How to generate business blog ideas
Starting a blog is easy. Keeping a blog is harder. Some days you’re inspired, and overflowing with ideas. Other days, not so much.
Take heart. Inspiration isn’t necessary to good writing.
Getting down to work on your blog is easier if you have a stockpile of ideas ready to go. Here's how to get that stockpile built.
Start with your ‘why’
As in “why am I doing this?”
The right ideas for your blog need to be in tune with why you’re blogging.
If you want to attract people to your site you might focus on posts that will improve your search results and get shared on social media. Longer posts are performing better in Google at the moment. Images can make those posts more shareable. Practical advice and instruction on a popular topic is likely to get more shares than an opinion piece (unless you’re Seth Godin).
If your priority is customer service you might spend more time answering common questions, suggesting ways to use your product, and sharing ideas from other customers. You might want to write lots of short posts, and offer a search or index so people can find articles that interest them.
If you’re blogging as a taster of your services you might invest time in comprehensive ‘how to’ posts, maybe with downloads and other extras. You might also want to tell stories about work you’ve done for others.
If you don’t know why you’re blogging for your business, take a look at the previous post on why you should blog. Of course, you might be blogging for all the reasons listed in that article. That’s fine, but it's still better to have one or two priority areas. If your goal is to get found via search, that doesn’t mean you can ONLY write articles that will get you found. But if you don't prioritise 'getting found' articles, you'll never hit your goal.
Next, think about their ‘why’
As in, “why would people read this?”
You need to write articles your target audience will want to read. Otherwise it’s kind of pointless.
Do your homework. Get everything together that you have in the way of customer feedback and research. Learn what excites them and what winds them up. Figure out what problems they are trying to solve in doing business with you. Think about how you might help them succeed beyond all expectation.
If you don’t know anything about your customer, do some research.
Some bloggers like to create a super-detailed persona to represent their perfect customer. Then, whenever they sit down to blog, they write for that perfect customer. That persona isn’t all their customers. But that doesn’t matter. Writing for a specific 'someone' can help you create articles that are more interesting for everyone. Writing for no one in particular usually means no one in particular is interested.
So - got that clear picture in your head about who your customer is and what they need from you?
Here are nine ideas for different kinds of posts. For each one, write down at least three ideas that would work for your business. That's 27 post ideas. If you write a post every week, that’s still six month’s worth of posts.
1 How to…
Pick a problem that your customers have and show them how to solve it. This could be caring for or using a product bought in your store. For services businesses, you might show them how to solve easy problems for themselves.
It can be good to add pictures or even video to these posts to show how it’s done. (We’ll look at image and video posts later in the series).
2 Why don’t you…
Inspire your reader. Show how to use your products in unconventional ways. Or how to put several products together to create a bigger result. Think of fashion or homewares catalogues. They don’t just show you one Christmas decoration at a time. There's always a whole table laid for Christmas dinner. And that blog post showing you how to use their silver spray paint for DIY decorations...
If you’re more of a services business, can you tell your readers about new industry trends? Then you might follow up with several ‘how to…’ posts to get them started on the practical details.
3 Why we…
Explain some aspect of your business, and why it’s the way it is. The history of your logo, why you buy products or pay staff the way you do, or how you chose your current location. These kinds of posts are great for building trust with customers. They help them to understand the kind of business you are.
Buffer are famous for this, sharing all kinds of decisions and even mistakes on their Open blog.
4 Behind the scenes
Less ‘why we…’ and more ‘how we…’. People like to peek backstage, and see how the magic happens. When you build a new thing (new product, new website, new store), invite your readers behind the curtain to see how it came together.
Instagram is a fantastic platform for this kind of post. We’ll look at choosing the right platform and media for your blog later in this series.
Hugely popular at the moment. Pick a topic and list as many ideas as you can. Maybe ‘seven ways to clean…’ for a cleaning business. 'Nine ways to use leftovers…’ for a food business. ‘Our 15 favourite cost savers…’ for a financial business.
I've read that odd numbers work better than even ones. Long lists are quite popular too. I think it's that idea that if someone offers you a list of 91 Twitter tools (yes, that's a real post!), there's bound to be one you've not heard of. But starting with three or five things would be fine.
6 Reviews and recommendations
You can review products you sell yourself. Explain why you chose to stock them, and how customers can use them. Or you can review the tools you use to get your work done, or try new things so your customers don’t have to. Don’t forget book reviews either.
If it’s not something you sell yourself, you can earn affiliate income from linking to the product from your site. Amazon books are a good place to start, and lots of software companies have affiliate programmes where you can earn cash or discounts. If you do get affiliate income from promoting it on your site, remember to say so in your posts. And personally, I never use affiliate links for books or products I haven't read or used.
7 Offers and discounts
Announcing any sales or promotions is an obvious use for your blog. Some businesses give email subscribers a head start on their sale, and if you do this, then say so, as it's a good reason for people to sign up. Discount coupons are a common incentive to get people to register for an email list, too. Your blog is also a good place to drum up pre-orders for new products, and to encourage early ordering for busy periods.
8 Company news
A blog that is nothing but company announcements is dull, but don’t be afraid to include news items now and then. Hiring new people, anniversaries for longtime employees, or the company away day: all great opportunities to show your human side.
9 We think…
Opinion pieces are good for showing you take an interest in your industry, and care about its future. Write or review trend reports and predictions, or share your opinion on current issues.
Don’t be afraid to be controversial. Disagreeing can be a great way to stand out from the crowd. If you truly believe what you’re saying, put it out there. All the usual blogging rules apply: be nice, not snarky; start from the facts; try to suggest how things could be better rather than just dismissing everyone else’s opinion as rubbish.
Keep your business blog ideas safe
Put it somewhere it’s easy to add to. I use a list in Trello*, and add longer articles to Evernote* but you might prefer paper notes. I also like IFTT’s Do Note. I can fire a note into Evernote (or about 100 other places) from the notification centre on my phone.
Over time, your stockpile might get a bit low. Even if you add new ideas often, the older ones might feel a bit dusty. It’s a good idea to schedule in regular time to refresh your stockpile. Cross off all the ideas you are bored of. The ones you look at every week, and always reject in favour of something else. Then go through the nine post types and top up your list with fresh ideas.
This gets easier with practice. You might even find you hardly ever need to do a thorough top up. I always find I need to clear out dead wood, though.
Later in the series, we’ll look at creating a plan for turning your ideas into actual blog posts. But before we get to that, we’ll explore all the different places you might publish your posts.
In the meantime, if you have any questions or ideas, please get in touch via the comments.