More Printers Need to Blog to Grow Their Audience: Here's a Step-by-Step Guide
One of my missions is to get more printers blogging. The excuses of not enough time or money don't work anymore, because the printing industry has run out of effective ways to promote itself and make a splash with end users—the marketers, designers and print buyers who need to hear from individual printers.
You can use direct mail campaigns and e-mail newsletters. You can post pithy Tweets and upload fun Facebook images. You can instruct your sales reps to keep beating the bushes for new accounts and chase old ones. You can have the most gorgeous Website written by the best writer money can buy.
But without a good blog, you're missing the #1 way to grow your community, and therefore your audience. A blog works in unison with all of your other marketing efforts, making them stronger, and tying them all together. This role is important.
A good blog gets shared long after it's first published, casting your net wider and wider, influencing and engaging people who never heard of you before. An e-mail on its own doesn't do that, nor does a direct mail piece. And unless your Website has new content regularly, which is being pushed out to other channels, it's likely too passive and, well, just sitting there.
Enter the blog. It's the marketing machine that lives on the Internet, planting seeds, forging a trail right to your Website.
Are you convinced?
To help, here's an abbreviated, step-by-step guide to your own company blog. Once you're committed to doing it, you'll have the plan in hand and you'll be halfway there.
STEP #1: Plan It Out
Meet with your management team to flesh out your blog. Think of it as your regular, non-negotiable commitment to online content marketing. You'll be able to reuse much of your blog's content elsewhere—in e-mails, in your social media channels, even in direct mail. In no time, you'll be thinking like a marketer.
Define your audience. Who do you want to read your blog? Presumably you're doing a blog to help you build your business (and your reputation at the same time). So you're writing for your potential customers.
Decide its purpose and its schedule. (I'd work towards a weekly post.) It needs a firm schedule, as well as a person in charge, especially if you have outside blogging help.
Discuss who'll be writing it. Do you have someone on-staff who's a natural? This could be anyone from management on through the pressroom into customer service and beyond. The writer is key. You can find a freelancer, if need be. Just make sure you have a company point person.
Discuss where the blog will be published, or shared. It will only work effectively if it moves beyond your site.
STEP #2: Check Out Other Blogs
Which ones do you like, and why? Which ones do you hate, and why? Note the word lengths and visuals used in ones that you admire. Start forming an impression of what makes a blog great. Paying attention to well-written and popular blogs will help you improve yours.
STEP #3: Create a Blog Library
Create a folder on your computer to store posts and ideas for posts. You need a backlog of ideas to work with. Speaking as a professional writer and blogger, I know you'll experience weeks when you'll wake up on a deadline day and panic, thinking, "I've got nuthin'!" Avoid writing a sloppy, sub-par post in haste. Keep several posts in the pipeline.
Here are some insights about building your Blogging Library:
1. Ask your sales and service reps to share real issues they're handling: problems, challenges and solutions they've implemented. There's great fodder here. They should send the "blogging liaison" a weekly e-mail with these ideas. Encourage them to be creative. Have them keep the following in mind: What can we share that will attract the right audience for us? What do we know that our market needs to know? What have we done recently to save our customers' hides? What's the coolest job we've worked on this week? What are the most common mistakes customers make?
2. Create a "How-to" subfolder within your Blog Library. There are always print customers brand new to the field. Decide to write a how-to blog regularly, maybe every 4th post. These can be done ahead of time. Examples:
a. How to send files your printer can print
b. How to design a VDP template for your direct mail piece
c. How to write crystal-clear specs for your printer
d. How to review a printer's proof
e. How to do a press check
3. Create an Industry News subfolder within your Blog Library. It's smart to cover news items that may affect your market. Examples:
a. The crazy popularity of 3D printing (angle: what does it mean for most print customers? How is it different from offset printing?)
b. Dramatic shifts in paper pricing. Don't hide from it; write about it. If paper prices are rising, what ideas might help customers save money on paper?
4. Create a Lists subfolder in your Blog Library. Numbered lists are popular and fun. As a printer, you'll never run out of content for this category, for you have the entire print manufacturing process to inspire you, as well as paper and mailing/fulfillment topics. Write about inks, typography, graphic design and finishing techniques. Examples of lists you could write about over time:
a. 5 Things Every Print Customer Should Know about Spec'ing Paper
b. 8 Mistakes Graphic Designers Can't Afford to Make
c. 14 Folds You Never Heard of Before
STEP #4: Just Do It
Work in Word. Sit down with your first topic and write. Pour out every major point you want to make into this document—and go for it.
Aim for a blog that's several hundreds of words in length –400? 500? 600? Sounds perfect. Write it to inform your ideal customer in correct English and short sentences. Use a working headline that will be refined once or twice. Know that the headline is what will attract people to click on the link.
Keep each post simple in concept: make one point, no more. There's no need to cover the whole enchilada.
Read your blog post over. Finalize the headline. Leave it for several hours or overnight. Come back with fresh eyes and read it again out loud. It is true and genuine? Interesting? Does it reflect well on your company? Does it sound like a human wrote it? Are there keywords that prospects use to search for you?
Add a visual or two. If you've done research for a post and want to include links to other articles that support your post, do it.
STEP #5: Publish It
Upload the blog on your Website and then publish it across your social channels.
Starting a blog is a big deal and an admirable endeavor worthy of a news release, especially to your customers. Write up the news (strike up the band!) and post it on your site, followed up immediately by an e-mail to your customers. Share the link to your first post in this e-mail, and ask for comments and suggestions.
Post this blog in your social channels. Your e-mail list might be fantastic, but it isn't the same audience as the people following you on social media. That's just one reason why you need to multi-publish each post.
Over time, writing a blog gets easier. You'll build up a remarkable library of content on your site and elsewhere on the Web. If the blog is good enough, it will attract followers and comments. Your community will grow.
For my money, a blog is the single best form of marketing a printing company can invest in. It keeps your Website content refreshed. It gives your company a voice. It helps you showcase your expertise. It develops your corporate reputation. It gets you noticed. And now, with this step-by-step guide to blogging, it's incredibly easy to do. PI
About the Author
Long regarded as a print buyer expert and trade writer, Margie Dana launched a new business as a marketing communications strategist with a specialty in printing and print buying. She's as comfortable working in social media as she is in traditional media, and now she's on a mission to help clients build customer communities through carefully crafted content. Dana was the producer of the annual Print & Media Conference. Although she's exited the event business, she is still publishing her Print Tips newsletter each week. For more details and to sign up for her newsletter and marketing blog, visit www.margiedana.com
Long regarded as a print buyer expert and trade writer, Margie Dana launched a new business as a marketing communications strategist with a specialty in printing and print buying. She is as comfortable working in social media as she is in traditional media, and now she’s on a mission to help clients build customer communities through carefully crafted content. Dana was the producer of the annual Print & Media Conference.
Although she has exited the event business, Dana is still publishing her Print Tips newsletter each week. For more details and to sign up for her newsletter and marketing blog, visit www.margiedana.com