I see it happen so often: New business owners are all gung-ho to start their blog (or podcast, or YouTube channel) and so they pour their heart and soul (and time and energy) into creating a ton of content.
But then, a few months in, they start to get discouraged. They’re not seeing a lot of traffic or engagement, and they’re definitely not seeing a lot of sales.
And they think, “What am I doing wrong? Maybe this doesn’t work… I should try something else…”
More often than not, that means they switch focus to a different content channel and do the same sort of thing — usually with the same results.
So… What’s actually going on if your blog (or other content channel) isn’t as successful as you had hoped? Check out these four reasons your blog may not be working to support your business:
1. You’ve chosen the wrong model
There are two schools of thought about content marketing for business:
One, popularized (if not invented) by Bryan Clark of Copyblogger, is to build an audience through content marketing before you have anything to sell. Actually, quite a few successful infopreneurs have built their businesses this way.
They create a platform, focus on creating valuable content, and then — maybe a year or more into the project — they decide what to sell based on how their audience has responded to different things, and finally launch their first product.
The pros of this method are that you know for sure what your audience wants to buy. You’ve spent a lot of time getting to know them. They’ve also spent a lot of time getting to know you, which means that old “know, like, and trust” factor is strong. You’ve also probably built up a decent-sized audience that makes selling a one-to-many style info product or course much easier to manage.
On the downside, this is not a fast track to cash. This sort of strategy takes months, maybe a year or more, to build up an audience big enough to support a launch. So while this might be a legitimate way to start a business as a side-hustle (even with the intent of eventually quitting your job), you need something else to be paying the bills and putting food on the table until you start selling something.
Also, please note that this starts out as blogging AS a business (the content is the main focus) and turns into blogging FOR a business (the content supports the sales of a product or service). It’s an important distinction.
The second model is to start your business and offer your product or service right away — and to engage in content marketing to support the sales of that product or service.
Please note: If you’re selling anything other than advertising right now, this is your model. That means that while the first model can create content about any kind of topic they want — and probably should create lots of different kinds of content to see what resonates — the second model should be focused on creating content that will drive sales. Period.
In this case, the content is a servant to sales. That is the whole point of creating the content.
This may run counter to advice you’ve heard elsewhere, that the point of content is to generate traffic. Of course you must have traffic, but traffic alone will not support your business.
And, just to add insult to injury here, blogging alone won’t drive much traffic to your business — at least, not at first.
2. You’re only creating content for your existing audience
The cold, hard, depressing truth is that very few people just “stumble” onto a blog these days and then decide to follow it (whether that means through social media or an RSS feed or whatever). That sort of thing happened in the dear dead days of the early 2000s, but not so much any more.
Today, if you’re only creating content on your native platform (ie: your website) and then sharing it to your existing audiences by email and social media, you’re just preaching to the choir.
Unless you’ve done some fancy SEO stuff or are engaging in a serious publicity campaign for your content, most of the people who see it are already in your audience, already a part of your circle.
But when you’re new, your number one priority is to get clients — and in order to do that, you have to get outside your existing bubble and get in front of new people.
Math and statistics tell us that only a certain percentage of our existing audience is going to ever make a purchase from us; therefore, logically, we have to continually get in front of new people in order to continue to make sales.
3. You’re speaking to the wrong audience
This actually happens more than you’d think.
I blame it on early creative writing education that extolls us to “write what you know.” It’s good advice for a fifth grader writing her first short story, but it gets twisted up in a business owner’s mind until they believe they have to write about their craft.
This is especially tricky when you have a product-based business. A jewelry designer, for example, doesn’t know what to blog about, so she falls back on the “write what you know” advice and starts writing about how to design and make jewelry. While some behind-the-scenes info is good, if that’s all she talks about, she’s likely to attract an audience of wannabe jewelry designers — not jewelry buyers.
The other way I see this manifest is when business owners focus on creating content for just one type of customer. Maybe they write content only for people who are already super familiar with the problem their business solves — and they never address the questions and concerns on the minds of people who aren’t familiar with the problem. Or maybe they go the other way, only speaking to beginners, when they really serve people who are more advanced.
The result of either of these problems is that you start to attract an audience that may love what you have to say, but isn’t going to buy. You’re attracting opt-ins, but not real leads that will turn into customers.
4. You’re hiding behind your content
Oh man — this one hits home so much for me.
I’m a writer, and I am more comfortable pouring my thoughts out into a blogging window than I am having a conversation with actual people. #awkward
But when you’re new to business, “mass” marketing (which is what content marketing really is) is much less likely to win you customers than good, old-fashioned networking. Getting out there and talking to people. Showing up. Being useful.
Whether you like to blog, or podcast, or make videos, or share pretty pictures on Instagram, the truth is that those channels are not the fastest way to get yourself a steady flow of clients.
But it’s easier to hide behind content creation and spend hours and hours designing your website, crafting your blog posts, recording your podcast, making gorgeous videos than it is to actually put yourself out there sometimes. It’s easy to tell yourself that by spending all this time creating content, you’re “working” — but if you’re not getting clients, you’re not getting paid.
So, is blogging a waste of your time?
But I want you to change how you think about your content marketing when you’re in the early stages of business.
- Your potential clients or customers DO need a way to learn more about you, and often the best way to do that is through some sort of content, so make sure you’re putting yourself out there on at least one channel to be found.
- A good way to get in front of new audiences is to share your thoughts — but often that’s going to mean guest posting, or posting to a public channel like Medium or LinkedIn so that you get outside your existing audience bubble.
- If time constraints mean that you have to choose between dedicating time to content creation or client acquisition, prioritize getting clients! That’s how you keep the lights on. This may mean that you create less content and choose what you do create much more strategically.
- No matter how much content you create, you should do it strategically to ensure that you’re making the most out of every moment you spend — that means ensuring that your content is designed to lead potential customers toward a sale.
I had this sort of experience when I first started out as a ghostblogger. I was rockin’ and rolling. I had a website and a blog and a Facebook page, and I’d just had my best month ever!
Then the next month rolled around and I lost a client, another project ended… And suddenly I had my worst month ever.
But I was still blogging, still doing all those things I thought I was “supposed” to do… Where had I gone wrong?
Well, when I stepped back to analyze what I was doing, the blogging and Facebook weren’t actually generating clients for me yet. And because I’d been so focused on taking care of the clients I did have in addition to the blogging and whatnot, I wasn’t doing the things that were actually bringing me clients…
If you’re in a place where you’re trying to get your first clients or still struggling to fill your docket regularly and consistently, I highly suggest you check out my friend Rebecca Tracey’s free video series that will teach you exactly how to prioritize getting clients in your business. Check it out here!