Last week I went to a local networking meetup group. These kinds of groups generally aren’t full of my ideal audience, but I like to go to this particular one because they always have a speaker, and hearing people like LinkedIn expert Kevin Knebl or Facebook guru Andrea Vahl for free is something I can’t pass up!
Anywho, as we were finishing up, the gentleman sitting next to me, an architect looking to start his own firm, asked me a variation on a question I get a lot:
How do I start a blog?
Usually, these people want to know technical directions, as in, what software should I use, where do I go, how does it work?
But frankly, those are the wrong questions to ask right out of the gate.
There are plenty of tutorials out there on the web on how to physically start a blog (I recommend using WordPress), but the bigger, more important question they should be asking is:
How do I write a blog?
If you have a business, blogging is not just about writing what’s on your mind. I’m a big believer that if your blog doesn’t support your business — bring new traffic to your website, convert that traffic to your email list, and then help convince those readers and subscribers to become customers — then it’s a waste of time.
Business blogging requires a strategy. So let’s break it down as to how you can create yours.
1. Why are you blogging?
The absolute first thing you must understand about your business blog is why you are writing it.
There are three main reasons people read blogs:
- to be educated
- to be inspired
- to be entertained
This is the value that blogs deliver for the readers. Most business blogs fall into the education category. It used to be that business only blogged to educate readers about their business, as in, what’s happening with their business.
More recently, with the advent of the freemium model, more and more businesses are giving their readers the education information they might have had to pay for before.
For example, a marketing firm before might only have blogged about what was happening with the firm: we hired a new associate, we’ve expanded our services, we will be speaking at this event, etc. Now, with a freemium model, the same firm might give away free tutorials on their blog, teach their readers how to create a certain kind of graphic or document, or post images of inspiring designs. They’re giving away for free what they might have charged for in the past.
Beyond understanding what you hope to deliver to your audience, you need to have an idea of what you hope to gain as well. For example, your goal may be to deliver value by educating your audience, but your business goal may be to get people to sign up for your email list, share your content on social media, or buy your latest thing.
Your business goals for your blog will probably change more frequently than the value you deliver, and will depend a lot on where you are in your business’ development and where you are in your sales cycle.
Understanding how the value you deliver and how you will work towards your business goals work together will help you understand why you’re blogging for your business.i
These articles will help you get a handle on understanding the WHY behind your blog:
- Know Your Why: The Power of Content Marketing
- Maybe You Should Stop Blogging
- Stop Blogging! And the Supremacy of Story
- How Much Content Should I Give Away for Free?
- Why Asking “How do I do SEO for my blog?” Is Asking The Wrong Question
- How to Tell Stories that Sell
2. Who are you blogging for?
You also need to know WHO you’re writing to. I often see small business bloggers writing to the wrong audience, so before you ever start writing, make sure you understand who your ideal reader is. (Here’s a hint: she might be slightly different from your ideal customer.)
And once you know who your reader is, you can better understand what he or she wants from you and your blog.
- The No. 1 Mistake Small Business Bloggers Make—And How to Fix It with an Ideal Reader Profile
- Nurturing Your Blog Culture
3. What are you going to write about?
Everything you write about on your blog should serve your greater purpose. If, for example, your purpose is to inspire your readers and build your email list, that will help dictate which topics you should write about.
But that doesn’t mean that figuring out what to write about every week is easy! When you need some inspiration, check out these resources and posts:
- Blog Editorial Calendar Cheat Sheet: 66 Hacks to Get You Writing Now
- New Blog Post Ideas for 2015: How to Delight Your Readers with Content
- How to Become a Trusted Authority
- Be the Change You Want to See (In Your Readers) With a Character Arc
4. Where are you going to promote your blog?
The second biggest problem I see with small business blogs is the Field of Dreams mentality: the business owner believes, “If I write it, they will come.”
And that just ain’t the case any more.
As much as you need to have a strategy for writing your blog, you also have to have a strategy for promoting it. This includes sharing it with your social media networks, but you have to go beyond that as well. These articles will help you understand the basics of blog promotion:
- The Other 80 Percent: Publicity Strategies for Blogs
- The Hierarchy of Audiences in Content Marketing
- The Only Thing You Need to Know About Content Marketing Strategy
- Demystifying Content Marketing with a Step-by-Step System
5. How the heck do I do all this while still running my business?
Finally, as a solopreneur or micro-business owner, you must learn how to create and write content quickly and efficiently. If it takes you 10 hours a week to create and promote your content, it’s pretty likely that you’re not making a good return on that time investment. Steal some of my best techniques for blogging more quickly and efficiently:
- 10 Time-Saving Tips for Business Bloggers
- How to Master Your Content Marketing in 30 Minutes or Less
- 3 Alternatives to Spending Hours Writing a Blog Post
- How I Write 8 to 10 Blog Posts a Week
- Cut the Bathroom Scenes from Your Copy
- 5 Unintended Consequences of a Bad Blog Post
- 5 Amazing FREE Tools that Help Me Run My Business
Now it’s your turn: What questions do you have about building your blogging strategy? Let me know in the comments below.