TalkTyme: Business Plans

People start blogs for many reasons. Some use it for therapeutic reasons. Others use to share their life and thoughts. Perhaps the goal was to share cool content on the web or write about the thing(s) the writer is passionate about. However, there are a number of people who start a blog with one goal in mind: to make money. The people who want to monetize their site have a sub-goal as well: to have a popular blog.

Astounding how many writers/bloggers do not have a plan on how to reach those goals.

But Tyme, I don’t need a business plan…

Yes, I know. It is commonly advised not to have a business plan. That’s unwise and unrealistic. I rarely write a formalized business plan for my clients (usually only for bank approval of a loan or for the board) but I always recommend having a plan. However, there is a trick to having a solid plan that, unfortunately, most people can’t do efficiently enough to compete. In my experience, the more I do this, the more it comes naturally, to the point I don’t need to write anything down. It seems like I do not have a “business plan” when in truth, I do.

Let’s put the “not needing a plan” thing in perspective. When you go out on your first date, do you wing it or do you decide when the two of you are going to meet, where you are going to go, plan your schedule so you can go, have an estimate on how long you’ll be out on the date, have an expectation for the date, and make sure you have transportation? I could make the list longer, like picking out what to wear. Whether you write something down or not, there is a plan in place. Does it make sense you’d plan a date more than your business?

The smart plan

As I stated above, a blogger that wants to make money from their blog has at least one main goal and one sub-goal. Realistically, one has to have a solid idea on how to receive steady traffic in their niche to be able to optimally monetize the blog. Think about that. Digg, Reddit, etc. traffic does not monetize well (but can be very expensive with server fees) because they come, view an article and leave. The traffic one wants to monetize a blog (optimally) is when the advertiser will get a return on their investment. Meaning, people will click on the ads and purchase the product because the products is in sync with the blog.

How one goes about this depends on the topic or niche the writer/blogger is covering with the blog. Thinking there is one way that will work across any type of blog is unrealistic. Having an idea on the type of content the blog wants to publish (text, audio, video or a mix of all three), the publishing schedule, quality guidelines on content…these are all things that need to be decided to effectively compete with the competition.

You’re competing for ad-dollars. Advertisers don’t grow on trees. There is a limited amount of advertisers in each niche/genre so it would be best to realize that unless you create new advertisers, you’d have to pull current advertisers from the competition. Some kind of plan is needed to figure out how your site will give advertisers more return on their investment.

There are other ways to monetize a site however, unless the blog converts people or companies to pay more than they are currently, the reality is pulling the attention these companies or people have in the competition and focusing it on you.

Of course, there is another option: using the blog as a tool to make money. To do that, one would have to have a plan wouldn’t they? Each entry would have to be geared towards the goal of helping the writer make money outside of the blog.

It is hard to escape needing a plan.

The real deal

The key to having a solid business plan is the wisdom in knowing when it is time to change things in the plan. Do not become so rigidly dependent on the plan that you miss opportunities as trends change. That was the problem with formal business plans. The bigger the company, the more bureaucratic, the more locked a company was with those plans if only from the effort needed to change the plans.

For the average small business owner, a flexible plan is a wise thing to have. Knowing when to make changes and when to adhere to the plan comes with time and experience. However, if you feel the need to “copy” what the competition is doing, one-up them. Do not just copy, make whatever they are doing better, giving the user a reason to stop using the competition and use your company or read your blog instead. Successful businesses need flexible business plans. Of course, many bloggers that want to monetize their blog do not treat their blogs as a business.

That’s another topic for another day.