What do you do while your web designer’s working? After the initial design and strategy meetings, there may be a chunk of time where your web designer and developers are doing their thing while you wait. There’s literally nothing for you to work on while they respond to your requests.
What to do? Write. If you’re getting a website, chances are good you’re also getting setup to blog. Blogging is a cornerstone of classic inbound marketing. No marketing pros let you go without one.
While your other experts are hard at work assembling the website, it’s time for you to polish your writing skills. Start writing your first blog post or five. Preparing these before your site launches sets the foundation for sustained writing and publishing once it’s live.
Follow these simple steps to get going.
Brainstorm like Crazy
Before you write a thing, brainstorm. Get your notebook and pen, whiteboard and marker, computer, anything to record your blog post ideas as they come. Let them all out, even the bad ones or the ones that sound dumb. Pour out potential topics, titles, questions, answers and everything else.
Note: I recommend Evernote’s killer desktop and mobile apps for this exercise. It’s the best note-taking and bookmarking software I’ve worked with.
What if the material’s not coming? What if there’s no gushing wave of inspiration? It happens. A lot, actually. What you need is a trigger. Something to get you thinking. Check out my favorite customer-focused starters below.
- What questions do customers ask?
- What frequent customer problems do I solve?
- What info do customers need before contacting me?
- What’s the customer experience like?
- How do events, seasons or industry news change how customers relate to my product?
Try to make a list of 10 or 15 items, good and bad. When you’ve got something to show for all that brainstorming, highlight or mark your favorites and choose one to start.
Do not write anything titled “Welcome to Our New Website!” or any other announcement of the obvious.
Do write a post that benefits your customers. Choose to solve a problem or answer a question. Make an outline by creating the headings for each section. Spend 10 minutes researching. That means reading what’s already been written on your topic and copying the web address of articles you want to reference or link to for the benefit of your customers.
Write the First Draft with Your Heart
Ernest Hemingway never said “Write drunk. Edit sober.” The Internet’s still arguing about who did. But for writing advice, I prefer this clip from “Finding Forrester” anyway.
Watched the video? Great. Like elderly James Bond said, write the first draft with your heart. Forget about the delete key.
Type like Kanye West talks. Turn off your filter. Write like you said it and you can’t take it back. Don’t slow down for typos and mistakes. Leave a big mess on purpose. Hold cleanup for the next stage.
Sober Up and Edit
No one should write drunk. There’s no scenario where that produces good work. But lowering your inhibitions for that first draft is key to producing the raw material you’ll process by editing. Here’s where you check for clarity, consult the grammar book, cross out the nonsense and organize thoughts.
There’s a few guidelines I follow for good editing.
Wait at least an hour after the first draft is done to edit. Clear your head so you can return to work with an objective view. I find it helpful to spread out work over a day or two.
If you’re using WordPress, use the Preview feature to see how your post will look when it’s published. By taking this new view, you may catch new things to address.
Let slide the finer points of grammar. Uninhibited first drafts produce writing that more closely matches natural speech. If your audience tolerates it, keep the casual tone. Start sentences with conjunctions even as you ruthlessly clean those comma errors.
Separate editing and revision. If you discover major flaws in the content, stop editing and head back into brainstorming and draft mode. Doing both at once pulls you between preserving what you’re editing and striking out material that needs to go.
Setup an editorial review process. Sounds fancy, but on a basic level you just need a friend to look over your work. Do they get it? Would they share it? How would they change it? Find someone who can rip you to shreds while respecting and developing your brand voice.
Schedule, Publish and Promote
Got something killer to share with the world? Yeah, you do. You just brainstormed ideas that will change customers’ lives, transform your customer service and build trust that wins your next sale. You wrote a first draft streaked with typos, errors and heart. Then you cleaned, polished, previewed, shared with a friend and edited again.
What now? Look at the calendar. Find a day and time when you want your post to publish. Active bloggers may write ahead of schedule to build up a content calendar.
When your post goes live, it’s time to promote. Strategically share the link on your social media channels. Partner with other bloggers to share the post on their channels too. No one will ever know you made something cool unless you tell them.
Watch your website traffic and note which posts get the best response. Take advantage of this interest and new ways to write about this topic in the future. Brainstorm. Sound familiar?
After you’ve written, edited, published and promoted, the process begins again and continues to repeat until the world ends or you become a millionaire and retire to a private island. Until then, keep writing.