Here at SUPPLY.com, we’re not the first to recognize how beneficial a blog can be for a business, and we certainly won’t be the last. According to this New York Times article, blogs are quickly becoming a vital marketing tool, helping all companies, especially smaller ones operating on a strict budget, to really connect with their customers. In the simplest terms, maintaining a blog is a clear sign that you are interested in more than just completing one job after another; it shows that you are seeking to form and strengthen lasting relationships with your clients.
Starting a blog from scratch may be a little daunting and time-consuming for first-timers, and we know how busy your job can be. So we’ve done some of the work already to get you started. Below, we present you with a couple reasons why you should start a blog for your company today, and exactly what type of information that blog should contain.
[perfectpullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”#228848″ class=”” size=”20″]”…you can use both pictures and words together to give readers the inside scoop…”[/perfectpullquote]Blogs Demonstrate Your Knowledge and Experience
As a professional, your knowledge of the housing industry is one of your greatest strengths. If you demonstrate this strength via the helpful information you post on your blog, you will have planted a seed of trust and respect in your new customer’s mind before you even meet them. Odds are the majority of your customers have no idea how a home is built, much less what to look for in a builder. However, most are savvy enough to search for the answers online, and here you have the chance to stand out among your competitors and win new business. Plus, your current clients will be reassured that they have made the correct choice in working with your company when they see how much you know about the home building process.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but with a blog, you can use both pictures and words together to give readers the inside scoop behind a build or design. Use photos of your working process and explain your choices. Why did you build the fireplace in the dining room instead of the living room? What was your motivation behind your color choices in the kitchen? How will the position of the house reduce utility bills by harnessing the power of the sun? Answer questions like these while providing evidence of your past work, and before you know it, you will have a blog that doubles as an online portfolio for your business.
Blogs Help Potential Clients Find You
When it comes to picking a professional to work with, most homeowners are going to begin their search on the Internet; search engine optimization (SEO) is the game changer that determines whether that customer chooses you or your competitor. Here’s how it works. When Google and other search engines rank websites (i.e. your website will appearing at the top of the results versus on page 3), one of the things they look for is fresh content, determined by how often your website is updated.
A lot of businesses, especially home builders, spend so much money having their website made, but then only update it once every three years. Not very fresh. By adding a blog to your site and keeping it up to date with new, well-researched articles that are unique to your company, you can greatly increase your chances that search engines will rank your content favorably, thereby snagging the attention (and hopefully the business) of browsing customers. For a much more in-depth review of the basics of SEO, check out this guide from Moz.com.
From a marketing standpoint, SEO is a top priority recommended by the pros; according to HubSpot’s 2015 State of Inbound report, this type of inbound marketing is a proven, cost-effective way to widen your client base, offering solid returns on the time and effort you put into blog curation. In short, the Internet has become a major platform for customers and professionals to connect, and search engines are a customer’s doorway to that platform; making your Internet presence as visible as possible is essential.
And as a final note, another way to take advantage of the Internet is to make your articles shareable. Several blog platforms give you the option to allow readers (or yourself) to share content via social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Taking advantage of these tools is an easy way to stretch your online presence to its full potential. Social media is a proven path to new customers, and we recommend an active social media presence to any business hoping to expand. Check out the infographic above (click to enlarge) for a visualization of exactly how, via SEO and shareable content, your blog can revolutionize your standing in the housing industry.
Ideas to Get You Started
Now that you have all the reasons you need to start a blog for your business; the only remaining questions are how you get your blog up and running, and how you fill it with relevant content. The first problem is easy to solve; blogging sites like WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace are both simple and free. Sign up for one of these platforms (or feel free to research your own), pick a theme, pick a title, and add a link to your new blog from your website to get some traffic moving.
Selecting what to write about is your next step, and it can be time-consuming. We understand that your days are better spent running your business than brainstorming your next article, which is why we’ve created a list to get you started. Below are seven possible topics for blog articles you can easily write in an hour or two. Take the time to read through the list, think about which topics can be adapted for your business blog, and start writing.
1. Behind the Build
If potential clients are going to hire you, they need to know that your working process is one that they can trust. Show that you are a meticulous, detail-oriented worker by telling your personal account of the building of a home, from start to finish. You can mention why you are building in that particular location, whether or not you had the foresight to add any special features to the home (explain, for example, why you chose to use a tankless water heater over a tanked heater, or the benefits of using BluWood), and anything else particularly interesting about the home.
This is your chance to pack in as much information as possible about your work environment; little details like the length of time it takes you to finish a certain project, or even whether or not you like to play music while you work, can often matter to your clients. This article can even be divided into a series that can be posted as the home is being built, or as one cumulative post after the home is completed. With a blueprint of your entire process laid out before them, your clients can be sure that they have chosen a builder who gets the job done. Plus, with an article like this, your readers can catch a glimpse of the human side of your business that might not be so obvious on your website alone. A House by the Park, a blog that actually spans several years behind the scenes of a house construction, is a prime example of the type of information that can fit well into an article like this.
2. Before and After
If you are a contractor or interior designer who takes pride in the fact that they can completely transform any given space from drab to brilliant, then a before-and-after style article is the perfect way to showcase your skills. Select one room in the home of a recent build, take a few photos from the best angles you can find (your smartphone should work just fine here), and include photos of the room before your services for comparison. Be sure add in sources for fixtures, names of paint colors, and your personal input on why you chose each fixture and design element.
An article like this shows your clients, both present and future, that you are capable of following up on your promises and that you have mastered the use of a wide range of materials. Need a little bit more inspiration? Check out this example from the Amber Interiors blog of a before-and-after article that really stresses the difference between the two.
3. The Inside Scoop
As a professional, you hold an opinion on housing trends that carries weight among your readers. Put that expert opinion to good use by giving your take on the latest technology, design styles, and general trends in home building today. What should homeowners know before selecting an open floor plan? Are tankless water heaters really worth the trouble? Do two-story living rooms really raise your utility bills? By answering these questions, you will be seen as a voice of authority and someone the reader can trust; this method is also an easy way for both readers and yourself to stay up to date with a constantly evolving industry.
Focus on one issue at a time by selecting one question per blog post, and then answering it to the best of your ability with as much detail as possible. Publishing enough of these informative articles will establish you as a solid resource in the minds of your readers, thereby strengthening the loyalty of your current client base, while at the same time attracting new business. For an example of an expert in the field commenting on industry trends, check out this blog post by interior designer Emily Henderson.
4. Around the Water Cooler [perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”#228848″ class=”” size=”20″]”…remember that your blog is a great way to get personal…”[/perfectpullquote]
While the fruits of your labor are always an excellent topic to showcase and write about, remember also that your blog is a great way to get personal and highlight the amazing people that work at your company. Article topics of this type can vary across a wide range of subjects. Did your business sponsor a fun run for charity? Did you have a tacky sweater party? Did you win an award? Share it on your blog.
These articles are your best chance to relate to your readers on a level other than that of the housing industry, so do not be afraid to get creative and stretch your funny bone. We here at SUPPLY.com have our own blog dedicated solely to the creative individuals that drive this company forward every day.
5. History Lessons
In an industry where the competition is tough and jobs are earned or lost through word of mouth, a good business is only as good as the reputation that proceeds it; so share yours. Telling the story behind your company shows that you manage a business that has withstood the test of time. Who started your business and why? Who are the main builders at the company and what kind of training do they have? Answering questions like these is a great way to delve into the behind-the-scenes of the founding of the company and reinforce the values and traditions upon which you are built.
Family businesses in particular may find this type of article useful in establishing both their experience in the industry, and their proven level of commitment to their clients. Most large companies have a page dedicated to explaining their backstory, like this one by Consolidated Contractors Company, but a post of this type can be as simple as a timeline of your company, like the example we have provided below. Ultimately, a blog post of this nature will establish a connection with your reader that is all the more personal.
6. Advice from the Pros
Similar to “The Inside Scoop,” this topic involves a series of posts in which the contractor or designer showcases their knowledge of the housing industry. Instead of writing about the technology that went into building a home, however, you can use articles like these to answer questions that only someone with real-life experience would know the answer to. Answers to questions like “What should a family with kids look for in a home?” and “What should I look for if I know my disabled mother-in-law will be moving in?” will make for unique and informative blog posts, and will also prove to your clients that you care for their needs and want to help them reach their full potential in terms of housing. As a successful professional with an expansive portfolio, it can be easy to focus the majority of your blog on your own accomplishments; posts that offer advice to clients can help keep you grounded in the reality that you need your clients just as much as they need you, and your efforts will surely be appreciated by your readers. For a great advice-based article, check out this post from WPL Interior Design.
7. The Home Buying Process
While your job centers around building and perfecting homes, your clients are probably focusing more on financing, relocating, and saving for a down payment. Making handy buyer guides on these topics will help your future homeowners understand the home buying process and hopefully ease the closing process, thereby reducing the amount of price haggling between you and your client. Posts that focus on the financial side of things show that you are more than just a creative thinker; you are also a cost-effective businessperson that clients can trust to manage their investments. These articles can also be emailed to those prospects that have shown an interest in one of your homes (perhaps from attending an open house) as an added benefit from the builder. Explore SUPPLY.com’s buyer guides for some inspiration regarding the home buying process, and then get started on your own.
And for all of these blog article topics, don’t forget to add photos! High-quality photos of your work will really enhance any blog post you write; plus, it’s a great way to show off your work outside of an online portfolio.
The Reason Behind the Work
After reading all the information in this article, you may be thinking that maintaining an active blog will take some commitment, and you’d be right. But if you’re feeling wary about whether or not the pros of a blog outweigh the cons, just know this: when it comes down to it, blog traffic reveals what your customers care about.
The housing industry is one in which every aspect, from the interior design of the house to the type of wood used for the front door, is either coming into or going out of style. As a professional in this industry, much of your job revolves around predicting and staying up to date with these style trends so as to best appeal to your customers; a blog can be a powerful asset in this field. If you see that your article about outdoor ceiling fans is getting a lot of positive feedback from the online community, wouldn’t you want to bring up ceiling fans as an option during your next job?
Blogs are an excellent way of predicting which topics are popular among homeowners and which you should shy away from, and furthermore, there are several online tools that allow you to dig a little deeper into the numbers behind a blog post. Google Analytics for example, is a free service offered by Google that allows bloggers to keep track of how often each of their articles are viewed, and what readers click on once they are there. If you know how to read it, this data can help you to form a profile on your customer base, giving you a constant update on which trends and products matter the most to your clients, and ultimately streamlining your entire marketing approach as a result.
Google Analytics and other sites like it are prime examples of how a blog can be used as more than just a platform on which to display your opinions and expertise. By studying and understanding the numbers behind your blog’s daily traffic, you can effectively keep a finger to the pulse of the housing industry, and can subsequently incorporate this knowledge into your marketing campaigns and client interactions. Ultimately, meeting your client’s needs is your primary objective, and a blog can be the ideal tool to test the waters and find out exactly what those needs are.