By Ken Mueller
When I was a kid I got the coolest gift one year.
It was the Mr. Peanut Peanut Butter Maker from Planters. You would take some peanuts (Planters, of course) and put them inside Mr. Peanut and turned the crank until some peanut butter came out the other end. It was rather dry, and I think you had to add some sort of oil to it, but it was peanut butter!
I’m not sure how many times we used it, but it was fun, for awhile. Over time I realized how much effort it took just to make a very small amount of sub-par peanut butter. And when you think about it, why would Planters do this? If I can make my own peanut butter (I don’t even have to use their peanuts) why would I go and buy theirs? I’m pretty sure the little amount that I made didn’t have any effect on the Planters financial bottom line. I appreciated the thing, but it certainly didn’t launch me into a career as a peanut butter manufacturer.
But the approach that Planters took is exactly the same sort of approach that small businesses should take when they begin blogging. We always wonder what we’re going to write about, right? So why not give your customers content that teaches them how to do what you do? That might sound counter-intuitive and counter-productive, but hear me out.
Planters lost no business from me. In fact, if I used their peanuts, they actually gained business. Plus, I realized what hard work it was to make peanut butter (at least that way) and grew a greater appreciation for what they did. And in my mind, the Planters name would always be associated with peanut butter. Brand awareness is incredibly important, especially in a very competitive field or product line (Skippy, Jif, Peter Pan, etc.).
As you blog for your small business, consider teaching your readers how to do at least some of what it is that you do for them. Whether it’s through words, video, or images, you can walk them through some of the things that you do. That’s what I do here on my blog.
I offer free advice to help small businesses and nonprofits be smarter about how they approach the social web and digital marketing.
An auto mechanic can teach you how to change your own oil. A doctor can teach you how to apply a proper bandage. An accountant can show you how to use tax preparation software.
It builds trust and loyalty and will actually bring you new business. I might learn how to do all of those things from your blog posts, but I’ll have to come to you when I have something more serious, like a bad transmission, or a serious cut that needs stitches, or a more complicated business accounting issue.
Your customers will learn how difficult your job is, and might even understand that it’s cheaper to pay you for your services than it is to take the time to do it themselves. Also, while you might be telling them how to do things, what they aren’t getting from you is that personal touch that is tailored for their specific situation. That comes for a price as you give them your personal care and expertise.
So take a tip from Mr. Peanut, and use your blog to give your customers free do-it-yourself information. It might just win you some new business.
Have you ever used your blog to dispense free advice?