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Old Word Blog (Jonathan Winney/Getty Images/iStockphoto)
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How to get the blog rolling (and other advice) Add to ...

Dear Guru,

Q: People keep telling me my business should have a blog, but frankly I don’t see the point. I’m busy enough, and I’m having a hard time understanding how it will be anything other than one more thing to do.

A: It’s one more thing to do, but it’s also potentially one very, very profitable thing to do, and I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that at least part of the reason you started your own business was to make some money.

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Businesses with a blog have 55 per cent more unique visitors to their website than those that don’t, and a company with a blog also gets 125 per cent more new leads than businesses that don’t have one, according to research by HubSpot, a U.S.-based Internet marketing software company. “[Based on]those two figures alone, you just realize why that one element of your website is so essential,” says Gregg Murray, author of Website Blueprint: The Beginner’s Guide for Small Business Owners.

And don’t worry about having to devote all your time to blogging. As you point out, you’re already pretty busy. But blogging doesn’t have to be a full-time gig. “For the typical small business owner who has to write the content themselves...it can be twice a month or once a month. A blog post every week for a small business would be amazing. You don’t need to do anything more than that,” Murray says.

Adding a new blog post to your site, even once a month, helps boost your company’s likelihood of getting a high ranking on Google. That’s because the Big G gives priority in its rankings to sites with content that is frequently refreshed. You want people to know you’re out there, so you want to blog.

Posts can be about almost anything, Murray says, but it’s best to provide advice about your company’s line of work. “If you’re a dry cleaner, doing a post on how to get out wine stains could be a blog.” But avoid rampant self-promotion. Throw those kinds of posts out there once in a while, but Murray says it’s best to go for a 3-to-1 ratio of advice to self-promotion. “People knowing that you back up what you do with helpful information for your customers puts you ahead of your competition,” he says. And that’s where you want to be, isn’t it?

Dear Guru

Q: How can I get people talking about my business? I don’t have much of a marketing budget, so I want to generate as much word-of-mouth advertising as possible. What’s the secret?

A: The secret is simple, says John Jantsch, author of The Referral Engine: Teaching Your Business to Market Itself. It’s twofold, in fact, but still simple.

First, don’t just think that you can put out a solid product or service with the help of knowledgeable staff and then sit back and wait for customers to come rolling in. Those sorts of things are prerequisites, not the stuff that will get people talking. “It’s really more that the experience exceeds expectations. And the good thing is, that can mean totally different things for different industries,” Jantsch says. Make doing business with you fun and friction-free. “The key to word-of-mouth is to stop being so boring,” Jantsch says. “If you just kind of stepped back and said, What could we do that would make somebody go, ‘Oh, that was different,’ it could be as simple as that.” There’s no blueprint for how to do it, but look at other companies in your industry and what they’re not doing for their customers, and go from there.

The second part of your two-pronged attack? Build strategic partnerships, Jantsch says. “Go out and start talking to businesses that serve your same market.” If you send business their way, there’s a good chance they’ll return the favour. If you’re, say, a carpenter, customers might ask you whether you know a good plumber or electrician. If you’ve got strategic partnerships with other tradespeople, you can recommend them. Alternatively, your electrician pal can give his customers your name.

The beauty of this model, besides its simplicity, is that it taps in to a desire we all have. “We like to give referrals. We like to help our friends out. We like to appear very smart because we got a great deal or we found the place to go,” Jantsch says.

This article originally appeared in the October issue of Report on Small Business magazine.

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