5 Keys To Better Blogging*

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I know a lot of you think: “How can I improve my blogging when I don’t blog in the first place? Please don’t tell me I have to add one more thing that I have to do.”

Sorry, but despite my early cynicism toward blogs, I now agree with all those keynote speakers, blogging gurus and tech prophets: you should blog.

Although their message of making money directly from blogs doesn’t apply to you, you can use a blogging platform to drive real customers to a real store to spend real money.

Got your attention?

Good. The reality is your current website is not enough. These days a website is just a smaller piece of a larger social media marketing effort. That’s why I recommend our clients consider a blogging website platform like WordPress, Blogger or Tumblr to address their website needs.

It makes sense on a variety of levels. First, it will allow you to actively participate in the website process. As an administrator to the site, you can access your site from any computer at any time, log on and create new pages, add photos, videos, and yes, blog.

Blogs Meet People Where They Live

Before you pooh-pooh blogging as just a distraction from real advertising, let me ask you this: do you read blogs? Trick question! You are reading one now.

I write articles for Today’s Garden Center, but they are also cross-purposed as blogs on the Sunrise Marketing website and in our eNewsletter, and are even teased on our company Facebook page.

You see, I don’t assume all readers will find me in one place. I want to put the information out there where people can find it. I want to find any opportunity to connect. My point is, don’t get hung up on blogging. Instead, consider it for what it is – connecting with your customers by sharing your experiences as stories.

Embrace Change Or Be Irrelevant

I know it means change, and change can be scary. Change usually means more work. But not evolving with societal trends might land you in a tar pit right next to a mastodon.

Times have changed. We have seen a seismic shift from the days of newspaper ads to forming more personal connections with customers using eNewsletters, Facebook pages and blogging websites.

The fact is you might not have a choice about blogging if you look to compete with more sophisticated marketers (read big box stores). On the plus side, a successful blog could create a clearer distinction between you and your competition.

When you share your experience, you build trust. Remember, your brand is your story, and effective blogs help tell that story while they reinforce brand trust. A blog post can be as simple as a picture, video you create, or even a link to a silly YouTube video.

I must add a caveat here: I have formed this opinion from experience and research. Now while (tongue in cheek) I say I stole many of these ideas, I prefer to call it research. And sharing. I have been publishing a blog in one form or another for four years now. While it is not burning up the blogosphere, it works. People read the blog when I link to it from my eNewsletters. I know this because there is collected data that tells me so. So there.

Ready, Set, Blog!

So here are my ideas to help you blog. Please feel free to steal them.

1 Provide a clear benefit to your readers. Focus on adding value to a market that’s bigger than your brand. You can do this by collaborating with contributors who are experts in your market and who will resonate with your ideal audience. Offer as much free value as possible and keep your sales messages as low-key as possible to keep the focus on the content. This strategy will build trust with your target audience and keep your readers coming back for more.

2 Position yourself as the expert. Establish your expertise through sharing your experience and know-how, as well as that of your staff. Whether you know it or not, you possess a wealth of experience. Although you might get annoyed at the thought of giving away what you consider trade secrets, that knowledge is what separates you from the pack. So share it, but keep your message focused while using your genuine voice. Try to write as though you were talking to a friend or a customer.

3 Pay attention to search engine optimization (SEO). After all, the objective is to have your business come up on key search phrases like “garden center,” “gardening,” “plants,” etc. Identify your industry keywords and make sure to use them in your blogs. These can form your talking points. Proper use of keywords will improve your site SEO and bring more potential customers to your site. Need help finding the right keywords? Go to Google and search “keyword finder free.” That will bring you a cool Google Adwords tool.

4 Integrate your blog posts into the rest of your marketing efforts. While it will help build value for your website, it can also build awareness for other online points of connection such as Facebook, Twitter, E-Mail newsletters, as well as search and review sites like Google, Yahoo, Bing and Yelp.

5 Use your blog as a platform for promotions. Remember that the object of your marketing is to drive business to your store. Don’t neglect the most important point of advertising – the call to action. A call to action typically takes the form of a coupon, event promotion or special announcement. Now don’t revert back to your dinosaur days. Try not to beat them over the head with deals, but there is no reason you can provide more details to a special event, charity cause, or seasonal sale.

Let Customers Know, Like & Trust You

Finally, here is a quote from a blog I found that referenced another blog that the writer referenced in his blog. See how this can work? But this is a good one, so steal this idea.

“The most important reason, I think, why a business should have a blog is perfectly stated by SEOmoz’s CEO Rand Fishkin: ‘Blogs build familiarity and positive branding… The cardinal rule [is]–people do business with you because they know you, like you and they trust you–blogging accomplishes all three.’”

Rand also points out that “Blogs humanize people and companies to the outside world and make far deeper connections than newsletters or press releases.” If you think about it, which company would you rather work with?: Company A – with 20-50 employees, spread across three states, with no discernable personality; or Company B – with 23 employees, a founder name Sue who loves to talk social media, an office manager named Greg who blogs about food and one office in downtown Mountain View, Calif.? See what I mean?”

So, let’s see how we did. Provide a clear benefit to your readers – check. Establish yourself as an authority – check. Pay attention to SEO – check. Integrate your blog into other marketing efforts – check. Use your blog as a promotional tool – check, and double check.

A blog may still seem a little scary, but now that you see the benefits, isn’t it worth trying something new?

Kurt Fromherz is the owner of Sunrise Marketing. Dedicated solely to the horticultural industry, Sunrise Marketing works with more than 1000 independent retail garden centers and the growers that support them. For more information about building your seasonal sales strategy, contact Kurt directly by phone at 888-393-4443, online at SunriseMarketing.com, or by eMail at kurt@sunrisemarketing.com.

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