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

by Marcus Sheridan

blog launch

As 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 and has been further refined with each client, including 3 that I’ve launched over the last 30 days. Although the system is best set up for companies with 5 or more employees (I’ve done this with companies from 5-200 employees thus far), the principles herein absolutely apply to solopreneurs and small partnerships as well. Here goes…

The 11 Step Plan to Creating 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 #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 onboard with creating consistently great content and “gets it,” you’re 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

golden_circle content marketingYou’ve seen me write about this in the past but more than ever I feel incredibly strong 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 3 major questions when it comes to Content Marketing/Social Media:

  1. What is it?
  2. How’s 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 1000x 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 what is getting ready to occur is more than “just another program.”

3. Everyone participates in content brainstorm

blog brainstormI 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 5-10 employees tend to work best.
  2. Assign 1 or 2 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 freshon 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 they are 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 they’re the perfect candidate to write the content for said post.

7. Better Analytics

Hubspot 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 ROI (Return on Investment) 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 that 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 5-15 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 in 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 1500 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.

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{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

Randy Cantrell October 17, 2012 at

Participation and buy-in seem to be common hurdles. So many want the rewards, but so few want to do the work.

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Marcus Sheridan October 17, 2012 at

Yep, Pareto’s law strike again RC :-) Hope you’re well my friend,

Marcus

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Rebecca Livermore October 17, 2012 at

I’m fortunate in that I don’t have to worry about management buy in. My biggest problem is not enough people to do the writing, but I’m working on that! :)

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Marcus Sheridan October 17, 2012 at

And I look forward to seeing the results Rebecca ;-)

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Andrew Lolk October 17, 2012 at

The point about letting employees know the results from Content Marketing really hit home with us. It’s been one of the best methods for keeping staff motivated to keep writing when times get “tough”.

The fact that they can see more than just visitor statistics going and that they can see their contribution is helping our starting company in generating sales is the real motivator behind a lot of the posts that we see here.

We’ve seen Account Execs becoming more confident after they start writing and a lot have been using it to explain Clients certain aspects clearly.

Content marketing is not just for new leads, but can also be an immense resource for your own staff!

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Marcus Sheridan October 17, 2012 at

Andrew, sounds like you all are doing some GREAT things, and I love what you said about the account execs. Yep, just a little momentum can build and build and build.

Keep doing awesome things my man,

Marcus

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Bhaskar Sarma October 17, 2012 at

I am with there on participation. But the problem is that blogging is still seen as a marketing function. And it’s approached by other employees the same way programmers approach the question about corporate tax deductions- not their problem.

So if a small business hires or contracts an external consultant to handle the blogging many will legitimately say that “it’s not my job to come up with topics”. But as data shows, best blogs are those where SMEs and employees have a major role to play.

I guess what will bring in more participation is a change in culture. But that’s not really something you can achieve overnight, or in a month.

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Marcus Sheridan October 17, 2012 at

Very true Bhaskar, which is exactly why I feel so strongly about the workshop and the “why” component to this. I’ve seen employees completely change their stance on blogging/content marketing as soon as they got the what, how and why.

Thanks for your thoughts,

Marcus

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Rich McElaney October 17, 2012 at

I am completely on board with your approach and have talked to clients about the benefits of following this process. One concern is – and it comes from those real long-range planners out there – what’s this process look like in year two or year three and beyond? This really applies in the case where honest effort at brainstorming produces 100 or so questions – good enough to get a 2x per week flow of posts for a year. We all know that the content can’t stop after year one – what are your thoughts about sustaining this process over long periods?

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Ryan Hanley October 17, 2012 at

Marcus,

This needs to bottled up and packaged in some kind of book dude… Which I have a feeling you’re working on… Absolutely fantastic.

‘nough said.

Hanley

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Marcus Sheridan October 19, 2012 at

In the works big dog, in the works ;-)

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Krista Kotrla October 17, 2012 at

Brilliant list, Marcus. And I’m pumped for your future posts on “The ‘WHY’ Workshop”… nice teaser. I guess I’ll keep reading your blog ;-)

Totally kidding of course. You know I’m hooked and believe in this model all the way. So much so that I pretty much started a blog to blog about you and your blog. Ha!

For what it is worth… I’m totally with Ryan on his comment above. I envision book, conferences, workshops, videos, etc. Bottle that magic and bring it!

–kk

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Marcus Sheridan October 19, 2012 at

“A blog about you and your blog…” Hahahaha, I laughed out loud here in the airport as I read that one lady! ;-)

Hope you’re well and the baby is well too!!

And hope we can get together IRL soon!!!

Marcus

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Don Stanley October 20, 2012 at

If you need help with the blog Krista, let me know … I love that idea ;-) And great to finally connect with you too. Looking forward to future conversations and brainstorms.

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Caleb Page October 17, 2012 at

Great post for companies with staff that can share the load. What is the best option you’ve seen for companies with minimal staff? Your swimming pool business may be similar to one of my cleaning businesses – a few office folks with a lot of direct labor. My office folks are uncomfortable with writing. I’ve tried outsourcing the blogging from time to time but have never been content with the results.

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Marcus Sheridan October 19, 2012 at

Yeah, that can be tough Caleb.For me, the honest answer was many late nights and lots of sacrifice. (I know, not a very romantic answer,but that’s the drawback to small biz.)

Keep pushing buddy,

Marcus

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Kelvin October 18, 2012 at

Do you suggest that all members of the organization actually write and publish posts? Including sales, engineering, support, etc.?

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David Weinhaus October 18, 2012 at

Hi Marcus,
+1 on Sinek’s talk on the Golden Circle. A colleague recommended this talk a few months ago and it really stuck with me. I also love your idea of coming up with a question list as basis for future content. One thing that I’ve been experimenting with recently is coming up with an organizing principle behind that question list. The structure I’ve been using is a matrix with the persona on the left (i.e. we happen to target 1. Owners and 2. Marketing Directors) and then the buying stage across the top (i.e. 1. Research, 2. Consideration and 3. Pre-Sale) – and then mapping out where the questions fall within that matrix. I’m looking for ways to ensure all bases of questions are covered, and also start stringing together sequences of answers/messages. I’d be curious to hear if you are experimenting with something to organize the questions and if so what you have found to be successful?

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Pat McDaniel October 19, 2012 at

David,

We have been doing the same thing regarding using a matrix of sorts. As we put ourselves into the shoes of our target personas and the questions they would have at each stage of the buying process, questions start to emerge. We have also found that using a mind mapping technique helps. Once you have a core question (e.g. how much does it cost to…) you can then assign that question with other topics (using Marcus’ example “how much does it cost for a fiberglass pool? An above ground pool? Etc.). We can come up with a great topic list but a new challenge is the client who says, “I already told you about topic X…” when in fact there are always new ways to view and approach topic X. Always new challenges requiring new solutions.

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Marcus Sheridan October 19, 2012 at

David, I like how you map this out man. Very cool. Personally, I haven’t ever really dug in deep with personans. I guess it might stem from the fact that my focus is always listening well and answering all questions, which hopefully will end up hitting every major persona when done right.

Marcus

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Pat Palingo October 18, 2012 at

It’s amazing you got that into only 1500 words! The importance of explaining the “why” can’t be understated, Simek’s TED talk is great. The group brainstorm session is really remarkable to watch. There’s an excitement in the room when everyone gets focused.

The really impressive moment though is when a sales rep gets a call from a new client starting with “I just read your article on…”

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Marcus Sheridan October 19, 2012 at

As always, appreciate your thoughts Pat. You know, there really is no way someone can just “get” this by reading it, certain things have to be lived because the benefits are so unique to each business.

Thanks again brother,

Marcus

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gatwick parking October 18, 2012 at

Amazing man , the way author explain the stuffs sounds perfect , step are clean and clear for a perfect blog just follow the 11 steps and make you way to the success .
Thanks

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Ian Cleary October 19, 2012 at

Hey Marcus,
I think one areas that will help is getting external experts to write guest posts on the blog which will help bring their followers to the blog!
Have a great week-end.
Ian

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Marcus Sheridan October 19, 2012 at

External experts is certainly a good idea Ian, and has been done very,very successfully for folks like Stelzner at SME.

Thanks for dropping in my friend,

Marcus

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Don Stanley October 19, 2012 at

Brother, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the idea of the “Why” workshop. I lead a workshop today and told them the most important letter in the alphabet is “Y”. It’s the foundation of ANY successful goal planning effort. If you have a strong enough “why”, you can figure out any “how”.

And I love you pull our friend Pareto into the dicussion. The 20% of activity providing AT LEAST 80% of the results is … you guessed it … answering the question “why”.

So many people and organizations gloss over this because it’s not sexy and it just plan HARD. But if you want real results, you must start with the “Why”.

Thanks for challenging all of us to do the most important work.

And I’m with Krista and Ryan … needs to be a book on this ;-)

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Marcus Sheridan October 19, 2012 at

The book will be coming my friend :-)

And nice job on the workshop DS, love it man. You’re simply one of the best my friend.

Marcus

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Wade October 19, 2012 at

I like your ideas on the “Why Workshop”. I have never heard of that and looks like it would work really well. I’m no big time businessman, but these ideas could help successful growth for the small blogger.

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Marcus Sheridan October 19, 2012 at

No question Wade, they’re essentially principles that apply to everyone.

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Lorie October 20, 2012 at

I love this 11 step plan to creating a successful business blog. These are awesome tips.

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sjhon October 20, 2012 at

I don’t sell windows but what you posted is true for what I do too. It took me A LOT LONGER than 8 to 10 weeks to learn much of what you posted

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sales rebuttals review October 20, 2012 at

I’m not a defeatist at all. I’m a pragmatist. Most salespeople are in business to solve their own problems. This is not to say they’ve gone to the dark side of the force. It means that they have kids to feed, mortgages to pay, and college ahead.

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Ruth Zive October 20, 2012 at

Marcus, great post. But what are your thoughts about outsourcing the CCO function to someone else…say (hypothetically :-)) a marketing firm?

My clients often find that they just don’t have the internal resources or scalability to “plan, assign, edit, and upload all content”. So we work closely with them to come up with the content (using a brainstorming process similar to the one you outlined) and the key messaging. We then write the post, share it with their point person for approval, edit and upload and optimize on their behalf.

Why not outsource? Curious to hear your answer.

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web design Austin October 20, 2012 at

Discover everything I know about blog promotion that doesn’t include telling your family and friends.

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Ross walker October 22, 2012 at

I am stuck on the first paragraph. Marcus was in Salt Lake and I Diddnt get to take him to lunch or dinner. Dang it!

Ross

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Marcus Sheridan October 22, 2012 at

My bad Ross!! But yeah, Had a great time, although way too short and no time to see my Utah peeps :)

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Mitch Mitchell October 25, 2012 at

Okay, for clarification you’re talking about corporate blogging and not, well, small business blogging, which would be me. I’m the sole writer and the sole content provider and all that other stuff you mentioned, and I’m assuming most of the other folks here are that as well. However, if I had a company with at least 10 employees, you’d better believe I’d be doing this stuff.

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Marcus Sheridan October 26, 2012 at

Appreciate that Mitch. Yes, this really requires at least 5 employees. But hey man, you might be in that position at some point. :-)

Marcus

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Anderson November 1, 2012 at

Thanks for the great tips! I have a few yet to follow for my new blog website.. Will hopefully come back and post how it goes!

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Marcus Sheridan November 1, 2012 at

I’d love to hear about your success Anderson!

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why do you want to start your own business October 20, 2013 at

I am stuck on the first paragraph. Marcus was in Salt Lake and I Diddnt get to take him to lunch or dinner. Dang it! Thanks.

Reply

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