There is a problem with business blogs. The content and the approach to business blogging seems to fall into two categories: overselling and underselling. What you want is to sell without selling at all.
It can be done, but before we talk about how, let’s make sure we understand the problem.
The overselling business blog is easy to spot. Each blog post is another obvious hard sales pitch. You know the kind. When you read them, you picture a smarmy used-car salesman type or the voice you hear in your mind’s ear as you read sounds like a commercial voice-over announcer.
The overseller offers the reader nothing of any real value. There is no helpful content. There is no reason to subscribe to such a blog. What at first appears to be genuine content is really just another sales pitch designed to string you along to the next sales pitch, and so forth.
Well-meaning companies can easily fall into this trap. Why does it happen? I suspect it’s because a marketing person (which to most people is something like an evil magician) told them all about how blogs were Great Marketing and that they Need to Get a Blog Now. Neither the business owner nor the marketer truly understand blogging at all.
The result of the overselling approach is that the blog’s traffic eventually dies down to nothing, because there’s nothing useful on it. The business owner denounces blogs as just a fad, a buzzword, and that’s the end of that.
The underselling blog doesn’t appear to be a business at all, and that is its problem. The underselling blog has free and perhaps useful content. But the content has a very weak connection to the business’ service or product offerings.
The insidious nature of the problem with underselling blogs is that they appear to be doing everything right: they are following all the best advice out there on how to blog successfully. The problem is that the people involved don’t think there’s a problem! After all: traffic is up, RSS subscribers are up, email subscribers are up, people leave comments and love the free content. But… they never become customers.
What is the purpose of the blog and how does that relate to the purpose of the business? The business reaps no reward for blogging. The blog was created because some people “got” blogging (which is great, don’t get me wrong) and so it was thought that having a blog would help the business.
But there was no real understanding of how to run a blog that does that. The model we’re all expected to live up to is ideal for personal blogs, meta-blogs (blogs about blogging itself), and make-money blogs, but it doesn’t serve the needs of business blogs very well.
The end result of an underselling blog is that it’s a money sink when it should be revenue source. Attempts to fix the problem risk turning an underselling blog into an overselling blog, killing off the traffic.
Sell without selling: the way to a successful business (blog)
Overselling and underselling both lead to dangerous ends for a business blog, which can in turn lead to dangerous ends for the business itself. You might be tempted to think that figuring out a way to strike a balance is what’s needed, but I don’t believe that’s the case. What’s needed is to not sell at all, but to change the way you create content for the blog. You need to sell without selling.
What is the purpose of a business blog? To further the objectives of the business. The main objective of any business (whether it’s one person strong or a whole company) is to provide value in exchange for money at a profit. It usually provides this value in the form of products or services which are purchased for a fee. A business blog serves two groups of people: current and future customers. The content of the blog needs to serve these two groups of people or it will fail.
Put simply, a business blog needs to bring in business. And while there is no question that gonzo amounts of firehose traffic can turn this into nothing more than a numbers game, I believe it’s better to work smarter, not harder. When it comes to generating leads and acquiring new customers, it’s quality that matters much more than quantity.
The better the blog serves current customers, the more a casual visitor will take notice of this and become inclined to be a customer, too. By using the blog as a means to serve current and future customers, you are selling without selling. You avoid the trap of overselling, in which the blog content is too pushy, too much like a commercial; and you avoid the pitfalls of your blog becoming a waste of time and money with no return on investment from underselling.
Easier said than done, but I’m working on it
So how does a business blog serve current and future customers? Part of the answer came to me when my thinking led me to create my ten types of business blog posts. I began to take a serious look at business blogging and what its special needs are. My thinking evolved rapidly and was confirmed and enhanced by people in my network with whom I discussed this. It has become what I call Gateway Blogging. I’m developing a vision of what Gateway Blogging will be, and I see it as nothing less than the new way to frame and think about business blogging. More than that, it’s developing into an actionable system that anyone can learn and follow.
I believe the stage is being set for a big surge in blogging in the near future. The first wave of blogging was personal blogs, the second wave was splogs (automated spam blogs), but the third wave will be widespread growth in business blogging. And yet there is a noticeable lack of good training and resources to help people with this. My vision is to help people achieve successful business blogs via Gateway Blogging techniques and principles.
Although I’m still developing its ideas and testing its methods, I feel that what I’ve outlined in this post offers a strong glimpse into real success for a business blog. Your take-aways from this are to avoid overselling and underselling, and instead focus providing content that appeals to current and future customers. In the future, I’m going to go into more depth about how to do just that. I’d like you to come along with me on this journey: to be sure you don’t miss the next post, please subscribe.