The Secret of Business Blogs

Havlittle-rascals-callout-business-blogse you ever wondered who has time for a business blog, or who has so much to say? I used to. In fact, I came to the business-blogging party late. For years I didn’t grasp what all the hype was about—I often thought, “who cares?” The secret of business blogs eluded me. Not one of my better moments. Lately, though, the secret has become very clear.

With casual disregard I figured part of blogging was that people just needed to vent or talk, or were looking for attention. My early impression was that business blogs yapped mostly about insignificance (I already knew a lot of people like that). So, I dismissed blogging as just a fad, and something that really wasn’t for me.

In 2006 a young and very smart IT guy helped me set up my original website and strongly suggested starting a blog. He was way ahead of the curve in foreseeing what business blogging could become in the years ahead. I didn’t have a clue about what he grasped so early. Though I didn’t know why he said starting a blog was smart, I tried for a while but then stopped. I stopped because I didn’t see where it was going or what it accomplished. I felt that I was just rambling on about things no one really cared about.

What a mistake! Eight Google years later, it is brutally clear: the power of the medium—business blogging—is overwhelming. It’s called content marketing. Inbound marketing.

Looking back, I should have focused on blogging for business and its power as a tool for sharing information, positioning, and connecting with countless others. I could have studied what others were doing with their blogs, but I didn’t. I should have read lots of other blogs by people in my business—to see how they were transforming words into an important tool for empowering their businesses. But I was too busy to pay attention. Does this sound like you? Many people have missed this because their old business models are humming along just fine.

Blogging allows anyone to share what they know with the whole world, instantly. It’s powerful. The potential reach is huge (a word I never use).  Bloggers are creating a whole new fabric of searchable information online.

While it’s true that a lot of blog content isn’t particularly valuable (much of it is just nonsense, and a big waste of time), we all know at least a few things that could have great value to others. Businesses in particular have tons of information to share that’s relevant to their customers and their markets. In fact, the range of interesting information that allows you to help customers understand your products, services, or business is very broad. Unfortunately, many businesses haven’t thought this through and don’t really understand how much unique, high-value information they can share with their market, the public, etc.

What’s happened that makes all this information so important? Why is it valuable? Because customers and potential customers are looking for information today in ways they never did before. They’re doing this because information technology allows them to do so easily. With a new wealth of quality information available, people want and can use the information. Companies that blog are improving how they position their information so it can be found. Moreover, the public is becoming quite accustomed to finding information on any topic with a few quick queries. They want (and can get) a quick online education before they make decisions. Google is looking for original content too—and it’s a big factor in how Google determines the relevance of your website.

Blogging gives humanity access to vast information that for all of human history was locked away in our heads or kept in inaccessible files. Before blogging (and the associated Internet tech that spawned it), only an inestimably small fraction of what we know, what human experience is, was ever published. And what was published was accessible to only a few (those who could read and afford to buy books). Now, anyone can share what they know instantly—no barriers, no censorship. This is as big as Gutenberg’s printing press—it’s a turning point in the history of human interaction and communication. It has changed everything. We have access now to unbelievable information from around the world. Quality information that improves our lives and capabilities. We’re usefully sharing knowledge at levels inconceivable just 10 years ago—and growth in information exchange will continue exponentially.

Many have been slow to embrace blogging, especially on the business side—but the pace of embrace quickens. Over the last few years my opinion on the value and merit of blogging has changed dramatically. Given the recent growth in business blogs I couldn’t ignore it any longer. I studied up. I learned about my mistake.

Why should every business blog? Here’s the secret of business blogs.

I realized that business blogging is about offering meaningful, useful information to a broad audience—well beyond existing and prospective customers—and that doing so improves the enterprise’s value. It’s about providing a real benefit to the audience while demonstrating your expertise, value, reliability, command of realm and deep understanding of the business to prospective customers, clients, partners, etc.

I realized that blogging isn’t about bloviating, pontificating, being funny (although that helps) or cutesy, or sarcastic or angry or argumentative, or lecturing or talking down to people. It’s about being a resource to others. It’s about adding value by sharing the wealth of useful or interesting information that we hold in our heads, derived from our unique range of experience. It’s about having an ongoing purposeful conversation that allows others to learn.

A business blog is a platform that enables companies to share knowledge and experience with those seeking information. It gives customers the ability to trust your experience and understand your capabilities. Your blog can create a whole new fabric of information on the web to improve your industry. It allows “them” to get to know you and your business, and trust both, before they walk in the door.

The truth is that most buyers looking for a product or service do so without much (or any) experience, and are not familiar with what’s involved, important considerations, the range of choices, how a particular vendor’s technology matters to the process, best buying practices, design options, or product types. They often don’t even know where to start. Businesses that care for their customers want to help by informing them on all aspects of a product or service or related issues. An informed customer/market makes better decisions, has a better experience, and is happier and more likely to return (or show up in the first place).

With a regular blog of 400 – 1,200 words businesses can empower customers and connect with the market by revealing pertinent knowledge about their products and services, how they do business, things customers need to know to smartly consume, etc. They can create content that people need and want, content that people search for. By empowering customers businesses extend their credibility and trustworthiness while extending their reach. In many cases a well-categorized business blog creates a destination archive of valuable information on topics highly relevant to the business’ customers.

Everyone benefits from a company’s creation of a deep resource about its industry, issues, operations and products. When customers have better information at their fingertips about what a business does and how it’s done, it permits the company to deliver better results, improves efficiency and processes, and unleashes creativity.

As the value of business blogging became clear to me over the last couple of years, I became overwhelmed. “How am I ever going do this?” “How the hell do others do this?” I wondered. Who has the time? I see why so many, even those who want to blog, have avoided establishing and committing to a viable blog. After all, business people don’t have much extra time on their hands. How do you add building a great, high-traffic, credible blog to the mountain of other things that fill your daily schedule? (This is a distinct topic with lots of solutions.)

Given the increasingly clear power and economic value of business blogs I now think the question ought to be “Who doesn’t have time to start a blog?” The point is that every serious, success- and customer-focused business today should have a regular blog presence and dedicate itself to building an information resource for its public.

Get busy with one of the growing numbers of business writers out there who can step into play and manage and write your blog—subject of course to your oversight. Collaborate on defining your purpose and objectives. Read up on “how to start a blog.” Set a schedule. At minimum, be sure you have a great editor (a business writing service) looking over your shoulder and making sure your posts are regular. This is commitment. Starting a blog is a process that requires commitment to sharing information. Its benefits are realized over the long view.

You can implement and maintain this critical marketing and communication tool, but you have to commit to the process, and you have to put the right people in play—and then work with them—to make it happen.

It is important for companies to give customers the kind of insight that a well-grounded business blog can deliver. At a root level, it makes us all better and improves commerce.