Building Your Small Business Brand with Blogs and Podcasts

Let’s start with a basic fact of Internet life.  One thing search engines look for is frequently updated content.  The fastest way to update your web site’s content is to host a blog or podcast.

Take this blog as an example.  You’re reading post number 598 of MYOB.  On Thursday we’ll publish number 600.  Since the URL for the blog is http://www.tacony.com/myob, Google and other search engines see our corporate web site as one that’s updated regularly, giving us a better ranking. 

More important is the fact that we hopefully provide you, our readers, with some valuable free content, causing you to have warm, fuzzy feelings for Tacony Corporation.  That’s the point.  We want you to see us as a valued partner in your business, just like you’re a valued partner in our business.  MYOB is just one step in that process.  It’s called “brand building”.

If we sent you an email add every day, you’d soon start hitting the “delete” button every time you saw our name in the “from” box.  But blogs are different.  First, unless you sign up for the email feed, blogs aren’t email.  Second, a good blog doesn’t sell products.  There are exceptions and I’ll get to them in a little bit.  But, by and large, a blog post provides useful information to its audience.  It’s like getting a valuable free gift with no strings attached. 

You may be thinking that you don’t have the resources to host a blog.  You’re too busy.  You don’t have writing talent.  You’re not sure you could keep it up week after week.  These aren’t reasons, they’re excuses.  You know how to overcome “I have to ask my husband.”  I have an answer for “I’m too busy”, etc.

First of all, I’m going to guess that as a successful retailer, you take the time to find out what’s happening in your industry.  Since you read Mine Your Own Business, I also going to guess that you go to the Internet to get at least some of your information.  If something’s interesting to you, it’s probably interesting to your customers. 

All you have to do to put a blog post together is to pass information along to your customers.  That’s it!  You don’t have to write the great American novel.  Here’s a perfectly adequate post for a sewing machine dealer.

 

Baby Lock Introduces New Top-of-the-Line Machines.

Last week in St. Louis, Baby Lock USA introduced two new machines to dealers at Baby Lock Tech, one of the sewing industry’s premier events.  The Ellismo, Baby’s Lock’s new full-featured embroidery machine, offers features never seen before in the industry. 

The Jewel is the newest entry into Baby Lock’s Quilter’s Dream series.  It features an 18” throat, the longest of any household quilting machine.

Come see both machines, along with other new items from Baby Lock and other manufacturers at XYZ Sewing. 

That took me about a two minutes to write.  Obviously some posts will be more elaborate and take longer to put together.  But if you’re in the business of explaining your products and services to your customers, you have the ability to write a blog post.   And the wealth of information available online makes it easy to find subjects to write about.

You might say “I thought you said you don’t sell on a blog.”  I did and you don’t.  This sample post doesn’t sell anything except a visit to my store.  “Come see” isn’t a sales pitch.  It’s an invitation.  It’s a subtle difference but an important one.  Readers will be turned off by a blatant sales attempt.  But they’ll welcome useful information that might cause them to buy. 

The exception that I mentioned earlier would be a product review.  If you have a new item that you’re excited about, that you think will make your customers’ lives easier, there’s nothing wrong with writing about it.  Concluding the review with the suggestion that the customer come in and try it is fine.  Offering a special discount to blog readers is ok, too.  Just don’t overdo it.

MYOB is currently running a dealer survey on social media usage.  There’s plenty of time for you to take it if you haven’t already.  As of today the question “Do you have a blog?” has a 41% positive response.  So 4 out of 10 of our readers (so far) are blogging.  That’s a good response.  For the sixty percent of you who don’t blog, I would recommend it highly.  There are blogging tools like Blogger which are available at no charge.  You could have a blog up and running today. 

You’re reading this, so you’re a blog reader.  The same interest that brings you here will bring your customers to your blog.  A blog will provide information that makes your customers more knowledgeable and more likely to buy.  Your personality will come across in your writing and help you build your personal brand and the brand of your store.  When the time comes to buy something, they will feel like they know you, even considering you a friend.  Who do people buy from?  People they know, especially friends.

A word about podcasts.  So far our survey has found no one who podcasts.  If you’re not familiar, a podcast is basically a spoken blog.  Instead of a keyboard you use a microphone.  Podcasts can be downloaded into your iPod or other mp3 player and listened to at your leisure.  Personally, I like to listen to podcasts while I ride my bike.  One particular favorite of mine runs about an hour and another favorite runs 30 minutes.  Coincidentally I usually ride about an hour and a half so the combination is perfect, at least once a week. 

That’s another thing about podcasts.  Where I would suggest that you post to a blog at least 3 times each week, a podcast can be weekly, every other week, or even once per month.  They can run from as short as five minutes to as long as an hour.  Normally the longer the podcast, the less frequently it’s produced.  An exception is Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson’s For Immediate Release, a public relations show that runs an hour and is done twice a week.  Frankly I don’t know how they do it, especially since Shel’s in Concord, CA and Neville is in England.  If you think a podcast might be in your future, Shel and Neville literally wrote the book.  It’s called How to Do Everything With Podcasting

Good podcasting software, Audicity for example, is available to download free of charge.  A basic microphone and headphones can cost less than $100 and you’re ready to go.   

To wrap this up, whether you choose to exercise your creativity with the written word or by getting behind a microphone, you wouldn’t be in business if you didn’t have expertise in your industry. That expertise has value to your customers and potential customers.  By providing it in the form of a blog or podcast you generate free publicity, establish yourself as an authority in your field, build both your personal and store brands, and improve the search engine ranking of your web site.  Not a bad return for a very small investment.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at a retailer who’s been very successful in promoting her business using blogs and podcasts.

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