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    It seems to me that, while most businesses could benefit from using a Business Blog as part of their marketing and business development activities, there are some types of companies which would find them particularly beneficial.

    Companies which need to present a human face to their activities: some professional services organisations have been known to suffer from a bland image. Using a blog, you can break down some of these preconceptions and reveal some of the personalities carrying out the work which will help to engender greater trust in what is a customer focused environment.

    Companies which rely on their specialist knowledge to attract clients: consistently demonstrating expertise in a chosen field can quickly help to build a positive reputation and encourage potential clients to gravitate towards you. Client case studies go part of the way, but displaying both your general and specialised knowledge over a period of time in a Business blog helps more than a sanitised case study can ever do. Think of it as multiple case studies on steroids if you like. This is particularly relevant for independent consultants and specialist consultancies.

    Companies which have progressed beyond the hard sell approach: direct advertising and the hard sell has become less and less successful as an approach. However, an educational marketing approach, where you provide potential clients with information on which to make their own informed decision on their purchase, has gone from strength to strength.

    Companies wanting to become more of a partner than a supplier: as you engage potential clients through your Business Blog, you develop trust and a relationship which can position you as a partner rather than a simple supplier. People prefer to work with and buy from people and companies that they trust and a blog will help to achieve this.

    Companies wishing to be THE information resource for their market niche: most of the information that your prospective clients are looking for is available on the web, it is just a case of finding it. So rather than let potential clients find it on a competitors site, provide it yourself or provide links to it on your Blog. You will become the preferred place to go for this type of information and so attract anyone interested in your niche to your blog. This is turn provides you with the ideal opportunity to open a dialogue with them.

    Companies organising conferences, seminars and exhibitions: blogs are the ideal focal point for collating and distributing information to attendees pre-Conference and for gathering feedback from them during and after the Event. You can update the conference details and add new information yourself, and you automatically develop a powerful online Search Engine marketing tool as well.

    Companies looking to develop a network or community around themselves: as a networking tool, a business blog can help in many different ways but one of its most powerful is when it allows the creation of a network of like minded people interested in a particular area. It is particularly positive for the company setting this up and running it because they find themselves at the centre of this network and therefore in a high profile position.

    Companies developing new products or services: customer feedback and input is essential in the product development process. By taking the step to allow this feedback to take place on a Blog, you are allowing discussions and generating ideas which can be invaluable to the process. Added to this, you have a group of people who have contributed to the product and so are likely to be its strongest evangelists and advocates.

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    Whether they publish their work in the form of seminars, white papers, ebooks or “real books”, I always encourage independent consultants to use their Business Blogs to pick up on the ideas and concepts they have raised, expand on them and use them to initiate discussion.

    This of course has the dual benefit of not only opening a dialogue with new potential customers and re-affirming your own expertise in the area, but also provides an ideal extra outlet to promote the book or event that the ideas come from.

    I was therefore delighted to see that yesterday, Ted Demopoulos in his post Book Blogs for promoting and marketing Books wrote about some advice given by Michael W McLaughlin (co-author of Guerilla Marketing for Consultants) during an interview with him.

    One particular comment stood out, which was

    “Take advantage of the intellectual capital in the book. Expand, update, and take it in other directions, and do something with all the great material you wrote that didn’t make it into the book”

    I couldnt agree more! As a consultant, the Blog you use for your business is the perfect place to disseminate and expand on these ideas so benefit from it. You are able to develop the concepts if your blog readers request it and can add to their understanding as well.

    But you want them to buy the book and attend the seminar, do I hear? Well, if they like what they read then they will and by publishing it on your blog and gaining their interest in the subject you are making it much more, not less, likely.

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    When you start to put a Business Blog together, the planning phase is very important and ideally you should spend time working on these elements rather than diving straight in and writing your first post – as we all want to do!

    In this planning phase, you should identify what you hope to achieve with your blog and who you are writing for. These initial elements will really help you to focus the content of your posts and align them as closely as possible with the requirements of those who will be reading them.

    What is important is to answer three key questions:

    What is the Blog looking to achieve?
    You need to able to clearly identify why you wish to start the Business Blog. Are you looking to build a network of contacts for your company, or perhaps position yourself as an expert in your field, or promote a particular service or product using ‘educational marketing’ or even help create a group of evangelists for your new product? All of these are perfect goals for your Blog, but you should identify and focus on the one that you want to achieve in order to make it really successful.

    Who is the Blog aimed at?
    You need to decide who is the target audience for your Business Blog, just as you do with your products or services, and consequently who you are writing for. This will dictate the content of your posts and also the way in which you write them – both elements will influence how you are perceived by your readers.

    What results are you looking for?
    You should also have an idea of want you wish to achieve with the Business Blog in terms of results. A Blog is not a direct sales tool and yet there are many ways in which you can measure its direct effectiveness. These might include number of visitors, subscribers to your RSS feed, sign ups to a newsletter, contacts or clients initiated through a contact form on your Blog etc.

    Make sure that you spend time on this part of the set up of your Business Blog. If you do, you will reap the rewards because you will ensure that the Blog maintains its focus in terms of its content and, as a consequence, provide your readers with what they are looking for.

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    Whenever I give a talk on what is a Business Blog and how to use it as a marketing tool, I can guarantee that someone will ask me what the difference is between the type of Business Blog that we are discussing and a personal blog.

    While the technology is the same, they are in fact very different beasts simply because of their focus and aims. The personal blog came first and gave people the ability to voice their opinion to the world in general using the internet. It was a personal publishing system in the form of an online diary where they could express themselves in whatever way they saw fit about whatever they wanted!

    The main point is that the blog could be about anything and everything … and it usually was. The subject matter was therefore diverse and the topics covered were often unrelated – people would post about things as the mood took them.

    Business Blogs developed from this. They use the same technology but are very targeted in terms of their subject matter and focus on a specific market area or niche. The most successful are set up with both an audience and a business focus in mind which they then stick to. Why? Because the audience they are looking to reach will expect it – that is why they were attracted to it in the first place and that is why they will return and recommend the blog to others.

    In addition, with the arrival of Search Engines as THE research tool, this focus proved to be doubly beneficial for a Business Blog owner. The tighter the focus of the content, then the more likely it is to be keyword rich and so gain the type of Search Engine results that would make an SEO expert weep! A well set-up Business Blog has a structure which just adds further weight to this.

    So to summarise: a Business Blog and a personal blog both use the same technology, but it is what they do with that technology that differentiates them. A personal blog will tend to be wide ranging and, well, very personal; a Business Blog will be much more focused in both its content and aims, and will have generally have a specific audience in mind.

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