By Marcus Sheridan published January 1, 2013

The Ultimate 11-Step Plan to Launching a Successful Business Blog in 6 Months

[Editor's note: Happy Holidays! This week, the editorial team at Content Marketing Institute wanted to share some of the best content marketing blog posts we've seen from our CMI Consultants. Today's post originally appeared on Marcus Sheridan's website, The Sales Lion, on Oct. 17, 2012.]

launching a successful business blogAs I sit in a plane and return home from what was another amazing Content Marketing Workshop experience I had with a Salt Lake City company yesterday, I wanted to discuss a subject that seems to vex so many businesses when it comes to establishing a blog and content marketing plan that not only work, but work fast in terms of building a company’s brand, increasing leads, and elevating sales.

The following system is one that I’ve been using over the last year, with tremendous results. It has been further refined with each client, including three that I’ve launched over the last 30 days. Although the system is best set up for companies with five or more employees (I’ve done this with companies from 5 to 200 employees thus far), the principles herein absolutely apply to “solopreneurs” and small partnerships as well.

Here goes: The 11-step plan to create a prolific blog and culture of content marketing

1. Management buy-in

I know, this can be a toughy. So much so, it’s the No. 1 complaint I’ve been getting from marketing renegades, and it’s also something I’ve written quite a bit about in the past.

But when it comes down to it, unless management is REALLY on board with creating consistently great content and “gets it,” your blog and social media efforts will likely fail. I say this out of much experience because with my individual clients, there is an extremely high correlation between management buy-in/involvement and the rate of content marketing success.

2. The “Why” Workshop

the why workshop helps launch a business blogYou’ve seen me write about this in the past, but more than ever I feel incredibly strongly about what I call the “Why” Workshop. Centered upon Simon Sinek’s principle of using the Golden Circle to establish a deep-rooted culture within organizations, a “Why” Workshop for content marketing addresses three major questions when it comes to content marketing/ social media:

  1. What is it?
  2. How is it done in a way that gets results?
  3. Why are we really doing this (from an individual and company perspective)?

I’m going to be writing more and more about how Chief Marketing Officers can do these in-house workshops themselves, but I can tell you that if done properly the results are profound and lasting, and about a thousand times more effective than a CMO or management member sending out an email to all employees saying: “Blogging and social media will help our company, which is why we are asking everyone to write blog articles going forward.

If you’re looking to doom your company’s content marketing before it ever even gets going, just send out one of these letters and wait for the flurry of articles to hit your inbox the next day.

Oh, and one other thing about the “Why” Workshop: When management tells everyone to stop what they’re doing and then takes the time to bring as many employees together as possible in a setting to learn the what, how, and why of content marketing, employees sense that what is getting ready to occur is more than “just another program.”

3. Everyone participates in the content brainstorm

everyone participates in the content brainstorm for the blog launchI love this activity, and it’s one that I’ve seen work incredibly well many, many times. Without going into too much detail, this is what I suggest:

  1. Divide employees into groups. Depending on the number of participants, groups of between 5 and 10 employees tend to work best.
  2. Assign one or two members of each group to be scribes/recorders.
  3. Tell groups their task is to come up with as many consumer/client questions as possible in 10 minutes. Whoever has the most questions written down at the end wins. (Note: When I say “consumer question,” I mean any question a consumer would type into a search engine assuming they had a problem/need and were looking for an answer.)

Although this activity may sound a little silly to those that have never watched it in action, I can assure you it’s amazing. By the end, employees are starting to catch the vision of how consumers think, how easy it is to come up with content ideas, and the power of synergy when all employees are “content producers” of one shape or form.

And to give you a feel for what to expect, most small groups will typically render a minimum of 20 questions for every 5 minutes of brainstorming. Going forward, these questions will now be the titles of all your future blog posts.

4. Individuals brainstorm

After the initial “Why” Workshop, when content ideas are fresh on everyone’s mind, I suggest that each employee in the group is given the task of coming up with 20 additional consumer/client questions on their own. This can be done during the workshop itself or as an assignment for that day, but to give you an idea of how effective it is, my client from earlier this week had about a dozen or so employees do further brainstorming the day of our workshop and they were able to come up with about 300 unique questions — well over a year’s worth of  blog posts and easily enough content to skyrocket their brand and business once it’s written and posted.

5. CCO selection, management editor assigned; no bottlenecks allowed

This is one step that can’t be missed. Depending on the size of your organization, someone is going to need to fill the role as CCO, or Chief Content Officer. The scope of this position (and name, for that matter) is incredibly flexible based on need, but the key point to remember is that someone needs to be in place to plan, assign, edit, and upload all content to the company blog. If these duties are too far spread out, then failure is almost always inevitable. Ultimately, one person must be responsible.

Along these same lines, there is usually one person within management that does a review of every article before it is posted onto the blog. Again, this might be the CCO or it may be someone else, but the essential element here is that the person is not a bottleneck and is able to read and approve/edit the articles very quickly.

6. Editorial calendar written; names and dates assigned

Once the consumer questions/content ideas are listed, the next step is to assign a name and date to each one of the articles. Be careful not to get too caught up in this step (over-analyzing who would be the best writer for what), which I’ve seen happen a few times. Generally speaking, if an employee came up with an article idea, there is a good chance that person is the perfect candidate to write the content for said post.

7. Better analytics

HubSpot offers better analytics

As I’ve talked about many times, HubSpot takes analytics and ROI to a whole new level.

 

As I’ve talked about in this article, tracking the return on investment (ROI) of our content marketing and blogging efforts is of huge importance. Furthermore, Google Analytics is not enough, as it doesn’t track names of people (folks who have filled out lead forms on your site), how they arrived on the site, what pages they went to, etc. And if you’re truly going to be great with any type of blog, better analytics are a part of the deal, whether people want to accept this or not. It is for this reason that I require all my clients to use HubSpot, as it’s the best overall software I’ve personally seen on the market for inbound and content marketing.

8. The initial content burst

After you have brainstormed all your consumer questions and assigned your dates and authors, it’s a great idea, when possible, to launch a strong foundation of content at the beginning of your blog. In some cases, because of the lack of manpower, you may only be able to post one single article at first, which is fine. But if you have multiple contributors, I’d recommend 5 to 15 initial posts out of the gate. Notwithstanding, do not delay the launch of your company’s blog just to stockpile large amounts of content for the launch. Get it out there!

9. Email and assignment selling implementation

I’m not going to dive into Assignment Selling here because I’ve done it in other articles, but it’s critical that as soon as a blog launches, the employees — especially those in sales — start integrating the blog content (be it articles or videos) into the sales process. This is also why I feel every email a sales person sends out to a prospect or client should include at least some content within it so as to help that individual move along in the sales process.

10. Bi-monthly newsletter

If a company is going to form a great blogging/content marketing culture, there needs to be something that keeps everyone aware and informed of the happenings, victories, etc. When done right, a company’s content marketing newsletter should include:

  • Articles written, and authors of each
  • Articles that ranked for keywords
  • Positive comments from readers about content
  • Leads generated from content
  • Sales generated from content
  • Success stories of sales department using the blog articles/content to get better results

11. Management praise

Did you notice what this 11-point plan started and stopped with? Yep, that’s right, management. As you already likely know, their importance in all of this working cannot be overstated. And when employees are putting their thoughts out there and helping with the company blog, a few words of direct praise from management can go a long way toward making the blog and content marketing campaign a huge success.

Your turn

Although I could have included a few more steps in this process, I figured 1,500 words was enough. That being said, I’d love to hear your thoughts on anything I may have missed or anything you don’t agree with in the list above. Also, has your company attempted any of the above and what were the results?

As always, your thoughts are valued and appreciated.

Want to hear more great advice from Marcus Sheridan? See his presentation at Content Marketing World 2012 on demand.

Author: Marcus Sheridan

Author of the popular blog The Sales Lion and a sought-after speaker – Marcus started his own company River Pools and Spas in 2001. After the company grew be to one of the largest of its kind in the world (due to inbound marketing efforts and an incredibly popular blog) Marcus began teaching other business professionals how to embrace inbound marketing and content marketing – specializing in the use of HubSpot.

Other posts by Marcus Sheridan

  • http://twitter.com/kennyjahng Kenny Jahng

    Nice plan! It overlaps so much with one that I walk clients through. One difference I start with is that I get the team to articulate “WHO” as the bulls-eye of the target circle. It is amazing how teams don’t have unity on exactly WHO is their sweet spot. This exercise helps align everyone together.

    • http://twitter.com/TheSalesLion Marcus Sheridan

      GREAT point Kenny, and it’s amazing just how many employees of different companies would not be able to answer that critical question.

  • AboutPeople

    Some good intel. However I question the validity of the order you recommend in why how what. Should be why what how. And the why should ask, “why would he target market care?”

    • http://twitter.com/TheSalesLion Marcus Sheridan

      I do understand what you’re saying and I’m curious– How do you feel about Sinek’s TED talk on the Golden Circle and “Start w why” ?

  • Sam Polk

    Great article – I’m very excited to try your approach to brainstorming with my own team. We’ve been focusing on the questions our clients ask us when they speak to our account representatives and customer service team, rather then the questions they ask to find us in the first place. Thanks!

    • http://twitter.com/TheSalesLion Marcus Sheridan

      Very exciting indeed Sam. Please give it a try and I’d love to hear how it goes for you!

  • Terrence Blair

    As a solopreneur I’m always on the look out for strategies that will help me with my content marketing effort. The fact that these strategies, which seem effective, can be adapted to the needs of the solopreneurs make them worth putting into practice.

    • http://twitter.com/TheSalesLion Marcus Sheridan

      I’m glad you see the value Terrence. With my swimming pool company, before I was a “marketing guy,” I used many of these principles to find tremendous success.

  • Xavier Paz

    Nice plan. However, it stops at the point of creating the blog and filling it with content. What about making it successful – it is, making it read? I mean the promotional part. There is no success without readers.

    • http://twitter.com/TheSalesLion Marcus Sheridan

      “Promotion” is a very relative term Xavier. If we are writing to address consumer/customer questions then there is a very strong chance the search engines will become our strongest promoters. The majority of industries still have mountains of SEO possibilities if they are approaching content in a Q and A format. Also, as this article discusses, Assignment Selling is the process by which sales persons in an organization use content in all their communications to help clients move further down the funnel. In my opinion, these two “promotional” components have more value than social media to the majority of businesses in the world.

  • http://twitter.com/nikipaniki Niki Torres

    Thanks for sharing this process on how to get a corporate blog up and running. Will definitely keep this in mind when I start ours.

    • http://twitter.com/TheSalesLion Marcus Sheridan

      Niki, that’s great to hear, good luck w the company blog!!! :-)

  • Ron VanPeursem

    Great work, Marcus; thanks for laying these out so clearly. I’m finding that “management buy-in” is HUGE because it allows you the necessary access to actually help SHAPE the content, get into the back end of sites in order to OPTIMIZE the content, and have freedom to PROMOTE the content (like with PRs, etc.). I’ve found that without enough management buy-in, I’ve had trouble in each of these three key areas.

    • http://twitter.com/TheSalesLion Marcus Sheridan

      Ron, great point. Every content marketing failure I had this year stemmed directly from management getting in the way of success. Without question, they need to be the biggest cheerleaders.

  • http://twitter.com/kellyqtweets kelly quance

    thank you for the tips, I shall be following these over the next week.

  • Lisa

    Great article Marcus. No 1 is so often the hardest! I’ve followed most of these and launch a successful blog. The challenge is getting more and more followers.

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