Keeping your customers up to speed
Our visitors rely more and more on instant information to make decisions on where to go, where to stay and what to do. Even the smallest business with an Internet presence is part of the instant information network. The trick for effective marketing is to keep that information current, relevant and accessible. A web site is a necessary anchor point for Internet marketing but keeping a web site up to date, especially with time sensitive or ephemeral content, can be an unwieldy process. And there will remain the task of letting your customers know that new content has been added to your site.
A blog is an instant, effective and free communication tool that places you in constant and direct contact with your customers, adding texture and immediacy to your Internet presence.
7 blogging scenarios for small businesses
Customers respond to personal engagement and current information about:
* Your business (offers, discounts, new products, etc)
* Your local area (things to do and see, upcoming events and festivals, etc)
* Their particular specialist interest (wildlife, history, outdoor activities, etc)
* Content you have posted on sharing and social sites (Flickr, YouTube, etc)
* Media coverage that features your local area (print, TV, radio, film, etc)
A blog delivers this information directly to your exiting and potential customers via RSS or email subscriptions (see top right of this page). It adds rich content to the Internet that can be found by search engines. It provides you with URLs (web addresses) that allow you to link to individual pages. As importantly, it adds to the sum total of information available about your area, the 'destination marketing cloud'. Over and above the general benefits of blogging, here are a few specific arguments for specific situations:
- Your web site is managed by a third party developer. There may be delays in updating your site with current content, depending on your developer's workload. Frequent site updates may incur unanticipated costs. A blog separates out current content from your core Internet activity.
- You manage and maintain your own web site. Depending on the software you use, updating or adding content can be an unwieldy and time consuming process. A blog is a simple parallel alternative.
- You are a self catering business depending on a letting agency for Internet marketing. A blog gives you control over additional content about your business and allows you to bring focus to the selling points of your immediate area - destination marketing content on third party sites is usually regional and therefore heavily diluted and generic.
- You advertise through third parties. Again, destination information on third party advertising sites is regional and generic. Your blog tightens the focus from the general to the specific.
- You want to use QR codes to promote your business in-house and on a range of stationery and merchandise (see our previous article). A blog can create a number of landing pages, and most blog sites automatically configure content for mobile platforms.
- You are building your own Internet 'cloud'. A blog adds rich content to your Internet presence. Cross-linking with other Internet activity (web site, social media, content sharing sites, Twitter, etc.) builds up a network that can be found by search engines and casual web surfers.
- You are the owner-manager of a micro-business looking for an easy and affordable route to the Internet. CLICK HERE!
Is a blog right for YOU?
It is certain that a good blog will benefit your business, but a successful blog relies on a few basic skills and the personal temperament of the blogger. There are easily manageable content systems that require little more than a familiarity with word processing and the curiosity to investigate the many functions and 'gadgets' available - for adding images, video and audio content, subscription feeds, search boxes, links, embedded content and the rest. Much of this is a learning curve that comes from practice, experimentation and experience.
But more than anything a good blogger is a good writer, and MUST be competent and comfortable with the written word. There is a world of difference between typing and writing!
Poor grammar, misspellings and cavalier punctuation detract from your credibility and the credibility of your product. Don't cause amusement with grocers' apostrophes (carrot's and cabbage's). Don't overuse 'screamers' !!!!! Aim for short sentences and short paragraphs where possible. Where not, be sure you understand the use of colons, semi-colons, parentheses and hyphens. Break up blocks of text with sub-headings. Use a dictionary when you are uncertain of meanings or spellings and run your spell checker before committing content to the Internet - typos happen. Try to have your copy read by a (literate) friend before posting - if you have made an error in the writing it is likely that you will miss it in the re-reading - even Homer nods. "McArthur Flies Back to Front" and "British Push Bottles Up German Rear" are two classic Evening Standard headlines from World War II that slipped past the journalist and his sub-editors!
Play to the familiar
Quotations, near quotations and clichés can be useful, especially in headlines. A vague feeling of familiarity can attract the eye of the reader. Many years ago, when flicking through a climbing magazine, I was stopped by the advertising banner: "Now is the Discount of Our Winter Tent".
Plan and tailor your content
Planning and structure are key. Develop your thoughts and the way you present them, so that one premise, proposition or element of a storyline leads to the next. Flag up the main thrust of your content in the first paragraph or create a 'teaser' that will excite the curiosity of the reader. Don't try to be all things to all men: have specific readers in mind for each individual post and address their interests, preoccupations, demands and needs.
A good writing style develops through practise and through reading. Write when you can, read when you can't. With constant practise your writing will become more and more relaxed and you will avoid stiff and over-formal content - a blog should have a conversational feel. Most of all, if you enjoy writing it will shine through your copy and hopefully create enjoyment for your readers.
You may now feel free to rip this blog apart.
Sign up for Share Wales RSS feeds or email updates at top right.