Five Blog Posts Every Business Can Write
 

So, we talked about how a blog is probably the least-critical component of your business’ content marketing plan...but blogging is still a worthwhile activity (says the writer). (But no, really.)

But maybe you’re one of those who wants to start a blog but isn’t sure...well, where to start?

I got you. Here are five blog posts that literally every business can use:

  1. Our/My business’ origin story
    How’d you get started? What got you interested in starting this business in the first place? What path did you take to get from “I wish I could…” to “Business Owner”?

  2. Meet the founders/owners/key employees
    Self-explanatory. I’m a big, big believer in putting actual human faces to your business. Share your background and experience, talk about what you do when you’re not working, tell people how you and your co-founder met.

  3. What I wish I’d known before starting a business
    You can talk about mistakes you’d made or things you wish you’d done differently. Passing on wisdom—so others don’t repeat your mistakes—is always good.    

  4. Behind the scenes of the store/office/warehouse
    Are you a maker? Share your process. Run a boutique? Tell your customers what it’s like when you go to LA Fashion District or give them a sneak peek of the inventory you’ve got in the back. Online business? Let’s see your workspace. Have employees? Show people the shenanigans that happen after the store closes.

  5. The most rewarding part about running a business
    This is probably where you thank your loyal customers and highlight the relationships you’ve made through your business.

Why These Work

For one, they’re all easy to tweak, adjust, and customize to your business/brand/voice. If you own a yoga studio, your “origin story” might be about the first time you ever took a yoga class, or about your first job at a yoga studio, or the day you were walking down the street and saw a “FOR LEASE” sign and it was like Hanuman was yanking you towards it.

Two, they’re fairly easy. Spend just a couple minutes thinking about these topics and I bet you’ll come up with ideas (yes, multiple) for each. You won’t have to do extra research or spend a ton of time on the posts aside from writing them (maybe digging through your phone for some old photos but that’s it). If you really hate writing and aren’t working with a writer, I’d recommend recording yourself just telling the story as if you’re talking to a friend, then writing the post from that recording.

Three, they’re all about letting your customers get to know you, and that’s one of the things blogging does best. As you share these posts, you become more than just a cool little thrift shop. You become a thrift shop that’s all about finding the stories behind things because you remember poking through your grandma’s closet and asking her where she got all these trinkets and collections and those conversations are some of your favorite childhood memories. You’ll attract more of your people.

So there you go. If you blog once a week, that’s a month-plus worth of content.

And you can totally stretch this out!

  • Multiple “introduction” posts on you, your co-founder, your employees

  • Stretch your “origin” story into two or more parts

  • “Behind the scenes” can be a monthly feature as you start new projects or change things up

  • Turn “the most rewarding part” into “My Five Favorite Days as a Business Owner” and write about five different clients/customers/interactions

You get the idea. Brainstorm hard enough and these five topics could keep you going for months.

Okay, I like this idea, but I still don’t have time/hate writing. What should I do?

Help is right here.

 
blog post ideas for small businesses
 
 
Maybe You Don't Need a Blog
 

I know, whaaat? Writer who makes part of her living blogging for clients is saying that you don’t need a blog on your website?

Look, obviously blogs can do amazing things for your SEO. But if you’re only blogging because some SEO expert told you to? If you’re just going to obsess over subscribers and page views?

Don’t bother.

If you’re like most business owners, your primary goal with your whole “online presence” thing is, ultimately, to sell more products or services. And if, like most small business owners, you have a limited budget for “content marketing,” I’d say, to accomplish that goal, your money and time would be better spent on a killer website and rocking email newsletter.

In most cases, for most people and most businesses, blogs don’t drive revenue. At least not directly. (Unless, of course, your blog is your business, like you run a DIY blog or lifestyle blog or fashion blog, in which case, ignore basically all of this.)

If you’re super focused on revenue and you need to maximize your budget—don’t stress about not having blog.

Honestly, I’d tell you to focus on Instagram over blogging at the moment.

But…

You have other goals as a business owner, right?

I mean, making money is great, but it’s not the sole reason your business exists.

Right?

Maybe you want to be a resource for people. (Like you tutor high school kids and want to give them information about selecting colleges or choosing a career.)

Maybe you’re into building a community. (Like you have a surf shop, but what you really dig is when people hang out there after a morning sesh to trade stories.)

Maybe you love highlighting your customers and their accomplishments. (Like you’re a dog trainer and just worked with a pup that went from Marley in Marley & Me to Shadow from Homeward Bound.)

Maybe you have stories of your own to share. (Like the years you spent traveling that inspired your bakery.)

Maybe there are people who can’t afford your stuff—right now, at least—but you still want to help them. (Like you’re an interior designer and you can help people figure out the difference between Mid-Century Modern and transitional and whether they prefer French Country.)

Maybe, over the years, you’ve acquired a ton of knowledge about something related to your business that you think people should now. (Like you own a furniture store and get geeked out about the history of furniture, or how antique pieces are restored.)  

Or maybe you just have a lot going on—new projects, events, product launches, adding brands to your inventory, you’re expanding your team, moving to a new location, whatever—and you want to tell as many people as possible.

That’s when you need a blog.

Share, grow, build—all those fuzzier, non-specific business goals you have that maybe aren’t tied to numbers and timelines—those are the reasons to blog.

And the really cool, crazy thing is, when you blog primarily for those reasons, you’ll find that over time, even if you can’t measure it directly, your blog will impact your bottom line.

Even though it’s not “necessary,” it’s worth the investment.  

 
 
small business blogging
 
What Can a Newsletter Do For You?
 

Alright, confession time: I resisted setting up an email newsletter for a long time. It was always somewhere on my to-do list, and I knew I really should get on with it, but…

I didn’t know what I wanted to say.

I knew what I didn’t want to say. I didn’t want to send another newsletter with writing tips like “How to Write a Killer About Page” because God knows the internet does NOT need more of that. I didn’t want to send newsletters with “50 Ways You’re Misusing Commas” because, come on, business owners don’t care about grammar minutiae the way English nerds like me do.

(I’ll save you my rant about apostrophes for another day. The short version is apostrophes literally never make anything plural.)

Anyway, I let this “not knowing what to do” stop me from starting a newsletter for far too long.

Don’t be like me! If you’re still hesitating about starting a newsletter, let’s talk about it and get you started.

But really, why do I need one?

First, let’s clear something up.

I’m not going to spew all the marketing BS about how email is the best way ever to reach your customers and getting into people’s inboxes is the key to happiness. I see too many marketers and writers saying that email is immune to the whims of a large company and that’s just wrong.

We know Gmail can mess with the ways your emails reach your customers in the same way Facebook can mess with the ways people see your posts.  

BUT.

Email is still a more reliable and effective way to reach your people.

And as long as that’s the case, you’re doing your business a disservice if you don’t have a newsletter.

So what exactly can a newsletter do for your business? I like to point to two major benefits:

Your newsletter reminds people you exist.

If you’re a brick-and-mortar, your customers aren’t stopping by in person every day to see what’s new (unless you're Starbucks) or if you have a sale or sign up for your next event. If you’re an online business, they’re not visiting your site every day.

They probably aren’t specifically searching out your Facebook page or Twitter feed—if they happen to see your update as they scroll, great, but there are, like, five Instagram feeds I might actually search for if I realize I haven’t seen an update from them in a while (and, sorry to say, none of them are brands or businesses).

True story, though: I have signed up for an newsletter (I won’t tell you which one) because I saw a post on Instagram about a promotion they had two days late, and I thought damn, if I’d been on their email list I probably wouldn’t seen that in time.

I mean, I’m not sure if I’m ashamed of that or not, but it happened.

Newsletters are how I find out about...

Which breweries are hosting a wine-and-paint night. When a local boutique is having a sale. When a restaurant changes up its seasonal menu. What special workshops my yoga studio is offering next month. When a maker I love will have a booth a local craft fair. When Taste of ____ tickets go on sale. Instead of remembering and visiting all those sites, I’m aggregating all that news in my inbox for easy access.

Your newsletter lets you connect with people one-on-one.

Every now and then, I sign up for a newsletter and get a welcome email that says something like “I want to hear where you need the most help in [my area of expertise]. Just hit reply and let me know.”

Exactly twice, I have hit reply and responded—and both times, I got a direct response. Once, it led to a back and forth exchange that ended with me saying “sure, sign me up for your next e-course.”

Comments on blogs or social media are great, but sometimes you—or your customers—are looking for a longer, more in-depth conversation, or they’d like to keep what they’re saying private. Email is gold for this. You get to know your customers on a deeper level and they get to form an actual connection with a real person. It’s wins all around.

Okay, so what do I put in my newsletter, exactly?  

Whatever you want. Within reason, but really, don’t think you must follow some special magic formula. Ideally, you find a balance between “useful/helpful/interesting to your customers” and “something you enjoy writing or putting together on a regular basis.” That might include:

  • Sharing your latest blog post (or, if you blog more often than you send your newsletter, send an “in case you missed this…” list of links to your latest posts)

  • Short notes about what you’ve been up to (look behind the scenes at your business, share some recent lessons learned, peeks at upcoming sales, events, products, promotions, etc.)

  • Exclusive sales, discounts, offers (big key to giving people a reason to be on your list)

  • Bonus tips, guides, and information (like a guide on “how to wear rompers” if you’re a clothing boutique, or “best stock photo sites” if you’re a designer, or “pranayama exercises” of you’re a yoga instructor)

  • Share press and news about your business

  • Freebies—maybe an excerpt of your next e-book or a BOGO coupon

  • Round-up of links you found interesting/inspiring

  • Obviously—news about what they can buy from you and when. These are the people you should be telling first about a new product launch, your next event, when you have one-on-one spots available, when you’re having a sale, when new inventory arrives, when you’re discontinuing a line so they have limited time to get what’s left.

A note about opt-ins...

I don’t currently have one. I’ll put something together later this year, but I realized that I need an opt-in first was one of the things stopping me from starting altogether, so I just went forward without one. So, do you need one? No. Would having one really, really help? Probably.

If you’re a product-based business, you can get creative, but an easy opt-in is a one-time discount code for new subscribers (10% off or free shipping or whatever), or a promise of exclusive, subscriber-only deals and sales. If you’re service-based, you can still offer discounts (10% your family photography package for new subscribers). Or you can offer exclusive freebies, like ebooks or ecourses.

Here’s the thing. If you’re offering a discount for your opt-in, look around at what your competitors are doing and offer something in-line with that. If you’re offering a guide or ebook, you really need something that stands out. We’re getting saturated with free ebooks and ecourses and tip sheets and guides, and I know I don’t need another PDF about “how to find great clients!” sitting on my hard drive. So come up with something more unique and memorable. Sarah von Bargen, for example, asks new subscribers to email her with their website and social media profiles, and she’ll take a quick look and send them three tips to improve their online presence. (Or at least she used to; I signed up ages ago so I don’t know if that offer still stands—she also has a ton of other stuff for subscribers.)

What’s stopping you from starting a newsletter? If it’s time, or overwhelm, or not wanting to write, I can help with that.

 
why do you need an email newsletter
 
 
What's Up With Your Website?
 

Look, I’ll be honest: I have a hard time believing, in 2017, how many businesses don’t have a website, or don’t have one that’s doing them any good.

At the same time, I get it.

Setting up a website is not easy. It takes a lot of time. It’s one of those big overwhelming tasks that just sit and loom on your to-do list, and in the meantime, you’re doing all the things to actually run your business, whether it’s order and manage inventory or work with your clients or make the things you sell.

And yes, we’ve discussed that you don’t really “need” a website or a social media presence or anything like that if you’re that opposed to them, but you almost certainly are doing your business a disservice if you don’t have any online presence. 

I am not saying you need a huge, fancy, professionally-designed and developed website or that it needs to be a central part of your marketing strategy. My dad’s an architect and he does perfectly fine with a simple portfolio site powered by Houzz. (He’s also been in business over 20 years and has spent that time building up fantastic relationships with clients and others in the industry, so he gets most clients by word of mouth. But imagine you want to add a second story to your home in the Bay Area, and someone tells you, oh, you should call John for that. Are you just going to call him—and him alone? Or are you going to at least Google his name and make sure he’s, you know, legit?)  

Having your own website, with your own domain name, makes you look credible and “real.” I’ve mentioned that, in my regular business profile assignments, I often pass on businesses that look great on Yelp or are prominently listed in the directory of their local business association, but don’t have a website telling me when to visit or who to contact about setting up an interview. (In this case, I also need to verify that they’re locally-owned.)

From what I hear, business owners who don’t have websites generally fall into two camps:

They’re not terribly tech-savvy and just the idea of figuring out Wordpress is intimidating.

They think their website needs to be 100% complete, with full product listings and professional photos and fancy graphics and e-commerce capabilities from the start.

I have the same advice for both groups:

Stop overthinking it.

Stop overcomplicating it.

Scared of Wordpress? (Don’t even know what Wordpress is?) I don’t blame you. Start with Squarespace, Wix, or Weebly for a shorter learning curve. You might still need to block off an hour or two to play around with the site building tools—or, do you have a teenager or college student? Or a friend with one? Call in a favor. If a friend or family member came to me wanting something that simple, I’d put it together for a beer. Or a donut.

Part of the trick is putting blinders on to all the bells and whistles that you find in even the simplest website builders now. Just find a simple, one-page site template and keep repeating to yourself I’ll figure the rest out later.

Convinced you need to include ALL THE THINGS on your site? You don’t. Seriously, you just need:

  • What you do

  • Where you are

  • When you’re open/available

  • How I can contact you

  • (Price info is a good idea but not quite as necessary)

Guys, that is literally all you need to start. You can always add more later.

I’m a wedding and family photographer in North County San Diego. Contact me here if you’d like to schedule an info session.
Add a couple pictures of yourself and your work and that’s it.

Juan’s Taco Shop serves fresh, authentic Mexican fare in La Jolla. Open everyday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Here’s our phone number and address.
A photo of your storefront, a couple snaps of your tacos, maybe a scan of your menu and boom. Website done. 

Obviously I’d advise you to go beyond that—I like words—but it’s far better to have something up, even if it’s very basic, than nothing at all. And once you get something started, you’ll find it’s easier to build on it later.

And later is when we’ll talk about how you can add on to and upgrade your website once you’ve got something going.

 
website tips for small business