Blogging is finally capturing the attention of more and more business owners mainly because of its marketing and search engine optimization potential. But the owners and entrepreneurs who think these are the only applications of business blogging are cutting themselves short.
Blogs have dozens upon dozens of immediate applications for small and large businesses alike. As with any new technology, the real benefits only become apparent when you step away from all the hype and begin to align the technology with the needs, wants, and desires of the people who can use it.
Business blogging is no different. It needs to be viewed as a tool that can be matched with your current operations and client communication channels for maximum leverage in all your business development efforts.
So why are blogs such a powerful online ally for small business owners?
Although there are a number of combined factors that make your blog a powerful online ally, here is what we consider to be the top seven.
- Instant on-demand, online publishing.
- The ability to easily make entire blogs (or individual posts) private/password protected.
- The ease with which the technology can be used. (Only basic technical knowledge is required for the operation and maintenance of blogs. If you can use a word processing program and surf the net, you can use a blog.)
- Automated syndication of content to all subscribers
- Bypassing of all email delivery and Spam filters
- Low cost of operation. (Your “hosting” and your “posting” are your only costs.)
- With the right business blog strategy, you get high impact benefits with both human visitors and search engine spiders.
As a 21st century entrepreneur, these seven factors may have already piqued your interest in business blogging. But I’d like to help you take this even further by giving you some real-world, practical applications for business blogs in your company.
In this series of short articles we’re going to look at 21 examples of how you can use a business blog to create high impact results for yourself and your company.
First we’ll look at 13 examples for the external use of blogs. Then we’ll delve into eight more examples for the internal applications of blogs.
In both cases, these practical examples will help make the useful application of business blogs easier for you to digest and apply.
#1: Product / Service Q&A and FAQ
Instead of a boring old static FAQ page, or forcing your clients though a “phone prompt” gauntlet – you can create a business blog to answer questions for your entire client base all at once!
The native organization feaure of blogs that puts the newest post at the top of the page makes it easy to find the most recent questions. And the built in navigation of blog software using categories makes a FAQ business blog more intuitive than a forum for most users. Combine these two features with the right strategy and you’ll have a powerful, convenient, and interactive FAQ resource that not only answers questions for your clients, but also becomes an intuitive online learning resource for your products or services.
#2: Contests and Promotions
Using your business blog to enhance relationships and open lines of communication with your clients and prospects can take on many forms. Whether your business is primarily online, offline, or driven by both click and mortar channels – you can use your business blog to get the word out faster about promotions you’re running.
Online buzz can be created much faster when prospects and clients can interact with you and with each other. They can do this very easily via the comment feature embedded in most blog programs.
That same interaction with offline buyers can lead to more ideas and more buy-in from people who you might not otherwise speak with. Leveraging the communication enhancement that blogs provide brings benefits to both online and offline businesses.
#3: Company News and Updates
If you have a lot of activity that goes on at your company, or if you deliver premium content to your clients as part of what you do – then it’s important to get that info out to your prospects and clients as quickly as possible. You can do that with a business blog.
You can publish literally “at-will” making real-time updates as new breakthroughs or shifts take place. If you’re updating readers on critical news or market data, their news aggregator automatically pulls in your news through your RSS feed.
No Spam filters, no email delivery problems, and no more interrupting your clients by “pushing” your content to them. Your clients and subscribers decide when they want to read your company news updates or premium content on their schedule.
This is just another example of how your business blog can make client-centric information delivery a practical reality!
#4: Press Release Posting
For small and mid-size businesses getting mentions in the press can be a big boost to your positioning in the marketplace. And your business blog can be a powerful tool in getting the word out on important announcements from your company.
In addition to using a service like PR Web that may get your release picked up by a daily paper or trade publication, you can post your Press Releases on your own business blog for a double whammy.
We’ve had coaching clients with active business blogs that have found their Press Releases being picked up in search engine queries ahead of powerhouse services like PR Web. Plus as an added benefit your Press Releases will remain as a permanent posts on your business blog thanks to permalinking. That means that both people and search engine spiders can always find that content at a set location so long as your blog is up and running.
#5: Sneak Peeks and Consumer Input
Does your business rely on the creation of new products, services, or information? If so, you can use your business blog and people’s natural curiosity to increase interest with “sneak peeks” of your works in progress.
As an added bonus, with a properly structured and well planned blog your readers can interact along the way with comments, trackbacks, or even private emails. With these forms of direct communication you’ll open a dialog that allows you to collect valuable input which may impact your development process and generate improvements before your new product or service even hits the market.
Plus … people who do open that dialog with you are prime candidates to have test the product or service before it goes out to the general public. They’ll appreciate being involved (so much so that they’ll often become your greatest evangelists.) And you’ll appreciate the final fine-tuning that they will contribute.
#6: Self-expression (putting a “human face” on your business)
If you have a business where you’re not involved in the daily interaction with clients and prospects, or if your company is set up primarily as a virtual business, your prospects and clients may never get the opportunity to interact with you on a personal basis. They may never have the chance to really get to know you as the owner. And that distance may create some hesitancy or uncertainty in doing business with your company as a whole.
As strange as that may seem to some business owners, it’s a fact. People want a relationship with their product or service provider. The depth of that relationship will vary from person to person, and it will also depend on what is being consumed. But it’s a certainty that trust and connection will pave the way for better client-to-company relations.
This applies to all businesses, but it’s especially true with service-type businesses where there’s a higher level of human interaction built into every transaction. If your business provides a service, there’s a very personal interaction that takes place, whether you’re providing services to the general public, or to other businesses. If at all possible, consumers want to feel comfortable with you before hiring your company.
By using your business blog to express yourself and your opinions you can go a long way to putting a human face on small service companies, and even the largest of corporations. Take Robert Scoble for instance. He’s unintentionally (at least at first) done it for Microsoft with his blog “Scobleizer.” If it can be done for a behemoth like Microsoft, don’t you think you can do it for your small business?
The more relationship barriers you can remove for your prospects and clients, the easier the sales will be, And the more loyal clients will be. No matter what other focuses you might have with your business blog — always give your prospects and clients the opportunity to get to know the real you better. That human connection will give you and your prospects both what you’re looking for.
#7: Photos and Images
If your business or industry focuses on photos or visual imagery, then a business blog can be a big help too. Business blogs can be used for the rapid posting and wide distribution of visual content as well as text.
The only key with image-based blogs is that a text summary and alt image text is a must for each and every post. That helps humans make the linkage between the images and the benefit to them. And that helps the search engine spiders, because photos mean nothing to a Search Engine spider.
#8: Developer Notes
Software companies, programmers, and web designers can use a business blog to keep their clients up to date with the latest upgrades and fixes.
By creating a business blog with this purpose you can put your clients minds at ease knowing that solutions and upgrades are being worked on. And if your current work is not addressing an issue that one of your clients is aware of, you’re more likely to get feedback on other bugs or problems you should be looking into.
#9: Client Case Studies
Many times your prospects and clients are dying to know in detail how your product or service can help them. Very often in your websites sales copy it’s difficult to make the connection between benefits and the practical ways your product or service can be used. Your business blog can create the bridge you need to lead a curious prospect over the valley of trust to become a loyal client and raving fan.
Sharing real-life case studies in your business blog does two things.
1. It makes the benefits of your product or service tangible.
2. And it subtly creates social proof (Definition) that opens the door to deeper rapport.
You can devote your entire business blog to case studies, or just dedicate a section. But when you do, you’ll realize a significant increase in trust and rapport because people can interact with you by commenting on your case studies. Something that they could never easily do with a regular web site.
#10: Reputation Building and Positioning Yourself as an Expert In Your Niche
When it comes to building credibility and gaining recognition as a knowledgable expert your marketing materials, web site, and even the occasional published article do little to establish you as a leader in your niche. Unless you have a full feature article published in a major national magazine or you have a regular weekly column in a major paper, it’s difficult to generate the respect and notoriety that press coverage can bestow.
But when you create a niche-focused business blog you can quickly gain recognition and respect while proving yourself with quality result-generating content. It’s amazing but true — you can post to your business blog for as little as two or three months and you’ll begin to establish substantial credibility in your market.
Using your business blog in this way has a number of benefits, but one of the most powerful is building a credible track record that speaks for itself. When a prospect arrives at your blog and sees how much knowledge you’re sharing and the passion you’re exhibiting about your chosen niche – people respond to that. And that response is usually to place you in a position of respect and expertise.
Get educated on the right way to start your own business blog, then follow a well-planned strategy. When you do, your RSS powered blog can become a major ally in your reaching for a position of recognition and respect in your industry or niche.
Business blogging is not a magic wand, but it is a powerful communication tool that can transform you into a serious “go-to” source of knowledge.
Successful marketing is no longer about being outrageous or screaming louder than your competitors. In the 21st Century marketplace people want a relationship with the person (or people) they’re buying from. That relationship is what makes the consumer feel confident that he or she will get the personalized service they’re looking for.
When you decide to create a business blog, with all it’s ease of use and built in interactivity, you’re taking advantage of the perfect medium for effective “new school” marketing. It’s marketing that’s based on building deeper levels of trust, understanding, and rapport.
Really when you think about it, this desire on the part of consumers should come as no surprise. It’s nothing new.
Most people have always wanted an interactive relationship with the provider of services or products they need. But during the last century the merchant has been in control. And unfortunately that “old school” business owner didn’t understand the important distinction between making a sale and building a relationship.
Successful marketing in the marketplace of the new millennium
The 21st Century Marketplace is a new and rapidly evolving environment. If you hope to be effective with your marketing in the future, now’s the time to wake up and ride the wave of change.
Technology, the Internet, and now blogs — they’ve all permenantly changed the expectations of the average consumer. No longer will obtrusive ads or other interruption marketing techniques create the results you once could count on.
Today’s consumer is bombarded with blatant marketing messages and overwhelmed with the shear volume of clutter in their lives. Joining in the frey and just trying to shout above all the other noise is not enough anymore. You need to stand out by stepping out of the traditional marketing paradigm.
People who are in your target audience want to be educated about your product or service. They want to feel comfortable with you and your company before making a commitment to purchase from you.
Using your business blog to share detailed information about the benefits, applications, and implications of your product or service can help you achieve all the goals you want and more. Educating through your business blog and speaking about other issues directly related to your niche or industry will transform you (in the eyes of your audience) into a trusted resource instead of a self-serving marketer.
Like it or not — interruption marketing is dead
Some business owners may feel like all this education, orientation, and interaction is way too much work. “I’ll just pump some more money into an ad campaign and get the same results I always have,” some owners may ignorantly say. But any business owner who thinks this way is in for a rude awakening.
The consumer is in control, and that will only be reinforced as time goes on. The unstoppable upswing in technological advances and integration of the internet more and more into our daily lives makes sticking with the old methods of interruption marketing a literal death wish.
Today’s consumer is well armed with convenient technology and she’s internet-savvy. She already knows she get information on just about anything she wants. The easier you make it for people in your target audience to find the information they’re already looking for — the more they’ll appreciate you and your willingness to educate them.
This is all GOOD NEWS for the average small business owner
All these changes in the marketplace have dramatically leveled the playing field. It’s no longer the big that eat the small. It’s now the fast that eat the slow! That means successful marketing is now more about getting the right information rapidly applied than it is about big bucks and complex campaigns.
A properly planned business blog is part of the answer. There is no easier way to winning the trust of prospects and making them feel secure in making an initial purchase. It’s interactive, easy to integrate into your existing marketing strategy, and best of all — it’s ultra low cost.
Learning how to create your own business blog is not the complete answer all on it’s own. But as part of an overall click-and-mortar marketing strategy it’s an interactive tool that you and your business cannot survive without. Step into the marketplace of the new millennium with confidence and integrate a business blog into your marketing strategy today.
#12: Niche Branding
You’ve probably heard the saying “and inch wide and a mile deep” to describe an area of specialty for your business. But that same principle can also be applied to the branding of your product or service.
It can take years to brand your company using an offline only approach. Even when you employ some serious online strategies and tactic, brand building can be a long drawn out process.
But with a business blog, you can often achieve the same focused impact in a matter of months! And the great thing is it doesn’t matter whether your clients buy primarily online or offline. Building a niche brand with your business blog is a remarkably effective approach.
Blogs leverage the power of word of mouth and kick your niche branding into high gear.
Put a business blog to work for you and you’ll witness the power of word of mouth. When you combine the publication of high impact articles in targeted publications with interactive events (both on-line and off-line) — you can create the buzz and branding you’re searching for in a fraction of the time, and for practically no cost what-so-ever. The press notices more quickly, and your target market responds more quickly.
Once again, your business blog is not “the” answer all on it’s own. But it’s a powerful multiplier for a solid click-and-mortar business branding strategy.
#13: Product Development (public view)
Creating a product (a book, a course, an audio series) is something that can supercharge the marketing of just about any small business. Many small business owners know this is true but yet they still struggle for months (and often for years) to finally wring that product out. It’s a challenge that many busy business owners face, but here’s where a specially designed business blog can come to your rescue.
One very practical way to use your business blog is to use it to create a product online in a “piece-meal” fashion. We’ve shown many of our coaching clients how to leverage this new technology and put it to use in creating their long delayed book or product.
With some forethought and focused planning you can use this type of business blog to simultaneously accomplish three marketing benefits too.
a. Feed a continuous stream of valuable relevant material to your target market
b. Create a captive audience of pre-qualified buyers ready to purchase when your product is done
c. Organically generate a ton of keyword rich content for search engine spiders
Best of all, you can keep yourself organized while you create your product bit-by-bit right in front of your competitor’s eyes. Since only you know how all your content will link together to form a product — they’ll never know what you’re doing. You can post most material for public view with confidence.
When you have content where it’s questionable that you’d want it open to public view, or if you have some proprietary data or research to be included in your product — you can still use your business blog to stay organized. With the better blog software programs (such as Word press,) you can keep that content password protected while still using the structure of your business blog to keep you focused and organized.
With the right approach, your business blog will be like a treasure map. A map that leads to a completed product over time and a map that no one else can decipher. With no clear beginning or end, it translates into a product “in-progress” cloaked to everyone but you.
#14: Centralized Archiving of Competitive Research Summaries (private internal use)
For many companies, industry and competitive research is essential for rapid growth and niche leadership. When multiple parties become involved in research (both directly and indirectly) things can start to get pretty confusing. Information is filed and archived, most of the time – never to be seen again.
With a private password protected business blog all that research can be categorized and made readily available for convenient access. You can provide one central location where information can be easily accessed for immediate use. No more double work, and no more “buried” files.
#15: Product Development and Management (private)
In an earlier application example we looked at how you can use your business blog externally as a product development tool. In that case you’d use the blog to organize your product creation into bite size pieces while you allow your prospects and clients to benefit from the content you’re creating as part of the development.
The internal application of this application would work basically the same way, only your posts and content would be password protected or for private/internal viewing only. In this capacity your business blog could act even more openly as a product content management tool.
This application works equally well for a team, as it would for you as a single developer. With the right set-up, the blog will provide the structure, content relationships, and linkage to reference materials – all in one place, and completely organized for easy access.
#16: Centralized Knowledgebase
How many times have you answered a question for an employee that seems like you’ve heard a dozen times before? Very often the reason you feel that way is because it’s true! An internal business blog can help you solve many of these situations once and for all.
It helps overcome three inconveniences when it comes to disseminating important company info internally:
- 1. Accessing your operations manual online through your intranet, which is not exactly user friendly.
2. Referring to an offline version in hardcopy form, which is cumbersome for your team members (and may be providing potentially outdated information too.)
3. Relying on you or your top managers to answer questions, which may not give your team the answers they need as quickly as they need.
A business blog set up to act internally as a centralized knowledge base is less intimidating and much more user friendly than any of these choices.
As your team becomes accustomed to accessing the knowledge they need from this internal blog, they win with nearly instant access to the info they need to perform. And you win with more free time because now you only have to answer questions and provide guiding knowledge once.
#17: Small Business Advisory Board Blog
Many of our business coaching clients have taken our advice and put together a small business advisory board for their company. This informal advisory board usually consists of (at a minimum):
- A corporate attorney
- An employment law attorney
- CPA (or an enrolled agent)
- Banker or money broker
- Spiritual advisor
- Business coach
- Personal mentor
A small business advisory board like this can give owners and entrepreneurs a tremendous competitive advantage, but it’s not without it’s challenges.
For one thing — getting six or seven professionals together in one room at one time in an advisory capacity is like herding cats. To be honest with you, it’s been one of the biggest stumbling blocks small business owners face in keeping their advisory board functional.
Often times people who are asked to be members of the advisory board sign on fully prepared to interact and share their advice. But when several meetings go by with only a couple of other board members showing up, the momentum gets lost and the board just kind of fades away.
But now … enter the business blog!
Three simple steps and you’ve created some incredible leverage for yourself, and convenience for your advisors.
1. First you create a business blog with special (private) access for all the members of your small business advisory board.
2. Next, provide each of your advisory board members with the FeedDemon news aggregator. ($29 bucks is the least you can do for what they’re contributing to your business, and a cheap or “free” news aggregator will only frustrate them.)
3. And then make sure they’re all subscribed to your RSS feed for this private small business advisory board blog.
Now they can all interact and provide professional advice at a time that’s most convenient for them. That means you’ll get more interaction, more advice, and more efficient board operation for all concerned – including you as the owner.
#18: Instantaneous Client Feedback Engine
Have you ever wondered how you could make it easy to get a continuous and on ongoing stream of specific input, feedback, and direction from your clients? Input and opinion that can position you as a top leader in your industry, profession, or niche?
Well … with a specially designed business blog and a little internal marketing to your clients you can the same secret weapon top international corporations (like Proctor and Gamble, General Foods, Chrysler) use to dominate the market, and unleash it in your small business.
Having a client-centered approach for business development can shave years of trial-and-error off your product and service improvements. And when you stack the powerful strategies of Socratic Business Innovation (a proven innovation system that members of the Business Owner’s Coaching Club learn to apply with deft precision) — you’ll find yourself so far out in front of your competitors, they’ll be gasping for air trying to catch up.
External Input — Internal Application
This is a business blog application that does have a public side to its functionality, but its main purpose is to gather client feedback for your business innovation.
Let’s face it. Your clients are going to have comments and feedback on any and all of your products or services. Why not make it simple for both them to give input, and your team and to get it?
Direct them to a special business blog where they can voice suggestions, complaints, and kudos in a way that benefits your company.
Setting up and structuring a business blog for this purpose works very well because it’s non-threatening for clients. It helps open an immediate dialog with your clients as soon as they purchase. And it lets them know you value their contributions to the development of your products or services on an ongoing basis.
One word of warning though.
If you’re going to ask for comments and feedback – you’d better be prepared to act on that input. You must respond and actively incorporate it into your product/service upgrades. Nothing will tick a client off faster than you asking for feedback, them giving it, and then you not responding or applying anyone’s input.
#19: Outsourcing Management and Coordination
Thanks to outsourcing, today’s small business owner has access to a pool of talent that once was reserved only for large corporations. Flexibility, highly specialized skills, and performance-based pay are just a few of the enticing benefits that come with outsourcing. But for many small business owners the communication, coordination, and tracking challenges of outsourcing often appear bigger than the benefits.
These hard working men and women are having to keep more on their plates and live a life of lower quality because they have less free time than they could with outsourcing. They’re suffering with higher costs, and often a lower quality of work because they feel it’s easier to use less specialized in-house employees to do work. Work that could be done better (and more efficiently) with an outsource agent.
That’s a shame because we’ve seen incredible transformations take place for small business owners who begin to apply proven outsourcing strategies.
Radical changes like:
- More free time for themselves and their families.
- More time and energy to work “ON” their business.
- More industry leading innovation and greater creativity.
- Better quality customer service and continuity sales.
The bottom line is that outsourcing enables you to quickly find and employ highly talented specialists to perform activities that would otherwise be impractical or cost-prohibitive to do with an in-house employee
So here’s where an internal business blog can help
What small business owners struggle with the most with is keeping a handle on their outsource agents. They want a way to manage, coordinate, and oversee both their in-house employee team and their outsource agents. And this is where an internal business blog comes to the rescue.
But with your own password protected internal business blog you’ll gain a practical tool for collaboration and organization.
When properly structured it’s a system that will allow you to harness the full power of outsourcing and avoid many of the common management and communication challenges associated with outsourcing.
When you apply business blogging software in this way you’ll make management, coordination, and historical tracking a relative breeze. And at the same time you’ll provide a collaborative online environment that keeps communication and creativity flowing in an organized manner.
#20: Delivery of Team Updates and “Premium Content”
Do you have employees in multiple remote locations? As part of your business, do you have to supply updates to clients? What about delivering “premium” content to subscribers or clients?
With the organized interactive format of your business blog, paired with the power of the RSS feed (already incorporated into your blog,) you can bypass email, Spam filters, and unreliable delivery to make sure your message gets through instantly – every time.
Update every remote employee or every premium content client instantly, reliably, and all at once. Then drive them back to the blog for posting, interaction, and commentary.
Once again, a major part of the power in this application of your business blog is the categorized historical data that is right here on the blog adding content and relational value to all the users.
#21: Simplifying (and recording) Corporate Board Communication
Corporate board members are usually very busy people. They have a lot on their plate, they’re often running their own business, and to top it all off — they’re not usually compensated for the time they dedicate to board activities.
Now while that’s all true for both profit and non-profit companies, non-profits stand to gain the most by fully engaging their corporate board members. With non-profits, the guidance and direction of corporate board members can be even more valuable since funding for other outside sources of guidance (from consultants or business coaches) is likely to be limited.
The bottom line is the more steps you can take to make it easier for board members to contribute and fully participate, the more actively they’ll be fully engaged and give their all.
Part of the answer lies in a private “Board Members Business Blog”
When you put together a private password protected business blog for these corporate board members (similar to what we discussed earlier with the small business advisory board) you’ll create a win-win-win scenario.
Win #1: For the corporate board members
The corporate board members win because they can advise, guide, and provide input “virtually.” That means interacting more and meeting in-person less. And since many members on the boards of non-profit companies are fulfilling some of their personal desires to contribute, they’ll appreciate the fact that they’re able to contribute even more thanks to a high efficiency business blog.
Win #2: For your company
Since board members have time to digest topics, comments, and conversations the company wins because you’re getting more well-thought out direction from the people on the board. The company also wins because applying a business blog in this way creates more of a mastermind environment where board members can build on and expand on each others ideas in a more creative, un-rushed manner.
Win #3: For your clients
Your clients win because you draw out more effective solutions and ideas from the board. At the same time your business blog allows equips your team to put those ideas into action in between lengthy in-person board meetings.
With proper planning, the right structure, and a few simple strategies you can fully harness the power of business blogging for your company. Remember — business blogging is not just about marketing! The strategies and principles you need to fully harness the power of business blogging are easier to obtain than you think.