Thursday, February 25, 2010

Starting a Blog for Your Business? Start With a Business Case

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Image by Howard▼Gees via Flickr
"Blogging is easy. Every business should have one."

That's often the only argument you'll hear consultants give when advising clients on the merits of blogging. After that, they wax poetically on a litany of benefits you'll get from blogging. Increase search traffic & better engagement with customers usually top the list. And while I agree with the last two, you lost me at "... is easy".

Relative ease does not a business case make.

A business case for blogging? You must be mad. It's easy!

Didn't we just cover that? And just so we're clear, strategic blogging for a business is certainly not easy. The mechanics alone are daunting to a the vast majority of people who don't let words spew forth from their keyboards naturally. It's a tactic that takes time and understanding to develop the necessary skills. And that's just to learn how to write. Now do it frequently. Against a schedule. On plan. And fit it in with the dozens of other things a business owner has to do every day to keep their business a going concern.

OK, Ok... ok. It's not easy. But a business case?

Yes, a business case. Listen: anytime you invest time or money in something for your business, you need to understand what you're getting yourself into. Don't get me wrong; I'm a sucker for spontaneity. Some of my best ideas were crazy "gee, I wonder if..." ideas that were launched shortly after the concept germinated. But the ones that are still going all -- without exception -- had at least a rudimentary business plan. I'm not talking about a 60-page document that needs to be ratified by the Board. The last business case I put together for a client was a simple spreadsheet.

But to my initial point, "it's easy!" isn't a business case.

Here are 3 questions you need answers to before you jump on the blogging train:

  • Do we have the content? If you're a retailer that relies mostly on your vendors to supply you with information about the products you sell, this may be a problem area. By and large, you can't repurpose collateral and have that be blog-worthy content. You need original material, written from your company's point of view and in your company's voice.

  • Do we have the time? If you're working your employees at close to maximum, they won't have a lot of bandwidth to dedicated to blogging. And the time it takes you to read a blog post has nothing to do with how long it took someone to write it. 2 - 3 hours per post isn't an unrealistic numbers. How will you balance that time against other productive work time from your employees?

  • Do we have the dedication? Every new blog starts out with the same number of readers: zero. Almost every blog grows at about the same rate: incredibly slow. Even with gangbuster content right out of the gate, you shouldn't expect any sizable audience for 6 - 12 months. Maybe 18. Are you committed to generating exceptional content on a schedule that entire time and accept slow and steady progress?


And for fun, here are 3 questions you should never ask yourself about blogging for your business, for the answers are abundantly clear:

  • Should we outsource our blog to someone else? Oh hell no. Yes, there are professional writers out there who perform copywriting services on a consulting basis. I'm one of them. But you do not want to outsource your blog content. There are many ways in which you can use these services to help your blog be better, but don't ever think you can hand the reigns over to someone else. The best business blogging comes from within. Hire, train or allow for personal development. Don't outsource.

  • Is our business interesting enough for a blog? Oh hell yes. You obviously think it's interesting or you wouldn't be doing it. And if the whole thing isn't all that interesting, there are some parts that are. Focus on those. If you can convey the interesting parts of your business in a blog, you've just made inroads with potential customers when they discover it. And isn't that what your sales people try and do anyhow?

  • Is there an audience who cares? This goes hand-in-hand with the last point. Don't assume your business blog has to appeal to tens of thousands of people. It doesn't! Interesting content will attract the right audience to it, and that will expose people to your business. Key words include interesting and content. No one cares about a blog full of posts about products. Blah.


So... ready to blog now? It may not be for you. Yet. Don't feel pressured. But don't ignore the question. Keep asking it. Some day, you may be ready.

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