Good afternoon inkheads!
I’m sure you’re stoked on the long holiday weekend ahead.
While you’re relaxing with friends and family, I ask you to spend at least a little bit of your downtime thinking about your business blog.
Why would I want you to think about work on July the 4th?
Simple—because I believe that blogging will lead your business on a path to independence and growth. Since blogs are owned media (that’s content you produce and completely control), they have the most potential as far as brand development as well as establishing yourself as an authority in your industry.
But no one becomes an authority overnight. You have to earn your reputation, mainly by posting original ideas. When I say that you need original ideas, I mean you that you must have a unique voice and perspective on important issues or trends. In fact, a true authority would be the trendsetter—the individual or brand who takes the lead while others follow suit.
Not everyone can be a leader, which brings us back to my weekend challenge. I want you to dig deep and do a gut check. Be completely honest with yourself: Do you really have what it takes to manage a successful blog?
Your blog as a labor of love
I’ve been blogging professionally for over 4 years. Believe me when I say that blogging is worthwhile, but keeping your site fresh will be one of the toughest journeys you’ll face in your career.
Let me be very clear: I’m not suggesting that you should throw in your blogging towel today.
Nope, my goal for this post is to give you a realistic picture of the time commitment and labor that goes into managing a top notch printing company blog. That way you’ll be able to honestly assess your brand’s capabilities and formulate your strategy accordingly.
Here’s the thing about blogs: you won’t see much return on your investment at first. Brace yourself for an extended lesson in delayed gratification because you might have to spend a whole year writing until you get your first direct conversion (sale). For this reason, many a printer simply gives up before their blog gains ground. I think the Wizard of Moz Rand Fishkin said it best in his hilarious Slideshare presentation entitled Why Content Marketing Fails:
As you can see from Rand’s traffic graph, your blog will likely hit several progressive plateaus before you gain a loyal readership. The temporary spikes might get your hopes up, only to come crashing down as your traffic levels off shortly thereafter.
Make no mistake: the elusive ROI will frustrate the hell out of you.
You’ll be tempted to give up on a weekly basis. Maybe you’re already considering calling it quits. After all, how many articles can you write about business card design inspiration or brochure typography? If you’re already feeling burnt out, how will you possibly post on a consistent basis? And what’s the point of pressing on with no tangible benefits?
The hidden ROI of business blogging
Of course we all want to increase profits; this here blog and social media upped our sales by 46% in one year! Yet hopefully you realize that your return on investment may take on other forms besides money. Here are 2 other awesome non-monetary benefits of blogging to motivate you:
In the old days your website probably seemed similar to a brochure, a kind of static representation of your core mission. This model doesn’t help customers get to know you very well, or give them a reason to come back unless they want to place an order. Plus, there’s nowhere on your web-to-print site for customers to ask you questions without sending an email or picking up the phone. Your blog fills each of these needs by adding a sense of community to your site where customers can engage with you directly.
Separates you from competitors
Take a moment to browse your top competitor’s sites and you’ll notice a pattern or two. Many printing companies not only offer the same products and services, they tend to use identical selling points, too! With so many similarities, it’s no wonder buyers can’t remember who printed their last project. Your blog gives you space to highlight your differences, such as areas of focus i.e. wide format and express your brand’s personality.
How to generate content ideas
If you’ve tried to write on the regular, you’ve likely encountered the dreaded writer’s block. Every blogger struggles to keep the creative juices flowing, but don’t just wait around hoping for a random burst of inspiration. Generating post topics takes practice, and these tips will help you get into the groove of being a blogging machine!
- Be super ultra specific
A lot of beginning bloggers try to be everything to everyone. In an effort to cast the widest possible net, they post about very broad topics in a general sorta way. This syndrome is akin to the client who tells a graphic designer that, ‘Everyone is my target market!’ Get that thought out of your head because you’re writing for your inkhead tribe, not adults ages 18-85. Instead of collecting standard 2″ x 3.5″ business card designs to showcase, show your readers examples of the far out stuff, such as your specialty substrates or unusual creative concepts (monochrome business cards or spot UV with blind embossing). Technical info is fine fodder for these types of posts, just be sure to keep the material useful and relevant. For instance, post tips about getting a proper custom printing quote and save the chatter about presses/mechanical processes for the break room.
- Develop reader profiles and personas
Basically, put yourself in your readers’ shoes to better understand their needs and pain points. Let’s say you want to write about the need to promptly approve PDF proofs. Who are you writing this article for, a male small business owner in his 50s or a 30 something female designer? Once you identify your reader, you’ll be able to figure out the right tone, language, etc.
- Maintain an editorial calendar
I learned this one the hard way. I used to brainstorm blogging ideas on my morning bike ride. By the time I got to the office, I’d have half the post written in my mind. But some days I’d get sidetracked or maybe spot a high potential keyword phrase and change my mind. Naturally I quickly discovered that creating content on the fly makes for a disconnected strategy. Now I try to plan out my blog posts at least 1 week in advance. If something comes up and I decide to go a different direction, I can always adjust the schedule. You’ll be amazed at how much more together you feel simply by writing out your list of topics every Friday for the following week. That way you’ll feel prepared to start writing immediately on Monday morning.
Where to get blogging assistance
If you think you’re not up for the challenge of daily or even weekly copywriting, you don’t have to go it alone. You can hire help. An in-house writer with an inbound marketing background would be a huge asset to your business.
Can’t afford to hire another full time employee? Hire a freelancer with experience writing about subjects of interest, including marketing, print design, and prepress procedures. Who knows, you might find a pro content marketer along the lines of Matthew Parker or Margie Dana, 2 prominent independent consultants from the CMYK world with strong social media ties.
You might even meet some of these expert writers during #inkSEO! In case you haven’t heard, I’ll be sharing tons o’ inbound marketing info with fellow inkhead Bill Michael during the #inkSEO Twitter chat on Thursday, July 10th at 4pm EST/1pm PST.
In the meantime, let’s answer your blogging questions in the comments below.