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    While there is a growing recognition of the pivotal role that social media can play in business marketing and the key role of a business blogs at the very centre of that activity, I still get the feeling that some companies often wonder whether they could also benefit from this or if it’s just for others.

    Personally, I feel that there are very few cases where businesses cannot gain enormously from using a blog in the key area of interaction with their customers. Clearly they need to focus (and perhaps plan – heaven forbid!) to deliver real results and that, as always, is key. This applies whether they are using the blog as part of their marketing and business development activities, their customer support, their product development or as another key touchpoint. The benefit would then feed back into all parts of the business.

    There are also certain “company types” which would particularly benefit from elements that a blog could give them; a few examples include:

    Companies needing to differentiate themselves: on occasions, professional services organisations have been accused of all having a rather “grey” image, causing them to blend into the background. By using blogs to help break down these preconceptions, companies can really differentiate themselves as well as reveal some of the personalities carrying out the work together with their expertise – this can only help in developing greater trust with your potential clients in a generally very competitive and 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 contact you. Client case studies go part of the way, but displaying both your general and specialised knowledge over a period of time and giving the opportunity to interact helps develop this 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 a business development approach. We tend to be put off by “interruption marketing” nowadays rather than be attracted by it. However, an educational marketing (or relationship 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. Help your customers decide they want to buy from you rather than go all out to sell to them.

    Companies wanting to become more of a partner than a supplier: engaging with potential clients through your Business Blog helps 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 – a blog will allow you 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 somewhere on the web. It’s just a case of finding it! So rather than let potential clients wander round the web looking for it and perhaps finding it on a competitors site, provide it yourself or provide links to it on your Blog. Become the preferred place to go for this type of information and let this attract anyone interested in your niche to your blog.

    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.

    Ah, so many options! What other types of companies would you consider to be ideal candidates to consider using blogs

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    Business blogs are an excellent business marketing tool for consultants. In fact, consultants and professional service providers are one of the best placed groups to capitalise on the key marketing and business development benefits that blogs can offer.

    As blogs can be both quickly and easily updated, and because they are inherently interactive, they provide the perfect opportunity to both display expertise and initiate a relationship with clients. The additional benefits such as a more prominent profile with Search Engines is a clearly a plus but the ability to show what you can do, and the knowledge and experience that you can bring to a project are critical.

    Looking at it from an overall business perspective, some of the main benefits that can be achieved through business blogs are:

    • Create a human face for your business: consultancy in its various guises can be very impersonal. What you know is clearly important, but who you are and your personality are also key to a successful customer relationship, as well as being critical branding elements and business tools for your business – so USE them!
    • Educational Marketing approach: use the content of your blog to show your potential customers about what you can do as well as inform them about developments and best practice in the area that you work in. This is a much more powerful approach than traditional direct selling methods and it will help to build better relationships with your marketplace and give you a positive “trusted partner” image.
    • Demonstrate your Expertise: as a consultant, gaining recognition as an expert in a certain field and being able to demonstrate real credibility is hugely beneficial. A blog can act as a shop window to these skills and is doubly effective if it is THE place to go for information in a specific niche. Using the internet for research, potential customers will certainly find the information they are looking for – so make sure that they find it on YOUR blog!
    • Interact with your marketplace: give a tangible feel to the services you offer and the benefits they provide by letting people interact with you by commenting on your articles, case studies or news releases;
    • Knowledge Leadership: when people are interested in what you are writing about, they will want to hear more and recommend you to others. By expressing your ideas and thoughts openly you will encourage this and help position yourself as a leading exponent in your field.

    There is still a reticence on the part of companies and individuals alike to open up and share more about what they can do – they prefer to keep that under wraps until a contract is signed or reveal parts only behind closed doors.

    In today’s environment where information is readily available, unless a consultant brings something totally proprietary then there will be many others in the marketplace offering the same. To ensure that customers find you first, it is critical to broadcast the knowledge you have – the greater the level of quality information that you share, the greater the chance of being found and taken on.

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