Your Agency Blog Probably Sucks, This is How You Can Fix It: Part 1 – Your Blog Audience

Takes 8 minutes to read. Too busy right now? Save it and read it later!

Understanding Your Audience

Many agency blogs are started in the hopes of generating leads. In reality, few do. Here’s how you can turn your agency blog into a real lead-generating marketing asset in 3 simple steps.

Much of my time is spent talking to freelancers and agencies to identify their challenges and pain points. Keeping a steady flow of the right kind of leads is often at the top of that list. Agency blogs have become a popular way to generate traffic that at least in theory will convert into leads. Problem is, most of them suck.

This is the first post in a 3 part series.

Next post:

This Series at a Glance

  • Agencies that do blog get more and better leads.
  • With blogging, you can laser target your best buyers and influence their buying decisions.
  • Blogging has many benefits beyond lead-generation and may help with employer branding, help position your firm and communicate your identity and culture.
  • For an agency blog to work, you need a strategy in order for your work to have any effect and lead to measurable results.
  • A basic blogging strategy consists of three pillars and answers the questions: who? what? and how?
  • You can create a strategy in three steps: understanding your audience, defining your blogging niche (the sweet spot), creating a plan and committing to it.
  • The understand your audience you need to talk to prospective readers and then using tools like empathy maps and personas to compile the insights.
  • To find your blogging niche, you need to identify what content your audience craves and which solves their problems, and the kind of posts you are passionate about writing.
  • A working plan for blogging must be realistic, have buy-in from the team and be a real priority, not something you do when you have time to spare (never).
  • A strategy and a plan aren’t of much use if you cannot commit to them. Consistency beats quality when it comes to blogging.

Leads from SEO and Blogs Have 7x the Close Rate of Leads from Traditional Marketing

Closing a deal
Blogging can generate a lot of new business.

According to a company called ContentKite, only 30% of agencies do blog and of those, only 7% post on a weekly basis. 36% of agencies blog a few times per year.

This despite the fact that agencies that do invest in blogging are getting 67% more leads. And those leads that come through their website and blog have 7 times the close rate of other leads.

These are the same companies that make a living building blogs for others. Yep, it’s a textbook example of shoemaker’s children.

If your blog isn’t working, it’s not the blog’s fault. You’ve probably just filled it with boring stuff. Like this agency that doesn’t seem to have any idea why they have a blog:

 

Who's supposed to read this blog? Not prospective clients!
Who’s supposed to read this blog? Not prospective clients!

Here are some of the benefits of blogging if done right:

Blogging Can Consistently Generate the Right Kind of Leads

This is done through cleverly produced content that has been tailored for a specific market segment to solve specific problems for them. This is why blogging is one of the best ways to consistently attract the best buyers.

You Blogging Can Shape Prospective Employees’ Impression of Your Firm

Encourage your team to write posts about what they do and why they love working at your agency. In this way, your blog helps support your employer branding.

Posts That Have Personality Can Be the Expression and Voice of Your Brand

Your blog can carry the messages that give you or your business an identity, which makes your company memorable.

Blogging Can Help Position Your Firm

By writing for a specific audience or on specific topics, your blog can be a tool for positioning your firm and defining your unique niche. By showing your deep knowledge and insightful thoughts through your blog, you can shape how clients think of you.

An Agency Blog Can Communicate Your Company’s Culture

A blog with candid and open posts about your business can help show your company’s culture by serving as a way for others to “peek inside.”

Why I Am Convinced of the Benefits of Agency Blogging

Cookie cutters! One of the wacky marketing ideas our agency cooked up!
One of the wacky marketing ideas our agency cooked up!

Some years ago I was one of the owners of a digital agency. Acting on instinct rather than marketing theory, we started actively sharing much of what we created. As an agency that used open source software, the idea to share ideas and code came naturally to us.

The idea of sharing resounded deeply with our team. One of our employees went as far as writing a printed book which we funded. He also published hours of video tutorials that all bore our brand.

A Machine That Keeps on Generating Leads

The results spoke for themselves. The compound effect of all these things paid off and led to us not needing a formal sales function until relatively late. Our content assets were a machine running day and night generating leads.

In hindsight, the content we shared wasn’t perfect from a positioning point of view since we wrote primarily about technology. The leads were clients who’d chosen us based on the CMS we used. Looking back, it would have been smarter to write about our buyers’ problems.

Even so, that same content also positioned us as an attractive employer which enabled us to recruit globally. Not bad for a small, bootstrapped firm with a staff-intense non-scalable business model in a country with 9 million inhabitants in a cold corner of the world!

Why You Need a Strategy for Your Agency Blog

Three Step Blogging Strategy

Much has happened in the decade that has passed since we started doing our own version of “inbound marketing” (as it’s become known as since). The effectiveness of these tactics and strategies has led to the web overflowing with great content. That’s fantastic for us who are curious and eager to learn. Yet at the same time, it’s getting harder and harder to be heard and seen as a business.

If you look around you’ll find countless tactics for improving visibility. What all of these tactics have in common is that they depend on a solid strategy. Starting a blog requires that you formulate such a strategy. It’s a natural first step and a way to test the waters before you invest more time and money.

A basic blogging strategy consists of three pillars: who, what, and how. These aren’t incredibly complicated but they take a little time. Expect to spend a day or two completing these steps. It’s time well-spent as producing the content for your blog will take considerably more time.

The First Pillar: Understand Your Audience

Understand Your Audience

A great blog focuses on the readers’ problems and offers advice, help and inspiration. As a consequence, the effectiveness of your blog is directly linked to how well you understand your audience. That, in turn, depends on the quality of your research.

However, if you look around you’ll see self-appointed “marketing thought-leaders” advising you to do marketing research by reading people’s Twitter feeds. It doesn’t take half a brain to know that people aren’t who they claim or wish to be. Social media is all about play-pretend.

This kind of superficial pseudo-research seems to gain popularity since it’s easy. All it takes is opening another browser tab. But that convenience will backfire. Any time you apparently save is an illusion. It will just lead to you wasting time producing content no one wants.

The reason why blogging can be so powerful is that it lets you create a relationship with your favorite audience. Done right, a blog can laser target your very best buyers and draw them in.

In essence, this is about affecting your readers’ behavior, usually to generate leads or drive sales. The buying journey (the series of steps a buyer goes through) is an important aspect to consider. The more you know about your readers, the greater are the chances you will be able to influence them and their journey.

Talk to Your Existing Clients to Understand Their Needs

Woman holding a phone.
A great way to learn about your audience is calling them.

To get real actionable research, allow it to take time. I recommend calling up your existing clients, or others in your target audience, and using a semi-structured interview format. Such an interview is based on pre-written questions while allowing you to stray from the script if you have to.

Aim to understand their world and what worries them. Chances are you have the knowledge, or knows how to get the knowledge, they need to fix their problems.

Here are some questions to start:

  • What are their 3-5 top problems that take up a lot of their time and attention?
  • How do they measure success?
  • What makes this person doubt that you’re a good fit for them? (doesn’t really apply to existing clients)
  • How does this person or their company go about buying what you sell?
  • What aspects will this person consider when evaluating different alternatives?

After you’ve talked to 5 to 10 clients and you compare your notes, patterns will emerge. You’ll realize that many have similar needs and you’ll see groups in the data. These groups are the foundations of your strategy.

Compile Your Insights Using an Empathy Map

To make sense of this information you can use a chart known as an empathy map. The empathy map is a framework for talking and reasoning about what your audience feels, hears, thinks and says. In other words, who they’re influenced by, how that affects them and how it causes them to act and behave.

Blog Audience Empathy Map

For Bonus Points, Condense Your Findings Into Personas

If you want to take it a step further, make a persona for each group. The empathy map is a good starting point. Personas are fictional characters which represent a larger group. Personas share many of the dimensions of the empathy map but they’re usually more extensive.

The template below was designed for recruiting so not all of the fields are relevant. The basic principles are the same though. The persona should reflect the buyer’s needs, problems and behaviors such as when and how they prefer to read your blog.

Bondsai Candidate Persona Template
Bondsai Candidate Persona Template

 

When creating your personas, behaviors, and needs are central. Some marketers will advise you to put personal details in there such as what clothing brands they like. That is, in fact, terrible advice that will cause you to draw many wrong conclusions.

Avoid demographics and focus instead of aspects that help you empathize with the persona. This includes what kind of information they need, how they prefer to consume it and where. This kind of information is actionable will help you decide what content to produce and how it should be packaged.

Congratulations, Your Agency Blog Strategy Is 1/3 Done

You now have the first pillar of your agency blog strategy: WHO. Read on to find out how to identify the best topics to write about and which interest your audience and aligns with what you care about.

This is the first post in a 3 part series.

In the next part, we’ll look into how you define your content niche and find “the sweet spot,” enabling you to consistently write and publish great blog content.

Next post:

What is stopping you from blogging more?

Please share in the comments. I read every comment.

 

Photo Credits

Related


Author: Jakob Persson

Jakob is the founder and CEO of Zingsight, the company behind Bondsai. He's been involved with the web for over twenty years and has previously co-founded and grown a web agency from 4 to 70 people. Jakob holds degrees in media technology and cognitive science. He consults in product design and management, and business development. Jakob is an experienced skier and a learning scuba diver.