Blogging for Business: Can It Hurt Your Sales?
In a comment on a fellow blogger's post, I suggested that she add some buying tips for the type of services she offers. In reply, she asked why she should tell people how to buy the services she sells, since they could possibly use the tips to buy from her competitors. I understand her concern.
How I Got Burned by Blogging
In my former promotional products career, I saw a huge opportunity to help my customers and prospects understand the buying process (it's more complicated than people realize) and how their purchases impacted their marketing. Almost all of my peers and competitors were not doing this. So I started a blog on the topic with the hope that if I would be seen as a trusted resource, I would also be seen as a potential trusted vendor, too. The blog got some notoriety in that industry... and so did I as a result. So was it a successful strategy?
I gained a fair amount of organic traffic (traffic from search engines such as Google) to my blog. Some posts were very popular. However, visitors would read my post to get the buying education they needed, then they bounced out. If they would have bounced on over to my shopping sites and bought, that would have been great. But, sadly, they bounced out to my competitors. I ended up being the unofficial "blog" or "FAQ" for my competition. And when these visitors actually did wander over to my shopsites, they wandered around (sometimes my Google analytics showed they were there for long periods of time) and then bought nothing. They likely visited for research purposes only. Ugh!
Tried hosting Google AdSense ads on my blog to help monetize that traffic that was going elsewhere anyway. But that didn't pan out either. Site visitors weren't clicking on the ads. Apparently, they weren't looking for new promotional vendors or products... or for whatever the Google AdSense remarketing system was serving up for their viewing. Double ugh!
Additionally, I got a lot of attention for my blog from my industry, in other words, my friendly competitors. It was all positive though. I made some wonderful industry friends and got some new speaking and marketing opportunities because of it. Bottom line, however, was that this attention wasn't from customers. Triple ugh!
I eventually closed my self-hosted blog and did some soul searching as to why I should continue blogging for business at all if it was counterproductive or even destructive to my sales goals. So I moved a lot of those posts to a content site where I could potentially gain a bit of continuing ad revenue. Later, I closed the promotions division of my business, too.
As my marketing and promotions company then morphed into a publishing business, blogging became a necessary component of my online portfolio. My blog still is not an ideal blog-to-buy sales funnel and it's available for the world to see. But that's really okay with me now. Here's why...
What Do You Want from Blogging for Business?
As my story shows, I initially was hoping for a direct blog-to-buy sales funnel. This can be extremely difficult to achieve, except for low cost, impulse buy type products (books, eBooks, email newsletter subscriptions, etc.).
Blogging has been touted as a key content marketing and inbound marketing strategy. Indeed it can build one's reputation in an industry, market, community or in online search (SEO). But blogging it is NOT a SALES strategy; it is a PR strategy.
Granted, PR can eventually (operative word) lead to sales. But that is not a guaranteed, direct or fast path. So if you want sales results in the short term, blogging may not be for you. More direct routes to sales (networking, Internet advertising, etc.) may be better marketing investments to consider.
Blogging it is NOT a SALES strategy; it is a PR strategy.— Heidi Thorne
Does Blogging for Business Give Your Competitors a Sales Edge?
Unless your blog is private in some way (requires passwords to access, posts only delivered via email, etc.), your posts are public, viewable by ANYONE on the Internet. This presents a serious conundrum for those who blog for business.
Of course, you would never, ever want to share business secrets or other confidential information on a blog or anywhere on the Internet (or anywhere at all for that matter)! But how much of your suitable-for-public-consumption knowledge and expertise should you share in blog posts, especially since competitors can access them and/or customers could use the information to buy from your competitors?
Remember that blogging is publishing. The root of the word publish means "to make public." If you're not prepared to have your blog viewed by competitors OR cannot deal with the fact that customers may buy from competitors after viewing and gaining value from your blog, a blogging strategy may not be for you.
Keep in mind, though, that blogging with high quality content (in-depth, well-written topical content of at least several hundred words, multimedia elements, etc.) can help improve your visibility in search engines. If you can be found in search near or along with your competitors, customer prospects may see you as a potential vendor for whatever it is you sell. The more potential customers see your name and evidence of your expertise, you build your reputation as the go-to resource for whatever it is your offer. That's the best you can expect from blogging for business.
Realize, though, that blogging is a high investment marketing and PR strategy in terms of time, effort and possibly dollars. So you have to ask yourself whether your costs and competitor concerns outweigh the potential online visibility that blogging could bring.
Questions & Answers
© 2017 Heidi Thorne