Should Solution Providers Have Blogs? It Depends
A lot of companies in the channel wonder if they should have a blog. The question really is not whether they should have a blog.
The real questions are as follows:
--What are they going to do to drive traffic to the blogs?
--How are they going to integrate the blogs into the rest of their marketing plans?
--How are they going to support the ongoing production of the blogs?
--How are they going to produce new business and new profitable revenue from the blogs?
It's important for solution providers to understand what a blog should be and what it shouldn't be.
What a Blog Shouldn't Be
No. 1: Your blog is not where you announce your company's latest and greatest achievements.
That kind of information should go into the "News" section of your Websites. Ultimately, your blog should be an ongoing source of good new information for your readers/customers. For your blog to be successful, you'll need to get those readers into the habit of coming back regularly to read new posts that present new topics, which ultimately drive them to desire your services. Readers who see you bragging about yourself will not return because they already know you think you're great.
No. 2: Your blog is not where you discuss the latest technology advances in excrutiating detail.
Many companies have a "Tech Notes" section where their top technical talent can trade useful detailed information with their customers' technical people.
But your primary blog is a selling tool. Yes, you inform, but you inform to encourage readers to become interested in solutions they can obtain value from, and therefore will want to buy.
Like any other marketing content or selling tool, good blog posts culminate in an easily achieved call-to-action (CTA), which keeps the sales motion going. Leading up to that is a crisp discussion of a real value proposition that is available from you to your customers.
No. 3: Your blog is not a "now-and-then" exercise.
For your blog to successfully produce bottom-line results, you need to get readers into the habit of checking regularly for new content. There are many ways to achieve this, including posting new content on the same day each week, "tweeting" out announcements about each new post on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and any other social media site your readers frequent, and sending out emails about recent and upcoming blog posts.
Like most publication-style marketing, blogging is something of a trial-and-error exercise. You keep providing great new ideas for your prospects to learn about, and eventually one or more resonates with each of them and they take up the CTA to move forward with a sale. The more regularly you post, the more likely it is that a great value proposition and an interested customer will intersect.
No. 4: Your blog is not "set-it-and-forget-it" site.
If you think customers don't notice that your last blog piece was posted months ago, think again. This is actually something readers look for. They don't want to waste their time on stale news, or blogs that have gone stale. Once you've lost them, you'll have to move heaven and earth to get them back.
An Integrated Component of an Effective Marketing Plan
In an effective marketing plan, everything leads to everything else. That is, social media posts lead to blog posts, which lead to your Website followed by phone calls or invitations to events or special high-value content and other offerings which connect readers to salespeople ultimately culminating in sales. See it as a vortex spinning inward toward you and drawing in new customers and new business.
Schedule your blog topics in advance so you can announce upcoming posts in emails, newsletters and other publications. Also consider coordinating the schedule of postings to coincide with your upcoming events—perhaps three or four posts on a specific topic, such as unified communications or data security, just in advance of a webinar or seminar you're giving on the same topic, or the release of a new related product by one of your key vendor-partners. Get people thinking about your topic while you're inviting them.
Be sure also to "dress" the Web pages your blog appears on to drive readers to other parts of your Website that you want them to see.
What a Blog Should Be
Your blog is your best way to demonstrate your insight and intelligence to your customers and prospects, to show them exactly what you're thinking and why they should be thinking about the same things to improve their own business and information operations.
That's why they call it "thought leadership." Lead your customers to think about things that benefit them in your blog.
Howard M. Cohen is a 30-plus-year IT industry veteran who continues his commitment to the channel as a columnist and consultant.