Blogs As Marketing Tools For Small And Medium Sized Businesses Word Count: 1278 Summary: Times are changing. In the highly competitive marketplace, small and medium sized business entities (SMBs) veer away from the traditional to more creative and interactive approaches to doing business. Opportunities now spring from new markets, new consumer segments and new marketing tools exemplified by websites specifically business blogs. Understanding Business Blogs A blog, short for weblog, is a website in which journal-like entries called posts are written on an on... Keywords: internet, blogs, internet business, small business Article Body: Times are changing. In the highly competitive marketplace, small and medium sized business entities (SMBs) veer away from the traditional to more creative and interactive approaches to doing business. Opportunities now spring from new markets, new consumer segments and new marketing tools exemplified by websites specifically business blogs. Understanding Business Blogs A blog, short for weblog, is a website in which journal-like entries called posts are written on an ongoing basis and displayed in reverse chronological order. New posts appear at the homepage so visitors can read what is new. It is an easy, frequently updated online journal, focused around a topic, industry or personality. Authoring a blog or adding an article to a blog is called blogging while the person who posts these entries is known as a blogger. Typically, a blog is composed of hypertext, images and links to other web pages, audio, video and other files. A distinct feature of a blog is that it allows readers to write their reactions or comments to what was written in the blog post. Another wonderful thing about a blog is that a blogger can update his blog thru a special type of blogging software called a blog tool instantly from any Internet connection on any computer. He just types his entry into a simple online form and the entry is readily available on the web for worldwide readers to see. Over the years, blogs have evolved from simple, personal online journals to effective tools for augmenting business communications. Along the way, search engines like Google and Yahoo were displaying popular media blogs produced by journalists, in most cases, appearing above other search result rankings. Propelled by this discovery, companies started writing blogs to provide relevant information about their business to potential customers to visit their sites. What then is a business blog? It is a blog about a business. It is an organized journal about a company’s products or services. A business blog provides specific news, statistics, product releases, and other relevant information related to the company to prospective customers starting a business blog and providing these information give potential customers enough reasons to visit a company’s website. Just imagine prospective clients visiting a company’s blog periodically without the company having to spend hefty amounts of money on advertising and promotion. As they say, give readers valuable pertinent information and they will come. Moreover, customer service issues may be addressed using a blog. A business blog is best viewed as an addition to a website. If a company has a website, a business blog is just embedded in it. For small and medium sized businesses, business blogs help put a personal touch on an otherwise bland business site. A business blog can be an excellent marketing tool to support a main business, to provide value, build healthy relationships with potential clients and thus create personal brand and image. Blogging as a Marketing Tool Business blogging provides a way for companies and readers to meet on common ground and discuss ideas, products and services in the hopes of building an audience that can become customers. A business blog provides a cost-effective alternative to having a website. For small and medium sized business entrepreneurs without the time and the means to set up a website, business blogging offers an inexpensive tool to herald the company’s presence on the powerful Internet. Business blogs provide SMBs with an avenue to share their expertise and knowledge with a bigger audience. Both online and offline small and medium sized businesses can use blogs to take their products and services to a wider audience increasing web traffic and boosting sales. The fact is business blogging is fast becoming a sustainable marketing strategy for any online marketer. There are numerous ways a business can benefit from a blog. An effective business blog can help give a human face to a business. Blogs bring a personal dimension to the web. Blogs make business sites more personal. Since blogs are updated by individuals, the “voice” of the blogger will resonate through. This will assure potential customers that there are real people behind the blog engaging them in real conversations. Blogs can be opinionated, informative, at other times infused with humor thus eliciting better response from target audience. A business blog if used productively can improve customer service. It provides instant customer feedback through comments. It allows one’s audience to comment on a post and create a dialogue with them. A blog can act as a question and answer forum. Customers can post questions and receive instant replies. An effective business blog functions as a central knowledge base of articles, tutorials, product development status, and other relevant product or service information. This is good customer service. A business blog keeps an archive of older posts organized by date and categorized by topic. This gives the target audience easier access to information. With business blogs, it is also easy to add new information on a regular basis. Frequent updates in the form of fresh new posts mean visitors will have all the reasons to keep coming back thus building loyal readers – best potential clients. A business blog can increase the chances of prospective clients to visit a company’s website. For a start, visitors to a business blog can be redirected to the company’s main site through links and special offers. Use of relevant keywords and popular links to specific sales pages improve search engine ranking of both the business blog and the main website. Just like the main website, top search result rank equals traffic. With more and more people turning to the all-powerful Internet to search for products and services, it is essential for small businesses to be easily crawled by search engines. Since search engines thrive on new content, the more likely the search engines are going to visit the blog and share it with the world. Regularly posting valuable content on a business blog builds company credibility and creates sound business reputation. A business blog can help project a company as an expert in a chosen business area. Customers feel more comfortable transacting business with a reputable company. A business blog can be an avenue to introduce company products or services. Ideally, a blog is not about selling. A blog can be used to mention new products or services and direct visitors to the company’s main website in the process generating more sales. Interestingly, several advertising programs such as Google Adsense allow companies to monetize their business blogs and generate extra revenue. However, a business blog is not urgent but important for small and medium sized businesses. A business blog alone is not enough to market a company product or service. But it is good investment for startup businesses to have conversations with customers and prospective clients. Business blogging is an effective way to start conversing with visitors interested in ones products or services but it is in no way to be viewed as a stand alone strategy. Yes, business blogging can do wonders. But it is not going to work on its own. A business blog is most effective when it is used in conjunction with other online communication tools such as e-mail, press release, pay per click, company websites, to name a few. Setting up and maintaining a great business blog that visitors will find useful and relevant is just like having an effective built-in public relations staff that will spread the word about the business. As a final thought, starting a business blog is easy but transforming it into a marketing tool that drives traffic and sales to a business takes time, dedication and consistency.