Use a Blog to De-Commoditize Your Business

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This morning I conducted a workshop to a group of small business owners on the topic of “becoming a recognized authority in your field.” As I often do, I discussed how a blog can be the engine driving someone’s personal branding campaign.

The beauty of a blog is that, unlike a static website, you have the ability to constantly add new content to it. This content can be your own original content or it can be content you link to or draw from other sources. (In fact, when you consider all the advantages of having a blog, I really don't see the point of having a static website anymore - but that's a topic for a future article).

As long as this content is useful to your target audience and solves their problems, you will build your personal brand with every post, every link to insightful articles or videos and every article you re-print from other authors.

Anyway, we began with the three ways to get business:

  1. You to Client: “Can we do business?”
  2. You to Client: “We’re better than the competition (or its variation, “we are the best”), can we do business?”
  3. Client to You: We’ve heard you are really good, can you do business with us?”

Most businesses, marketers, advertisers and salespeople operate on the second approach of “we are better,” or “we are the best.” But the real difference comes when potential clients hear about how good you are before you have a conversation and already have a positive impression of you formed in their minds.

Your blog, in my opinion, is the essential tool to create this impression. The process is called “personal branding.”

Nearly two decades ago, I first read Robert Bly’s book, How To Become a Recognized Authority in Your Field - In 60 Days Or Less, and the core lessons have stuck with me ever since. Bly wrote this book before we all were bringing our laptops to coffee shops with free wifi to do our work and before the internet made it possible to apply his techniques at speeds many times what he ever envisioned.

But the ideas are still the same, use whatever tools are available to you to get the word out about your knowledge and ability to solve problems, and then use social media to tell the world.

After our workshop, a gentleman came up to me who is in the home inspection business. He presently gets most of his clients from buyers’ real estate agents, but wants to develop the sellers’ side as well.

We discussed the idea of setting up a blog that would be a resource to sellers along every phase of a home sale. I encouraged him to not only look at the problems he solved for these people, but also at every problem they faced as they navigated through the process. For example:

  • How to sell a home faster.
  • How to get a higher price when selling a home.
  • How to get a smoother closing.
  • How to choose a real estate agent.
  • How to sell during a bad economy or during the off season.
  • Home repairs or upgrades that will make a house sell faster or fetch a better price.

…And the list goes on. The point was to not look only within the box at the problems directly solved by your business, but at other problems your clients need to solve along the way.

Why should you do this?

First, have you ever been on the verge of doing business with someone but had the whole transaction come to a halt because another phase of the sale ran into a snag? Real estate people run into this all the time. People like the agent and the lender do not get paid until everyone else does his or her job.

Second, the main idea of personal branding is to become a resource to your clients. When you give them information outside the scope of your service, you move past being a service provider and become a trusted adviser.

During the course of our workshop, we talked about how we all run the risk of becoming a commodity in business. The most natural thing in the world is to compete within the number two bracket listed above. But convincing clients that we are “better” or “the best” places you squarely in the category of being a commodity.

De-commoditizing your business begins with the recognition that influencers are in the information marketing business, regardless of what profession or industry they are in. In order to escape from the “I’m the best” or “I’m better” mode of pitching for business, my friend the inspector has to understand that what he really sells is his knowledge. Only then will he escape the commodity trap.

Which brings me back to blogging. Blogs are almost old hat now. They are no longer then next big thing, they are the last big thing. They have been pushed off center stage by the newer, trendier social media tool that we now have available to us.

A fact implied by a review I just read of a new book on blogging that began with the words, “Does the world really need another book on blogging?”

My answer is “yes,” in large part because a blog is a showcase on which to spotlight one’s knowledge and provide information to one’s marketplace. A blog is a platform from which to provide your expertise and problem-solving know how to the world.

And when you are able to do this, clients will come to you saying, “We’ve heard you are really good. Will you do business with us?”

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COPYRIGHT © 2009, Charles Brown
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