The growth in every category of the craft beverage industry is well documented today. The majority of craft beer, wine, spirits, coffee and other craft beverage companies are in the small business category and depend on local customers to keep them going.
What does all of this growth mean for craft beverage consumers? It means, they have more choices! What happens when the consumer has more choices? Businesses have to compete for their dollars. Small businesses are compelled, more than ever before, to use every opportunity to attract consumers to their doorstep. One of the most economical opportunities for reaching the consumer is through your website, especially its blog page.
To help us understand the purpose of your websites blog, we invited Mark Traphagen to join us for a Google Plus HOA (Hangout On Air), to answer the question, Does my website need a blog? Mark is the Senior Director of Online Marketing for Stone Temple Consulting. The following is an overview of our conversation filled with tips and real-world applications that every small business can apply to their website to succeed.
The Blog Graveyard: Why Company Blogs Die
MT – You go on company websites, follow the link to the blog and see the last post was six months ago and the last before that was three months. You go back far enough and there was this wonderful day when they were posting three times a week; then it was twice a week; then it was once a month and then it was every six months.
What happened? Why is their blog now a graveyard of outdated posts? Mark explains that the problem is a misunderstanding of the purpose of a blog. The majority of graveyard blogs were blogs created because the business owner was told they needed a blog. Or, the competition has a blog, so we need one too. The core issue with this mindset is that it lacks purpose.
If you don’t see the purpose and value of something, you’re not going to use it nor should you use it. The first step for any small business is to gain a clear understanding for the purpose of their websites blog.
Two Purposes For A Blog
MT – Growing up, my Dad was a beer drinker. That was long ago, when a guy, like you see on older TV shows, walks into a bar and he says, ‘Give me a beer!’ These days, nobody does that. You don’t walk into a bar and say ‘give me a beer’. The bar probably has 45 taps; which beer? what kind of beer? you a hops guy? like IPA’s? dark beer?
My Dad could do that though, just walk into a bar and say – ‘give me a beer’. It doesn’t even matter, just Schlitz and Ballantine Ale and Budweiser (is all they have)- all basically the same. That’s not true anymore, there are a lot of choices for consumers today.
Because consumers today have so many choices, your brand needs to find an advantage over everyone else and grab the attention of the consumer. When executed with the right purpose, your websites blog can give you that advantage.
If you’re not doing these two things with your blog, you’re falling behind,
Differentiate yourself from everyone else – Make sure that people know you are different. Even more, make sure they know what the difference is and why that matters. This is the first purpose of your blog. To tell what makes you different and what is important about you. Here is where you will tell your story, and stand out.
Build your tribe – Especially in the craft beverage industry, it is important to build a tribe. Mark explains that the term “tribe”, popularized by marketer and author Seth Godin (see Seth’s TED talk The Tribes We Lead), illustrates a group of people who identify with your brand. Its more than just a craft beverage, but its the whole experience I identify with.
A brewery website, for example, is the place where your tribe will identify with the story of your craft brewery. They get to meet the people who make the beer, sell the beer, and above all, love the beer.
MT– I want to know about them, their passion, their background, what they put into it – then I have an affinity with your brand, that is going to be hard to break. It will be hard for someone else, a competitive brand, to break in on that. Build an audience, build a tribe, people who are fanatical about your brand, have a reason to believe in it, engage in the story of your brand and want to tell it to others.
Your Blog Is Not A Place To Sell
Your blog is not a place to sell. It doesn’t mean you can never talk about your products, in fact, its good to talk about your product, but you’re not using sales language. You are creating content that helps connect that product with your audience. Through the content of your blog, tell the story of that product.
As an example, Mark references one of his favorite craft breweries near his home in Durham, North Carolina, Fullsteam Brewery. Fullsteam uses their blog to highlight local ingredients used in producing their craft beer, highlight their favorite beers and announce brewery events. Here are a few headlines we pulled from the Fullsteam blog:
- The Fellowship of the IPA: The Line-Up!
- Beer & Food Competition: Cooking Off Winter Edition!
- Tasting Notes: Sweet Potato
If you read the Fullsteam posts, you will notice the absence of the “sales pitch”. Yet, without a sales pitch, I’m still compelled to take part in the Fullsteam experience and enjoy the great beer and “good time” the Fullsteam tribe appear to be having.
How Do I Create Content?
Once you understand the purpose of the blog, now focus on the content of your blog. It doesn’t have to be you who is “doing it”. There are a couple of ways to get around that when your a small business:
Utilize Your Employees: The first place to look for content is among your own staff. See if you have an employee with a passion for writing and producing content. If you have an employee who loves your product and volunteers to be the face of the brand, expand their function in the company to include website content.
No volunteers? Consider blog content as a qualification for your next job listing. When looking for potential employees, look for resume’s sharing writing or video production experience.
User-based Content: Customers who love your product produce content every time they talk about it. Next time a customer is telling you how much they love your craft beverage, record the conversation. An interview with a knowledgeable customer can easily be transcribed and edited into a great blog post.
MT – You don’t have to be a great writer or speaker to produce content that people will love. Just speak in your own voice. The hardest thing for people is not the creation, but coming up with what to write about. Train yourself to listen for the stories.
I’ve seen craft beverage websites who build wonderful content by simply telling stories about what happens in their business each day. Its simple stuff, write it up, edit a bit and post – things like that can be very appealing to people. Be yourself! Let your passion show. Too many times you meet small business owners who are so fun to talk too, and so passionate about what they do, then you look at their blog and its so boring.
The Value Of Useful Content
There is great value in good, useful information. Your blog content needs to be a source of helpful information, where your customer can find answers to their questions. When customers are provided answers to their questions, they will think well of you and your brand.
The Value Of Consistency
There is value in regularly contributing content to your blog. But don’t let the pressure of producing content get you discouraged.
MT – In small and local business realms you don’t have to be prolific. What I mean by that is, this does not need to become a second job for you. If you can do 2-3 a week, that’s awesome but may not be realistic for you. If you can produce content once a week, even two really good ones a month, then you’re probably doing more than your competition and are ahead of the game. So don’t be discouraged when you can’t get a blog post up for the day. Don’t think if you can’t post every day then its not worth doing…that’s not true.
(Read Mark’s Article: How To Never Run Out Of Great Content Ideas)
Market Your Content: Social Media
MT – It’s no more true, that you can create the content and wonderful things will happen, than it is for a coffee roaster to go buy your beans, put everything on the right shelf,, get you’re health certificates, start roasting the coffee, then sit behind the counter and just wait for the people to come.
Just like you use marketing or advertising to get the word out about your business, you need to market your content. This is where your social media pages come in. One of the mistakes many craft businesses make is promoting a “follow us on Facebook and Twitter” message, but when people get there, its empty of content.
MT – But if they go to your Facebook or Twitter feed and see regular interesting stuff there, then its worth it to them to follow you. Now you have content connected to them and they begin to look for it, rely on it, and share it with their friends. This is part of the investment in content.
Have Fun With It!
MT – This will be critical to whether or not you succeed in it and whether or not you continue with it. It’s the absolute critical factor whether or not you’re blog is the one I look at and see the last post was 6 months ago, or you’re website is alive, vibrant, and full of fun stuff that makes me want to read more and makes me want to go visit you’re brewpub or coffee shop, and that is, have fun with it. If you don’t have fun with you’re content, then you’re not going to do it.
Remember that passion and obsession that you have for your product? Bring that to your blog! The craft beverage industry is anything but boring. You didn’t get into the business because your boring.
MT – Bring the same zest, passion, joy and fun into your content and it will be magic. You will want to do it, and people will respond to it – that’s when it lights up!
Keep at it, create the content for yourself first, the stuff you love and you want to see, get it in front of peoples eyes and it will take off.
Special Thanks To Mark Traphagen !
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