Does your business need a blog?
If your company is wholeheartedly behind having a blog, understands that it must be promoted, given some content latitude, given the full weight of the company’s SEO, branding, and corporate dollars to sustain it, then you can consider whether or not your company needs a blog. These questions are purely for the directors of the company brand, as a business blog is an extension of your advertising and marketing, as well as your public relations, and customer service. Your company blog is an expression of your company culture and ethos. If you’re not careful, it can quickly become the snotty nosed kid standing next to mom and dad in their Sunday best – not attractive.
So back to the question – you’ve assessed your commitment, now to assess what your blog is. Is it a product blog for selling? Then call it that. Is it a newsletter? Then say that. Is it educational about your product or service? Whatever it is, be clear and call it what it is so your consumer knows exactly what message or content they’ll find within its pages. Your blog can be many things with proper categorization, but if you envision something truly specific, then you’ll want to be specific.
A blog doesn’t need to be religious, or political unless that’s what your business or organization does. In fact, a blog should express the consumer experience they could expect when using your service or standing within your stores. Snarky blogging does nothing for a company that isn’t truly snarky inside of it’s retail environments. Your blog should be true to your company, follow it’s messaging from advertising, and enthusiasm of it’s marketing – it’s voice is seamless with your brand.
Being seamless with your brand
Being seamless with your brand means you’re not a news organization (unless you are). Your job is not to originate news content (you’re not TMZ), or to be the first to a story (CNN). Instead, a business blog may be filled with news stories that relate to your company’s culture, company news, and rather, relating to the consumer using news, but again, you’re not going to need a full time journalist to operate your blog. It isn’t your blog’s job to be a primary traffic driver, it’s your blog’s job to support your company as the primary traffic driver – it solidifies any messaging vehicle your company has already used to drive traffic. So if you build a blog for your company that develops into a traffic driver over time, this is a win, but if you’re expecting millions of pageviews with a blog three months old, you may be sorely disappointed, sorry.
If you’re creating a blog because you want to interact with your consumer, count yourself blessed if the consumer consumes content and then consumes product, not leaves a comment. The currency of comments has dramatically changed over the past five years, transitioning to shares via Facebook, Twitter, and now Pinterest. This is how your blog develops into a new traffic driver for your company. Consumers identify with your blog and your company culture, and you’ve done your job – your channel is now a two way street, and you are resonating with your consumer base and probably growing that base, but it isn’t something your blogger is going to create overnight. It’s anguishing, sometimes painstaking work identifying fans, cultivating friendships or partnerships with like folks or even vendors via other social channels I mentioned above.
The unseen side of your blog
The side effect of your blog you won’t see (unless your blogger is an analytics fan) will be Google, Bing, and other search engines that read your content via your submitted blog sitemap. Levels of and dedication to creating content regularly that are ideally matched to your company’s branded website, demonstrate that they are related by the density of the company message, titled properly, and are richly written around focused keywords will begin to rank along side your company page. Again, this isn’t something that happens overnight, it’s something that happens with conviction, with loyalty to the communications channel you’ve created, and your willingness to not distance your company from it’s own messaging platform (this happens all the time).
Some or all of this article may sound complicated, but that’s because of the lingo – it’s not complicated at all. What I’m driving at here is that you must be committed to it – long term. That you understand the voice and content you wish to deliver and your dedication to it. That your expectations of your blog as a traffic driver are in line with reality, and that you understand the light at the end of the tunnel. The investment in time is well worth it.
Words of advice
One last thing… I said that your blog could be many many things with proper categorization, and I meant it. Having the flexibility to build a channel (category) that you see growing faster than others will save you from a hard pivot later to different content, whereas over time, you may see that popular category fizzle, so adapting and building up an old or even a new category is just part of daily operations. We as businesses reinvent ourselves, we change our messaging, we feature new lines, and we change with the seasons – remember that going in.
My final piece of advice for channel builders (company blogs) is to create a content plan that matches the company seasons, and watch your analytics adjust and calibrate until all of your channels within your blog are humming seamlessly – this is where the magic happens.
Nervous? It’s just like any other media campaign you’ve ever endeavored, except this one is more cost effective, more meaningful to consumers, is a mirror image of your company, and most of all, relatable to the average consumer.
Use the ‘Blemish Effect’ to skyrocket your sales
(MARKETING) The Blemish Effect dictates that small, adjacent flaws in a product can make it that much more interesting—is perfection out?
Presenting a product or service in its most immaculate, polished state has been the strategy for virtually all organizations, and overselling items with known flaws is a practice as old as time. According to marketing researchers, however, this approach may not be the only way to achieve optimal results due to something known as the “Blemish Effect.”
The Blemish Effect isn’t quite the inverse of the perfectionist product pitch; rather, it builds on the theory that small problems with a product or service can actually throw into relief its good qualities. For example, a small scratch on the back of an otherwise pristine iPhone might draw one’s eye to the glossy finish, while an objectively perfect housing might not be appreciated in the same way.
The same goes for mildly bad press or a customer’s pros and cons list. If someone has absolutely no complaints or desires for whatever you’re marketing, the end result can look flat and lacking in nuance. Having the slightest bit of longing associated with an aspect (or lack thereof) of your business means that you have room to grow, which can be tantalizing for the eager consumer.
A Stanford study indicates that small doses of mildly negative information may actually strengthen a consumer’s positive impression of a product or service. Interesting.
Another beneficial aspect of the Blemish Effect is that it helps consumers focus their negativity. “Too good to be true” often means exactly that, and we’re eager to criticize where possible. If your product or service has a noticeable flaw which doesn’t harm the item’s use, your audience might settle for lamenting the minor flaw and favoring the rest of the product rather than looking for problems which don’t exist.
This concept also applies to expectation management. Absent an obvious blemish, it can be all to easy for consumers to envision your product or service on an unattainable level.
When they’re invariably disappointed that their unrealistic expectations weren’t fulfilled, your reputation might take a hit, or consumers might lose interest after the initial wave.
The takeaway is that consumers trust transparency, so in describing your offering, tossing in a negative boosts the perception that you’re being honest and transparent, so a graphic artist could note that while their skills are superior and their pricing reasonable, they take their time with intricate projects. The time expectation is a potentially negative aspect of their service, but expressing anything negative improves sales as it builds trust.
It should be noted that the Blemish Effect applies to minor impairments in cosmetic or adjacent qualities, not in the product or service itself. Delivering an item which is inherently flawed won’t make anyone happy.
In an age where less truly is more, the Blemish Effect stands to dictate a new wave of honesty in marketing.
Google Chrome will no longer allow premium extensions
(MARKETING) In banning extension payments through their own platform, Google addresses a compelling, if self-created, issue on Chrome.
Google has cracked down on various practices over the past couple of years, but their most recent target—the Google Chrome extensions store—has a few folks scratching their heads.
Over the span of the next few months, Google will phase out paid extensions completely, thus ending a bizarre and relatively negligible corner of internet economy.
This decision comes on the heels of a “temporary” ban on the publication of new premium extensions back in March. According to Engadget, all aspects of paid extension use—including free trials and in-app purchases—will be gone come February 2021.
To be clear, Google’s decision won’t prohibit extension developers from charging customers to use their products; instead, extension developers will be required to find alternative methods of requesting payment. We’ve seen this model work on a donation basis with extensions like AdBlock. But shifting to something similar on a comprehensive scale will be something else entirely.
Interestingly, Google’s angle appears to be in increasing user safety. The Verge reports that their initial suspension of paid extensions was put into place as a response to products that included “fraudulent transactions”, and Google’s subsequent responses since then have comprised more user-facing actions such as removing extensions published by different parties that accomplish replica tasks.
Review manipulation, use of hefty notifications as a part of an extension’s operation, and generally spammy techniques were also eyeballed by Google as problem points in their ongoing suspension leading up to the ban.
In banning extension payments through their own platform, Google addresses a compelling, if self-created, issue. The extension store was a relatively free market in a sense—something that, given the number of parameters being enforced as of now, is less true for the time being.
Similarly, one can only wonder about which avenues vendors will choose when seeking payment for their services in the future. It’s entirely possible that, after Google Chrome shuts down payments in February, the paid section of the extension market will crumble into oblivion, the side effects of which we can’t necessarily picture.
For now, it’s probably best to hold off on buying any premium extensions; after all, there’s at least a fighting chance that they’ll all be free come February—if we make it that far.
Bite-sized retail: Macy’s plans to move out of malls
(BUSINESS MARKETING) While Macy’s shares have recently climbed, the department store chain is making a change in regards to big retail shopping malls.
I was recently listening to a podcast on Barstool Sports, and was surprised to hear that their presenting sponsor was Macy’s. This struck me as odd considering the demographic for the show is women in their twenties to thirties, and Macy’s typically doesn’t cater to that crowd. Furthermore, department retail stores are becoming a bit antiquated as is.
The sponsorship made more sense once I learned that Macy’s is restructuring their operation, and now allowing their brand to go the way of the ghost. They feel that while malls will remain in operation, only the best (AKA the malls with the most foot traffic) will stand the test of changes in the shopping experience.
As we’ve seen a gigantic rise this year in online shopping, stores like Macy’s and JC Penney are working hard to keep themselves afloat. There is so much changing in brick and mortar retail that major shifts need to be made.
So, what is Macy’s proposing to do?
The upscale department store chain is going to be testing smaller stores in locations outside of major shopping malls. Bloomingdale’s stores will be doing the same. “We continue to believe that the best malls in the country will thrive,” CEO Jeff Gennette told CNBC analysts. “However, we also know that Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s have high potential [off]-mall and in smaller formats.”
While the pandemic assuredly plays a role in this, the need for change came even before the hit in March. Macy’s had announced in February their plans to close 125 stores in the next three years. This is in conjunction with Macy’s expansion of Macy’s Backstage, which offers more affordable options.
Gennette also stated that while those original plans are still in place, Macy’s has been closely monitoring the competition in the event that they need to adjust the store closure timeline. At the end of the second quarter, Macy’s had 771 stores, including Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury.
Last week, Macy’s shares climbed 3 percent, after the retailer reported a more narrow loss than originally expected, along with stronger sales due to an uptick in their online business. So they’re already doing well in that regard. But will smaller stores be the change they need to survive?
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