Everybody and his cousin is blogging these days. All it takes is a template and a little time on your hands to have your thoughts broadcast on the Web.
An effective business blog, on the other hand, take a commitment of time, resources and intellectual energy. Unless you are committed to producing a quality, well-written blog and are committed to updating that blog on a regular basis, don’t even bother starting.
The worst business blogs are the ones where it is clear that the writer is winging it, just writing whatever comes to mind. A business must approach its blog in the same way it would approach any other marketing or branding campaign: with planning, staffing, execution and monitoring.
By following these seven steps, your small business can take the first steps towards a highly successful business blog:
- Define the business goals of your blog
- Identify your target audience
- Allocate resources
- Create your editorial calendar
- Carve out time to write
- Listen to your audience feedback and adjust accordingly
- Get the word out
1. Define the Business Goals of Your Blog
Don’t blog because everybody else is doing it. Blog with a plan. Some business blogs focus on products and services, while others try to humanize the company by putting a face on employees and executives and providing a look into the company culture. For service providers, a blog can be a great way of demonstrating your expertise (you can demonstrate your capabilities through thought leadership or actual client histories).
2. Identify Your Target Audience
While this may sound crass, you are not blogging for your health. You are blogging for the health of your business. As a businessperson, you should know who you are trying to attract. If you throw out too wide a net, you will not be able to write the kind of posts that will be of interest to your specific demographic. You can’t be all things to all people, so don’t even try.
3. Allocate Resources
One of the biggest reasons blogs fail is because they are not budgeted for in terms of personnel and financial commitment the way other marketing efforts are. A blog is not a value-add. It is an integral element of your marketing plan.
For a midsized company, devoting a person to the task shouldn’t be difficult. If you are a five-person shop, it can still be done–you just need to find the appropriate person (or people) who will be responsible for the blog.
Some businesses make the decision to hire a freelance ghost-blogger. I have seen advertisements ranging from $20 per 150-word blog post to several hundred dollars per hour for high-level copywriters. The good news, if you can put it that way, is that the relative demise of print publishing has put many highly qualified freelance writers on the market, and you can hire quality writers for a fairly modest cost.
If you are looking for a freelancer, you can look on sites like MediaBistro or even look at the writers’ posts on Craigslist. If you’d like to put more of your own stamp on the blog, you can provide freelancers with bullet points that the writers can transform into blog posts.
4. Create Your Editorial Calendar
Leaving your blogging schedule open-ended is an invitation to disaster. Laying out a framework for blog entries over a period of time gives a business enforceable deadlines. As we all know, having hard deadlines hanging over your head can be a great motivator. The editorial calendar should not be considered to be etched in stone, however. Businesses need to be sufficiently flexible to add impromptu posts when news and business dictates.
Here’s a template to get you started.
5. Carve Out Time to Write
I can’t emphasize this point enough: If your blogging time isn’t a part of your calendar, then you are going to find ways to avoid the task. This is not a game! It is not a hobby! It is a business tool that should be treated with the same respect as other business tools. For entrepreneurs and small businesses, this may mean setting the alarm an hour earlier or setting aside an hour or two on your weekend.
6. Listen to Your Audience Feedback and Adjust Accordingly
As you know, blogs are not one-way streets. The comment function empowers your target audience and gives them a chance to participate in the conversation. If your audience loves your blog, they will tell you. Just as importantly, if they have issues, you need to deal with those as well.
Analytics can help you here. See which posts get the most traffic. See who is sharing your content. See who “likes” your content. All of this information can help you better serve your target audience.
While there are a number of analytics packages out there (some free, some at a cost), I suggest starting off with Google Analytics, a free and remarkably robust package that’s easy to install on your site.
7. Get the Word Out!
It’s great to have a blog on your company website, but that certainly limits your audience. There are a number of ways to get a wider audience for your posts.
The easiest path is to find other blogs that attract your target audience. See what people are writing about there and see if you have something meaningful to add to the conversation. Most blogs allow for links within comments.
Another simple trick is to announce each new blog post on social media sites like Twitter or Facebook. To get the title of your post on Twitter and still stay within 140 characters, shorten your URL with a site like bit.ly.
To monitor your success in social media, there are plenty of tools including Topsy, Facebook Insights or Hootsuite.
If you are more adventurous, then I suggest you reach out to appropriate blogs and offer your services as a guest blogger. The key here is that you have produced relevant content that would both be of interest to your target audience and is written sufficiently well for a broad audience.
Making It Work
If you commit to writing a business blog, then commit to having one that is well written, of interest to your target audience and is refreshed on a regular basis. A great blog can be a valuable business development tool. A lousy one can damage your brand and your reputation in your industry.
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Good tips on business blogging. It’s tough to get to outstanding in blogging, but it is definitely rewarding (haven’t gotten there yet…)
Great article Jon. Thanks for the tips. You made some really interesting points.
Hey Jon– Great post and thanks for the link to our editorial calendar! Business blogging can be so successful if, like anything else, you take the time to figure out your strategy ahead of time. We plan our editorial calendar 1-2 months out, so there is plenty of time to work in an hour or two to write each post.
I also find it very helpful to specifically define the personas or people you are writing to. This helps guide not only your voice, but your topic selections.
We’ve had a lot of success with our business blog, and you’ve made a great list to help others out with theirs.
Lisa, that editorial calendar is helpful. And the wonderful thing about an editorial calendar is that it transforms your blogging into something you approach strategically, with a plan, instead of just “letting it happen”…. You’ll end up spending about the same amount of work with or without an editorial calendar, but the end result will serve your business better if you plan your work and work your plan.
Great first post! Could you give some examples of great business blogs that you are reading?
Love it Jon! Great list of how to blog in business effectively. With the “Carve Out Time” item, it’s vital that you choose a proper frequency of posting, and keep it pretty close to that same schedule each week.
This allows your readers to come to expect when your posts will appear. A consistent posting schedule we’ve found is important to not only growing our blog, but keeping your readers coming back and staying interested.
Instead of being no. 2, I usually analyze my target audience before setting goals. It would give me a fairly good idea of what my audience needs and how I can give it to them. 🙂
another great post out here…so much things to learn in blogging…this one really helps..thanks again.
Being a one-person show, when it comes to running a small business focused is really, really hard.
Anita Campbell wisely chose to go down the multi-author path, and look at how much Small Business Trends has grown because of her vision.
I’ve had a couple of guest blogger’s as of late, and it’s quite a relief to have others pitch in. Plus, it’s mutually beneficial.
The Franchise King®
Having enjoyed your post I am inclined to agree that for the millions of business blogs on the intenet, there are very few ‘GOOD’ business blogs.
As you point out it seems to be the case that people are writting for the sake of it without understanding the objectives for the blog and more importantly knowing the target audience.
I think content and time are the two biggest barriers I’ve heard and encountered myself. I tell others that say they don’t have the time that they should make it a part of their daily or weekly marketing activities, get ideas from the frequently asked questions from their clients or from something they just researched, and knock out a few posts in an hour or two, good for few months.
Thanks a bunch Jon! I am one that keeps marking my calendar to blog, but I let other things take precedence over it. This post has made me realize the importance of sticking with the deadline.
Very nice article. You’ve made some very good points that, if followed, can help toward becoming a very good business blogger. My biggest challenge is finding the time. I have started using the schedule feature of my blogging platform to write multiple articles at a time. Sometimes I over obsess about the timing of pushing out the posts. In reality, most times a day or two really doesn’t matter much. I really appreciate your insight. Thanks.
Great article which is greatly added to by the great comments and feedback from the people who read it. I regularly write a blog and never get any feedback or comments. Just as I was going to give up thinking that no one read it so why bother, I was speaking to a friend who told me he regularly read it. Turns out that quite a few people were reading it regualry but chose not to leave comments or subscribe. Not sure how to resolve that one. Moral is guess is stick with it. Anyone have any suggestions on how to get people to leave feedback. I’ve done the obvious like asking for it and posing questions?
Great post. Thanks so much for the tips; I’m laying the groundwork for starting a blog on my professional site.
If you run a WordPress blog, Editorial Calendar is a fantastic plugin for planning your posts.
Jon, this is soooo true… I’ve started few sites before, all of them ended in disaster – I just didn’t know HOW TO BLOG (and it seems like the easiest thing on earth but IT IS NOT!)
Nice, simple, but critical points, it’s so easy to blog for no purpose, no results or to get no readers. Those tips should help prevent those mistakes well.
Business blogging is different to blogging for personal reasons. In blogigng for business, you need to justify the time and effort put into running a blog. Planning necessary is necessary to meet goals.