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Lessons from General Custer: Why Should You Have a Business Blog?

Feb 3, 2009; Category: Business, Marketing, Zeitgeist; Tags: , , , ; 4 Comments

George A. Custer

There’s much talk and growing evidence that businesses that blog are realizing business benefits, including increased sales. Most business owners I talk to, however, are hesitant. They’ve heard about the "next big thing" before, so they’re not ready to get excited about blogging, and they have business to tend to. Their lack of excitement often takes hold after I’ve explained that it may take 6-12 months for blogging benefits to accrue to their bottom line if they do it well, which includes an 8-12 hr/week time commitment. If the results aren’t instantaneous, why bother?

I’m reminded of the classic cartoon [apologies to my Native American friends] in which a machine gun salesman is rebuffed by General Custer amid incoming arrows, saying "Can’t you see I’m too busy to talk right now?" What would you expect of a man who wore his hat so that the first wind that came along would send it flying? This is not a guy who focused on what was important.

The marketing landscape is shifting, or has already shifted, depending on who you talk to. Traditional "outbound" marketing—which includes print advertising, telemarketing, radio and television advertising, direct mail, email blasts, and non-interactive websites—are increasingly being ignored by consumers. Outbound marketing can still work if done effectively, but not to the degree it used to. When was the last time you opened a direct mail ad to see what the offer was? Or sat through the 10 minutes of commercials that accompany a 20-minute TV program? Or read a newspaper ad? You may have done some of those things recently, but if you’re like most people, you’re doing them a lot less than you did 5 or 10 years ago.

People have other options for finding information when they’re ready to buy. For an increasing number of people, their first step in a purchase is Google. If they’re looking for a book, which they can buy online, they probably won’t add a city to their search. But if they’re looking for a woodstove, they probably will. If you’re a local merchant who sells woodstoves and your website has a lot of recently added and updated content on woodstoves, you’re going to show up high in the search results. If you’re a local merchant who sells woodstoves and have a website with little useful information that hasn’t been updated since it was launched 5 years ago, or if you don’t have a website at all, you’re not going to have an opportunity to make the sale.

Increasingly, successful local businesses are the ones who are "findable" on the Internet. Becoming more findable on the Internet is sometimes referred to as "inbound" marketing. Blogging and other inbound marketing activities, accompanied by very basic Search Engine Optimization, are a proven way of raising the findability of your business and, by the way, they cost much less than outbound marketing. Let me help you pull that arrow out of your back (hold still!), then we really should talk about your business and how blogging can help it thrive.

4 Responses to “Lessons from General Custer: Why Should You Have a Business Blog?”

  1. Thanks for the reminder about the importance of blogging! I’ve been blogging for over a year, and was skeptical at first. Everyone was telling me I had to start a blog, but I didn’t want a marketing activity that took so much care and feeding.

    A year later, I’m excited to say that I’m hooked. I underestimated the SEO power of regularly adding relevant content on my topic to the web. I may not get that many comments, but that content goes into and stays in cyberspace, drawing my audience back to me. With every post, I try to include keywords that people might search on.

    Plus, it’s been a great way to build relationships with followers. It becomes a 2-way conversation with them.

    It’s an important – and cheap – way to get out there.

    Casey

  2. Ray Gulick says:

    Thanks, Casey. There are thousands of reasons (excuses?) not to blog (many of them understandable), but the reasons in favor of blogging are powerful and well-documented. I’ve never talked to a business blogger who didn’t say they wished they’d started sooner.

  3. Douglas Karr says:

    Love the post but I’ve got to argue about the 6 to 12 months and 10 to 15 hours required. I don’t think those are accurate at all. I work with clients that are targeting specific traffic and developing a strategy BEFORE blogging and they tend to get results within weeks. We really see results take off at around 60 good posts, regardless of how many weeks that takes them.

    As for 10 to 15 hours, businesses usually have tons of content lying around that’s relevant and valuable on a blog. I would argue that a blog post need not take more time than an email. If done effectively, a business blog can start up with tons of repurposed content in the form of newsletters, whitepapers, customer testimonials, case studies, videos, knowledge base solutions, frequently asked questions, etc.

    That’s not cheating, that’s leveraging existing content and resources to maximize your business blogging results.

  4. Ray Gulick says:

    Douglas –

    As they say: “results may vary.” No doubt developing a strategy before starting a blog and re-purposing existing content would be very helpful in getting faster results. Thanks for bringing that insight to the discussion.