One week from today, on Tuesday, June 24, 2014, I will be speaking on a panel about the business of blogging at a luncheon presentation at the 1757 Golf Club in Dulles, Virginia.
While I suspect that the 90 minute discussion will cover a great many things, the conversation starter for the panel is this: Can a company write a blog or does it need to be written by the owner, or some other high profile individual within the company, in order to achieve the maximum benefit?
One of the primary reasons for undertaking a blog is to engage in business development of one kind or another. Assuming that is the goal then it is absolutely essential, in my opinion, for their to be an actual person, or multiple identifiable people, doing the writing.
Searching online is increasingly one of the first things people do when they are looking for information. In order to develop business through a blogging strategy it is essential to tap into this phenomena, which is now the modern day equivalent of going to the Yellow Pages. But the Yellow Pages could only ever tell you so much about a company, what they offered, and virtually never provided any price information. It was also extremely difficult to convey expertise in a static advertisement, and impossible to do so only with a name and phone number listing. The Internet, of course, has changed everything.
Today people want to be informed, do some basic research on their own, and become familiar with what it is that they are about to embark on, whether that be the purchase of a new gadget, hiring an attorney, or hiring a contractor to put in a pool or add a deck. Those that engage properly with blogs are at a distinct advantage compared with others who don’t, and given that so many businesses with websites and blogs do things quite poorly there is still plenty of opportunity to soar above the competition with a well thought out strategy.
While we can wish it weren’t true, there are always going to be people who believe whatever they read, whether it is in the newspaper or on the Internet. You might not be specifically looking for that crowd for your new client base, but the human tendency to want to believe what is read is something that all businesses and would-be bloggers need to understand and embrace. Of course, there are some important caveats.
First, why is it that people so willingly believe what they read in a newspaper, or encyclopedia, or book? All of these sources come with an air of authenticity and authoritativeness. There are editors and a great amount of research involved. Even if you don’t know the author of the book you know that not everyone gets a book deal, so this person has to know something, or at least someone. Encyclopedia’s are academic and unassailable.
While newspapers make mistakes all the time, given the sheer volume of production and daily schedule that can be overlooked from time to time. Furthermore, most people aren’t bothered by newspaper mistakes even if they learn about them because it was “their newspaper.” They read that particular paper for a variety of reasons, but in some way, shape or form the paper speaks to them. Perhaps the writing matches what they prefer perfectly, perhaps it is ideology or philosophy, perhaps it is subject matter from where the common bond comes. But there is a common bond.
Developing that common bond with readers online is essential because your website does not come with a pre-ordained level of authenticity and authoritativeness found with encyclopedias, books or even newspapers. In that regard blogging is a lot like a blind date. When someone first clicks on the link that will ultimately take them to your website they aren’t quite sure what they will get. First impressions are critically important.
So let’s return to the central question about who should write the blog, a company or a person? It is impossible to develop a relationship with a company in the same way you can develop a relationship with a person. And make no mistake about it, successful bloggers have a relationship with those who read what they write, whether it is a fan who reads every day, or those who read occasionally, or the individual who has a question about something in your area of expertise.
It is this last category of people who will wind up becoming clients most generally. They will have a question, they will search for answers, and if you are like me when you are searching for answers online you find a lot of pages and articles that purport to answer the question, but few that actually provide useful, actionable information or intelligence. If you provide original content that includes quality information that educates and informs you are far more likely to be able to turn your writing into client development.
If you attach your face and name to an article in a professional manner an affinity will begin to develop between author and reader. In short, through thoughtful and informative writing one of the critical hurdles to forming a business relationship will melt away. The reader who obtains quality, understandable and actionable information will begin to trust the author who they can now identify as a real person thanks to your likeness being front and center.
With this in mind, I just don’t know how you can obtain the maximum benefit without a blogging being written by individuals who share their expertise. Having said this, a blog doesn’t need to be written by the same person all the time. In fact, if you have various members of your team each with a different area of expertise there is absolutely nothing wrong with each individual writing and building their own portfolio of articles within the company blog. This can be extremely useful because when people read they tend to want the person they have developed a connection with to be the one who does the work, which isn’t always realistic when the primary author is the owner of the company. There can be real benefits to have those who will do the work and be primarily engaging clients and customer write as well.
It all sounds so simple, but it really isn’t, which is why there are still opportunities for businesses from all sectors. Not many people really do this well, and developing trust is not an easy thing to do by any stretch of the imagination. It may even be harder in some ways online given that many of the people who you most want to attract as customers or clients will be suspicious. After all, anyone can put up a website, right? That is why the best strategy is going to be to write with an acceptable level of frequency. Anticipate the questions the reader will have when they read your article. I always like to say that an article is not a treatise, but readers will want more information. So write articles that continue to fill in the gaps and then link them to what you have previously written. For example, take a look at these several articles. Notice how I explain the topic I’m writing about, but suppose the reader will want more information about certain other related topics. See, for example, Obtaining Exclusive Rights to Your Invention in the U.S., which is full of links to other articles I’ve written. Another, easier way to do this is to list articles at the end that continue the readers learning, such as I did with The Risk of Not Filing a Patent Application Immediately. In this article I also tabled the question of obviousness, but provided links to articles I’ve written on obviousness (see paragraph #3).
Throughout this article I have stressed the importance of providing quality information that informs the reader. That is the way to attract clients and customers through blogging, but so many marketing people and business people simply refuse to provide useful information. They require you to provide your e-mail and telephone number before you can see anything that might begin to answer your questions. Most people simply won’t provide that information without knowing that they are going to get something valuable in return. After all, giving up an e-mail or telephone number guarantees a sales person calling, and what did you get out of it? Well there was a promise of a PDF that would be e-mailed that would answer all my questions and solve all my problems. Right! People are rightfully skeptical.
People who will find you online are searching for answers. If you want to capitalize on that market your job is going to be to provide that intelligent, insightful information that the reader did not possess prior to visiting your website. Over time your job will be to provide lots of that information that tie together little by little to demonstrate that you have a deep level of understanding, so much so that the reader knows that they need to hire you to the exclusion of everyone else.
Anyone can say: “I know what I’m doing,” and that is the problem. The lesson is simple: It is far better for a prospective client or customer to come to the understanding that you know what you are talking about for themselves than it is for you to tell them you know what you are talking about directly. When people come to the conclusion themselves that you know what you are talking about, that they have learned from your writing, they become loyal clients and customers who are eager to work with you. They also now become firmly convinced that you are the authority on the subject because you have written on the topic so often and so eloquently, so you begin to establish yourself as an expert; a real authority. This then frequently leads the happy client or customer to tell family and friends about what they have learned, where they learned it, and how much of an expert you are. And that type of positive business referral from happy clients and customers is something you just can’t buy.
Of course, now it comes time for you to deliver. All the positive good will in the world won’t help you if you drop the ball and cannot deliver for your new customers or clients, but that is another story for another day. Today the story is about building trust through the use of quality information that shows you know what you are talking about.
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2 comments so far.
Gene QuinnJune 19, 2014 11:11 am
You are entitled to your opinion, but this is an area where I am most certainly NOT naive.
First, I’m not dissing your business. I’m glad you have enough clients and can’t take any more. But it is certainly true business and professionals are missing out and not maximizing the power of blogging when they choose to have someone write for them, or who have a company blog written by an unidentified individual. There is also a tremendous risk associated with putting your name or company behind blog posts not written by a substantive expert. That typically leads to a lot of writing that is non-specific, overly simplified and sometimes flat incorrect.
One of the primary purposes of a blog is to allow one or more professionals within a company to establish themselves as an expert. If others do the writing or the blog is faceless and only carries a company name that benefit simply cannot exist.
Barry LeffJune 19, 2014 04:50 am
Gene, it’s naive to think that blogs need to be written by people actually at the firm. We blog for a variety firms — law firms, IP firms, technology companies. When we have time we even blog for our company.
What you probably don’t want to do is to simply turn it over to someone else with no further communications. We work closely with our clients — they typically approve topics and often approve the piece before it’s posted. In everything we do, we follow the firm’s “style.” Some are more casual, some more formal, etc. We engage with a community on social media, and post stuff that’s relevant besides the firm’s on material.
Not everyone is a good writer. There is some art to blogging. A good blog ghost-written by a third party will help you a lot more than a bad blog written by an actual employee.
The key is to make sure whoever you hire to blog for you really understands your business, your goals, your customers, your voice. And that’s not cheap: you don’t get that for $5 a blog.
See http://tek-law.com/content/ for our sales pitch… 😉 Although we don’t really have bandwidth for new clients right now. Just don’t like to see our business being dissed…