By the hammer of Thor there's a lot of blogging myths out there; myths that keep you from generating more online leads and building lasting relationships with clients.
The problem with these myths is that if they're not challenged they turn into conventional wisdom. If you've been looking to drive more traffic to your Web site and improve communications with customers, you owe it to yourself to give a business blog a try.
Below are some of the hurdles--exaggerated or imagined--I've heard business owners use to avoid starting a blog, and real-world experience to debunk these myths.
1) My customers don't read blogs. I hear this all too often by business owners who don't completely understand what a blog is. Now, perhaps your customers don't subscribe to any blogs, or they don't return daily to a favorite blog. However, if they use Google or Yahoo for search, chances are they stumbled upon a search result from a blog. Since blogs often rank high at the search engines, if your customers use the Internet, you can capture their attention with a blog.
2) Blogging is for teenagers to share the minutiae of their lives and what they think of the remaining American Idol contestants. While teens certainly took to blogging quicker than businesses, these days companies of all sizes and shapes have realized the benefits of a business blog. You wouldn't dismiss the telephone as a communication device just because your teenager spends hours each night on it, would you?
3) Blogging is just a fad/This too will pass. Didn't you say the same thing about the Internet back in 1997? Of course no one can predict the future and much of the hype about blogs is just that. However, it's important to realize that blogs are a powerful, easy-to-use communication tool, and communicating with customers and prospects will never go out of style.
Besides, blogs are an effective marketing tool today, so don't worry if in five years you've moved on to your next communication medium. If you've cultivated an active audience, they'll follow you to other distribution channels.
4) Blogging takes up too much time. I run a growing business, sit on the board of MEBSR (Maine Businesses for Social Responsibility), participate in a business-owners group, do a lot of writing and speaking, and carry my share in raising our two daughters. Trust me, I know from being busy.
However, in the past two-and-a-half years of blogging, I've discovered that it's probably the most effective use of my marketing time. Blogging helps establish your expertise, generates loads of search engine leads, and delivers your message through three distribution channels each time you write. (Read more on the three faces of blogs.)
As business owners we have limited time in the day to market our services; blogging provides great return on that investment.
5) Blogging is fraught with dangers, like people leaving negative comments. These days, consumers can vent their frustration with your product or service anywhere on the Web, whether it's a post at their own blog, a review at Epinions.com, or a scathing YouTube video. If I had my choice, I'd rather have that conversation happen where I have home court advantage. How you handle negative feedback can establish your authenticity, and help you win over new converts.
And, if you happen to find yourself with a PR nightmare, you don't have to worry about letting the media tell your side of the story. By using your own blog you have unfettered access to anyone with a connection to the Internet.
People are looking for transparency and authenticity from companies these days, and your blog is the perfect tool to match these needs.
6) My customers don't read blogs. Whoa. Feelings of deja vu. Didn't we respond to this earlier? Oh, you mean that you don't get leads from the Internet? That they only use the Yellow Pages or go on advice from a friend? Well, then your audience is shrinking. The average consumer is much more likely to use the Web to search for a product or service, or at least visit your Web site to learn more about your company.
If you haven't gone after this audience before, you're missing an opportunity of getting in front of a younger audience...your customers and clients of tomorrow.
And trust me, they read blogs.
The truth about blogging is that it's proven an effective marketing tool for a wide range of businesses. You can start a blog on your own through a service like TypePad or by installing a blogging platform like WordPress on your own server. Alternatively, you can hire a Web design firm to design, develop and promote your blog and get you up to speed quickly.
Whatever path is right for you, don't let these myths keep you from giving business blogging a chance.