When it comes to giving the world insight into your business, nothing beats a great blog. It can also help grow your business.

I started writing blogs six years ago because I was told it would help my business. It didn’t do a thing for my business. I just started writing and expected good things to happen…wasn’t that what I read to do in all of the articles?

In the last few years, however, blogging has been really productive for my business. I have landed a book-publishing contract, speaking engagements, new product customers and consulting clients, tested marketing ideas and gotten great business feedback– all from my blog.

What changed? Along the way, I got some great advice on blogging from social media experts that turned this activity into a real business opportunity. Here are five things I have learned that helped turn blogging into business for me:

1. Who are you writing for? You can’t write for everyone. When I read Seth Godin’s bookAll Marketers Are Liars,  he talked about the need to write for the edge of the audience rather than down what might be characterized as “vanilla middle.” When I write, I think about specific people. What size of company they have, how old they are, what stage of business development they’re in and what challenges they might be facing. My audience fits into a bandwidth of people. Each blog might be written for a different sliver of that bandwidth, but I try to write in the bandwidth, rather than writing for general business readers.

2. Write about something that matters. There are people who write cat blogs. You know what I mean- the personal life story of someone and her cat. That’s not a business blog. If you are writing for the purposes of generating business, then you should be answering questions that you believe your readers have or solving problems they may be experiencing. This is an investment in them, creates interest and demonstrates expertise.

3. Write like a person, not a professor. A blog isn’t a lecture. It’s a snapshot of your perspective on a topic. That means it has your voice. Your personality, stories, examples and sometimes silliness. People do not connect to the information only; they connect to the author. Blogs are not Wikipedia entries, they are mini-monologues, (dialogues if people post up comments), that are first person narrated.

4. Give access. By offering a way to connect back to you directly, you give people a chance to get to know you better, get more information and value and choose to hire you. Regardless of whether your business grooms animals, gives cooking classes, does bookkeeping, makes parts or services vehicles, if people see you as someone they connect with and whose information is helpful, they will want to connect.

5. Share everything. Give away your ideas, your thoughts and insights. It was hard at first for me because I thought, “I sell my intellectual property, so how will I make any money if I give it away?” Over time I learned that if people find your ideas valuable, no matter how many you give away, people will still want more and be willing to pay for them.  Of course, you have to have a way to monetize your business, but in creating a brand and connecting to your market, don’t be afraid of free. Just make certain that as you build your business, for those people who want to dive deeper or get individual assistance, you have a way to charge for that work.

Blogging is work, so you have to look at it as an investment. It is also a long-term play, so you have to be patient for results. With that in mind, here are 3 easy steps to get started:

1. Decide on your audience. Pick 10 customers in your mind that represent your audience and write with them in mind.

2. Pick 20 common problems and write a how-to-fix-it blog of 500 words on each.

3. Publish 2 of the blogs per week for 10 weeks.

You are now a blogger. If you have survived the first 10 weeks, repeat steps 1 – 3.

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