So you have a blog that is focused on generating new clients for your professional services firm. Now what? How do you go about selecting topics to write about?

It’s a struggle that many executives are facing today as content marketing begins to take hold in the professional services community. But it's a struggle worth mastering. In our recent study of online marketing in professional services firms,  we found that business blogs were rated as one of the most effective online marketing tools, right behind search engine optimization.

So without further ado, here is my mini manifesto on developing business blog topics:

1. It is not about you or your firm.
Marketers, restrain your sales pitch. It is never, never, never about how good your firm is. Instead, you should be writing about the needs and concerns of your target clients. If you do not know what those needs and concerns are, you do not know your target audience well enough. For gosh sakes, do some research. At least spend some time online and find out what the re-occurring issues are.

2. No superficial BS.
Yes, you know what this means. We have all seen these light and breezy blog posts that say nothing of value. Would you seriously sit in front of a potential new client and talk so superficially? Then why do it in a blog post? You don’t need to be ponderous to make an important point. But you do need to have enough substance to add some real value for your reader.

3. Write for readers and robots.
When you are choosing a business blog topic you should have two audiences in mind. The first is the reader who will someday become your client. Choose topics that will interest them (see Rule #1). But your esteemed reader is not your only audience. You must also write for the robots, those search engine spiders that allow your soon-to-be-clients to find you. That means that you should have specific key words in mind when you are drafting your post. If you are not writing around well-researched key words, the chances of your post being read drops dramatically. It’s the old “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it” problem.

4. Original content only.
There is a real temptation to just post syndicated content as a blog post. Bad idea on two fronts. First, it will read like syndicated content. You will sound generic. Instead, your posts should reflect your firm’s personality and problem solving style. Your brand should shine through so the right clients are drawn to you. The second sin of posting syndicated content is confusing the bots. If multiple blogs or websites are posting the same content, the bots will struggle to determine which site is the true source of the content. This is a bot battle your site will probably lose. So you may well end up turning off readers and losing your search engine rankings for the post. Not a good outcome.

5. Be Really, Really Useful.
This is perhaps the most important rule of all. People do not typically read business blogs for entertainment. They are looking for practical information, tips, motivation or a new perspective that helps them in their work. Make your point clearly and help your readers solve a problem. You might, for instance, make a confusing new regulation easier to understand. Don’t try to impress the reader with your technical expertise. (Of course you have expertise, that’s why they call you a professional!) Instead, impress them with the clarity of your explanation or the wisdom of your judgment.

Better business blog topics don't require a flash of inspiration or even a creative flair. They just need a deep understanding of your target clients and a desire to be truly helpful.