The evening we sold $300 worth of wine to a perfect stranger was the moment we got validation that blogging helps our business.
You see, this one-time customer was traveling through our small town on the way to a weekend wedding. She used her smartphone to search for gift options nearby. According to her, our business was the first to “pop up” in search results, which brought her to our door instead of any other retailer in town.
This wasn’t a mistake — we’d been building our primary website, a blog, for three years, with one primary goal: getting people in the door. Over this period, we built a significant amount of search-friendly content around our key product offerings and location. Every post furthered this pursuit and every “social share” validated it.
Blogging is one of the most effective ways to boost online visibility and generate thought leadership.
For an entrepreneur or small business owner, blogging can be instrumental in getting your name out there in front of potential clients, partners and investors, and establishing yourself as an expert in your field.
Here’s how we did it then, and how we continue to build our blog for greatest effectiveness.
This illustration accompanied a blog post announcing a community event. When you expand your coverage to include others and their events you can double your potential content. Photo credit: George Bowers Grocery.
#1 — Follow the news curve.
As a business owner, you have three spheres of potential news content at your fingertips that are perfectly suited for a business blog.
The first is industry news: What’s happening in your niche? How does this affect your customers? What trends can you identify, act upon, or share as they relate to your customers’ needs? Here is an example post we did — titled “4 Dastardly Ways Grocery Stores Rip You Off” — stating, of course, that “we’re no ordinary grocery store.” That post was written right after we opened and continues to bring traffic to our blog each month.
The second news sphere is product- or service-related. As a business owner, you are constantly shaping your offerings to your clientele, whether you’re launching a new product on your website, announcing a sale to blow out old inventory, or simply want to get word out about an event.
Lastly, the third sphere of news is the most potent — presenting local, and/or community news. A recent example from our business blog was a post to promote the Staunton Music Guild Pig Roast, a local nonprofit’s event that happened to be hosted at our shop. We make an effort to share community news that isn’t happening at our shop, too. This enhances our credibility as a community leader.
#2 — Establish a regular writing and publishing schedule.
For best results, you need to blog consistently — at least once a week. What results? Search effectiveness and audience exposure, for starters. A regular schedule is important for planning your workflow, and consistently messaging your customers and building a relationship.
We typically write on Wednesday afternoons and post the same day, so our announcements are close to weekend events (our biggest sales days).
Set a dedicated time to write a post and stick to a consistent publication day.
We are micro — literally, a two-person shop (my husband and myself). You can bet that we’re both too busy to hunt for business blog ideas. That’s why we trade off writing, and why we keep a shared document where we can jot down ideas for future posts. We both access and share a Google Doc just for this purpose. If you don’t want to use Google Docs or another collaboration tool, an old-fashioned notebook works, too.
The important thing is to collect ideas so you always have a post or two waiting in the wings if necessary.
#4 — Have a backup post “in the can.”
This brings me to a practical recommendation. It is good to have at least one semi-evergreen piece you can publish when you’re having a particularly busy week. By “semi-evergreen,” I mean a post that can be quickly personalized for the week with just a sentence.
For example, we could write a post explaining, in greater detail, our reasoning behind a particular aspect of our business — in this case, bike-rack parking, why we provide it, and why we think it’s important (that’s semi-evergreen content). We could expand on that “post in a can” with just a sentence, “While you’re here on bike this week, pick up a six-pack of this newly released craft beer.”
#5 — Invite others to contribute.
You can get a lot of great content for your blog by inviting guest bloggers in your industry to contribute a post. You can also conduct interviews with experts, or even ask satisfied customers to contribute. Get creative! An additional benefit is that these contributors will be very likely to share your blog with their own networks.
Another option is to keep your eyes peeled for “news you can use,” with credit, of course. The process is called “curation.” The general strategy is to find and feature copyright-permissible content, and add a slice of your own commentary to connect it with your business and your customers. The key is obtaining permission, and crediting the source properly.
#6 — Use images with Creative Commons licenses.
Swiping images without permission can quickly land you in hot water. Find appropriate images by doing an “advance search” on Flickr or by searching Flickr Commons for images you are allowed to modify and use for commercial purposes. Or, if you know Photoshop, make your own images for each post.
An excellent WordPress plug-in to use is called PhotoDropper. It instantly searches for Creative Commons photos and will automatically credit them on your business blog, too.
#7 — Connect your business blog to social media.
All of your blogging efforts should be publicized through social media. It is easy to connect all your feeds in one place, for free, in Dlvr.it. It takes a few minutes to create a “route” — in this example, connecting your blog’s RSS feed to, say, your Facebook business page or Twitter stream. Set the frequency, any keywords or preliminary text, and the rest is automated.
Blogging is hard work, but certainly worth the effort. I hope these seven tips will help you build a strong blog that will function as your 24/7 salesperson, and help further your credibility as a local thought leader and trusted business. Use these tips consistently and someday soon a stranger — on way to becoming a customer — might just find you, too.
- License: Image author owned
- Photo credit: My Blog Guest community
- License: Image author owned
Katie McCaskey is co-owner of George Bowers Grocery, a neighborhood grocery and café in Staunton, Virginia. Katie is also a freelance journalist who writes for Vistaprint, a leading provider of marketing products for small businesses all over the world.