"I'm reading a book... if you don't know, it is like a blog except bigger." — Craig Ferguson
Blogging isn't just a critical step in your content strategy; it's also the very first step in your social media strategy. Blogs provide a way for you to show off your expertise, get found in search engines and engage in dialogs with people who could become customers. Getting your blog right sets the stage for your entire social media program.
In this chapter, I'll show you how to leverage blogging and social media to transform your online marketing.
Your number one blogging goal should be to publish useful articles on a regular basis so that people searching for information will find you. When deciding what kinds of content to share on your blog, it's helpful to start at the end and move backwards.
What I mean by starting at the end is considering what your target audience will be searching for online. Do they want to know how to use videos to market their products? Are they interested in learning why they should switch to Office 365? Would a checklist of email marketing metrics to track benefit their business?
These are the topics you should cover on your blog. Now, work backwards, actually writing well-researched articles packed with practical information. When your target audience searches for information online, they will find your useful blog articles. And, then, they will find you.
Another benefit of blogging regularly is that it provides a supply of fresh content to use on your other online marketing channels. Consider publishing a highlight reel of your best blog posts once a month in your newsletter.
Be sure to enable comments for your blog so you can engage with readers.
You can also fuel your Twitter stream, Facebook page, and LinkedIn page with content from your blog, which we will discuss in more detail below.
Consider your blog the starting point of your entire MSP content marketing program. When you put time and effort into writing quality blog posts on a regular basis, you will set the stage for success throughout all your online marketing channels.
Let's look at a few companies that blogged their way to success.
Brian Williams of Viget can attribute $5 million in revenue over the past four years to his blog. That's right — $5 million.
Viget is a digital agency that creates custom software, platforms for mobile apps, and websites for big-name clients like Puma, Duke University, and the World Wildlife Fund.
Brian and his team began blogging in 2005 with just one blog for the entire company. In 2008, they decided to step things up a bit by expanding to four blogs targeting four different communities: designers, developers, strategists, and marketers. At this point, they ramped up to four to five posts per week total with a content focus on people instead of search engines (however, they did pay attention to which keywords were getting the most traction).
Several high profile clients found Viget through these blog posts as they searched for answers to a technical or design question they were having. Even with clients like Choice Hotels and Time Life, Viget earned their business through blogging, not through salespeople.
Viget receives five to 10 inbound leads each month from its blog and website, resulting in a whopping $5 million in revenue in the four years following mid-2008.
Diana Hage of RFID Global Solution learned the power of leveraging her blog for social media firsthand.
RFID Global Solution is a software and solutions provider focused on enterprise asset tracking, whose primary focus is developing work-in-process tracking solutions for the aerospace industry.
A year ago, Diana started publishing blog posts every two weeks. She gathers contributions from other executives at RFID Global Solution, and she focuses the blog on industry solutions for the company's targeted verticals, as well as upcoming events in the industry.
Diana targets six to eight keywords, which are highly relevant to her niche audience. She is currently testing pay-per-click (PPC) ads to drive traffic to RFID's blog and home page.
Even though she publishes fairly infrequently, Diana makes every blog post count. She connects the company's blog posts to its Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, so that each time a blog is published, a tweet/status update goes out as well.
Diana also leverages her personal LinkedIn account to grow RFID. She has so many LinkedIn connections that the company has closed two deals just from her own LinkedIn network. (More about using LinkedIn in the next chapter)
Carol Politi of TRX Systems has mastered the art of keyword strategy. Her company has 32 keywords in the top 10 rankings on Google, with 23 ranking in the top three.
TRX Systems develops location systems for tracking public safety, Department of Defense and enterprise personnel in indoor environments, urban areas, and underground — anywhere that GPS does not work. Their systems also provide after-action reviews for training exercises to show what everyone did throughout the exercise.
Carol and her team began publishing blogs about a year ago, along with search optimized press releases. In a niche market like Carol's, keywords are pretty easy to optimize since there isn't much competition.
TRX Systems began with their five top keywords and used a combination of analysis and guesswork to come up with keywords. They started blogging once every few weeks, sharing company news, awards, job openings, and industry happenings that affected their customers.
Besides blogging, Carol distributed keyword-rich press releases on PR Web to share news on investments, alliances, product releases, contract wins, or other business-centric news.
This keyword-packed content combo has driven inbound leads, especially in the form of distribution partnerships, to TRX Systems. The company averages about six high quality leads per week that convert from the "Contact Us" page on their website.
TRX Systems is enjoying significant success, even though they only post new content every few weeks. They focus on quality, not quantity, with tightly-focused keywords like "personnel tracking," "indoor location system," and "indoor tracking system."
Mobile products and services firm, mPortal, has been around for a dozen years. Initially, they did not need to do a lot of marketing because most of their business came from word-of-mouth. Their website was "brochure ware" and they did not have dedicated sales people. In late 2011, CEO DP Venkatesh made a decision to accelerate his IT marketing efforts to scale up to a higher level of growth.
DP tasked his Senior Director, Azadeh Hardiman, with this goal: position mPortal as a thought leader in the industry. They started by posting two blogs each week, one high-level thought leadership piece from DP and one from an employee to focus on tips and tricks for devices and technical details related to mobile applications.
They didn't just write articles randomly. Instead, they took a methodical approach, focusing on 10 keywords that they felt were critical in their space and another 20 more that they considered to be related. These keywords are terms that prospects might search on. mPortal manually posted a note about each blog to the company's Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ pages to drive additional traffic. This provided an opportunity to add more commentary on the blog and expand their reach.
mPortal took it one step further by publishing white papers to provide prospects with detailed information to help them make buying decisions. They created guides on topics of interest to their clients like HTML5 vs. Native App Development, Social TV and Solving the App Discovery Problem.
After a few months, they added a monthly "wrap up" email which simply previewed the top three highlights they covered over the month and promoted their white papers.
The result: over a period of just eight months, they saw a ten-fold increase in visits to their website. People started filling out their contact form and they have generated hundreds of new leads compared to zero beforehand. Not bad by any stretch!
If you don't see results from your blog immediately, don't worry. That's normal. Network Depot, a managed services provider in Reston, Virginia, was growing at the rate of about 2 or 3 new clients a year. When Vice President and COO Paul Barnett came on board, he wanted to add 2–3 new clients per month.
To generate more leads, Paul enlisted the help of his marketing manager, Robyn Ilsen. She created short videos on the newest version of Windows, ebooks on what to look for when you buy a new computer and other useful resources. Robyn also created a six-month calendar of informational topics to post to their blog. They saw no leads for the first five months. Then, they started getting traction — slowly. They now get about one new lead each week, which they qualify to see if it is worth pursuing.
Blogging works very well when your article topics align with what your business does and what your audience expects from you. They are not another place for you to post more information about yourself and what your company can do. It is for you to share your knowledge to help solve problems.
Coming up with topics to write about is not as hard as you might think. Network Depot uses Kaseya's remote management and monitoring tool to get alerts when devices go offline, to deploy antivirus software, to perform backups and other services to help manage a client's technology. By looking at how they help existing customers and what kinds of things they need, Paul's team is able to come up with a wide range of topics that their clients and others can use.
Hopefully, these IT blog examples have given you some ideas on how to take your own blogging strategy up a notch, and hopefully, they have also inspired you to commit to your IT blog with regular, helpful articles populated with targeted keywords.
Getting started with blogging isn't that hard. And with a tool like Presstacular, which provides you with monthly content, you can have a rich resource for your clients and prospects almost instantly with very little work.
Be careful of services that provide "fluff" content or material that is not in line with your business. I once saw a blog post on an MSP's website that talked about how to hire a virtual assistant. That's a far cry from virtualization, which is what the MSP specialized in. The blog wasn't doing its job: to show off the company's expertise and position them as a trusted source of reliable IT information. Your messaging should be consistent with the products and services you offer so you attract the kinds of prospects you want, not people looking for secretarial services.
Every quarter, or every month if you publish frequently, look at your blog's analytics to see which posts draw the most visitors. It will give you clear insight into the topics your audience wants to know more about, which can help you craft your product and service offerings.
Many experts consider blogs the centerpiece of any social media effort. There are other tools like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook that can help, too. Of these big three, LinkedIn is the one that is more focused on business. Posting status updates containing links to your blog posts is a great way to keep your contacts updated on your activity. For more insight into building your technology company's website and how to use social media platforms, please see our full version of this guide, The IT Marketing Crash Course.