We all know the top excuses SMBs (small and midsize businesses) use for failing to blog: Not enough time in the day; nothing of interest to write about; and an absence of internal writing talent.
Each of those excuses is short-sighted, but today let’s just focus on the Mother of Non-Blogging Excuses, the one to which every multiple-hat-wearing, over-extended, harried, hurried manager can relate: Not enough time.
Next to money itself, time is that most precious of commodities and the yardstick against which SMBs measure their daily outlay of resources. For a variety of reasons, blogging rarely makes the cut—a short-sighted decision that seriously damages the market prospects of these organization.
So let’s spend a moment looking at—and ripping the guts out of—those rationales, so that you are never again tempted to buy the excuse that your company “doesn’t have time to blog.”
The Conditioned SMB Mind
Many of today’s SMB owners and managers were schooled in the power of direct marketing and sales. If you weren’t knocking on doors, making calls, hitting the conference circuit, and pressing the flesh, networking, etc., you weren’t succeeding. Logically, then, those were the activities that merited the lion’s share of the organization’s time, energy, and resources.
Today, that is known as swimming upstream, the stream being the Internet. Studies consistently demonstrate that the majority (70% or more) of the modern sales process takes place behind the scenes, meaning consumers and businesses alike are out there searching, surfing, browsing, and listening long before deciding on the products and services they want. (Think of a retail clothing or automobile customer who steadfastly avoids the sales reps until he or she has decided to try on an item or test-drive the car.)
So, by the time the direct-sales process is engaged, those customers have largely made up their minds. Which further means you’d better hope your organization is producing lots of compelling, viable, informative content that search engines and customers alike find relevant. Otherwise, you’re going to have to force your way into that customer’s sales cycle, convince them to change their mind, and then sell them.
Who has time for all THAT?
Speak When Spoken to
By personality and temperament, SMB executives tend to be outspoken evangelists (aka prophets and barbarians) far more comfortable in the world of oral presentations, sales pitches, cold calling, and so on. Any writing (other than the company’s initial print brochures and Web copy) is limited to proposals and contracts at the end of the sales cycle. Those things take a lot of time, of course, but it’s what the SMB executives are good at.
Unfortunately, those self-educated customers don’t want to hear from you. They want to read from you. Then and only then will they determine whether they want to listen.
In other words, the old marketing and sales equation has been flipped on its head and the smart SMBs not only recognize it but are actively seeding the Web with lots of compelling content to feed that covert sales cycle.
The aggressive, hands-on style of the typical SMB manager is, to some extent, predicated on the kinds of immediate gratification such behavior elicits. The hand-shake agreement, the oral commitment, the business card exchange, audience applause, the delivery of a marketing package or sales proposal—those are the standards of measurement SMBs use to gauge effective use of their time.
Which helps explain why so many SMB executives, after only a few weeks of blogging (at best), dismiss the practice as a waste of time, the empty comment fields and spartan Web traffic proof-positive that blogging is a waste of time.
But blogging is to farming what direct marketing is to hunting—two entirely different enterprises. Blogging sows the seeds for a large harvest months later; direct marketing goes for the single kill, repeat daily. Yet the SMB is attempting to measure both activities the same way, and doing so is something that will never work.
Blogging Puts Time on Your Side
Like it or not, modern marketing is changing dramatically. Which is why I believe blogging is a cause for celebration, a unique opportunity afforded organizations that otherwise would be wholly dependent on the algorithmic alchemy of search engines.
Remember that today’s self-educated buyer actually shortens the sales cycle because, if you’ve laid out the digital breadcrumbs by blogging and performing other content marketing strategies, folks are coming to you. Moreover, by the time the buyer arrives he or she is educated, pre-qualified and ready to make a decision. In some respects, your life has gotten immeasurably easier.
But to reach that point, the SMB must recognize and embrace the changes that are taking place. Empower the customer in her sales research through a steady diet of compelling, informative blog posts; don’t expect to actively engage until the buyer is ready (respect the process); and don’t expect to measure success the way you did in the past.