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Brother, Can You Spare A Blog?

You have to do everything else to keep your small business running, and now everyone is suggesting you keep a blog as well? I bet there have been times when you’ve wanted to tell people what they can do with their blogs.

But instead of dismissing the idea out of hand, take a few minutes and think things over. You certainly want to do what’s best for your business, so let’s give the blog concept a little more thought.

What Is A Blog?

The term blog, short for weblog, is a kind of automated diary that other people can read. Some folks blog about their sex lives or favorite fetishes, but businesses are increasingly using blogs to keep customers updated on the business.

Why Do I Need A Blog?

People would almost always rather do business with a person they know-or feel they know-than with a stranger.

Especially if you can create a unique, conversational voice, blogs are a great way to make yourself seem familiar to your readers.

What Should I Say In A Blog?

Businesses use blogs for many purposes. Some keep customers up to date with new trends emerging in the business world. Others use blogs to post comings and goings and introduce staff members to customers. Still others offer resources and links – just make sure you don’t refer your customers to competitors. If you’re a dentist, for instance, you don’t want to refer your customers to another dentist, but you might want to post a link to a psychologist who works exclusively with clients who have dental phobias.

If your business participates in the community-helps fund the annual Girl Scout camping trip, takes part in safe Halloween activities for little trick-or-treaters, sponsors a family in poverty during the holiday season-be sure to blog about that, too. Some customers will want to help out, and others will just be glad to learn they are doing business with an ethical company.

What Tone Should I Take In A Blog?

Friendly but professional is the perfect tone for a business to take. Don’t try to sound folksy if you’re not. (For instance, if you’re a Northern banker avoid any “y’alls” unless that’s really the way you talk.)

You should also always make the blog relate back to the customer in some way. For instance, reading a blog about mortgage rates being down is mildly interesting. Reading that because mortgage rates are down makes this the perfect time for couples to buy a starter house or refinance a high-rate loan lets the customers know that you’re looking out for their best interests.

Finally, avoid the heavy sales pitch. It’s fine to say, “If you want to take advantage of these low mortgage rates, contact one of our professional and friendly loan officers for more information,” but don’t oversell. Contrary to what some businesses may thing, customers do know the difference between being invited in and being reeled in kicking and screaming.

What Can Blogs Do For Me?

Blogging can do many things to improve your business. First, it can establish you as an expert in your field. Customers who read your blog may even pass tidbits on to friends, which will get you more business. (“My accountant wrote about that very issue is in his blog. You really ought to check it out. Here’s his business card.”)

Blogs can also increase traffic to your site. Once they are “hooked” on a blog, people check back frequently to see if any new content has been added. While they are at your site, they might surf around and find a product or service that interests them.

If you want search engines to pick up your blog, use commonly searched words and phrases. If you’re an accountant, for instance, you might blog about “tax relief,” “tax deductions,” “financial planning” “retirement,” etc. You get the idea.

If you want to build even more traffic, sign up with RSS (Really Simple Syndication) which allows other websites to use copy from your blog, giving the credit back to you, of course. On a slow news day, a cute unusual post with an interesting slant can be picked up by several websites and spark lots of traffic back your way.

I’m Convinced; How Do I Get Started?

Sign up with a blogging service such as WordPress, TypePad, Blogger, etc. Once you’re all set up, you can start adding new content. Try to post to your blog at least three or four times per week, even if you feel like nobody’s bothering to read it. It takes time to get a blog established, just as it takes time to get a business established.

You may want to send your existing customers a friendly email, letting them know about your blog. (“Dear Mary-Just wanted to let you know that Joe Smith Accounting now has its very own blog to help our clients get the most out of our accounting wisdom year round. I hope you pay us a cyber visit soon. Thanks! Joe”)

You may even want to send a press release to your local newspaper and/or business paper, announcing the opening of your blog and explaining what it does.

Blogging probably feels like just one more task on top of a thousand others you must do every day. But for the relatively small amount of time it takes, it can make customers feel special, bring in new visitors to your website, and bring in clients to your business. Well worth the ten or fifteen minutes that typing out a blog can take, right?

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