Over in the Flying Solo forum, we’ve recently been having a few in-depth chats about blogging. Some thought-provoking questions have been asked and are still up for hot debate:
- Is blogging still worthwhile, or does nobody really read blogs any more?
- Where should you share your content?
- How can you get more people to visit your blog?
- And what does it take to become a successful blogger?
If you’re currently blogging or have been contemplating doing so, perusing those forum threads will give you plenty of food for thought.
However, in my experience, there’s another question that holds would-be bloggers back more than all of those put together, and it’s this:
What should I blog about?
If you and your blog have been hamstrung by lack of inspiration lately, here are a five approaches to idea generation that will see you firing on all cylinders:
1. The ‘Big picture’ approach
Mental blocks around blog topics often occur when you put yourself on the spot and try to think of something to write about then and there. There’s something about that kind of pressure that just makes creativity curl up and die, (I’ve seen many small business owners get so tangled up trying to decide what to blog about that they end up writing nothing at all).
So, instead of attempting to come up with a single blog post at a time, try having a big brainstorming session and plan out all your posts for a few months or even a year. This takes the panicky ‘make-or-break’ emphasis off each individual post and puts you into a more strategic mindset where you think of your blog as a slowly developing body of work that represents your business in its totality.
2. The ‘Write about everything and the kitchen sink’ approach
One school of thought regarding web content creation is that you should make a list of every question a prospective customer could possibly ask about your product or service and write a blog post or article that answers every single one of them.
This is a particularly great strategy if traffic from search engines is a key source of leads for you. It is also incredibly helpful if you find yourself answering the same questions over and over again – now you can just point people to your blog!
There is just one little downside with this approach: it may see you end up with masses of content that’s factual and informative, but not vastly different to that on other websites in your industry. In other words it does little to make you memorable, or establish genuine relationships with prospective clients.
3. The ‘Meet them where they’re at’ approach
Many soloists find that their best blog posts come from really connecting with their existing clients, understanding their worries and concerns, and then writing articles that provide reassurance and build confidence.
Many of my clients (who are in the natural health industry) find this approach works brilliantly.
To understand why, consider this: imagine you’re suffering from tummy trouble and are worried it might mean you’ll have to go on a gluten-free diet. Yikes! Goodbye flavour! What on earth will I eat if I can’t have toast or pasta? And cake! OMG, cake! Can a person really survive without cake???
Wouldn’t you love to read a blog post titled, ‘Going off gluten – here’s how to make it easy’? Yes, you would!
This empathic approach to generating blog topic ideas works especially well for soloists who sell complex products and services where the purchase or implementation requires clients to invest lots of time and/or money before they see a pay-off. (Think web development, software, and anything else prospective clients perceive as confusing or complicated.)
4. The ‘High level insights’ approach
In other circumstances, your blogging mission might not be to reassure but to inspire and challenge, opening your clients’ eyes to ideas and options they haven’t previously considered.
To generate ideas using this approach, get into the habit of noticing the insights behind the advice and recommendations you make for your clients. What are you seeing and thinking about that they’re not?
Unpacking your thought processes and knowledge and presenting those insights through your blog can be particularly beneficial for soloists whose objective is to showcase their expertise and position themselves as an authority in their field. (Think business coaches, designers and other types of consultants. And by the way, if you haven’t already realised it, it’s the strategy I’ve applied while writing this blog post.)
5. The ‘Up close and personal’ approach
Some of the net’s most widely read blogs give readers an inside view of their authors’ opinions, emotions, dreams and frustrations. Can your blog do the same, and take its inspiration from your daily life, with all its ups and downs?
If you’re comfortable sharing those kinds of details on the web and have a flair for storytelling, this approach to idea generation can be particularly effective when your goal is to:
- create an emotional connection with your readers;
- build rapport by demonstrating that you’re just like them; or
- show you’ve experienced the same issues they have and have found a way to overcome them.
When done well, this style of blogging can be highly engaging and create massive amounts of loyalty, especially if it’s humorous. Kate Toon’s wildly successful post on what it takes to be mildly successful is a great example.
However, this isn’t necessarily a suitable approach for every business or industry. For example, I have an artist friend who documents her creative process by blogging about what aspects of her work are flowing and where she’s feeling stuck. While I find these insights fascinating coming from a painter, I wouldn’t feel the same way if my accountant shared similar material on her blog (from her, I’m looking for high level insights all the way).
How deep do you want to go?
Successful business blogging is a time-consuming labour of love, so it’s worth taking a strategic approach to determining what topics you will and won’t write about.
It’s even more important to make a conscious decision about what proportion of your overall marketing effort should be invested in creating and promoting your blog, and whether it’s the best way to achieve your business objectives.
If you do decide that blogging and content creation are the way forward for you, it’s also worth investing time in learning to do it well. So read widely and take on board as many lessons as you can from those who’ve been there and done that.
In particular, I highly recommend checking out the latest book from long-time Flying Solo contributor Dan Norris, called Content Machine, which includes even more tips for idea generation and lots of other valuable insights as well. (I like it so much that I wish I’d written it myself!)
Do you blog for your business? If so, what do you write about? And how do you come up with your ideas?