Continuing with our ongoing series on Better Business Blogging, another great entry point for every business blog is a focus on marketing.
Other concepts we have already reviewed such as injecting personality, conveying authority, and blogging with SEO in mind all have a large impact on your overall marketing approach. These ideas in some ways contribute to your marketing efforts. But these ideas also have distinct capacities that warrant individual considerations of each.
That said, it is also important to recognize the process of marketing as a wholly distinct discipline and framework by which you can also integrate your other efforts.
Marketing Focused on Your Blog
Marketing specific to blogging can work in a number of different directions, all of which can either operate independent of one another or in concert with each other. And that is what we are going to do in this post.
We are going to take a very structured approach to what is a very BIG subject, first by analyzing potential process, then by looking at goals. From goals we then move into measurement. Then comes intent with a focus on directions. Finally we dive into the nitty gritty and look at paths that a business blog can travel in including things like social media.
Marketing Strategy & Process
Marketing is an area that can really have a big picture impact on a business. Marketing can inform so much. When trying to reign in and break down “big” ideas what often ends up happening is that rather than focusing on a very specific subject, instead someone pulls on what they think is a small thread which causes the “whole thing” to unravel.
This often happens with marketing. This also often happens when a business owner attempts to begin to put together a very specific plan for blogging. The reasons are actually very much the same because the underlying intent of both efforts, marketing and blogging, are very much based on being able to effectively answer bigger questions. Questions like…
- What does this business do?
- Who are our customers?
- What are our customer needs and pain points?
- What are the buyer objections of our business?
- Is our messaging right?
- Does our messaging connect?
Really big honking questions!
As a business owner or stakeholder when you start the marketing conversation you of course need to be focused while also being open to exploring a number of paths. This can be challenging.
When focusing on using your business blog as a marketing vehicle you also have to allow yourself enough latitude to be able to focus on a strategy while not being a slave to process. On the other hand it is also important that as you are developing your marketing strategy, and your blog marketing strategy, you do not neglect the art of process are also mindful of establishing a good process – you’ll thank yourself for this later.
Remember that by pulling a single thread you might be unraveling something much larger. Of course, don’t be afraid to pull those threads!
When focusing on blog marketing, it is important to have a strategy in place at the top. The strategy will cover things like what are you blogging about? How will these blog posts in any way inform and impact your overall marketing strategy? What are the goals that you believe are important? Put this “stuff” down in writing. Also, don’t fall in love with your ideas. As you are about to see, as a result of introducing a blog marketing process, some of your strategy is likely going to change.
After a pass on your blog marketing strategy it is important to also put together a process by which you are going to implement your strategy and also monitor the performance of your strategy. One benchmark that you are going to need in your process is an ability to fix what is broken. That’s right – as you start to chart out an in depth blogging strategy, some ideas are going to work better than others. Some ideas are going to achieve marketing objectives at a higher level than other. Frankly some ideas might not be great for marketing, but they are important for other reasons – your blog marketing process is the mechanism by which you establish your operations and also by which you self evaluate.
Other factors you are going to want to focus on are things like frequency (how often you are going to blog) as well as the methods you are going to use to help market your marketing efforts – things like your newsletter, social media, possibly press releases and other outreach efforts (both digital and non-digital). And of course resources are another big issue that your process will have to encompass – are you planning to bring in additional writers to help? Do you plan on empowering your staff to assume some of this effort and if so are you prepared to take other items off of their plate? Do you intend to utilize video in your blog marketing efforts? How about more complex graphics? These are all critical factors that will contribute to your process.
Blog Marketing Goals
Every business is unique. Some of the factors that you will want to consider as you start to define your blog marketing goals include:
• Your space. Goals that are applicable to a restaurant are going to be different from those of a consulting firm.
• People & Expertise. With every business, behind it there are people. Only stating the obvious, but the result is that based on the people in your organization, your goals are going to be different. Perhaps your business has a specific expertise that separates you – clearly when marketing you are going to want to craft goals that allow this expertise to shine.
• Life cycle. Depending on where your business is, your blog marketing goals will likely change. For a start up the blog marketing goals might be more focused on awareness where as for an established business, your blog marketing goals might be focused on repeat customers.
• Interests. With marketing it is important that your goals are backward compatible to align with interests. It is hard to fake passion. Take this into account as you begin to review and craft your goals.
As you can see, goals speak to larger aspirations but they also focus on results. The creation of goals also align very much with strategy, and for that matter with your process as you will see shortly when we introduce measurement into this mix.
Goals are critical to your blog marketing efforts as they move your efforts outside of your “gut” and place your efforts squarely in the “real world”. With goals in place you allow yourself the opportunity to stopping wandering and instead to begin to really focus on whatever is important.
Also it is important to evaluate goals over time. As you begin to deliver on your goals maybe it is time to move the goal posts out further. Maybe over time as you achieve on certain levels it might be time to introduce new goals. Also, over time as you get more comfortable and sophisticated with the entire process of goals you might come to a realization that you are not entirely focused on the right goals for your business!
Digital and Non-Digital Goals
When starting to put together your goals, as we discussed above, every business will have very unique goals that have meaning for that business. In addition, the manner in which goals are realized might not always be the same. Some goals will be achieved entirely in the digital space while other goals will be met outside of your digital realm.
Digital goals that are realized inside of your digital space might include things like eCommerce transactions, utilizing a contact form, new newsletter subscribers, social shares, social follows or even a focus on metrics such as bounce rate (the number of times a site visitor sees only one page and then leaves), time on site or number of pages viewed per visit. Another goal might be total page views – particularly if you are in the midst of a branding awareness campaign and are looking to introduce more people to your business.
As you can see, with these types of goals, the achievement is happening entirely online.
Other goals you might want to attribute to your marketing efforts might be focused on achieving things outside of your digital space.
Items on this list might include in-store visits (possibly measured by custom coupons), incoming phone calls, in person meetings or even being interviewed by a newspaper.
Again, these are goals that you might put together for your business that are initiated with your blog but are only recognized as being achieved after having had some kind of interaction outside of your digital presence.
Are You Suffering From an Acute Case of Goalitis ?
If you are one of those people that likes to have concrete numbers, in extreme cases limit your total number of goals to no more than four (4) – and that is only in the extreme.
As far as determining goals, there is a great deal of latitude, and, assuming your have been taking notes along the way and creating a list of potential goals for your blog marketing efforts, the list might at this point be very long. A long list is okay as it gives you some nice options… but a long list is not practical. Limit the number of goals you are focused on.
The reason being that if you introduce too many goals to your mix you will quickly find that it is no longer practical to rate your performance and you will ultimately end up achieving on only a very few. Also with the introduction of too many goals you will be blinded by information paralysis, and instead of “doing” you will be too mired down in the art and science of measuring.
Measurement of Your Blog Marketing Efforts
Measurement is a great topic. Measurement is also a controversial topic as it is one of those areas that seems to inspire great passion and very black and white feelings.
I am of the belief that your ability to measure is something that evolves over time. When you are early in the process of digital measurement you are probably focused on the easier to grasp ideas. As it turns out, your goals are probably also more likely to be aligned with your ability to measure – when you think about it, that actually makes complete sense as it would be a little absurd to have goals that you were not actually able to determine a success rate for.
Over time, as a business blog begins to evolve, so too will your approach to all sorts of items including marketing, and for that matter marketing goals. This of course means that as a business you have gained some real life practical intelligence, or perhaps you have brought in a third party to help get you there, and you are now able to appreciate a new set of goals, and more specifically you are able to measure for their success.
The bottom line is: The way in which you rate your goal performance (often referred to as you KPIs – Key Performance Indicators) is by measuring them.
In terms of the mechanics of measurement there are a number of ways to go. Some forms of measurement might be directly tied to your bank account – particularly if your business has an eCommerce component. Other pieces of measurement might rely on social media shares.
In addition another big area to concentrate on of course is what is actually happening on your blog. Google Analytics is an amazingly robust free program (they do also offer an enterprise level) that can arm you with a wide array of onsite information.
Creating Blog Marketing Dashboard
Now that we have covered a few different ideas specific to measurement, is also important that you create a solid mechanism by which you can actually measure your results. When people refer to the idea of a dashboard often they are referring to something that is fairly complex, has a few dials and also a slew of interesting charts. Those dashboards are really nice to have but they are not necessarily where you’re going to begin.
When creating your dashboard, at least in the initial stages, it is important that you are providing yourself with a good opportunity by which you can measure your results over time.
A nice place to start might be with the spreadsheet program such as Excel or Google Docs. A number of items you are going to record are focused on your goals, and how well your blog marketing efforts are working towards achieving those goals. You might also want to incorporate other elements such as social media metrics to begin to obtain a long-term story on how successful your blog marketing efforts are going, and how well you are communicating.
In addition it is important that you consolidate your other efforts inside of this dashboard so that you are able to observe your marketing efforts while also taking into account how successful you are in other aspects of your blogging efforts.
Again what is critical is that you are focused on providing yourself with a very clear method by which you can see how your performance is tracking over a given amount of time, and for that matter how your performance is tracking over a number of different times. While doing this remember to annotate your efforts as over time you are unlikely to remember exactly what you were thinking six months ago and with the benefit of your notes you will be able to clearly recall how specific activities delivered and how other activities contributed towards a long-term effective blog marketing strategy.
On the Ground Practical Ideas
As we begin to move this post along we should take a look at some more specific ideas. Of course with your business specific ideas might be involving more or less of offshoots of some of these ideas, but hopefully some of these ideas springboard into much stronger and more relevant ideas for your particular business.
When we are talking about marketing some of our ideas are going to be focused on a number of different attributes simultaneously. A good example of this might be to write a definitive post (often referred to as a Pillar Post) that we are hoping to use to market ourselves as experts. The same post might also be able to make inroads in your overall SEO strategy. The same post might also be hyper targeted towards a specific audience segments that you either cater to or are interested in serving. In addition by virtue of this definitive post you are likely hoping to achieve some sort of viral social impact and you might also be focused on trying to become a credible source for interviews or even public speaking and using this post as the partial basis for said interview worthy efforts.
Again, with many of your blog marketing efforts, the idea is not intended to fit neatly inside of a single box but rather to touch on a number of different aspects that your marketing efforts are focused on.
Single Pronged Marketing
With single pronged marketing efforts, particularly as related to marketing the ideas and intent tend to be considerably more focused. A few ideas that you might play around with are as follows:
- Local marketing that is focused very much on your immediate neighborhood. An example of this might be a New England plumber that is writing about keeping the hot water running even at a drip while away on vacation so your pipes do not freeze.
- Being hyper timely posts about something that is breaking in the news and try and leverage some of that news juice to your advantage.
- Blogging about a process or methodology that you have invented and you are literally trying to marketing yourself as the pioneer of a specific space.
- Blogging about a complementary business that you are developing or have extensive relationship with. The idea behind this strategy is to further validate your own business by associating your business with other top shelf operations. An added benefit of this strategy is of course the goodwill that you will engender inside of your community of contacts.
- Blogging explicitly with social media in mind. Top 10 lists are particularly strong in terms of social sharing, as our infographics when done very well.
- Blogging to position yourself as a local expert.
- Blogging to market the personality of your operation is another big marketing idea that is also something we covered in much greater detail in an earlier post.
- Blogging with the intent of trying to define the space, thereby establishing your own credibility as a leader. This strategy can be particularly effective as a way to further differentiate your business from your competitors, particularly if they are not actively communicating their own business efforts online.
- Blogging to focus your marketing efforts with an emphasis on empathy for your customers.
And of course with these efforts you are not limited to just text alone. Video can be a very effective complement to this entire strategy and one that also allows you to achieve significant lift and separation from competitors. With video an added benefit is, in particular with regard to marketing, how intimate this particular form of communication can be relative to other means of communication.
Further, you are also not limited to exclusively trying to develop ideas that are either multi or single directional and it is okay to “find” your way over time and to experiment with a few new ideas all at the same time.
Blog Marketing with Incubation in Mind
Another great idea to really internalize is your ability to explore and to develop new marketing ideas from within your blog, and then based on success with those ideas to then bring those ideas out and to put a bigger spend around them.
Perhaps based on a success of an idea that you develop from within your blog, you might then want to put together a more substantial paid campaign to help really drive it home. Or maybe you will take one of those winning ideas and introduce them into your storefront. Or maybe if you have the resources you might develop an idea online from within your blog and then introduce that same marketing idea into more expensive and traditional mediums such as radio, print and television.
What is so compelling about developing these types of marketing ideas from within your blog is that the cost is relatively negligible while the potential upshot can be huge. By willing to be at times somewhat experimental with your blog marketing efforts you are also allowing your business a much greater degree of latitude in terms of how to define your marketing efforts, and perhaps from within one of those marginal ideas you might actually find your next “big” idea. And not only will you find this idea, but you will be doing so in a way that is both very efficient, and also has the potential to create a raving fan base by which to really launch an early marketing campaign – early adapters tend to be the most vocal fans, and in particular early adapters that are online also tend to be very vocal digitally.
Fishing Expeditions When You Don’t Have the Answers
While it is great to always have all the answers and to know exactly how, when and where to market the truth is we don’t always have the answers. More often than not, particularly as we are starting out we are very likely to not have the answers.
When it comes to using your blog as a marketing vehicle, the idea that you can over time experiment with a variety of ideas is critical. Also, when you begin to use some of the measurement ideas we discussed earlier you might find some very nice surprises and some very strong places that you should be exploring further. You’d be amazing at over time what you will find in Google Analytics.
In any event, when you don’t have the answer, educated and strategic experimentation with your marketing efforts can be a great way to obtain focus, and by the dynamic nature of blogging, blogging happens to be a wonderful platform from which to launch these efforts.
So as you can see marketing with your blog can be either a very straight ahead or a very complex piece of your overall blog mix. In addition using your blog for marketing is one of those ideas that has the capacity to either expand or to contract depending on how you really intend on defining it, but so much of the power of marketing is derived from experimentation, and in particular a business blog is a truly exceptional platform from which to experiment and to iterate on successes.
Note: This post originally appeared on our site in August, 2012, but has since been updated.