Writing a blog has become a mainstay marketing strategy for advisers, just as it has for small businesses in many other industries. Unfortunately, it has also become a mainstay source of angst and aggression for many who see it as a distraction from their core business.
Certainly, a successful and popular blog can be a key driver in building awareness of your firm and stoking interest in the services that you provide. Blogging done badly, however, can make a mess of your messaging, destroy your productivity, and undermine your efforts elsewhere.
Why is blogging so hard? The ultimate answer to that question is that it really doesn't have to be! The pain of blogging for many businesses is usually a result of them not having a clear understanding of what they are trying to achieve.
Here are five basic rules about blogging to keep in mind:
Be clear about the goal
As with all marketing strategies, for a blog to succeed it must connect to a business goal. For instance, if you want your firm to be recognised as an authority in personal finance and financial advice, your blog must be designed to reinforce that goal.
An advisory firm seeking to establish themselves as a reputable authority are not going to gain much traction with eye-glazing treatises about family holidays, homespun philosophies, or favourite recipes.
So, if you're thinking of starting a blog: make sure every post connects to your proposition. For example, one post could well be an account of a family holiday, but with insights about how best to spend money while abroad, or about how you can fit holidays and leisure into your long-term financial plan.
Develop a structure
For non-professional communicators and marketers, developing a writing habit is easier if you have a structure, or series of structures, to work with. The creative bit may be the original idea, but it becomes less of a grind if you can adapt that idea to an established template.
A list structure, as we're using here, is one such example. It spares you having to develop elaborate (and often clunky) segues.
Another template is — Anecdote, Problem, Solution. This is when you take something that happened to you in an everyday situation, like a holiday, identify the wider problem that this represented (for example, how to factor the holiday into your long-term plan) and offer a solution.
A third template, and one that is useful is you're running a bit short on time or inspiration, is to "top and tail" existing content. So, you might share a short YouTube video, adding a two or three paragraph intro and "back-announcing" it with a take-out message.
Write a punchy headline
This is what pulls people in. Headlines are an art form, but even amateurs can improve their output by following a few simple rules.
Shorter is generally better than longer. Instead of giving away the whole story in the headline; consider enticing the reader in with a question that they'll want to click through to find the answer to.
The old cliché about a picture being worth a thousand words is true. Alongside the punchy headline, it's the picture that will bring eyes to your blog. Once you're established, of course, people will seek out your thoughts. But you need to get their attention first.
But where to find pictures? Well, there are dozens of online sources of free images for social media. Check out this post from Hootsuite for a few suggestions.
Include a call to action
Ultimately, you want people to do something with the information provided, even if it's only to share it on their social media channels.
There are a number of ways in which a blog can be used to promote engagement. Ask people about their own experiences. Link the blog to an online survey, which in turn generates content. Invite them to an information evening. Have them register for your newsletter.
Whatever you do: you want the blog post to be the start of a conversation.
Blogging takes time to get right. But it's easier if you follow these simple rules. Be clear about your goal, develop a structure, write a punchy headline, incorporate compelling visuals and include a call to action.
Now get writing!