To blog or not to blog??….that is the question.
In fact, it’s a question that kept coming up again and again with all the discussion around last week’s Ford debate.
But not only did it come up in that particular article, I’ve seen it mentioned in various corners of the blogosphere by other peeps stating, “Not everyone should have a blog!” again and again.
And for the record, before someone gets the very wrong idea and just skims to the bottom of this post, let me say this loud and clear:
Not every business should be blogging.
For effect, I’ll say it one more time:
Not every business should be blogging.
But here’s what bothers me about this statement—Many people that I’ve seen say, “Your business doesn’t need a blog” have not actually given the parameters for and against the use of such a marketing medium.
Just making this statement doesn’t really accomplish anything. It’s kind of like saying:
- Not everyone needs social media
- Not everyone needs to advertise
- Not everyone needs to focus on marketing
- Not everyone needs to focus on customer service
- Not everyone needs to hire great people
- Not everyone needs to have a definitive business model
- And on and on and on
Hopefully you get my point. Not every business needs to be doing any of the above to have success, but yet, we still talk about these as best business practices all the time.
So that’s what this article is all about. Frankly, I can’t recall the last time I was so excited to write a blog post. Fact is, blogging (content marketing) is having an incredible impact on businesses small and large all over the world.
So strap your seat-belts on my friends and let’s take a deep look at this very important question and see if we can settle this debate once and for all.
What the Heck is a Blog Anyway?
To start, before we break down the “why” and “who” of blogging, we need to discuss what a blog actually is, otherwise we could seriously get off on the wrong foot.
First of all, one needs to understand that “formatting” is, in many ways, what dictates what is and is not a blog. In other words, let’s say you want your company’s website to have a section discussing “company news.” To show this, you could do the following:
1. Set up a single, continuous page that keeps growing with each new bit of news.
2. Set up multiple pages on your site that discuss each piece of news separately.
3. Set up a blog that does the same thing as #2, but now shows the most recent news stories on the main page, but then has all of the stories broken down into categories as well as singular pages. (In other words, it’s just a much more organized version of #2.)
As you can see, the line between #2 and #3 can get blurry, as well it should, as a blog is just a group of pages of your website that have a unique format in which they are displayed.
Also, any website can actually have multiple blogs with multiple purposes. For example, here are some potential types of blogs that a company may choose to have:
1. Company News (Often seen with publicly owned companies talking to their shareholders)
2. Customer experiences and testimonials (This is what Ford is currently doing with their blog.)
3. New products/specials/announcements/etc. (Apple anyone?)
4. Location based subjects (For example, if you’re a location-based company with a finite area in which you work, you might have a blog that focuses just on this area.)
5. Customer questions/ Wiki/education center
For anyone that’s ever been here on TSL, I’ve discussed #5 in pretty much every blog-related article I’ve ever written. In fact, when I wrote 50 Qualities of the Best Business Blogs in the World a few weeks back, I was referring to #5, as it’s where the magic of true content marketing occurs most prevalently.
The Need for Separate Blogs
To make it clear, I do not think there is anything wrong at all with having unique blogs on your company’s website that discuss 1,2, 3, and 4—but I do feel the five types should NOT be mixed together. This is also why my swimming pool company has two blogs on it. One of them is more like a Wiki and answers every single question anyone in the world might ask when considering a fiberglass swimming pool (#5).
The other is more Virginia/Maryland based (#4). For example, I don’t want one of the subscribers to my main blog, who lives in Texas, to receive an article in his/her inbox that talks about “Swimming Pool Zoning/Permit Laws in Fairfax County Virginia”. I’m sure you can see why this wouldn’t make sense.
This is also why it’s generally not a good idea that you mix your “company news” with the educational/wiki blog of your website. Some people just want you to teach them solutions to their problems/questions. Other folks might be such a big fan of your company that they want to know whenever you’ve released your newest product, service, etc. (Again, Apple is a very good example of this.)
This being said, if you really want to be great at blogging and content marketing, you’ll allow consumers to “choose their own adventure” and decide if they want to subscribe to some, none, or all of your blogs. By doing this, you’ll have much stronger individual followings but also more liberty to have very targeted themes with each one of the articles you write, as you know the end-reader will likely be interested in what you’re about to say.
Got it Marcus, but who should and should not be blogging?
Remember, the context of this article is about “business blogging” with a focus on #5 (education/wiki blogs), so keep that in mind. I’m also not here to talk about “social blogs” that are really more like friend-makers, community-builders, etc.
What I’m talking about today is businesses—big and small, local and national, B2B and B2C, and on and on. Therefore, please understand the principles of what I’m about to say are essentially the same no matter what type of business you have. Yes, there are times when applications change, but again, principles of sound blogging (content marketing) do not.
What Types of Business Should NOT be Blogging?
1. When the ROI isn’t there as compared to other investments: Return on investment is a big, big deal. And each one of us, as business owners and marketers, have a finite amount of time to spend on our daily activities and business.
Let’s say you have a small business and you find that by doing PPC advertising online, you’re consistently getting returns of 300%. Also, you’ve got more work than you can handle and you’re making a huge profit.
In a case like this, I likely wouldn’t suggest to a client they start blogging, as the time and monetary investment, especially for a small biz owner, may not bring in the returns needed to make the investment worth it compared to what they’re already doing.
Keep in mind though that many people automatically dismiss content as having a poor ROI because they’ve been terrible at blogging, had no strategy, not taken the time to properly measure the results with the right tools, etc. Fact is, if a blog stinks then the ROI will stink as well. So as I say “ROI needs to be there”remember this applies to companies willing to go about this type of marketing the RIGHT way.
2. Your Niche doesn’t tailor well to blogs: I have a client who owns a restaurant here in Virginia. It’s a local burger joint and his radius of customers is about 15 miles. Also, many of his customers are in the +50-age crowd. This being said, it wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense for my client to be blogging about “5 Ways to Make an Awesome Burger.” Now granted, a few customers might appreciate his words, but just as with #1, the ROI simply doesn’t make sense in his case.
So instead of worrying about a blog that would have low returns (mainly due to his client base), we focus his efforts on marketing through Facebook, a place where over 75% of his client base resides. In fact, almost all of our marketing is done through FB and the 1000+ fans we’ve accumulated over the past 12 months for this small-town burger shop.
As I’ve stated many times before, when it comes to social media and marketing, instead of being a jack of all trades and master of none, businesses should first seek to become at least a “master of one”, which is exactly what my client has done with Facebook.
3. Your niche is so specific no one is asking questions about it, on or offline: This can be a tough one to explain but I’ll try to give an example. Let’s say your company makes computer chips that are used in the cockpits of stealth bombers. In a case like this, you’d likely find it almost impossible to produce consistent content about your niche. But even if you could, it’s possible so few people are actually looking for your product online that it wouldn’t be worth your time compared to a more direct-selling approach.
Again, it goes back to a question of ROI.
Note*** Keep in mind that #3 applies to very, very few businesses, so be careful not to lump yourself in to this crowd too quickly.
Note #2*** One could argue many other reasons not to blog, such as poor content quality, no company commitment, no direction, etc. This being said, I’m not of the opinion these are legitimate points to argue in this particular post.
What Types of Businesses Should be Blogging?
I’ve got one main answer for this one:
***When your product or service involves research, questions, comparisons, etc. from prospects and customers.***
As we all have come to accept, the Internet has become man’s great research grounds. It’s where we go to ask any question we can possibly think of and likely get at least some type of answer.
When it comes to most products and services, consumers have questions. In fact, it is my strong belief that if someone is thinking it, YOU should be answering it on your website. (This is the essence of content marketing.)
So whether it’s about “price,” or “vs.,” or “who’s best?,” etc—we need to be addressing these issues. By so doing, not only will those on our websites appreciate our efforts and trust us more, but Google will reward us with way more visitors, which in-turn puts shoppers in our funnels and not in the funnels of other websites, competitors, etc. (Note*** Anyone that tells you that they’d rather have online shoppers and consumers read critical brand information on another site rather than their own is either crazy or truly doesn’t understand the principle of “inbound” marketing.)
As I’ve stated before, the key to this is having a willingness to address EVERY question a person has. And remember, if someone has asked you or someone on your staff a question, it has likely been asked well over 1000 times online. Heck, sometimes it has been asked well over 1,000,000 times.
This type of content marketing is all about the sales funnel, as great content will serve two major purposes:
1. It gets prospects into the top of your funnel (either through SEO, social media, or email marketing).
2. It pushes those same prospects down or out of your sales funnel. (In other words, some buy and others realize your product/service is not a good fit.)
The Excuses We Hear
I’m always amazed at the reasons people give for not embracing the power of content marketing. It amuses me that a company will spend millions a year in television commercials trying to “educate” their audience but these same companies will act like great content that answers questions and enhances brand messaging on their website isn’t a good fit.
Here are some REAL content marketing stats:
- In 2007, my swimming pool company achieved $4,000,000 in sales after spending $250,000 in advertising (TV, print, radio, phone book, etc.)
- In 2008, the economy crashed.
- In 2011, with the economy still in a huge funk, my swimming pool company achieved $5,000,000 in sales and spent a grand total of $18,000 in advertising/marketing.
What’s funny is that many folks still tell me to this day that, “Oh, that’s the pool industry, it doesn’t apply to me.”
My industry has consumers that have questions, research, and then buy from those they trust the most to give them the best value.
The many industries I’ve now consulted with have the same types of consumers.
What’s crazy is that I’d imagine your industry is loaded with these types of consumers too.
Is Blogging for your Business?
So is blogging and content marketing for you? Maybe… maybe not.
But this much I will say:
If you’ve got people asking you questions, then it’s high time you step up to the plate and answer them. Do not be an ostrich and bury your head in the sand.
You can call it a blog. You can call it a resource center. You can call it a Wiki.
Honestly, I don’t really care what you call it, I just care that you’re willing to give consumers exactly what they’re looking for, and by so doing, your business will reap the incredible benefits.
I’ve said more than my fair share on this topic with today’s post, so now I’m interested in your thoughts. What do you think about the subject of having multiple vs. just one blog? Do you agree that if a consumer is asking (or searching) a question, YOU should be answering it? What other reasons would you give as to why businesses should not be blogging?
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