Building relationships with your small business blog

In it for the long haul

That’s it! I’ve had it. I’ve finally read one too many articles about how to magically write the perfect small business blog that will (also magically) get millions of visitors per blurb. Oh, and did I mention cash bursting out of wherever it bursts from? Yes. And you’ll live happily ever after.

The truth is, business blogging isn’t about content. It’s about building relationships.

 

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that writing blog posts will somehow benefit your business. It won’t. Not by itself. In fact, if anything, it will be a monumental waste of time. Hands up, anyone who’s started a blog, gotten nowhere, and given up.

My hand is up.

I eventually learned how to turn things around, and I’d like to share some of the most important lessons I learned about what blogging really is and how it can be one of the best marketing strategies out there.

A small business blog for the right reasons

A lot of us, myself included, started blogging because that’s what everyone was doing. Companies that had blogs were cool. They had stuff to show us. They made it into the news. They got coverage. Most importantly, they looked successful because they were controlling the flow of content that reached us.

There was a brief time when having a small business blog was enough. Back in the day when Google still returned actual search results instead of ads. Now, the low-hanging fruit has been picked. Instead, there are spammers, PBNs (Private Blog Networks), hugely successful websites sucking up vast amounts of traffic, and millions upon millions of pieces of content being added to the noise every day.

Simply put, any individual piece of content by itself stands little to no chance of making any type of positive impact.

 

Expecting it to is not realistic, either. So why do you blog? What is it you want to get out of it? Sales? Fame? Newsletter subscribers? Ad revenue? All of the above?

The answer should be none of the above.

There is only one real reason for blogging that will garner the success you want: building relationships. Relationships ultimately lead to any and all types of success online — regardless of whether it’s a relationship with potential clients or customers, influential people, experts, publishers, journalists, and everyone and anyone else in your niche industry.

Blog to build relationships

There are two sides to the blogging coin. Most people focus on writing content and promoting it to anyone within reach. Like traditional marketing, you can create a message for your small business blog and try get it in front of anyone who’ll listen. With great content you might make a little headway, but doing things like this is like trying to swim against the current. Tiring.

Fortunately, there’s another side to the coin.

The other side starts before you’ve even put pen to paper. It involves research and reaching out to other people (influencers), asking their opinions, quoting them, referencing their content, talking about what they’ve done, and so on. It means you have to include other people. Integrate them into the fabric of your content. Be generous in your coverage. Be someone they can work and interact with.

A blog post is an opportunity to identify influential people in your niche, reach out to them with something they want to be involved in, and make a genuine connection.

When an influential site or blogger is looking forward to promoting your article, it can make a world of difference. But if you don’t know the potential impact ahead of time, or how much easier it will be to generate traffic and referrals, then you’re doing something wrong.

Relationships magnify the impact of blog posts

I recently wrote a blog post entitled, “Top 10 new business ideas from University entrepreneurs” where I profiled 10 business ideas from colleges across the U.S. that I thought were unique, interesting and worthy of mention. Small business ideas are an integral part of what I talk about — helping aspiring entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into profitable startups.

I reached out to a number of universities for this small business blog piece. I told them how I was going to mention them in this top 10 list to raise the profile of the startups involved, as well as bring a bit of media attention to the colleges themselves.

Naturally, many of them were delighted. Who wouldn’t want to be included in a best-of list? Especially one that’s going to get into the media. I ended up networking with a few marketing and communications people in the entrepreneurship colleges and faculties, and I got one or two mentions once the article was published.

But that wasn’t really enough. Not nearly enough.

Relationships allow you to leverage trust and authority

This is where things start to get interesting, because once you’ve had a bit of success, it’s possible to leverage that into even more success. By referencing other people who have talked about you or your content, it’s far easier to convince other influencers (and bigger ones) to do the same.

In my case, I sent out a press release to USA Today telling them about my small business blog article and how it had already generated plenty of interest among the universities involved. Here’s an excerpt:

Small Business Blog Sample Press Release

Sure enough, USA Today took the press release on board and posted a news article about it:

Small Business Blog Webpage

Having garnered decent media publicity for this article, I now had real evidence of success that I could show to other universities that hadn’t taken notice before. Now, instead of being a nobody emailing them out of the blue, I could say:

“USA Today gave you national media coverage because of my article.”

Now that’s a compelling message to receive, right?

It was message that many top universities couldn’t ignore, and I started to get more mentions in the entrepreneurship circles. Like this one from UCDavis:

Small Business Blog University

But that’s not where the story ends.

Relationships create opportunity

The thing about relationships is that they tend to stick around. Meaning that when new opportunities knock, those people call you first. Sure enough, I didn’t have to wait long before I got an email asking if I’d be interested in covering some of the winning ideas from a recent university business competition.

Of course I was. Why not write an article that’s interesting for your own readers, but also of benefit to an important influencer in your niche? That’s what blogging is all about.

Instead of sitting around trying to conjure up topics to write about, people start coming to you with ideas and suggestions. Since those people often have a vested interest, they’re likely to want to promote your content around their own networks — and, depending on their reach, perhaps garner some really big coverage on your behalf.

The more you involve people in your blog content, the more likely you are to build genuine relationships.

 

The more relationships you have, the more likely you are to encounter more opportunity. And, with more opportunity available, you’re far more likely to finally hit the jackpot and succeed.

Just remember, opportunity comes from people — not content. And if you’re new to the blogosphere, you can create a small business blog with these tips in mind to get you started on the right foot. Get connecting!

David Mercer
David Mercer contributes to SME Pals a blog dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and small business owners thrive online. He is a tech entrepreneur and published author with books translated into over 13 languages worldwide and used as recommended reading at places like MIT.