The tips below are going to differ considerably from other recommendations in the blogosphere. But please be reminded that they are intended primarily for agency principals of small-to midsize ad agencies and given entirely from a new business perspective. Agency principals have to “get” social media. You can only “get” it by being a participant.
A personal blog will provide you with a direction, focus and professional enrichment unlike anything you have ever experienced before. Your personal networks skyrocket giving you the opportunity to generate the right kinds of new business leads that are a better match for you agency. Plus, you wont have to be constantly chasing after new business, your new business pipeline will always remain full.
As important as a website was for your ad agency a blog is now as equally important if not more so. It should become the gateway to your agency.
So with those things being said, here are my 10 tips for the development of an agency blog for new business:
1. Before you start to write learn to listen.
Identify and read other online resources that would important to your target audience. Read blogs of competitors. Subscribe to blog RSS feeds through Google Reader or the feed reader of your choice. Using a feed reader will greatly help you to strategize and organize your online reading. Get a feel for how blogs are written. Writing a blog post is much different than writing for print. People tend to scan for information online rather than reading word-for-word. You’ll gain lots of ideas for your own posts from your online reading.
2. Do not incorporate your blog into your agency’s website.
You will need to allow your agency blog room to breathe and evolve apart from your current branding. As you interact with your target audience, your online focus group, they will become the decision makers as to what information resonates, what messages are appealing, what their marketing challenges and obstacles really are. You may think you know what they want but you will continually be surprised as you receive their input, reflect upon your blog’s analytics. What you gain from this experience will help you discover an “appealing” position and proper branding for your agency from your prospective clients perspective.
3. Blog posts should written by the agency’s principals.
Social media is personal and you are the face of your agency. We are in a relationship oriented business and clients want to work with someone that they know, like and trust. Therefore agency principals should lead the way.
Another reason I advocate that the blog post be written by the agency principals, is that they are the least likely to leave the agency. Therefore equity isn’t lost if a staff member chooses to leave for another agency.
4. Keep the design simple.
Limit your creative and interactive staff’s involvement in the design process unless you want to greatly slow the process down. The design of your blog should be nice and clean, not the place showcase your agency’s creative capabilities. Here content is king. I personally recommend using either WordPress.org or WordPress.com as your blog platform. These are simple blog platforms that are relatively easy to use and provide just the right bells and whistles.
5. Own your domain name.
I have seen a number of agency blogs with a wordpress.com or blogspot.com in their URL. Be sure to own your domain name. That way, if you ever change blog platforms, you wont lose traffic to your site. I
6. Create a simple written plan for your blog.
From my perspective, the objective for your blog is to generate leads and new business for your agency. To reach this objective you will need to identify your target audience, who you are writing to. What are their advertising/marketing/communication challenges? In what ways can you become an invaluable resource and help? You’ll need a name for the blog. An appropriate tag line that states what this site is about. Park Howell’s tag line, “Creating a deeper shade of green marketing” says a lot. Mine, “Fueling ad agency new business.” Identify the categories that you will be writing to. I would suggest limiting the categories to 10 or less. Mine are new business, tips, tactics, tools talents and trends.
As you begin your blog remember, you cannot be everything to everybody and the more general your blog is the less traffic you can expect. Within 10 months time I’m generating 16,000 page views to a very specific target audience, small-to midsize ad agencies.
7. Keep a list of blog post ideas.
I’m often asked “don’t you run out of ideas when you are primarily writing about new business for ad agencies?” The answer is no. Every morning I start the day by opening my Google Reader. I have RSS feeds from about 16 of my favorite blogs. I scan quickly through the list of post titles, when one catches my attention I open it up and read it. It often sparks ideas for my own posts or is information that I can site and link for my readers. I use a browser bar tool called “Press This” that allows me to post a draft of that article in my blog. I have some 270+ posts that are published and over 45 drafts. I often peruse through my drafts for a post to flesh out. I also keep a list of post ideas on my DeskTop. I never find myself lacking for something to write about that wont be of some help to my audience.
8. Set a goal for the number of posts to write per week.
I saw a dramatic change in my blog traffic and audience interaction after I reached the first 50 posts. That seems to be a magical number not only for me but for clients as well. I actually put principals on a schedule and help coach them to write their first 50 post within thirty days. By the end of the thirty day period they have developed some helpful habits, understand how to write for web and find their own style. I have a goal of posting five times a week. The feedback that I gain is what motivates and excites me. My readers are very loyal and I don’t want to disappoint them by not having fresh content.
9. Repurpose your blog content.
With over 270 posts I have lots of material to utilize through other new media tools. Your blog posts can actually be turned into a book, that was one of my earlier goals and I am close to the content needed. You can also create your own ebook, white papers, EzineArticles, informational press releases from your content. I can use my blog post content for an email newsletter that is sent every other week. It takes literally minutes to create the newsletter which in turn generates a lot of traffic to my blog. I use a tool called Tweetlater, to automate posting on Twitter which is now the leading traffic generator for FUEL LINES. You will find all the effort you’ve put forth in your writing for your blog can be repurposed in lots of different ways through a number of different online channels and will have a long, long shelf life.
10. Learn how to generate blog traffic.
The current communication revolution makes it critical that you know this stuff so that can provide better direction for your agency and for your clients. Park Howell, president of Park & CO, an ad agency in Phoenix, AZ, created a Film Festival contest among his staff with the winning team receiving $1000. Each team had to create a video, upload it to YouTube and create an online campaign to drive traffic to it. He was helping his staff learn by doing. That is what having your own blog can do for you. Learning how to generate traffic to your blog is an eye opening experience. You will better understand SEO, web analytics, RSS feeds, email campaigns, HTML, etc. Plus you will know the importance of and learn how to use tools like FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Delicious, Technorati, Digg and StumbleUpon just to name a few.
Understanding social media is not for a specialized department or group within the agency. Every staff member needs to understand it. How will your agency be able to integrate social media into the marketing mix for your clients if you and your staff really don’t understand it. What better way to learn than to use these tools than to generate new business for your agency through social media.
Social media is permanently revolutionizing our industry. It isn’t an option to not participate. If your agency is to survive you’ve got to “get it.” Only as a participant will you genuinely come to understand what a valuable tool it is for your agency and for your clients.