Blogging for Business: The Beginner’s Guide
Photo credit Redden-McAllister
This amazing post was originally published on Murlu. The content and the comments have been syndicated with the author’s permission.
There’s a huge difference in blogging when you’re trying to educate and build a community versus selling products for a business.
The tone changes.
You’re not just throwing out frilly blog posts around some subject that interests you, but answering common problems and questions existent within the customer base – by doing so, you launch the process of lead generation.
Phase 1: Getting on board with blogging for business
Blogging for business is one of the greatest untapped opportunities for the majority of businesses.
- You gain search engine traction
- You have “fuel” for your social media presence
- You build a resource for customers (and employees)
Business owners are a fickle bunch.
They’re often resistant to a lot of new technology which is why you still see many businesses without a website (let alone some kind of Facebook fan page).
Their mindset is along the lines of “what I do now is already working so why complicate it?”
I don’t know about you but I hate this line of thinking especially since the basics of setting up an online presence is extremely inexpensive and not all that time consuming.
The other response you’ll hear is “why do I want to expose my secrets to my competitors?”
This, too, is a horrible line of thinking for the majority of businesses because it’s highly unlikely that they have some top-secret technology and an iron-grip on the market (they’re not the military, here).
Here’s the simple truth:
Blogging for business takes up a fraction of the daily operation but has substantial impact on a business’s ability to grow and become a dominant player in the market.
A blog post can come together in less than 30 minutes but will continue to work for the business, much like a sales representative, for as long as it’s available to be found.
The competition which puts out the information, the earliest, will often be the ones which gain authority within the market and, eventually, the lion’s share of the industry.
A business that tries to lock itself up behind the guise that they’re giving away the keys to the place fail to see that the competition already HAS this information simply because they’re in the industry.
- Your business could be the first to publish information that ranks well in search engines
- Your business could be the first to build a massive database for customer service inquiries
- Your business could use a business blog to improve lead generation
There’s no other way to put this than simply stating that there’s no going back.
People are out there doing competitive research to find the best price for the products they seek; they’re also seeking a business that will follow up after the purchase through valuable information, customer service, and continual support of the product.
Having a blog for the business grants each of these powerful benefits.
Phase 2: In-sourcing the content creation
The first action I would recommend would be to tap into the employees of the business; this means everyone that comes in contact with the product/service from the very lowest level all the way to the top.
This is because each employee will have a different understanding for what the business has to offer and each approaches their work in different facets.
In-source content provides the following:
- Having a fresh set of eyes on a topic one may be blind toward
- A unique experience with the customers which adds to the tone
- A seemingly endless amount of content ideas for new business blog posts
Let’s say you have a business with ten employees (counting yourself); every one of these employees has, in some way, dealt with a others about what the business has to offer whether it’s a customer or simply mentioning what they do to family members and friends.
Each person with the organization could come up with a list of their top ten questions they often receive from people about what the business has to offer (and what they do). There may be some overlap but you will have a massive list of “starter” content ideas to run with.
At this point – the business owner may try to grip control over the content creation by placing the work on their shoulders but this too is a horrid idea since the owner is the one that has the most time-for-value when it comes to growing the business (they’re the ones making big deals and closing big sales so their time shouldn’t be placed toward a small task such as writing posts).
The correct approach is to hand over the keys to the blog to the employees.
Let them write the posts.
It may be a little nerve-wracking but there can be a set of checks and balances before a post is published to the business blog – each can go through an editorial process to remove spelling mistakes, fix up part of the tone, and include a little lead generation to the mix.
Here’s a boilerplate process for getting employees on board with business blogging:
- Assign a single post for each of the employees based on their top ten lists
- Have them write a 500 – 700 word blog post, in their voice, answering the item
- Hand over the editorial work to a senior member of the crew for final revisions
- Publish each piece under the employee name
This does two great things:
- The brunt of the work is taken off a single employee that will inevitably begin to overlap topics and tone of the business blog.
- It gives each employee the ability to feel proud of their contribution which will be easily shared on their personal social profiles (and business social profiles).
Think about that for a second.
In-housing the content creation not only frees up the time invested but it’s also answering common questions they receive (which can now become easy links for when they pop up again), and they’re readily shared since they’re taking part of the business growth.
If you’re on the ropes than I suggest you read these ten reasons for allowing employees to participate put together by Marcus Sheridan at TheSalesLion.
Phase 3: Tapping the community (and customer list) for content ideas
Now this is where things really juicy: when you bring the customers into play.
The customers (and general community) are where you’ll get the majority of your ideas for blog posts for your business blog because they’re the ones that have questions before and after their business with you.
- At some point, your customer had to make a decision to purchase from your company so they had a load of questions before they handed over the money.
- Later on, they have additional questions about their purchase which comes about after they’ve received your product/service.
Who better to know which questions to ask than the people buying from you?
Answering questions which people had before the purchase allows your business to set up a massive campaign for lead generation. People will search the Web and social media for answers to these questions when they’re seeking your product/service.
Answering questions that arise after someone has bought from the business works as additional lead generation but, more importantly, resources for these common questions which not only frees up the time of employees trying to explain and answer these questions but also gives the customer the ability to dig into the blog for these answers without having to pick up the phone or send an email.
The easiest way to get these questions is to:
- Keep a log of the common questions your business is receiving before they buy.
- Ask the community through social media, emails, phone calls, and live chats.
It’s really simple and doing these two items will bring about hundreds (if not thousands) of additional topics for your business blog posts.
At this point you may divide the topics into categories and prioritize which are frequently asked questions; this can be a tedious process which you could do on your own or employee the use of a freelancer to sort through it all.
An alternative method to collecting these answers is to create a customer support Q&A forum where people can ask questions and employees can respond; you can then take these responses, at a later date, and form them into complete posts for the business blog.
Killer tip: Bring your customers into the COMPLETE fold by allowing them to write blog posts for the business and give them attribution; alternatively, use quotes you gain through your social channels to populate answers for your blog posts.
There are dozens of methods for cultivating ideas from an active community – all it takes is a little nudge and an open mind to respond to these questions and comments on an open platform (instead of just over the phone, email, or live chat).
Phase 4: Making it work for the business
How to turn all of this blogging for business into something profitable for the company – that’s why you’re reading this – right?
Before the specifics, I’d like to point out that it’s not just about the profits that can be gained through business blogging.
- Sharing industry information to customers allows a business to build authority within their market; this authority allows the business to generate buzz with each new addition to the product/service line up.
- Blogging, for your business, increases your search engine exposure and, thus, organic traffic … which is free (minus the time spent writing the piece).
Every business would kill to gain free exposure especially if they have a hot product; they’re not forced to spend thousands of dollars on paid advertising and can recoup that cost toward research & development, customer relations, or increased salaries for employees.
The exposure, alone, should be worth the reward but I know you still seek the juicy bits for closing the sale with these posts so here are a variety of strategies I’ve tried and tested that any business can put into effect:
- Answer questions and use your product examples in the response which not only aids in building links to internal pages but can draw attention to a specific product related to a specific question.
- Include banner ads in the sidebar and bottom of the blog posts which display a coupon and call-to-action to get a reader over to the product page (bonus points if you craft these banners specific to a product question and link it to the correct page).
- Collect the most frequently asked questions and turn them into a whitepaper which can be sent out when people order products, displayed in a resource page, or used as part of an email mailing list.
- Compare what you have to offer versus the competition to do the research for the reader so they’re more likely to stay on your page and continue through to your offers.
- Create a knowledgebase for your employees so they can easily share links to customers instead of spending a great deal of time on the phone or responding to email (so they can work on bigger projects for the company).
- Populate your social network channels with these blog posts, daily, to create constant engagement and feedback within the community.
- Send visitors to a squeeze/landing page which shares an overview of your company, what you have to offer, coupons, and encourages them to find the products/services you have to offer.
- Use a clever mixture of downloadables such as industry reports, comparison sheets, checklists, quick-start guides, or product instructions to generate additional engagement and trust.
- Including a phone number, email, or live chat link in the post (or at the bottom) to encourage one-to-one connection with an employee at the company if the reader has additional questions and concerns.
Remember: people landing on your posts will have an incentive to buy when you attune your business blog content to answer buyer questions and then provide additional value to show authority; this helps the visitor overcome sales barriers and opens the opportunity of closing the sale.
The Opportunity is Slipping By
Every day that passes is another opportunity lost when it comes to becoming the authority player in your market; savvy competition already know the benefits of blogging for their business, and have since begun to roll out their campaign – you can afford to get left in the dust.
- Yes, you’ll have concerns about “giving away too much information”.
- Yes, you’ll feel that it may be “a waste of time”.
Overcome these convictions and embrace blogging for your business; it could very well be the greatest investment in your promotional and marketing strategy.
The choice is on your shoulders.
If you don’t do it … the competition will.