Two lessons back we suggested an exercise to begin a business blog. We recommended writing down a list of topics and lessons you would use to begin teaching your business / craft to a 5-year-old child. Whether or not you actually did that is up to you, but if you haven’t yet done so, take a moment to consider those concepts as we begin the first layer of a business blog: The Resource Layer.

Become an industry resource with your blog

Pending on your niche, your industry is a wealth of inspiration and ideas. Start simple and small, explain what the industry generally agree to be best practices for the processes and practices of your industry. A how-to guide, a best-practices manual and a directory of all the players in your market, the resource layer of your blog is a map to your industry. It is used for your clients. It will be seen by your competition. And, eventually, they’ll copy it. That’s okay. Let them. First mover advantages to such transparency are typically beneficial.

A how-to resource for your clients

What should separate your company isn’t so much your skill as much as your talent. Skills can be taught. Talent can not. Providing a basic how-to resource on the ins and outs of your industry is a first great step to not only endure your self to your clients but to show them your skill.

Providing such basic answers will also be picked up in search engines and read by readers throughout the world. The more you provide, the more likely they are to read.

We didn’t say give away trade secrets

That said, we didn’t say to give away trade secrets. Each business has core competencies and competitive advantages, trade secrets that make how they things a little different than everybody else. This is insight into your talent. For example, we wouldn’t expect you to give away the extra special ingredient that enhances the taste of your mother’s apple pie, but telling them if you play with the temperature in the oven during baking would be a tasty insight.

Some do give away trade secrets

Then again, some do. It depends on your priorities. For example, most industries make their money on the upsells and side items while providing the main offer at cost. Many hamburger joints make more money on fries and soda. Most gas stations make more money off their garages and convenience stores than gas sales. In the case of PelletSmoking.com, they’ll give away the recipe. Why? They sell pellet grills, not food. (Source: Jay Baer. Try not to get kicked out of Memphis BBQ Cookoffs). Speaking of Cookoffs, before you think Pellet Smoking is giving away crappy or untested formulas, note that these are the same award-winning recipes the website owner uses during cookoffs.

Some restaurants make a great deal of money off of alcohol sales. Giving away secrets to how they make the garlic butter for steaks or making a youtube video on how they developed their trademark silverware can go a long way towards customer appreciation. The branding and word-of-mouth conversations that stir from such secrets being revealed can cause a stir and remind folks who haven’t been to your place to come back and visit you, their old friend.

A resource for your colleagues

The primary use of your blog is to use it for its original intended purpose - to be a web log. Write a record, how-to, documentation of the basic processes, procedures and principles that go into your industry and your company’s approach on this industry. Such documentation will provide a multitude of purposes:
  • training clients
  • providing pitch & sales materials - including links to downloadable materials
  • general reference materials used in sales and production meetings
  • shows your understanding of the industry
  • a place to put references, testimonials, syllabuses and case studies
Having such materials online makes it easier to refer them to clients, colleagues and prospects without having to call an assistant and wait for them to email the information to you. Couple that with short URLs with handy tag lines at the end and you have the resources of your company available to you.

A resource for your industry

In a few months we’ll get to the point where we write a directory of all our competitors and collaborators in Chicago / Northwest Indiana, Columbia, MO & Palo Alto. Why? We want our team to know exactly where everyone is. We want them to know the twitter accounts, hashtags, facebook pages, pinterest boards and linkedin accounts of key people about it. We also want the traffic that stems from such content being public. Why should Yellow Pages, Dex and Newspapers have all the fun. And when we’re done, we’ll have some cool toys and tricks included into it.

We won’t be the first in the area to do it. We’ll be third that I know of. The other two use industry-focused sites for reviews and the like. Such information for colleagues, clients & competitors helps us keep an eye on everything, another layer to our ears approach.

Examples of such industry use

  • Cartronix
  • - A great example of how-to resource blogging as well as product information.
  • Duneland.com
  • - run by The Grosbauer Group, the site tracks all businesses along the Lake Michigan southern coast. They also give information on area events and the like.
  • Marketing Tech Blog
  • - Finn’s bromance / mentor Douglas Karr’s company, DK New Media, runs a how-to & review blog for their clients, themselves and prospects.
  • WITW 93.5 FM
  • - Owned by Rice & Rice Attorneys, WITW reaches area customers with their live video streaming of morning shows, online streaming apps and, soon, podcasting.

When is it okay to go to the next layer of business blogging?

It’s a great question. One of the hardest things to do in blogging is to stick at the task at hand because there’s so much information whirling around online that’s fresh and new that 20 minutes into a blog post your topic will seem dated. The hardest thing to do is to say, "no,” to reviewing the next post.

For us, we’re still just building our corporate blog. That said, if there is new information out there about us or our friends, we’ll break from our Resource Blog building and take a few minutes to write a note about it. And, there’s no rule against writing more than one post a day.

But to answer the question, we would say to get your hands in the dirt and build out the tutorials layers of resources then break it up once a week or so for news - just to give your brain a break.

Speaking of news...

It’s time to discuss the next layer of blogging: outreach & spotlights.