Join our Facebook Community

10 Tips for Blogging Your Way to Small Business Success

Posted By Darren Rowse 23rd of February 2009 Business Blogging 0 Comments

This is a guest post from Mark Hayward, you can follow him on Twitter @mark_hayward. The article focuses on helping business folk, both big and small, who would like to start blogging.

small-business-blogging-tips.pngDo you own a business? Have you noticed a dramatic decrease in sales because of the current economy?

Here’s the thing: For people like Darren, Brian Clark, and Leo Babauta blogging is a full-time job, a primary source of income, and most importantly, a real and profitable business model.

But, what if you find yourself in a different camp?

Perhaps, if you’re like me, you own business that provides a service, manufactures goods or sells consumer products. Blogging is NOT your business, but you use (or would like to use) it as a tool to market and promote your venture.

When I was just getting started as a small business blogger one of the smartest observations I heard on the subject came from Shana Albert (a.k.a The Nanny612). She stated, quite simply: ‘I don’t make money from my blog, but I make money because of my blog.’

In essence, Shana uses her blog to strategically drive traffic to her business website where she sells pre-school curriculum. Her words of wisdom have stuck with me and I think any business, whether large or small, can really succeed in doing the same thing.

Further reading: check out Darren’s previous posts on ways of making money BECAUSE of your blog.

Blogging is for pimply-faced kids!

Surprisingly, a lot of business owners that I meet on a daily basis have a sentiment similar to the one above. In fact, most think;

Sure blogging and social media are great if you enjoy spending your days ‘cyberloafing’, but they certainly can’t help me to promote my business.

Quite honestly, I find it shocking and awfully hard to believe that MANY business owners still have this general view of blogging and social media.

A Personal Case Study

For those of you who might not know, I own a small business in the Caribbean. When I was first getting started I really had no budget to pay for advertising and marketing. As such, I have utilized nothing but blogging and social media for the past couple of years to promote my business. More specifically, when I took over this B&B venture there were no reservations, no customers, and no prospects. In a short period of time I have been able to go from a no cash or customer flow to maintaining a 70-100% occupancy rate depending on the month. (Yes, even in this economy!)

My business provides me with an opportunity to meet incredible people from all over the world. Most recently, I had a guest visiting from a neighboring Caribbean island and, he too, runs a small hotel.

During one discussion the gentleman told me that his business was down a whopping 75% over the past year. According to him, the lack of customers and drop in business could all be attributed to the state of the economy. Truly, I felt awful for him.

While I wholeheartedly agree that the collective global economy is in terrible shape, I asked him what type of promotion and marketing he was doing so that his customers could find him and to help keep his business in the public eye.

His answer (and I think this explains a lot):

‘We are doing what we have always done.’

Upon further investigation, I found out that ‘What we have always done‘ equated to a fairly decent website if it was the year 2000 and a U.S. based reservation service that is paid a percentage to make bookings for him. That’s it.

To be fair, my guest was a bit older and I think he was afraid to embrace new technology and marketing methods. But it tends to boggle my mind that even in this hyper-technical age he and many other business owners are missing a HUGE opportunity to promote their business in an extremely cost effective manner.

Unfortunately, the conversation with my guest ended and I did not have the time that morning to discuss the issue further. However, if I had the time, and or, if you know a business owner in a similar situation, the following is what I would have passed on to him;

Ten Tips to Help You Blog Your Way to Small Business Success

Tip One: Define your goals

Whether you are a plumber, bike retailer, or cafe owner start by assessing your business goals and how you would like your blog to help you achieve them – e.g. Do you want customers to find you? Do you want to be on the front page of Google? Are you all about selling more services and product?

Tip Two: Research keywords

Before you begin blogging have a look at some of the keyword tools like the one found on SEO Book and determine what your potential customers and clients are actually searching for. If your business is active in a mostly local market, or generally for clients in a small town, then include the town’s name in your research. The information gathered from running a couple of keyword searches is extremely valuable when it comes to writing posts that are targeted and meant to highlight specific information.

Tip Three: Use free tools

I think many small business folk are turned off by blogging and social media because they are under the illusion that marketing online costs a tremendous amount of money. My chosen platform for my business website and blogging is WordPress, which, I am sure most of you know, is free to use and has some amazing free themes. (Note: If you want to spend a couple of dollars you can get Thesis theme.)

Tip Four: Educate the consumer

When starting a blog that revolves around your small business the general tendency is to want to publish a bunch of SPAM posts that extol your virtues. While it is okay to do this once and a while, I have found that educating the consumer works tremendously well and is highly effective. Also, please remember that there is a big difference between using your business blog to tell your story (How you came to own the business, defining your passion, etc.) and just telling people to buy your product or service because you are the best.

Tip Five: Allow 3 to 6 months for return on investment (ROI)

There are a few schools of thought when it comes to measuring ROI for business blogs. We all, myself included, are searching for that magic bullet that is going to draw in more customers. However, from my own experience and in discussion with other business owners who blog, three to six months seems to allow enough time to put up an adequate amount of posts (even if you only publish once a week) and to also obtain a quantifiable and measurable amount of customer data.

Tip Six: Research the competition

Small business owners sometimes feel funny inquiring about what their competition is up to. Keep in mind, this is business, I highly recommend having a search around the web to discern what your competitors are up to. In most cases I think you will be pleasantly surprised to find out that they do not have a strong web presence. And if they do, you will now know that you need to step your game up a bit more.

Tip Seven: Keep it simple

Business blog posts do not have to be extravagant Pulitzer Prize worthy affairs. If you should find yourself stuck for topics, or are facing blogger’s block, have a look at this post I recently did, 31 Blog Post Ideas For Small Businesses.

Tip Eight: Forums are your friend

One of the most common complaints I hear from business bloggers who are getting started is ‘Nobody is coming to my site.’ Is that so? I don’t care if you trade in rare eighteenth century chess pieces or high-end designer shoes; chances are a niche forum exists for your specific business. Do a simple Google search to find out where your customers are hanging out online and make a visit to those sites. Promoting your small business within a forum works best when you approach it in the same manner as step four. You need to educate the consumer and gain member trust before you can start endorsing yourself (otherwise you will be seen as a troll).

Tip Nine: Be consistent

Quite possibly the most important piece of advice for any small business blogger – You NEED to be consistent in your efforts.

Tip Ten: Once you are blogging regularly branch out into other social media

Starting a comprehensive social media and marketing plan can really help to give a traffic boost to your business blog. Social media does not have to be intimidating and you can easily start by uploading a few well tagged and described photos to FLICKR and then possibly move on to YouTube, FaceBook, and Twitter.

If you are a business owner who is struggling in this economy, or if you know of someone who is hesitant to embrace the power of blogging for business promotion, here are a few of additional resources that might help.

Are you a ProBlogger, or business owner who blogs? What are some tips that you might offer?

Mark Hayward owns a business and lives in the Caribbean. He is co-founder of the nonprofit, Train for Humanity, and you can follow him on Twitter @mark_hayward.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Comments
  1. Very timely post for me, thank you!

    I particularly like your point about educating the consumer. It’s easy to make business related websites more like a billboard, but that neglects one of the biggest strengths of blogging, interaction.

    As the old saying goes, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Blogs are a great place to show you care FIRST.

  2. Thanks, this is a very well written and informative post. I really agree on all the points you listed here.

  3. Nice writing style. I look forward to reading more in the future.

  4. Great article, some excellent points being made too some which I will put to use and others which I will tell others about :)

  5. Thank you for this excellent post. Two points I especially find important: educate rather than sell, and branch out to other social media.

    I have written a free online newsletter for about 3 years. Started to host/manage my business blog in a serious fashion a few months ago, and have recently become active on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. It is exciting to begin to discover the synergy among all of these efforts. Connecting with other bloggers on similar topics is also very important–again, the generosity factor applies.

    If you are just starting out, it’s well worth investing some time in these activities.

  6. Fantastic post! Thanks so much!
    I think it’s so important to let people know that they need a plan. You can’t just jump into social media and think that you will have immediate results. it takes time, because it’s based on creating relationships with people. But the payoff is big, if you can put in the work.
    R

  7. Off-topic tip: use numbers for numbering instead of letters

  8. Love tip 7. It is really intimidating to start a webpage, blog, and twitter. Blogging is a different type of writing; fast paced to the point. It takes time to switch your mindset from wordy missives to quick infomative prose (kind of like School papers v. real life dialogue). Just get out and try a simple webpage with a simple blog, then drive a little traffic from twitter. You can learn much on the web, but I still buy books so that I can reference them, like ProBlogger’s Secret’s…total must read.

  9. Great tips as always, even if your small business is personal branding.

  10. Apologies, the small business link should be:

    http://www.palmettoculebra.com

    And thank you for the comments so far! :-)

  11. Mark, this is a great post! I have plenty of clients who are in a very similar boat to the people you are describing — don’t, won’t, don’t want to, because they don’t understand it, don’t feel they have time for it, etc.

    This post will be a great resource for me to show them how relevant to their businesses social media can be!

  12. Thanks for the tips. After a bit of a break from the net I’m now fully exploring all the possibilities of wordpress and twitter. Can’t wait to see where it takes me and my clients.

  13. Thank you for this wonderful article.

    While it is clear that small business owners will benefit from blogging, i have met many small business owners who definitely understand the benefit and want to pursue blogging but simple don’t have the time. There are also language barriers, some of them have zero confidence in their ability to construct sentences.

    Would love to hear your thoughts on this…

  14. This article was very helpful. I am working with a playground company that I am directing towards using a blog. I will be sending them here to take a look at this post.

    Educating the consumer works not matter your blog. You mentioned Brian, Darren and Leo, that is exactly what they do.

    Sheila

  15. Great points. I’m now following you on Twitter. (man, even just saying that sounds stalker-ish to me but I’m not stalking you I swear!)

    This was a very helpful post and I’m looking forward to reading more from you. You’re right, it’s shocking how indifferent businesspeople can be to the web/social tools, etc.

    I guess we all need to remember too that people HATE to be sold or marketed to, but they LOVE to buy things! :)

    Thanks again, Ms. Sanity

  16. I am taking these tips from your posts. Here are they –

    Educate the consumer
    Allow 3 to 6 months for return on investment (ROI)
    Keep it simple
    Be consistent

    I do believe in Keep it simple and Be Consistent and I am following them. Because these are the things which will pay you later on or you can say that these two things check your patience quality.

  17. A major rule in journalism that bloggers ignore—if you are going to talk about someone in your blog, get a comment from him or her, get their side of the story. I was a victim of shaddy journalism.. Story was totally distorted to fit the blog.

  18. Hi there,

    Nice post, valuable information. I’ve never thought of forums as an option.

    From my end I would suggest to have a specific writing style for SMB bloggers. That would showcase a more professional look.

    Cheers,
    Eddie Gear

  19. It is Interesting to know that many small business owners were as hesitant as I was to blog. You are right and blogging has been fun and has provided me more leads. Plus, allowing me to educate the public about the services offered.

  20. Mark – nice article and something small business folks still need as a reminder. I’ve been blogging a long time and my blog, on it’s own contributes substantially to my revenue, but I would do it even if it did not solely for the others things it brings my business.

    A great way for small business folks to get the most bang for their buck right away is to think repurpose. Turn two blog posts into an article for a local pub, turn eight blog posts into a free ebook, and interview customers, guest experts and influencers in your market and create audio content.

    That’s how you make this darn thing pay, don’t even think about ad revenue unless that’s your primary business and your blog turns into a publication.

  21. Darren, can you please correct the link where it says small business in the caribbean, the .com is missing.

    Great post cheers
    Ze

    Lara Says: Darren’s on vacation – I updated the link to add the .com :)

  22. @Mark, lol just read your comment regarding the link, anyways for us that follow the blog on google reader it would be nice to correct it inside the article.
    Cheers
    Ze

  23. It takes about three to six months before your blog gains any traction. One of the things I find is that small business owners tend to think blogging is a “magic” pill that will translate into revenue days after starting. One of the first things I tell potential customers is that it takes alot of work. If you are going to start, be prepared to put the time and energy required to be successful.

  24. just what I need right now! Thanks a lot! I’ll be back ;)

  25. Your tips are very useful. I feel the tip one and tip ten are the best tips. I will use the tips on my blog.

    Another thing as you have pointed is to keep the website simple.

    Thanks.

    Santosh Puthran
    http://www.twitdiscount.com

  26. @Ze 2.0
    Darren is on vacation and the link is still working though .com is missing.hehe

    Allow 3 to 6 months for ROI, Most bloggers who blog for money don’t think about this. They always thought that after month or so, they could earn 100-1000 dollars.hehe

  27. This is very good advice for people in business. Blogging does increase conversions especially when mixed with non conversions. Blank conversion urls tend to not do as well or so I hear.

  28. Great advice here. Blogging is going to be a major part of the future of business. While it has been a very good tool for online businesses for a long time, offline businesses are going to start getting the hint.

    Teaching offline businesses to set up blogs and how to use them could be a pretty lucrative type of service if someone wanted to get into it.

  29. Very nice…the hardest hurdle when convincing others to blog is the time it takes. Blogging is not easy, especially well thought out posts. But it’s crucial.

    We have a client that owns a wedding event center, and under our direction they are blogging about various tips and tricks for Brides, Grooms, Wedding parties, etc. It’s information everyone searches for – someone’s got to write it!

    But it takes a lot of time to do it well…just like anything else that’s worth doing.

  30. Great post. I own a small ad agency with clients who use traditional media. As those media fail and fragment at the same time getting costlier, we are seeing more interest among customers in non-traditional media. These are bread and butter local companies – HVAC, plumbing, etc. They sell only in a local market, but online marcom is of growing interest to them.

  31. What a great post! Is just goes to show you that even when times are tough, a good social marketing plan is not only cost effective, but can bring in clients. When you market to the world, it does not take a large percentage to keep customers coming in.

    Very well written!

  32. Thank you I am blogging for my small business and the information is helpful.

  33. You mentioned hanging out in forums, but leaving comments on other blogs is also a great way to drive business to your blog (or website). Of course, if you leave a comment on someone else’s blog you’ve also got to educate in the comments too. It’s all about figuring out how to provide value, isn’t it?

  34. Impressive post, I liked that with tip #5 you actually gave genuine time frames instead of the non-committal advice that’s usually found in the MMO niche. It might help people realize that success rarely comes overnight!

  35. This is a great post. I have just launched my own management consulting business and blogging is not really something that I can make money from directly. I do use the Amazon affiliate program and view my blog as a tool to gain exposure and a build credibility as a writer to the day I approach a trade magazine with an article idea. Thanks again!

    John

    http://accelerantconsultinginc.com/blog/

  36. Mark,

    I especially like your tip #3. Over the past 8 years or so, I’ve learned how to use free software and services and the power of the Internet to grow my business. I’ve been writing a free weekly ezine for over a year, sharing my tips and strategies with other business owners.

    And I’ve been blogging regularly now for about 5 months. I even had the honor of doing a guest post here for Darren a few weeks ago.

    In an effort to encourage more small business owners to create web sites and blogs, I’ve recently written a step-by-step guide to getting started with WordPress.

    It’s free, too.

  37. I like Shana’s statement, ‘I don’t make money from my blog, but I make money because of my blog.’ Genuine mentality.

  38. @ Susan

    Yeah you are absolutely right. Because in comments you will have to impress everyone who read your comments, so that they want to see your blog as well.

    In nutshell put your knowledge in your comments and attract visitors.

  39. Great advice and tips – thanks for sharing. I think social networking is a major factor which businesses are using to their advantages to drive targeted traffic to their blog and increase profits for their business.

    Brandon

  40. Hey Darren

    With the rest I may sound like a broken record but it’s true that every crowd has a silver lining.

    I see recessions as really crucial to dominate branding. If you keep on branding and putting yourself about; tons of people will see you and

    a) think you’re still successful despite the fact you’re struggling

    and this helps with

    b) you’ll create thought patterns in your market of “well, when i have the money i will do x x” with your business. and then when they have the money again guess whose door they knock on…

  41. Great tips and advice. I just started blogging and intend to start another niche blog soon. From good sites and comments here I’m able to learn more about blogging and make success a bit easier.

    http://endlessgoals.com/

  42. Mark,

    You offer some excellent tips! In regards to Tip #5, I often say that what works for some people, won’t necessarily work for everyone else and mileage will most certainly vary. Your estimate of allowing 3-6 months before seeing any results seems about right (and of course this depends on how you measure your results).

    When I authored my mortgage blog, it took a good 4 months before my efforts translated into business. The same goes for many of the Agents that I work with now.

  43. Down to earth. Am trying some focused initiatives, and this article will definitely be of help.

  44. An awesome article!
    The tips provided are very good and seems to be very useful for the bloggers who have just started.

  45. Also:

    Write good original content

    Use an editor to clean up your writing (I can’t write worth a poop), I found a guy that edits for 5 bucks a post on craigslist

    Get people to help you, there are tons of people out there that share your passions that don’t have an outlet. I post “writers wanted” on forums that have brought me almost 40 guest and regular writers for my blogs

    Get a logo, brand your site with your own unique logo

    Post a minimum of one post a day, that’s where the guest bloggers come in handy

    Build an audience, figure out what they want to know and create a product around it

  46. Very good article, I think plenty of businessowners can use any tips these days that can increase their customerbase. I’ve also noticed quite an increase in customers since I started blogging for my company.
    http://www.icantinternet.org

  47. Mark, great and timely article. Tips 1,4 and 5 speak to me directly. I just started a WordPress Coaching blog to educate my potential clients (this covers tips 1 and 4 as its my goal is to educate my potential clients).

    After years of developing WordPress solutions for small business, I’m giving myself at least 3 to 6 months for return on investment (ROI) for http://www.wpresscoach.com and that’s congruent with tip 5.

    Thanks again.

    Dipankar

  48. This is very good tips for the startups of their business and good idea of the asking the customers to pitch in the social media marketing!! Its a good business tactics!!

  49. I run a niche blog in the concrete industry. I appreciate this post because I focus on the manufacturers of specialty products who just don’t get it.

    The biggest obstacle to implementing blogs for these companies is the perceived time commitment to blogging. (Just another form of no)

    What they don’t get is that blogs can presell customers. The result is a client with an order. Blogs eliminate massive sales time on the phone or in person.

    When I say would you rather create blogs that sell to thousands or deal with trying to convince one client at a time. They nod their head yes. Many still don’t commit but some do very quickly

  50. As a small business owner who uses the blog network to showcase services, I can appreciate the perspective presented here. I do think there is still a stigma with the term “blogging” but I also think it is getting better.

    Cheers

    George

A Practical Podcast… to Help You Build a Better Blog

The ProBlogger Podcast

A Practical Podcast…