In Business Blogging, Subtlety is Overrated

May 3, 2010

in Business

The Problem: Your blog is not converting visitors into clients or customers

People are coming (maybe in small numbers), clicking around, maybe even staying awhile, etc. They’re signing up for your free newsletter – maybe – or subscribing to your RSS feed. But they’re not contacting you or hiring you.

Somewhere along the path, people got the bizarre idea that if they put up a blog and loaded it with a plethora of helpful but general industry or location specific information, visitors would come, read, and then contact them or buy their services. I don’t get it. Where is the line that connects the two?

There isn’t one.

It’s a magical, mysterious load of B.S. Information alone will not convert visitors.

The Solution: Stop Being So Subtle

The whole point of being an entrepreneur is to bring something unique and great to the world of commerce, and by regurgitating general knowledge, you are missing a huge opportunity to talk about your unique and great service. If no one else is talking about you, you should.

If you want to see an example of a blog that sells, try visiting this one, and then go on over here to see exactly why. It’s not a mystery. It’s called marketing. It’s find a need and fill it. It’s the act of bringing your product or service to the people who are looking to buy it in a clear, helpful way and making the buying process obvious and simple. It’s an old, time-tested approach to selling that has been completely twisted as a result of blogging and social media hype. Somehow, people forgot to sell. It became taboo. But guess what? It still works.

“But… I just want my blog to be a source of information”

If you said that to me, I would then ask you why you want your blog to be just a source of information. Is it because that’s what you really want, or is it because someone told you that was the best way to get clients to come to your blog?

The answer to that question is the heart of the matter. If you want to be a source of info so people will hire you, then really, you are blogging so that people will hire you. Here’s the problem: because of what you’re producing, people are not coming to your blog looking for someone to hire. Instead, they are coming for that information. And your hope is that they become so comfy and trustworthy of you that eventually they will want your services. That’s a long shot. It might work. But it’s a long shot.

What About Relationship Building?

I believe in relationship marketing, really, I do. You can use your blog to communicate and engage and build strong, loyal followers and talk about your products and services at the same time. Make it so that the buzz is about you and your work, not about something completely unrelated to you specifically. And try really hard to remember what bucket you fit in as a company or service. Look for successful blogging models in your industry and company size.

The Keys to Targeted Blogging

If you are a professional and you are not talking about your products or services directly (like the link above to Field Notes), you are making a mistake. Your blog will suffer from multiple personality disorder and unfortunately there aren’t therapists for blogs. (Actually, maybe I could do that. I’ll be your blog therapist).

Sell Intelligently

On a serious note, though, you need to sort it out. Don’t put general and unrelated information in your posts and then sell like crazy in your sidebar. Instead, sell in your posts. Sell yourself. Who are you, what do you do, your stories and experiences and why are you better than the other guy/gal. And keep doing this in creative ways over and over and over. That is what your business’s blog needs.

Of course you have to be good at it. You may have to hire a copywriter, take a course, or read a book in order to figure out how to develop a tribe around what you are selling so that your blogging efforts are not made in vain.

If you don’t bring your services to your prospective clients or customers – whether in your blog or email marketing or even Twitter – do not expect people to weed through your info to find the thing they’re supposed to do with it. This is why I say that subtlety is overrated.

Target your prospective clients

Talk to them. Stop talking around them. In doing so, you are really talking down to them, and it’s sort of trickery. But more than that, it simply won’t work for you. You must learn to use your blog as a marketing method. So what if you think marketing is a dirty word? Call it whatever you want, the principles are still the same, and you still have to do it if you want to get some ROI out of your blog.

Here are some ideas of how you can use your blog to drive business:

  • Showcase your work, particularly your successes.
  • Talk about before and after.
  • Write about an upcoming product or service and put a big fat image of it in your post.
  • Toot your own freakin’ horn!

This seems to be the hardest thing for people to grasp. Am I saying that it’s okay to come off like a conceited jerk? Of course not! No one likes a jerk. But you have to talk about your products and services if you want people to feel like they have a handle on them enough to want to invest.

Remember what your clients are looking for

If your ideal client is searching for a local hair stylist, my suspicion is that blogging about general community news is not going to interest her very much. Perhaps you should try blogging about your recent changes or additions to the shop, a local celebrity’s makeover or a tell-a-friend deal you just launched (and that’s some great PR advice, too).

If your ideal client is looking to hire an interior designer, try blogging before and after stories, or how your particular service (with a unique name, of course) is the solution to cost-effective, stylish interior design.

Give Your Blog a Job

Define some clear objectives for your blog (also see Should You Blog? Yes, and here’s how). If its job is to bring in sales, you need to give it the right tools so that it can do its job well. Learn to manage your own expectations. If necessary, stop trying to do this yourself and hire a marketing consultant to help you use your blog to sell.

Or, Try Other Marketing Methods

If you just can’t bring yourself to make your product or service the focus of your blog, fine. Then seek other avenues. Buy some advertising, invest in search engine marketing, seek referrals, etc. These methods still work. Referrals are a great way to secure future business and will take some pressure off your blog. If you want to take that method, that is great.

In that case, carefully monitor your investment in your blog so that it doesn’t become a huge time suck for you. Or try (aff link), so that at least the time you do spend will pay for itself.

Your Turn: Are you being too subtle?

Do people get who you are, what you’re all about and the purpose of your blog? Do you feel confident people will walk away knowing those things? What do you need to get there?

seospidy@Internet marketing August 10, 2010 at 4:10 am

very useful post thanks for brief

Moore Ogbonna July 21, 2010 at 10:29 am

Your message is very good and helpful

ashok June 6, 2010 at 8:53 pm

You make a lot of good points, and I'm agreed. I'll go a step further and say this: in blogging generally, subtlety is overrated.

I think all of us as bloggers – and I'm not saying this to whine or complain – have to realize that with a few exceptions, the audience online is massively ungrateful. I've been blogging for years now, and dealing with people who steal my stuff is the least of it. The worst are regulars who don't realize how much time it takes to provide content, and never say anything. I kinda feel guilty saying that, but at the same time, I can't say that if I traded a few regular readers who are more quiet for a few who are willing to say "hey, look at what this guy says" once in a while that I'd be disappointed.

I really do get the feeling that people are just so used to getting so much for free that they don't realize what it costs to get started doing something. We're not all massive corporations that have the resources for plenty of free tours and samples.
My recent post Emily Dickinson, “Impossibility, like Wine” (838)

blogangel May 4, 2010 at 12:59 pm

You really bring this home for me, Tia. Especially now as I am in the process of creating a new blog for specific product. I currently have the pre-release jitters. Keep wondering: What have I forgotten? What needs to get done first? How can maximize this?

I will be referring back to this article often in the days to come. Thanks so much.

Tia Peterson May 4, 2010 at 12:41 pm

You’re very welcome! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Jennifer Brown Banks May 3, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Tia,

You bring up some interesting and savvy points today. I admit that I’m not always sure how to go about promoting and marketing my Blog, and sometimes am reluctant to “toot my horn” for concern that it will come across as bragging or even begging for business. :-)

After reading this, I’ll have to consider approaching things differently. Thanks for these words of wisdom.
.-= Jennifer Brown Banks´s last blog ..Guest Post**Remembering My Mom–By Steve Sears =-.

Tia Peterson May 3, 2010 at 12:24 pm

Hi Jen – Tooting our own horns. So hard! There’s something about that in Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, which is an excellent book. It can be done gracefully especially when we share stories.

Alison Moore Smith May 3, 2010 at 11:35 am

Spot on. Bloggers serve their readers and clients better when they acknowledge and deal openly with the profit motive.

In my experience, that’s easy to do. You can find lots of affiliate links on my sites, but it doesn’t undermine your credibility if (1) you are selective about what you offer and (2) are willing to address both pros and cons about those things you offer, so it’s an honest, helpful review rather than just a sales pitch.

For example, right now I’m writing a post about discount contact lenses — because I’m in the process of finding a good online source for my daughter’s contact lenses. In the end, I’m sure I’ll be using an affiliate link to the site (because most of the online companies have affiliate programs), but my recommendation will be based on where I actually end up buying the contacts, after doing the research.
.-= Alison Moore Smith´s last blog ..31DBBB: Day #12 Develop an Editorial Calendar for Your Blog =-.

Tia Peterson May 3, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Alison – Thanks for your comment! This post refers more to people who are professionals or service providers and are blogging as a marketing method. Affiliate marketing is an even bigger fish to fry!

I actually think that aside from required FTC disclosures in the U.S., affiliate blogs are better off providing general information, reviews, or similar content. But professionals and service providers need to get a little more personal and specific with their blogs. In the Field Notes example, their posts are about their products. How (not) novel and effective and genius is that? Yet many people miss the boat!

Tia Peterson May 3, 2010 at 9:25 am

Hey Mark! Thanks for coming back to the blog and commenting. I certainly didn’t mean to use your post as a reference in that way; correction has been made! I like your post and I want people to visit it, which is the reason I linked to it. I moved it toward the bottom now. You should be able to see where it is more clearly.

Cheers,
Tia

Mark Suster May 3, 2010 at 8:50 am

Hello, Tia. I totally agree with you that writing a blog without marketing it makes no sense. In fact, in my blog post that you’ve linked to I gave several “traffic hacks” at the bottom of the post. These are the things that I did to go from 0 to 100,000 visitors / month in 9 months of blogging.

My only beef is that the way you linked to my article makes it sound like I was the one who had “the bizarre idea that if they put up a blog and loaded it with a plethora of helpful but general industry or location specific information, visitors would come, read, and then contact them or buy their services” – which of course I didn’t!

If you didn’t intend for it to sound that way I would be grateful if you make some sort of minor modification to remove this inference! Thank you.

Teena@V8 Supercars May 3, 2010 at 8:33 am

You got great insights here. I guess being too subtle doesn’t help your blog.
.-= Teena@V8 Supercars´s last blog ..Sailing Whitsunday Islands, Budget Option – 5 days & 4 nights =-.

Tia Peterson May 3, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Thanks!

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