I believe that art of selling has turned from outbound to inbound, just as surely as the art of marketing has.
With that in mind, I believe that every marketing department and every sales manager should be teaching, encouraging and facilitating active blogging from every member of the sales team.
This idea is certainly best employed with full support and orchestration from marketing, but lacking that, the smart sales professionals needs to figure out how to get in the game on their own.
A blog is pretty much the starting place for online content these days and content is the name of the game when it comes to inbound selling. Don’t worry that nobody wants to read your great ramblings – that’s not really the point at first. The purpose of creating a consistent blogging habit is that this is how you get found by search engines, have something worth sharing in social media and begin to build a body of work to draw from in many ways.
Initially you may have very few readers, okay, maybe no readers, but the act of blogging is about producing assets, not about being a blogger. Take that mindset into this work and you won’t worry so much about why you’re putting in the time.
What’s it about?
The first thing you need to decide is an overall theme for your blog. Obviously it should relate to your industry and what you sell, but if you sell truck parts you probably don’t want to write the world’s greatest truck part blog.
You’ll want to think in terms of a narrower focus – Something that can encompass a narrow but important content theme. If you want blogging to pay off over the long haul (and that’s why we’re doing this) then you must resist the urge to view your blog as a place to journal and veer off topic like you might see many bloggers.
This is a sales tool pure and simple, this is how people are going to start to differentiate you from the pack – treat it as such.
But I’m not a writer
I can hear the gears in your head turning with this idea, but here’s the deal, it doesn’t matter. You’re not writing the next great novel, you’re explaining stuff, you’re taking questions that prospects ask and putting the answers in plain English for anyone to understand. (More on the benefits of writing and how to be a more productive writer)
Sure, you need it to be clear, easy to understand and free of obvious grammar disasters, but write like you teach and sell and it’s going to be just fine.
Think in terms of 300-500 word posts at the most, unless you have something highly technical that needs much greater explanation. As you get in the habit of posting to your blog you’ll probably find that this gets easier over time and the occasional 1000 word or more post actually gets the most traffic.
At first, aim for at least three blog posts a week. You’re not a news media site so you don’t need more than that, but you do need total volume, so three a week over a year will give you the pages to compete in search over time.
The easiest way to think about these shorter blog posts is to think about a benefit laden headline such as – 7 Ridiculously Practical Ways to Use Social Media in Your Sales Job.
From there you simply need an opening that sums up why this post is important, your seven points make up the outline of the post and then wrap it up by restating why this is important. It’s not much more complicated than that. Start with your main point, add four or five subheading that act as the outline and fill in the blanks.
Get the tech part done
The first order of business after giving some thought to the primary focus of your blog is to get the thing set-up so you can start using it.
As I tell everyone that will listen, my blogging tool of choice is the self hosted WordPress. You can find it for free at WordPress.org.
Other options include the hosted version at WordPress.com and micro blog tools like Tumblr.
A self-hosted site using WordPress.org’s version gives you the most flexibility and control as you simply get web hosting, install the software and blog away on any domain that you personally own.
The trade-off is that there is a little more to do from a technical standpoint. The good news is that there is plenty of information available that will walk even the most tech nervous creature on the planet through the process. I suggest you start by visiting wpbeginner.com.
Owning your own domain name (perhaps your full name.com) and the content you produce is the ultimate option when it comes to your own reputation and platform building so I urge you to consider this option first.
Many hosting companies such as HostGator and BlueHost have one button WordPress install so the technical aspect isn’t really that big of a hurdle.
Theme of a different kind
So far we’ve been talking a lot about themes in terms of content, but WordPress uses the term theme to describe the template for the look and feel of the blog.
Once you have the blog installed you’ll want to own the look and feel. You can go out and hire a WordPress designer to create or customize one, but chances are you can find a nice fit from one of the premium theme sites like StudioPress or WooThemes.
When you purchase a theme from a theme designer you simply upload the files to your domain and in most cases edit for things like color, font and header graphics. Every theme is a little different, but theme sites like StudioPress generally provide instruction for how to customize your templates. Again, wpbeginner has some great information on this topic as well.
Add more content themes
Okay, now that we covered the look and feel theme, let’s go back to your content themes. In previous post I outlined what I call the Total Content System. In it I suggest that you come up with a topic or theme for each month based on the important keyword phrases for your industry. I call these your foundational content themes and them basically act as you your editorial calendar.
That’s right, in a way your entire year of blogging is mapped out. Now that’s not to say that you’ll take it month by month in the beginning. After all you need to get round one of your content created before you can slip into an annual plan.
But, for your first twelve posts you should cover something specifically related to your twelve themes so that you have something to lean on as you then come back and revisit each theme moving forward.
Now for some extensions
One of the reasons so many people use WordPress run their entire site, myself included, is that the platform is open in such a way that anyone with some coding skills can create what are called plugins that extend the functionality of the core WordPress platform.
Initially this won’t be overly important, but there are three plugins that I recommend for every business blog. Don’t worry adding plugins is very simple and sites like wpbeginner as well as the plugin creators offer advice on how to add and configure plugins.
The three I recommend are: WordPress SEO by Yoast, Contextually Related Posts and Sociable.
1. WordPress SEO by Yoast gives you to the ability to make each and every post a little more optimized for the keywords you are trying to show up in search for. (More on using WordPress SEO here)
2. Contextually Related Posts takes your current post and automatically adds five posts that are related. Obviously this gets better as you add more posts, but this can really help people go deeper into your content.
3. Sociable allows you to add sharing buttons for most of the major social and content networks so that people can easily Tweet, Like and +1 your content to their networks.
That’s it, simple huh? Well, easy, maybe, simple, not so much, but get started today and in few months you’ll begin to enjoy some of the benefits of building your authority and expertise as a sales professional.