Should your small business have a blog?

Close up of Studio Cotton founder Aime with her blonde hair tied up, wearing a brown dress and holding her hand to her mouth
Aime Cox
Founder of Studio Cotton
Aime is utterly obsessed with sharing heaps of small business and website advice that’s easy to action

“Should my business have a blog?” is probably the question I get asked the most. And, I pretty much always have the same answer – probably.

Blogging is a great way to supply timely content (a favourite of search engines like Google) and can really take the burden off finding something to share on social media. It gives you the opportunity to share your passion and show yourselves to be experts in your field.

However, there are few pretty massive buts (and I cannot lie).

Write for your customers, not for you

This is one of the biggest mistakes we see in business blogging. So often, a business will write about what matters to them, which in many cases is not what matters to their current customers – or to potential new ones.

One of the biggest culprits for this are technical business like developers, engineers and manufacturers. In the majority of cases, clients of these companies choose their you, their supplier, because they don’t know how (or want) to do the complicated stuff.

They want you to take their lovely, simple brief and deliver a lovely, simple solution. They appreciate the technical know-how, the expensive equipment and creative expertise – but they don’t want to know about it. If they did, they’d be doing it themselves and you’d be out of a job.

If you’re a commercial printer with a fancy new printing press, don’t blog about how fancy the Xpert Printmagic 3000X is – write about how it solves your clients problems. For example, ‘How to significantly cut the cost of label printing’ or ‘A new way to meet 2-hour print deadlines’.

Super interesting for developers, super boring for the rest of us…

If you’re a development house that creates custom apps, the easiest way to scare people off is to focus on the minutia of the code. Flip the story, and write about how you solved your client’s challenge in a cost-effective and creative manner, and how gosh-darn easy it was for the client.

That’s not to say there isn’t a place for this expert-led, specialist content. A separate, dedicated technical blog is an option (although not ideal), or encourage staff members to have their own personal blogs – this way you can set them up as the experts and make your company more transparent.

You can also blog and share specialist content on shared and platforms, like Medium, LinkedIn Pulse, or GitHub.

Be More Kanye
I promise you this picture will make sense very shortly…

Don’t take yourself too seriously

The first blog post I ever wrote was atrocious. Completely devoid of character, boring and dryer than the fountains in Bristol’s city centre. What’s more, it was about email marketing in the pharmaceutical industry – thrilling, no?

I sent it to a couple of friends who in a very polite way told me it sucked. Dejected, I closed my draft and pretended it never happened. A couple of weeks passed and I sent it to someone else – I knew the content was solid and should be interesting – I just didn’t know why it wasn’t working.

They pointed out the obvious. It wasn’t me.

I’m a science graduate, and until that point had be trained to write in a very factual, to-the-point manner. This was great for a dissertation on The Media Perception of Genetic Advances in the 21st Century, but blooming terrible for blog posts I actually wanted people to enjoy.

So I started from scratch, I rewrote the article covering the same information, but translated into Aime-speak. Casual, chatty, and with a smuttering of Kanye West references, and suddenly I’d made this pretty specialist topic approachable and interesting.

That very blog post ended up being picked up by a leading industry magazine (PMLiVE), and you can still read it here (sans Kanye-ness). So next time you write, make sure it sounds like you.

Credit’s due to my old employer, Swordfish Advertising, for having the patience to put up with me writing 10 drafts and then gloating that I was in a magazine and basically famous now…

You need to be good at writing interesting stuff

Some people aren’t good at writing, and that’s ok. If you’re not good at writing – dedicating time, effort and likely a whole heap of stress into creating and maintaining a business blog – is probably a bad idea.

Lazy cat having a snooze
Laziness should be reserved for cats and Sunday afternoons, not for business blogs

As a business, you have to be professional at all times. Sure, as a small business there’s a lot more leniency for minor mistakes and inaccuracies – but a sloppy, lazily written article can make you look like a sloppy, lazy business. That would be very, very bad.

There’s a couple of options, you could trick someone who loves you into writing for you. Or, you could hire someone to write for you.

There’s a plethora of talented copywriters in Bristol (shoutout to our friends at Inkwell Agency), as well as marketing agencies who specialise in content production. Just make sure that the articles written meet your business requirements, and fit your brand’s tone of voice.

Don’t be afraid to let your content creator know when you’re not happy or don’t understand something they’ve produced. It’s perfectly ok and often welcomed to have feedback of all kinds.

If you want to be better, you need to learn

Whether you’re a bad, mediocre or great writer, there’s always room to get better. Not just in the quality and personality of your writing, but in its suitability for reading online.

People read content on websites very differently to books, magazines and newspapers. You also want to write and format articles in a way that makes your site super searchable by Google.

There’s an almost infinite number of blog posts about how to write better blogs (and yes, I will be adding one too soon), my favourites can probably all be found on either Econsultancy or Medium.

If you want a little hands-on support, most agencies – including us here at Studio Cotton – can provide mentoring services or direct feedback on content you’ve produced. There’s also regular workshops around Bristol from people who talk about running a successful blog.

Copywriting and content workshops can be expensive so it’s certainly best to do your research first – check out the website and blog of the person speaking and see if that style would fit your business. Our favourite Bristol venue, The Forge, has hosted loads of guest speakers so it’s certainly worth checking out their upcoming events.

Blogging takes time and patience

You can’t really half-arse maintaining a blog. I know we can’t really talk here at Studio Cotton (I’m fully aware that there’s been a good few months since I last wrote!), but to really get the benefit of blogging you need to post regular, valuable content.

If it’s not realistic for you to spend an hour fortnight writing about something interesting, unique and timely, then formatting, finding the right pictures, posting and sharing, then don’t have a blog.

I always tell my clients to work within their budgets, and to spend the time and budget they have on the activity that will get them the greatest return as quickly as possible. Blogging is slow win, a long not-con, that can take months or years to have a truly significant impact.

So yes, your business should probably should have a blog. But there’s a good chance that right now, it probably makes more sense for you to work on 20 other things that are cheaper, less stressful and more immediately beneficial.

That said, if you like creating, writing, and are passionate about what you do – type it up and share that stuff!

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