Blogging Boosts All Your Online Initiatives
By Richard Rutigliano, PriMedia, Inc.
Part 4 of 7
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the fourth installment of a seven-part series in which PriMedia President Richard Rutigliano offers strategies and tactics for mastering the constant marketing challenges that Oilheat dealers face.
As you move your marketing efforts online, one of the most versatile and effective tools at your disposal is the company blog. It can elevate marketing performance across the board, including sales, retention, recruitment and search engine optimization. Blogs are particularly useful as companies diversify and add new services.
Blogs are effective for local businesses because they are relatively inexpensive to publish and they accomplish so much. When you blog effectively, you:
- promote sales of equipment and services;
- support diversification of your services;
- keep your online content fresh;
- make the company more attractive to customers;
- make the company more attractive to prospects;
- improve search engine performance;
- improve social media performance.
Few, if any, marketing tools accomplish so much and provide such strong reinforcement for your other online efforts. A strong blog also makes it easy for prospects and customers to choose you over your competition. When a visitor likes what they read in your blog, they can form instantaneous affinity and choose you as their new provider without further comparison shopping.
Blogging is more cost-effective than it might appear. Setting up a blog and publishing regular updates costs less than publishing in print, so the investment and maintenance load are relatively low. You might feel like you are publishing to a world of people who have no interest in your business, but the reality is that many local companies publish blogs strictly for the benefit of their local audience.
Personalize Your Company
Finding and retaining customers is a real challenge these days, and companies must do everything they can to convert prospects to customers. A friendly, well written blog gives your company a voice and flashes some personality, reminding customers that they are working with real, local people. It helps them see you more as their friends and less as a business.
Some companies use blogs to acquaint visitors with particular individuals, such as the owner, the customer service manager or the service manager. This fuels loyalty by enabling customers and prospects to build personal connections within the company. You can use one blog with bylines and headshots on every post or even create individual blogs for different staff members.
Succeeding with blogs is all about what you say and how you say it. Your goal should be to educate and inform your customers. Post updates that promote energy efficiency and link customers to helpful online resources. Discuss the strengths of the fuel you sell and highlight the deficiencies of competing fuels. Teach customers about any specialty of yours that is not widely understood, such as indoor air quality.
By educating customers and prospects with informative blog posts, you pique their interest in your services. You also position yourself as an expert and plant ideas about how they can save money and achieve greater comfort—with your help.
Complement Your Online Business Model
A blog is particularly beneficial for a company that is promoting an e-commerce model that includes online account management and payment. As your customers visit the website to manage their accounts, you can promote the blog on your site's most-trafficked pages. Customers who prefer e-commerce will derive more value from visits to your site, and they'll appreciate your commitment to the Internet. You'll be in synch with today's customers, and you'll get more views for your online promotions.
Blogging also mixes very well with other social media. You invest in social media to gain more exposure and build brand attraction, and blogging resonates particularly well with social media users. It shows that you are an active participant who is serious about delivering useful information, and it reinforces your expertise.
Promoting your blog posts on Facebook also improves your visibility there, because Facebook awards news feed visibility according to the user's rate of interactivity with their "friends." The more shares, likes and comments that you accrue in response to your postings, the more you are seen in the news feed. A blog boosts your interactivity rating because it inspires shares, comments and likes more readily than other items you could post. Without a blog to share with your Facebook friends, your Facebook page might generate too few interactions to gain visibility in your friends' news feeds, diminishing the value of your investment.
Blogging also improves your company's visibility on the Internet by improving search engine performance. Every blog post is a potential search listing that can appear in a user's search. When you write about topics that people search for, such as energy savings and fuel prices, your blog posts can appear in search results, which can introduce you to new prospects in a very positive light. The more timely and topical your blogging is, the more likely it is that prospects and customers will find your posts.
Your blog posts will be most visible to Google and the other search engines when you use effective search engine optimization (SEO) techniques. Be sure to use phrases in the blog that match what users are searching for, and use page titles and keywords that echo that phrasing.
Blogging Supports Diversification
If you are diversifying your services, blogging can provide great support for your sales team. You can announce your new services in the blog and add posts that help people appreciate their value. For example, if you are seeking more sales of indoor air quality services, you can publish a series of posts to help people understand the issues and how to recognize a potential problem in their home. Resist the urge to sell; instead establish the value of your services and position yourself as an expert. You can be more aggressive in other venues such as direct mail, but stick to information in the blog.
Blogging is particularly suitable for companies in retail fuel and full-service HVAC, because it is a relationshipbuilding tool, and long-term relationships are the key to success in these industries.
When you commit to the Internet and the interactive relationships that it enables, a strong company blog is a great addition that complements all your online activities and improves your return on investment across the board.
December Marketing Reminders
As part of this series, I am including reminders of steps that dealers can take each month to strengthen their business. Here are my suggestions for November:
- Begin updating your website for next year
- Send a bill insert or leave-behind about clearing the fill pipe
- Send a Holiday or Happy New Year email blast
- Use door hangers to enroll your customers' neighbors
- Develop a customer retention loyalty program
- Update your Facebook/Social Media pages with a Holiday message
- Remind customers to change their smoke detector & CO detector batteries
Richard Rutigliano is President of PriMedia, Inc., a full service marketing and communications firm with offices in New York City, Long Island and Boston. The company is now offering free marketing consultations to Oilheat retailers. Phone: 800-796-3342, or visit their Web sites at www.primediany.com and www.oilheat-advertising.com.