Just about everyone can relate to the cartoon character Dilbert. We groan and sympathize with him as he tries to cope with a boss who mixes up the facts, issues confusing orders and draws erroneous conclusions time and time again. Yet this is the state of business marketing these days with respect to blogging. All of a sudden, everyone’s got to have a blog. You can almost hear the pointy-haired bosses waiving their arms and shouting, “Where are all the new customers? We’ve got a blog now!”

It’s just not as simple as that. Blogs are a fantastic tool but they are just one part of the overall concept of Inbound Marketing. Just putting a new subheading called “blog” on your corporate website and posting a comment or two every so often isn’t “doing” Inbound Marketing. It’s not even doing good blogging.

The three main components of Inbound Marketing are:

  1. Content – the information found on your website
  2. SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
  3. Social Media Marketing

All of these various components are designed to do one thing: to draw more people to your website. In the past, the message was outbound; you knocked on doors, you mailed out flyers, you bought advertising time on the radio and TV, you sent out mass e-mails and so on. But people are getting very creative in blocking these forms of intrusive messaging: they fast-forward through TV ads, employ pop-up blockers and spam filters, get on various do-not-call lists, etc. So how do you reach and connect with potentially new customers? The answer is you entice them in without shouting; you connect with your audience by providing valuable information without asking for anything in return. In short, you become a thought leaderin your chosen area so that you are the first company a person thinks of when they need something that you offer.Here’s how to make it happen:

1. Develop and Manage Useful Content

Content is the mainstay of your website. It’s an expansion of what used to be just basic product brochures, pricing and leasing info and any other services your business offers. Content is not “me-me-me”, it’s about providing value. For example, if your company offers home remodeling, you could have in-depth comparisons of different flooring and counter top materials; information on different decorating styles; videos on how to seal granite counters, and so on. You can offer an e-book of year-round cleaning tips to keep a home in tip-top shape.

And yes, you need to have a blog AND you need to make regular postings to it. In our home remodeling example, perhaps an employee can write about their own personal experience of having their windows replaced, or their visit to a home show. Perhaps a local interior designer could do a guest posting on room arrangements. Each entry doesn’t have to be a college thesis-level dissertation – all you want to do is connect with your audience. Allow different employees to post to the blog so that it has a variety of “voices” and writing styles.

There are a lot of good business marketing sites that offer help and guidance on the creation and maintenance of blogs and other content; sites like TheSalesLion, ProBlogger and CopyBlogger are three that offer easy-to-follow suggestions and tips.

Optimize for Search Ranking

All of this great material is worthless if no one is reading it. You need to make a list of all the potential phrases someone might use to search for you – these are your keywords. (Note that keywords are usually NOT individual words, but actual 2, 3 and 4 –word phrases). Ask your existing customers how they found your site. Compile a list of keywords and then optimize your website’s content accordingly. Google offers free tools for this; low-cost options include Clicky and SEO Moz.

Of course, continually adding new and varied content will help increase your search rankings, as well as building links with other related websites. In our remodeling company example, a great goal would be to have a paving company reference your company in an article on their website.

Craft Your Social Marketing Strategy

There are lots of debates going on as to whether it makes sense to be on LinkedIn, or have a Facebook page or send out tweets on Twitter. There’s no one set answer, because it really depends on your particular line of business. Just about every company can benefit from having a profile on LinkedIn – there is plenty of evidence to support the claim that new customers can be gained by having such a profile. If your business deals directly with the consumer (as opposed to business-to-business) having a Facebook presence is probably a good idea as well. It’s basically word-of-mouth advertising, and despite all of this wonderful new technology, word of mouth continues to be the best form of advertising there is.

Bottom line – your customers are on these sites. They talk to friends on these sites. Your competitors are probably on these sites as well. Don’t give them the upper hand by being invisible.

The Internet truly has changed everything. Your customers are on the web and they’re looking for information. Be smart and position your company with a website that offers them more than a sales pitch – provide useful, helpful information and they will remember you when they are ready to buy.

Now that’s something even a pointy-haired boss can appreciate!