As a CMO, you are responsible for your business’s entire marketing strategy. When it comes down to it, it’s you who likely has to manage market research, competitor analysis, advertising, public relations, and sales materials, to name a few. And what’s the point of all that? As well as keeping your existing customers, one of your primary focuses is bringing in new clients. You probably never thought much about getting new customers from blogging.
Some CMOs become so caught up in all of that activity that they forget about another vital aspect of marketing: your website. Your business website is often the first place consumers go to learn more about your product or services, and it can be a significant source for new customers if you utilize it properly.
The more you blog, the higher your business will rank in online searches. As a result, you’ll get more visitors to your website, which brings you more leads to nurture, which in turn increases the likelihood of converting those leads to sales. I know because we did the math on how blogging frequency delivers ROI.
Whether you already have an active blog, have a blog that has languished, or have yet to start one, this guide is for you. Read on to learn tips on getting new customers from blogging, wherever you are in the blog creation process.
Start with a Plan
You’d be surprised how many large corporations under the direction of a CMO have beautiful marketing brochures and top-flight print ads, only to give short shrift to their blog, making it an afterthought on the website, if they even have a blog. Many know nothing about blogging and have left it to others in the company to deal with.
It’s okay – that’s what this guide is for. If you’re the CMO of a small- or medium-sized company, you probably wear a lot of hats. Blogging master may not be one of them… yet. But if you truly believe in the strategic value of marketing, you know that thought leadership content is key.
If you have no idea what your recent blog posts have been about, if your blog hasn’t been updated in several years, if you have no blog at all, or if it’s buried in your “News” tab and only used for press releases, you’re missing low-hanging fruit when it comes to marketing and getting new customers. One common reason your blog might tick boxes like those above is lack of planning.
Build Strategies and Objectives
Before typing one word of your blog, and no matter what size your business, you need a plan. We’ll get into the nitty-gritty of blogging mechanics in a bit, but for now understand that your blog has to be part of a comprehensive marketing plan and tied to your company product awareness and sales goals.
A blogging plan is a set of strategies and objectives for how your blog is going to achieve your goal of bringing in new clients. The strategies are larger, more general plans for how to approach marketing through blogging. The objectives are more specific tactics you want to implement within that strategic framework.
For example, let’s say your business makes hairbrushes, and you’re launching a new line of travel brushes that fold up and fit easily in a carry-on bag. Your main marketing strategies might be to create awareness of your new product by reaching travelers and to sell X number of units during an upcoming travel trade show. Your blogging objectives to accomplish this could include:
- Blog about the trade show, letting readers know you’ll be there.
- Create a weekly travel feature on your existing daily blog.
- Invite travel pros as guest bloggers on your blog.
- Make vlogs (video blogs) with packing tips.
- Run a contest through your blog, giving away new brush samples.
- Produce X number of blog posts this month.
When setting up your calendar, keep these broader goalposts in mind:
- Increase brand awareness.
- Engage readers.
- Grow website traffic.
- Improve search engine visibility.
- Generate and nurture leads.
- Retain customers.
- Increase marketing ROI.
Know Your Audience
To help you narrow down your blog topics, which are part of your objectives, you first need to define your audience. Blogging for everybody is like blogging for nobody. This might sound counterintuitive. Doesn’t blogging for the greatest number of people seem like the best way to sell the most products? Not really.
Your fold-up hairbrush isn’t for everybody. It’s not for people who like antique brushes to display on their vanity table or for people who don’t travel much. It’s not for people who think the one hairbrush they bought 22 years ago is the last one they’ll ever need and that having an extra hairbrush for travel is a crazy exorbitant expense. Your product is for travelers and people who value having handy grooming products that take up little space – maybe students on the go, women who carry small purses, and men who want a brush they can put in a pocket.
Now that you’ve narrowed down your audience, you can better target your content to reach them. Shifting your marketing focus from your brand to your customer is a smart strategy. As selling becomes more customized with improved technology, customers have come to expect that brands will cater to them. By knowing your customer intimately, you can do just that.
If your customer base isn’t as clearly defined as in the hypothetical situation above, you’ll have to do a little digging:
- Web and social media analytics
- Evaluation of competitor brands
- Existing customer databases
- Consumer surveys
Once you have your audience defined, go ahead and create an avatar for that person (you might need several, as in the examples we just discussed):
- What’s the customer’s age?
- What do they do for work and fun?
- Where do they live?
- How much do they earn and spend?
- Where do they get their information?
- What social media sites do they use?
- How do they interact with brands?
- What motivates them when it comes to buying?
- Is your customer an individual (B2C) or an entity (B2B)?
And most importantly, what problem can your product or service solve for them?
You really can’t develop a strong list of blog objectives until you understand your audience. If you already have a to-do list for your blog, make sure you refine it after you narrow down your customer profile.
Create a Calendar
The next step once you have your overarching strategies and audience in place is to create a blogging calendar. Make sure everyone who is involved in the blogging process, including writers, editors, and image creators, as well as IT personnel, is aware of the calendar.
Most companies find it easiest to backtrack from some major tent pole when setting up a calendar. For our hairbrush launch, for example, you know your trade show date, which is a milestone at which you expect sales. Therefore, you want to work backward from there with your blog content calendar, ensuring you have a string of posts leading up to the big event. You can do this with any important date for your business, incorporating things like holidays, seasonal changes, and the like.
Put your calendar in your marketing plan, integrating it with the rest of your marketing activities. Remember, your blog isn’t an isolated fun extra, but an essential part of your total marketing strategy.
It’s a good idea to post the calendar on the wall, too. Out of sight can mean out of mind. When your blog calendar is displayed where everyone can see it, it heightens awareness and accountability.
How often should you blog? In the chain referenced in the introduction above, where the more you blog, the more leads you attract to covert, the magic number is two to four times per week or 11 posts per month. Here are a few salient points about that based on the research:
- Publishing at least 11 blog posts per month is a solid goal no matter what size business you work for.
- Publishing more than 11 posts per month has no negative effects and actually increases website traffic even more.
- Companies blogging for B2C businesses show a direct relationship between the number of blog posts and website traffic.
- Companies blogging for B2B purposes need to reach that magic number of 11 posts per month or more to see a significant increase in site hits.
- In general, publishing a blog more frequently also increases leads, similar to the results above.
- Larger companies of 200 employees or more can get away with blogging a little less to generate leads (about six posts per month), but there is still a direct correlation between the number of posts and the number of leads brought in – so why not publish more and reap the benefits?
- Website traffic and conversions go up considerably when businesses publish one or more blog posts per day.
Consistency is as important as frequency. Once a business attracts regular readers, it’s important to keep them coming back for more.
Produce Quality Content
Of course, a blog is nothing without quality content. Now that you have your objectives, calendar, and well-defined audience in place, you’ll find it’s much easier to produce value-added content, where each piece functions like a cog on a gear.
To reiterate, value-added content is customer-centric content. It’s not a series of dull corporate news announcements or thinly disguised advertisements. Solid, memorable blog content is the kind you want to read and share, to educate, inspire, or even provoke. A blog post that gets a robust discussion going in the comment section is better than a safe one that garners no attention.
Don’t feel you need to get locked into writing long narratives if that doesn’t suit your business. While long-form blogs may perform better in certain SEO situations, the goal is still to appeal to customers – your customers. You may discover that photo essays, infographics, or videos work better for your particular audience, or that a variety is what you need.
This is why we believe strongly in the power of brand storytelling. No matter what your business is, there are amazing stories of the people you serve, the employees on your team, the partners you work with, and how they are having an impact on the world.
If you’re not sure, try a sampling of formats and see what gets the desired reaction, both in terms of blog metrics (see below) and corresponding sales figures. If you find that medium- or long-form content is what converts customers, but it’s outside your company’s wheelhouse to write those posts, hire a blog writing service or freelancer. Ideally, you want a writer that’s familiar enough with your core business that they don’t have to start from scratch learning how your products or services work.
Think about where your customers are in the sales process. Unless you’re launching a new product, they will be at different stages – some just starting to seek information and others getting ready to buy. Ideally, just like with email nurture campaigns, you want blog posts that cater to different tiers of the buying stage.
Do you find coming up with specific blog topics challenging? Here are some suggestions for brainstorming:
- Talk to your branches, management, and others about what’s on-trend.
- Ask sales reps what customers frequently mention (good or bad).
- Follow research in your industry.
- Check out your competitors’ websites and other publications.
If you’re struggling to get eyes on your page or want a boost in traffic, you can invite guest bloggers to write for you. The deal here is you either have to know someone with a built-in audience who will do you a favor or have something to offer in return, whether money, products, connections, or expertise for their company.
Say you’re selling compact hairbrushes and want the country’s most popular travel blogger to write a post for you. What could you offer them? Maybe they want free brushes for swag bags at an event to raise money for their favorite charity.
Get creative and make it worth their while because guest posters can bring a huge audience to your site and move the needle on your blog, which, in turn, can bring you new customers.
Engage with Your Audience
One fatal mistake many businesses make is to produce a blog, sit back, and think their job is done, now that it’s published. Far from it.
To really leverage your content and pull in new customers from blogging, you want to engage with your readers. How do you do that?
First, make sure your blog comments section is enabled and that you actually read what people write there. Ask a question or two or include a survey at the end of your blog post to get some conversation started.
However, people react to the blog, short of inappropriate responses that must be moderated and removed, reply to their comments. There’s nothing that helps you connect quicker with a customer than having a conversation with them that isn’t all about closing a sale on the spot. It humanizes your company and your brand, which is perfect for customer-centric marketing.
— Rohan Ayyar (@searchrook) August 11, 2015
As well as maintaining an active comments section, be sure to share your posts on a few social media platforms where you have accounts. Rather than trying to hit every social site, pick a few and utilize them more heavily, based on where your ideal customers hang out.
Think too about what types of information work best for different social media platforms. While overall people are more likely to click a link when it contains an image, the type of image might vary by platform. High-quality photography will shine on Instagram but won’t matter as much on Twitter, which has a more journalistic bent. Infographics reign on Pinterest, while Facebook users look for videos.
Just like with your blog comments, be sure to engage with your audience by replying to questions and comments. Have you ever left a reply on social media and felt like it disappeared into a black hole? Not a very nice experience, is it? Don’t be the company that does that to customers!
Monitor Metrics and Evaluate
Once your blog is up and running with the suggestions above, your job still isn’t quite done. You’ll need to check in periodically and see how things are going – not just monitoring your comments but running analytics on your blog to determine things like:
- How many views it gets
- How many social media shares it generates
- How many click-throughs to your website or products it produces
You’ll want to compare posts and see which formats and topics were the most popular. You also want to see if you can correlate posts to an uptick in sales, so you can replicate those types of blogs to keep the momentum going. Just like with writing blog posts, if running these metrics is outside your current wheelhouse, hire professionals who can help you. The information you glean is too valuable to ignore.
Consider your job as a CMO running your company’s blog like a sailing captain. When everything is going well, you maintain your course in the same direction. But when you encounter an obstacle or when the wind goes out of your sales, you make adjustments accordingly. It’s okay if you have to tweak or even completely revamp your blog plan. If you recall, your goal is getting new customers from blogging, so keep revising your objectives until you get the conversions you desire.
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