The secret ingredient for successful small business blogging

small business blogging

Henneke Duistermaat, {grow} Community Member

The internet world is a very crowded place indeed.

Everyone is pumping out content. Noise levels are soaring.

What can you do if you’re a solo-entrepreneur, freelancer, or small business owner? Can you still win business online?

You can’t produce as much content as the well-oiled marketing machines. You can’t be everywhere on all social media channels. And let’s be honest: your content can’t always be as good and creative as the content produced by the armies of marketers at big companies.

One-man-bands and three-women-teams may feel that trying to find clients online is an impossible task. They may feel they can’t compete in the battle for attention—as if their whispering is drowned out during a hard rock concert.

But small business owners have a secret weapon—an advantage that those big companies rarely possess. Let me explain by briefly side-stepping into restaurants.

Fast-food chains are about efficiency

Fast-food chains cater for the crowds. They’re managed on efficiency. Orders are fulfilled quickly and waste is minimized. The interaction between customers and staff is minimal, because lots of chatting is costly.

If I launched a small restaurant, I would do exactly the opposite of the fast-food chains. I’d offer dishes prepared with locally sourced ingredients plus a personal selection of Belgian beers and Spanish wines. I’d have pictures on the wall made by local artists and I would try to find wooden chairs and tables in second-hand stores.

As a local restaurant I can’t compete with the advertising dollars of a giant restaurant chain. But I can differentiate my restaurant and strongly appeal to a specific audience. Maybe I’d offer candle-lit dinners for romantic couples in their fifties; or I could have a restaurant with hearty meals to welcome local bicycle enthusiasts.

Small business bloggers have an opportunity to specialize and to develop their own small fan club. They can find the people who they most enjoy working with and engage them with their distinct voice.

When we talk about blogging and content marketing, it’s easy to focus on the things we can measure: Page views, comments, social shares, number of posts, and subscribers. And if we look at the numbers, then sure: small businesses don’t stand a chance to compete with the big marketing machines.

But to win clients with a blog, you don’t need to become popular. You just need to build a small club of fans who want to listen to your voice, who are waiting for your next blog post, and who open each of your emails full of excitement.

Blogging doesn’t mean you’re just writing, pressing that publish button, and promoting your posts. Blogging is two-way communication. It’s about building relationships with your ideal readers and understanding what they’re struggling with so you can help them realize their dreams.

Competitive advantage through small business blogging

But a blog is about more than building authority and sharing useful tips. It’s a place to start a conversation and allow readers to get to know you and like you—because of who you are.

It’s easy to think about the tangible aspects of a blog such as design, number of readers, and post topics. But what about the intangible aspects?

In the real world a disproportionate amount of value is placed on the tangible. Things we can easily explain, or put our finger on. ~ Bernadette Jiwa

The intangible aspects of your blog show who you are and allow potential clients to warm to you and your blog. For instance: Do you keep a certain distance like a waiter in a posh restaurant? Or do you make new readers feel welcome and at ease? Is your blog noisy and full of popups or are you calm and relaxed? Do you answer comments with bravado or humility? Do you write with passion?

Small business bloggers might not be able to compete on content quantity and they might not be able to compete on quality either. But there’s one thing they can compete on: they can let their personality shine through to build meaningful relationships.

They can gain readers because they love hearing the blogger’s voice. They can build a community because their blog has a soul. They can win clients because they write with passion.

The truth about small business blogging

Blogging isn’t about writing valuable content. Blogging isn’t about generating SEO traffic.

Blogging IS about creating human connections.

The secret ingredient of your blog is, of course, your personality. It’s YOU.

Only you can produce content that’s speaking so clearly, so directly, so personally to your ideal clients. Your personality is unique and nobody can copy who you are. YOU make your blog stand out. YOU win clients.

When you come to my imaginary restaurant, I don’t want you to come just for the good food or the free aperitif. I want you to come because you’ve missed me, because you want me to stop by your table for a chat about your latest business venture or your upcoming holiday.

In the same way, I believe your blog fans don’t stop by for a quick snack of tips. They read your blog posts because they want to hear your voice. They stop by because they want to “see” you and have a chat in the comment section.

hennekeHenneke Duistermaat is an irreverent marketer and copywriter on a mission to stamp out gobbledygook and to make boring business blogs charming. Her new book Blog to Win Business: How to Enchant Readers and Woo Customers is out now.

Illustration courtesy of Flickr CC and Clifford Hence.

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  • Mia Sherwood Landau

    Your post helped me think about blogging as delicacy, Henneke. I like that a lot. Blogging since 2008, I’ve realized that my blogging has contributed to building my perception of myself, perhaps more than other people’s perception of me. Each blog post is a little, tasty treat for myself, at the very least. Lovely image this morning! Thanks for that.

  • SO nicely written, Henneke. This should be a weekly read for every small business owner to remind them of blogging’s purpose. Thanks.

  • Thank you, Jack 🙂

  • I like talking about food as much as I like talking about blogging 🙂

  • MaureenMonte

    Hello Henneke – really enjoyed your post. I’m not the most popular blogger in the world, but I have quality conversations with followers. It’s helpful to have your encouragement. Keep up the good work. Look forward to learning more from you!

  • If you need help picking out beer, let me know. 🙂 I’m a craft beer junkie! But this is really lovely. I had a conversation with a friend earlier this week about what blogging meant and I stopped my personal blog because I couldn’t figure out my niche and I thought I needed one. He shared a relevation – why don’t you just blog for yourself? People will STILL come to read you – they want to get to know you. I think I’m gearing up to start again and this post is just another helpful push. Thanks @Henneke:disqus!

  • Yep, I’m finding that there’s a lot of testosterone online. “My list is bigger”, but “I have more Twitter followers”, etc. But the numbers don’t really count. What matters more are the quality of the conversations, the enthusiasm for your blog and the relationships you’re building. I totally agree with you, Maureen.

  • Having a unique voice is far more important than trying to find a unique niche. It’s safe to assume that each niche is already taken and that everything has been said already, so there’s no need to worry about figuring out a niche. Just find something you’re passionate about and that your audience loves to read. I hope you’re starting your blog again, Anne. And yep, I’ll be in touch for beer recommendations! 🙂

  • Hi, Henneke. A very instructive post for small business operators. I think you are absolutely right about the value of blogging in these type of situations, as well as pursuing one or perhaps two other social media platforms.

    Your example of a small, local restaurant is particularly interesting, as it reminds me of a recent article in the Harvard Business Review (Jan-Feb 2014). The author noted in cities where diners rely on social media and review platforms (such as Yelp), independent restaurants tend to benefit while chain restaurants see their revenues decline. Of course, the restaurant has to deliver good food as well as good social media, right?

  • Yep, that’s really interesting! I guess it also shows how word-of-mouth and human interaction can beat advertising dollars.

  • Indeed. Writing for yourself is far greater than writing for someone else. I love comments and shares as much as the next person but if I am not satisfied before I hit that publish button, I revise it or delete it and start over.

  • Damn, thought it was about SEO. Tonight’s goal is to use Henneke and aperitif in a sentence to another human being, should be entertaining. Yes, personality is the secret ingredient. One of them at least.

  • And? Did you manage to use my name and the word aperitif in one sentence? I’m curious to hear what the sentence was 😉

  • It’s True Henneke, It’s Quite difficult competing with large company but knowing all effort made is different and is serving with passion you can make it. In the marketing cubic hole content creator was so quite and observant they have that alibi to create content that compelling to both audience and search engines.

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