Ready for a blog?

Doug Mitchell

You've heard of them. Perhaps you read them. You might even be one of the 50-plus million people that have created one. But it's not likely that you've drawn a clear connection between blogs (short for WeB-LOGs) and your rental business. In this article, I will shed some light on business blogging, the often misunderstood marketing tool, and provide some reasons why it might make sense for your rental business. (HINT: Blogging can be the most powerful weapon in your marketing arsenal … and it's free!)

Background on blogs
When all of the hoopla is stripped away, blogs are simply websites that make it easy for non-technical folks like you and me to show the world what we think in words and pictures. Disappointed? Don't be. The simplicity of blogs and the tools used to create them have spawned an entire industry focused on providing tools enabling the rest of us to make very professional looking blogs that complement our corporate websites.

Also, blogging is not just about writing, it's about reading. Although I won't focus on reading blogs in this article, using the power of RSS feeds (RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication) and feed readers, your company can search once and subscribe to feeds delivering real-time news and information on your industry and your competition. At least equally important, you can subscribe to what the industry and others are saying about your company, so you can answer.

But I already have a website!
If you ask 100 people on the street where they go first to look up a business, 80 percent will likely say, "I Google it." Have you spent some time searching for your own website using common key words? If you don't come up in the first page and your competitors do, don't feel lonely. Most corporate websites are put up with great intentions and many look great. However, they quickly become stale and stagnate.

Often, business owners are held hostage by the webmaster or design company that created the site. Want to put up a new event, press release, or product information section? Get out your wallet. As a result, most sites transition from "web" to "cob web" in less than six months. Stale websites do not impress search engines.

While there are techniques to make your website rise in rankings, typically called SEO or Search Engine Optimization, you can help your company ascend the ranks by posting quality content to your blog with regularity. Regular blog postings (three to five times per week) are consumed by search engines voraciously. As more people find and link to your quality posts, they become more "relevant" to the search engines and the site rises in the rankings. By linking your blog site to your corporate website, you can complete the circle and drive more people through the front door. Of course, simply posting random thoughts about the weather will not attract the masses.

Business blogging is really two-way communication between a business and its clients or potential clients. Blogs provide the platform for your company to become more findable and for the public at large to comment and link to what they're reading.

Before you jump in with both feet, it's important to establish the reasons why your business should blog in the first place. After all, you're probably not looking for more workload to fill the day. Let's not forget that your goal in creating this business blog is most likely increasing revenues and differentiating yourself from the competition.

Blogging tools
The most common blogging software platforms today are Blogger(www.blogger.com), WordPress ( www.wordpress.com), and Typepad (www.typepad.com). Each has strengths and weaknesses but all allow the author to create a blog site and start posting with zero upfront expense. If your company outgrows the software or desires more technical tools, they're readily available. These products allow even the most technically challenged among us to put a blog up and post entries in minutes.

Eventually, you might want to employ someone to match the look and feel of your blog to your website. Or, you might even go so far as transitioning your entire corporate site into a blog site. Remember, "findability" is what you're after and a blog's freshness of content provides the fresh new treats that search engines love to eat.

Be different, honest, informative
Your company blog is a platform to highlight what makes your rental operation special. Here are some blog post topics that come to mind if I were posting to your blog:

Share stories that highlight interesting customer service experiences. Share your unique ability to resolve problems and satisfy customer demands.

Share times that things went wrong and what you learned from them. Sometimes I get bored with hearing about how well things go. Tell me about some times when you messed up and how you made them right. These tales get my attention.

Discuss specialized solutions your company provides the industry. I love hearing out-of-the-box solutions to complex situations. If your firm has innovated, tell the world! If you think the competition won't find out eventually, think twice. Share with the industry.

Mention specials or other unique promotions your company is offering. A blog is not merely a site for your electronic sales pitches, but it can be a place to strategically share your specials. If you offer your clientele something they need, they'll likely forward the deal to their friends.

Expose the unique talents of your employees. It's really cool to see that your sales coordinator is a drummer in a rock band and that your shop foreman is a gourmet cook, specializing in French cuisine. Expose a little bit more of what makes up your company's unique personality. These details give outsiders a glimpse of what it's like to deal with you before they walk through the door and might provide "instant rapport" when the potential client walks in the door.

Your unique blogging voice
Your company's "blogging voice" and flare will evolve over time. You should encourage many in your organization to write for the blog and see where they take it. Of course, the software makes it easy to moderate and edit the posts in case someone decides to post a rant about your management style. Also, don't forget that there might be a budding writer out there operating your equipment.

Engage your organization in blogging passion and watch the results!

Doug Mitchell is the vice president of business development at Dispatching Solutions Inc., a provider of logistics software and GPS tracking solutions to the equipment rental industry.

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