger must evolve their passion to address a market need. One unfortunate characteristic of our culture is that people are too busy in general to be interested in the passions of others; what they desire is content that emotionally engages them and equates to their own interests. This isn’t to say that bloggers can’t structure a message to endear their passions to others, but merely a warning to keep the interests of the audience in mind. In fact, regardless of the subject matter, successful blogs capture the emotions of an audience by making them laugh, cry, ponder, or get angry. Even nude para sailing could become a relevant blogging topic if the subject matter is able to emotionally engage the reader.

AESTHETICS – No matter the content, people in general still appreciate a well-designed layout for a Web page that is pleasing to the eye and easy to navigate. By maintaining a well designed Web page, bloggers are able to enhance credibility and improve the viral component of their distribution – because who really wants to refer a terrible looking Web site to a friend or professional acquaintance?

COMPREHENSIVE MARKETING– Going back to the retailer example, one cannot simply flip the sign on the front door to read “Open” and expect customers to pour in. Generating blog traffic will take effort; the content must be distributed out to a targeted group of readers in order to generate interest. Thankfully, utilizing technologies such as RSS (Really Simple Syndication), SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and viral social components such as Facebook, Vertical Response, Twitter and even the “Send This to a Friend” link are all viable methods to help generate interest in a particular blog. Additionally, bloggers should must incorporate some good ol’ fashioned personal promotion. The power of simply honestly asking your friends and professional network to help spread the word is highly underrated and under utilized. Be honest and simply ask your sphere of contacts (family, friends, neighbors, work contacts, etc.) to read your blog and pass it along to anyone they know who might appreciate it. Tell them plainly that you’re trying to grow the awareness of your business. If you’re truly passionate about the value you are offering your customers AND you’ve taken the time to address the first three components this tactic can have amazing results.

The Secret to Writing Blog Posts that Get Noticed

June 16th, 2010

Google Wonder WheelAs you may be aware from the myriad of past SEO posts we’ve made, the holy grail for getting more customers from Web searches is getting more backlinks (or linkbacks if you prefer). Specifically, multiple high quality link backs from other Websites in the same or related industry to yours. These are the “votes” Google uses to decide how high up on the search results page your site should be listed for a given keyword search. Google itself provides two incredibly powerful tools that have the potential to exponentially improve your return on blog writing time.

The strategy is simple:

  1. Research current hot topics and searches on Google using Google Trends and Google Wonder Wheel.
  2. Find a keyword that fits within the realm of a hot topic, applies to your area of knowledge, and appeals to your target customers.
  3. Post a quality blog focused on the hot topic keywords for your target customers.

Here are the tools:

  • Google Trends Find out what search terms and topics are currently high traffic. Self explanatory and intuitive to use: http://www.google.com/trends
  • Google Wonder Wheel Expand keyword options and refine a topic to find a keyword topic that fits you and your client base best. To utilize Google Wonder Wheel simply perform a Google search, then expand the “Search Tools” in the left hand column of the result page and click Wonder Wheel.

If you use these tools I would love to hear about your experience.

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