Everything you need to set-up, develop & promote a successful Business Blog

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    Start or set up a blog: Key question 1This is part of a 3 part mini-series looking at the planning phase of setting up and starting your business blog.

    Each post will focus on one of the 3 key questions that you should have clear answers for as you set up your blog before you start to write it.

    Question 1:
    What you do want to do with your blog?

    This may seem like an obvious question or rather you may think that the answer to it is obvious. Great! If you have a clear idea of what you want to do with your blog and how it will help your business, then write it down and stick it on your computer screen. Keep it in mind as you write your posts, make changes to your blog and work on promoting it because that sort of focus is going to be all important if you want to achieve the best results.

    It does seem to be the case, however, that many companies (and this applies equally to multinationals as it does to small businesses) still look at blogging as something which needs to be done to keep up with the Joneses. Unfortunately, blogs set up with this in mind often suffer a swift demise since they generally have no real substance, identity or direction.

    Blogging will cost you time and therefore money. In my case, if I am writing posts for my blogs, then I cannot be doing paid work on blogs or online marketing campaigns for other companies, engaging in other marketing activities, carrying out my duties with my accountants hat on etc. So plan what you want to do with your blog.

    Marketing focused blog as an example

    Lets take the example of a business blog which has a marketing focus, one where you are essentially looking for it to communicate your expertise or the benefits of your services or products, and to start to generate interest and trust in them (and you of course!).

    Blog planning

    So to get the right balance and focus in the blog, youll want to incorporate important influences both from within your company and from the market you work in ie. from customers, partners and competitors etc. You also need to look at how it fits in with your other marketing activities and the general direction of the company. If you can incorporate all of these, youll then be developing a marketing tool which will reflect the companys goals, will work in tandem with everything else you are doing and will allow you to communicate with your target audience in as unfiltered a form as possible.

    Other business uses for a blog

    Of course, marketing is just one of the many uses you could put your business blog to and as the focus of your blog changes, so of course will the influences which are important to it. If you are looking at an external blog to support your customer service or technical support activities, then the targeting and format of the blog will change to suit that goal. Likewise, an internal blog to help your internal communications or perhaps one dedicated to pre-sales / sales team information sharing will be different again.

    Other ideas of possible ways to use a blog as a business tool, both externally and internally, might include:

    Blog types in Business blog planning

    But at the end of the day, whatever you decide to use your blog for, it needs to reflect the requirements of both the company and your target audience, and add value to both parties. Do that and you are well on the way to creating a business blog which will prove an invaluable asset to you.

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    Measuring the results of your blogPlanning a blog and then spending both time and effort on creating and developing it is all well and good but, as a business, we are looking to see results which warrant this outlay.

    Effectively, we have a business and marketing tool which has a focus, a target audience and a business aim it also has costs attached to it, often principally in terms of time, which need to be justified. Like all marketing activity, we are looking for a return on our investment and to calculate this, we need to measure how successful our blog has been for us.

    This is turn raises the question of what criteria we should be using to determine this. There are a number of people who have written on the subject, perhaps the most prominent of which is Charlene Li at Forrester with their report at the start of the year but here we are probably looking above and beyond the methods generally available to most organisations. There are also a number of intangibles that could be considered such as branding and profile development, but they are perhaps less relevant to a small business and even harder to measure effectively.

    However, that doesn’t mean that there is no way of identifying the results of a blog. On the contrary. However, first we need to decide what we are going to measure – here the criteria should reflect the main objectives that we set out for the blog.

    Some of the potential methods to evaluate these are:

    • Visitors: you might consider that it is the number of new or repeat visitors to your blog because this displays the attractiveness of the blog in terms of content and will develop the community element;

    • Comments: it could be the number of comments that you receive on your posts because you are looking to achieve a certain level of interaction with readers and develop more 2 way conversations;

    • Subscribers: the number of subscribers to your RSS feed may be important because you feel this best shows active interest from your readers and allows you to start to tacitly market to them;

    • Links: the number of blogs and websites which link to your blog or refer to your articles via trackbacks because the interest levels of other bloggers is important from a viral marketing perspective ;

    • Sign-ups: the number of sign ups to a newsletter which you may have as your main marketing call to action on the blog and which will allow you to develop in terms of a subscriber list;

    • Prospects: the number of new potential customers who get in contact through the contact form on your Blog (or special links) because you are looking for new client introductions;

    • Clients and Sales: while not a direct sales tool, the blog’s end goal is often to generate additional business, either as a direct or as an indirect result of our efforts. So measure it where possible;

    • Reduced Marketing Spend: the reduction in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC) spend because of the search engine benefits that a blog brings.

    As you can see, there are a number of different methods we can use and so it is a case of deciding which is the most appropriate according to the aims we had for the blog. This is likely to be a mix of a number of the ones mentioned above but a suitable combination will give an appropriate idea of the level of results that the blog has achieved.

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    Business Blog Design Series[This is part of a series following on from a post called “Business Blog Design“]

    While Ive written on this subject before, I feel that it is worthy of inclusion again as part of the Business Blog Design series.

    It’s all about communication!

    When we talk to someone face to face, either at a personal or business level, there will be a point when the conversation turns to questions such as “what do you do?”, “where are you from?” or something akin to “what team do you support?”. Why? Because we are interested in knowing more about the people that we deal with – its in our nature

    In the same way, blogs are really all about communication too, as well as interaction and conversation. Personal blogs approach this with certain goals in mind – getting in touch with people with common interests or just wanting “to be heard” for example – while companies using business blogs have a different agenda and may be looking to generate trust, differentiate themselves and ultimately develop additional business.

    In both cases, you need to make sure that people can find out more about you … and also find you! When you are reading a business blog and find what is being said interesting, it can be very frustrating if you want to contact the person or find out where they are based only to discover that that little (but crucial) bit of information is nowhere to be seen. Not only is this frustrating but it can also be damaging from a business point of view too!

    Make your details easy to find

    So make sure that you provide your readers with a clear way of finding out about the person who is writing the blog and who they are communicating with. They’ll already have a good idea but what you write and how you write it but help them on their way – always remember to put up a profile up on your Business Blog as well as a way for your readers to get in touch with you, though of course those can be on the same page.

    If you prefer to include your details as part of your sidebar then keep it short and sweet thats part of your prime real estate that we talked about in the original post so youll have lots of business specific stuff that you also want to be highly visible there. I personally prefer a link through to a separate page where you have a little more space to include whatever details seem appropriate to you. And a photo … always remember a photo! Most of us work visually, so that help your readers picture you, even if you’re not totally comfortable with it like me.

    What to include?

    Some profiles will focus on past work and experience ( no CVS though, please), others will have more of a current focus and outline future plans. What ever you put there, try to make it personal though and don’t forget that picture as well! :) Remember that from a networking perspective, your Business Blog acts as the hub at the centre of that network – people are therefore going to be interested in the real you and what makes you tick so give them some insights into the person behind the Blog.

    You also want people to be able to contact you. They can do this by posting comments on your blog, but they may also want to get in contact with you directly. So, make sure that you also have your contact details on your blog, either as part of your profile or in a separate section or both!

    Don’t forget your legal obligations

    Finally, in Europe at least, a new law which came into force at the beginning of 2007 requires that emails and websites (and hence blogs) to display certain details about the company and/or individual that is writing them so make sure that you comply if necessary. Theres more information about this here.

    Make sure that your profile and your contact details are clearly visible on your Blog – make it easy for others to find out more about you and contact you!

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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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