Blogging for business
Companies look to turn conversations into sales
Who knew that a blog post warning about the combustibility of oily rags could ignite a firestorm of web traffic — on a corporate insurance blog? And yet the popularity of that 360-word article affirms the need that practical information is much needed in the marketplace, says Jean Van Den Brandt, vice president of marketing at SECURA Insurance.
“Especially in the insurance industry, which as a whole has not been an early adapter of social media,” information matters, adds Van Den Brandt. “Before we started our blog, we needed to first know what our audience cared about and what they needed, so we used social media to listen first to what people are looking for and what they’re sharing.”
Last November, the Appleton-based insurance company launched its first business blog along with a social media strategy designed to help its agents feel comfortable sticking a toe in the social media waters. But rather than just roll out a new blog site, Van Den Brandt went to work creating step-by-step Webcast tutorials and invited agents at all 430-plus agencies to tune in and learn the ropes of social media.
“We saw a huge opportunity to help our independent agents learn how to use blogs, Twitter and Facebook to engage with their own customers.”
Each step of the way, Van Den Brandt, along with members of the marketing team, coached and mentored the agents from setting up a blog with a Facebook and Twitter account to developing a social media strategy. Van Den Brandt says the key has been to provide the agents with original blog content on consumer and business news and issues so that the agents don’t have to create it themselves. She marvels at the way independent insurance agents are gobbling up blog content for their own customers.
“Once our risk management team shared the blog post about the oily rags with our agents, we followed up with an e-blast (e-mail), and our web traffic was off the charts as people started sharing and wanting to know more about the dangers,” Van Den Brandt says. “The agents found that this particular post impacted many of their clients, including contractors, business owners and homeowners.”
Now that agents are using the blog to engage with their customers, Van Den Brandt says plans are in the works for a second, more specialized agent-only blog geared toward industry news, sales tips and proprietary insurance product information. The secured site will launch early next year.
Giving readers what they want
Theresa Groskopp’s customers want to talk about health news, like how to treat psoriasis, or why 85 percent of the U.S. population is estimated to be Vitamin D deficient. And while she might get a smattering of customers and curious explorers strolling the aisles of her Menasha-based Natural Healthy Concepts store, the real action happens in the virtual aisles, where hundreds of daily die-hard health enthusiasts from around the world gather to learn and share. And what they want is the latest information about what keeps a body healthy and strong.
“That’s why we added a blog to our Natural Healthy Concepts website a few years ago. Customers want to research as much information as they can on the health and medical news that hits close to home for them, and that’s precisely what our blog delivers,” says Groskopp, a certified nutritionist and one of several bloggers contributing original and curated content.
With more than 13,000 Facebook page fans seeing a steady feed of new blog content, readers not only know Groskopp by her online presence, they tweet, share, “like” and comment on her timely health news posts. In July, Groskopp re-launched a newly-designed NHC blog with advanced search engine optimization (SEO). It’s working
so well, her blog traffic immediately increased by 55 percent. “I have a team of contributors who are just as passionate about promoting health as our readers are, so conversations come easy.”
Want sales? Drive traffic
In addition to providing great resources and content to readers, the frequency of posts makes business websites look fresh and active, which drives additional traffic to the site. The downside is that those who post infrequently appear to neglect their customers who are looking for new information.
Search engine optimization is also a factor that helps clients find websites. Many of today’s blogging platforms, such as WordPress, have search optimization tools and plug-ins that attract search engines like Google and Bing to connect seekers with information providers.
“I tell business bloggers that if customers can’t find you on Google, you don’t exist,” says Todd Lohenry, president of E1evation, an Algoma-based lead generation and management company.
Why blog? According to Hubspot, active business blogging gets almost seven times more web traffic than a static website. And all those people are looking for experts who can guide them to the best information available.
“Business blogging and social networking are affordable things we can do to establish ourselves as thought leaders in our industry. The difference is that thought leaders are searchable, findable, knowable, usable and sharable.”
There are reasonably-priced business websites that are blog enabled, and these make blogs look more integrated. But those seeking SEO benefits can always add a secondary blog website as a secondary site, according to Lohenry.
“It’s debatable whether a blog site should be a separate entity from the regular corporate site, or whether you should start with a blog site and incorporate the business pages. I advise companies to use a web platform that seamlessly integrates a blog with their corporate static information.”
Lohenry also recommends connecting an automated tool that takes blog posts and automatically disseminates them on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Once the conversation gets started, relationships can grow.