Important but tough question. It’s often helpful to tackle complicated questions by working backward.
In this case, I believe an effective business blogging strategy creates customers. I know this sounds crass to the unicorn and rainbows crowd but a business blog is a waste of time if it can’t help pay the bills a return a profit.
We’ll explore this question from the business bloggers perspective. In the future, I’ll address the “brand building / audience building” side of the debate.
How A Blog Creates Customers
We’ll be tackling this question in depth during our free training this week. For now we’ll focus on the three battles your blogging strategy needs to win:
Your future customers aren’t familiar with your product. Micheal Burt says it best “The single biggest challenge facing small businesses, salespeople, and inventors is obscurity. It’s not that you don’t have something valuable to offer its that no one knows who you are”
Your blog strategy needs to articulate a clear action plan for systematically sharing the benefits of your product. This isn’t a dry recitation of your product brochure. Instead your blog should help your customers understand how your product is relevant to their lives.
Questions to Answer:
- What does your future customer need to know to convince them to add your product to their short list?
- Which product features are unique and critical to solving your customer’s problem?
Businesses compete. You aren’t the only game in town. Even if you don’t have direct competitors you still contend with indirect alternatives. This means that your customer has to decide between your product or a competitors. Objections are the byproduct of a customer’s due diligence and comparison. They will compile a list of reasons why they should not buy your product.
Your blog is a powerful way to state the objections and provide a counter argument. Smart businesses will create an exhaustive list of possible objections and build an editorial calendar around setting their future customer’s mind at ease.
Questions to Answer:
- Which features of your competitor’s product that could dissuade customers from buying your product?
- What are the top 10 objections potential customers may have with your product?
Story Behind the People, Product, and Problem
I’m continually astonished by how social media continues to create ways for businesses and customers to have a genuine relationship. Like real world relationships, businesses are learning that sound bites, glossy brochures, and spin is a poor substitute for honest and transparent communication.
Customers are searching for businesses that “get” them. They want to know the people who invent, assemble, and service their products. Customers realize that they are worth more than the cash in their wallets, they know that their credibility, and network is currency they can trade for better products, even access to management.
Your blog can help create the personal, open relationship with readers. It can be the first step in a thoughtful process of understanding customers and demonstrating how your culture is a match with their values and preferences.
Tell your story. Admit your mistakes. Share your businesses values. Your strategy should turn your story into a competitive advantage by creating a high bar for clear, concise, and meaningful communication.
Questions to Answer:
- What is your businesses “creation story?”
- Which challenges and crisis did your business overcome to create and sell your product?
- What are your key values? Why would your customers care?
Putting the Pieces Together
It’s important that you think through the 3 battleground elements before moving on. Your answers will form the core of your blogging strategy. The rest is a matter of mechanics.
For most businesses, you should set-up a self-hosted WordPress blog. Art, Photography, Video, and other businesses with a strong visual focus can consider using Tumblr which offers great design options.
Publish weekly as a start. Quickly move to 8 posts a month as soon as you are able. Content publishing is a quality and quantity game. The more you publish the more readers you will attract.
Blog Post Length
I don’t believe in blog word count benchmarks. You should write until you’ve delivered a succinct, clear, and interesting blog post. But…(you knew there was a but right?) some excellent research compiled by Buzzsumo backed up by A-List bloggers shows that longer posts (1000+ words) perform considerably better. In fact, the longer, the better.
Writing is a pain in the rear-end for most. I understand if you aren’t ready to sign-up for weekly 1000+ word posts. I suggest planning at least one comprehensive, 1000+ word post each month to boost traffic and social shares.
Pay for a theme that looks great out of the box. Pay a professional to customize it for your business. There’s no way around this. Competition for readers is fierce and readers will gravitate toward well-designed blogs.
Single Author or Multi-Author?
Multi-author if you can manage it. Having more authors increases the amount of quality content you can publish. More content = more readers. Creating a guest blogger program is the best way to jumpstart a multi-author blog. Feel free to steal my approach here. Be careful about relying on employees to blog. Writing is right up there with public speaking on the fear scale. You can use employees but anticipate a bumpy start until your team gets comfortable with the writing process.
Blog Post Type
Audio, text, video – which is best?
All of them work well. Audio (podcasting) is a quick way to get high-quality content published. WordPress makes it simple to embed an audio player directly into a blog post. You can see an example of the player in my last podcast post. Video can be embedded from YouTube, Vimeo, or Wistia. Start with the posting type that is easiest for you to produce.
Don’t fixate on the mechanics (i.e. blog design, post type, etc.). These variables will change and may be totally different next month! Instead, focus on the creating relevant content that tells your product’s story. This is the real silver bullet.