Interview: Can blogging really help businesses?

Midwest Airlines LogoI was recently interviewed by a journalist writing on deadline for MyMidwest Magazine, the inflight publication of Midwest Airlines. Unfortunately, with my losing a week to strep throat, I sent in my answers just a few hours after she’d filed the story. Nonetheless, I imagine that it’s interesting reading and present her original questions and my answers here on my blog.
How can blogging help businesses?
In essence, blogging makes you famous to your customer community. If you are willing to share your experience, expertise and insight into your own industry, you will gain readers and fans, and they will spread the word. Then you’ll gain publicity through mainstream media and that visibility will clearly translate into increased sales.


For example, imagine you’re a child psychologist. You could say “well, I have 30 bookable hours a week and they’re full, so I don’t need to market or promote my business” but you’d be missing out on being able to offer a GREATER service to your community of frazzled parents and misunderstood / misdiagnosed children. If you added a blog you could field basic questions (a la Dr. Laura) and perhaps even sell audio lectures or ebooks on related subjects. What parent at 2am with a screaming 4yo throwing a tantrum wouldn’t spend a few dollars to get a reputable psychologist explaining how to deal with nighttime tantrums? So it’s not necessarily about filling your hours, it’s not about time at all, it’s about selling your expertise.
How did it help your business, Dave?
I started blogging in 2003 and while I was known in the small community of Unix and software developers, sharing my own insights and thoughts on business news and company offerings has significantly raised my visibility in the international business community and commensurately also grown my consulting practice. Companies come to me asking for even a few hours of my time and don’t flinch at my rates. I even had a client fly from Australia for a half-day of focused consulting on his online business a few weeks ago. He learned about me through my weblog.
Are businesses using blogs more and more with customers and clients and why?
I believe that savvy businesses are certainly recognizing that being seen as a “go to company” for a given marketplace is a huge benefit and while it might not have a directly measurable ROI, the increase in customer participation, valuable user feedback and – dare I say it – fun that companies can have with their blogs are making it well worth their time and effort.
What can blogs do for business?
A blog can help you establish a voice and identity online, can help you position yourself as the expert, the authority, in your marketplace, and can give you a great avenue into learning more about what makes your customers tick, which can prove invaluable as your business evolves.
Where do you start? On the website?
Most companies that host websites also now have some sort of blogging tool installed, probably WordPress, a terrific free blogging software package (see wordpress.org). The best place to start, however, is to read other bloggers and find out what they write and how they write it. You can go to a site like Technorati.com and search for key topics in your field then pick a half-dozen popular blogs to start reading every day.
What if you don’t have a website?
If you’re starting from scratch, a good choice is Typepad.com, which is a hosted, commercial-friendly blogging service run by a company called SixApart. I’ve used Typepad extensively and it’s a powerful tool with a reasonably friendly interface.
What’s the big advantage of blogging over conventional marketing?
Cost. Blogging is guerilla marketing at its finest: if you have something interesting to say and partake of the online community, you will get more visibility and be able to turn those visitors into customers. Free. Well, other than your time!
Will having a blog allow you to beat the competition? Attract new customers? Portray your product or service? Offer a closer bond between a company and its clients?
All of the above if you do it right!
Seriously, odds are that your true competition, the company you’ll need to beat in 24 months, is already online and already well aware of the importance of online marketing through producing quality informative content. Remember, mobile phones are just starting to let people surf the Web too, but when someone can stand in a store and Google the product they’re about to buy, you definitely want to be in those first few results!
Would you practical advice/tips/warnings/whatever for entrepreneurs for a sidebar?

  1. Write about what your customers want to read, not what you want to sell.
  2. Spend more time reading than writing.
  3. Always treat your visitors with respect and professionalism, even if they’re criticizing you or your business.
  4. Stay focused on business topics on a business blog.
  5. Have fun nonetheless!

And so, dear reader, what do you think? Are you blogging for your business and if so, how’s it going?

3 comments on “Interview: Can blogging really help businesses?

  1. You have some good thoughts concerning blogs. I have something of a vested interest in church websites and one of the things that I have noticed is that church websites start out great and then within a few weeks or months it is out of date. There may an occasional update, but it is much harder to keep some websites up to date then what it is to create new content. In some ways, the approach that I suggest in my book, “Church Website Design” is similar to blogging. From what I have heard from you, it might be considered a blog, but the approach preserves the flexibility of creating a website while allowing for some of the blog concepts.

  2. Yes it is a good strategy but how do you make money from all this effor to solve your own problems?.
    thanks

  3. Excellent Article. We are making this a major aspect of our business. I own a company that provide web development as one of our offerings and we are stressing more and more how important it is for their web sites to at least have blogging or other RSS functionality. This post of your will help me communicate these ideas even better. Thanks.

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