Blogs are the lifeblood of any web property. They inject fresh, meaningful content to your website and act as the hub for your content marketing campaign. A blog enables you to consistently provide something of value to your visitors. Essentially, it builds trust and familiarity with your brand.

Blogging can also function as a key part of your sales funnel to answer questions from prospective customers who might currently be in the awareness stage of the buyer funnel. It helps to generate leads, establish authority and build trust and familiarity with your brand.You’ll establish credibility, thought leadership and increase your organic search ranking.

Focusing on your primary audience and consistently publishing quality content that is useful and valuable to that audience will get the attention of people who are inherently interested in what you’re writing about. A blog is probably the most powerful and cost-effective in-bound marketing strategy that you can invest in.

Creating a Blog for Your Business

Google has a bias towards the highest quality and most relevant content. If you’re publishing quality content using keywords in the right way, people in your target audience will discover your content much more easily on the search engines. Blogging also offers you the opportunity to improve your organic search ranking every time you publish something new – as long as it is original and hasn’t been published elsewhere. Most importantly, you will need to build backlinks and social signals to your blogpost in order to get the right results.

Consider the following example of how you can use a business blog to develop relationships with your target customers: let’s say you run an online computer store that sells Windows and Apple computers including desktops, laptops and tablets, peripherals and accessories such as printers, drives, graphics cards, processors, memory cards, etc. You also offer a local service, performing tasks such as assembling brand new computers from scratch, computer repair and building home office networks for customers.

You now decide to establish a blog for the business. The first step will be to establish clear goals and objectives for the blog that is in line with your overall business objectives. What do you want to get out of the blog? Do you want to generate brand awareness, create a sales funnel to sell your product or service or generate leads?

You need to be clear on the goals you want to achieve through your blog so that you can create content that effectively serves those goals. But your blog should be primarily designed to provide solutions and solve problems for your target customers.

Before you start blogging, it is important to know exactly who you are writing for. Start by creating personas around your target audience.

What is a Persona?

A buyer persona is a fictional person that represents a well-defined segment of users with similar goals, interests, challenges, problems and personal characteristics. Your business will likely have completely different types of customers, and you need to create content that is tailored to each of your different customer segments in order to effectively market to them.

You’ll need to create personas so that you know what type of content to produce for the different types of users you serve. This will allow you to write effectively for your audience.

Creating personas is extremely helpful in the sense that they can help visualize what types of themes and topics your potential customers would be interested in. You can also get a sense of the type of keywords they are likely to use to search for your products and services.

For the purpose of this blog, we’ll break down the customer base into into 6 personas based on the information we have of them. For example:

  • Persona 1: David is a freshly retired 67 year old train driver. He is not tech-savvy, but has a smartphone and has used computers at work, but has never purchased a computer before. He is considering getting a computer for home use.
  • Persona 2: Sherene is a 23 year old graduate. She has purchased a computer before and is looking to upgrade. She is currently at the research stage of the buying cycle.
  • Persona 3: Peter is a 42 year old engineer. He is tech-savvy, and is looking for computer parts to build, upgrade or repair his computer.

In addition, you’ll get ideas of what type of content you should be producing for your audiences. Therefore, questions to start the brainstorming sessions should be designed to find out how your blog can serve the needs of your target audience:

  • What can potential readers of your blog learn from you?
  • What do they want to learn from you?
  • What can you learn from your customers?
  • How can you spark conversations with your audience?
  • How do you establish yourself as an expert or authority?

Let’s consider these questions one by one:

What can a blog visitor learn from you?

Looking at the defined personas, it is obvious that you can easily produce an educational and informative blog. This blog will be aimed at informing and educating different levels of customers and potential customers.

For example, for visitors who are not tech-savvy, you can produce simple articles and video blogs. These will discuss the basics of using computers, and explain the features and benefits of the different types of computers (desktops, laptops and tablets). For other more tech-savvy users, you can produce a blog that demonstrates how to perform a variety of challenging computer tasks.

So in the above example, the goal here is to become a leading resource on information about accomplishing a variety of computer tasks. The aim is to generate brand awareness, drive traffic to your website and build relationships with customers and prospects. The end goal is to turn your visitors into customers. In other words, the goal of your blog is to build authority through your computer knowledge. You can then leverage that authority to become a trusted information resource for the different audiences that visit your website.

What do they want to learn from you?

The best way to answer this question is by reaching out to your existing customer base through blog comments, surveys and polls. This will enable you to find out what kind of problems and challenges they face . You can also listen to their conversations on various social media sites to get more ideas. In addition, internal search on your blog can reveal the type of content your visitors might be interested in or looking for.

So, let’s say after listening to online conversations, you get some insights into your audience. You find that building networks between Apple and Windows computers is an activity that people struggle with. You can produce a 7 step how-to blog post on how to setup a computer network to share files and printers between Apple computers and PCs. You also post a how-to video that demonstrates how to do it so they can watch over your shoulder.

Is this Counterproductive?

Now, you might think this is counterproductive, giving valuable information away for free. Well, it’s not. What happens is people will go to Google and do a longtail search for “build a home network between Windows and Apple computers”. Next they find your highly optimized video and blog post: “How to build a home network between Windows and Apple computers and printers.” Of course this will get their attention. This is exactly the information they are looking for after all, and you are willing to share your trade secrets with them for free. What do they do now? They click on the link to your website, and go read the post and watch the accompanying videos.

Are You in a Boring Niche?

If you are in certain industries such as the plumbing or other “boring” niches, you may struggling to understand how content marketing could possibly apply to you. The fact is, it doesn’t matter what type of business you are in. The fundamentals of content marketing apply to any industry. Think about how your products or services benefits your customers. Those same people would benefit from information that talks about the problems you solve for them.

For example, if you’re an auto mechanic, you can invest in a how-to guide on how to change the oil in your car. And this guide has to be high quality and in-depth in terms of the information contained in it. It can even contain a video. If it’s half-hearted, its not going to work. It has to completely answer the question or completely solve the problem you are addressing.

Now, some people will be of the opinion you’re making a big mistake giving away valuable information since people actually pay you to do this. It’s not.

Why?

Because these people will see all of the intricate steps involved in solving that problem that they would rather leave it to an expert, rather than do it themselves. At the end of the day, the video will answer so many questions, that it would help others understand why you charge so much for the service you provide.

And a few readers may even go and change the oil in their cars themselves after watching the video. However, whatever the reason is, there will always be those that just cannot do it themselves, and this often tends to be the majority of people. Why? Because most people just don’t like getting their hands dirty. Perhaps they are afraid they will mess up? Perhaps they just don’t have the time to do it themselves? Whatever the reason is, most people will not want to do it themselves.

This is where it gets good for you: towards the end of the blog post you mention your home network building services. You also provide your readers and viewers a first time customer discount.

Here’s why they would choose you over another service provider:

  • You have demonstrated your expertise established yourself as a leading authority and knowledgeable expert in the field.
  • You walked them through the entire process, step-by-step. By reading your detailed guide or watching your video, potential customers get a chance to see you doing what you do best. Those images are powerful and will remain in the memory of your visitors. They can rest assured knowing that you can do a better job than they can, and that you’re not a fly-by-night.
  • Through your website, they now know exactly what other services you offer when they are in the market for them. Even consider those consumers that were able to build the network based on your step-by-step instructions. They will always be looking for ways to thank you for solving their problem. Its the law of reciprocity. People expect to pay for valuable information. You have offered that information for free. Since you sell computers and accessories, they are likely to visit your store when in the market for related products.
  • They are already on your website. Why look elsewhere when there is an expert already in front of them?
  • They have begun to trust you. This falls in line with the “expert” thing. It also falls in line with you laying out your expertise right in front of them. But also it’s because you have been presented as a professional business AND a strong, authoritative social voice.