Chances are that if you have started marketing yourself online, then you have a blog (or were told to have a blog). Blogging has become a channel with which you can consistently share stories and expertise about your company, keep top of mind awareness, and expose yourself to an audience that may not have discovered you as easily. Blogging also helps seed the Internet (and specifically, search engines and social networks) with more content about your business, thereby increasing your visibility and web footprint to potential customers.
However, blogging has its drawbacks. For example, a blog post does not usually have the same measurable impact on your bottom line as, say, a landing page for a product or contact form. Your blogging schedule needs to be frequent enough so that new visitors to your website who look at your blog realize that you are actively maintaining it (where static content, like a Services page, does not need to have a date at all). Finally, blogging takes time, between researching, publishing, optimizing, and creating all the marketing support material that allows you to share it effectively on social media and other channels.
How do we create a blogging strategy that is appropriate for your own business, and takes into account your return on time? The four-step outline below will help you answer that question.
Step 1: Start at the end
What is your end game? How does the time spent blogging create business opportunity for you and your company? Remember, not everything you do to market yourself has to end with a sale; consulting, media coverage, email signups, referrals and partnerships are all ways you can positively influence your business without landing a new customer.
How many blog posts will someone need to read before they convert? Tie this question into your regular sales intelligence: Do people buy from you after one touchpoint, or do you need to build up a rapport with them over a few calls? Look at your existing analytics as well to see trends.
Where are you positioned in your industry such that you can write with enough authority to achieve your end game? If you or your business is already well known and respected in your industry, it will be easier to hit those conversion points from your blog than if you were still building your reputation.
Step 2: Frame your thoughts
What questions are your blog posts going to answer? The bulk of your traffic is hopefully going to come from search, where people type in questions or problems to which they seek the solution. Becoming a valuable resource for them will increase the chance of conversion, compared to writing about the same thing everybody else is writing.
What topics are you going to cover, and how can you make your coverage unique? The easiest way to explain this is by example: I blog about Google+ and web strategy, and how the two of them can be combined practically for business owners. I have friends who will take every change, every new announcement, and blog about it to get noticed and become a go-to resource for new news about Google+. By contrast, I will watch the same changes and announcements, then write an article (sometimes a couple days later) with some suggestions on how to take advantage of the change, or what the change means for your business’s online strategy. Each approach is “right” but mine works for me and the way I operate my business.
What format is best to convey your thoughts and how you want to frame them? Are short videos easier to create than lengthy text? How about infographics or other visual media? Maybe checklists or webinars work best? Once you identify the format that has the lowest amount of friction for your business, and is the easiest for your buyer to understand, then you can build an entire content plan from it.
Step 3: Determine your outlets
By now, you have a framework for the type of content and the format you wish to use to publish it. Next comes where you decide to publish it. Strategically, you will want to put your best content on your own website, and anything that represents a core reference point for your strategy, so you can link back to it from other places on the web. But your website probably doesn’t get the traffic that popular guest blogs or social networks can expose you to.
Create a list of outlets where you can publish content, taking into account the audience for that outlet and how easily your article can be spread around. Here are some examples:
- Social blogging (Google+, LinkedIn)
- Your own website/blog
- Industry blogs (make a list of them)
- Guest blogs (make a list of them)
- YouTube (prerecorded)
- Hangouts on Air
Step 4: Chunk your thoughts into your outlets
There are two ways to develop a content strategy for your ideas. The first is to start with a single big idea, then break it down into a complete plan of small pieces of content that build upon each other over time, ultimately leading to a promotional call to action.
The second is the opposite: create content as it comes to you, then periodically group things together into larger pieces.
Neither is better than the other, but now that you know the two, you can pick which is the most appropriate strategy for you. However, here is a quick plan of action for when you have an idea that you need to place online somewhere:
- Start big (hangout, broad topic)
- Chunk that idea into sections
- Where can you distribute each section?
- What else do you need to do to the section (processing, build out the idea more, etc.) for each distribution outlet?
- Where are the conversion points for each section (end game)? Refine as needed.
Now, you will have an assortment of content that you can build out quickly and that ties back to something meaningful for your business. Every time a new idea pops in your head, or there’s a newsworthy topic that you can speak to, you’ll have a framework that streamlines your process and lets you go back to doing what you do best, which is not blogging 😉
NOTE: This article was originally published in the August, 2014 issue of Marketing the Law Firm. Reprinted with permission.
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