Google has shifted their focus on how blog posts (often called content marketing) affect search results, which means it’s never been more important to create and maintain a blog for your SME or NGO’s website. But once the audience has found your blog, how is it going to benefit your sales or impact in your target issue.
I'm going to give you 3 simple tips that will conquer the TL:DR (Too Long Didn't Read) syndrome and actually drive results (not mere attention) from your blogposts.
1. Call to action: have point to what you are blogging.
2. Tell the truth: nothing lifts the quality of your blog like the truth.
3. Engage: Have a conversation with your audience, not a marketing rant.
The purpose of a blog for any SME (Small to Medium Enterprise) or NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation) is to create a response. It’s either sales or social change. Your SME/NGO has a mission, and merely informing your audience of that mission is not enough. You have to create change or create sales, or all your marketing efforts are for nothing.
Imagine your sales team telling the boss ‘we didn't sell anything, but people sure do know we exist!’ I’ve actually heard that from marketing managers, but in truth, that’s just as lame. The point of marketing is to drive sales. That should be measurable. You might not close the deal, but you served it to the sales mechanism on a silver platter.
Perhaps you work for a charity or aid organisation. Imagine telling your supporters ‘nothing has changed, but people know we have a solution for them.’ Epic fail. You exist to create change, not inform people of their options. That’s what governments are for – informing people. That’s why you are non-governmental; you are there to create change. Governments don’t have the courage (or even often the mandate) to do that well.
If you are going to all the trouble of writing a blog, and faithfully maintaining it, you need results. Awareness of your product or solution is part of the sales process, and the further down that line, the more your blog can move your audience, the more useful your efforts will be.
So, it’s vitally important that you not only get your audience’s attention (and keep it) you need to create action. You need to create sales. Either they buy your product, or they buy your ideals, nothing matters until your audience reacts and takes the action you prescribe.
Now we all remember that 20 something guy who was always trying to close on every girl he met. He’s now 40 and still striking out. We don’t like being ‘closed’ on. It’s why we won’t talk to the ‘help’ (sales tools) at stores and dealerships until we absolutely have too.
How about some ‘busy body’ from ‘some charity’ coming and telling us how to live? Nope. Not going to happen. “A fool convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”
Enter ‘content marketing’ – we give the audience enough information to change their own opinions. If it’s ‘our own idea’ we will actually believe it. Seriously. Give your audience the information they need to change their own mind or make a purchase decision. You do that and you won’t get as much ‘buyer’s remorse’ – meaning less returns/cancelled contracts and more change/follow through.
But once you give them the information, then tell them what to do with it.
A study was done comparing the sales results from changing a sign for a burger shop. The original sign had words to the effect of ‘best burgers in town!’
The sign was changed to ‘best burgers in town – turn left in 2 block and come on in’ Sales picked up dramatically.
You can seed calls to action thought the content of your blog post. Try something simple like “if you would like to know more about this feature then click here to read about it” or “Do you think you would like to talk to our staff? Click here” or “call us now on 555 1234” etc.
I actually believe you should write your call to action on a piece of paper, then stick it to the side of your monitor as you write. It’s what you should be constantly leading you audience too – give them a chance to act, and believe it or not, the audience will thank you.
None of us like having our time wasted. And if your audience has learned what they need to know, let them move to the next stage. Let them respond. Tell them why they need to buy or change, then give them the easiest way to respond/purchase. Tell them how to implement or use your solution to their problem, then tell them how to get it.
You should be able to do this several times within each blog post. Be gentle, but persistent. It’s more honest than ambushing people at the end of the post with a “you must do this now!!” If that’s the first time they realised you were ‘selling something,’ you’ve lost. They should have already started to decide for themselves that they want what you are offering, or have realised that this doesn’t solve their problem – and you’ve already given them a chance to invest or choose another solution that better fits them. There is no value in trying to sell someone the wrong solution. You will lose money and reputation.
That leads us to the second point. Tell the truth.
Trust me – if you have any idea at all about the power of social media, you will know that lies have increasingly short lifespans in the new economy.
Remember that old Mafia phrase ‘whoever says the price first loses’? Well, the price is already on the internet somewhere. I remember a friend who worked for a car dealership. All the other staff worked on the sales floor (or ‘on the lot’) and ducked and dived about the price, trying to gauge if they could up sell the buyer a more expensive car, or pad their commission by selling above the ‘dealer’s cost.’
My friend simply waited for emails, and most of the buyers already knew the ‘dealer’s cost.’ He simply asked ‘what colour do you want?’
The buyers had already pre-qualified themselves, and were using the call to action on the dealership website to make a 10-50 thousand dollar purchase.
They had the information they wanted, the dealer was reputable and up front enough to say ‘if you know what you want call us – we’d love to sell you the car you want.’ They were upfront about their pricing online, and my friend made lot of sales without having to do a lot of ‘selling.’
Give your customers the truth about what you make or what you do. Tell them the whole truth like “if your problem is actually _____________ we might not be the best solution for you – can we refer you to someone better able to help you?”
Not every product or solution is perfect. Sometimes you need the right conditions or accessories to make the best use. Tell the audience.
If you start telling the truth, they will start trusting you.
You don’t have to trash talk you competitors, or hide your own weaknesses. People can see through that kind of behaviour. Be up front and honest. Tell them if they don’t need the top of the line version, and let them purchase a smaller version. They’ll thank you, and tell their friends.
People don’t just buy from people they know – they buy from people they trust. And only from people they trust.
I bought a lot of gear from a professional camera dealership. They had a great manager who frequently talked me out of buying things I didn't need. I rewarded them by saving the money and buying something bigger and better later on. When the manager left, he was replaced by a Sales Manager who didn't use the products he sold professionally. He was keen to sell me ANYTHING! I haven’t been back in years. I loved the store – it was clearly pro, not a soccer mom point and shoot dealership – but I couldn't trust the ‘sales’ guy any more because I wound up with the wrong thing several times, and worse, buyer’s regret.
So far, we talked about creating simple calls to action, so customers know what to do with what you've told them and why, and we've talked about being honest – which is more about the way you talk to someone than just what you tell them.
The reason we do all of this is to engage you audience. This means we have an ongoing conversation.
It costs on average 10 times as much to find a new customer as it does to sell to an existing customer. If you've gone to all the trouble of signing up a customer or a supporter, or convincing someone to participate in your endeavour – why not keep them?
If you create an ongoing dialogue with the audience, they will share that with their social connections. That’s word of mouth marketing. A free targeted advertisement to someone your audience has pre-qualified for you and delivered with ‘trust’ already in the mix. That’s worth 100 times more than bringing in a new potential customer from the cold.
If you are having an honest and open ‘dialogue’ with your audience - this means them responding to you, and you replying and so on – you keep your customers, and they start convincing others for you. No ‘sales’ required.
This is another reason that truth is so vital in all your dealings. The customer is telling your story – and they will be devastated if they discover you've made them pass on something that’s not true.
While you are ‘talking’ with the audience, it’s time to find out what they think would improve your offering, and discuss that (where the boss know it to be productive) in your blogging. You might get the same ‘suggestions’ from the audience frequently only to discover it’s because they’re misunderstanding how to use your product or service. You can correct that in a future blog post, and the customer is happy because you responded to them, and helped them out.
Getting a response, either directly (hint: Twitter) or through a follow up blog post, really excites the audience. They love the attention and will reward you by telling all their friends and driving social traffic to your content.
And when all those new people arrive, they will find helpful content with a clear call to action (perhaps a few times) that makes it easy to by. They will hopefully see a large amount of content devoid of the usual hype and sales speak, but open and honest in its approach. You’ll give them every reason to engage with you, and you will in turn respond – building a relationship that leads the customer convincing themselves they need what you offer. And on and on this will repeat.
Let’s stop ‘selling’ buy distortion of the truth, or by using pressure and manipulation – you might get a sale out of that, but I doubt you’ll build a customer base that becomes a marketing force at no extra charge.
Blogging is a great way to give your customer the information they need to make their own mind up. Tell them how to respond, a call to action, tell them the truth, and join them in the conversation, and you just might change the world.
Oh, and TL:DR – that really means ‘I don’t see how reading this will benefit me.’ If someone gets the impression that what you are blogging will actually benefit them, they will read the whole thing, and come away with at least trust – meaning they will be much more likely to engage with you.
Come back next week, and we will discuss the finer detail of what content should go in your blog.