Blogs are becoming an increasingly important part of the marketing mix for industrial companies. According to the recent GlobalSpec 2010 Marketing Trends Survey,
26% of marketers use company blogs and 35% plan to implement a blog this year. Blogs can help establish a thought leadership position, increase brand recognition, improve search engine rankings, foster good relationships with customers and prospects, and create opportunities for leads and sales. But many attempts at blogging start out healthy and end up withering. Whether your company is already blogging or planning to start, follow these tips to help ensure success.
1. Define your strategy. As with any marketing program, blogging efforts should be strategically driven. What are the goals you hope to achieve by blogging? It could be thought leadership, brand building, or customer relationships. Who is your primary audience? Define who you are writing for and their needs. This strategy needs to be in place because it will guide other decisions along the way.
2. Establish a voice and tone. Voice and tone are related not to what is being written, but how it is being written. Blog entries tend to be composed in a less formal, more conversational style, offering an opportunity for the writer's (or company's) personality or point of view to show. Some blogs are written from a position of authority, some are more analytical, and others may be inquisitive in nature. Establish the voice and tone that are right for your blog and communicate this policy to anyone who writes for it.
3. Recruit writers. Since blog posts should always have fresh content, consider assembling a team of employees to participate. It can be difficult for one person to do all the writing for a blog, although you should have one overall editor to ensure consistency of voice and tone, as well as adherence to strategy.
Recruit fellow employees to contribute to the blog. Seek executives, engineers, customer service representatives, sales people and others with expertise that may interest your audience. Be sure to let them know they don't have to be expert writers or compose long articles. For example, a blog entry could be a paragraph with a comment and link to an interesting article.
4. Develop an editorial calendar. Blogs often fail due to the lack of regular content updates. To avoid this, develop an editorial calendar to help stay on track. It also keeps your team of contributors aware of their commitment. It's a good idea to maintain a library of extra content that you can publish in the event you miss a calendar deadline.
Post to your blog as frequently as possible. Posting less than once a week renders your blog no longer topical, and reduces the flow of information and interactive dialogue with your audience. So post regularly, or your blog is likely to become just a static Web page and your audience may forget about you.
5. Be interesting. This may be the most important tip of all. If you are interesting, readers will be engaged, you'll foster discussion, grow your audience, and meet your goals. What makes a blog interesting? In the business-to-business world, interest equals usefulness. Help your audience perform their jobs better by providing insightful analysis and commentary on industry issues, technical challenges, and other work-related matters. Offer links to white papers, instructional videos, product applications and important articles. Issue invitations to educational Webinars. Also, sprinkle in lighter fare for a change of pace: games, contests and humor.
6. Increase visibility for your blog. A blog is only useful if your audience knows about it. An advantage of frequently updated blogs is that search engines gravitate toward fresh content. Use keywords in your posts where they naturally fit, add keyword-based links to blog entries, and link to your blog from your company Web site. Also, link to your blog from your e-newsletter, from directories such as GlobalSpec, and even in your e-mail signature. You should get a unique URL for your blog, such as blog.companyname.com or companyname.com/blog.
7. Encourage comments. Blogs are meant to be interactive. Encourage your audience to leave comments by taking a stand and writing persuasively about key issues. Ask your audience for their opinions by posing a question to prompt responses and greater engagement. When you receive comments and questions, respond to them on the blog. Always respond respectfully, even when comments are negative. It's never a good idea to argue with your readers.
8. Track your results. We began and ended this list with tips that apply to every marketing program, from starting with a strategy to tracking results. Like other online marketing programs, a blog is built for measurement. Look for upward trends in the number of visits to your blog, page views, times spent on the blog, and comments from your readers. Keep writing to your blog and promoting it, and you'll soon see results.