This post was originally published on Savvy B2B Marketing where I hang with my Savvy Sisters and write about business-to-business marketing.

Whether I’m working with a CEO, marketing manager, novelist, or small business owner, there is always one question that comes up early in our discussions around blogging: “What should I blog about?” It’s a fair enough question. Launching a blog is a long-term commitment. Being unsure about how you’re going to fill up the next few weeks, quarter, or decade can strike fear into the heart of even the most stalwart writer. And if you don’t consider yourself a writer, the anxiety can be paralyzing. When it comes to business blogging, the pressure increases with the expectation that what you write will provide measurable results in the form of leads or industry prestige or speaking invitations or any number of other tangible and intangible benefits.

So, how do you figure out what you should be blogging about? The process unfolds differently for each blogger, but there are better ways than copycatting what your blogging peers are doing. Below are five key questions that help bring definition and clarity to your blog’s identity and purpose. Answer these, look at the places where your answers intersect, and you’ll have a good idea of what you should be blogging about.

Question 1: What does your audience need?

This question assumes that you know who your audience is. If you’re not sure about that – start there. Once you know who they are, get inside their heads and figure out what they are looking for. Do they need inspiration, encouragement, specific knowledge? Put yourself in their shoes and think about what kinds of challenges they face each day. What types of search queries are they likely to type into Google? How can you make their lives easier?

Question 2: What are you passionate about?

Once you’ve figured out what your audience needs, it’s time to pay a little attention to what you need. “What?!?!?” you gasp, “I thought my content was always supposed to be all about my audience.” It’s true, audience needs are a primary driver for any successful content strategy, BUT did I mention that blogging is a long-term commitment? If you’re not passionate about your topic, there’s a much greater probability that you will slip into a blogger coma. You need to not only know who you’re writing for and what they need to hear; you need to care about the information yourself.

Question 3: What do you want to stand for?

Although most business blogs focus on a particular industry or area of expertise, the best ones deliver something more. They create a sense of larger purpose and community. They are a reflection of a particular personality that is partly brand and partly the character of the writer (or writers). What you stand for is part topic, part manifesto, and part persona. You may be one of many small business blogs on the topic of bookkeeping, but you might be the only one with a rebellious personality, or the only one on a mission to rid small business owners of the dread factor around monthly invoicing and bill paying.  What do you want people to think of when they hear the name of your blog? How does that translate into post ideas?

Question 4: What are you trying to sell?

If your blog is supposed to drive business, either directly on indirectly, you need to tie it to your products and services. Think about your offer and how you can relate that to your blog content. How can you demonstrate your expertise and superior service in a subtle, but persuasive way? Can you share customer successes? Can you show a broad knowledge of the industry by being a reliable source for analysis of the latest news? How about facilitating up sells by showcasing ways your existing customers can up their game with your latest upgrade or consulting service?

Question 5: What role does your blog play in your overall marketing strategy?

Integration is one of the key trends for 2012. Blogging and social media are no longer considered new media. Smart marketers weave online and offline, social and static content together to provide the customer with a cohesive experience. How can you tie your blog content to other marketing initiatives? Expand upon case studies with exclusive client interviews. Promote other content pieces (like webinars and e-books) and also be sure to provide follow-up coverage and resources. And, of course, maintain consistent messaging across all venues.

If you can answer these five questions, you’ll be well on your way to getting a grip on what you should blog about. Capture your thoughts in a mind map format so you can more easily visualize the bigger picture and the connections between the different answers.  In no time at all, you’ll be bursting with ideas and itching to write.

How do you decide what you should blog about? What questions do you ask yourself? 

Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of voice and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Image Credit: orkboi