Test the Quality of Your Business Blog: RATER It

Photo courtesy of K. Latham (CC)

Photo courtesy of K. Latham (CC)

Blogging can be pretty stressful at times. Sometimes you know exactly what you want to write about and you can visualize the one thing that matters most to your audience and how to explain it. And sometimes you can’t.

So how do you keep readers coming back for more? How do you increase your number of followers? And why does it matter? It matters because your followers are those that are more likely to make a long term commitment to you. They are the ones most likely to become customers.

The key to having a blog that attracts and retains traffic from your target audience is to hold the quality of your blog to the highest standard. This may sound obvious and it may even sound a bit boring but if we’re honest with each other, there’s a lot of mediocre blogging going on.

Don’t publish mediocre content; implement a quality management framework instead. That’s a fancy name for making sure that every blog you publish has these five things:

  • Reliability
  • Assurance
  • Tangibles
  • Empathy
  • Responsiveness

Just in case you think I am astute enough to have developed this model, known as RATER, I’m not! But in my defense, I am smart enough to recognize a great framework (developed in the mid-1980s by Valarie Zeithaml, ‘Parsu’ Parasuraman and Len Berry) when I see it.

If you are at all involved in measuring quality or being measured in the service sector, especially healthcare, you are very familiar with the RATER methodology. Originally designed with 10 quality components in mind, it was later distilled to the five you see above, hence the acronym RATER.

Here’s what to look for when you use this system to evaluate the quality of your blog:

Reliability    The key to repeat traffic and building your subscriber base. It is made up of two elements – relevancy and consistency. The purpose of a blog is to engage your target audience with information that matters to them.

Providing relevant information consistently is the incentive for them to subscribe to your blog, share your blog, travel the life cycle path with you, and ultimately become your customer.

Before publishing each blog, ask yourself if what you have written is relevant to your target audience. Then make sure that your blogs are published with a consistent frequency, at least once a week. If you are relevant and consistent, you have met the reliability standard.

Assurance   The ability to convey trust and instill confidence. Trust comes when you nurture a two-way conversation between your business and your target audience. It is built by sharing everything you know about what matters to your customer.

Your target audience has already decided that they want to learn more. It’s your job to give them a reason to learn from you. You have to deliver a certainty that your business knows what they’re doing and you have to be authentic.

As you re-read your blog ask yourself if you actually answered a question a customer would pose. Ask yourself if you did it in a respectful way, and ask yourself if your blog encouraged two-way communication. If you did these things, you met the assurance standard.

Tangibles   The skills the reader walks away with. This means that every blog you write for your business must somehow make the reader better educated, a better decision maker, or better able to do something they couldn’t do before.

A great example comes from this blog about fiber glass pools. No other business selling fiber glass pools dared answer the price question for fear of scaring potential customers away. What this business did was recognize that if price is the driving factor, the reader was not a current potential customer anyway.

By sharing not just the price but the why behind the price, the blog helped to drive over $2 million in sales. It qualified true leads by answering the question. It also gave potential customers the relevant information they needed to make a buying decision. The blog tangibly delivered knowledge.

Prior to publishing, ask yourself what you helped your target audience achieve? If you know they walked away with more relevant knowledge than when they arrived, you have met the tangibles standard.

Empathy   The ability to convey that you know what your target audience is going through. Making a real connection allows you to capture the attention of your target audience and share what you know.

There is no way to fake empathy. Target audiences see right through it and not only do they move on, they probably won’t return. The truth is that even if your blog isn’t useful to the reader at that exact moment but it’s authentic, they are more likely to return than if your blog is relevant but fake.

So what questions should you ask yourself to measure the empathy of your blog? This one is straightforward. Did you write sincerely about your topic of choice? Did you fake any element of your story? The answer should be yes and no to meet the empathy standard.

Responsiveness   Identifying and responding to the needs of your target audience is essential. If you don’t answer their questions, someone else will and they are more likely to build a relationship with your target audience.

Ask yourself if your topics are timely? Am I addressing what matters to my audience right now? And am I replying to questions and comments promptly? If you are, you are meeting the responsiveness standard.

Implementing a quality framework takes discipline and a little extra time but the benefits are real. Engaged followers, subscribers that can put what you share to work, and ultimately customers that trust you. Now you are ready to publish your high quality, incredibly relevant blog!


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