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Should blogging be on your to-do list?

You’ve been hearing a lot about blogging for the past few years and you’ve reluctantly concluded that maybe it’s time to join the parade. Company blogs have a place in the B2B marketing arsenal, but only under the right circumstances.

While there are millions of blogs online, consider that the Pew Internet & American Life Project reports that only 39 percent of Internet users read them. Is your target audience among them?

Marketing Benefits

Blogs are usually more effective for enhancing brand image and awareness than they are for driving leads and sales.

Blogs establish expertise by giving the company a venue for sharing what they know about subjects related to the products and services they provide.

Some of the most effective business blogs are written by management personnel for business decision makers–it’s not just for the techies anymore. Regardless of their editorial focus, the best-read corporate blogs avoid hype and self-congratulatory content. Instead, they focus on content useful to readers.

To create awareness about your company, products and services, keep in mind that blogs tend to be favored in the Web’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). That can go a long way toward helping your company be found by prospects who are actively searching for what you sell.

Your blog can also have a big impact on a potential customer moving through the awareness/inquiry/consideration/purchase cycle. When you find areas of confusion about the marketplace or can answer common questions prospects have, you are supplying the information needed to move to a purchase decision–anticipating the needs of those who haven’t contacted you directly.

Required Commitment and Resources

To gain and maintain readers, you need to keep your blog fresh. So you’ll need someone who has the expertise, writing skills and time to frequently post new blog content. How frequently? According to a research study by public relations firm Porter Novelli and market analytics company Cymfony Inc., only 24 percent of bloggers post once a week or less (I belong to this camp). Some 39 percent of bloggers post several times a week and 37 percent post daily or multiple times a day.

Are you ready for a conversation?

Blogs are inherently a two-way medium. Get ready for bluntly honest responses from delighted real customers as well as disgruntled naysayers. Yes, you can choose to disallow comments completely, but that removes the authenticity that you can build with a blog versus other ways of keeping in touch.

You can screen comments, which I recommend. But don’t immediately trash the comments that raise valid concerns and issues. These tough topics are key to showing that your company can handle doubts and respond to them, as well as listen to problems and resolve them. Skeptical prospects will watch and learn that you are listening, making you stand out from the crowd.

I recommend that you plan to post new content to your blog weekly to start. You can always turn up the frequency later, once you’re sure you have the ability to keep up the pace.

You also need a place to host your blog. (If you’re looking for links from the blog to your Web site to boost your Web site’s search engine results, host it on a different server than where your Web site is hosted.) Consider using Microsoft Live Spaces (http://spaces.live.com) or search using a phrase like “blog hosting” on your favorite search engine to find additional and inexpensive options.

To Blog or Not to Blog?

I recommend that you consider blogging if you need a venue to demonstrate your expertise (branding) or are looking for additional ways to move up in the SERPs (for traffic). However, you should launch a blog only if you, someone on your staff, or an outsourcer can post regularly.

If you’re tasked with driving leads and sales, hand it off to someone else or put it on the back burner. There are plenty of marketing tactics that will have a more direct impact on the bottom line.

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