As a small business owner, you are always striving to increase your online visibility. You want to get in front of as many people as you can and continue to do that. There are many different ways of doing that and in this post we are going to have a look at how blogging can help you.
But first let me make something clear. New business owners tend to get confused when I suggest they use blogging to increase their reach and the number of leads coming into their business. They don’t understand how blogging can help them achieve their business goals.
This is probably because they confuse business blogging with personal blogging or even blogging where the blogger reaches a celebrity status with a huge following. This is simply not true.
Business blogging is completely different to a personal blog where the blogger makes entries that are similar to the ones that go inside an online journal. They write about any topic that is dear to their heart or vent over issues they feel strongly about. Their goal is simply to share their thoughts, views and opinions with like-minded people who are mostly friends and family. If their blog happens to take off, they might attain fame and loads of followers. They get tons of social media attention and may later monetize their blog.
However, as a small business owner, your only goal is to publish a blog (content) that brings in leads. You want to attract the right audience so you can slowly take them through your content and increase their K-L-T (Know, like and trust).
You are not looking to get famous but to increase your email list size. This is why it is called business blogging. So let’s take a look at how you can create a plan for your business blog in 6 easy steps.
#1 Declare your blog goals and purpose
Identify your blog goals: What do you want to achieve with your blog?
Do you want to create credibility? Build trust? Start building your online reputation? Grow your email list? Build an online community? Launch a service based off on your audience’s needs such as a podcast or webinar?
Next think about your blog purpose. Who is your target audience and what will it do for them? Why should they read your blog as opposed to someone else’s? What is in it for them? How can you help them achieve a specific result?
The earlier you define your blog goal and purpose, the better ROI you are going to get on your blogging efforts. Start by answering these questions:
- Who is your target audience for your blog?
- What will you create for your audience to educate, inspire or empower them?
- How will this help your audience achieve the outcome they want while serving your business goals?
Your blog is a vehicle to generate leads for your business but the first and foremost purpose of your blog should be to help your target audience and not sell directly.
People hardly read let alone subscribe to blogs that are pitch-heavy or exist solely for the purpose of selling. Rather than talking about your products or services, add so much value to your readers that they feel compelled to check out what you have on offer.
#2 Decide on a theme
What do you want your blog to look like? What should go on a sidebar? On your main navigation bar? What should the design communicate?
If you are new to blogging and aren’t really sure how you want to present things, I highly recommend turning to other blogs for inspiration.
Do this for both blogs inside and outside your industry. Set some time aside for this activity. Preferably a few hours.
Sit down and start looking at the blogs in your industry. You may already be familiar with popular blogs so start with those. Often you will find these blogs linking to blogs of equal calibre or other reputable blogs within their content so start clicking those.
Check out alltop.com and discover new blogs there. The really great thing about Alltop is that they have categorized their blogs by topics and the best blogs are listed right at the top. This will give you enough choices to keep you busy for days. If you belong to a highly niche market, do Google searches for blogs on your topic.
Now start making a list of what you like and not like about each blog. Make a note of what you could do better, of things that fall outside of your expertise or available resources and what you don’t want to do at all. In short you are taking notes to guide you on how you create your blog. For instance, you might gather notes on header styles, you might pay attention to formats whether the blog has one sidebar or two. You might look at whether they have comments on or disabled and you will also look at the design elements.
Include elements to build your brand and position yourself. This means making use of colours, fonts and images. This also means creating a specific, benefit-laden tagline for your blog to help hone in your point of differentiation.
#3 Create the right content
So this is the step where most bloggers go wrong.
They create a bunch of content on their topic and hope it will work. And by ‘work’ I mean, convert. They want their readers to consume their content, share it on social media so that more people will be attracted to the website and also hopefully buy something from their store or catalogue.
But in order for your content to accomplish all that, you must create the right type of content. And if you do this step wrong then you pretty much negate what else you have built up so far.
For example, as a freelance copywriter, you want to attract small business owners to your website. You want to give them tips on how they can improve their own copy and get better at writing copy that converts. You know that people will still come to you for help or hire you no matter how much value you give them. This content attracts the right people – future clients.
If on the other hand, you write about how to create a successful copywriting business, you tell them stories on how you find copywriting clients or you tell them how to network for business, you are not helping them move up in your sales funnel, are you? In fact, this type of content won’t even appeal to your target clients – small business owners, because they are not freelance copywriters and nor do they want to become one. (If your target market is new copywriters then this would be awesome content to create.)
The job of your content is to pre-sell your products and services, it is to position the purchase. When you publish content that educates your audience about their need and position your offerings as the right choice (in an ethical manner, of course), you are golden.
Your blog content should match your marketing goals. It should educate and qualify the prospect at all times.
#4 Create an editorial calendar
“What should I blog about?” is the most commonly asked question by new business bloggers. But if you pay some attention to this part, you’ll never ask this question again: Your editorial calendar.
Before you jump into creating one, make a list of the type of content you want to create and the exact goal each piece has.
Generally, your content will have following business goals:
- Educate, inspire or empower your audience
- Demonstrate your expertise in your industry
- Build trust and relationships with your audience
- Gain wider exposure and attract links
- Take people through your sales funnel
You want to create content that delivers these results. For example, a how-to post will educate your audience, demonstrate your expertise and has potential to gain more exposure. A big list post is perfect for getting you attention as it is more likely to be shared. A personal story will resonate with your audience, create trust and deepen relationship. A specific sequence of content published prior to your launch will work wonders to warm up your audience and lead to a spike in sales.
Within your editorial calendar, you want to mark months where you want to publish more of a launch content. For the remaining months, you want to publish the first four goal-focused content.
You want to create a publishing schedule and even pencil in the individual post categories for each week. I highly recommend publishing once a week. Any lower and you risk being forgotten and any higher, you face burnout. Once a week is a solid number to aim for and something most people can stick with long term (and blogging is a long-term strategy and consistency is key).
If you are a sole proprietor, you have to do the writing yourself. If you are a small business with a handful of employees, you might want to assign blogging topics to your team members.
You should also decide the format of content you would like to publish. Written, audio or video. Consider your strengths and resources and also make a strategic decision to differentiate yourself from your competitors.
#5 Develop an irresistible sign-up incentive
Creating highly useful content is awesome but not sufficient.
You have to make sure people discover your content (see next point) but also sign up to receive email updates. You can’t rely on their memory to remember you and your content and check back regularly. People have well-meaning intentions but they are busy and they forget.
Ask them to subscribe to your blog via email and display this opt-in in a prominent position. This way you can let them know when a new blog post is up and send them the link via email.
You also get to send them other stuff and promotional emails. I highly recommend setting up an autoresponder that takes them through the foundational stuff and orients them to you and your business.
But all of this can only be accomplished if you get them to hand over their contact emails. Signing up to receive newsletter or updates is not enough anymore. You need to entice them with an irresistible opt-in offer or giveaway.
Add value with your high quality freebie offer which will set expectations for your future content. People will form an impression of you based on what you provide as the opt-in gift. Whether you create a report, a mini ebook, a video tutorial, email course or a webinar, make sure it is some of your best work.
This post here details the whole process of creating an irresistible freebie to get the right people to opt-in to your list.
#6 Promote your blog
Lastly, it goes without saying but you have to promote your blog whether it is a personal or a business one.
Just like any form of content you create, you need to put it out there and also ask your readers to do the same.
Add social media sharing buttons before or after every post you publish and give your readers a clear call to action of sharing your content with others.
Here are two tips you will find very useful: Don’t overwhelm your readers with too many social media sharing options. Think about the platform you are most active on, is it Facebook, Twitter or Google+. Also keep in mind where you can reach your ideal audience – where do they hang out? Then ask them to share on these networks.
Secondly, research has shown that when you give a reason while making a request, people are more likely to take action. ‘Because’ is a very powerful word and if you give your audience some kind of reason as to why they should share this content, they will listen. Reasons such as ‘please share if you know your friends will find this useful’ work just fine.
So there you have it.
Start with the goal and the purpose of your business blog. Think about your audience and keep them in mind while you plan your content but don’t forget your business goals. Always create and promote content strategically.
This way you optimize your blog and turn it into a great marketing tool for your business.