A small business blog is one of the best and most familiar ways to connect with your customers online and show them who you are and what your business is all about. Establishing this rapport and building your persona can and will go a long way toward influencing potential customers to purchase from you rather than from a competitor.
What Value Blogs Provide Small Businesses
Although it’s a very common question and not one every business owner asks, but “Does my small business website need to feature a blog?” should be met with a resounding yes – here’s why.
1. Establish your Personality
As we’ve discussed before on this blog, establishing and managing your small business’ brand is crucially important. Your brand is an all-encompassing term that describes your business, what it does, why it does it, and who’s behind it. A blog is the best way to give a face to your small business and inject a bit of personality into your brand. While your main customer-centric website can feature a bit of personality and humor, you don’t want to run the risk of getting too cute.
Your main site’s main purpose is to explain what your business is and why people should patron it – if your sense of humor doesn’t jive with some of your customers (which it’s bound not to), those are transactions you lose out on. Your blog, on the other hand, is the perfect place to get a bit more relaxed. Tell some funny anecdotes about some particularly memorable transactions you’ve had. Share some history on how the business got started and how you (possibly) struggled through the lean times. Share some photos of your kids on your recent vacation to Disneyland. There is no shortage of topics that are appropriate fodder for your small business blog – we’ll cover some tips for good entries later on in the article.
2. Provide Behind the Scenes Access
The majority of your customers have no idea of the ins-and-outs required in the maintenance and growth of a successful small business. An occasional entry on your blog that goes into the nuts and bolts of running the business are likely to be of interest to your customers that have gone through the effort of clicking on your blog and reading it. Plus, you can also shed light on some of the costs and required purchases you have to make as a small business owner that the average consumer doesn’t know about – not that you should cry poor, but providing additional information can act as backup for the prices of your items and services. Try to tow the balance of writing entries that are generalized to all small businesses and those that are specific to your trade. If you make hand-blown glass vases, an entry that goes into detail about how a particularly large or ornate piece is made is incredibly interesting and has the chance to be shared virally (more on that later). Think about including media, such as photos and video, into your posts as well to shed even more light on the process.
3. Voice Your Opinion
Much like our previously discussed sense of humor, opinions vary from person to person, so be warned that voicing yours can potentially alienate some of your customers. But as long as you deliver it with tact and reason (and keep it confined to your blog), opinion-based entries can also make for great reads. Try to focus these entries on those related to your field of business. If you own a restaurant, for example, your thoughts on whether food companies and growers should be forced to label if their products contain any GMOs (genetically modified organisms) carry more weight than the average blogger. Conversely, your thoughts on the current situation in Syria might not be appropriate unless you have served or have a strong connection to the military. Again, be tactful and respectful of those who might feel differently.
4. Gain New Contacts
Think of how much time you spend, as a small business owner, researching online of how to potentially grow your business. It could be to learn of news in your industry, or it could be reading reviews of some fantastic new POS software that would be simply perfect for your retail store. Now, think of all the other business owners out there doing the same thing – what are the chances that a web developer specializing in business sites, a supplier of merchandise you sell, a client of one of your competitors, or any one of dozens of people that have a possible connection to your business, stumbles across your site? Having a blog where they can get a better sense of where your business is at and what your goals are could be tremendously valuable toward gaining new business contacts or potentially even new clients.
5. Establish Yourself as an Expert
By honing in some of your entries to the nitty-gritty details of your business, you stand a better chance of being seen and noticed (and shared virally, as we mentioned earlier). If you’re a coffee shop owner, a blog article about how cash registers sometimes act up can be a great piece that’s humorous and that thousands of people can relate to – but it also could be written by just about any small business owner (or employees that operate the registers, for that matter). On the other hand, an entry into why Kopi Luwak coffee is overrated and unethical toward the Civet monkeys is narrow in scope, so you’re competing with fewer voices. If you are a skilled writer and have done your research, there’s a good chance someone will link or share your article when discussing the merits of Kopi Luwak coffee beans. The more eyeballs that see and read your blog, the more traffic to your site, and the more traffic to your site, the more transactions you’ll receive.
6. Have Fun!
As small business owners know, running your outfit can be an exhausting exercise. You’re likely up to your eyeballs in daily minutiae and barely have any time to think about things other than your business. Although it does take time to do it properly, writing and updating a business blog can be a fun and entertaining distraction that is still technically work-related. Some will take some digging and all will take care to edit and make them enjoyably readable, but never forget that this is your chance to get creative with your business. Feel free to get out of your comfort zone and write about nearly anything that comes into mind. Creative writing has been proven to help people analyze their thoughts and reduce stress, and it’s hard to think of a better group of people to benefit from those two things than small business owners.
Other Small Business Blog Questions Answered
I hope that most of the questions pertaining to the value of having a blog for your small business website have been answered, but here are a few other thoughts that many small business owners ask regarding their blog:
1. “Can it be used in place of my main site?”
In a word, no. Too many small businesses venture down this road because sites like WordPress offer blog hosting completely free. Owners who are constantly looking at ways to cut costs think that having a free blog can replace a main website with a dedicated URL. While those free blogs are excellent at what they do, they are far too limited in functionality and features to serve as an appropriate main website for your business. Plus, perhaps most importantly is the “budget” feel you get when coming across a blog site that tries to double as the main site. If this business can’t even afford $5 a month to have their own URL, what else are they skimping on?
2. “Can it increase revenue and store visits?”
In a word, yes! For the reasons mentioned above, your blog can set you and your business apart from your direct competitors. Somebody could really appreciate your humorous takes on daily events and see eye to eye with you on bigger issues. Perhaps they can relate to you being a single mother of three and trying to keep your head above water at work and at home. Or maybe they came across one of your entries that was shared and was blown away by your expertise and knowledge in the field. Regardless, a well done and regularly updated blog can indeed increase your profits.
3. “What tips should I keep in mind when setting my blog up?”
The biggest tip would be to update it regularly. This doesn’t have to be twice a day, but strive for at least one well-written and well-thought out entry per week. Setting up a calendar will help you stay on track, and filling it in with ideas several weeks in advance will do wonders for writer’s block. Also, take the time to thoroughly edit each entry. Read it twice to yourself and if possible, have someone with a good eye read through it as well. Nothing can shatter your credibility than a typo-riddled blog entry. And lastly, try to keep a good variety of personal, humorous, serious, and business related posts as mentioned above. The more creative, inspired, varied, and adventurous your entries are, the more people will want to read them and share them with others.