Building Trust through Blogs

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blog_small.jpgADOTAS — One of the most powerful ways to gain customer trust is to position yourself as an industry leader.

What’s the best way to do this? Give away your best tips and proactively address customer problems before they happen. Sounds crazy? From your perspective, it may seem as though you are giving away your most valuable secrets. However, in the eyes of your customer, you are establishing trust. Even more importantly, you’re establishing a deep sense of respect. If done correctly, blogging can help a potential customer’s line of thinking to evolve from “who are these guys?” to “wow, I wonder what else these guys can help me with?”

There are three components to successful blogging from a customer relationship standpoint – drafting great content, ensuring the content gets appropriately distributed and locking in reader loyalty. These days, setting up a blog is easy thanks to the plethora of tools out there. Blogs fully automate the more mundane aspects of online publishing such as user interface design and connectivity with third party web applications. This means you can focus your efforts on content and distribution. There are many popular platforms to choose from like WordPress, Typepad, Blogsmith, Movable Type and Blogger. The help pages for these blogging platforms contain detailed instructions on technical aspects of setting up a blog.

Once you’re up and running, the key to successful blog writing from a corporate perspective is to always frame your articles by putting yourself in your customer’s shoes. More importantly, focus on content that is engaging. Topics that are universally popular include increasing sales, building a corporate brand, new product development ideas and industry research.

For example, let’s say that you publish software for accounting professionals. Don’t only write articles about how you solve problems for accountants. Readers get easily turned off if you sound insincere or self promotional. Instead, focus on the key problems faced by your customers. Topics could include industry regulation, courting new customers and automating accounting processes. As you write on broader problems faced by your customers and interact with them through comments, you will earn their respect. You will also gain valuable product development ideas for your own product for future growth.

Also try to approach drafting content in a creative way. While you can write article after article, the beauty of the internet is in dynamic and interactive content. So think outside the box! Some of my favorite bloggers regularly conduct audio and video podcasts, surveys of key industry professionals, “top 10” lists and proprietary research. For example, try stirring the pot by publishing a list of the top 10 accounting firms in your target market. Create detailed criteria for the top 10 list, interview major players in your target industry and include your own commentary. You will be amazed by how many potential leads will start banging on your door demanding to be placed on your list.

Alternatively, you can run a survey on executive sentiment covering topics such as projected revenue growth this year, upcoming hurdles and most-respected competitor. The key to surveys is getting company executives to divulge juicy information such as revenue, profitability and employee salaries. Better yet, try throwing in a few graphs that visually demonstrate the results of your survey. For example, run an analysis comparing profitability to average employee salary. Revealing how well (or how poorly!) your target industry is performing is the ultimate conversation starter.

Once you have great content, you need to distribute it as widely as possible in order to find and retain loyal readers. There are several avenues for distributing content. One avenue includes aggregation services like Ezinearticles. You can also submit your article to the latest social media sharing tools like Digg, FeedBurner and Reddit.

Another way of distributing content is by submitting it to related blog carnivals. A blog carnival is a central repository of blog articles on a certain topic like fashion or finance. A great example is blogcarnival.com where an individual typically reviews each article submitted manually and then posts the most interesting ones. Yet another way to distribute your content is to bundle ten or twenty articles and publish a small eBook or white paper. You can then distribute your eBook through document-sharing services like Scribd and DocStoc.

Your last step is to maintain a loyal reader following. Beyond supplying a steady flow of engaging content, you should look into Web 2.0 tools that help readers stay in touch. Tools such as RSS feeds, email newsletters, MashLogic and Twitter allow your readers to access content via third-party websites, email and the mobile Web. Some blogs have even taken the step of building social networks around their content using white-label social networking software such as Ning or KickApps.

Beyond corporate brand building, you will be pleasantly surprised by how many customers will find and read your articles. In short, blogs are public relations tools that have a real-world sales impact. I regularly run into potential leads that tell me they have heard of UpClick through articles like the one you are reading right now! While there is a lot of content out there, there will always be a shortage of quality writing, videos and surveys on topics that people want to discuss. So get out there and make yourself heard!

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