Blogging is one of the most powerful ways to market your company. But only a few of the 156 million people who are publishing blogs achieve a big following.
One is Chris Brown, owner of Marketing Resources & Results, a full-service marketing consulting firm in Northeast Ohio that helps companies attract new customers.
Chris has published the blog Branding & Marketing since 2006. She’s written more than 900 articles on marketing strategy, marketing tactics, branding, social media, and market research. Last week, she reached a major blogging milestone: 10,000 subscribers.
In this interview with Smart Marketing Strategy, Chris shares how she has used blogging to build her marketing agency and offers some lessons from her success.
SMS. You were one of the first marketers to launch a blog. Why did you start blogging?
I started blogging to connect with other marketing professionals and learn more about the changing tools in marketing. Blogging – the act of building online publications that are easy to update – is a tremendous marketing tool. Because of my activity at blogging conferences, I’ve connected with thousands of marketing professionals I never would have met without the Internet and the ability to self-publish.
SMS: How has your blog changed over the years?
After trying out several different software platforms, I switched to the WordPress self-hosted platform and in 2009 adopted the Thesis theme. As I got more proficient, the technology of the blog has evolved. I also added video to my blog.
SMS: How do you keep your blog fresh?
I use Google Alerts for keyword phrases to learn about new tools and techniques. I read about 80 blogs in my RSS feeds, maybe 10-15 a day, to stay current. Usually after about 20 to 30 minutes of reading, I have a topic I want to discuss, a common thread between recent bloggers, something in the news, a new website, a new tool, or a change in something we’ve all been using for years. I have a loose editorial calendar so I rotate topics. I promised myself never to start a post, “Sorry it’s been so long since I published, but…” because I see too many bloggers do that. I attend conferences, workshops, and webinars.
SMS: How did you grow such a large subscriber base? Were there pivotal moments when your readership spiked? Or has the growth been gradual?
It’s definitely been gradual with a few big snowballs. The first time I checked the stats, I felt I was so far behind no one would ever notice my blog. Then I started connecting with other bloggers. Leaving comments is a great way to connect. I also like to help new people get started and meet local bloggers in person. I found a few key connecting individuals who helped me and I’ve tried to connect others. Twitter has certainly helped because it’s easy to promote a link to a blog post and even easier for other people to pass it along.
But the most important thing is writing good content. No one subscribes unless they want to come back and read more content.
SMS: How often do you blog?
I prefer 3-4 times a week because it keeps my mind always thinking of the next post.
SMS: What types of posts get the most response?
The most comments usually come from something personal. I try to keep the blog more professional than personal, but sometimes it creeps in. Controversial posts get longer comments. Response depends on the left hand column’s featured posts. People click on what’s on the top left the most.
SMS: What is your audience most interested in reading?
They like to learn new marketing tools that aren’t too complicated but they can easily apply in their own business. “How tos” and checklists are very popular. They don’t like a lot of negative critiques, nor do they like glowing “Pollyanna”-type reviews of products. Real-life stuff and my honest opinions are usually the most often read posts.
SMS: How do you promote your blog?
I tweet new posts and have installed a plugin to tweet an encore post daily. I use networked blogs in Facebook to automatically update Facebook with each new post. My website has a link to the blog’s RSS, but I prefer the blog to bring people to the website, not the other way around. When I do speaking and workshops, I suggest that participants visit my blog for PowerPoints, videos, and other information. My e-news spotlights several blog posts, so I use the blog as the hub of my marketing.
SMS: How has blogging helped your business?
After Google, it’s the biggest source of referral traffic to my website. It’s helped me stay current with changes in the marketplace and build credibility about my marketing expertise. The blog is much stronger than any brochure or advertisement. My ability to blog and build community has given me the confidence (and excitement) to embrace new technology.
SMS: What advice do you have for other bloggers?
Figure out what you want to be known for and jump in. Write in first person. Connect with other bloggers and leave comments. Talk to other bloggers. If you want to grow your business, blog about your industry, writing things that would be of interest to potential customers or potential referral sources.
To engage readers, ask questions and have a conversation. To develop great content, research your content, use links to show your sources, be generous with links, and write about what you know. Format your blog so it’s fun to read, with a photo, a strong headline, bullet points, and subheads, and end with a question to make readers think. Final point: Proofread!
Congratulations, Chris, on your success — keep on blogging!