You have a great business idea, your mom likes it, your friends like it, and hey, a subset of people you don’t know even like it.
You’ve spread word about it through your network – and their networks – and have received a positive response. You’ve even conducted some market research and held focus groups. In other words, you’ve validated your idea.
From there, you’ve even taken the steps to put together a rag-tag founding team and a minimal viable product.
At this point, as you work on finalizing product and business strategy, you should be putting together a communications and marketing strategy that aligns with your overall goals. But who is the target audience you’re communicating to?
With today’s myriad of digital tools, resources and communities, it’s easier than ever to find a target audience who wants what you’re providing . . . whether or not they know it yet.
One of the most sustainable ways to build and connect with this audience is through content, especially a blog.
So how do you start a blog when you don’t have an audience?
In all likelihood, your business idea came from a pain point of your own, or of someone close to you – a problem that needed solving or a need that needed fulfilling.
Write that problem down.
Before the solution you developed, what were the first steps you would’ve taken to solve it? What language would have you used to describe it? How would have you searched for a solution on Google?
Now it’s time to listen.
Take these terms and plug them into a media monitoring tool like Mention, or conduct an advanced search on Twitter. Pay attention to who the people are that are looking to solve this problem.
Casually converse with these people. Ask them questions, invite them to coffee or to Skype. Get to know them better.
What are they really looking for? What terms are they using when discussing the pain point your brand solves, or your brand in general?
These are the terms you’re going to use in your blog posts – the terms you’re going to choose your first post topics around.
Your problem has been defined, you’ve begun to identify who your first audience members are. Now it’s time to dig deeper.
First, take the problem-solving terms you’ve identified and plug them into Google Trends or ubersuggest.org to identify other related search terms used. Keep a list of these, they will come in handy when building out your editorial schedule.
Google Trends is a great tool for broadening your search, while sticking with specific, relevant topics.
Monitor these conversations to see who the existing thought leaders are. Reach out, and build a relationship with these folks. See what else they’re talking about. What seems to be resonating with their audiences?
Look at comments on the blogs of these thought leaders and your competitors. What are people asking? What do they want to know more about? With your list of key terms and key people, keep a list of these topics and questions.
With this exercise, you’re building a library of subjects that people are already searching for and interested in (ex: you’re writing for an existing audience who will be more likely to discover your content).
When doing your market research, make a list of where the conversations take place around the pain point and key terms you’ve identified – which blogs, forums, social channels. This is where you’re going to hand deliver your content.
Become active in these spaces before publishing content to them. Keep an eye on what type of content is trending.
Comment on different posts, answer questions, introduce yourself to fellow community members. This is the most effective way to build a repertoire — to build relationships. Then, when they see a post from you or your company, you’ve already built credibility with them, so they’re much more likely to click through and read.
You should now have a pretty robust list of topics to start producing content around. Remember, a blog doesn’t have to be all written content – there’s video and infographics just to name a few.
As you begin producing your content in whatever medium, you should be defining your unique voice.
When you tracked the problem your brand solves using a media monitoring tool earlier, you probably identified a few competitors working to solve the same problem. Look to see the type of voice they’re using.
What tone and language is resonating with their audiences? How can you be unique and stand out among them?
Are they using typical, dry B2B phrases and click-bait calls to action? Try taking it down a notch and using wit to convey your point. Your audience is made up of humans – don’t forget that.
Identifying thought leaders and influencers via media monitoring in step 2 is a great starting point for flagging your first community members.
You can even go a step further by joining relevant Twitter Chats, Google Hangouts, going to events. Get out there, talk to people, tell them that you’re building a blog. Ask them if they would read your first few posts before they’re public, and give them credit for their input.
In addition to the content circle mentioned above, you should build relationships with top bloggers in related industries and spaces for guest post opportunities. That is, both for them to contribute to your new blog, and for you to contribute to theirs.
Feel free to get creative here. These blogs don’t need to necessarily be directly tied to what it is you’re offering, but need to reach your target audience, and be relevant enough for them to want to learn more about what you’re working on then and there.
Start these relationships by commenting on their posts. Don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for a quick conversation, but be ready to explain how you can add value to their audience.
You have your topics, you have your audience, you have your influential guest contributors. Now for the fun part.
Start putting these topics into an editorial calendar for a holistic and birds-eye view of your publishing schedule so you can easily spot any holes and start building consistency, which will help strengthen reader loyalty by making their reading habits of your blog a ritual.
This is also where building an email list and distributing your content on a consistent and regular basis will become effective.
You’ll be amazed how quickly an audience starts to build around your content as long as what you’re saying provides value and is being delivered to the right people at the right time.
When you’re first getting started, just focus on the “O” in the ACTION Marketing System – make it ongoing – do something every day to move your business forward.
From there, you’ll be able to test and measure the metrics that matter most until you find what works best for you.
Stacey Riska, aka "Small Business Stacey" is a serial entrepreneur who is passionate about saving small - and not so small - businesses one marketing plan at a time. She helps business owners become a #SmallBizMarketingWiz by teaching them marketing strategies that get MORE: MORE leads, MORE customers/clients/patients, MORE sales, and MORE profit. Stacey's in-demand "Small Biz Marketing Success Coaching and Mastermind Program" is transforming the businesses - and lives - of those who want wealth, freedom, and market domination. Her highly acclaimed book "Small Business Marketing Made EZ" lays out the 6-simple-step plan to get your marketing into ACTION - literally and figuratively. Stacey is also the creator of Cups To Gallons, the place where independent coffee, smoothie, juice bar, ice cream, dessert and snack shop owners go to learn how get into lucrative catering so they stop selling by the cup and start selling by the gallon. In this program she teaches from experience, as it was the key strategy that transformed her coffee and smoothie business from being $500K in debt to a 7-figure profitable business. When not saving the small business world, she enjoys sipping red wine, eating chocolate (who doesn't!) and spending time with her amazing husband.
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