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Business blogging is a waste of time

So said one of the panellists in a discussion I chaired recently at the inaugural and excellent Professional Copywriters Network Conference in London. Business blogging was put under a very searching spotlight and found wanting by at least two of the four professional copywriters on the panel.

Quite right too. It should be thought about carefully. It costs a lot of money and time to write a blog and if it isn't going to help you sell more, you really shouldn't be writing it. 

You know already that I think business blogging works, otherwise I wouldn't be writing this blog. And you're interested in the possibilities otherwise you wouldn't be reading it. There are two main elements to creating blog content that will give you a return on your investment: You must write blogs that people find and read and you must have a plan to turn their interest into a sales opportunity. Here's how:

10 tips: How to write a blog for business

1. Make sure you write for your customers and potential customers - and nobody else.

In B2B, people buy from you because you help them to solve problems. Your company helps solve their problems better than most or all of your competitors. So, who are your best potential customers and what are those problems? If you write about the problems they face and demonstrate how they can be solved, you'll succeed in engaging the interest of potential new customers with similar challenges. When you've written your blog, read it again and ask yourself: "Is it obvious who this blog is for and how it will help them?"

2. Use the language your customers use.

There's no point writing a blog unless it is found and read by potential customers. That's what 'keywords' are all about. Search engines help web users find the content they're looking for by matching the words they type into search engines with the words used on web pages. So, if you make sure you're using the words your potential customers use, you'll give yourself the best chance of being found.

3. Be generous. Share your knowledge.

We've all read websites and sales brochures written by companies that tell us how accomplished they are, but don't demonstrate any of the expertise they claim to have. How credible is that? Share your knowledge. It will help people to understand their problems better and define solutions, but they'll still need to buy a product in the end and if you've helped to define the problem, as all good solution salespeople know, you're much more likely to get the sell.

If you sell a service then sure, some, maybe even many of your readers will never buy anything from you. That doesn't matter as long as you generate enough interest and prospects to justify the time and resources spent writing the blog. Generosity, by the way, includes acknowledging the expertise of others - even competitors. This demonstrates confidence and openness that most people appreciate.

4. Remember the B2B reader wants to know how to solve a problem, not how great your products and services are.

B2B buyers go online right at the beginning of the purchasing process when they're trying to work out how to do something. They're not yet ready - or interested - in why your products or services are the best. Did I mention that I sell business blogging services? Of course not; I'm trying to be helpful here so that if you want some help with creating blog content in future, maybe you'll think about tracking me down.

5. Take a stance.

People aren't interested in writers who sit on the fence, so don't be afraid to have an opinion. Readers are looking for someone who has a point of view based on experience and knowledge, and can guide them in solving their problems.

6. Don't just wait for readers - go get them.

Some people will of course find your blog through search engines, but now that you've taken the time to research and write a blog it would be crazy not to tell people about it. You can do this through Twitter, where users like to click through to great content that is relevant to their job. You can also do it through LinkedIn, which we've found to be a particularly useful way of gaining an audience for blog content in a B2B context.

Share your new business blog with fellow members of your groups - link to it through comments on other people's blogs and forum discussions. It's so much easier to be seen as a credible and valuable member of a community when you have something to say that contributes to the knowledge and understanding of that group. Don't be afraid to ask people's opinion of your new content. You'll find that they're happy to share opinions, and those opinions will help you to shape and improve future content to make it more interesting and valuable to your readers. Our clients have found that having content to share helps them to build relationships through social networks and turn those relationships into leads. Don't forget either to make your B2B blog easy for others to share, through social media links, email and RSS sign-up.

7. Capture your readers' interest - and offer them further reading.

Remember I said there's no point putting a lot of effort into blogging if it isn't going to help you generate revenue? Well, in my experience, people who say they've tried blogging and it doesn't work have very often hoped that potential customers will read a blog and rush straight to their phone or send an urgent email begging for a sales call. If it was that easy, we'd probably all be much richer and the economy would be rocking. It doesn't work like that. Here's how it can work: If a reader is interested in the content of your blog they may very well be interested in exploring the subject in more depth.

Ideas are great, actionable content is better. So offer people a genuinely useful piece of content that will help them reach the next stage in solving the problem that attracted them to your blog in the first place. Do this by advertising your more in-depth information, whether in the form of an ebook, a video or perhaps a short guide, through an easy-to-understand link from the blog to another page where the offer can be downloaded. 

And ask them to give you some basic contact information in exchange.

8. Link your blog to a lead capture page.

This is how businesses capture the data that gives them the chance to turn an anonymous blog reader into a lead. A lead capture page must 'sell' the reader into downloading the content that is being offered with succinct, persuasive copy and lots of action buttons to encourage people to fill in the form. Strike while the iron is hot - while you've got the reader's interest and the context in which taking the step and downloading something - even if it means giving up anonymity - seems a natural and sensible next step.

9. Follow-up.

Now you can build a relationship with your new lead using further offers of content that nurture the relationship until the lead is ready to engage in one-to-one conversation. You can do that through relevant emails offering further content because you've captured your blog reader's email address in a form. Now all those traditional sales skills your salespeople have learned and worked so hard to fine tune can come to the fore.

10. Keep writing.

One blog won't change the prospects for your business. You need to keep at it. Inbound and content marketing thought-leaders HubSpot recommend that businesses blog at least twice a week and cite evidence from their extensive research to show that companies that do blog that often get at least 55% more leads than those who do not.

This purposeful approach to blogging - a strategy that involves getting found by potential buyers, turning them into readers that become leads and then nurturing those leads until they are ready to buy - is the process that is known as inbound marketing.

And because this is a guest post I don't have a call to action which would normally go here:

That way I can convert my readers into sales leads. Thanks for reading.