Blog Marketing 101

Imagine discovering a powerful way to reach customers directly, get instant feedback, build your brand, test new products, increase your visibility, and promote your company cheaply and effectively. Blogs offer all this and more, according to Blog Marketing: The Revolutionary New Way to Increase Sales, Build Your Brand and Get Exceptional Results, by blogging expert and consultant Jeremy Wright, president/CEO of b5media. Here, Wright discusses some key elements.

How can a blog help an independent jewelry store? Blogs can spread the word about what you’re doing and what you have to offer, and bring immediate feedback. A blog lets customers hear what’s on your mind and tell you what they think. Blogs also can be another channel to put your brand in front of the customer, and serve as a market research tool to help you introduce new products and services with the fewest mistakes possible.

How effective can blogs be as a market research tool? Blogs can eliminate the need to depend on focus groups, surveys, feedback forms, e-mail, and other traditional strategies. Blogging takes market research and product testing from a bird’s-eye view to a one-on-one human interaction level. You can find out what customers are thinking in real time. This scares a lot of companies. They’re afraid that a blog can open the floodgates to negative customer feedback. But it’s better than not hearing it.

Have smaller retailers successfully used blogs? One small fashion boutique used blogging to increase visibility, generate online sales, open new locations, and expose their business to fashion editors and newspaper columnists around the country. The passion they expressed in their blogs was contagious—articles were soon written about them in all kinds of publications.

How can a blog differentiate a retailer from its competitors? It gives you an opportunity to tell your story over and over. It can help build long-lasting relationships with customers that foster trust. It also can position you as an expert and leader in your field. And blogs help you identify and exploit any niches in products or services that you or your competitors may not be providing.

Why read blogs from competitors or competitors’ customers? “Spying” on the competition is at least as important as knowing what people are saying about you. By scouring the blogosphere, you can see what your competitors are doing, what people think about them and their products, where their company is going, etc. This will allow you to identify market opportunities they may be missing and avoid any mistakes they are making.

How can blogs function as public relations/advertising tools? Blogs can be free advertising: easy to track, and can generate and measure buzz. You can write a post about your new product, rather than buying an ad. You can get customers and the media to come to you, rather than going to them.

What about outsourcing my blog? While there’s nothing wrong with outsourcing blogging, it tends to lose some of its magic. When you outsource blogging, it ends up sounding intensely impersonal (because it is). Still, this will become fairly standard practice, because blogging internally would cause a slight shift in corporate culture and perspective—a shift many companies will try to avoid.

What if a staff blogger develops a strong following and then leaves? If done properly, with clear boundaries, most companies should find greater employee satisfaction, better support, and an improvement in customer satisfaction by running a well-managed employee blogging campaign. The benefits of these far out-weigh the potential loss of losing a “rock star” to another company in the future.