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The devil’s in what to write about. Business blogging content ideas.

One of the hardest things about business blogging is that you have to come up with something to write about constantly.  And I can tell you from personal experience that if you don’t plan topics ahead, you’ll be dead in the water in no time.devil

Planning is critical.  Read my post about it.  (Case in point — this blog is over 2 weeks late due to lack of planning.)

What should be in your editorial schedule?  Certainly not self-serving, heavily promotional stuff.  Put yourself in the customer’s shoes.  Think about their issues and concerns.  Then make your blog a place to come for helpful, knowledgeable assistance.

But that’s pretty vague and you want specifics.  So here are some specific blog content ideas that I’ve used.

Repurpose Existing Content  If you already have whitepapers and case histories, you may be able to rewrite them as blogposts.  Long whitepapers may even become two posts.

Conduct Survey and Blog About Results  Ask your customers and prospects a question or 3 that are relevant to your industry.  Gather the results.  Then report them and add your opinion in a blogpost.

Share and Comment on Industry Articles   It’s easy to set up internet feeds on relevant topics.  When something good shows up, create a “sandwich” blogpost:  write an intro, share the link to the article, and create a conclusion that showcases your thoughts on the article.

Infographics  Look at some of your existing content.  Can anything be pictorial-ized?  If so, you can have a graphic designer create an infographic that can be the basis of a blogpost.  House the file on your website so readers have to go there to download the infographic.

Crowdsource  Blog Ideas  Ask blog readers what topics they’d like you to cover.

Answer Customer Questions  Your sales and customer service departments are great resources for finding out what questions people have.  Common questions should lead to answers that can become blogposts.

Comment on Current Trends  A review of the articles your feeds are turning up should give you a sense of trends.  You can also watch competitors.  When you spot a trend, write about it in the blog.

Interview Industry Experts  Interviews can turn into “how-to” lectures or commentaries on the state of the industry.  Either makes interesting blog content.

Lists   Create short lists of tips, especially information that’s in high demand but short supply. Or you could provide the kind of information that helps customers use your type of product.  Lists can often be turned into posters.   Today’s list could be tomorrow’s infographic, giving you another blogpost.

Resource Collections – Compile collections of resources according to a keyword or theme. If you find resources that don’t normally get included together, it can be especially powerful.    It can take time to build this kind of collection, so this is not a last-minute tactic.

Other Authors  Others in your company, like technicians, applications engineers, executives, have unique expertise and perspectives to share.  You’ll need to help them out by defining a topic.

Use these ideas to create a plan for your blog.  And please let me know what else has worked for you

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Tell them about it. Promoting your business blog.

Man Holding LoudspeakerIf you’ve decided a blog is right for your business, you’ve invested time and money into planning, researching, and writing.  But once you hit the “Publish” button, your work’s not over.  There’s more to be done.

Blogs are passive, the idea being that the right blog will attract the right people.  But I don’t believe in just letting it happen.  I recommend you prime the pump by promoting your business blog in the right places.  If you don’t take this step, you run the risk of having your blog  join the ever-growing ranks of unread and languishing publications.

Here are some ideas for business blog promotion:

  1. Email marketing to customers and prospects.  It makes sense to let your biggest fans know what you’re writing about.  You can use email to let customers and prospects know you have a blog.  You can also use an email marketing program like MailChimp or Constant Contact to send regular notices when you have a new post or two.
  2. Put a notice about the blog on your LinkedIn status.  This is a must for business blogs since it will alert your LinkedIn connections.
  3. Add your blog as a discussion on your relevant LinkedIn groups. Since LinkedIn is a business-oriented social network, this is another must that will extend your reach to group members.  You can simply add your blog, or better, start a discussion to which you can post your blog as good advice.
  4. Find relevant industry discussion groups, and post there.  The first step is to find the venues.  Then monitor discussions over time to see what topics are of interest and how you might fit in.  Often, the technique of starting a discussion to which you can later post your blog works well.
  5. Post on Twitter, Google + and Facebook.  Even if your audience doesn’t use these social networks, posting here doesn’t hurt.  If nothing else, there’s SEO value.
  6. Commenting on relevant blogs.  This first requires researching relevant blogs.  Then post comments now and then when you have something of value to say.  Other readers may check you out and find your blog.
  7. Guest posting.  If you find other, non-competing bloggers on your topic, invite them to write a post for your blog.  (Be very clear in your directions to them.)  They may return the favor, putting you in front of their readers.

The objective of all of these ideas is to get the right folks to read your blog, visit your website, think you’re a good company to do business with, and, hopefully. buy something.  That would make your investment of time and money worthwhile.

Here are more blog promotion ideas.

Starting out. Getting your business blog going.

You’ve decided your business needs to publish a blog.   (See my previous post on what to think about in making the decision.)    How do you start?  Here are some things to think about:

  1. Name  Your “baby” needs a name.  Choose something simple and relevant.  You can use one or several professional writers to come up with name ideas.  Or crowd-source names from employees, customers, or both.
  2. Platform  There are quite a few blog platforms out there, each with its own quirks, advantages, and drawbacks.  Think about what you need before you make a choice.  Whatever you choose, make sure the platform’s easy to use when it comes to adding text and visuals, gives you good usage metrics, alerts you to comments, and lets you schedule posts.
  3. Length  There used to be a kind of unwritten rule that posts were no longer than 300-400 words.  Now I see posts that go on and on.  Me, I believe in keeping things short and to-the-point.  You can always include links for those who want to know more.  But if longer works for you, go for it.
  4. Design  Once you settle on a platform, you may find a template that works.  The price is right.  FREE!  But using a template means giving up some of your unique identity.  For a one-of-a-kind design work with a designer who’ll create a design based on your needs and wants.  My advice?  Keep it simple, easy to read, and easily identifiable as yours.
  5. Tone/voice  Since a blog is where your company shows up in public, think about how you want to sound.  I think blogs should be conversational and authentic.  How would you describe your company’s personality?  How do customers described it?  If you’re happy with these descriptions, then they can point you towards your authentic tone.
  6. Schedule  Some personal blogs get updated daily.  I think business blogs can publish weekly or every other week.  If you don’t feel you can keep up this schedule, maybe a newsletter would be better.   I strongly recommend sticking to a regular publishing schedule so readers can rely on you.  As for best day of the week and time of day.  It varies.  Do some experimenting and see when you get the best readership.  Experiment again in about 6 months.  Things change.
  7. Who does what  Who are your authors going to be?  Who’s going to write the posts?  (You might want a professional writer or editor to pen posts for your staff.)  Who approves posts for publication?  Who’s assigned to keeping it all on schedule?  I’m a great believer in the power of planning.  Get these details defined up front and minimize problems later.

Decision Time! Does your business need a blog?

Some folks say every business should have a blog.  Other people say no business needs to blog.  Some say blogs are okay for consumer brands but not B2B. While yet others say….  Well, you get it.  There seems to be some disagreement about business blogging.

Me, I think the decision to have a blog ought to be based on several factors:

  1. Do you have something valuable to say?  Do you have knowledge to share that can help someone (your prospective customer)?  If there is an important  topic on which your company is expert, blogging is a good way to get recognized.  This is where thought leadership begins.
  2. Can you commit to a regular publishing schedule?  Weekly or bi-weekly is the way to go for publishing a business blog.  Posts can be short but they need to be well-thought-out and well-written to have value.  (Nothing quick and dirty about business blogging.)  It helps to plan out and draft a quarter’s worth of topics at a time to prevent last minute writers’ block.
  3. Can you reach the right people with your blog?  Blogs are passive, the idea being that the right blog will attract the right people.  I believe in priming the pump by promoting the blog in the right places.  You could email a link to your customers and prospects.  You can post the blog on LinkedIn groups.  Find relevant industry discussion groups, and post there.  Posting on Twitter and Facebook doesn’t hurt.  But if your audience isn’t online, a blog may not be worth your time.  (There would be SEO value, but I believe marketing is meant to reach people, not search algorithms.)
  4. Do you have people who can do the work? Producing a good blog takes time, thought, and effort.   At the least you’ll need a good writer who can research and write posts and a strong administrator who can make sure it comes together on schedule.

Map It! Creating a plan for your business blog.

Even though many of us use electronic tools and cyber-space to get us from Point A to Point B, we still count on some form of map to get us where we want to go.  After all, our car’s or smartphone’s fancy GPS navigation system is just a way to get a very personalized map.

Business blogs need maps, too — plans that keep them on track and headed toward their goals.  This is business communication, and you’re paying for it with time or money or both.  A blog plan will help you get your business where you want it to go.

Here’s what I include in a blog plan.  (I do a quarterly editorial schedule, but the first three items remain constant throughout the year.)

  1. Audience – Who’s the blog for?  Your audience will influence your blog’s tone and content.
  2. Objectives –  What do you want the blog to do for your business?  Blogs can drive traffic to your website, build credibility (establish thought leadership) and even increase visibility.
  3. Messages – What do you want to convey about your company through this blog?  We’re talkin’  big, over-arching messages here.
  4. Editorial Schedule– Get specific about:
    1. Publication date – Weekly publishing is what I recommend.  Experiment to find the best day and time.  Then stick with ’em to build an audience.
    2. Topic – Your posts should be based on what’s important to your audience.
    3. Author – Even if you’re using an outside writer (ghost writer), you’ll need to assign the topic to one of your internal blog authors.
    4. Source(s) – What whitepaper, video, person or whatever will be the resource for this post’s content?
    5. Image(s) – A picture is worth a lot more than 1,000 words in the blogosphere.  Good visuals are critical so give some thought to what you’ll use.
    6. Links – Define what you want to link to and how you want  links set up.
    7. Keywords – Specify what you want emphasized in each article.
    8. Call to action –  What do you want to offer your readers who want more info?  A whitepaper?  A brochure?  A video?  All of the above?  Certainly you’ll want to encourage a visit to your website.

Don’t blog without a good map.  Create a plan.  It’ll save headaches later.

Slogging Through Blogging — Why Business Blog Writing Isn’t Fast

Some folks think writing a blog is fast (and therefore cheap).  Maybe that’s true for personal blogging where stream-of-consciousness, random punctuation and creative spelling hold sway.  However, if you’re blogging for business, the blog needs to be well-thought-out and carefully written.  That takes time.

You may want blog writing to be a quick jog, but often it’s a matter of slogging along, taking care of things like:

  1. R&D  Just like you invest in research and development when you’re thinking about a new product, it takes an investment in research to run a good business blog.  It starts with understanding your audience.  Who do you need to reach?  Where can you reach them?  What are they interested in?  What’s the best way to talk to them?  Use what you know about your audience to develop a plan for your blog, especially an editorial calendar that spells out topics and publication dates.  Then you’ll need to research each topic before you write a post.  Research takes time.
  2. K.I.S.S.  Keep It Short and Simple. Most blog posts should be 200-300 words. Readers don’t have time for much more.   This sounds easy, but it’s actually hard to be concise.  It’s not unusual for a post to start out long and then get pared down to the essence.  Editing takes time.
  3. Keywords and Links  Many business blog writers write in a two-step process.  First they’ll write the post to get a message across (like how to use a product).  Once the framework’s in place they go back and add keywords and appropriate links.  It’s the best way to make sure the post both communicates something of value and serves the needs of Search Engine Optimization.  This process takes time.

If you’re thinking of a blog for your business, plan for the time you’ll need to make it a good reflection of your company.

5 Business Blogging Mistakes to Avoid

I don’t like the word “blog”.  Really don’t like it.  It’s UGLY, clunky, un-welcoming.  But blogs are everywhere.

I’ve read quite a few blogs, publish my own, and am a paid blog-writer.  Maybe that gives me the right to compose this list of blog mistakes. Maybe not.  But what the heck, the beauty (and beastliness) of the Internet is that anyone can post just about anything!!  So reader beware.  This is MY opinion only.

  1. Bad grammar, punctuation, and/or spelling  If you want to be taken seriously,  show up in a business-like manner.  You wouldn’t show up to a business meeting in flip-flops, would you? (If you would, you’re not my audience.  Go away.)  Misspelled words, poor sentence structure, etc. make you look unprofessional–even foolish.  If you don’t know the basics, enlist a good proofreader.  (Pay attention to your computer’s spell check, but don’t rely on it alone.)
  2. Tone that’s not authentic  The Internet is a come-as-you-are kind of place.  It’s a good idea to be yourself.  If you’re bubbly and upbeat, don’t go for a snarky tone … or vice versa.  It’s hard to keep up a facade anyway.  If you’re passionate about something, let it show.
  3. Overt selling  The idea behind blogging is to attract interested people to you.  So good blogs provide useful information, not sales pitches.  Not that you can’t sneak in the occasional product reference.  Just don’t build a post around the wonders of your new widget.
  4. Going on and on  Try to keep your posts to about 250 words.  Readers don’t have a lot of time.  Include visuals if you can.
  5. Keyword obsession  SEO advice tells you to load your content with keywords to get recognized and picked up by search engines.  That’s a wonderful thing.  BUT.  Please remember your blog is for people first.  Slavish use of keywords makes your content clunky and hard for humans to read.

Got more blog “don’ts”?  Let me know.