A blog is a tool like any other tool- email, twitter, etc. that enables you to do what you want and need to do. It could be to share your life with a few friends; it could be to build a platform of fans to buy an upcoming book; it could be a place to sell your art or business services.
That said, here at AW, when I talk about blogs, it will be as a platform to market yourself and/or your business.
I also want to take this opportunity to say that your business may be either a full time endeavor, or it could be a way to earn extra income on the side that allows you or your family to stretch your budgets a little further. No blog should ever be considered a get rich quick plan.
To build your business with a blog, as with any business building tactic, you need to be strategic and methodical in your approach.
The great news is there are multiple ways to go about building your business by leveraging a blog.
10 Ways to Build Your Business with a Blog
1. Build your Reputation with your Domain Expertise
Think of your blog as your billboard or living resume for your vast knowledge and skill set.
Are you an incredible speaker with something to share? Would you make a great keynote speaker? Then use your blog to show what you do and show how you do it. Use video to show your speaking ability and at the same time, give your readers and followers something of value they can use.
Protip- There is a huge opening for talented writers who understand the key points of web readability for content marketing gigs. Larger companies are finally clued in that branded micro-sites alone don't drive traffic and interest, great content does. Keep writing and if you want professional writing jobs, get networking online (Linkedin especially) and offline (industry events).
2. Build Trust and Credibility
People like to buy from people they know. Even if they don’t actually “know” you, if you have built an online relationship with them, if you have spoken their language, gotten in their heads, lived in their living room, helped them in some way, then when it comes to a decision to purchase, they will remember you because they *KNOW* you.
Tsh Oxenreider, author of Notes from a Blue Bike, is a brilliant example of building trust and community with her readers, and then building a successful business with her platform. (She published and self-published books, using affiliate sales and integrated advertising models as her monetization strategy.)
3. Build a Community
I’ve talked about this before, but your tribe is the people who share common interests, goals, life stage, business interests, etc.
Initially, your tribe will be your readers. Then, over time, they trust you because you serve them with what you do. They value what you have to say. And eventually, if you are a good tribe leader, these readers move from readers to followers and from followers to customers. Just be sure to build and lead your tribe well.
Jeff Goins of Tribe Writer is a great example of this strategy. His gift of writing compelling content that enriched the lives of his readers led to his book's great success and his online course on building an audience.
4. Build an Email List
Blogs build your voice, but if you have a product or service, your email list is what sells it.
Your list doesn't need to be huge, but it needs to be the right people. (tweet it!) You can have a massively large list, but if it’s a list filled with people who would never need your product or service, then it won’t be that useful to your business.
Protip: The people who become your subscribers should be treated well. There should be something in it for them beyond just what they can get on your blog. For example, my VIP Subscribers get occasional special notes from me and valuable content that doesn’t go on the public site. They will also have the ability to reserve space in my classes and courses before they are open to the public. (If you are not yet on the list, be sure to sign up at the end of this article. You'll get free books!)
5. Build a Pain Reliever for the Pain Points of Your Audience
Pain points of your audience are the things in their lives that are killing them, frustrating them, keeping them from having the business or life of their dreams.
And here’s the thing about pain. People don’t like it. They will pay to get rid of it.
They will pay you to get rid of it, if your products or services will ease their pain.
Want to build customer loyalty? Ease their daily pain. You'll have customers for life. (tweet it!)
But how do you know what their pain points are? Ask them. (I know. Brilliant, right?)
The point is, people don’t want to be in pain. Find out where their pain points are, and ease their pain.
There are so many options here. It is totally dependent upon your audience. What will help them?
- Build an online course (Your readers *really* need to learn how to make homemade bacon crafts and want to knit? Well get to helping them!)
- Develop a product that eases their pain (Bacon shaped knitting patterns for guys that want to knit... what? Guys like to knit, too!)
You know your audience. Help them!
A great example of someone who did this well is Brian Clark of Copyblogger. Brian spent years in this space discovering what his audience needed, he developed online marketing courses and then he built amazing software that eased their pain points.
He reminded all of the starry-eyed social media types (myself included) years ago that blogs still need to be businesses. We scoffed , "It's the social media revolution. It's a new day. That thinking is so archaic!" You know what? He was right.
6. Build an Audience that will Help you Get a Better Book Deal
Unless you are famous or infamous it can be hard to get a book deal. Sure, self publishing is great, but what if you want an advance and some support launching your book? You want a deal with a publisher.
The best way to get your (unknown) foot in the door with agents who can help you get that deal is to write amazingly epic content on a blog and build an audience.
This gives you the online street cred to negotiate a better deal for your first book.
7. Build a Larger Customer Base with Content Marketing
For years, people have relied on SEO strategies to get people to their sites, but these days, content marketing is king.
Well actually, content marketing is more than king. It’s the kingdom. (tweet it) If you want to drive more traffic to your site, all for the purpose of building a larger client/customer base, then you have to do so with stellar content.
In general, people are looking for in depth content that they can apply easily to their lives and businesses, and they are looking for you to supply their needs.
If you aren’t good at content marketing, then hire someone who is. It’s that’s simple. (tweet it!)
*Remember how I tipped off the writers about the need for talented copywriters for content marketing campaigns in #1 above? See what I did there?
8. Build a Portfolio of Work for Potential Clients to See and Love You
This is an important and often overlooked step. Your portfolio may be difficult to build until you actually have customers, but even before then, you can create samples of the work you “can” do.
If you are just building your portfolio, by all means work for free to build your portfolio. Help everyone you can, create your art and get moving. Don't wait for the perfect client to appear. Get out there and practice, get some experience under your belt and then it's time to actually take on clients.
9. Build your Brand and Position Yourself from Competitors
There are very few “new” things under the sun.
And as incredible as you are, (and you ARE fabulous) there are likely to be a gazillion other companies, consultants, online courses out there very similar to yours.
So how do you stand out in a crowd? Differentiate. Some part of what you do has to be different from what everyone else does, or they may as well just hire someone else or buy someone else’s product.
No one can be uniquely you. It is crucial that you find your unique positioning that will help you stand out from the crowd.
As you build your tribe, build trust, develop your list, and follow the other guidelines I’ve given you, your customers will begin to notice that you are different from your competitors, and they’ll come flocking to your * digital * door.
10. Build a Method to Validate Your Ideas
And last, but certainly not least, let your audience give feedback on your ideas for your next book, product or service offering.
This helps you not waste time and money on something only you like. (I've been there. It's hard on the ego.)
Your audience will be brutally honest with you (trust me, I know!)
They’ll tell you what they want, what they need, and what they want you to do for them (and stop doing).
BONUS: Why stop at 10 when this last one is really helpful (if done well?)
Affiliate income is a great way to add an additional income stream to your blog, but it must be done well.
When deciding to become an Affiliate for a company or product, you have to ask yourself if this product is something that will serve your audience; will it ease their pain or make their lives better?
It's important to match the products you recommend with the audience you have (if you want to make money at it anyway.)
If you try selling everything under the sun, you'll end up selling very little of anything this way.
A great example of someone who did it well is Brian Lam. Exhausted from his former job as editor of Gizmodo, he decided he'd build a better business AND live a life of meaning by being a smart affiliate. He knew that the constant stress of new blog updates to build traffic and try to scale traffic for blog advertising numbers was unsustainable considering ad revenue is a race to the bottom of the pay scale. He chose to work smarter not work harder and Brian is reaping the benefits.
At the end of the day, if you want to build the business of your dreams online, then you will need to build a stellar online platform, and get yourself a sound business strategy.
But I know you can do it. That is why you are here. We aren't messing around.
I’m going to continue to give you sound business advice, and you and your brilliant self are going to keep working hard at building the business of your dreams and a life of meaning.