Blogging for Busy Businesses

Blogging is a marvellous opportunity for the SME to promote their brand and engage with current and potential clients. But many companies shy away from it. I thought I’d share some practical tips on how I go about blogging for clients, so you can see what's possible. As I blog mainly for Business to Business (B2B) clients, these tips refer to B2B blogging. Business to Consumer (B2C) blogging, such as, for example, for a retail outlet or a lifestyle service, has many similarities and the same processes will be helpful. But consumers may be seeking a more intimate/personal rather than corporate/professional experience from such a blog.

So, here we are, my practical approach to B2B blogging for clients:

  1. The value of outsourcing: The biggest problem the small or medium-sized business has with a blog is... writing it. A blog is a hungry monster and that well-intentioned weekly post comes around very quickly. Not only that, but if you're not a confident writer, sitting down to pen a blog post feels a bit like a trip to the dentist – you'll do anything to avoid it. An outsourced writer/blogger will keep the blogging engine turning over for you, so you don’t have to.
  2. Insider knowledge: To blog successfully for you I will need to acquire a good understanding of your business – what you do, who you sell to, why people buy from you, what kind of a company/brand you are, who your competition is – and your industry overall. As your blogger, I will want to understand what’s important to you, and to your clients or customers.
  3. Variety is the spice: I aim to produce a variety of posts of interest to the people you seek to engage with. This is likely to include industry stories, news and information related to your product or service offering, background on your company, teams, ethos, corporate social responsibility etc, updates on your engagement and presence (attendance at events, industry awards, networking, partnerships and collaborations etc), thoughts and opinions on the state of the industry, regulations, trends, trading environment etc. I  can inject humour and post occasionally on charity fun runs, ice bucket challenges and things like that, but would keep the lighter stuff under control. A B2B blog needs variety, but not at the expense of relevance.
  4. Planning ahead: Weekly posts come round just as quickly for me as they do for you. But it’s my job to keep them coming. I keep a spreadsheet for each client and I plan 4-6 weeks ahead with posts. Some write themselves quickly, but others require more research and take time to come together. I mark up when we need posts around seasonal topics or events like conferences and exhibitions. The spreadsheet helps me keep track of what topics I’ve covered, what posts are in progress, awaiting client approval, needing images etc. I include a brain-dump section, thoughts and ideas, web links and other stuff I don’t want to forget – material for future posts.
  5. Communicate: A regular touch-point is a must. You're not offloading your blog so you can forget about it. It’s a vital component of your marketing mix and brand. I would suggest (ideally) weekly or (at least) fortnightly telephone or Skype sessions – 15-20 minutes maximum – to keep the whole show on the road. We will agree  what the process is for approval of your blog posts. You may want to approve each post, or prefer to take a more relaxed approach. I prefer to gain client approval for all posts - at least until I’m confident that the messaging, tone etc is in line with their expectations. Even then, I will still request approval for certain types of post.
  6. Going digging: I need to find the grain of a story in an item of industry or general news, then draft a post which conveys some aspect of your ethos or expertise in the context of that news. So I don't just write. I research. I subscribe to industry news feeds and search Google all the time.  But I will also expect you to tell me of anything of particular note - that's what those regular phone/Skype sessions are for.
  7. First base only: Understand the job your blog is there to do. Posts are not sales pitches, they are conversation starters. A blog needs to be subtle and have a light-touch. It exists to communicate your company's personality and values, not push your products – that will turn readers off in droves (although, to be fair, this is where B2B blogging is very different from B2C blogging). In B2B blogging, your goal is for people to like you and perceive a value in what you have to say – to the extent that they choose to read the posts, subscribe, or better still engage. That’s when they’ll start clicking through to your website or picking up the phone to request product information or a meeting.
  8. Stir it up: Blog posts can and should be opinionated and even controversial. It’s emotion that engages people, far more than polish. However, this is not every client’s cup-of-tea, so when it comes to controversy, I will proceed with caution and work within your preferences.
  9. Cross-fertilise: A blog is all very well in isolation, but posts work harder when they cross-fertilise other social media channels, such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook and others. Your corporate posts could also find a more permanent home on your website, or be used in newsletters. You should also promote blog posts via your own social media profiles, as well as corporate.  You will get further mileage by adding a link to the blog, or better still, the latest blog post, to your email footer.
  10. Be flexible: As much as we plan ahead, the schedule will get bumped around. The beauty of a blog is that we can see something in the news in the morning, and have a blog post out covering your angle on it by the afternoon. It’s not always like that, but sometimes the opportunity or the material is too good to pass over.

You'll notice I've said nothing about SEO - search engine optimisation.  SEO is a science, even a black art, or at least, that's what the SEO companies would have you believe. If you feel strongly about getting smart with keywords and searchability, there are firms who will analyse the internet and advise on the most productive phrasing to include for optimum searchability.

But for many SME's it's not rocket science to work out what the most commonly associated words and phrases would be.  Then I can include those most obvious key words and phrases within blog posts wherever it's appropriate - but not to excess.  Why? Because the harder we work the SEO angle, the more stilted and desperate the writing can look.  Readers will come to your blog because it contains compelling posts on topics that are of interest to them, not because we repeatedly ram home a list of keywords. But that's just my opinion and doubtless the fans of extreme SEO will disagree.  There you are, I'm being opinionated and controversial.

I know some people are more intense about blogging, but I suggest to my B2B clients that we aim for one meaty/serious (500+ word) post a week plus no more than a couple of short or quirky posts each month. Analysis has occasionally shown that longer posts (2,000+ words) are better (better in what way, I'm not entirely sure). But I believe if we've got something to say and we're done in 500 words, we should not puff up a post for the fun of it. It disrespects your readers' time. It’s easy to overwork a readership and, particularly in the case of B2B, one has to remember that readers have multiple claims on their time.

With a clearly defined brief around a fixed number of posts and a regular communication touchpoint, it's perfectly feasable to arrive at a fixed fee for delivering a level of blogging activity geared to raising your profile amongst your targeted audience, and enhancing your brand.  If you'd like to discuss this, see the Contact page and get in touch.

10th Dec 2014

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