Saturday, December 16

Blogging: Who Needs It?

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Blogging: Who Needs It?

In a networking group to which I belong, I have used the services of at least five fellow networkers. But no one has used mine. Why?

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Because a lot of small businesses can’t understand for the life of them why they would need to pay someone to write blog posts — or anything — for them.

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I pointed out a crucial misspelling on the business card of one member. And most small business people are too close to their own businesses to know what to say on their websites. Or don’t know how to say it clearly. And the website designs? Some make my skin crawl. Don’t get me started about pink fonts on black backgrounds.

Urk.

I don’t think any of my fellow networkers think of themselves as professional writers. But they also don’t have the money to spend on “frills” like having well-written websites, blogs or e-mail newsletters. Or so they think.

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Here’s a secret: If you want your small business to become a bigger business, you need to post regular blog entries to get high Google rankings and send out e-mail newsletters to your customer and prospect lists to keep them thinking about you.

It’s essential that your company remains top-of-mind with your target audience, so when the time comes that they need your service or product, they’ll call on you. Common sense, right? Once you cede that top-of-mind position, a competitor can grab the business right out from under your nose. So hang onto it for dear life. By traditional advertising? Not so much these days. Now, it’s by social media marketing.

Here’s why social media marketing works best for small businesses, versus other forms of advertising:

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• Creating and placing advertising in newspapers and magazines costs a boatload of money.
Far more than most small businesses will net from the ads. Social media placement costs nothing.

• Sending out direct mail is prohibitively expensive.
Add Design + Copy (Hire it done; don’t ever try to write it yourself for *free*) + Printing + Postage. See if it adds up to profit. Response to a really good DM appeal is around 2%.

• Unfortunately, few people bother to read newspapers anymore.
So if you advertise there, who will see it?

• People are flooded with direct mail from a jillion sources.
If they’re like me, they sort mail right over the trash can and jettison anything that looks like DM. No score there.

So if people aren’t reading newspapers or DM, where the heck can you connect with them?

On the Web, silly.

Social media marketing is where it’s at these days.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other SM platforms encourage interaction, conversation and engagement, which, over time, leads to loyalty. No more is it a matter of “tell and sell,” which makes traditional blah-blah-blah advertising obsolete.

If you are going to reach out to potential customers and retain current ones effectively, you’re going to have to be present and noticed in social media. I’m sorry, but that’s the truth. Everybody — even your Great-Aunt Edna — shops and looks for information online these days.

So how do I attract and retain customers via social media, you may ask.

By blogging frequently (Google loves new, relevant content, changed regularly). Sending out e-mail newsletters. Maintaining a vibrant presence on Twitter and Facebook.

Anyone can establish a Twitter or Facebook account in minutes. But knowing how to communicate effectively on them is not so simple. Hire a professional communicator to do it for you. You know you don’t have the time to do it yourself; you’re busy running your business. And frankly, you know your business, but you probably don’t know writing as well.

So, in summary, here’s how a small business can make a big splash on the Internet and reach and win customers:

• Have a good website.
(easy to find, easy to use, providing useful info for your target audience).

• Blog like mad.
Be real. Be human. Establish a human connection with your prospects and customers. Offer valuable insights, knowledge and a piece of your own humanity. Regularly, consistently.

• Send out e-mail newsletters.
Not all about YOU, but about things your target audience would like to know. If you’re a tire store, how about tips on how to brake safely on ice? And by the way, we’re having a 25% off special on the best winter tires to buy.

• Finally, do not try to do these things yourself.
Hire professionals. Whether it’s design, writing, website development or anything else regarding your Web presence, you’re better off to find reasonably priced freelancers out there who are experts. You’re an expert at your business. Probably not at social media marketing.

If you are an expert in social media marketing, kudos. But you’ll have to make a choice: are you going to run your business, or are you going to take all the time to get online and do your tweets, blogs and e-mail newsletters regularly, consistently?

How much is your time worth? I’m just sayin’.

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