The Almighty Blog: Why ignoring this free platform is a senseless act.
This guest blog was written by the amazing Lindsey Kesel, Founder of Word Rescue Company, and content writer for Huffington Post and Medium.
It never ceases to amaze me how many ultra-productive, pioneering, even masterfully successful businesses continue to leave money on the table by ignoring their own blog. Not only is it a missed opportunity to recruit and keep loyal customers, but the almighty blog also opens up a dialogue with your target audience that no other medium can quite hack. Plus, the fact that it costs nearly nothing makes it as easy to say “yes” to as a second scoop of ice cream. I can’t tell you how many clients of mine—from solo entrepreneurs to international conglomerates—say that they created a blog forum on their site that just sits idle, waiting to be brought to life. This is akin to Jack grabbing a handful of magic beans, but forgetting to plant and water them.
But I totally get it. Hiring an advertising agency is one thing, but putting ink to paper to talk about how cool your business is feels like shameless self-promotion. Objectivity is next to impossible, and the right words just don’t seem to show up on your blank page when you summon them. For many people, blogging is a task too close to home. You’re in it too deep, and as a business owner or top brass, you’ve got a million other big-picture things you’re trying to focus on to forge progress. Who has time to sit down and write an essay? Even if something comes out, it often sounds awkward and insincere.
Let me remind you that a blog is a direct pipeline to your audience—one that doesn’t require fancy media buys, pricey photography or 10-person collaborative concepting. Just straightforward dialogue. The statistics are out there if you need them for reinforcement: Like B2B marketers that use blogs receive 67% more leads than those that do not. And companies that blog generate 55% more site visits. Entertainment and commentary blogs are still eclipsing business-focused blogs as tools for developing customer relationships, which means there’s a huge window of opportunity for you to flip these trends by figuring out the best, most lucrative way to speak to the people you serve (aka, the folks who will make or break you). And it’s not like you to shrink away from a challenge.
Here are some guidelines to help you squeeze all the juice from your blogging fruit:
Your blog doesn’t have to be “professional.”
In fact, you don’t want it to sound anything like your ads and branding materials. This is your opportunity to humanize your business, so personalize your content and tone to fit the characteristics of your target audience. That being said, please, for the love of God, hire an editor to spell-check (and even fact-check) the final drafts before they get posted. Final proofing is cheap.
Talk about what you know.
How many countless enthusiastic conversations have you had with friends, colleagues, investors, clients, random strangers at coffee shops, the guy on the treadmill next to you at the gym, etc. about the ridiculously cool things your business is doing or planning to do? Think of your blog as an auditorium filled with current and potential customers, waiting with baited breath to hear what you have to say. A Realtor might use it to showcase new properties as well as trends in the local market, or share useful value-added content like home-staging and landscaping tips. A startup might blog about new funding partners, or tech milestones that have a direct impact on their product. Whatever you do, resist the temptation to “hard sell” in your blogs; readers will smell the insincerity a mile away.
Unlike any other medium, blogs should be very detailed and sound somewhat off-the-cuff, with a specific, relatable tone of your choosing. Long-form content is king right now, and experts say the ideal word-count for blog posts should be around 1,600 (or 7-minutes read time).
Take it seriously.
Just like any other aspect of your business, a blog has to be managed and given priority. Set a blogging schedule and stick to it. If you know you’ll be too busy to write on certain weeks, hire a pro to ghostwrite and take care of posting and images. A good blog writer will be able to mimic the narrative tone and voice you set for the blog.
If you hate writing, farm it out.
You can be as involved with your blog content as you like. Just jot down some notes on the topic, direct your blogger to a few timely resources, or have a quick phone interview instead of sitting down and crafting something from scratch. Your blogger will send you a draft for approval a few days before it goes live, and you can add in any last-minute details. Some writers offer a frequency discount—for instance, you can do one blog post a week and get a better per-post rate than, say, two blogs per month.
Frequent posts keep your audience feeling plugged in about all kinds of things going on with your brand—from new R&D and expansion to loyalty programs to industry updates. Plus, we all know that search engines love fresh website content, and you can embed keywords and phrases whenever possible.
The fact that your competitors are likely making some serious headway with blogging right this minute is just one more reason to move this task to the top of your to-do list. The blog topics you choose and the stories you tell will serve to endear people to your brand and create ties that enhance loyalty. If you are lacking in the two crucial blog elements necessary to make it happen, time and the ability (and willingness) to write, then outsource.
As entrepreneur Simon Sinek said in his Ted Talk on leadership, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Tell the story of how you came to be, and the forces that drive your company. Talk about the values that form the foundation for your business, and the reasons why. Don’t list off the direct benefits to becoming a loyal customer, but instead show by sharing stories of people whose lives have been enhanced by your products or services. Create a buzz for a new release by using your blog space to tease and build up anticipation. Talk about amazing new partnerships and help shine a light on allies who are doing great things in and around your industry, as well. Talk about whatever you want, really. It’s your blog.
Lindsey Kesel – Founder, Word Rescue Company