With the rise of blogging as a proven and profitable inbound marketing tactic, more business people than ever before are laying their hands on a computer keyboard and publishing their words of wisdom online.
For a few this is a natural process, and they will feel entirely comfortable with it. Many more will struggle, but with perseverance they will be able to blog relatively easily. But then there will always be some who will find it difficult to start and may well abandon the enterprise at the first hurdle.
But as a valuable – we would say essential – method of marketing, you cannot afford to let your fears or lack of experience stop you from blogging.
So in this article we are looking at your first B2B blog post. Everyone has to start somewhere, so here is some help with that initial step.
What not to do
Before we look at what you should, or could, be doing, let’s just take a quick look at those things you shouldn’t do.
In my book, the first thing you should never do is write about it being your first blog post. Yes, they say you should write about what you know, write about your experiences and keep it real. So when inspiration may be hard to come by, this topic seems an obvious choice - but there are several reasons why it’s a bad idea.
Firstly, and most importantly, you need to ask yourself: does your audience care? Is this useful to them? That should be your major criteria for any content you publish. You are publishing for your audience - not for you. Writing about your post being your first is not helpful to them and not useful.
Secondly, it’s a bit amateurish and unprofessional - blogging in today’s world should be routine; run of the mill. It should be no big deal. By writing about it being your first post, you are highlighting the fact that you are late to the game and inexperienced – and, therefore, by inference, unprofessional.
In a way, writing about it being your first post is also writing about yourself – which is the next thing to avoid.
You have to remember that a business blog is about providing value to your readers; it is about giving them something so they will trust you and do business with you. It’s not about you, how great you are and how clever. So writing about who you are, what your experience is, and what you intend to do is self-centred and does not provide real value to your potential readers.
Your experiences, your week, your approach to business are all valid topics - as long as they are providing value to your readers - but I would argue that they are a poor choice for your first post. These types of posts provide value either by indirectly demonstrating your authority, experience and knowledge (so that customers and prospects will feel safe in your hands), or by providing insights into how your readers might work with you to achieve mutual benefit.
But they are "mature" types of posts – ones that should be published when you’ve established your blog as a helpful and useful thing to read. They won’t help you get your first readers and build your audience.
Similarly, you shouldn’t start by writing about your organisation - an introduction, an overview and the like - for much the same reasons I gave earlier about writing about yourself.
Don’t ask for ideas for posts in your first post; that just makes it look like you are unprepared and haven’t thought this through. Readers may resent the fact that you want them to do your job for you. Later on, it would be fine to ask for ideas on specific topics, but even then it should never be a blanket call-out: "What should I do now?" That just makes readers think you have no ideas and no clue. And again – it's not professional.
Keep the design simple - functional
On a different aspect of starting blogging, make sure you don’t choose a mad design for your blog or a strange typeface. With a blog, it’s the written content and images that are important – not the layout, and not the fonts.
Using a strange layout and/or fonts will result in your readers stopping and asking themselves why is it like that? What is the significance? They will be looking for meaning where there is none. And all this means you have lost them – they are no longer reading the post, and they are no longer getting the message.
Keep the layout simple and the typeface choice bland. No-one should notice the typeface - or even think about it. Now, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be well-designed, clean and clear. For me, that is the essence of good design – functional and fit for purpose.
Moving on then, to more positive points – what should you do in your first post?
What should I write about?
Let’s look at suitable topics for a first B2B post. Here are a couple of ideas.
You could start by looking for an issue that the industry you are in faces – or that your customers face – and addressing that. If you write something considered, sensible and helpful, it will establish your authority right away. Writing about a major, strategic, industry-wide problem shows your readers your understanding and establishes you as a thought leader whose blogs they should be reading.
In a similar way, you could talk about a common customer problem - for example, you could weigh up the pros and cons of different approaches and make a practical recommendation that many customers could use. This again shows you as a thinker and as someone who provides genuinely useful content.
You could take one of your customers and write a case study – using their particular issues and concerns to illustrate your organisation’s approach, products and services. Make sure you tell as much of the story as possible in their words. Here’s an article I wrote not long ago about case studies that will help.
And here is another useful article about all the different kinds of posts you could write. Bear in mind that not all of them are suitable for a first post.
How to approach the content
So you have a topic, but how should you go about the post? A good approach is to start with the end. What is the point you want to make? What is the message? What is the benefit to the reader; the useful conclusion that will help make their lives easier? Start with that and work back.
At the beginning of the article, it is usual to lay out the current landscape, or the problem or question your article is going to answer.
Then create a journey. Write down all the major steps to get from that beginning to the end. Remember, you don’t have to write in a linear way – a straight line from start to end. It is often better to write in sections. Once you’ve written down all the steps in the journey, take the one you know the most about and write about it. Build your article in sections. You can always go back and edit it to flow more smoothly once you have it all down.
When you write about a subject that you are passionate about or have a lot to say about, it is easy to write very long sentences. (There are some in this very post - see if you can find them!) This is especially easy to fall into with technical writing.
So watch out for long sentences. Often these can be broken down by adding a full stop instead of a comma, and then starting a new sentence. Equally, some writers can write in very short, staccato-like, sentences. This can break up thoughts. Be disruptive. Feel rushed. And is also to be avoided. Unless done for effect. Like this.
I’ve been writing a few posts recently about the importance of images - so choosing a good image is essential for your first post. It will set the tone for the article and potentially attract the reader’s eye.
You are not alone
Most people in business have colleagues, bosses, and employees in the same office. Use these resources. Get someone whose opinion you trust to read a draft of your blog before you publish it. Maybe run it by a customer or even a supplier if you value their opinion.
Most importantly, get someone with experience of proofreading to check it for spelling, grammar, punctuation and sense. Don't rely on the spell-checker in your writing application – it will not highlight misused words like "there" instead of "their" or minor mistakes like "ours" instead of "hours".
If you work with an agency – get them to help. At Equinet we are always happy to help our clients with their first steps on the path to regularly blogging – in fact, we usually insist on it! There is always support available from one source or another.
But don’t do this first. It is very important you write a post first before getting help. The post has to come from you. It needs to be your voice. And the more you write, the easier it will become.
Make sure you are genuine in your writing – don’t try too hard to develop a writing style that isn’t you. This isn’t fiction; you are not writing the next Harry Potter book.
Don’t gloss – speak plainly and simply. State the facts and don’t embellish, or worse, lie. Only the best writers can do that and get away with it! Readers can tell when you are not speaking from the heart and when you are not telling the truth.
Rewrite if necessary
First time writers will make mistakes – very few people get a perfect result the first time they attempt something new. So don’t get frustrated if you feel it’s going badly, or you are struggling with your spelling or grammar.
Some professional writers may write something, and it will be proofread and published just like that – but they are few and far between. Most business bloggers will write something, edit it, rewrite it, add things, take things out and generally spend time on a piece. So don’t be afraid to spend as much time re-writing as writing.
But conversely, try to get a sense of when a post is finished. Inevitably you will be working to a deadline, and even if you are not, your time will be valuable. It is always better to get a functional article out and published, rather than a perfect article sitting there still in draft form.
And the most important piece of advice…
The most important advice I can give you as a blogger – and it’s not mine alone as many professional writers will tell you this – is just to start writing. Don’t worry about quality, spelling, grammar or even it making much sense – start writing. Don’t think too much – start writing.
Once you have a large chunk of words on the screen, you can go back and read them, edit them, change them and mould them into a great post.
So stop reading this - start writing!