Would you love to add content marketing to your small business strategy? Then, you’ll need a plan!
Blogging is an accessible and affordable small-business marketing tool, but that doesn’t mean you can write about any old thing, as and when you feel like it. To work, blogging needs to be targeted, high-quality and consistent. This will be a big investment of your time. You need to be clear about why you're blogging, what you’re going to blog about, and when you’re going to fit it all in.
This post is the first in a series looking at how you can effectively plan out your blog posts. The series will cover:
- Part 1: The Why - be clear about the benefits and why you are investing the time.
- Part 2: The What - how to come up with themes and ideas for your blog content.
- Part 3: The When - creating a simple editorial calendar so you can transfer your content ideas into an actionable, manageable plan.
PART 1: THE WHY
BLOGGING & SMALL BUSINESS
Blogging isn’t free, no matter what anyone tells you!
You can certainly set up a blog on a shoestring.
You can download WordPress, for example, for free. The problem is, WordPress isn’t a blog. It’s a home for a blog. A content management system (CMS) that's been perfectly designed to house content, plugins and themes.
So yes, the empty CMS is free, as are some of the basic plugins and themes. But, there’s a lot more to blogging than an empty CMS.
Content, of course, is what turns an empty CMS into a blog.
Producing that content takes time, planning, learning, resources, commitment and support. Before you begin to plan out your blog posts, you'll need to be clear about why you're writing a blog. Why are you investing your precious time?
Your blog isn’t a standalone tool, isolated from the rest of your marketing efforts. It needs to support your overall goals and pull its own weight.
It's easy to create an entertaining blog just for the sake of it. It's quite a different thing to create a blog that helps your business thrive.
WHAT CAN BLOGGING DO FOR YOUR BUSINESS?
Blogging offers a number of benefits to small business, if done well, strategically and consistently:
#1 COLLECTS CUSTOMER EMAILS
Email is still the best way to directly communicate with your customers. Social media platforms may come and go and change their algorithms. All the while, email is holding its own. People still check their inboxes.
Every blog post is a new opportunity to promote your list. This might be with a general signup at the end of each post, or something more targeted like a content upgrade.
A blog gives you scope to experiment with mini courses, quizzes, landing pages, friendly pop-ups, exit pop-ups, and signups above the fold, in-post and on the sidebar.
Your mailing list is, arguably, your most valuable online asset. A blog is a great way to increase the number of opportunities people have to get on that list.
#2 DEMONSTRATES YOUR EXPERTISE
Blogging gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise in your field. It's a great way to build credibility with your audience and stand out amongst your competitors.
There’s no better way to invite potential customers to a multimedia showcase of your products or services. On YouTube you use videos. On Instagram and Pinterest you use images. On Twitter you use words. On a blog, you can use them all (and, of course, you can repurpose the blog content for your social platforms).
You have plenty of scope to show your products or services in their best light. You can demonstrate your professional knowledge. You can answer customer questions and address barriers to purchase.
It’s selling without the hard sell.
#3 MAKES YOUR ONLINE HUB MORE 'ATTRACTIVE'
Online search is becoming the everyday way customers find local companies.
A static website (one where the content doesn’t change very often, like an online brochure) doesn’t do much for your search-engine credibility.
Search engines love new, high-quality and relevant content. Customers also love new, high-quality and relevant content. The more you add regularly to your website, the more attractive your website will be to both search engines and customers.
And the best way to do this? Writing a blog.
It enables you to easily add new content to your site. That content then builds up your SEO-juice (keyword-rich content your potential customers are busy typing into Google’s search box).
New content also gives customers a reason to come back.
It’s one of the best tools, if not the best, you can use for Inbound Marketing. You produce valuable content that draws potential customers to your company via social sharing or organic search.
That tweet you sent this morning has, on average, a 24-minute half life. I know, depressing isn’t it!
That ad you paid for? It’s run its course and has now disappeared.
That blog post you wrote last year? That’s still bringing in traffic today.
#4 YOU OWN IT!
You don't own your social media accounts, no matter how much work you invest in them. You're building your house on someone else's land.
Blogging is a way to build another business asset - a bank of useful content. It’s a slow burn and you certainly can’t expect instant results.
It’s a real investment in your small business.
It’s a way of collecting together your knowledge, products and services, testimonials, case studies and answers to FAQs. All in one place. All written to help, entertain and inform. An asset that pays you back for years to come.
Although some people will tell you that you don’t need a blog, it's a great repository for all the content you create.
You can share that content all over your social channels if you want, and you should. But, no matter what happens in the ever-evolving online space, your digital asset is built on your own land and is adding value to your small business.
There's a tendency to think of blogging as free. It isn’t free, not by any stretch of the imagination. But, it's affordable, accessible (with a small learning curve), and a long-term investment in your small business.
Next time, we’ll look at what on earth you can write about, week in, week out.