Value Lies at the Intersection of Disparate Disciplines

James Colgan

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Blogging - why do it?

As you’ll have seen dear reader, I hit a bit of a dry spell for a while there.  As I’m getting back into the swing of things, I decided to take a step back and consider the bigger picture - why blog?  The medium has been around for a very long time now, so why do it?

Looking around I was inspired by a post by Andrew Sullivan of the Atlantic.  Well worth a read.

A recent post over at the Blog Traffic Exchange says “Why not!?”.  It’s a great way to easily publish your thoughts for easy consumption by your target audience.  It’s also a great way for you to raise your profile and credibility within that audience.  The latter being depending upon the audience resonating with your posts.

What is it?

The embodiment of who you are and how you think about a particular subject?  More of the latter than the former more likely.

A publication of how can you help on a particular subject?  This is definitely preferable over a sales pitch for your product or service.

How do you start?

Commenting.  This gets you to understand the looks and feel feel of a blog.  It will help you find your voice.  It will also get you to better understand what you want to blog about (although your business objectives should really drive that on the whole.)
Interestingly, commenting may get you writing your first blog post!  As you get your teeth into a good comment that got your passionate and creative juices flowing, you’ll suddenly realize that you need more space….and a picture would really help get your point across…and then there’s that video…So, be succinct, add to the conversation, and then point to your newly created blog post.

This will also get you engaged with other thought leaders in the space.  You will get a sense of who is already respected as a commentator in your space (and so someone you should get to know and build a relationship with.)  You could also start to be recognized as a contributor within the readership of the blog. It will also get you to appreciate one of the key adages of Social Media - give more than you take.

So You’ve Written a post - Now What?

Your blog should act as the central point of your social media marketing strategy.  This is where prospects get to really know you.  But it’s only the epicenter or the nexus of everything else that you should be doing.

Write a blog post, then:
- post it to Twitter
- find similar topics on the web and comment, leaving a link back to your post.
— linkedIn groups
— yahoo groups
— forums
— Facebook

In this way you’ll be able to build pathways back to your central conversation (your particular post) while contributing to the greater and broader conversation on a topic.

How does a blog fit into the sales cycle?

The question on most peoples lips.

1. Contact generation.

Every word you add to your blog increases your SEO ranking.  This alone does not get you a lead, but it puts you on the map.  (And every comment link and forum post you put elsewhere leading to your blog increases your SEO even further.)

To get a contact you need to give more.  You need to do something that’s going to prompt them to give you their name and email address (at a minimum).  This is done when someone leaves a comment (you can set your blog up to only allow registered users to comment).  But registration may put people off, and as a percentage so few people leave comments at all.  So you need to give more.  You need to give something of value and have it accessible right next to your blog posts.  It could be a white paper, a case study, an industry report…it doesn’t have to be an iPad, but that wouldn’t hurt either ;)

Remember though, this only gives you a Contact.  It does not give you a lead because there’s been no qualification yet.

2.  Lead Qualification

The contact could qualify themselves into a lead by leaving a particularly relevant comment.  This could put them onto your list (or into your funnel), but until you know more about them you don’t really know who they are.
Third party qualification: this is when you turn to other tools to help you.  LinkedIn would be the main source, but try out a couple of social networks to help you triangulate.
Ask them!  This could be a more comprehensive form for hem to fill in to get the giveaway (although you need to be careful that too many questions doesn’t decrease your conversion rate too much.). You could also ask them directly in a separate offline email.  But you need to be careful and considerate about this.

Remember, this person did not comment on a blog or fill out a form with the express intension of becoming a target for you.  The main reason for your blog at this stage of the process is not to explicitly generate leads and contacts.  It’s to start conversations/relationships.  These relationships can blossom into a lead, or the relationship could turn the individual into a strong advocate and evangelist.

It’s tempting to jump on a contact and engage them right out of the shoot, but this will most likely scare them off, and could potentially lower the credibility of your blog and the engagement entirely.

So, in turning a contact into a lead, find a way for the user to volunteer or better yet move themselves down the sales funnel.  This could be through the giveaway previously mentioned, or it could be via a link on your blog page that leads to your products and services.

3. Prospect education.

Your blog can be used to educate a prospect, but probably not in the way you imagine.  Remember this is not a channel for you to just take your marketing collateral and essentially copy and paste product descriptions into posts.  Constantly saying “hey, look at this interesting aspect of our product!” can get equally annoying also.  (Although, “How to…” videos or tutorials are agreed to be acceptable forms of marketing collateral for the blog medium and audience.)

The best way to leverage a blog to educate your target audience is to focus on the generic subject within which your product sits.  Educate your audience about the subject in general, and the idea is that you’ll be subliminally educating them about your products or your expertise (which should be related right!?) at the same time.  (Importantly, you’ll be establishing credibility - so that will at least put you in mind when your contact decides to turn themselves into a lead or prospect.)

What if you don’t have a blog, or don’t update it that frequently?

Well, your company may be perceived as unapproachable, or aloof - something that is frowned upon in many industries, especially consumer facing ones.  You’re also leaving it up to your competition to frame the discussion.  Not a good thing.

What if you’re not reading blogs?  Does it really matter what these people think?

First of all, if you’re not reading blogs about your industry or products, you’re not even at the water cooler!  You cannot participate to your advantage, or worse to your disadvantage.  While many bloggers have not been publicly ordained as “industry experts”, they may be thought of by your market and customers as “one of us”.  And bloggers with this level of credibility and resonance with their audience can make or break your company.  You have to be aware of who is discussing your market, your products, and your brand.  And you have to engage.

Bottom-line - Participate, contribute, and find ways to reasonably lead people to your “thought and opinion repository” - your blog.

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More Stories By James Colgan

James Colgan is the Founder and CEO of Xuropa, a unique cloud-based Sales & Marketing Platform for packaged software vendors for the demo and retail of their products via the cloud. Built upon a unique lead nurturing and analytics engine, Xuropa enables software vendors to conveniently deliver their products on the cloud and drive the resultant sales pipeline to increase revenues and profits.
Built upon nearly 20 years of high-tech experience, James has been pushing the envelope of cloud computing, focused on the intersection between the cloud, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and Social Media Marketing, particularly as it relates to traditional installed software.