“I really need to get that new blog post out. It’s been a month, maybe two, or five. A year?!? No way, it can’t have been that long ago. I really need to start putting out new posts every week, or at least once a month. I’ll put that on my calendar, right after I get back to this client’s email…”
Working with creative entrepreneurs, I looked over a lot of design firm blogs. Unfortunately, it’s rare to find a firm that’s using their blog well. More typically, the posts start off with some degree of frequency, but then slow down, way down, down to a trickle, and then stop.
Why is this such a common trend? A friend of mine has a favorite expression that fits the creative blogging experience, “The juice just isn’t worth the squeeze.”
Blogging takes time. And freelancers and creative practice owners don’t usually have tons of that to spare. Making the time to squeeze fresh content into their blog comes at a high cost. And when that time investment doesn’t seem to be paying off—the juice just isn’t worth the squeeze.
This is a sad reality since a blog (or a newsletter, or some other form of regular written content) can be a powerful business development tool. But making them work is not simply a factor of adding more content, rather it means adding the right kind of content.
The Wrong Kind of Content
Here are the things that your blog should not be full of: design tips, favorite typefaces, web development tips, new clients won, new hires, your opinion about the latest blockbuster or favorite show, your pets, employee profiles, or your holiday party photos. Now don’t get me wrong, a few of those kinds of posts are fine from time to time—but if these make up the majority of your content, you’re doing it wrong.
Your blog content should be one of the most persuasive elements of your website to your prospective clients. And while you might like to think that your clients are as interested in the latest fonts from House Industries, or that efficient Photoshop hack you just discovered, they’re not. That kind of content might be compelling to other designers, but not your prospects. So unless the primary goal for your blog is recruitment—such content should not be the mainstay of your blogging diet.
The Right Kind of Content
So if not posts about your pets, or the latest book you’ve read, what should you write about? You need to write about what interests your clients, or more importantly your prospective clients—specifically what would compel them to hire you. Trying to answer this question exposes the real, fundamental problem with freelance and creative firm blogs—a lack of clarity on who that prospective client might be. And lack of clarity on this point is the cause of their weak blogs.
The Typical Creative Firm Client Profile
Let’s compare how a vague description of a potential client versus a clear focused client description makes all the difference for your blog content. The typical creative’s client profile is a business, or non-profit, or institution of some kind, who needs creative work of some kind, who has a budget in a certain range. What kind of business, or non-profit, or institution? Take your pick. What kind of project exactly: web, print, identity, advertising, packaging—again, fill in the blank. What size budget? Probably anything that you think that would make it even remotely possible for you to get the work done.
So count up the various services you offer and then multiply that number by the number of industries in your client experience list. That’s how many potential client profiles you have to consider when you’re trying to come up with an editorial strategy for your blog. No wonder so many design firm blogs fail!
Now let’s limit that profile down. Let’s pick just one choice from each column. As an exercise let’s choose “wealth management firms” as a client type and “collateral design” as our product. I picked those two out of the air, and now I will take just five minutes to write a list of potential blog post I might write if I were a graphic designer doing work of just that kind, for just that kind of client.
- Why wealthy clients respond to the feel of quality paper.
- How to make a strong impression using old printing techniques.
- Why the rich still love business cards.
- High end business card holders (filled with your cards) make excellent client thank you gifts.
- How foil debossing capture’s attention.
- The gift of bookplates conveys prestige.
- For rich clients, lead with print, and make the web all about convenience.
- Break the rectangle, die cutting still connotes elegance to your prospects.
I have no idea if any of those things are true. I simply imagined myself as someone who did print collateral for wealthy clients (or clients whose market is the wealthy) and made stuff up. If I were really focused on that area, I would easily be able to come up with many more, real, ideas for content.
These ideas from our experience are all fake but here are some real firms that are using their blogs effectively:
Added Benefits of a Focused Blog Strategy
When clients find a creative firm that writes content that answers their particular needs, the blog does almost all selling for them. And not only that, by virtue of the nature of blog content, there is a high degree of likelihood that such potential clients might very well stumble upon this kind of content.
And the more your expertise grows the easier it is to produce persuasive content. A new upward cycle will reverse the downward spiral of languishing ineffective posts.
That’s a whole lot more juice with a lot less squeezing.