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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Blogging and Construction Marketing: Should you do it?

I've been blogging daily since late 2006. The entries have varied in quality, some great, some lesser. Much has changed since this blog started -- notably, several others have joined the Construction Marketing space.

Observing one of the most fundamental marketing principals, where "first in the niche is best" this blog has maintained the highest keyword rankings in Google.

The questions are: Is Blogging effective for your marketing, and should you blog yourself. And if you do, are there some best practices you should observe?

Here are some answers.

Direct business results (and time cost)

We can trace some real business to the blog and the related Construction Marketing Ideas newsletter, perhaps about $25,000 in sales. This is useful, of course, but he incremental sales are less exciting if you consider the time spent on the blog.

At close to 1,000 days, with an average time (rounded) of 30 minutes a day writing, (weekends and holidays included), the project has consumed at least 500 hours. That works out to about $50 an hour in compensating, since the blog doesn't require capital to maintain. (Small fees for stock photos and the like are easily covered by the modest amount of advertising revenue the blog generates itself.) This isn't bad, but hardly is a marketing jackpot.

Indirect branding advantages

These are harder to measure, but I sense the blog has helped out in building relationships, trust, and communication.

Recruiting and employee relationships

Again, this is an indirect benefit, but it seems the blog is useful in helping prospective employees know this business and decide if it is a right match for them.

Areas for improvement

I'm not sure if we are really obtaining the fullest power of "conversion" from blog reader to client. Certainly, various efforts to encourage or motivate direct business have been less-than-successful. It seems that no one buys when the blog is used to try to sell anything. The purchases related above result mostly from inbound inquiries and calls initiated entirely by the blog reader.

Surely we can do better here in attracting/encouraging more responses within the marketing funnel. The conversion rate from people requesting the "Seven Tips for Construction Marketing Success" and and the free bi-weekly newsletter is not high enough in my opinion (We receive 10 to 30 newsletter requests each week; how many readers, however, actually buy anything!)

The blog and your business

Blogging is time consuming, but I like to write, and so if the business traces some profitable results, even if $50 an hour seems low, then it is still worth doing. But if you are not a writer and this work is a pain, you have to consider the real cost/benefit of forcing yourself to do something you don't want.

You need to maintain reliable frequency

On the few days I know I will be away from the computer, I 'pre-set' a blog entry to appear on a time.). Most likely, you will find it hard to blog daily, but I wouldn't do it less than weekly, and ideally more often.

You need patience for results

If you are hoping the blog will enhance your search engine rankings and inbound inquiries, be prepared to be patient -- perhaps you will need to spend at least six months to a year before (if you use Google's blogger) you receive the warning email saying they will be inspecting the blog for "Splog" (or deliberately creating computer-generated back links to enhance search rankings.

You need meaningful content

I see some blogs where the writer simply lifts stuff from elsewhere with modest comments. This is okay, to a degree, but really good blogs have material that you won't see elsewhere.

You must be part of the story (or the story itself)

The blog is a highly personal form of journalism. Your personality should be readily apparent and you should avoid "corporate speak" and carefully manicured wording (unless that is who you are). If you make a mistake on a blog entry, you can always go back and edit it. However, you should still sleep on and be very careful if you wish to post anything negative about any individual or organization.

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