The majority of blogs aren’t a success. While that truth is harsh and depressing, don’t let it deter you from establishing a content strategy. Anyone can launch and maintain a legendary business blog, provided they have sufficient dedication and direction. According to HubSpot’s Rick Burnes, one of the worst things you can do is to “start a consistent dialogue with your customers and then stop.” An equally dangerous mistake is to start publishing without knowing exactly what we’re doing...
The technical aspect of blogging is certainly important to your success. You’ve got to have a firm grasp on the rules of grammar, know the basics of SEO, and understand a little bit about blogging metrics. But really, those are just competencies and best practices. The basis of any blogging strategy should come from a fundamental understanding of who your brand is, how you fit into your industry, and what you’re really out to accomplish. Here are 8 philosophical questions to get your gears turning:
1. What’s Your Brand in a Word?
When I saw Volvo, you think safety. When you hear “BMW,” your thoughts probably turn to “luxury.” This ability to encompass an entire organization in a single word is known as brand essence - and it should be the core of your blogging strategy. You probably won’t achieve the same worldwide recognition that McDonald’s and Nike have overnight, but having a fundamental understanding of what you are will help you achieve more focused and consistent content. Marketing Manager Katelyn Stokes writes that your brand essence should fit the following criteria:
- Single-Minded: Your brand can be practical and pragmatic, but it shouldn’t be attainable and luxurious. Make sure your essence is totally cohesive.
- Unique: You shouldn’t be “inspirational” if your main competitor is, too. You’ve got to differentiate.
- Experiential: Brand essence is a largely visceral concept - make sure that it describes how your product or service makes your customers feel.
- Consistently Delivered: Your brand essence probably isn’t “healthy” if you sell both vegetables and cheeseburgers. It’s got to be something you provide each and every time.
- Authentic: You shouldn’t have to change, grow, or hide anything to achieve this word. It needs to reflect who your company really is.
2. How Do You Fit Into Your Brand?
We’re living in the era of Google authorship, thought leadership, and personal branding. Your organization needs to define how your blog contributors will fit into the larger blogging strategy, and how much personal voice each author will be allowed to maintain. Will you provide author bylines or photos, and allow contributors to develop specialties within the framework of your content strategy? There’s really no right answer to this questions, though many experts recommend against publishing as a faceless, nameless corporation. However, it’s critical to know how your authors fit into the bigger picture.
3. How Are You Different?
Unless your industry is incredibly narrow or low-tech, there’s a very good chance your competitors are already blogging. If their efforts are decidedly mediocre, look toward personal brands and content creators in your niche. What is their widget, and how will yours be different? Maybe your main competitor specializes in pragmatic advice delivered in a sassy tone. Or perhaps their unique approach revolves around beautifully-photographed visual content.
Defining the deeper aspects of your blogging strategy means you need to understand the content that’s already being created in your niche, and be prepared to differentiate. If you simply start publishing without a unique value proposition, you’ll just be contributing to the noise online.
4. What Is Your True Success Measure?
Blogging goals are like a roadmap. Every content creator should have them, and these targets should be continually adjusted and tended to as their blogging strategy grows. However, before you start, you need to define what your true success measure is. Will it be gaining majority market share, or developing your personal brand to the point where you contribute to major publications like Forbes or The Wall Street Journal? Like many of these deep questions, only you can define the answer of exactly what your blog is ultimately striving for.
5. How Narrow Is Your Niche?
Okay, so your company operates within a given industry - which could be artisan baking, marketing services, or any number of other things. You’ve got to identify whether you’re going to cover your range of products and services, a broader range, or narrow your focus further. Does your head hurt yet?
An eCommerce retailer of men’s designer shoes could decide they need to focus more broadly on couture fashion trends, in order to capture the broadest range of customers possible and have enough subject-matter to blog daily. In order to define exactly what your blogging strategy will cover, you need to consider the following:
- How often will you blog?
- How quickly-changing is your industry?
- How popular is your subject-matter?
- How saturated is the blogosphere in your industry?
Your focus can shift overtime, and it most likely will. However, this question can be a powerful tool for focused and effective editorial calendar development from the start.
6. How Far Do You Want to Go?
Marcus Sheridan originally began blogging to promote his in-ground swimming pool business. When he found unprecedented success during a recession, he opened his own inbound marketing agency. He’s since become one of the best-known blogging strategy authors online, and maintains a busy schedule of keynote speaking engagements and interviews with major business publications. You need to decide whether you’ve got the time, energy, and resources to be the next Sheridan, Darren Rowse or Chris Brogan. If you’ve got the desire to take your blog to the thought leader level, you need to network tirelessly, create the best possible content, and master the art of blog marketing. It’s never too late to try and hit it big.
7. What Do You Love About Your Job?
Passion and writing are concepts that can’t be separated. You can write well-researched, technically correct articles about a topic you don’t give a darn about, but the final product will lack passion. Your blogging strategy will be far more effective and creative if you have a deep and true passion for your organization. Every organization has flaws, but every smart blogger should identify why they love their company. Is it your commitment to excellence, or the razor-sharp staff members? Identify your passion, and focus on how you’ll use it to create content people love.
8. Why Do People Visit Your Website?
Every great blogging strategy isn’t focused on the company or the content creator. It’s focused on the organization’s prospects and customers. Thorough research of your market is important, and it should take the form of full-on buyer persona profiles. However, in the initial stages, identify how your blogging strategy fits with your company’s existing web presence. Do your prospects visit your website for the best deals on tractor parts, or to save money on car insurance? This fundamental understanding of your brand’s value to others will ensure your content strategy is relevant to your current audience.
To learn more about customer research, check out Building an Epic Buyer Persona Profile: a Totally Comprehensive Guide.
What questions and thoughts did you use to guide the initial development of your blogging strategy? Are there any ideas you wish you’d defined before you got started?