I had the pleasure of presenting to over 100 HVAC contractors today at HVAC Comfortech 2011 on how they can position themselves as THE home comfort services expert in their region. The central theme of the presentation was blogging.
First off, blogging is just a tool...nothing more, nothing less. But for businesses, especially smaller businesses, blogging can be a powerful way to share expertise and solve the pain points of customers.
I started off by sharing how Marcus Sheridan, CEO of River Pools and Spas, has become the leading expert in the fiberglass pool business by consistently blogging and sharing information that his competitors simply were not willing to share (hat tip to Jeff Molander and his excellent new book Off the Hook Marketing, which I would recommend to anyone interested in amazing social media case studies that have actually generated revenue). How did Marcus do it? Here is some insight from Content Marketing World.
In 2007, Marcus was struggling in a tough economy to grow his fiberglass pool business. By 2010, Marcus and River Pools became the go-to place for fiberglass pools, selling more than any other retail location in North America. At the same time, he decreased his traditional marketing spend by over 75%. Not bad.
Just the Blog Stats Maam
Yes, blogging is just a tool, but here are some facts about blogs you may not know (courtesy of Hubspot).
- 90% of consumers read blogs.
- Over 70% of consumers read more than five blogs.
- 100% of businesses surveyed that blog more than once per day received customers directly from their blog.
- Businesses that blog are 4x more likely to be found on the web.
- Businesses with blogs get 55% more traffic on average.
Telling stories that help your customers with their problems is central to search engine optimization, social media and lead generation. Without great stories, these three are nearly impossible.
Why Blogs Work
- Great blog content makes us sound interesting and positions us as experts.
- Search engines love blogs.
- Social media loves blogs.
- Your customers read blogs.
- Blogs are a great way to communicate with customers without directly selling.
- Blogs are a minimal investment compared to most outbound marketing options.
6 Steps to Blogging Success
There is no silver bullet to a successful blog. A business can be successful blogging using different voices, different frequencies and different word counts. But if you haven’t started a blog yet, here’s a great start.
Set Up Listening Posts
The first step to blogging is to listen. A lot.
Be sure you set up listening posts using the following tools:
- Talk directly to customers.
- Open feedback channels with customer service and sales.
- Use customer surveys.
- Analyze keyword search terms using Google’s Keyword Tool.
- Find story ideas, shareable content and build your influencer hit list with Google Alerts.
- User Twitter Advanced Search.
- Develop your Twitter listening channel with a tool like Tweetdeck, or for multiple accounts and better analytics, use Hootsuite or Dlvr.it.
These activities will give you a solid pulse as to the pain points of your customers and where story opportunities may present themselves.
Log Your Customer Questions
Marcus recommends logging every question your customers have ever asked you. By doing this, you are mapping out your story ideas and editorial calendar.
Remember, your customers don’t care about you, your products or your services. They care about themselves. So your focus should be about solving their challenges through valuable, relevant informational posts.
Create Your Publishing Hub
Focus on Content Distribution
Now that you’ve developed your content hub, start to think about the different ways to distribute that content to customers.
- Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+.
- RSS and Blog-to-Email Feeds
- Email Newsletters
- Guest blogging
- Guest webinars
- News releases
- eBooks/White Papers
And don’t forget to activate your content in the community through blog commenting (remember those influencers you found through Google Alerts and Twitter?).
Develop Your Calls to Action
There are a number of secondary and user indicators that will help you show progress with the blog. More than anything, we want to make a connection with the reader in some way through some behavior change. These could be small or big, such as:
- Liking you on Facebook
- Following you on Twitter or LinkedIn
- Subscribing to your blog
- Subscribing to your enewsletter
- Downloading your eBook or white paper
- Trying a demo
- Making something available for sale
Since most of your blog visitors are first-time visitors, we want to try to give them a reason to come back. Strong calls to action for subscription should be readily available. Think like a publisher!
Keep the Editorial Calendar and Repurpose
If you don’t set a content schedule, the work won’t get done. It’s as simple as that.
There is no silver bullet, but choose a content schedule that works for you.
Once that is complete, look for ways to repurpose your content into other avenues that would be valuable to customers, including:
- An eNewsletter
- eBook or White Paper
- A Print Book (Robert Rose and I just did this).
- A Print Newsletter or Magazine
- Submission of posts to other credible sites and media outlets
Lost? Here are 42 different ways to package your content marketing.
Whatever you decide, if you want to be the leading expert in your industry, you have to commit to it and work the channels. Good luck.
Here is the presentation from today’s meeting. Enjoy!