One of the main services we offer at Engage Content is blog management. Blogging is a key component of any sales and marketing strategy – it’s a cost-effective means of lead generation, a sustainable investment in site traffic, a valuable channel for communications and a great way to engage with clients and introduce your products or services.
However, lots of companies have a hard time maintaining a blog. In a small company, blogging is often an additional task given to one of the team, and the first thing to slide when things get busy.
How to start a blog
Often, it’s at just the time when things get interesting that the company blog turns into a graveyard – which means they’re missing out on the chance to share good news, get feedback on a new product or feature, or retain their newly delighted clients.
Frequently, a blog is started but no one is sure what to write about or what kind of approach to take. They may not even know why they’re writing it in the first place!
We’ll assume, for this article, that you’re already sold on the idea of a blog – the benefits are widely touted all over the web. However, a systematic approach to a business blog is a must. Firstly, let’s establish the Why, Who and What of your blog. This is the first step in a successful blog strategy.
1: Why a blog?
Imagine that your blog isn’t just a place on the web, but that it’s a job position you’re creating in your company. It’s a member of your team. Now think about what you need that team member to do…
- Reach out to clients?
- Get user feedback?
- Keep existing clients engaged?
- Generate new leads?
- Convert leads into sales?
- Train or educate?
- After-sales care?
You might find it helpful to write a quick job description for the blog. You can refer back to it from time to time to make sure your blog is staying on track and use it as a basis on which to judge ROI.
2: Who is this blog for?
Now think about your website users. Who is your website for and why are they visiting it? It’s important that you look at your blog from the point of view of your users and that it addresses their needs. If you simply use your blog to push information about the company, it will be of limited interest and unlikely to produce any real results.
I once had a client who started every single blog post with: [Company name] has just won a new contract to… The blog had only been created to please the company partners and no one had ever considered if their visitors had any interest in it. Needless to say, very few people ever clicked through and actually read the articles.
You can establish who is already looking at your site using your analytics and site surveys; then think about who else you would like to attract to your site. Who are your ideal customers and prospects? Now think about their needs and the problems they are trying to solve/jobs they want to get done.
3: What do we publish?
What to publish is the question I get asked the most. And the key to answering this question is research. Start by researching what problems your users are trying to solve, and what they are talking about. You can use tools such as Twitter and Google Trends to research terms associated with your service, product or solution (there are lots of other free/paid keyword analysis tools available but this is just to get you started).
Look at what discussions are taking place and make a list of what questions people are asking and what they want to know more about. Use your own social media channels to ask people what they’re interested in. You could, for instance, reach out to top users of your product/service or browse relevant LinkedIn groups for trends and topics. You now have valuable insight into the types of subjects you could cover on your blog.
The best strategies are based on research and feedback
Throughout this process, remember to involve as many people as you can. Talk to existing and potential clients, but also to your team. Often, when a blog has stalled, or never really got going in the first place, I’ll talk to team members about the reasons and get the answer: the CEO wanted us to have a blog but I’m not sure what to do with it.
By adopting a whole-team approach, you are more likely to create a sustainable and engaging blog that everyone in your company can identify with and see a purpose for. And when that happens, content and ideas for articles can come from the most unlikely of places.
Use the answers from the questions above to create a chart with the columns ‘Why’, ‘Who’ and ‘What’. Although not technically necessary, I also add the column ‘Needs’ when I go through this process, because it’s part of defining the ‘Who’ – in this case, it’s not just the person themselves that counts, but also their behaviour.
Listing your audience’s needs will also help you to narrow down the ‘What’. You now have a simple but effective roadmap for your future blog. Refer back to it regularly to make sure your blog is keeping its focus, but don’t be afraid to modify it if you get new information or if your assumptions are proved wrong.
We’ve covered the Why, Who and What. In Part Two we’ll look at the How.