When it comes to promoting your business, you’re likely short on time yet lengthy with your wish list.
Develop new promotional messages, create a direct mailing campaign, revamp your logo, explore outdoor advertising opportunities. Each technique has merit, yet your time availability is more fleeting than a puppy’s attention span. Moreover, even if you advance the science of human cloning to bolster your marketing staff, many traditional tactics prove cost-prohibitive for a budget-minded business.
But before you bemoan your time and cost constraints and opt to forgo new marketing initiatives altogether, do yourself a favor: Take “start or continue a blog” and transfer it to the top of your priority list.
Ten years ago blogging was limited to tech gurus and travel enthusiasts. Today it’s an essential part of most any business.
As consumers unsubscribe from email lists and divert their attention from TV commercials, they’ve gravitated toward a marketing approach that involves two-way, interactive communication.
Consider the following: More than half of businesses have acquired customers through their company blog. Yet inbound marketing costs 62 percent less per lead than traditional outbound marketing.
Meaning: Not only is inbound marketing – those activities like blogging and social media that rely on earning people’s business rather than buying it – effective, it’s also cost-effective compared to dated alternatives.
Of course, a blog is only as useful as its content creator makes it. So here are seven best practices for your business blog:
1. Develop a Strategy That Affords You Time to Blog
You may recognize the value of having a blog…but what about your time constraints? Too often, we encounter aspiring business bloggers who either haven’t found the time to start or who haven’t updated their blog since Obama began his second term.
Assemble a team of bloggers (even as small as yourself and one coworker), then create an editorial calendar and stick to it. Be realistic about your time limitations – a blog post every two weeks is better than not producing original content at all.
Allocate a modest yet consistent amount of time to your blog. Perhaps you devote three hours to blogging every other Friday morning, with the plan of revisiting the newly-created blog entry the following week and publishing that Tuesday. Consistency breeds habit.
2. Follow a Suitable Blog Style Guide
As your strategy takes shape and your goal of consistent blogging comes to fruition, consider establishing a blog style guide. This is especially important if you have multiple writers contributing to the blog.
What type of tone and style should your blog have? Is the use of industry-specific jargon allowable? Personally, we recommend adopting a conversational tone and limiting jargon – just be yourself and your industry expertise will shine through. But whatever you select for your blog, have some guidance in place to avoid confusion.
Other elements of a blog style guide include: * A style manual for grammar and punctuation (we recommend adopting AP Style) * A definition of the core audience you’re trying to reach * A guide for handling research sourcing
3. Write a Click-Worthy Blog Headline
It may seem like a simple phrase preceding your blog post, but your headline should hardly be an afterthought. In fact, some experts recommend devoting nearly half your blogging time to crafting a perfect headline.
A proper blog first impression should be lasting…or at least entice your readers’ subconscious to shout “click away” rather than mumble “next please” as they wade through our increasingly content-crowded digital world.
Additional headline tips to consider:
- Keep your headline at 10 words or less
- Intrigue your audience
- Use language that sparks action
- Incorporate keywords regarding your topic or business to optimize SEO
- Make the headline representative of the blog post’s body
4. Offer an Interesting Story or Point
In the comedy classic “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” Steve Martin ends his diatribe to John Candy with the following: “And by the way, when you’re telling these little stories? Here’s a good idea – have a POINT. It makes it SO much more interesting for the listener!”
Interweave your topic-related content with stories or anecdotes that will be interesting and relevant to your readership. Spark a sense of familiarity in your readers by giving them something to which they can relate or find useful. If you produce something only your mother would enjoy reading, perhaps it’s time for a rewrite.
5. Connect Your Blog to Your Overall Sales Funnel
Ultimately, the end goal of your blog is to gain customers and drive sales. That objective can get lost if you become too immersed in storytelling.
Allude to your company’s product or service where relevant within your blog post and include a hyperlink for accessing more information. If your blog post pertains to the benefits of travel insurance, there’s no harm in including at least one reference to how your company, in fact, offers this very product at affordable rates. So long as the post creates value for your reader, it is effective.
6. Include a Visual With Each Blog Post
A blog post without an accompanying visual element is like a vehicle lacking a steering wheel – it may drive but you won’t get far nor be satisfied with the end result.
Insist upon having an image included with every blog post, and consider supplementing that image with your company logo or a pull quote highlighting a significant point from the text. Infographics also prove effective if your blog post offers statistics. If you don’t have access to high-quality images, consider trying a stock photo site.
7. Proofread Your Blog Prior to Publishing
When it’s all said and done, one crucial step still remains. You may have rewarded your audience with bloggable gold, yet your blog’s credibility and readership hinges on being accurate. Proofread for grammar and spelling; more important, though, revisit your content to make sure your message came across cleanly.
Nevermind that journalistic editing standards have diminished and social media proofreading never existed in the first place – you’re better than that. Read out loud, highlight a printout or ask a friend – do whatever it takes to ensure your blog is proofread prior to publication.
You have all the necessary tools; it’s time to commence or reinvigorate your business blog. Don’t let the content marketing revolution pass you by. It’s perfectly reasonable for some promotional ideas to sit on the backburner until your time and budget free up – just don’t let your blog be one of them. Your audience is too hungry to wait.