Business Blogging: Tips and Case Studies

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(left to right) Mike Volpe, Ilya Mirman and Charlie King

My notes from the Business Blogging: Tips and Case Studies panel at MarketingProfs Digital Marketing Mixer.

Panelists:

Mike Volpe, @mvolpe
Charlie King, @CharlieKingGolf
Ilya Mirman, @IlyaMirman

Mike:

Smaller companies can get a lot of leverage out of inbound marketing. The amount of money you have no longer dictates how many people you can reach. The reach of your blog is about the brainpower, creativity and effort you put behind it.

Stop thinking like a marketer or advertiser. Start thinking like a publisher and socializer.

Target content to your personas. Know who the people are that you're selling to and make sure they will enjoy and appreciate the content. Content is what makes you interesting in social media. It's what you link to in Twitter or Facebook, and the blog articles behind them. Without blogging as a core part of your strategy, just adding social media can be a mistake.

HubSpot's blog is their third-most important source of leads and drives about 10 percent of visits to the company website.

SEO and social media are equally important for HubSpot. 25-30 percent of visitors come from SEO and 20-25 percent from social media.

They look at every article they publish from an editorial perspective and look at the number of inbound links, comments and visitors and discuss that information in monthly editorial meetings to talk about what's working and how to enhance it.

They track traffic, leads and sales by channel or source. They can see how each channel is performing. Their two key goals for the blog are to get more traffic and more conversions.

Charlie King, Director of Instruction, Reynolds Plantation

Charlie was named one of the top 100 golf instructors in the world. David Meerman Scott's "New Rules of Marketing and PR" first alerted Charlie to the possibilities. His audience is golf instructors who want instructional materials. Any time he deviates, he gets low traffic numbers. "Blogging is so democratic," he said.

He's also done a lot of video tips. His first video was called "Three Steps to Proper Club Throwing," a funny video which showed up on golf.com. Charlie's first thought was, "This could be 19 years of legitimate golf instruction right down the tubes." He was concerned about the reaction but kept getting positive emails. Golf.com told him the video had gone to a million views in a week, and is now up to about two million views.

"My serious videos, they're in the hundreds." One called "Golf's most important lesson" is up to 18,000 views. He has about 30 videos on YouTube.

Charlie writes 8-10 blog posts per month. He works to keep them SEO optimized and keyword-rich. He has 30 videos and an e-book called "New Rules of Golf Instruction." (No doubt a tip of the hat to David Scott.) His blog now has more than 600 subscribers and more than 15,000 e-book downloads. More important, where most businesses are down 20-30 percent, they are breaking even.

Tips and Takeaways:

  • Content is king. You can be your own media mogul.
  • Get started before your competition to get ahead.
  • Make SEO part of your blogging strategy.
  • Even non-technology businesses can benefit from a blog.

Ilya Mirman, VP Marketing, Cilk Arts

His company is focused on developers working with multicore processors, a startup that raised a "couple of million dollars" and had a staff of nine. The goal was to create a worldwide standard for multicore processors. They were acquired by Intel, "So that's pretty cool," he said.

Their go-to-market approach revolved around inbound marketing and an open-source business model. They hired no sales people, but had one marketer (Ilya) eight months before shipping the product to implement the inbound marketing approach.

Results:

  • Reached more than 100,000 developers
  • Traffic and awareness matched or exceeded competitors
  • Adoption at >250 universities worldwide
  • >6,200 inbound links
  • >3,000 leads
  • Blog posts boosted search engine ranking for key terms

Tips:

  • Get the whole team engaged. Everybody can blog a little bit.
  • Don't obsess over the number of comments.
  • Inbound links drove their search engine rank.
  • You don't know ahead of time which posts will drive the most traffic.They kept an eye on traffic stats and put together the most popular content into an e-book, and drove a big spike in traffic (close to 20,000 copies distributed worldwide).Do:
    • Get your whole team engaged.
    • Be real, be genuine, let your personality come out.
    • Build an editorial calendar with a broad set of interesting, valuable content. Target the key personas you care about.
    • Discover which topics are worth investing more in. Invite guests to contribute.
    • Leverage content in many ways: blog, e-books, tutorials, etc., make it consumable via YouTube, SlideShare, social media sites, etc.

    Don't:

    • ...be a blatant self-centered commercial.
    • ...focus on just one topic.
    • ...make your blog your only social media effort, instead spend time on other blogs, community sites, and contribute.
    • ...worry about number of comments.
    • ...worry about slow periods (number of visitors, subscribers, comments).

    The slides from this session are available at http://www.mikevolpe.com/mpdm.

    Questions:

    What kind of editorial guidance do you give bloggers?

    Ilya: You need some kind of guidance and editorial control. We suggest that you need at least four or five paragraphs to cover a topic. Sometimes it goes longer.

    Charlie: For me it's been more about the videos than the words. If I was trying to do instruction just via words, it could be easy to misunderstand. I have short posts that lead into video.

    In order to get a blog off to a good start, you need to give up something to commit the time to it. Did you give up other things or attract new resources?

    Charlie: For me it goes in waves. Spring and Fall are my busiest seasons. Now I'm trying to stick to a schedule. I just have to stay later that day. I guess it would be called "giving up time with my family."

    Ilya: There's no such thing as a free lunch. I made the case for us investing a quarter of our time in doing this, but it was cleear because of our community-related business value. If you look at it as a marketing investment, stop doing things that have lower value and spend time or money on blogging.

    Do you get a lot of negative comments. Are you worried about that?

    Charlie: I've had mainly good comments. What I'm doing is not really normal within golf to have a blog yet. Sometimes to get people to sign up I call it a "weekly email update" because the term "blog" does not resonate well with my audience. He got one negative comment about the "New Rules" book. You can't have a thin skin. There's no way to have 100 percent acceptance.

    How much does SEO drive your editorial calendar?

    Ilya: For us it was more the tail than the dog. We were mindful of wanting to do better on relevant terms but we didn't pick a word and then right a blog post around it.

    When you launched your blog, did you do any publicity?

    Ilya: We did none of that. I'm not saying that's a great best practice. We wanted to first see if it was of interest to anybody. If the content is bad, all marketing will do for a blog is let more people see that it sucks. When we had the e-book we started sharing it with more people, editors, etc.

    Charlie: I had to be stealthy. The general feeling in our company was negative about blogging. My answer if I was asked was that I was writing about golf and golf instruction and our industry, not a personal blog. A year later it's a little bit better.

    Do you see the number of golf blogs growing, people copying what you're doing?

    The ones who already have bigger names than me have a competitive advantage, but I'm hoping they don't catch on for another year or two. Most of the blogs I see now are golf enthusiasts, not golf instructors.

    How much personality should come through in a business blog?

    Mike: A lot of it depends on what your brand is. HubSpot has 8-10 people who blog regularly and bring their personalities, but we do want to stay close to the corporate brand. Don't use profanity, for instance, even if you would in your personal life.

    Ilya: The bigger deal is not the tone and the personality but the topic. You don't want to be totally irrelevant. Don't talk about what you had for breakfast that day.

    Final thoughts: What's your one piece of advice about getting started in blogging?

    Ilya: I get no commission, but I would say read "Inbound Marketing." The blog is recurring traffic, recurring revenue. You write a good blog post and it pays dividends forever.

    Charlie: I have the email that Mike sent me about what he wanted us to talk about. Not once did he say, "Talk about HubSpot.com," but that is my piece of advice. I followed step-by-step what David Meerman Scott, Seth Godin and HubSpot had to say, and every piece of advice they've given me has been true. Other than that , I would say, "Start small." Have a goal and work toward it. Blogging is a tool to help me reach my goal, and as time goes on it will become a more important part.

    Mike. It's a marathon, not a sprint. For the first few months it can be very depressing. You have to think about a long-term strategy. You need a six-month runway before you'll start seeing any real traction. All the examples I've seen, and it was true for us as well, the first few months are depressing.

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