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Inbound Marketing, Small Business Blogging, Content Marketing

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A blog is an outstanding tool to grow your business. It expands your market reach, builds your credibility, presents your expertise, and shapes your brand awareness. Plus, it’s a cost-effective tactic for driving more traffic to your website…once the common blogging challenges are unscrambled.

Before we can consider growing blog traffic and encouraging reader interaction, most of us need to conquer the most common blogging challenges of topics, time, and talent.
A Blogging State of Mind is Messy
Those who blog – whether labeled a blogger or not – face the same issues as any writer.  Finding the time to blog is stressful. Waiting for the inspiration to blog is excruciating. Awaiting the confidence to blog is nerve-racking. Pinpointing topics is painful.

In January of 2013, I was challenged to a 30-day blogging challenge. It felt more like a dual than a challenge. It was agonizing for all the same reasons most entrepreneurs don’t blog often enough. Drudging the self-assurance and focus to meet the challenge took determination and guts.

I won’t lie! There were many days I wanted to wind up my commitment. Growing a small business is stressful enough without this, I thought. Luckily, it’s difficult to pull the plug on a promise made when held accountable by others. Ack! So I toiled.

I don’t consider myself a gifted writer, like Carolynn Aristone, who can sit at the keyboard and effortlessly pound out pearls of wisdom.  My blogging was one of spits, sputters, stops, and starts…until I discovered a method.

It was a process that eliminated the ambiguity, calmed the nerves, and nudged me into action. It was an approach to blogging that ensured that blogging was a delight rather than annoyance.

Download the Step-by-Step Blogging Process here to thwart “blog jams” and “bloggers block”.

More importantly, I learned that blogging is a form of discovery. It helps you understand what you know…and what you don’t.

As with any skill, blogging takes practice. The more you blog, the better you get and the easier it becomes.

What has been most helpful to your blogging process?

There’s much more to blogging than selecting a few topics and banging some words out on your keyboard. In addition to the process used to produce top-notch posts on a regular basis, there are also tools that make it easier to blog. For us non-journalist, professional-writer types wanting to share our thoughts, a collection of tools creates a better blog.

A Bloggers Arsenal of Tools

Feedly is a news aggregator app.  It’s the simplest, least distracting way to gather blog content ideas. Feedly is the one-stop location for your routine sources of information and research.

Evernote, a digital filing system, collects and organizes topics of information and inspiration for your blog content. The Premium version has a robust automated search and discover feature within the app that we highly recommended to aid your research and drafting efforts.

Don’t forget to download Evernote Web Clipper. Clipping, saving, and storing articles of interest from the web to the notebook of your choice has never been easier.

At a loss for compelling blog titles? No worries. Tap into Hubspot’s Blog Topic Generator to stimulate your inner journalist. Amazon is also a powerful title generator to kindle blog title ideas – not plagiarize book titles.

Not sure what title will grab your audience? You’ll love this nifty free tool from the Advanced Marketing Institute. The Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer evaluates your headline to determine the EMV (Emotional Marketing Value) of the title. The higher the EMV, the better it grabs your audience’s attention and draws them in.

Need a blogging platform? Oy! That’s a conversation to have with your web developer/designer! We’re fortunate to be on the Hubspot marketing software – and highly recommend it for small business owners. The marketing software from Hubspot provides a plethora of marketing tools that make your blog sing.

WordPress is a common platform used by most bloggers. With an abundance of plugins at your fingertips, WordPress is a powerful blogging tool.

“A picture is worth a thousands words,” so the saying goes. Visuals are gaining popularity in attracting and enticing your reader. Death to the Stock Photo, Fotolia, BigStockPhoto, and iStock are a few of our favorite hangouts for jpegs.

A timer – who can ink a blog without the use of a timer? You’ve heard the saying, “work expands to fill the time it has to complete,” right?  So goes the blog. A timer keeps you focused and on track to avoid your entire day being decimated by blogging.

A content or editorial calendar is a must-have planning tool when scheduling topics for your blog. Organized in advance, an editorial calendar enhances lead generation through strategically designed marketing campaigns. (Stay tuned. A sample content calendar is available for download soon!)

Although we don’t take advantage of this tool nearly enough, Click to Tweet is a fun and easy way for your readers to share key points within your blog on twitter. (Click to Tweet)

Bloggers needs to channel their inner graphic designer to compete in the visually rich world of online content. For those of us with two left brains, Canva makes designing simple for everyone with a simple drag-and-drop functionality.

As it is with all things online, it’s loaded with tools to make the process of blogging less painful and, if you’re lucky, more fun!

What tools make your small business blogging a treat?

One of the challenges expressed by most new small business bloggers is coming up with enough content to satisfy the content calendar and rally around timelines. Content ideas are everywhere. Once you tune into the circumstances that frame your day, the number of ideas that bubble up for your blog is astounding.  Sourcing content of value to your reader is easier than you think.

5 Sources + 5 Days = 50 Blog Topics

1. Start with your buyer persona. “Dress up” your buyer persona with a better understanding of their wants, desires, and challenges. Content deemed valuable to your audience will spill from your brain!

Number of blog topics = 10

2. Subscribe to an industry blog. Andria Taylor of Talent Agent Group did just that.  Andria’s specialty is growing talent for the wine industry. She understands the challenges – and the opportunities – that exist for her clients. By following industry trends, Andria creates content that provides real solutions for developing talent so her readers – those in the wine industry – can retain their competitive edge in the marketplace.

Number of topics = 10

3. Keep a log of client situations. Every client conversation presents an opportunity to solve a problem, or an opening to advance their goals…and lots of themes for your blog! Keep Evernote handy to record these flashes of insight for subjects your reader values.

Number of topics = 10

4. Draw topics from social media. Comments, questions, and responses on social media platforms are excellent resources of subjects for your blog. In fact, Can Finding Your Market Tier Spark Your Small Business Growth? is the sequel to a Linkedin conversation.

A recent comment about the market’s inability to afford his/her product triggered an avalanche of topics that, if known by small business entrepreneurs, would save them from the struggle.

Number of topics = 10

5. Gather subjects from your learning channels. Whether it’s reading after the kids are in bed or listening to the latest podcast during your morning jog, thought leaders are a catalyst for areas of interest to your readers.

Number of topics = 10

Ta Dah! 5 sources + 5 days = 50 blog topics. Give yourself a round of applause!

The best part?  These sourcing channels are a routine part of your day. There’s nothing more to add to your already eventful calendar. We like that! You?

As my Dad would say, “you’ll have more blog posts than you can shake a stick at.”

What other channels do you use to spark topics for your blog?

I’ll be the first to tell you that blogging regularly can be a challenge – especially when it comes to finding fresh content that inspires both the writer and the reader. Having blogged with some regularity since 2010, there are times my blogging brain goes on strike.

Although skipping a blog or two is always an option until the brain returns to its creative state, the statistics tell us it’s not the ideal strategy. Some of the most important reasons for a small business NOT to miss an opportunity to blog are captured by Social Marketing Writing in their article on 13 Blogging Statistics You Probably Don’t Know, But Should.

  • Blogs that post daily get 5 X more traffic than those that post weekly or less.
  • Blog traffic increases by 53% once you accumulate 51 posts. After 200 posts, the traffic increases 4.5 times.
  • 70% of people learn about a company from articles rather than ads.
  • Blogs that post daily generate 4X more leads than those that post weekly or less.

We witnessed the value of consistently blogging when we accepted Hubspot’s 30-day blog challenge. The results were startling. You can read about them in A Funny Thing Happened During the 30-Day Blogging Challenge…And Other Delightful Results.

Think Outside the Blog

The usual suspects of content ideas for your small business blog are news and information sources, such as Huffington Post, Inc, or Entrepreneur. Many bloggers turn to industry sites and put their own spin on the latest trend or information. The most intriguing blog content, however, comes from the most unlikely sources.

1. Hobby. What do you enjoy doing with your non-working hours? There are business lessons to be found in all we do. For instance, some of my favorite hobbies are hiking, biking, and gardening. In fact, I make sure my voice memo is kept close at hand to capture thoughts and ideas that can be used for a later post – like Small Business Lessons From the Switchbacks of Los Angeles.

2. Kids. Remember Art Linkletter and House Party? He had a segment called “Kids Say the Darndest Things”. Who can resist a story of a young child providing their perspective on a subject important to your business?

3. People watching. While waiting for a friend for lunch, have you noticed how groups of people interact around a table? If you’re a blogger on leadership or teamwork, you’ll find an abundance of ideas to blog about.

And let’s not forget the airport. People watching at an airport can fill your editorial calendar with topics for an idea year.

4. Publications unrelated to your industry. If you look, you can find similarities between almost any industry and yours. For instance, if you’re an HR blogger, what can you glean from a medical journal that your clients can relate to? Several ideas pop immediately to mind!

5. Family. Whether it’s what your mom or dad taught you, there are pearls of wisdom for blog topics within your own family tree – including the branches that are a little bent.

6. Friends. If you have friends like mine, there is never a loss for blogging ideas. From what they do to what they say, the possibilities for content are endless. And, if your friends aren’t that interesting, it’s an opportunity to make new friends. 😀

7. Animals. In fact, I’m currently working on developing trust with two stray cats I affectionately call my “office kitties”. Lots of blogging content there with how to attract and win over clients!

8. Clients. Without divulging names or violating confidences, your clients are a generous source of topics for your blog. You can share their challenges, insights, lessons learned, and successes with your readers.

P.S. Although I never use a client’s name, I ask permission to blog about their situation. It’s the right thing to do.

9. Colleagues. Oh, lordy! This category is almost too easy. What they say, what they do, what they don’t say or do, how they do things…Tune in. You’ll love what you’ll learn and how you can turn it into a blog post of intrigue and interest to your readers – like in Don’t Do “This” When Building Small Business Referral Relationships.

10. Nature. Whether its flash floods, fires raging out of control, drought, fog that burns off by noon, strong winds, or sunshine day after day, the similarities between your content and nature are endless.

When it comes to creating content for your blog, don’t look within your industry to uncover ideas of interest for your blog; look around you for unique stories that inspire and capture the interest of your reader.

Have you found an unusual source of content for your blog that you would add to the list?

Core Business Assessment


Brooke Billingsley

Vice President
Perception Strategies

Synnovatia is a strategic coaching firm that is detailed and knowledgeable about business. i have a small business that grew from $150K to $750K because of the goal setting and resources that Synnovatia provided. It saves me years of learning on my own.

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