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If you own a business or are responsible for marketing a business, you know the importance of finding new customers.  There are lots of strategies out there to help you find your customers including e-mail marketing,social media, search engine optimization and more.  But you may be overlooking one of the most effective digital marketing strategies in use today: blogging.  In fact, one marketing research group found that a business blog can earn 55% more visitors to a company’s Web site compared to those business that do not blog.

Blogging has been around for several years and frequently gets overshadowed by its more attractive sibling:social media.  But, I want to encourage you to think of blogging as as the engine that drives your social media efforts.  Blogging is the place where you bring your company’s unique perspective, voice and products/services into the digital space to make others aware of them.  And best of all, it works well for B2B and B2C companies.  When you have a solid blog, social media becomes so much easier because you have a lot of powerful content to distribute via social media and, in turn, use to engage others in discussion.  So, you may ask, how do you get started with a blog for your business?  Let’s take a look at how you can start a business blog in four simple steps.

Four Step Guide to Starting a Business Blog

1. Determine your focus.  What are your marketing goals?  Acquire more leads?  Increase sales?  Strengthen your company’s brand presence?  Position your business as a thought leader in your market?  Understanding what your marketing goals are is the critical first step in setting up your business blog because it will determine what you write about, how often you write, who you are writing for and so much more.  Answering this question is not as easy as it may seem at first.  Often there can be disagreement within the company about what the most important goal(s) is/are.  As a result, it is best to pull together the key members of your team (company leaders, marketing team, etc.) and ask them to discuss this question.  While it may take a little time and be uncomfortable for some, the time you invest here will pay off in the end when you are creating the content for your blog.

2. Decide what topics you will write about.  Once you determine the focus for your business blog, you need to decide what you will write about.  Some chose to write about topics as they pop up.  Others are more structured and work from a plan.  I’ve used both approaches in the past and I strongly recommend developing a structured plan.  The reason is simple: if you have a structured plan, you will make the time for it and the business blog will become a core part of your digital marketing strategy.  If you are more loosely structured, it is far too easy to push the blog to the back burner.  So, how do you create the structure?  I recommend using a “Top 10 Topics” strategy for blogging.  In this strategy, you conduct a brainstorming session with the members of your blogging team and identify the possible topics that may engage your audience.  From there, take the 10 best topics and put them in a visible place (whiteboard, make a sign, etc.) so that everyone will know what you’re writing about.  As you write about a topic, replace it with another so that you always have 10 topics on the board at any given time.

3. Create a schedule for your business blog.  Marketing is tough work as there are always plenty of tasks to work on.  As a result, it is easy for the blog to fall by the wayside.  That’s why I recommend the structured approach.  Not only will it give your blog focus on which topics you will cover, it also creates space for you to determine when those posts will be published.  I’m often asked “how many times each week (or month) should we post to the blog?”  Unfortunately, there’s no single answer.  It truly is determined by what you can accomplish and what it will take to connect with your audience.  I do recommend blogging on a weekly basis at a minimum so as to keep the search engines alerted to changing content with your business blog (critical for search engine optimization) and show your audience that you have a variety of content to offer.  Beyond that, the schedule is up to you.  Again, I recommend engaging your team in a discussion and creating an editorial calendar so you know who’s writing which blog posts when and when they should be published.

4. Distribute your content.  Posting to your blog is great and, if you do a good job, you’ll pull in a lot of traffic through search engine optimization depending on the topic.  But, if you really want to turbo charge your efforts, you’ll need to distribute your blog content.  How?  This is were social media and e-mail marketing come into play.  By sending out an e-mail to your customers (current or prospective) with teaser links to your blog posts, you’ll drive traffic back to your blog to read about what you’ve written.  By posting your blogs posts to social media (Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.), you alert your audience to new material and send them back over to your Web site where they can consume that content.  Developing a distribution strategy for your blog content is just as important as writing the business blog content itself.  Make certain that you know where your target audience spends time on social media and place your content there.

Running a business blog is both easy and complicated all at the same time.  These four steps to creating a business blog will help you get started with creating your company’s blog and provide a solid foundation.  The complicated part is finding the right topics for your business that will generate results and then committing to writing the blog posts.  But given the potential for finding new customers through business blogging, I believe you’ll find the effort is absolutely worth it!