Your website content, sales letters, emails, blog posts, videos and every customer communication you publish speaks volumes about you. If the message is disjointed, contradictory or just plain confusing, that will form the opinion (or brand) people have of you and your business.
“People will assume that the way you do one thing is the way that you do everything“
With blogging, just like any part of your marketing, you need a strategy, or you would better off not doing it at all. Ad-hoc posting of content can be seriously detrimental to your entire message. At the very least, you should build themes, use a consistent, recognisable voice and decide on your overall purpose. And at the completely fabulous end of the scale, you should design a monthly content schedule, create a deliberate structure, devise a compelling storyline narrative and get organised.
Five questions to ask yourself before starting a strategic blog!
1) Whose attention do you want to attract?
Tune into your reader’s ear first. Most businesses are too consumed with what they want to say and pay short attention to what their potential customers want to hear. Before even considering starting a regular blog you need to get under the skin of your ‘who’ and find out what they ‘want.’ Identify your avatar in as much detail as possible: What they do, their hopes, fears, wants, needs, habits, current situation and where they want to go.
2) What is the purpose of your blog?
Closely connected to your ideal customer’s appetites, desires, and interests is your purpose for writing a regular blog in the first place. Your reason should not be ‘it seemed like a good idea’ or ‘someone told me that I should’ because if that is the case you are seriously wasting your time. These are some of the best reasons people and businesses should blog.
- SEO or Search Engine Optimisation: to be found by Google (other search engines are available)
- Advertising: create a following to attract traffic to sell your products or others’ via affiliate links
- Credibility: become the go-to resource in your market by demonstrating your expertise and sharing nuggets
- Visibility: proactively putting out compelling content to gather data and build a prospect list
- Nurture: building your existing relationships to keep clients engaged, educated and coming back for more
There may be other reasons for a business (or business owner) to blog, but I think these are the most commercial ones. For now, I will ignore the first two (SEO and advertising), as they are a business in themselves, and focus on developing the marketing support function of the other three.
3) What are the stories and substance you can share?
Your overriding brand message and style are paramount, but if there is one place you can bend the rules and let your personality show through a little more, it is your blog. The very nature of blog posts lend themselves to telling stories and engaging your readers on a more personal level. That means you can be a little more expressive, give abstract examples, inject some humour, challenge accepted wisdoms, or even allow yourself the occasional rant.
We come face-to-face with potential blog material daily, but most people don’t tend to take notice. Start to collect together your observations, directly from your marketplace or other areas of your life. These can be stories, quotes, quirky ideas, achievements, wit, wisdom, news items, innovations, or comment – anything you can connect to a value message for your clients.
And there are some great ‘thought capturing’ solutions (Apps) out there: OneNote, Braintoss, Trello, or a good old pen and notepad is pretty good too 😊
4) Which recurring themes, messages, or actions do you want to promote?
In the classic 80’s movie ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ there is a scene where Steve Martin’s character finally snaps at the incessantly cheerful and rumbustiously chatty curtain ring salesman, Del Griffith (played by the late great John Candy). In losing his composure he mercilessly lambasts Del’s personality and ends with the line,
“And by the way, you know when you’re telling these little stories? Here’s a good idea – Have a point! It makes it so much more interesting for the listener!”
So, have a point! If you tell stories with no relevance to your understanding of your reader’s needs, you will only confuse or annoy them. Likewise, if there are mixed messages, lack of substance and little actual value, you will lose their attention. Remember the idea of an ongoing blog is to compel people to come back for more.
Make a list of five or six PURPOSES for your blog and centre each one around one of those themes. These will depend primarily on your answer to ‘question two’, but examples might include:
- Subtly highlighting common problems that you know exist in the marketplace (which you can solve)
- Commenting on subjects you know your prospects will be interested in or searching for…
- Sharing ‘how to’ nuggets or value messages that others might not know
- Mentioning one of your products or services (in a non-salesy way) as a subtle ‘name drop’
- Describing the ideal scenario as if it was ‘standard’ suggesting to your readers ‘it could be for them’
- Writing about complimentary themes your prospects will be interested in (to highjack other traffic)
5) How often, and in what way do you want to post?
Based on the answers to the previous questions, you should have an idea of the frequency you want to post. If it is to get Google’s attention, it needs to be often and at least 500 words each time; if it is engagement, perhaps less and certainly better quality. Other things to consider are planning, calendar, time, sourcing information, promoting the posts (social media, etc.).
My suggestion would be to set up posting dates on a calendar and assign a subject or working title to each slot. Some of the topics you could summarise each post under might include:
- Better performance (while at work)
- Better lifestyle (for the home)
- Topical (market-relevant, or general interest, anniversaries)
- Education (nuggets and your wisdom)
- Credibility (case studies written as stories)
- Entertainment (people love stories and trivia)
- News (show yourself to be current and informed)
- Resources (few things are as attractive as free gifts)
You will also need to consider including keywords (if you are looking to be found by Google) and create a social media strategy for sharing the content you are creating. Don’t forget to re-share old content too. Once you have done the hard work of creating an awesome post, don’t waste it on a one-shot-punt at being found. Build re-posting and re-purposing into your strategy for getting your message out there.