Have you ever thought about starting a blog for your shop?
Usually when this question comes up, we get one of four responses:
- I like wrenches, not pencils
- Sometimes it seems like a good idea
- I already have a website, now I need to blog?!
- (Backs away slowly)
If you’ve kicked around the idea of adding a blog to your shop’s website but aren’t sure how to do it (or if you even should), then rejoice! You’re in excellent company. Blogging is a pretty awesome way to build awareness about a business—in this case, your shop!—but it does mean that you or someone else needs to sit down and do some writing. And let’s face it, you’ve got a million and one other things to do.
Still, blogging is too powerful a tool to disregard without at least a little thought. That’s why we’ve put together this little primer to help you learn the ins and outs of blogging and whether it’s a good marketing choice for your shop.
WHAT IS A BLOG?
If you’re on this page, you’re reading a blog right now.
Blog is the shorthand term for “weblog,” or web-log. Back in the early days of the internet, they were basically online journals. Through the 1990s and 2000s they evolved (here’s a cool history if you want to know more), and today, if you use them correctly, they can really amplify your web presence. That can result in anything from more customers to expanding your footprint in the heavy-duty community.
Sound good so far? Let’s move on…
WHY SHOULD MY SHOP HAVE A BLOG?
There’s a lot of information floating around about why blogs are good for businesses in general, but we haven’t seen much that actually takes the needs of a heavy-duty shop into account.
But have no fear! Fullbay is here, and we’ve put a heavy-duty lens on some of the most practical reasons to start a blog. You’ll note that a lot of these reasons are at least somewhat interconnected (if you can stand some more marketing jargon, one often ladders up to another).
Share information: Your blog is the perfect place to talk about what’s going on in the industry, from new regulations around diesel trucks to the right-to-repair situation happening with heavy-duty equipment.
Plug in SEO: We’ve written at length about the importance of SEO and how it works. But in a nutshell, when you write a good, informative post about a topic people are interested in and include some good SEO work, the various search engines will rank you higher. That means your article (and thus your shop) appears close to or at the top of a search result page and more people see you. And that, friends, is excellent.
Easy to share on social media: True, blogs live on your website, but it’s easy to share them on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other platforms you may hang out on. That opens up a whole new group of potential readers!
Broaden your audience: The people finding, reading, and sharing your articles are all potential customers. Let’s say a customer from Skywalker Fleet likes and shares your latest post about winterizing your truck. Suddenly all their friends at Skywalker Fleet can read your post. Maybe some of those friends will be in your area and need some work done, and they’ll know your shop’s name.
Learn about your customers: As you get more comfortable with blogging and managing your website (or you hire someone to do it for you; more on that below!), you can learn a lot about the people reading your material. Depending on what website analytics you use, you can find out how popular certain articles are, whether people are reading them through vs. closing out after a certain amount of time, what search terms are being used to land on that article, and more. You may notice patterns; how-tos may outperform history posts, for example, or your most popular posts might be photoshopped images of your techs’ pets pretending to change the oil on a semi.
WHAT KIND OF BLOG POSTS SHOULD I WRITE?
Okay, Fullbay, you may be saying, I can see a blog is valuable. But what do I write about?
Here’s an industry secret: the more you blog, the easier it gets to generate ideas.
(Okay…sometimes it gets easier.)
But if you’re just starting out, or need a jolt of inspiration even caffeine can’t provide, we’ve got you. We’ve put together some high-level ideas and examples to help get the creative juices flowing.
History of a part, vehicle, or technique: The most famous example of this is our very own guide to zerks.
How to: These can take two angles—you may be teaching a customer how to perform something themselves, or you may be showing your readers how you do it. These posts may be as basic as a numbered list of steps or as elaborate as embedded pictures and videos.
Industry news & information: Post information that is relevant and interesting to your customers. You’re likely working with fleets, so provide updates about cost-saving maintenance and upcoming roadside checks. You can also help them think about the future: What’s going on with electric trucks in California? What does AB5 have to do with the freight industry? Are there new DOT regulations to worry about? There’s a lot going on in the heavy-duty diesel world; showing that you’re keeping up with their interests will help build connections with customers.
Your shop’s community involvement: As Jon Bon Jovi once said, “No shop is an island.” (Editor’s note: That is not what he said, Suz, and you know it.) Your shop is part of your greater community. Are you sponsoring a softball team or having a block BBQ? Share it!
Your personality: Marketing is all about making a connection, and believe it or not, people still like people. They want to know there’s a face behind the name working on their truck. You can post staff bios, celebrate birthdays and new certifications, and show the world the people that make your shop go.
Maintenance tips: How and when do you winterize your truck? How often should you change your tires? What can void a warranty? This is all vital information that people don’t often think about until they have to do something about it.
Shop management: Are you an expert at hiring amazing technicians? Have you found a way to keep morale in your shop high? Other shop owners would love to hear about it and learn from you! (We also get it if you want to keep your secrets to yourself!)
Fun stuff: It’s not a true blog if you don’t have a little fun with it. From the photoshopped pets we mentioned above to silly GIFs and reviews of your favorite trucking shows, there’s a lot you can do to build your audience and entertain yourself in the meantime.
HOW TO WRITE A BLOG POST
We get it: writing can be pretty intimidating if it’s not something you do on a regular basis. We recommend starting with an outline, which we’ve provided below.
But before that, you need to pick a topic. For the sake of example, let’s pretend we’re writing a post about how to change your oil.
Introduction: This is where you talk about the importance of changing your oil, and why you’re showing your readers how to do it. Depending on how meaty you want to make the article, you could go into detail about types of oil and what can happen if you don’t change your oil.
Body Copy: This is where you tell (or show, if you have pictures) your audience exactly how you change your oil. You could structure it like this:
Step 1: Roll the oil pan under the oil plug
Step 2: Remove the oil plug and allow the engine to drain
Step 3: Replace the oil through the top of the engine
Conclusion: This is where you reiterate the importance of your topic (changing your oil!) and tell your readers you hope they found it useful. You may include a plug for your own oil-changing service and a link to book an appointment. This is generally referred to as a Call to Action, or CTA.
And that’s it!
For an in-depth example of an oil change blog, check out USA Breakdown’s Ultimate Guide to Semi-Truck Oil Changes.
While introductions and conclusions are often similar across the board, the way you structure your body copy will depend on the type of article you’re writing. An in-depth discussion of new regulations will probably have multiple paragraphs and subheaders, while a blog about your shop pets might be more photo-centric.
DO I NEED A POSTING SCHEDULE?
The key to successful blogging is consistency. Pick a habit and stick to it.
Can you post 10 times a day, every day of the week? Then follow your heart and go for it. Or are you more of a post once a week, or even once every two weeks? That’s all right, too. Some businesses only post once a month. Find the cadence that feels right for you. You’ll settle into a groove in no time.
As you become more comfortable with blogging, you might even start putting together a schedule. Knowing what you’re supposed to write about ahead of time gives you something to work toward and peace of mind. Take it from this writer: scratching your head over what you’re going to write on the day you need to write it is a surefire way to not write anything at all.
SHOULD I HIRE A WRITER?
If you’re serious about building your shop’s blog, but don’t have the time to write or aren’t totally sold on your own skill set, you have two other potential options.
- See if anyone in the shop is interested.
- Think about hiring a writer.
Let’s talk about the second part.
Hiring a professional can ensure you’ll have a solid, readable blog without dragging you or your staff away from the actual work. This writer doesn’t have to be a full-time employee, by the way. Unless you have a giant operation and have a huge marketing plan and the budget to spend on it, odds are you’ll do better by contracting with a freelance writer who can help you as you need them.
(Before you ask, yes, some writers even have experience in the heavy-duty industry.)
How this partnership will operate is something you can determine as you advertise for and zero in on a writer you want to work with. You might send them a list of topics, or you might come up with topics and outlines together. It can be as collaborative or hands-off as you like.
You will have to pay this person, of course. Rates vary by experience and location; you’ll have to decide what you’re willing to spend. A good writer probably isn’t cheap, but then, neither is a good technician. But if you hire wisely, both will eventually pay for themselves.
Whew! We covered a lot in this post. We hope it’s left you ready to kick off your own blogging adventures, if you haven’t already. And if you’d like to strengthen your understanding of digital marketing to better serve your shop, well, we’ve got a couple posts for you to check out, as well as an ebook. Yes, we cover our marketing bases, too.
Good luck to you, and happy blogging!