I’ve recently had two discussions with friends working within subsidiaries of global IT companies – and both have been pretty interesting. The one thing that was top of mind? They are frustrated by their lack of ability to influence the global discussion taking place online, because the content is being completely controlled by US headquarters. This means they are not able to influence how their company interacts with regional customers – and this is obviously not good in the ‘social age.’ Everyone needs their piece of this pie – the ability to pull customers to them so they can engage directly – especially with the increasing ROI seen from content marketing (or inbound marketing).
For anyone working in a subsidiary, this is not a new issue. In fact, it’s been an issue since the Web became the norm. However, there’s a solution, and I believe Asian subs of global companies can really benefit here – and that, of course, is through blogging.
But I’m referring to blogging in a different way to how it is generally discussed; because it is my prediction that blogging is set to evolve and change dramatically. I believe blogging is merely a platform for the distribution of customer-centric and relevant content, and the appropriate content for your blog is much broader than the advice you’re probably getting.
I advise all of my customers to use their blogging platform more extensively – as a medium for all communication – as opposed to just distributing blogs the way it is being defined by the social media ‘gods.’ The blogging platform, quite simply, enables companies to distribute customer-centric content very simply (without relying on Webmasters), and is no longer just about sharing opinions – although this is definitely an important aspect. I could certainly be wrong, but if companies keep the content customer-centric at all times, this approach makes so much sense to me, and becomes a much more valuable tool for business. A broader approach might also spur more take-up in Asia – which I’d love to see as well. Great opportunities are being missed in this region!
The reality is, if you get the content wrong and make it too “you” focused, you will lose readers, and ultimately, customers. If you get it right – based on my suggestions below – no matter how big or small you are, you are going to fly.
The steps regional businesses can take to set up a blogging platform THEY control, includes:
- Choose a blogging platform that works for your business – I recommend WordPress for professional-looking blogs – but there are lots to choose from and adapt
- Have your blog designed to look like the global HQ Website
- The tabs on your blog page should be linked directly to the Corporate Website. This ensures readers feel your blog is part of the global Website – which is important for a global company. Additionally, the global site should also include a tab to your page
- Don’t forget to set up specific regional links or sub-pages – such as customer successes, press releases and educational content like white papers. You can do these as tabs on top, or in a side-bar on the blog, taking your readers deeper into your regional content
- Title your blog News & Views or Opinions & News or News & Thoughts – or whatever resonates – as opposed to just Blog (I actually predict the word blog will disappear). The benefit of including News in the title is you’re telling readers the content will cover multiple things, not just blogs. This is important for setting expectations
Now you’re set up with a Blog/Website you can control, here’s how I suggest you utilize this space:
- Company blogs – on any topic relevant to your customers, whether it is a problem you solve or not. Consider yourself a publishing house, and your goal is to provide valuable information to your readers to help them be more successful, and your content can be on any topic or issue relevant to them and your company/sector. Do not mention what you offer or try to sell them anything, because they will not come back to your site if you do. Your primary role is education, entertainment and inspiration. If they become loyal to you because of the quality of content you provide, they have a higher chance of researching your products and the sales will come
- Executive blogs – you might have willing bloggers or it might be like pulling teeth getting participation. If you have executives with great ideas who won’t/can’t make time, capture their ideas whenever they speak and write a blog on their behalf, ask them to review and approve – sending it out in their name. Do whatever it takes to capture the genius in your company and get it down in words. Another option is a VLog – if they’re speaking anyway, record it, or set up a quiet space where execs can do quick VLogs. An executive blog should feature any great thinkers in your company, especially those in customer facing roles – the ones who know the customer issues
- Blogs from your entire team – who’s already blogging within your company? Is it relevant to your business? Or is it more personal? There may be a surprising number of bloggers in your company already – know who they are and what they’re blogging about. At least include them on your blogroll if the content is appropriate to your corporate image
- Guest blogs – there is a lot of blogging activity going on in every industry, and if someone is writing blogs that are relevant to your audience, republish and share this content on your site. The blogger will appreciate the extra exposure, your readers will appreciate the insight, and it’s an extra steady stream of content for you
- Customer-facing presentations – whether your executives are speaking in front of 10 customers or 1,000 customers – RECORD IT! It doesn’t have to be 100% professional quality, but do the best you can afford to do. The reality is – a lot of small cameras do a great job today, just make sure you can see and hear the speaker. With the video and audio recording, you can do multiple things:
- Write a short blog talking about the presentation, what it covers and why it’s worth spending the time to watch/listen to it
- Upload the video onto your company YouTube page and link to the blog – make sure you insert so viewers can watch from your blog page (YouTube links are also great for SEO)
- If the presentation is VERY long, do a shorter highlights version – also uploaded on YouTube – giving your audience the choice of the longer or shorter version
- Post a downloadable Podcast, so your audience can download and listen to it at a time convenient to them. Podcasts are expected to take off in Asia – see this article for background
- Upload the PPT on SlideShare and include in the blog – some people prefer this format for information digestion
- And finally, if one of your executives does a really great presentation on a hot topic, give the recording and PPT to a writer that understands this topic, get them to capture the essence of the presentation and build out the discussion. Then you’ll have a classy mini-whitepaper/opinion document to share a couple of weeks later – also on your blog – which is “authored” by the speaker an a great sales tool – nice right?
- Global press releases – any time a global announcement is issued, write a short blog on why customers in your region will be interested in this news. Include a link to the press release on the corporate Website. Remember, what you write here has to be all about the benefits your customers will experience because of this announcement. Propsects can get the company positioning from the press release if they’re interested in delving further
- Whitepapers – whether authored internally, sponsored whitepapers or partner whitepapers, any great whitepaper content can be blogged about, with a link to the downloadable document on your site – including a form for their information. This blog needs to discuss why it is worth their time to download – what’s in it for them? You have an opportunity to get prospects excited and increase the chances of your whitepaper being downloaded, which means more leads for your sales team
- Customer success stories – every company has success stories to share, and when you have a freshly published story, promote it through your blog – “we just wanted to share a customer success story from blank company who experienced business benefit one, business benefit two, and business benefit three after adopting XYZ.” It doesn’t have to say much, just focus on how a customer reaped great business benefits, or solved a problem because of your solution. PLEASE make sure your customer success stories are business benefits/problem solving focused and NOT about your technology/solution if you really want results – pretty please?
- Regarding customers – if you are enabling customers to do something remarkable in the world – say providing a technology in remote areas that is saving lives – video it in action! And in the case of saving lives, interview the doctors, nurses, patients, or whoever is involved and showcase your work with feedback from those most impacted. Yes it’s a little bit expensive to do this well, but think of the benefits of showcasing your company as one that really makes a difference? There’s also a great opportunity to go viral if you pull on heart strings. Again this story can also be written up, featured as an advertorial, as a customer success story, as a blog, etc – there really are multiple ways to utilize great content – and all of them are great social media content
- Published articles – any time your company is featured in the media, write a mini-blog summarizing the story and include a link to the story – this is good SEO. Alternatively, get permission from the publisher to publish the article in full on your site
- TV appearances – when executives are featured on TV, the clip should be up on your site with a brief blog talking about the interview and focus of discussion
- Employees – let’s not forget the most important people in your company – is anyone doing anything really amazing? Competing in iron man competitions, running for charity, doing amazing humanitarian work, rescuing animals, or helping kids to read? Find out who is doing this remarkable work and video them in action (if they’re happy with that) or take some photos and tell the story – people love feel-good stories and it’s a lovely way to honour your employees. The same goes for charitable, environmental, etc.. stories your company as a whole supports – how are you making a difference?
- More on employees – if you are in a people business – and let’s face it most of us are – do an employee feature every week – employees from all walks of life, across multiple countries – and honour them in a lovely way. Define a creative list of questions you do for all of these interviews so you have a common feel to the interviews, but be fun and creative – some companies that do this are boring! And again, both employee ideas are great social media fodder
- Q&A/FAQ – a really important opportunity – Q&As/FAQs are gold dust for content ideas. What are the main comments and questions your company is asked – in any forum? Answer these questions in blog posts. It is great practise blogging around questions/comments your readers contribute and helps pump up the editorial calendar to boot. Keep track of discussions in relevant social media groups – such as LinkedIn – and answer those questions as well
- Search words – once you get going, you’ll see which search words attract people to your site. As an example from my blog – messaging, mission and vision statements attract high traffic to my site, so I write blogs around these topics if I feel inspired. But these terms are obviously not popular search words, so I’ve naturally gained high SEO for this topic. Alternatively the blog you’re reading right now on blogging will not show up in my search terms as much, and that is because the competition is fierce – everyone is writing on blogging. I’ll still write on the topic – because I’m passionate about it – but to really gain a profile, I need to spend a bit of money with Google if I want to get higher in search. There are many tools to understand search words, SEO, etc.. and this recent article provides great insight to maximize your investment. The important reason to understand this element from a content perspective, is focus on the content your readers are interested in
Other thoughts, ideas and benefits…
- To gain maximum benefits – your blog should offer easy access to all high-value content in your market – a one-stop shop for everything your customers need
- If you create a high-value site for customers and prospects, this is a great tool for sales, BDM and marketing to push out to customers
- By having your own ‘site’, you can see who is commenting, making sure the appropriate person in the region responds, as well as keeping close track of trends and issues. BUT make sure you respond! Remember today is about creating opportunities for two-way dialogue
- It’s also a great lead generation tool – especially if readers are required to supply certain contact information when downloading a high value document – such as a whitepaper
- Don’t make customers provide information for everything. Give most away for “free” and when you deliver something outstanding, include a form. HubSpot are a great example of how to do this, as well as providing terrific guidance on content marketing.
Right, ooops! This was going to be a really short blog, but as I got into it, more and more ideas tumbled out – and there’s many more rattling around… Therefore, if you got this far, thanks I really appreciate it.
I could keep going with ideas, because this is only a start, but to conclude, remember:
- Make sure all content is focused on the customer – don’t tell, share, educate, entertain and inspire
- Include a picture for significantly higher attention and better social media sharing
- Keep it short and sweet if you can – but that’s not a fast rule in my opinion, as you can see with this blog :). However my regular readers know I write long blogs, so they typically come back to read blogs of interest when they have time. That’s my style, it doesn’t have to be yours
- Ensure the quality of writing or production is as good as you can afford
- Be creative in how you approach blogging because it’s a new world and YOU CAN define it. The amount of times I’ve been asked to create a Seth Godin-inspired blog on behalf of a customer… why? It’s been done already – do something different, because copy-cat does not make anyone a champion. In my opinion, the apparent “rules” are suppressing this medium and creating a lot of fear. As long as the focus is right – i.e. on the customer – you can’t lose
- Be PATIENT! It really does take time to build your profile/credibility before turning that into wins. But you’ve got to do your bit and that is a commitment to consistently sharing brilliant content
As you can probably tell, I believe there are many more ways we can be utilizing the blogging platform to enhance our inbound marketing efforts, AND it’s a way to set companies’ free when bound by headquarter control. The tools are available for companies to relieve this frustration and I just don’t know why more companies aren’t jumping on the bandwagon in Asia? Perhaps it’s the intimidation caused by the very idea of launching a blog? If so, maybe these ideas will inspire a different approach?
PS: if you can think of anyone you think might enjoy reading this post, we’d sure appreciate you sharing it!