I’m speaking to several hundred small business owners tonight in Cleveland. When I talk to entrepreneurs about my business and how I’ve used content marketing as a core sales strategy, one of the questions I always get is: “Is blogging worth it?” Or, this version: “We had a blog for a couple of months. It didn’t seem to resonate with anyone, and we didn’t see any sales, so we stopped.”
When I started my business five years ago, I started blogging because I couldn’t afford any other kind of marketing. Blogging was free. It seemed like a no-brainer, but I certainly didn’t expect or understand the value that my blog would bring over time.
Blogging has changed everything for me. It’s boosted my opportunities, helped me form and develop connections and relationships, and it’s changed my thinking in ways I never expected.
Blogging takes commitment. It takes time. If you’re a small business owner who’s pulled in a lot of different directions every day, spending a few hours a week writing can seem like a colossal waste of time. Shouldn’t you be focused on making immediate impact and growing revenue?
Here’s what I’ve learned after blogging consistently since 2009: Content marketing is a long game. You won’t see results overnight. And, while writing every week can be overwhelming and time-consuming at first, it gets easier. The only way to become a better blogger is to write a lot of blog posts. Hit publish. If your post falls flat, it’s not a big deal. Come back the next day and try again.
Blogging builds brand ambassadors
After five years, my blog has become a catalyst that fuels sales growth. I speak at events, meet new people, and they stay connected with me through my blog. When the writing resonates with them, they reach out. That feedback alone is invaluable. But it gets better. I frequently get emails and LinkedIn messages that start with “Two years ago, we met…” Those emails result in closed sales (twice so far this week). Blogging requires patience. You’re not just writing blog posts — you’re developing an archive of sales assets and staying connected with the people that care about your work and benefit from your ideas.
Blogging has changed the kinds of relationships I have with my clients. Our relationships are no longer transactional. By sharing my experiences and thinking on my blog, I can extend and grow those relationships. I stay top-of-mind and connected with the people who have trusted and hired me in the past.
The way I see it, you’re either contributing value to your audience, or you’re anonymous. Being anonymous makes selling a whole lot more difficult. Writing consistently is hard work. But it makes selling a whole lot easier. Content marketing is the ultimate leveling of the playing field for a small business. It can give you access to the marketplace in a way that separates you from the competition. It requires commitment, but it’s ultimately paid back ten-fold for me.
Reading and writing are catalysts for growth
While blogging has direct benefits for my business’ bottom line, it also helps me develop my perspective and focus my thinking.
When a potential client is open to talking about their challenges and opportunities, I’m usually able to share writing that aligns and resonates. Additionally, if it’s worth it, I can write a post that directly speaks to what they’re trying to accomplish. That’s much more valuable to clients than simply sending back a scope of work proposal.
Another popular question: How do you find the time? I put time for reading and writing on my calendar. I protect and respect those blocks of time just like I would with an important client meeting. Reading and writing are catalysts for growth. Watching TV isn’t. I can watch House of Cards or I can write a blog post. Everyone gets the same 24 hours. I happen to love House of Cards (and the way Netflix serves it up) but it isn’t going to interfere with my scheduled commitments. When it matters, put it in the calendar.
The way I blog has changed over time. I still write all of my own blog posts, but I have a partner who supports my content marketing — which means my posts are usually typo-free and we’re working on our writing schedule well in advance of a deadline. It also means I have someone I’m paying to hold me accountable!
The way I blog is going to change again. My team is constantly considering new media, ideas and opportunities to make it better. The blog is still an experiment that also happens to support a lot of sales growth.