Blogs are finding their way into the arsenal of corporate marketing departments, and for those willing to try this new marketing channel, the payoffs can be significant.

A marketing blog can build customer loyalty, help recruit new customers, drive revenues, unify fanatic users (who sell your product for you), and help you retain control of your brand image.

But how do small and medium businesses build a successful blog?

Set your goals. Then blog.

The time to define a blog’s mission is not three weeks after its debut. Before starting the project, set clear marketing goals for the blog – and only then define its character.

For example, are you trying to sell product, or are you blogging for the brand? Is the blog a conduit for company information, an attempt to put a human face on the organization, or an online community of fanatic users?

Only when you’ve decided on the mission can you consider the blog’s content. For example, if your goal is to share your company’s passion for your products with passionate customers (passion-based marketing is deadly in the right markets), then you’re looking for passionate writers.

Want to put a human face on your company? Find a storyteller. Trying to impart technical information to users? Search for someone who can distill mountains of information down to molehills of finished copy.

Style counts.

While blogging is an extremely flexible medium, your mission still defines the majority of its content. Simple “how-to” posts impart information (and build traffic), but don’t necessarily incite passion or humanize a company.

Humor works wonders, but requires a deft touch (don’t do it unless you’re good at it – you’d be amazed at how often it falls completely flat).

Photographs help define a blog’s look, but that cuts both ways; if your images are boring and amateurish, that will be everyone’s first impression.

Finally, if your customers are doing exciting things, then don’t create a boring blog. A blog is the ideal place to inspire and motivate customers – so make sure you’re posting inspiring, motivating content…