The internet world is a very crowded place indeed.
Everyone is pumping out content. Noise levels are soaring.
What can you do if you’re a solo-entrepreneur, freelancer, or small business owner? Can you still win business online?
You can’t produce as much content as the well-oiled marketing machines. You can’t be everywhere on all social media channels. And let’s be honest: your content can’t always be as good and creative as the content produced by the armies of marketers at big companies.
One-man-bands and three-women-teams may feel that trying to find clients online is an impossible task. They may feel they can’t compete in the battle for attention—as if their whispering is drowned out during a hard rock concert.
But small business owners have a secret weapon—an advantage that those big companies rarely possess. Let me explain by briefly side-stepping into restaurants.
Fast-food chains are about efficiency
Fast-food chains cater for the crowds. They’re managed on efficiency. Orders are fulfilled quickly and waste is minimized. The interaction between customers and staff is minimal, because lots of chatting is costly.
If I launched a small restaurant, I would do exactly the opposite of the fast-food chains. I’d offer dishes prepared with locally sourced ingredients plus a personal selection of Belgian beers and Spanish wines. I’d have pictures on the wall made by local artists and I would try to find wooden chairs and tables in second-hand stores.
As a local restaurant I can’t compete with the advertising dollars of a giant restaurant chain. But I can differentiate my restaurant and strongly appeal to a specific audience. Maybe I’d offer candle-lit dinners for romantic couples in their fifties; or I could have a restaurant with hearty meals to welcome local bicycle enthusiasts.
Small business bloggers have an opportunity to specialize and to develop their own small fan club. They can find the people who they most enjoy working with and engage them with their distinct voice.
When we talk about blogging and content marketing, it’s easy to focus on the things we can measure: Page views, comments, social shares, number of posts, and subscribers. And if we look at the numbers, then sure: small businesses don’t stand a chance to compete with the big marketing machines.
But to win clients with a blog, you don’t need to become popular. You just need to build a small club of fans who want to listen to your voice, who are waiting for your next blog post, and who open each of your emails full of excitement.
Blogging doesn’t mean you’re just writing, pressing that publish button, and promoting your posts. Blogging is two-way communication. It’s about building relationships with your ideal readers and understanding what they’re struggling with so you can help them realize their dreams.
Competitive advantage through the intangible
But a blog is about more than building authority and sharing useful tips. It’s a place to start a conversation and allow readers to get to know you and like you—because of who you are.
It’s easy to think about the tangible aspects of a blog such as design, number of readers, and post topics. But what about the intangible aspects?
In the real world a disproportionate amount of value is placed on the tangible. Things we can easily explain, or put our finger on. ~ Bernadette Jiwa
The intangible aspects of your blog show who you are and allow potential clients to warm to you and your blog. For instance: Do you keep a certain distance like a waiter in a posh restaurant? Or do you make new readers feel welcome and at ease? Is your blog noisy and full of popups or are you calm and relaxed? Do you answer comments with bravado or humility? Do you write with passion?
Small business bloggers might not be able to compete on content quantity and they might not be able to compete on quality either. But there’s one thing they can compete on: they can let their personality shine through to build meaningful relationships.
They can gain readers because they love hearing the blogger’s voice. They can build a community because their blog has a soul. They can win clients because they write with passion.
The truth about small business blogging
Blogging isn’t about writing valuable content. Blogging isn’t about generating SEO traffic.
Blogging IS about creating human connections.
The secret ingredient of your blog is, of course, your personality. It’s YOU.
Only you can produce content that’s speaking so clearly, so directly, so personally to your ideal clients. Your personality is unique and nobody can copy who you are. YOU make your blog stand out. YOU win clients.
When you come to my imaginary restaurant, I don’t want you to come just for the good food or the free aperitif. I want you to come because you’ve missed me, because you want me to stop by your table for a chat about your latest business venture or your upcoming holiday.
In the same way, I believe your blog fans don’t stop by for a quick snack of tips. They read your blog posts because they want to hear your voice. They stop by because they want to “see” you and have a chat in the comment section.
Illustration courtesy of Flickr CC and Clifford Hence.