You own a small business. You want to tell your story better than your competitors. When customers come into your store, they are often time crunched and do little browsing. You have an opportunity to engage them, but let’s be realistic – how in depth can you get with them while they are shopping? But what about when a customer is sitting at home (or at work) and is browsing your website? Do you stand a better chance of engaging them during this situation?
My answer would be yes and running a well-written blog that shares your story is one of the most powerful steps you can take to improve your online marketing. Today, we are going to go through a few initial questions you should ask yourself as you start building your blog.
Question 1: Is a blog right for your business?
I would argue and say “yes,” but only you can answer this question. Do you have a compelling story to tell? Are you offering a product or service that truly matters? Are you passionate about your business? Are you willing to devote 10-15 minutes a day writing content for you blog?
If you’ve answered yes to most or all of these questions, proceed to Question 2. If not, you probably don’t want a blog.
Question 2: Have you thought of a compelling name for your blog?
So you’re ready to set up a blog? Awesome. Don’t get too excited yet. There are some offline issues you should probably address first before worrying too much about starting your blog – coming up with an interesting name should be a big priority.
If you already have a website, you might not need to worry about this too much. You can simply integrate it into your site’s navigation structure as “blog.” This works and many companies take this approach. I wouldn’t recommend it though.
Even if you plan on hosting your blog on an existing business website, you need to come up with a great way to get readers there. Doing something as simple as what Whole Foods has done with their blog, the “Whole Story” is a great move to differentiate your blog and signal that it is something special. Let’s look at a few examples:
- Smith Tools (fictitious tool manufacturer) – Putting Our Tools to the Test Blog
- Blend Tech (real life blender company) – Will It Blend blog
- Detroit Motors (fictitious car manufacturer) – Your Test Drive Blog
- Everest Elite (fictitious outdoor company) – Mountains Climbed Blog
If you currently have a website, you really should differentiate you blog from it. It signals to customers that they are looking at something different.
As you work on a name, you will also want to be thinking of a great tagline to tell customers what they are going to be seeing.
Question 3: What do you want your blog to look like?
It’s time to hit the web and start looking at blogs. Search until you find one that has the type of layout your are looking for. Also, take note of colors, features and other ideas that you might want to include in your blog design.
Question 4: Will you monetize your blog?
If you are planning on selling stuff, joining affiliate programs or doing any kind of advertising on your blog you will need to consider hosting your own blog. However, if you are only planning on using your blog as a brand building, story telling tool, you can then consider using a free service like Blogger or WordPress.com.
Let’s dig a little more deeply into this question. You decide to go with the free option. Just understand that you will be limited in how much control you will have over your site, from everything like site templates and design to plugins and monetization options. If you are okay with that, go for it.
Hosting your own blog gives you much more control. You own the site, the design, the content and you can experiment with any type of monetization program you want.
I have done both. I run blogs that are strictly experimental and informational. With these sites, I simply want to try to understand my readers better and learn the ins and outs of blogging. I also run a couple commercial blogs. I run these sites on a paid hosting service, using the domain names of my choice and templates that have been designed by professionals.
These days, I am leaning more and more toward paid services simple because of the level of control it gives me. But do what is right for you, your business and your budget.
Question 5: What blog platform will you use?
What free and easy? Go with something like Blogger, Webs.com or Tumblr. For a little more control and options, consider WordPress.com.
Looking for control and customization and a design of your choosing? Host your own WordPress blog.
If you are interested in setting up a hosted blog and need help, please let me know (jwsokol at gmail.com). Depending upon your needs and the scale of the project, I can help for a nominal fee.