Why You Should Start a Blog

I’ve been writing blog posts for money for other people for years, but I hadn’t been updating my own blog on a regular basis – in fact, I hadn’t updated this blog in 2.5 years. There are several reasons why I wasn’t blogging; part of it was that I was too busy doing paid writing work for other people. But more importantly, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to blog about. I was afraid that blogging was “over” and tired and done to death, like maybe people don’t have the attention span anymore to read entire blog posts and I should just move to Instagram instead. I worried that there was no point in me further adding to the clutter of the Internet. (“What am I supposed to blog about, how to be a freelance writer? Write about writing?” I grumbled to myself. “Ugh, that sounds awful. And what’s the point? Lots of other sites are already doing that; I don’t have anything new to say.”)

But ever since I started working with a business coach to clarify my next steps in my career, I have felt a new wellspring of inspiration and I’ve been blogging up a storm, and the other night, in a fever dream of blogging, I realized that I’ve finally discovered what blogging really “is.” If you’re a small business owner or solo-preneur or freelance writer or consultant or anyone who wants to make money by doing business online, you should really start a blog RIGHT NOW.

Why? There are several reasons; some obvious, and some profound:

Blogging Helps Your Customers Find You

It sounds simple and obvious, but it’s true, and lots of companies are still figuring this out: content marketing is one of the best ways to find new customers online. Every day, billions of people all over the world are using the Internet to search Google (and other less-popular search engines) for information about questions or problems that they need to solve. By writing blog posts targeted at certain search keywords that are relevant to your business, you can reverse-engineer your website to GET FOUND by the customers who are already looking for information about what your business does. This is a total role reversal of most traditional marketing, which is focused on helping you go out and “find” customers – instead of this traditional outbound marketing, having a blog is a form of inbound “content marketing.” Instead of buying advertising and using a megaphone to reach new customers, your blog serves like a silent magnetic bread crumb trail to attract customers to your site.

Kind of a cheesy bit of clip art, but hey – it was Free!

And sure, it’s not always easy: the content writing game has changed a lot over the years, and many, many sites are competing for traffic on the most-searched keywords, and there’s a constant re-shuffling of content marketing best practices as search engines re-draw the rules of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to keep their search results from getting cluttered with spam and junk sites. Just starting a blog and putting up some keyword-stuffed articles is not good enough to generate enough traffic to build a business on anymore; you might need to buy some Google ads and invest in other paid marketing and “content amplification” to support your content marketing and get it in front of a bigger audience.

But the basic idea here is still relevant: blogging helps your business “get found.” Instead of buying a bigger megaphone to shout at customers (by spending more on ads), blogging lets you build a smarter magnet to attract the right customers who are already interested in (and searching for!) what you offer.

Blogging Helps Customers Get to Know You

Perhaps more importantly – blogging is an ideal way to let your customers get to know you. Blogging is a way of building relationships with writing. This is crucial for any professional services business, whether you’re a freelance writer like me, or running a PR firm or marketing agency or a law firm or a consulting firm or a coaching practice, or anything else where you sell your ideas and expertise.

For example: here’s what I’m trying to do with my blog – I’m trying to share my point of view on how I work and why my work matters and what I care about as a freelance writer. I’m trying to show my readers that I have good ideas, perspectives, experience and expertise that can help them with their content marketing writing needs. Ideally, people will read what I have to say and think, “Wow, this Ben Gran really knows his stuff! This is the kind of person that I’d like to hire for freelance writing projects!”

The best blog articles help your customers get to know you better and develop a more intimate idea of what you’re like – how your mind works, how you approach problems, how you perceive your world, and how you present yourself to your audience. Blogs should not be bland and generic – they should be crackling with personality and ambition and a unique point of view!

Blogging Gives You Something to Share With Customers

Even if no one ever “finds” your blog, even if you never get any new customer inquiries based on search engine traffic to your website, having a blog is still worthwhile because it gives you some great content – that you wrote and published yourself – to share with your prospective customers. Every blog article becomes your permanent little mini-brochure for yourself on that particular topic – you can share it on social media, send it via email, and show it to new prospective customers again and again.

For example: is there a frequently asked question that prospective customers tend to ask you about? Is there a recurring objection or bit of skepticism about your business or industry that prevents people from buying from you? Write a blog post about it! Use the blog post as your own little “sales person” to help educate your customers and overcome objections. Or write a “thought leadership” blog post with your ideas for where your industry needs to improve or how things should change or something you’re excited about – blogging is a way to share your passion for your business and your industry.

It might seem overwhelming to start a blog in a world of millions of blogs all competing for clicks – but the thing is, you don’t NEED millions of people to read your site! You just need to have some good content up and running and ready to go so you can make a good first impression with the RIGHT people – with blog articles that are focused on exploring topics that are relevant to YOUR audience. Even if only 5 people read your new blog post, what if all 5 of them turn out to be new customers for you? Don’t worry about what the mass audiences are doing; worry about what you’re offering right here in your immediate world.

And speaking of “your own immediate world…”

Blogging Helps You Clarify Your Own Thoughts and Vision!

This is maybe the most important reason to start a blog: blogging isn’t just good for finding customers, it’s good for YOU. Even if you never get a SINGLE customer from your blog (which is unlikely), blogging is still worth doing because of what it helps you learn about YOURSELF. Blogging is a journey of self-discovery. It helps you clarify what’s going on in your own mind. It helps you focus on what you really care about as a business person, it helps you pour out the contents of your mind and soul.

Because that’s another thing I’ve recently discovered…

Blogging Shows You the Meaning of “Content” in Content Marketing

Most people think of the word “content” in content marketing as being kind of a catch-all term – “content” could be anything from blog posts to infographics to podcasts to videos; any non-advertising material that attracts eyeballs. But here’s a clever new catchphrase idea – “content” in content marketing is really the “content of your mind and soul.”

Pour the sweet “content” of your soul into every blog post!

At its best, content marketing is an intimate activity. Ideally, you should take chances with your content marketing – you should pour yourself into it. Writing blog posts should feel like a creative rush and a psychic unburdening. Blogging, at its best, is an act of generosity and community, a pouring out of the “content” of your mind and soul onto the Internet. Blogging is a way to share your lived experiences, your hopes and dreams and fears, in a way that resonates so strongly with the right people who read it, that they will want to jump up from their desk and immediately call you or send you an email immediately.

So…start a blog! Even if you “don’t have time,” even if you don’t have a big budget, even if you don’t know what “Google Ad Words” or “SEO keywords” are, even if you don’t know what to blog about, even if you feel like no one will read it, even if you’re “not a writer.” In fact, even if you have no special talent for writing, you can get help from professional freelance writers who can help brainstorm topics and ghostwrite your articles and channel your expertise into highly readable website content.

Speaking of which…

Would you like to hire a freelance writer to help you create blog posts like this for your business? I can help! Send me an email: benjamin.gran@gmail.com

3 Content Marketing Lessons From My Annoying Credit Union

Like most Americans, I get too much junk mail. Pretty much everything that arrives in my mailbox is annoying and worthless and just asking me for money. But it especially grinds my gears when companies send junk mail to their own customers. That’s what happened to me, once again, today when I got yet another letter from my credit union asking me to borrow more money on a home equity line of credit – they sent me junk mail with a bunch of blank checks that I could use immediately to write checks to pay for new purchases by borrowing more money on my HELOC.

This is annoying for several reasons:

  1. I don’t want to borrow more money from my HELOC – I have more than enough mortgage debt already, thank you very much.
  2. Even if I did want to borrow more money, I wouldn’t want to do it spontaneously by filling out a blank check that randomly arrived in the mail; borrowing against the equity in your home is not a low-risk proposition and it should not be taken lightly or done frivolously.
  3. Why are they sending me blank checks in the mail? I didn’t ask for this. What if that check falls into the wrong hands? What if someone steals your mail and borrows a bunch of money in your name? This whole situation is stupid and uncalled for and I wanted to stop getting this junk mail.

So I called the credit union to ask them to take me off the solicitation mailing list. I even called the 800 number at the bottom of the letter that they provided to me to “call if you have any questions,” etc.

Then my day got even more annoying. I was expecting to talk to a real person right away, since I was responding to a solicitation letter, but the 800 number had a long, automated voice mail menu with half a dozen prompts to choose from, none of which were exactly right for my situation. I finally got a customer service person. “Hello,” I said. “I need some help – please take me off your solicitation mailing list. I got a mailing from your credit union with blank checks in it today, and I’m tired of getting these mailings. I don’t want to get any more offers for home equity line of credit blank checks or any other solicitations from you. Please change my solicitation preferences.”

The customer service person talked to me like they didn’t know what I was talking about. “Well I’m sorry sir, I don’t really know what that’s about,” she said. “I can transfer you to a loan officer if you like, we don’t share our customer information with any 3rd parties so you shouldn’t be getting any solicitations from anyone else.”

I was instantly exasperated. I was calling about a specific problem that they had caused, and the company apparently wasn’t aware that they were responsible or had even sent me a letter in the first place.

“Well, this solicitation is not from a 3rd party, it’s from your company, and your number is at the bottom of the letter – I’m calling the very same 800 number that’s at the bottom of your letter that you sent,” I said. “Can I talk to your manager, please? I need to escalate this.”

I sat on hold for a few minutes and finally got to talk to a manager who helped me resolve the situation. Fine – all’s well that ends well. But here are a few content marketing lessons from this whole silly situation:

Stop Sending Junk Mail

It drives me nuts that in the age of the Internet, we still have all these companies who are sending junk mail that doesn’t even get opened by 98% of people (or more) who receive it. Yeah, I’m sure the Direct Marketing Association will tell you that direct mail still works, and that’s probably true to some extent, but why are you spamming your own customers? I already had a business relationship with this company, and I never asked to be on their mailing list, but they just ASSUMED that I wanted to hear from them with their annoying and invasive mail offer. Shouldn’t there be a better way to interact and engage with your own customers, especially? Instead of blasting out an expensive, wasteful direct mailing that’s not even going to be opened by most people – or that will actively annoy some of the precious customers who ALREADY CHOSE TO GIVE YOU THEIR MONEY – why not find better ways of getting the right people connected with the right offers? Junk mail is a bullhorn; content marketing is a magnet.

Opt In Marketing is Better Than Opt Out

I shouldn’t have to take time out of my day to call my credit union to demand that they stop filling my mailbox with crap. Just because you have someone’s contact information doesn’t mean you have their permission to contact them. Permission is PRICELESS. My credit union has an existing customer relationship with me, which they have now damaged by sending me junk mail and then handling the situation poorly. Instead of forcing me to “opt out” of their marketing, instead of assuming that I wanted to hear from them with marketing offers, my credit union should use “opt in” marketing to qualify prospective customers AHEAD OF TIME and GET PERMISSION in advance BEFORE they start sending offers to us. Stop wasting paper and squandering everyone’s time.

What if, instead of bombarding people with junk mail that they never asked for, companies spent more time and resources upfront on identifying the RIGHT customers who were truly open to receiving those offers? What if you spent more time cultivating an “opt in” culture of marketing where your customers were so engaged with your company that they actively CHOSE to receive your newsletters and mailings, because your content delivered so much value and was so fun to read and helped them learn new things? But doing “opt in” marketing is hard and time-consuming and requires creativity and courage, so instead, companies just crank out another mailing list and smother us all in spam.

It doesn’t have to be that way! Spend more time earning your customers’ permission and building an audience of customers who are happy – no, thrilled! – to hear from you, instead of annoying them with junk mail.

Be Ready to Receive the Customer’s Call

What if, upon receiving those blank checks in the mail, I was actually EXCITED about it? What if I had been really happy to receive that offer, and was thrilled to suddenly have an easy excuse to go to Lowe’s or Home Depot and buy a new kitchen counter with my HELOC money? What if I actually HAD been the target audience for this junk mail offer, and I just had some follow-up questions that I wanted to ask before writing the checks, so I decided to call the number at the bottom of the letter?

Well, I would have been disappointed! Because the first customer service person I talked to didn’t know anything about the letter!

Even if I HADN’T been annoyed by the junk mail, even if the junk mail was a golden opportunity that I was thrilled to receive, then it’s STILL a missed opportunity because the company’s not set up to handle “success!” If you’re going to take the time and spend the resources to send a marketing message to your customers, MAKE SURE YOU’RE READY FOR IT TO SUCCEED. Don’t direct your new sales leads to a generic phone line of automated prompts and clueless customer service reps – give them a special dedicated phone number that takes them directly to a real person who is trained specifically to answer their questions!

Even if I had WANTED to do business with this company as a result of receiving their letter, this company wasn’t ready to do business with me! What’s the point?? Why bother sending me something if you’re not ready to talk about it???