Can Business Blog Writing “Make the Man”?

ShakespeareWhen Shakespeare’s Polonius was sharing his wisdom with Laertes, he mentioned how important clothing is in making a good impression:

“Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man.”

Generations later, Mark Twain quipped, “Clothes make a man.  Naked people have little or no influence in society.”

But clothes affect not only the impression we make on others, Dr. Jordan Gaines Lewis points out in Psychology Today. What we wear affects how we perceive ourselves. Lewis cites a study done at Northwestern University that revealed that when researchers wore a white coat when interacting with participants and parents, they not only received more respect, but subconsciously felt more professional.

“How we behave is clearly affected by the clothes we wear,” Dr. Helene Pavlov opines in the Huffington Post. It is important for individuals to realize that maybe the clothes DO make the man or the woman!

I’ve actually expressed something of the same sentiment on the Say It For You website.   “When you put up a blog with excellent content that engages your potential and current customers, you will typically receive the following four types of benefits: An SEO benefit, a promotional benefit, a credibility benefit, and (this is the one that comes closest to the “clothes make the man” concept), a training benefit.

The way I explain the training benefit is this: When you blog, you verbalize the positive aspects of your business in a way that people can understand. You put your recent accomplishments down in words. You review the benefits of your products and services and keep them fresh in your mind. In other words, you are constantly providing yourself with training about how to talk effectively about your business.

Can it be that the words in which you “clothe” your business or practice, as you are presenting it to the world in your blog, will have an effect on the passion with which you  actually run your business or practice?

Can business blog writing “make the man”?

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Business Bloggers Can be Authors of Defining Moments

bloggers as authors of defining moments

In The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact, authors Chimp and Dan Heath posit that there are certain brief experiences which jolt us, change us, and elevate us. What if a teacher could design a lesson he knew students would remember twenty years later, they ask.  What if a manager knew how to create an experience that would delight customers?

And what if (reading this book made me ponder), we knew how to create content that would delight readers and emblazon our clients’ brands in  prospects’ and customers’ minds and hearts? Isn’t that, I asked myself, really what this business blog marketing thing is all about?

When people assess an experience, the Heath brothers explain, they tend to forget or ignore its length and rate it, in retrospect, based on the best or worst moment (“the peak”) and the ending. Translated into the construction of a marketing blog post, while it’s the keyword phrase that starts the job of getting the blog found, a big part of blog content writing, I’ve found, involves getting what I call the “pow opening line” right.

The opener might consist of an anomaly (a statement that, at first glance, doesn’t appear to fit). Or, the opener might be a bold assertion or “in-your-face” statement. The “pow” opener puts words in readers’ mouths – when talking to others about this topic, readers will tend to use the very words you will have, figuratively, “put in their mouths”. Seth Godin’s “There are actually two recessions” is a perfect example of impactful, thought-changing discussion-piece openers.

The Power of Moments authors talk about ”flipping pits into peaks”, turning customer complaints into positive, memorable experiences.  You want to get things wrong, then have customers bring those mistakes to your attention, so that you can create a memorable “fix”. For us blog content writers, the lesson is this: writing about past business failures is important! True stories about mistakes and struggles are very humanizing, adding to the trust readers place in the people behind the business or professional practice.

Readers, I explain to business owners and practitioner clients, even the ones who have subscribed to your blog, are not going to peruse, much less study, every word in every one of your blog posts, however relevant the information, however artfully worded.  What we’re shooting for as blog writers is to be authors of defining moments for readers rather than merely waiting for those moments to happen!

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Business Blogging 2.0

business blogging

“Your Best Staycation May Be in Your Own Back Yard” is the theme of the latest issue of Travel Indiana magazine“.  “Statistics show that one-third of Americans visit coastal areas each year, confirming our strong draw to the water and the activities surrounding it. But if you think you have to travel outside of Indiana to get your fix – think again.”

You don’t have to go far outside your own company or practice to get material for your business blog, either. A number of years ago, I remember, I introduced companies who had made the list of Forrester’s Top 15 Corporate Blogs. One pick that caught my attention was Accenture, whose blog was chosen because their writers tap the company’s own employees for insights about technology, hiring, and consulting. The concept, I realize is that of a “staycation”; you don’t need to travel far afield to get your writing idea fix for blog posts. Important to note is that, even if it’s not practical for your employees or associates to actually write blog posts (and, of course, for the majority of my Say It For You clients, it’s not), their input can immensely enrich the company’s – or practice’s blog.

More recently, Forrester named Top 10 B2B Marketing Blogs, with the most-read blog of that year, written by Laura Ramos, making two important observations:

1. The best marketing mix varies by company at any given time
2. What you have to say is more important than the channel of tactic you use to say it.

“Staying close to home” in terms of blog content marketing involves focus, as Mark Leccese and Jerry Lanson emphasize in the book “The Elements of Blogging: Expanding the Conversation of Journalism”. “Force yourself to break your topic into three potential sub-topics,” advise the authors.  Then “Ask yourself whether one of these along might be rich enough for a blog…The tighter your focus, the better your odds of success.”

Focus means “staying at home” in individual blog posts, as well. Each post should have a razor-sharp focus on just one story, one idea, one aspect of your business. Other important things you want to discuss?  Save those for later blog posts! Focused on one thing, your post has greater impact, since people are bombarded with many messages each day. Respecting readers’ time produces better results for your business.

At Say It For You, our business model is based on the Power of One, taking on only one client per type of business per metropolitan area, and assigning one writer to each client. In every way, we believe, your best blogging “staycation” will be in your own “back yard”!

 

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Why-In-The-World Business Blogging

It wasn’t a blog post, but the article might well have been just that, I thought, reading the advertorial in Senior Living, in which David Ring, owner of Indiana Funeral Care, answers the question “Why In the World Would I Plan My Own Funeral?”

Last November, in my Say It For You blog, I quoted the advice of speaker Todd Hunt.  Hunt suggests “the next time someone asks you a seemingly stupid question, stop and look at it from their side.”  As business blog writers, we need to impress readers before they’ve had the chance to ask us their questions, “stupid” or otherwise, I explained.  In fact, readers find our blogs precisely because they’re searching for answers to questions they have and solutions for dilemmas they’re facing.

In the Senior Living article, Ring does just that – he anticipates, and in fact lists, the many questions our survivors are going to face our survivors if we don’t face them ourselves:

  • Full tradition service or private graveside?
  • Open casket with cremation to follow or cremation with memorial service?
  • Wood or steel casket? (What’s the difference?)
  • What’s a burial vault?
  • What should be done with cremated remains – bury, scatter, in an urn?
  • Newspaper obituary, online obit, or both?
  • List several charities for memorial contributions or just one?
  • What if I move to another city or state?

The final paragraph of the Senior Living article reminded me of a second important business blogging principle: Since our content is often being ready by people who are not yet our clients or customers, how can we address their expectations? Readers need to envision how they will be helped by using our products or services.

As a retired financial planning professional, I know that most planners begin a meeting with new clients by asking the simple question “What is it that brings you here today?” One innovative planner, though, goes further, as a Journal of Financial Planning article reports, asking, “At the end of our meeting today, how will you know that it has been successful?” Through the design and language of each of the corporate or professional practice blog posts we compose, we need to bring readers to the point of figuring out “why in the world” their time with us has been – and will be – well spent.

“The other comment we often hear,” Ring relates, (referring to surviving family members of someone who has passed), “I am so relieved they planned this ahead!”

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Great Business Blog Stories Are Rarely Aimed at Everyone

 

“Consumers are used to telling stories to themselves and telling stories to each other, and it’s just natural to buy stuff from someone who’s telling us a story,” observes Seth Godin in his latest book All Marketers Tell Stories.

Not all stories succeed, Godin points out, because not all stories have the following essential elements:

  • Great stories are authentic
  • Great stories promise fun, money, safety, or a shortcut.
  • Great stories are subtle, allowing the target audience to draw their own conclusions.
  • Great stories happen fast, engaging the consumer the moment the story clicks into place.
  • Great stories appeal not to logic, but to the senses.

Each of these principles is important for effective business blog content writing, to be sure.  Today, though, for the benefit of my target audience, I want to highlight Godin’s most cryptic (and, I think, most interesting) statement: Great stories are rarely aimed at everyone.

“Average people,” Godin says, are good at ignoring you.  If you need to water down your story to appeal to everyone, it will appeal to no one.” It’s not that marketing no longer matters, the author says.  In fact, it matters so much that we have an obligation to do it right. But “no marketing succeeds if it can’t find an audience that already wants to believe the story being told.”

As writers, then, when we tell the story of a business or a practice to consumers, we “frame” that story a certain way.  A frame, Godin explains, is the way you hang a story on to a consumer’s existing world view. Smart marketers, he’s saying, don’t try to use facts to prove their case, insisting that people change their biases. “Your opportunity,” he tells marketers, “lies in finding a neglected worldview, framing your story in a way that this audience will focus on.”

Translated into blog content writing insights, I want to underline Godin’s three elements, the three things he claims will determine the success or failure of our efforts:

  1. Attention:  If our readers’ worldview is that they don’t think they need what we’re marketing, and don’t recognize a lack or a need, they won’t notice our solution.
  2. Bias: Predispositions may color our information negatively in readers’ minds through no fault of our own.
  3. Vernacular: Consumers care about the “how” as much as the “what”.  If our story doesn’t match what the consumer thinks is fitting, “weird things happen”.

“Small businesses can effectively compete with large companies by targeting a niche market,” writes Mandy Porta in Inc. Magazine. “Target marketing allows you to focus your marketing dollars and brand message on a specific market that is more likely to buy from you than other markets.” At Say it For You, one principle we try to keep in mind is:

“Great business blog stories are rarely aimed at everyone!”

 

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Blog Content Writers Take Lessons from the Past

Alexander Pope and Sir Ross Smith lived centuries apart, but both came to the same conclusion on the topic of arguing. Both men are quoted in Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People.  “Why prove to a man he is wrong? Is that going to make him like you?  Don’t argue – proving you’re right doesn’t win hearts,” Smith said 100 years ago.  200 years earlier, poet Alexander Pope used different words to convey the same idea: “Men must be taught as if you taught them not.”

David Ogilby, aptly named the Father of Advertising, stressed that “advertising is not an art form, but a message with a single purpose – to sell. Postcron’s Camila Villafarie points out that the “Ogilvian” techniques that worked in the 70s can be applied today in blogging. “The man goal of creating ads, Ogilvy was fond of saying, “is not to prove who’s more clever or witty.  People don’t have that much time to stop and read, so if you think you should surprise them with your words and creativity, you can do it, but never at the expense of making the sale,”,

There are several things the purpose of blogging is not. Not only isn’t the purpose to prove how clever or witty the writer is, it’s definitely not to prove how uninformed the reader is! Still, myth busting is a popular (and rightly so) use of corporate blogs, the idea being to disprove misconceptions about the product or service being offered.  Addressing misinformation is certainly one way to shine a positive light on a business owner’s or professional practitioner’s expertise in the field. The only problem is that people don’t like to be “argued out” of their misconceptions, and they definitely don’t like to be proven wrong!

What about issues where there’s no “myth” involved, but on which there are differing opinions? As a long time blog writer, I tell business owners that it’s fine to take a stand, using various tactics to bolster that stance in the eyes of readers. Then, through including guest posts on their blog and also citing material expressing the opposing viewpoint, they can demonstrate that there can be a productive exchange of ideas. Blogs, after all, are not ads.

The typical website, I believe, is more like the catalogs of an earlier era, explaining what products and services the company offers, who the “players” are and in what geographical area they operate. Of course, the better websites give at least a taste of the corporate culture and some of the owners’ core beliefs.
Where the continuously renewed business blog writing comes in is to offer ideas and inspiration. For every fact about the company or about one of its products or services, a blog post addresses unspoken questions such as “So, is that different?”, “So, is that good for me?” A good idea is its own “advertisement”!

Sir Ross Smith was so right – proving you’re right doesn’t win hearts.  But, unlike Ogilvy’s insistence that the prime goal is making a sale, the purpose of business blogs may be a different one – winning hearts and inspiring action!

 

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Blog Content Writers Try to Hit Their Own – and Readers’ – Time to Shine

“Many leaders are at their best in the first hours of the morning; others hit their prime in the late morning; others still, in the afternoon”, authors Steve Chandler and Scott Richardson explain in the book 100 Ways to Motivate Others.

“We all have 24 hours.  It doesn’t matter how rich or powerful you are, you still only have 24 hours..Only you can slow time down by choosing what you choose to do.”  As a professional blog writer and corporate blogging trainer, I often talk about the “drill-sergeant discipline” it takes to maintain the frequency and longevity needed  for successful blog content writing.

“All the world’s a stage,” Chandler and Richardson tell leaders. “When it’s your turn to be in a scene, try being really enthusiastic……Glow. Sparkle. Radiate leadership and solutions.” For blog writers, I believe, this line in the book is one to remember:  “Whichever is your best time to shine, don’t waste it on trivial, low-return activities.” We should be doing our writing at our own “prime time”, when we are at our absolute best emotionally, physically, and mentally. Unfortunately,  Chandler and Richardson explain, we too often “find great pleasure in spending our highest-energy state on small tasks.”

“Timing is everything, and maintaining a blog is no exception to the rule,” cautions the Kissmetrics Blog.  “Learning when your audience is tuning in, and therefore when to post, is mandatory for any successful blogger.” There are pros and cons to posting during high-activity hours; although there might be more visitors, the content can lose prominence due to “noise”. Posting at night, conversely, affords easier front page promotion, but your post is likely to draw less engagements.

Specific insights offered by Kissmetrics include:

  • The highest percentage of users read blogs in the morning.
  • The average blog gets the most  traffic at the beginning of the week.
  • The average blog gets the most comments on Saturday.

If timing is everything, then what about frequency?  “You should be making a concerted effort to keep up with a consistent publishing schedule to maintain fresh content,” blogmutt.com asserts. “Search engines regularly crawl your site looking for new content…if you are posting new, quality information frequently, you increase your chances to rank even better the next time your site is crawled.”

Blog content writers must try to hit their own – and readers’- time to shine!

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Giving it Away to Get ‘Em – the Other Side of the Useful Info Story

useful info in blogs

No, (as I spent some digital “ink” saying in my last post), I don’t think sports scores or snow statistics belong on the blog sites of jewelers, dentists, or veterinarians, when those are used primarily as a way to attract visitors. My take on that form of marketing is that it works counter to the purpose of establishing trust and credibility for the business owner or practitioner.

But there’s always an “on the other hand”, as I will be first to admit. Offering tidbits of information loosely related to the industry or field represented in the blog is something readers tend to like. It “puts words in their mouths”, gives them “ready-to-microwave” cocktail conversation consisting of little-known or just plain interesting things to mention at the appropriate moment.

Humor speaker Todd Hunt doesn’t have a blog, but his e-newsletter, Hunt’s Headlines, does that “words-in-the-mouth’ thing for me. This time, Hunt explained the difference between acronyms and initialisms:

An acronym is a word, Hunt reminded me, that is formed from initial letters and pronounced as a word:

Scuba = Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (I’d forgotten this)
NATO = North Atlantic Treaty Organization (I knew that one)
Laser = light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation (who knew?)
Zip (code) = Zone Improvement Plan (I would’ve missed this on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire)

Now that I think of it, to illustrate my Say It For You blogs and emails, I use JPEGS. I was never informed (until now) that the acronym stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group.

In an initialism, in contrast to an acronym, the letters are actually pronounced individually (not as one word). Examples are:

FBI – Federal Bureau of Investigation
IRA – individual retirement account
AAA – American Automobile Association
ATM – automoated teller machine

One initialism pertaining to our work as blog content writers is HTML, which (I should’ve known this, but somehow didn’t remember)) stands for Hyper Text Markup Language.

I’m far from actually reneging on my earlier assertion that “you cannot afford to tax their (online readers’) patience by distracting them with sports scores or weather updates; you’re best focusing on the search topic that brought those readers to you in the first place. Still, in blog marketing it’s well worth the effort of digging up curious and little known facts relating to your business or profession.

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Blog Marketing – Giving it Away to Get ‘Em

useful information

Weather reports on a jewelry store website or blog? Sports scores to market a dental practice? Really?

Entrepreneur Magazine’s Ultimate Small Business Marketing Guide thinks it’s a good idea:

“Another good way to increase your web site’s sticky content is to provide up-to-date headline news, sports scores, international and local weather forecasts, and stock market financial information……By providing visitors with free and valuable information and services, you entice them to return to your web site often, and in doing so you increase the number of selling opportunities “you have with each individual visitor.

World Weather Online claims, “There are millions of websites on the Internet and you have to make yours stand out for all the right reasons….They can peruse your website and at the same time have the added bonus of being able to check a wide range of weather reports.”

As a marketing blog content writer, I tend to lean the other way. The Nielsen Norman Group in “113 Design Guidelines for Homepage Usability” hits on my point exactly:

“Imagine how disorienting it would be to walk into a store and not be able to tell immediately what services or goods were available there. The same is true of your homepage. It must communicate in one short glance where users are, what your company does, and what users can do at your site. Why should users do anything at a site if they can’t figure out what there is to do there?”

“Provide good useful information and establish trust and credibility – sales will follow,” says the think-ebiz.com blog. You’re a subject matter expert (a SME) offering usable information and insights – but you’re not a SME on sports or weather. In corporate blogging for business, the blog content itself constitutes a Call to Action. Inserting non-related, albeit generally useful, information, in my mind, borders on bait-and-switch.

Remember, online readers have found their way to your blog precisely because there’s a match between the products, services, and information they need on the one hand, and what you have, what you do, and what you know on the other. Now that they’ve arrived, you cannot afford to tax their patience by distracting them with sports scores or snow statistics.

Blog marketing is a form of “giving it away to get ‘em”, which focus readers’ attention on information that is relevant, useful, and encourages action – with your business or practice!

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Let Me Count the Ways to Use Numbers in a Business Blog

numbers in blogs

“Use numerals to express numbers 10 and above, and use words to express numbers below 10,” Paige Jackson of the American Psychological Association reminds writers.
Another writing guidance source, the Purdue OWL, has this to say: “Although usage varies, most people spell out numbers than can be expressed in one of two words and use figures for other numbers.” The OWL offers several examples of each choice:

Words:

  • over two pounds
  • six million dollars
  • after thirty-one years
  • eighty-three people

Numbers:

  • after 126 days
  • only $31.50
  • 6,381 bushels
  • 4.78 liters

When Pamela Vaughan and her colleagues at HubSpot analyzed all there own blog posts to see which titles had performed the best in terms of search results, the top eight each included a number, starting with::

  • “12 Quick Tips to Search Google Like an Expert”
  • “12 Mind-Blogwing Statistics Every Marketer Should Know”
  • “How to Monitor Your Social Media Presence in 10 Minutes a Day”
  • “The 9 Worst Ways to Use Twitter for Business”

Ryan McCready of Vennage.com is even more specific, suggesting, after looking at 121,333 unique articles, tthat 10 is the best number to use in blog titles. The number 5, McCready points out, is second. Avoid using the teens, he adds, and never, ever use the number 2.

Career coaches suggest that using numbers may be one of the most underutilized strategies in cover letter writing. Numbers are a great way to be specific about your accomplishments.  They also show that you pay attention to benchmarks and concentrate on setting and meeting goals.

As a blog content writer and trainer, I stress that numbers can be used in business blogs to “build belief”. For example, statistics can demonstrate the extent of a problem your product or service helps solve.

Whether you follow the APA formatting or the Purdue OWL, using numbers in your business blog is a way to quantify, or to qualify – and get the business!

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Marketing a Professional Practice Through Business Blogs

practitioner blogging

“Services – unlike products – cannot be seen, touched, held, etc. Buyers only know the true value of your service after they receive it (often with full effects taking place weeks or months later,” Oren Smith of Precision Marketing Group explains.

Since, at Say It For You, our content writers serve the needs of both product vending businesses and of professional practitioners, I was very interested in Smith’s breakdown of the challenges he believes are distinct in professional services marketing:

1. Intangibility: When people purchase a service, they are essentially buying into trust and ideas, “requiring professional services firms to market not only the service itself, but the people, knowledge, and skills behind it.” Use blog content to answer the “why”, the “what’s-your-purpose” question.  What drives the passion? Give your online visitors the chance to get caught up in your passion. I once wrote a reminder to eager-beaver business blogger newbies: In the dictionary, the word “belief” comes before “blog”!

2. A longer buying cycle: A professional practitioner’s sales cycle is longer and more complicated than a product-based sale, “as the perceived buying risk is typically much higher.” For practitioner blogs to be effective, I teach, they must serve as positioning statements. The visit has to conclude with readers understanding not only what your value proposition is, but exactly why that should make any difference to them. What’s the benefit in this for ME? How will MY interests be protected and served if I choose to become your client or patient? What will you do to keep ME “safe” from risk?

3. Relationships vs. transactions: Buyers often determine which provider is going to be the best fit for their business based on a serious of personalized interactions. As business blog content writers, we can work to inspire three types of trust in the business providers and professional practitioners who hire us to convey their message: Prospects must trust in the practitioner’s know-how, ethical conduct, and empathy.

4. An ongoing process: As sellers of professional services, “every touch point you have with a prospect or current customer throughout an engagement matters. and supports the value you bring.” The blog sets the stage for readers to make a judgment about their own expectations: potential clients are asking the question: “How will I know I’ve been helped by using your services?”

5. Education: “Understanding your customers’ pain points and what makes their businesses tick is a key preliminary step to selling your services.” Even though you’re offering a professional service, you’ll find that customers tend to respond better if you show them how the process works, even how to “do it themselves”. Readers often realize that they’re not an expert or don’t have the time, so they call you to come do it for them.
.
“Fully understand the benefits you bring to the table, why only you can do it, and why the client isn’t able to do it as effectively on his own,” are Smith’s final words to marketers.

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Collating and Curating in Business Blogs – What’s the Dif?

curating content

 

“Expressing our love, gratitude and appreciation to others on the New Year by sending happy New Year messages for friends and loved ones is a great way to share in this spirit of renewal and joy with those around us,” Richard Kronick writes in the Huffington Post, proceeding to list samples of funny New Year wishes, happy New Year images, and happy New Year wishes for friends and family.

What Kronick has done is collate, meaning he has collected information from different sources and organized that information in a new way.  Collating, in fact, is one important way in which business blog content writers can bring value to readers. Using content from our own former blog posts, newsletters, or even emails, adding material from other people’s blogs and articles, from magazine content, or from books, we can collate that material into new categories, summarizing the main ideas we think our readers will find useful.

In his introductory remarks, Kronick has taken at least a small step into curating, which goes further than merely putting together collections. In fact, effective blog posts must go from information-dispensing to offering the business owner’s (or the professional’s, or the organizational executive’s) unique perspective on issues related to the search topic.

Think of an art museum. “Too often, when people walk into a museum, they secretly think, I can’t see the point of this,” says Alain de Botton in Art as Therapy. The curator’s job, he explains, is to take the “snob factor” out of art, offering perspective on each painting, so as to help viewers connect with the artist’s vision. That’s actually a very good description of the way business bloggers can help online readers connect with information presented in a blog post. That information might have been taken from various sources, represent a review of trending news topics, or consist of facts and statistics that need to be put into perspective so that readers realize there’s something important here for them.

As a freelance blog writer, I’ve always known that linking to outside sources is a good tactic for adding breadth and depth to my blog content.  Linking to a news source or magazine article, for instance, adds credibility to the ideas I’m expressing.

Collation and curation – they are both tools we blog writers use to stay in touch – and keep our readers in touch with new ideas and current happenings.

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New Year Resolutions for Blog Content Writers

BLOG CONTENT

 

During the holidays, at least here in America, we seem to be “into” list-making. From shopping lists to Santa’s twice-checked  list, we now culminate the series with lists of New Year’s resolutions.

Looking back at the past year of offering Say It For You business blogging assistance, I found several simple lists I used to help readers come up with ideas for corporate blog posts:

1. Things consumers are likely to type into the search bar that could bring them to your blog:

  • Their need
  • Their problem
  • Their idea of the solution to their problem
  • A question
  • 2. Calls to action to include in titles and If-you-click-on-this-link promises, such as:
  • This link will lead you to a blog post that explains how to obtain more of something desirable
  • This link will lead you to a blog post that explains how to obtain less of an undesirable effect
  • This link will explain why one popular idea is falseMake a list of your own of content pieces that that might:

    …engage the interest of online readers who have found your blog post
    …provide valuable information to them?
    …clarify what you have to offer to fulfill their needs

    Hard to believe, our little content writing company, Say It For You, just celebrated its tenth New Year’s! Our content, now some 35,000 unique writing selections strong, may be found in clients’ corporate brochures and on their website pages, in press releases, “nurturing emails” and Facebook posts. Primarily, though, our pieces populate the blogosphere.

    In 2018, our “listicle” of wishes for you include:

  • Personal success
  • Business success
  • Good health
  • Lots of old friends
  • Scores of new ones
  • Superb SEO results

A YEAR OF GREAT BLOGGING!

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Why “Blog” and “Glob” are Antigrams

blog/glob

When most people talk of anagrams, the Book of Random Oddities explains, they mean words that can have their letters rearranged to make other words, such as “bat” and “tab”. In the world of recreational wordplay, though, an anagram is a rearrangement of the letters in a word, phrase, or sentence to make a new word, phrase, or sentence that refers to or defines the original in some way.” The authors offer a few examples:

  • dormitory/ dirty room
  • greyhound/ “Hey, dog – run!”
  •  angered/ enraged
  • the eyes/ they see
  • snooze alarms/ alas, no more z’s

Antigrams unlike anagrams, the authors explain, “beg to differ”.  Antigrams are phrases that can be anagrammed into something that means or implies its opposite. Examples include:

  •  funeral/ real fun
  •  filled/ ill-fed
  • astronomers/ no more stars

As a blog content writer and trainer, I couldn’t help adding one to the list:  blog/ glob.

One message per post is the mantra I pass on to newbie Indianapolis blog writers.  Each post, I teach in corporate blogging training sessions, should contain a razor-sharp focus on just one story, one idea, one aspect of the business or practice. “Stuffing” too much content in a blog creates a “glob” that strains readers’ attention span.

The focus of a single blog post might be:

  • Busting one myth common among consumers
  • One testimonial from a user of your product or service
  • One special application for your product
  • One common problem your service helps solve
  • One new development in your industry

On the other hand, a single business blog post can convey a sense of forward movement through linking to another page, or even by telling readers to watch for information on another product, service, or “how-to” in a coming blog post.

Don’t turn your blog into a glob!

 

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Add a Little “Why” to Your Business Blog Content

When speaker Todd Hunt saw a sign in his health club reading:

“Please Do Not Pour Water on the Sauna Rocks”

Hunt’s first thought, he relates, was “I’ll pour water on the rocks if I want to.  Nobody tells me what to do!” But after spotting the second line of copy on the sign, Hunt changed his tune:

“Our system is not built for water.”

“Oh, now I understand,” he thought.  Hunt reminds his audiences to always add “why” statements to make statements more customer-friendly.

The same concept of “explaining why” is used in training parents, teachers, and caregivers of children with behavior challenges to used “scripted stories”. Here’s an example:

:.
I like to run. It is fun to go fast.
It’s okay to run when I am playing outside.
I can run when I am on the playground.
Sometimes I feel like running, but it is dangerous to run when I am inside.
Running inside could hurt me or other people.
When people are inside, they walk.
Walking inside is safe.

In the case of the sauna and the behaviorally challenged children, the purpose was to prevent action (pouring water or running).  But in marketing, calls to action (CTAs) often use imperative verbs designed to provoke immediate positive action: find out more, call now, provide contact information, etc. The concept, Horner explains in “Writing a Better Call to Action”, is to show consumers how to take the next step and to create a sense of urgency around the offer.

Just as Todd Hunt intuited about the power of explaining why in sign copy, searchers who’ve found themselves at your blog want to know why they ought to keep reading/follow your advice/buy your products and services. Answering the “why’s” before they’re asked overcomes buyers’ natural skepticism.

Prospects actually need answers to five “why’s”:

1. Why me?  Why did you target this particular market (the one represented by this potential buyer)?
2. Why you (the author)? What is our expertise and experience?  Why do we care?
3. Why this (the offer) What are the specific solutions you provide?
4. Why now (the urgency)
5. Why this price (the value)

Adding “why” makes blog content statements more customer-friendly!

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Recovering and Recycling Business Blog Content

In addition to being a vehicle for attracting new customers, content created in the form of blogs can be useful in other ways. “While content marketing may be the trend du jour, content isn’t just for marketing,” explains Erin Nelson of contently.com. Last year,Nelson points out, GE used content to educate union employees on an upcoming labor contract vote. Vox uses content as a recruitment tool for designers and engineers.

In fact, “you don’t have to create content day in and day out. You just have to work on getting the content you already have in the hands of more people,” as Kevan Lee of Buffer Social reminds marketers.

“I still remember the days when you had to go to the library or track down the phone number of an expert to get some questions answers.  Now you just ask Google, visit Q&A sites, or tweet the question, and almost instantly get answers,” Dan Steiner of the Content Marketing Institute wryly observes. Blogs, Steiner points out, are instant sources of up-to-date information.

Here are just a few Say It For You ideas for re-purposing blog post content:

  1. Groups of blog posts can be re-purposed into e-newsletters, helping you “touch” past customers and prospects, and keep you top-of-mind with them.
  2. When your own clients and customers ask you questions, save them the search – simply email them a link to the post in your “blog library” that most directly answers their question or concern.
  3. Send an email with a full text of a former post to a selected group of prospects and/or clients, asking them to share their experience with the issue or solution that post covers. You might call it “Does this work?”
  4. Post a shortened version of a blog post on Facebook, soliciting comments.
  5. Update “old” content to fit in with new laws, new situations, new trends. (In fact, the most important target of a blog post “recycle” might be YOU.  Does that advice you offered three years ago still apply? How has your own thinking changed since then?

Recovering and recycling, even re-using business blog content –  is the smart way to go!

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People-to-People Blogging for Business

Skimming through my now-pretty-extensive collection of business books, I came across Hollywood producer Peter Guber’s book Tell to Win.  Guber thinks storytelling is a professional discipline, and in the book he examines the way people use stories to do business.

As a professional blog content creator and trainer in corporate writing, I think that what Guber calls a “purposeful story” describes a perfect vehicle for blogging. Guber himself ties storytelling to salesmanship, saying that the goal of your story must be to show what’s in it for the listeners (readers, in the case of blogs) – the audience must win.

While marketing blogs should be designed to “win search” (from an SEO standpoint), once the searchers have arrived, what needs winning is their hearts, and that is precisely what content writers can achieve best through storytelling.

Tim Nudd of Adweek.com agrees.  “The more compelling, clever, insightful or entertaining the stories are, the better your chance of engaging the viewer and delivering a memorable brand message,” he states.

So where do those compelling, insightful, and entertaining stories come from? Start with the business owners. Why did you choose to do what you do? What are you most passionate about in delivering your service to customers and clients?  What are you trying to add to or change about your industry?  Your customers have stories. What problems did they have that you helped solve? What funny things happened to them, to their kids, to their pets that relate to your product or service?

“It’s so simple, it’s embarrassing,” Peter Fuber says.  “You, the storyteller, must first know what your own intention is and then be transparent about it to establish trust.” People shop for product, sure.  But – and this is as true today as ever, Guber points out – people want to do business with people!

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Citations – Good News in Blogging, Confusing in Spelling, Bad News in Driving

citations

“The triple whammy of homophones ‘cite’, ‘site’, and ‘sight’ has the potential to create a great deal of confusion,” the editors of The Book of Random Oddities explain. To cite, they go on to explain, means to “quote someone, or someone’s work, as a authoritative source to support an argument.” The word “cite”, the book’s authors add, is a verb derived from the Latin “citare”, which means to summon or to put into motion. (In contrast, a building sits on a site, and our vision is our sight.). Of course, the verb “cite” can also refer to issuing a court summons or parking ticket.

My college students are taught to use citations and reference pages to show where they got their information.  That way, the students avoid plagiarism by properly attributing statements to the original authors of that material. .  In your blogs, you use citation as well, giving credit to the sources of your information.  Even if you’re putting your own unique twist on the topic, link to websites from which you got some of your original information or news.

Since, as a business blog content writer, my ”arena” is the World Wide Web, I can’t help but be awed by the fact that the internet has become the largest repository of information in human history.  Trillions of words are added to it daily, and literally anyone with access to a computer or cell phone can add content to the mix at any time.

But the fact is, people read blogs to get information and we, as content providers need to provide that information with honesty and respect towards readers – and towards the original creators of any materials we use to support the points we want to make. 

Looking at citation from a whole other vantage point, author Neil Patel advises citing your own older blog posts (as I’ve done in the paragraph above). “Millions of posts are written, then seen by a few people and then essentially discarded into the blog post graveyard,” Patel laments. In fact, Patel considers old blog posts more valuable than new ones, with the majority of his traffic each month going to old posts.

Citations may be confusing, given the homonym “site” and traffic ticket terminology, but in blogging – citations represent good practice and good news!

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Translation Blogging Can Translate Into Transactions

blogging vocabulary

A couple of years ago, in an online discussion about a blog listing “150 weird words that only architects use”, (including “pastiche”, “ergonomy”, “charette”, “regionalis”, and “materiality”), there were two schools of thought:

  • Pro:   Architecture has its own language, not unlike other professions.  Not everything needs to be diluted to the lowest common denominator.
  • Con:  Architects are not contributing to public discourse by using language incomprehensible to a layman.  If you cannot explain your work simply, you simply don’t understand your work.

Rather than debating the use of “insider” vocabulary, Vogue Magazine takes a different tack – share the “secrets” with customers, letting them feel “in the know” – and in the mood to buy! Plucking “terminology that you can find all over the catwalks – season in, season out”, the Vogue Glossary “teaches” prospects to be “mavens” who know “neats” from “knife-pleats” and “vents” from “yokes”.

As a wordsmith for business blog content, I can’t help liking that Vogue approach. As Nick Sebastian points out in ListVerse.com, “Every trade has its own technical terms and common phrases that are used for the sake of convenience.”  In certain industries, Sebastian remarks,  the words are all English, but “they are used in a way that turns a daily job into a private club.”

  • In the world of TV and film production, the last shot of the day is known as the “martini shot”.
  • At old-fashioned diners, the waitress will call your order of pancakes with maple syrup, a side of sausage, and coffee a “stack of Vermont with zeppelins and a cup of mud”.
  • In the army, “geardos” spend time maintaining expensive gear.
  • Appliance makers talk of CFC-free refrigerators, where the insulating foam are free of chlorofluorocarbon refrigerants.
  • Movers offer accessorial services (packing, unpacking, piano stair carries)

In blogging for business, I’ve found, gearing your language towards a target audience, using terms that mark familiarity with the subject, adds an air of “coziness”, a “ we’re-in-this-thing-together” tone. Uh…maybe. what if a reader happened NOT to be familiar with the term you used? That reader might actually be “turned off” by the unpleasant feeling of not being in the know about some elementary information tidbit that everyone else apparently understands!

In terms of business blogging help, using the “lingo” and terminology of our field of expertise can demonstrate we’re current and at the top of our game – so long as we’re not leaving anyone out. Translate! Letting readers in on the “secret words” can translate into transactions!

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Have Attitudes Changed About Price Point Blogging?

Awhile back, I began one of my Say It For You blog posts by quoting a remark by Marcus Sheridan of social media examiner.com, something he’d written, back in 2012.“Many business websites fail to address the subject of pricing,” Sheridan had observed. “Instead of addressing the number-one consumer question up front, they decided to wait until the initial phone contact, or worse, the first sales appointment in the home. But, although this “hidden approach” may have worked in marketing five or ten years ago, today’s consumer don’t like their core questions to be left unanswered.”

I wonder – has thinking on the subject of publishing prices on websites and in blogs changed since then? Even Sheridan admitted that there might be factors that dictate – and change – the ultimate pricing any consumer would pay.  Because of this, he suggested that “It’s best to offer ranges, not definitive numbers, allowing potential clients to get a feel for the cost and know if they’re at least in the ballpark.”

Karen Greenstreet, writing in Forbes in 2014, offered reasons you should – and reasons you shouldn’t – put pricing on your website or in your blog.  You want the chance to establish rapport before discussion pricing, she acknowledges, and you certainly want to stay away from “tire-kicker”, price-shopping prospects.  On the other hand, Greenstreet pointed out, many customers will not do business with a company that is not forthcoming about pricing and fees.

A 2017 article by Trevor Current deals with the question – should photographers provide pricing on their websites? Current begins by recounting reasons many photographers continue to avoid giving price information:

  • I offer a custom service, not a commodity.
  • I need to evaluate the client’s needs before naming a price.
  • I want to be able to negotiate with the client.
  • I want to be able to adjust with the market.

Current “gets” all that, but still comes down firmly on the side of putting prices on the website, because:

  1. Buyers are very busy in today’s world. Consumers want information now!
  2. Without seeing prices, consumers may assume they can’t afford your services and move on to other sites that have prices listed.

From my point of view as a corporate blogging trainer, the topic of “price point blogging” fits in nicely with the overall concept of putting information into perspective for clients. The typical website explains what products and services the company offers, who the “players” are and in what geographical area they operate; the better ones give visitors at least a taste of the corporate culture and some of the owners’ core beliefs.  It’s left to the continuously renewed business blog writing, though, to “flesh out” the intangibles, those things that make a company stand out from its peers.

For every fact about the company or about one of its products or services, a blog post addresses unspoken questions such as “So, is that different?”, “So, is that good for me?”  Pricing is one of those sets of facts that must be put out there in order for you to be able to put those facts into perspective.

 

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What Blog Title Phrasing Doubles Your Click-through Rates?

 

 

Researchers at the BI Norwegian Business School in Oslo, Norway were out to determine what factors make certain headlines drive more click-throughs than others. They performed two experiments, one using Twitter, the other using popular Norwegian auction and shopping website FINN.Putting aside possible cultural differences among readers in different countries, the major takeaways from the study were these:

  • Question headlines are more effective than statement (declarative) headlines.
  • Question headlines that reference the reader (you, your, etc.) are most effective.

Kevan Lee agrees about the importance of “you” words. In “How to Write the Perfect Headline: The Top Words Used in Viral Headlines”, he discusses headline analysis based on twenty-four different websites. Question headlines referencing the reader were the most effective, with “you” and “your” both making the top-20 word list. Question words “what”, “which”, and “when” were all important, while “why” appealed to the ‘curiosity gap”.

Superlatives in headlines “sell”. “The most successful people”, “The happiest people”, “The most interesting people” – these are people we want to know more about. ”Readers enjoy discovering, learning, and challenging the details behind blanket assertions like this,” Lee explains. There’s also a certain level of authority when you say “the most”.  At the same time, that phrase taps into readers’ argumentative side – does the superlative really ring true? “How to” posts promise a certain level of education, Lee continues, and valuable subject matter will generate clicks.

Whether in magazines or blogs, there are two types of titles, I’ve noticed. The “Huh?” titles need subtitles to make clear what the article is about, and the “Oh!” titles are self explanatory. The“Huh?s” startle and arouse curiosity; The “Oh!” subtitle then clarifies what the focus of the piece will be.

As a business blog content writer, I love the tongue-in-cheek remark by  Thomas Umstattd in “Top 5 Blog Title Mistakes Authors Make”.  In school, he says, your teacher probably taught you that the purpose of a title was to describe your writing.  That’s wrong, he says.  The purpose of a title is to tell readers why they should bother to read your writing!

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Musing About Blogging for Business and Being Human

Just the other day, friend Jim Anthony (So-Mark Founder) sent an email message full of statistics about blogging – (music to my blog content writer’s ears, of course!).

WordPress blogs alone are read by over 400 million people every month,
with users creating over 80 million new posts, 44 million comments and
23 billion page views each and every month.

The truth, Jim concluded (I couldn’t agree more) is that creating content can work for anyone, no matter what they do. To support this claim, he suggested business owners check out an article written bv Paula Hicks of the Marketing Insider Group.

I particularly liked the point Hicks made about blogging prompting you to focus on what you want to achieve with your business. On my Say It For You website, I call that phenomenon the “training benefit”. Here’s how I explain it:

When you blog, you verbalize the positive aspects of your business in a way that people can understand. You put your recent accomplishments down in words. You review the benefits of your products and services and keep them fresh in your mind. In other words, you are constantly providing yourself with training about how to talk effectively about your business. If your employees read your blog, they review these messages and also receive this benefit to an extent.

I don’t particularly agree with one observation Hicks’ credits to “one of her good friends, a writer”, who reportedly “goes so far as to say that spelling and grammar mistakes can even make you seem more human”. (I suppose the same might be said about belching at the table!)

In fact, one long-time debate among bloggers and business owners is whether correct spelling and proper grammar really matter in blogs.  After all (as I myself have stressed), your blog is supposed to reveal the “real you”! Well, the “Real Me” has a very real opinion on the subject of grammar and spelling, I must admit. The way I see it, your business blog represents you and your business to the world, and you need to maintain a professional level of grammar and spelling even when writing in an informal tone.

One very important observation Hicks makes is that “if you’re knowledgeable in your field, then running a blog can be a great way o9f proving it to other people.  Customers love to buy from people who know their stuff…

 Amen to that.

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Business Blogging Takes Visitors Through Relationship-Building Meetings

sales funnel for bloggingNot one encounter, or even two. “To ensure you are consistently giving clients this close attention, you should take them through a series of FIVE relationship-building meetings,” is the advice John Bowen, Jr. gives to his fellow financial advisors. Why five?  Each of the meetings has a specific purpose; each is designed to move the new client further down the “sales funnel”. There are:

  1. a discovery meeting  (to comprehend a prospective client’s full situation)
  2. an investment plan meeting (establishes you as a knowledgeable and thorough professional)
  3. a mutual commitment meeting (to answer questions and address any issues client has)
  4. a 45-day follow-up meeting
  5. regular progress meetings

To maximize conversions and sales from your blog, a proper sales funnel can help, big time, suggests the smepals.com blog for entrepreneurs. There are steps required for a visitor to convert – beginning with finding your content via a Google search, to reading an article, to signing up for a newsletter, to purchasing a product or service. “Every aspect of marketing,” sme.com points out, “is based on a foundation of great content.”

“Discovery” – Like the financial planning prospects in Bowen’s article, the searchers who land on your blog have an interest in gaining information related to your field of expertise. Your blog gives them some of the preliminary information they’re seeking and puts you on their radar screen. Your research has resulted in content that is relevant to the prospect’s “community”.

“Investment plan meeting” – Your content is chock-full of well-organized, interestingly presented information that is useful to readers in the target community. The blog content establishes you as knowledgeable and thorough.

“Mutual commitment meeting” – visitors are “invited” to learn more by clicking through to a landing page, downloading a list or white paper. The blog content reiterates your commitment to providing quality products or services. Searchers are encouraged to submit a question or participate in a survey.

“Follow-up meeting” – To stay top-of-mind with prospects and clients, continue producing useful , shareable, content in the your blog and social media.

“Regular progress meetings” – Periodically comb through your own blog posts, selecting individual past posts that you think might be particularly useful to certain clients, and shoot them an email with a link to that post along with a brief comment relating the material in the post to that client’s situation.

Not one encounter, or even two. The beauty of content market through business blogging lies in its continuity. After all, blogging for business is all about relationship-building!

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Business Blogging With Round-Up Posts – Part 2 of 2

 

 

Round-up posts are blog posts consisting of lists of best sources of information. Those might be lists of best websites, best You Tube clips, or best of any kind of web content that relates to your topic. As a business blogging trainer, I loved many of Authorunlimited editor Cathy Presland’s ideas for round-up posts and am formatting  both of this week’s Say It For You posts as “round-ups” of noteworthy pieces of advice and observations about business blogging…..

“If you hang around the barber shop long enough, you’re going to get your hair cut. The more pages (blog articles) your website has, the more time consumers will spend on your site.”

– Marcus Sheridan in “50 Blogging Benefits that Will Change Your Business Forever
 

“ Your company blog is all about your buyer persona, not you.”
– Ramona Sukhraj in “Blogging for Business? Here’s Everything You Need To Know”

“The best business blogs answer common questions their leads and customers have. If you’re consistently creating content that’s helpful for your target customer, it’ll help establish you as an authority in their eyes.”
– Corey Wainwright in “The Benefits of Business Blogs for Marketing”

““The blogscape is not for the faint-hearted….There’s a shocking disconnect between one fact — you sitting at your computer — and the next — what you just wrote being instantly visible to the entire world.”- Brian Appleyard of the London Times, quoted by Jeff Bullas

“Blogging is one of the fastest and easiest ways to promote your business and increase traffic to your website.”
– ThriveHive

But is sharing others’ content really a smart strategy for business owners and practitioners?  After all, blog writing for business, as I’ve often pointed out in this Say It For You blog, will succeed only if two things are apparent to readers:  a) You (the business owner or professional practitioner) understand online searchers’ concerns and needs and b) you and your staff have the experience, the information, the products, and the services to solve exactly those problems and meet precisely those needs.

The answer is yes, as Presland explains: “Round-up posts are fantastic as an education source for your audience: they can see where your inspiration comes from, and widen the scope of their knowledge at the same time.”

 

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Business Blogging With Round-Up Posts – Part 1 of 2

Authorunlimited editor Cathy Presland calls them Best-of-the-Web Round-Ups, referring to blog posts consisting of “lists of the best websites, You Tube clips, or any other kind of web content that relates to your topic”, and round-up posts are great way, she advises, for business blog content writers to demonstrate the breadth of your own knowledge and your perspective on a topic.

Round-ups needn’t be confined to websites, Presland adds.  They might consist of:

  • Favorite Facebook pages to follow
  • Best software or apps
  • Best blogs you’ve read in the past month
  • Favorite personalities in your area of expertise
  • Top tips from around the Internet  (this very Say It For You post is an example of that.)

This week, I’m doing a round-up of noteworthy observations about blogging:

“Video continues to be a growth market, as well. But, let’s not forget about the words. Not just our tweets and status updates, but our thoughts… the longer pieces of content.”

– Mitch Joel in “The End of Blogging”

 

“Not promoting your blog is like renting a theater to stage your one-man show and then refusing to put up flyers because you don’t want anyone to show up.”

– Michelle Weber in “Should Your Blog Be on Facebook?”

 

“Do you like me? I mean, you know, in a platonic, Facebook sort of way. Well, you should. Moreover, if you’re a blogger, you should have a Facebook page — it’s a great way to get your content out to a larger audience and engage with new people.”

– Jeff Goins in “Why You Need a Facebook Page”

“Highly effective bloggers have an established writing and publishing schedule that they adhere to with fervor. They don’t write and post when they feel like it. They write and publish according to a schedule that helps them to both remain on track and accountable and build anticipation among their audience.”

– Dwaynia Wilkerson in “7 Habits of Highly Effective Bloggers”
Blog writers are very much like museum curators, I often explain. We “gather” pieces of art and then help the visitors understand what they are seeing.  On behalf of our business owner of professional practitioner clients, we add “spin” to the curated material, showcasing the wisdom and expertise of our clients’ business or practice!

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Taking Content-Writing Tips from Dental Web Designers “Down Under”

If you’re a dentist, your website needs to build your brand,” Luke Hayes of Dental Marketing Solutions cautions. Hayes makes Australian dentists smile by designing websites with “visual impact and usability”. What do his websites aim to do? Here across the pond, we would do well to follow the list Hayes provides:

  • Build patients’ confidence with info about your expertise
  • Introduce practice staff and show the quality of service
  • Educate patients by providing answer to all their questions
  • Highlight main services and major benefits of your practice
  • Incorporate images through to deliver the message visually

Websites, by definition, offer an overview of the practice or business, presenting the big picture. What blog posts do, then, is focus in detail, with emotional impact, on just one aspect of the business or practice.

When Hayes asks dentists, “Are you making these dental website mistakes?” the pointers he offers apply to blog pages as well:

  • Is your phone number displayed prominently on the top right?
  • Is your website modern and uncluttered?
  • Is it easy to navigate and to find the relevant information?
  • Is it responsive (able to be read on a mobile phone)?

“Your website (substitute blog page) is your best opportunity to attract and book a new patient.  Make sure your site, Hayes advises:

  • is primarily focused on patient (substitute customer/client/patron) needs
  • is user-friendly
  • provides all the important information about your practice

Blog marketers in Indiana can take quite a few tips from that dental web designer down under!

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Premise-Based Blogging for Business

Whether you’re pruning hedges, painting a room, or cooking dinner, having the right equipment for the job matters a lot.  That’s precisely the concept upon which a radio ad I heard recently was based.  The ad sponsor was mattress manufacturer BeautyRest, and I couldn’t help feeling that the commercial was impactful as a result of its getting us listeners to first agree on a premise before they introduced their product.

Once everyone was “on the same page” about the importance of the right equipment for each job, it made sense for the sponsor to posit that, to achieve high-performance sleep, you had to have the right “tool”, e.g. their mattress.  Beautyrest marketers apparently knew that, only after we listeners had gotten “on page” would all the information they had to offer – about how a mattress affects how you sleep, how to best shop for a mattress, etc. – make any difference to us.

The premise on which I believe blog marketing is based is this:  Websites present the big picture – the different services and products the company offers, who the principal players are, the mission statement, the geographic areas the company deals with, the “unique selling proposition” – in other words, the whole enchilada!

But readers, like radio listeners, can’t focus on everything at once. And, on a website, each page and each block of content takes the mind away from all the others. What each blog post does, then, is focus on just one aspect of your business, so that online searchers can feel at ease and not be distracted with all the other information you have to offer. In previous Say It For You blog posts, I’ve compared blogging to job interviews.  Each post is like one question at the interview.  The question might be about your technical knowledge in a given area, or it might be about your reliability, or about your salary expectations.  The interviewer will expect you to stick to that one subject in answering that question in the most direct way. That’s exactly what each blog post is designed to do.

Each post should be focused on one “premise”, just like the BeautyRest radio commercial.  The first task is to get everyone “on the same page” or the same “wavelength” with you.  Then, and only then can you make it clear why this one product you have, this one piece of special information, this one service, relates to what everyone has bought into as a basic premise!

 

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“Ever-Wonder-Why” Blogging for Business

My friend Larry M. shared a fascinating list of “Ever Wonder Why Trivia” that I think you’ll enjoy.  More important, there’s a lesson here: trivia and blog marketing go together like “a horse and carriage” (if you’re my age) or maybe like peanut butter and jelly (if you’re any age).

Trivia can be used in business blogs for:

  • defining basic terminology
  • sparking curiosity about the subject
  • putting modern-day practices and beliefs into perspective
  • explaining why the business owner or practitioner chooses to operate in a certain way

Here are some choice tidbits from Larry M.’s list – see if they spark some ideas related to your own business or profession:

  • Why do men’s clothes have buttons on the right, while women’s clothing has buttons on the left? When buttons were first invented, they were very expensive and used primarily on rich people’s clothing.  Most people are right-handed, so the buttons went on the right. (Rich women were dressed by their maids).
  • Why do Xs at the end of a letter signify kisses? In the Middle Ages, few people knew how to write, and documents were signed with an X. Kissing the X. was a sign of accepting the obligations specified in the document.
  • Why is someone feeling great said to be “on Cloud Nine”? Clouds are numbered based on the altitudes they attain, with 9 being the highest level.
  • Why do we save coins in jars called “piggy banks”? Dishes and cookware in Europe used to be made of an orange clay called “pygg”.

A tidbit of trivia, I’ve found, can be the jumping off point for explaining what problems can be solved using your business’ products and services. Trivia is just one of the many tools that can help business owners present what they know, what they do best, and what they have to sell.

When I’m offering business blogging assistance to writers and owners, I talk about the need to create as much fresh material as possible to inform, educate, and entertain.  That’s a pretty tall order for most busy business owners and employees.  Collecting trivia can be part of “keeping up” with blog content creation.  “Ever-wonder-why” blog posts are one good place to start. 

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Using the “It’s Not Your Fault” Appeal in Blog Marketing

An advertisement I happened upon incorporates what I think was a very effective form of “reverse psychology” as a way to appeal to customers: “It’s not your fault”, the ad read. 
If your hot water heater “chose” a weekend to break down – well, that’s not your fault and you shouldn’t be charged extra for the service call.  Carl’s Heating & Air’s value proposition, in fact, is this: “We Keep the Same Price 24 Hours a Day, 7 Days a Week”.

Making prospects feel “in the right” can be a good marketing tactic when it comes to blogging content as well as in advertising copy, I believe. Think about it – so much marketing is based on “why you need to….” and “have you been using the wrong…..” . In general, negative marketing attempts to form a bond with customers by commiserating about their daily pain, identifying something that the customers hate, and ridiculing it, explains 602communications.com. In a way, the Carl’s Heating & Air ad IS commiserating about the customer’s frustration at having their hot water heater go down (and even worse having it happen on a weekend). But rather than focusing on their own inconvenience (having to hire workers and pay them overtime to work on a weekend), the Carl’s ad is all about the customer’s unhappy plight.

Even when it comes to myth debunking in corporate blogs, addressing misinformation about our industry, our content has the potential of rubbing readers the wrong way. People generally don’t like to have their assertions and assumptions challenged, even when they came to a website seeking information on a particular  subject. That’s because part of us resents being told that something we’d taken for granted as true is in fact a lie.

Prospects, like customers, aren’t always right. As blog content writers, we know that. But putting them “in the wrong” is a bad, bad idea.  The blog can set forth a unique value proposition while at the same time reassuring readers that It’s Not Your Fault!

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It’s Smart to Answer “Stupid Questions” in Your Business Blog

“The next time someone asks you a seemingly stupid question, stop and look at it from their side,” advises speaker Todd Hunt. After asking his local copy shop to quote a simple black-and-white printing job, Hunt was annoyed when they emailed him asking whether he wanted them to print his job on their black printer or color printer. (“What a stupid question,” Hunt’s first thought was.) His printer explained that some clients want black jobs printed on a color printer because that gives the black a richer glow.  “My project didn’t need a ‘fancy’ black, he explains now. “But they asked, and that impressed me,” Hunt now concludes.

Remember, as business blog content writers, we need to impress readers even before they’ve had the chance to ask us their questions, “stupid” or otherwise.  They do have questions – in fact, those readers are online because they’re searching for answers to questions they have and for solutions for dilemmas they’re facing. I really believe that blog writing for business will succeed only if two things are apparent to readers, and in the order presented here:

1. You (the business owner or professional practitioner) understand their concerns and needs
2. You and your staff have the experience, the information, the products, and the services to solve exactly those problems and meet precisely those needs.

How can you anticipate what readers’ questions are so we can offer the answers in our blog? Let some of your existing customers provide the answers though testimonials. Besides that, every business owner fields customer queries daily. Just as Todd Hunt shared with his readers the question about black and white print jobs, you can share with your readers actual situations that have arisen in your business or practice.

In your blog, you can also be doing the questioning, inviting readers to comment on a particular statement or offering a brief survey or questionnaire. Point being, there are no stupid questions, and it’s always smart to answer questions in your business blog.

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Halloween Hints for Your Business Blog

blogging to answer questions

 

The late October wind was serene and tranquil as the bold orange sun faded into the seemingly empty autumn evening sky. Crisp shades of red, yellow, and orange from fallen leaves, formed a thin layer over the brown lawns of the neighborhood. Immediately noticeable were the bolder colors in the decorations of the local estates. Each color scheme of deep purples, grays, and oranges had a corresponding theme of horror….

(For the benefit of high school and college students, this piece of writing is offered as an example of an opening paragraph for a descriptive essay using a Halloween theme.)

“A descriptive paragraph describes a person, place, or thing, and its purpose is to paint a word picture using rich vocabulary,” the University of North Carolina in Asheville points out. One technique is “using the five senses. – what it looks like, how it feels, the sounds it makes, the smell, and possibly even the taste,” UNCA teachers point out. “Writing with sensory descriptions requires the use of precise and sophisticated vocabulary,” the authors caution.

But can visual imagery and subtle nuances be useful in business blog content writing? And are readers at all likely to “wait for it… wait for it…” as they read through the many descriptions of ‘crisp shades of red, yellow, and orange” to get to the “corresponding theme of horror”?

Opening blog post lines need to be compelling, to be sure. But painting word pictures in the first line? Maybe not such a good idea, I’d caution freelance blog content writers.  In fact, one critical function served by the first line of any marketing blog post is reassuring readers they’ve arrived at precisely the right location to find the products, services, and information they were looking for in the first place.

Keeping Halloween in mind, however, (think about the delicious eeriness of a haunted house, where you know scary things are in store, but not where or when they’ll show up), you can use the title and the opening line of a post to make a controversial statement or offer a make-’em-sit-up-and-take-notice statistic.

While opening lines in business blog posts should be definitive rather than mysterious, one very important function of blog posts can be de-mystification, shining the light of day on misinformation about your field.

There’s no doubt visual imagery is powerful, and freelance blog writers can certainly paint pictures with words, helping readers experience how safe, happy, beautiful and savvy they will be feeling after taking advantage of your products and services!

Happy Halloween, all!

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Having the Last Word in Your Business Blog

closing lines in blogs“Nothing can be more annoying to your reader than an article that ends too abruptly or shabbily,” Elizabeth Soumya writes in BlogVault.com. “As writers we can often feel complacent, as if we have little to say by the time we find ourselves at the end.” But concluding means bringing your blog post to a convincing end, one that doesn’t leave readers feeling dissatisfied, Soumya cautions.

My favorite trivia magazine, Mental Floss, understands the importance of last words, devoting a long article to 64 famous people and their famous dying words, including:

  • Blues singer Bessie Smith: “I’m going, but I’m going in the name of the Lord.”
  • Frank Sinatra: “I’m losing it.”
  • Benjamin Franklin: “A dying man can do nothing easily.”
  • Charles Gussman (writer and TV announcer): “And now for a final word from our sponsor…”
  • Sir Winston Churchill: “I’m bored with it all.”
  • Steve Jobs: “Oh wow, oh, wow, oh wow!”

“How you start will determine if you get read,” says Brian Clark of copyblogger.com, but “how you end will determine how people feel about the experience.”  Of course, he admits, the direct response copywriter’s favorite closer is the call to action. “Make it clear what you’d like to have happen,” Clark warns. Endings are critical, he points out, because the last impression you leave with people is the most important.

End with a lesson, a discovery, or a revelation, is the advice of world-words.com. You shouldn’t simply repeat what you’ve already said, however.  Use an image, fact, or anecdote that helps summarize and demonstrate all that has gone before, while simultaneously hammering home the main point.

A great opener with a lame last line is.., well, lame, I point out to business blog content writers.. Sure, it’s super-important in blogging for business to have great titles and strong, curiosity-stirring openers, but you’ve got to “close your parentheses”. One way to do that is the tie-back, a news writing device that refreshes readers’ memory about earlier parts of the business blog post.

In corporate blog writing, it all matters – the title, the opening line, and the reader-friendly, relevant, updated, useful content.  Somehow it’s not the same, though, without a great finish. Have the last word in your own business blog!

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The-Truth-About Business Blog Titles

The Science of Exeercse

 

The table of contents in Time’s special edition “The Science of Exercise” lists seventeen different articles, all of which sounded interesting enough to induce me to take the magazine off the display and add it to my shopping cart. And the articles did turn out to be interesting, every page worth a read by anyone interested in physical wellbeing. But, as a blog content writer, I was interested in not only the articles, but in the table of contents. Why had I found some of the titles more intriguing than others, tempting me to read certain articles first?

There were titles with an “agenda”, where you knew the writer’s point of view before reading the article, such as:

  • “The Incredible Medicine of Movement”
  • “How Exercise Keeps You Young”

There were emotional “grabber” titles, such as:

  • “When Athletes Beat the Odds”
  • “Confessions of a Couch Potato”

There were how-to titles, including:

  • “How to Beat Muscle Pain”
  • “How to Exercise When You Have No Time”

And then there were “the Truth About” titles. You may have chosen otherwise, but for me, these Truth-Abouts were the most compelling.  In “The Truth About Weight Loss”, titles, there was a hint of mystery, a promise an expose, perhaps – I was going to be given the “real scoop”… I suppose there’s something enticing about a title promising to “bare the truth”, especially when it concerns a topic on which we didn’t expect there to be any secrets to speak of.

In a business blog (or practitioner’s blog) “Truth-About” blog posts can be used in three basic ways:

  1. To de- mystify, offering information that makes your blog a “go-to” source for readers.
  2. To myth-bust, addressing misunderstandings about a product or service
  3. To offer actionable steps readers can take

In AuthorMedia.com, Thomas Umstattd advises authors to use the title to describe not the content of the article, but the value readers can expect to find in the content, making a case for why readers ought to even bother reading on.

Those three words – “The Truth About” constitute a promise of value when used in the title of a blog post. What will you tell your readers the truth about?

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Remember the Golden Triangle in Blogging for Business

 

 

 

 

“Remember, human nature never changes,” cautions Jeanette Maw McMurtry in Marketing for Dummies. While design trends for websites may change, she says, the way our unconscious minds process information never does.

The term “Golden Triangle” refers to the way English-speaking people view search results, starting at the upper left side of the page, moving our eyes right, then browsing down the left side of the page, reading the top three items, choosing one. That’s actually a “big what”, according to McMurtry. If your call to action buttons and key message are in the space outside the “triangle”, visitors won’t find something relevant before switching to another site.

While the author is discussing web pages in general, the same principles hold true for blog pages.

Pow opening lines: 
In any marketing blog, it’s the keyword phrases in the title that start the job of getting the blog found.  Burt, once the online visitor has actually landed, it takes a great opener to fan the flicker of interest into a flame.  In fact, a big part of blog content writing, I’ve found, involves getting the “pow opening line” right.

Bolding, bullet points, and italics:
With readers’ eyes browsing down the left side of the page, having bold face subtitles helps them “settle” on key points that are of interest.

Focusing on one “lane”:
Focus on just one or two  important ideas in each post.  Doing that lends more impact and helps readers quickly conclude they’ve come to the right place for what they need.

Powerful closing line:
Assuming you’ve been successful in keeping the reader with you, deliver  a powerful closing line that repeats the main idea of the post.

Remember the golden triangle in blogging for business!

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Showing Them How Shows Them YOU In Blogging for Business

how-to bloggingFor making content king on your website, Jeanette Maw McMurtry recommends, think about the top content themes readers most often seek:

  • product comparisons
  • purchasing guides
  • how-to guides
  • research findings

When it comes to how-to guides, McMurtry is making a point that I often stress when training blog content writers: “Even if you offer a service, customers tend to bond better with brands that show them how to do it themselves. They often realize that they’re not an expert or don’t have the time, so they call you to come do it for them.”

It’s interesting that I originally became an Indianapolis blogger in keeping with the “don’t-do-it-yourself” outsourcing trend I was seeing in writing for business. Still, for business owners with a preference for doing it themselves, it became important for me to offer business blogging assistance and training.

Few business owners have the time to create and post blogs with enough frequency to attract the attention of search engines. Still, I have learned, each prefers a different ratio of help vs. Do It Yourself. At one end of the spectrum, the business owner might want certain employees to receive corporate blogging training so that they can then take over the function of business blog writing. At the opposite extreme a company might turn over to a business blogging service the entire effort of crafting the message and maintaining the consistent posting of corporate blog content.

Serving as a “go-to” source for online readers can be a winning strategy for business owners, showcasing the blog content writer’s own expertise while offering useful, actionable, information to readers. In the beginning, many business owners and practitioners who are just beginning to blog feel uneasy about giving away valuable information “for free”, fearing that searchers will be able to do it themselves! They need to realize that their blog will become a way of selling themselves, showcasing their experience and expertise.

Showing them how to – shows them YOU!

 

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Respect the Rules of Reversal in Blogging for Business

first impressions in blogging

 

First impressions can affect many elements of your life course, from how you fare in job interviews to whether you gain friends at social gatherings, Psychology Today explains. Yet first impressions can be reversed, as Melissa Ferguson, head of Cornell University’s Automaticity Lab found after conducting some very interesting experiments….

In the first series, test subjects were introduced to a fictional character named Bob, initially portrayed as good, displaying nice behaviors such as helping a woman carry groceries and donating to a soup kitchen. Only after that initial impression had formed were subjects told Bob was convicted of a heinous act involving a child.  The good impression of Bob completely flipped.

In the second test series, Bob was introduced to participants as a nasty guy who hunts deer out of season, yells at his girlfriend in public, and refuses to help a child fix a bike. When it is later revealed that Bob donated a kidney to a stranger, subjects did think a  little better of Bob, but never really thought well of him. The negative first impression was much harder to turn around than the positive first impression.

Negative first impressions, however, were found to be completely reversed when they had been the result of mistaken information. When participants were told Bob was found knocking over furniture in a neighbor’s house and taking precious items out of the house, the negative impression that gave was totally reversed when subjects learned the house was on fire and that the precious items Bob was saving were the children living there.

Amazing, I teach Say It For You client company owners and professional practitioners, the difference your customers’ first encounter with you will make to your success in business!  And, if that encounter takes place online (as so often proves the case today), the one chance you’ll be given to make a great first impression is going to come through your business blog. You want online readers to get a good first impression of not only about what you do, but of who you are and why you see things the way that you do.

Statistically, marketing blogs are most likely to be read by potential clients as opposed to existing ones. As a content writer, you have only a few seconds to help readers put themselves into the scene, envisioning the savings, the satisfaction, the pride, the increased health and improved appearance they’ll enjoy after using your product or service.

Respect the rules of reversal in blogging for business!

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Blogging for Business While Inspiring Three Types of Trust

blogging to inspire trust

Trust is a powerful intangible asset,” Allen Harris, CEO of Berkshire Money Management Inc. reminds financial planners.  A Knowledge@Wharton special report describes three types of trust between financial advisors and clients:

  1. trust in know-how
  2. trust in ethical conduct
  3. trust in empathetic skills

“Trust is everything in the online world,” writes A.J. Agrawal in Forbes. In fact, Agrawal cites a recent Econsultancy study showing that 61% of customers read and trust online reviews when making a purchase. By producing quality information that’s true and reliable in every blog, you are making sure you yourself become reliable, Agriwal advises.

As business blog content writers, we can work to inspire three types of trust in the business providers and professional practitioners who hire use to convey their message:

Trust in know-how
Sharing know-how, I’ve found, is sometimes a cause for concern to some business owner and practitioner clients of Say It For You – they don’t want to come off boastful and self-serving or be perceived as using hard-sell tactics to promote themselves. But browsers on the Web “stopped” at your particular business blog because they need advice about a subject you know about, I remind them. Those readers want to feel trust in your know-how and professionalism and you won’t be able to help them until that trust happens.

Trust in ethical conduct
The second level of trust addresses the question all buyers ask themselves, “Do I trust you not to steal money from me and to deliver on your promises?” In training blog writers, I often use the example of job interviews. These days, interviewers focus less on the facts (which they’ve already read on the resume), but on how the prospective employee tends to function in various situations.  Employers are trying to discover the person behind the resume. In the same way, readers who visit your blog are trying to learn about the business owner or practitioner behind the blog.

One way to address that need is to use opinion to clarify what differentiates your business or practice from its peers. Primarily, the blog has to add value, not just a promise of value should the reader convert to a buyer, but real value in terms of information, skill enhancement, or a new way of looking at the topic. Searchers will sense that they’ve come to a provider they can trust.

Trust in empathetic skills
In meeting a financial advisor, Tucker observes, potential clients are asking themselves, “Do you care about me?” Soft skills such as relationship-building and interpersonal communication are going to be more important in coming years than technical skills, he adds.. Your content helps visitors judge whether you have their best interests at heart. Even if you’ve come across as the most competent of product or service providers, you still need to pass the “warmth” test.  Does your blog present you as “real people”, with a passion for serving in your field? In today’s click-it-yourself, do-it-yourself world, our content writing needs to demonstrate to online searchers that, in our fields, we ARE smarter than Google Maps, or eHow, or Wikipedia. Most important, we need to make clear, we’re a lot more caring for our customers – they can count on us!

 

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Same Old, Same New Blogging for Business

“I’ve already covered my products and services on my website – what else is left to say?” is a question I hear a lot from business owners or professional practitioners. Even if they understand the overall value of having a blog, their concern is that, sooner or later, they’ll run out of things to say in their blog posts.

“Good writing doesn’t get hung up on what’s been said before,” advises Ann Handley in Everybody Writes. “Rather it elects to simply say it better.” That piece of advice, I believe, applies not only to what others have written on your topic, but to what you’ve had to say in earlier blog posts. In corporate blogging training sessions, I often explain that it’s perfectly OK – in fact a good idea – to repeat themes you’ve already covered in former posts, adding a layer of new information or a new insight each time.

As we blog content writers create material about a business or a practice, we’re continually fine tuning and adding insights we gain in the process.  I like to think of the “exercise” I’m getting as a professional blog writer as “building blog muscle through repetition.”

My answer to those blogging “doubting Thomases” then, is that rather than asking yourself, each time you’re preparing to blog, whether you’ve already covered that material and how long ago, plan content around key themes. Then, what you’re doing in any post is using the same theme while filling in new details, examples, and illustrations.

Yes, I know.  You’ve already covered your products and services on your website.  That’s what the website is for. What your blog is for, by contrast, is to provide relevant, useful, and timely content to your prospects and customers to help them solve problems, understand industry trends, and make sense of the news and how it relates to them. “Content marketing,” as Josh Steimle, writing in Forbes, explains,” raises awareness of solutions and educates consumers about products they may not have considered before.”

Think of it as same old, same NEW blogging for business!

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Metaphoric Blogging for Business

 

“Are you playing with a full deck?” Mensa’s Richard Lederer asks, jokingly referring to the “combination of genetic and environmental roulette” that has Mensans ending up smart as whips, with others at the “short end” of the intelligence “stick”.

In the very funny article “Are You Playing With a Full Deck?” Lederer lists categories of metaphors used to describe those of lesser intelligence.  Lighting metaphors include “He’s a dim bulb in the marquee of life”, “The lights are on, but nobody’s home”, and “She’s so dumb, her psychiatrist carries a flashlight.”  Nautical metaphors include “He doesn’t have both oars in the water” and “She’s a submarine with a screen door.” There are plenty of food metaphors, including “He’s one pickle short of a full jar” and “She takes an hour to cook Minute Rice.” There are building trade metaphors such as “Her driveway doesn’t reach the road”, and “He has a room for rent.”

Metaphors don’t need to be funny to be useful in business blog content writing. Most business owners and professionals can think of quite a number of things they want to convey about their products, their professional services, their industry, and their customer service standards. Still, I’ve found over the years, the problem is those ideas need to be developed into fresh, interesting, and engaging content marketing material.  By adding metaphors, you can help readers “appreciate the information picturesquely”,

In SEO-conscious marketing blogs, one technique to engage readers is building a blog post around an unlikely comparison in order to explain an aspect of their business or professional practice. For one thing, suggesting a totally new way of using your product or service through an “off-the wall” comparison may open up new possibilities for that potential customer to do business with you. Given the short attention span of the typical web searcher, putting elements together that, on the surface, don’t seem related can be a good teaching tool.

The caution with metaphors and other figures of speech, however is this: We can inadvertently puzzle readers is by using allusions where the reference is unfamiliar to them. If we allude to a person’s or an organization’s “Achilles’ heel”, for example, we need to be pretty sure our readers’ level of education will allow them to know what we mean. If we miscalculate their ability to recognize the allusion, the danger is they’ll find our content frustrating rather than illuminating.

The idea behind “metaphoric blogging”, of course is to engage, interest, and even amuse your readers, using metaphors and other figures of speech to “change things up” while at the same time making yourself clear.

 

 

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How-Do-I-Wear-That Blogging for Business

front view of young woman in a short white dress
A number of years ago, I touted a SELF Magazine article titled “How Do I Wear That?” as a good model for writers of blogs meant to market a product or service. Here’s why I thought so:

The article was written in question/answer format, first describing a “style dilemma”, then offering a “self-solution”. In other words, the article offered valuable information (in this case from fashion experts) which readers could use without having to buy anything. Nevertheless SELF’s style expert was very obviously there to sell stuff, because, under each self-solution, there appears a list of pants, dresses, shoes, and bags that were available for purchase – and in which stores.

The point I stressed was that we blog content writers need not apologize for connecting our content to actual solutions, so long a using the information we offer does not necessitate a purchase.

What made me think about that article now is that I just came across an entire blog called “How Do You Wear That?” by a Caitlyn Warakomski. The blog offers style advice for women and “hopefully a place for others to feel inspired”. Interesting – one of the things I liked so much about the SELF article was that the “solutions” are written in first person: “My buying tip: The more subtle the gradations in the color, the more real your fur looks.” Reading the piece, I felt the fashion director was talking just to me! This blog has the same very personal feel.

Warakomski offers information in the same way as the SELF article. In one June post, for example, she discusses three ways to wear a white dress – classic and casual, boho & funky, and girly and dressy. She offers advice about not wearing white to a wedding or bridal shower, and demos different accessories to change the look. There is a list of products and stores where those are available, but the advice and ideas are free for the reading.

Effective writing for business is very much a matter of tone. That very personal, conversational, “just between us” tone is exactly the one for which every blog content writer should be trying to incorporate in writing for business. And selling stuff by giving away valuable and actionable advice? That’s a good deal all around in blogging for business!

 

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Ask, But Also Persuade

Pay Raise Word Increased Income Workers Lift Arrow

 

“Yes, you should ask — but you should also persuade,” Mental Floss magazine advises employees ready to request a pay raise.  “If your company doesn’t offer an annual review, ask your supervisor if you can have one.”

The pointers the authors offer on best ways for employees to use that meeting are definitely apropos when it comes to content writing for business owners and professional practitioners:

  • Provide the reasons you deserve a raise.
    Offer reasons for readers to expand their budgets to include your services and products.

  • Outline your accomplishments over the year.
    Let readers know your products and services are constantly be improved and updated.

  • Point out the ways you’ve gone above your job description.
    Explain unique benefits your customers have enjoyed.

  • Highlight the projects you want to take on in the future that go beyond your official duties.
    Share plans for expanding your services and new benefits you’ll be able to provide.

  • If any of your projects have pulled in extra revenue, be sure to note that—with specific numbers.
    Include testimonials from clients that specify increases in revenue and visibility they have enjoyed as a result of using your company

 

 

 

 
One fear business owners often express to me is that they don’t want to come off boastful and self-serving in their blog, or be perceived as using hard-sell tactics to promote themselves. That concern is addressed by Steve Wamsley in his book “Stop Selling and Do Something Valuable“, which was reviewed in the Financial Planning Association website. Here’s what Wamsley has to say: “We have to sell ourselves to potential clients so that they choose to work with us rather than the competition. In our role as advocates (he’s speaking to financial planners), we need to persuade people to act.”

When it comes to marketing through posting marketing blogs, you should ask, but also persuade!

 

 

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More About Quotations in Blogging for Business

Chocolate Quotation Marks and Asterisk

Using quotations in blog posts can help create anticipation, suspense, or drama, as we went over earlier this week in my Say It For You blog. Quotations help reinforce points while adding variety and authority, and, so long as they are not overdone, they can be a very good idea in blogging for business. But, in addition to the content writing itself, there are some technical to-dos and no-nos about quotations that bear need mentioning, and that will be our focus today.

On the negative side, Dave Smith of realestatebloglab.com issues a caution about quotations: Don’t use double quote marks in blog post titles, he says.  Double quote marks at the beginning and end of a phrase tells the search engine to look only for those exact words in that exact order, severely limiting your ability to “get found” through category or organic search.

A second crucial caution has to do with plagiarism.  The dictionary definition? “An instance of using or closely imitating  the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author’s work as one’s
own.” Sure, you’re creating value for your readers by curating, gathering information from many sources, but it’s only fair to create a link to the authors’ sites, giving them the attribution or credit, advises Nick Schaferoff of Torque.

While we’re talking about mechanics, there’s benefit to be had in linking back to your own former blog posts. ”I find that when someone views more than a single page on your blog that they’re more likely to remember it, subscribe to it, comment upon it and become a regular and loyal reader,” Darren Rowse of problogger.com observes.

“Quotations can bring your writing to life – the reader imagines someone saying the words,” says Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty, but you have to follow certain rules, depending on what other punctuation marks you mix with your quotation marks. In American English we always put periods and commas inside quotation marks, she stresses.

There are two reasons to use quotation marks in English writing, explains yourdictionary.com.

1.  You are quoting someone; that is to say you are using someone else’s exact words, and you are giving that person credit for having said them.
2.  You are being sarcastic (He can’t get a date, because no one wants to be seen in his “car”.)

As a blog content writer and trainer, I’m not being in the least sarcastic when I say that, in business blogs, quotations can be a very good idea!

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In Business Blogs, Quotations Can Be a Good Idea

Quotation MarksHow good an idea is it to use quotations in your business blog? Very good, once you allow for certain caveats. You can use a quote to:

  • reinforce your point
  • show you’re in touch with trends in your field
  • add value for readers (by aggregating different sources of information in one business blog)
  • add variety to your material
  • add to the authority of your claims

In “How to Use Quotes in Your Speech”, Andrew Dlugan says that a quotation is more powerful than simply repeating yourself in different words. But Dlugan offers a caution I want to emphasize to business bloggers: Avoid closing your speech with a quote. “Your final words should be your own,” he cautions.

I agree.  Curating the work of others (bloggers, authors, speakers) is a wonderful technique for adding variety and reinforcement to your own content.  Remember, though, when it comes to writing marketing blogs, you’re trying to make your own cash register ring.  It’s your voice that has to be strong throughout the post, so readers will click through to your website or shopping cart. (In the case of Say It For You ghost blogging clients, the blog writer must become the voice of each business owner or professional practitioner.)

“Depending on how you deliver the quotation,” Andrew Dlugan adds, “you can create anticipation, suspense, or drama.”  (As much as I’d like to imagine otherwise, “Abraham Lincoln once said” or “Microsoft founder Bill Gates once said…”, will probably capture more attention than “I always say…”.)

Dlugan offers a couple of warnings:  a) Don’t use a quote that everyone knows: you’ll receive no benefit from repeating it. b) Don’t overdo.

In blogging for business, quotations can be a very useful tool!

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Blogging to Inspire

“Unless your blog only serves as a personal diary, you should aim to inspire others with your writings,” hongkiat.com advises. All you need to be concerned about is how much value you can provide to readers.  How do you go about providing value? Honkiat’s answers:

  1. Write what others didn’t think of.
  2. Write what is noteworthy, be it a solution or an opinion-based entry.
  3. Be specialized.
  4. Be persuasive.
  5. Be relatable
  6. Demonstrate expertise.

All well and good, but for blog content writers whose aim is the marketing of specific products or services, how does inspiration figure into it?  The answer, I concluded, might come from a YouTube video a friend had turned me onto, listing the ten most common regrets people have later in life.

On the one hand, I reminded myself, in a business blog, the last thing one would want to do is sound “preachy”. After all, readers arrive at a particular website seeking information about a product or service, or to learn more about what that company or individual knows or knows how to do. Still, wouldn’t that information be even more compelling when combined with an inspirational element?

For example, the first most common regret people have is not having travelled more. What if, in a blog post, you described ways to learn about and experience other cultures, even if you had neither the funds nor the time to actually go abroad?  A furniture company describes “12 Spaces Inspired by India.” From catering to fashion, there are endless opportunities to market  products and services  using the appeal of international culture.

Not spending enough time with one’s parents is another common regret. Rather than reinforcing guilt feelings, blog marketers can introduce unique gift ideas, conversation starters (“Tell me a story of a special holiday we shared when I was little)”. Of course, the topic of connecting with parents is ideal for eldercare facilities, elder lawyers, photographers, and therapists, but even shoe companies, food delivery companies, and cell phone companies can offer ideas to help adult children do “a little bit more” to connect with and help their parents.

One of the biggest regrets people mentioned was caring too much about what other people think. This one has endless applications to inspire readers by offering advice, products, and services that help boost self-esteem. As wealthygorilla.com says, “You cannot let the opinions of others dictate how you are going to live your life.”

The typical website, I believe, is more like the catalogs of an earlier era, explaining what products and services the company offers, who the “players” are and in what geographical area they operate. Of course, the better websites give at least a taste of the corporate culture and some of the owners’ core beliefs. The blog’s purpose is to address unspoken questions such as “So, is that different?”, “So, is that good for me?” More than that, however, the blog is there to inspire, helping people address those common regrets.

 

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Are You Game to Blog?

AARP’s September issue chose an interesting way to present content. In place of an article about saving money and getting the best deals possible, the editors offered a game grid, challenging readers to search for words on a grid.  There were ten sentences with certain words printed in red, and readers were asked to locate those words in the grid.

There’s no doubt about it, in blogging for business, the words are the most important element.  Where visuals come in, whether they’re in the form of “clip art”, photos, graphs, charts, or even videos, is to add interest and evoke emotion.  That innovative AARP article can serve as a reminder to us content writers to keeping “changing things up”. Here’s my adaptation of the AARP game, using definitions from Hubspot.com. (The words in bold are the ones to find.)

W     H     A     R     T     I     C     L     E     R     H     O

R      Y      T    R     T     O     A     N     C     H    O     R

S      P      M    E     T     A     T     A     G     S      I     M

S      E      A     R     C     H     E    N    G     I       N     E

X     R      G     B     L     O     G    U     Q     G     T     T

I      L      Q      J     K     P     O    S      T      J      E     A

S      I      M     P     L     E     R     E     D     S      R     T

Y      N      Z     K     P     G     Y     R     I     X     N     A

P      K      F     O     O     B     M    C    P     Z     E     G

B      C      W     E     B     S      I      T    E     V     T    S

  1. An article is one single post on a blog.
  2. The collective community of all blogs and bloggers on the internet is called the blogosphere.
  3. A category defines the topic addressed in the blog.  A blog about apple pie might fall under
    “baking”.
  4. Anchor text is clickable content on a web page that takes the user to another page or
    website called the hyperlink.
  5. Metatags are elements of information that help a search engine categorize web pages
    correctly.
  6. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, a means for users to subscribe to a blog feed and
    be notified when new blog content has been published.

(Readers are welcome to send in the solution to the game in exchange for high praise plus a hyperlink to their own website. The real point of all this, though, is to remind bloggers to use visuals and to be innovative in presenting their products, services, and ideas to their own readers!)

The question is – Are you game to blog?

 

 

 

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Ohio River Lessons About Business Blogging

My two-day get-away with friends to historic Madison, Indiana wasn’t supposed to be about business, and it wasn’t. Later, though, recalling the different guided tours we’d taken, I realized I’d had blog content writing on my mind after all. While learning interesting facts about how a telegram saved Madison from demolition and how Kentucky “owns” the river up to Indiana shoreline, I’d learned a lot of dos and don’ts about presenting information to a group.

Tour guides, remember, have the benefit of addressing audiences that have demonstrated they are already interested in the subject matter. In the same way, online searchers arrive at your blog precisely because they have a need for the very kinds of information, products, and services you provide!  But in both cases, now that the searchers/tourists have arrived, it’s up to the guide/blog content writers to keep them engaged, taking them to someplace new in their knowledge and thinking!

Our Lanier Mansion tour guide understood the “one-message-per-post” rule I teach when training blog content writers: in each post, have a razor-sharp focus on just one story, one idea, one aspect of your business. In each room of the mansion, our guide would point out just one interesting item – the parlor had “windows you could walk through”, while the winding staircase had the signature medallion of the architect embedded in it.

The guide, who told us he works for the Indiana History Center, spoke with personal pride, using first person pronouns – “we” will be finishing the renovation of this wing, “we” had to find…. I stress the importance of first person business blog writing because of its one enormous advantage – it shows the people behind the posts, revealing the personality of the business owner or of the team standing ready to serve customers.

Our Rockin’ Thunder jet boat tour guide, Captain Paul, was likewise knowledgeable and passionate. Because the noise of the engine made it impossible to hear while the boat was moving, Paul needed to stop periodically, cut the engine, and then point out interesting facts about Ohio River and Kentucky River history. In effect, in his presentation, the Captain was forced to obey one of the cardinal rules for successful business blogging, namely frequency.  Blog posts provide a steady stream of “sound bites” – little bits of different, interesting, and informative content.

One tidbit of information we learned on that tour was this: Bridges over the Kentucky River are painted blue.  Why? The land donor was a University of Kentucky football fan!

As a business blogging trainer, I urge bloggers to demonstrate why the facts they’re offering might matter to readers, suggesting ways readers might use that information for their own benefit. Sometimes, though, tidbits of information can be so intrinsically interesting, it’s worth including them even if they are not actionable.  Why? To add variety and fun to your content, and to demonstrate your own knowledge in your field.

As blog content writers, we’re the “tour guides” for our readers.  Sure, before they arrived, they were already interested in what we know and what we know how to do. Now that they’ve arrived, it’s up to us to take them to new “places”.

 

 

 

 

 

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Self-Checking Your Business Blog

 

 

 

 

 

“These 5 fast and easy self-exams can tell you if it’s time to see a doc,” Kate Lawler writes in ATM Magazine, encouraging readers to check the inner lids of their eyes, the appearance of their skin and hair, their balance, and their heart rate.

As a content writing trainer, I had to applaud the organization of that two page AARP  article.

  • Formatting, including boxed sections, bullet points, images, and bolding, made skimming and reading easy.
  • For each type of check (eye check, skin check, hair check, balance check, heart check), there were three sections: an introductory paragraph on how to perform the check, then a “What you want to see/feel” section followed by a “IF you see or feel” section, listing signs you need to have a doc check you out.

Of course, I couldn’t resist thinking about ways for blog marketers to do similar self checks, not on themselves, but on the “health” of their content.

Business blog “heart check”:
Are you delivering new content on a regular and frequent basis? Is your subscriber list growing?

Business blog “eye check”:
Staying informed – and keeping your readers informed – on what’s happening in your field increases your credibility and value. Subscribe to – and occasionally cite – industry or professional journals, culling information you think your own readers will find useful.

Business blog “skin check”:
Business owners and professional practitioners will inevitably need to deal with a dissatisfied customer or two. Dealing with complaints and concerns “in front of other people” (in blog posts), offers you the chance to offer useful information to other readers and explain any changes in policy that resulted from the situation. Being “thick-skinned”, yet having the ability to be flexible are the marks of a healthy blogging process.

Business blog “hair check”:
Just as sudden hair loss can be a sign of anemia or thyroid disease, a sudden drop in readership can alert blog marketers that a change in approach is needed. Regular analytics checks can show which categories were most frequently viewed by readers.

Business blog “balance check”:
Balancing different types of content adds variety to a business blog. Opinion pieces can be balanced by “curating” contrasting views of other people in your field. News posts offset how-to posts. First person writing can be offset by third-person narrative, and short and long sentences can balance each other.

Why not carry out a self-exam on your business blog?

 

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Where Are You Going and Why Are You There?

In the e-letters my friend Jane Thompson, the trade show marketing consultant, sends me, I invariably find valuable pieces of advice that relate to blog marketing. While trade shows can be a tremendous source of leads, industry information, and networking, Jane explains, she sees many companies wasting time and money because they don’t have an over-arcing strategy.

Truth is, I see companies wasting time and money on blogging for the same basic reason.  Yes, as Christine Whittemore writes in simplemarketingnow.com, “A blog is the centerpiece or hub for your content strategy as well as any marketing you do using social media…It’s via a blog that you are able to develop thoughts and create meaning for readers.”.

But what business owners and professional practitioners need to realize that a blog isn’t –and cannot be – an all-purpose, Swiss-army-knife solution for all their marketing needs. In fact, blogging is just one piece of the general strategy you work on with your team (which might well include a blog copy writer, but which also might include the web designer, the business manager, the employees, loyal fans, even sometimes a franchisor).

Jane Thompson talks about the importance of choosing the right shows and setting goals. In relation to your blog content creation, questions to consider include:

  • Are you selecting the right keywords and phrases?
  • Is there a clear navigation path from the blog to landing pages?
  • Is your content varied enough?
  • Is it usable?
  • Does it include evergreen and currently trending content?
  • Is it revealing of your values?

All the pieces used to promote your business or practice must mesh – social media, traditional advertising, event planning, word of mouth marketing, community involvement.

Ask yourself, Jane Thompson reminds her trade show marketing clients: Where are you going and why are you there?

 

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Intro Blog Posts

I picked up Pulp Media’s 501 Things You Should Have Learned About Math from the bargain rack outside my favorite bookstore, and spent the next hour happily browsing through it.  As the printed introduction promises, “Several facts in this book are bizarre, mind-boggling, fun and interesting, but not one will make you want to put it down.”

But even better than that intro actually printed in the book itself, I found, was the intro offered by Amazon:

“This eminently browsable book presents history’s greatest mathematicians and mathematical discoveries in fascinating, easy-to-understand chunks.”

Every business blog, I believe, could use an introductory post telling readers exactly what to expect in posts to come.

“You’ll learn about Archimedes, Pythagoras, Isaac Newton and how their experiments and breakthroughs have changed the world. You’ll learn how “zero” came to life, how geometry was discovered and how mathematicians throughout history have cracked the world’s most challenging conundrums.”

An introductory post needs to entice readers, arousing their curiosity.  (And, did you notice the intro writer’s skillful use of alliteration such as in “challenging conundrums”))

“So if you don’t know your Fibonacci from your tagliatelle what are you waiting for?”

Nothing like offering a challenge to readers, giving them a reason to slimb aboard. (I knew who Fibonacci was, but needed to look up tagliatelle!)

Just as instructors make clear to students what the syllabus is for the semester and what tasks they are expected to complete before the next session, it’s crucial for us blog content writers to tell the readers what to expect of our blog, making it clear why we decided (or why our client decided) to offer a blog in the first place!

 

 

 

 

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No Thank You to Using the Ziegarnik Effect to Keep ‘Em Reading

 

We worry about things in which we have not achieved closure, Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik realized back in 1927.  When writing content for a business blog, Hassan ud-Deen of unbounce.com concludes, you can use that Zeigarnik insight to “seduce your prospect”. You start the blog post with a hypnotic sentence, he says, snagging readers’ attention and “dragging” them into your copy, talking of a “mysterious little secret”. You keep dangling this secret “open loop” throughout the post, stoking their curiosity, using short sentences that go heavy on the “power verbs”, light on the adjectives. The right action words, Ud-Deen says,” give your copy a muscular, grab-you-by-the-throat effect that keeps your reader glued to the screen.”

To demonstrate one form of  the Ziegarnik effect magic, psychologists Davis and Knoles tested a technique known as reframing.  Going door to door to sell note cards for charity, they used two different “pitches”.  In Pitch #1, prospects were told the price was $3 for 8 notecards.  40% of the households approached completed a purchase. In Pitch #2, prospects were told the price was 300 pennies for 8 notecards;80% of the households became buyers.

What had happened?  The prospects’ routine thought processes were disrupted and they were distracted, Told that the 8 cards for 300 cents was a bargain, they kept trying to “close the open  loop” by figuring it out, remaining engaged in the buying process. What Hassan ud-Deen is inviting blog copy writers to do is “crank up” that confusion factor power to increase conversions.

Uncomfortable reading about all these “tricks??  I know I was, particularly in light of the fact that so many of our Say It For You clients are professional practitioners. . “You can use hard sales tactics when you’re doing door-to-door sales or sending sales letters, but you can’t use the same method for social media,” asserts Heather Sawtell of multibrain.net.  Writing in the Daily Egg, Neil Patel says ,“A successful blogging initiative has to provide valuable information and eye-catching visual content without coming off as pushy and sales-ey” Sawtell and Patel are much more in tune with my preferred methods of creating blog content..

What I like to call the “I/you conversational style” is precisely the approach most effective for business blogs. As a corporate blogging trainer, I use the word “selling” in a very specialized sense.  That’s because, in today’s world, whatever your business or profession, there’s almost no end to the information available to consumers on the Internet.  Our job then, as business blog content writers, isn’t really to “sell” anything, but rather to help readers absorb, buy into, and use all that information. Thank you, but I don’t believe I’ll have much need for  Ziegarnick today!

 

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A Nutritious Business Blog Diet Balances Features and News

 

Like newspapers, business blog content writing can balance feature stories with news. News stories cover breaking, time-sensitive stuff; feature articles might have the same impact whether you read them today or two months from now.

The word “news” when it comes to blog marketing, can mean two entirely different things.  The first type centers around you and your company or practice. Readers need to know about new products and services they can now obtain through you, any new partners or employees you want to introduce, and your recent or upcoming activities in the community; your blog is the perfect way to keep your audience informed as these things are happening. It’s very important, I explain to newbie content writers, to present this “you news” in a way that appears to be “all about them”. For every piece of news about your company, you need to address the unspoken questions such as “So, is that different?”, “So, is that good for me?”

The second type of news relates to your community, your city, your country, even worldwide events, “what’s-going-on-and-how-do-we-fit-in news. In fact, reading daily newspapers is just one of many strategies for blog content development. In a blog post, you might cite material from the news story, relating it to new developments in your own industry or field. The idea is not to regurgitate what’s already been said, as waxmarketing.com points out, but to showcase your own expertise and experience, offering a new perspective on that very news item.

The second type (most blog posts would likely fall into this category) is the feature story. These offer helpful “how-tos”, questions consumers ought to be asking, and stories about how you solved clients’ or patients’ problems. Feature posts are non time-sensitive, and in fact, the goal is to have the material be “evergreen”. (When someone searches for information on a topic, it’s quite possible for them to “matched up” with content written a long time ago.) Good informational content, after all, can have relevance even months and years later after it was first published!

A nutritious business blog diet balances features and news!

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Mention-Worthy Business Blogging

 

“Remarkable things are defined as unusual, extraordinary, or worthy of notice or attention, Jonah Berger observes in his book Contagious. Something can be remarkable, he says, because it is:

  • novel
  • surprising
  • extreme
  • just plain interesting

But the most important aspect of remarkable things is that they are worthy of remark. If something is just so noteworthy, you just have to mention it, Berger explains.

With the desire for social approval a fundamental human motivation, the author continues, if we tell someone a cool fact, a novel story, or a secret, that makes us seem more engaging. And, because I work at creating blog content for Indianapolis businesses and professional practices,
getting those clients more “shares” is one of my fundamental motivations.

A 16-country global survey by Social@Ogilby and SurveyMonkey revealed reasons for sharing content via social media, with the most frequent motive being to stay in touch and bring attention to issues they care about. Another study conducted by Ipsos showed that 61% of online shares share interesting things, 43% funny things, and 29% content that is unique.

But novelty and humor are not quite enough, Berger reminds his readers, if your intent is to generate social sharing. He found that articles most shared with not only humorous, interesting, novel, extreme, or surprising, but also informative. “People like to help others, so if we can show them how our products or ideas will save time, improve health, or save money, they’ll spread the word.”

Whether a business owner is composing his/her own blog posts or collaborating with a professional “ghost blogger”, it’s simply not enough to provide even very potentially valuable information to online searchers who’ve landed on the company’s blog page. The information need to be “translated” into relational, emotional terms that are so noteworthy, visitors will simply have to mention it to others!

 

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Double Duty Business Blogging

 

“Provide valuable information to people who need it, and let word-of-mouth marketing do the rest.” No, this advice wasn’t being given to bloggers; practice management consultant Susan Kornegay, CFP® was telling financial planning practitioners (in the Journal of Financial Planning) about the benefits of using informational booklets as marketing tools for their professional practices. “When clients take home your booklet or checklist, it’s almost as though you’re going home with them. They’ll be reminded of how well you take care of them whenever they look at it or show it to someone else,” Kornegay adds.

When readers “take home” or access the content of our blog posts, even if they are not yet clients (and therefore do not yet have proof of how well we are going to take care of them), the hope is that they will, in fact, share that content with others. In surveys, it was discovered that the main reason people share online content is that they enjoy bringing value to others, potentially changing opinions and nourishing relationships. The key word here is “value” – pack your content with more information, more practical advice, and more thought-provoking statements, Garrett Moon of coschedule.com advises.

“Why your own?” asks Kornegay, acknowledging that broker-dealers, wholesalers, and organizations offer plenty of brochures, booklets and checklists financial planning practitioners could simply order and hand out to their clients. “But wouldn’t your clients appreciate having something that represents your thoughts, your experience, and your perspective as their trusted adviser?” she suggests. Kornegay’s steps on how to put resources together might serve as a tutorial for business blog content writers:

  •  Think about your ideal clients and what would help them
  •  Base the content on your own experience and process
  •  Use graphic design, incorporating your own branding and contact information
  •  Make copies available (Kornegay mentions placing brochures on your credenza, bookshelf, table, conference room and waiting area, but digital availability can be enhanced through email, social media promotions, and guest posting)

Creating materials of “your own” does not rule out aggregating resources for the benefit of your readers. Even Kornegay mentions that “online research can help you organize your thoughts and perhaps spark some additional ideas.”  But, I agree, aggregating resources is hardly enough; business blog content writers need to add their own “spin” to the material based on their own business wisdom and expertise.

Use your online content, first and foremost, to provide value.  When readers “take home” your content and share it with others, it’s almost as if you’re going home with them!

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Saying What They Said in Blogging for Business

“Quoting other people is a staple of many types of writing. Journalists use quotes in their stories, magazine writers interview experts to support their piece, and academics quote research papers. As a blogger, you too can borrow the wisdom of others to inspire and support your writing,” advises Ali Luke of dailyblogtips.com.

There are plenty of different ways to incorporate a quote into your post, and you don’t need to use the same method each time, Luke adds, naming some popular tactics:

  • at the start of your post
  • as the basis for your post
  • to support a point you’re making

As I’m fond of saying in corporate blogging training sessions, quoting others in a marketing blog can be good or bad.

On the positive side, when you link to someone else’s remarks on a subject you’re covering, that can:

  • Reinforce your point
  • Show you’re in touch with trends in your field
  • Add value for readers (by aggregating different sources of information in one business blog)

On the other hand, as is true of all tools and tactics, “re-gifting” content needs to be handled with some restraint and using proper protocol (attributing content to its source).

Professional speaking coach Andrew Dlugan agrees that there are good points to using quotes in your material. “A quotation is more powerful than simply repeating yourself in different words”, he says. Dlugan offers a caution I want to emphasize to business bloggers: Avoid closing your speech with a quote. “Your final words should be your own.”

Curating others’ work – bloggers, authors, speakers – is a wonderful technique for adding variety and reinforcement to your own content.  Remember, though, you’re trying to make your own cash register ring.  It’s your voice that has to be strong throughout the post, so readers will click through to your website or shopping cart.

Used with discretion, saying what they said can be good in blogging for business!

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Business Blogging Earns High Scores

“There’s no doubt that blogs afford small businesses big payoffs. They humanize a business, position you as an expert in your field, and work hand-in-hand with your website and social media presence to improve your search engine rankings,” the SCORE website advises its members.  But, since finding the time or an eager author to write an original blog for every slot in your calendar isn’t always possible, Score offers tips for “staying afloat” in your blogging efforts, including:

  • freshening up old blogs
  • distilling white papers or webinars into quick tips or how-to’s
  • using “filler blogs that link to other sources
  • showcasing photos from an event that you recently held

“Think of your website as a garden. If it’s left unattended, weeds will grow and your plants are likely to shrivel up and die,” cautions crazyegg.com. “To get the most out of any garden, you must prune, trim, fertilize, aerate, plant, and remove pests in a strategic manner.” Interestingly, one piece of advice crazyegg offers is this: “If you don’t have a business blog, get one! It’s a great way to update your site—even if you only have time to do it once a month.”

If you’re lacking ideas for your blog, crazyegg offers suggestions:

  1. Review something – the newest business book or hit movie. In a way, I’ve often reflected, what we do when we write business blog content offering information and opinion is comparable to a book review. Online visitors are “test-reading” your company or practice through reading your blog posts. They want to see whether you understand their problems and can quickly and effectively help solve those. A review, though, is more than a mere summary. Whether you’re blogging for a business, for a professional practice, or for a nonprofit organization, you’ve got to have an opinion, a slant, on the information you’re serving up for readers.

2. Take a poll. Then, write content to address those things. Using blogs to perform a focus    group function could be a very feasible marketing strategy.  Blog readers would weigh in on their own time in the form of responding to surveys, offering ideas or ratings – all good techniques to stimulate interaction with target customers. 
  
3. Interview someone. You can do this via email or phone. As a blog-content-writer-for-hire by business owners and professional practitioners, I’ve found, there’s an interesting way to get the job done: the interview format. In a face-to-face (or Skype) interview with a business owner or executive (or professional practitioner), I am able to capture their ideas and some of their words, then add “framing” with my own questions and introductions, to create a blog post more compelling and “real” than the typical narrative text.

As SCORE advises its business owner members, business blogging earns high scores!

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In Blog Marketing, Accentuate the Practical

“Most products, ideas, and behaviors are consumed privately,” observes Jonah Berger in his book Contagious. Problem is, he points out, if people can’t see what others are choosing and doing, they can’t imitate them.

On the other hand, Berger cautions, making things more public can have unintended consequences. “If you want to get people to not do things, don’t talk about the people who are doing it.” Instead, his advice is, highlight stories of success that came through using your product or service.

Useful information helps people do what they want to do, but faster and better and easier, Berger says, citing an analysis done by the New York Times which revealed that articles about health, education, and cooking were the most highly read, theoretically because those topics are widely useful.

One piece of research recounted in Contagious is especially relevant for us content writers as we tell our clients’ stories to the public: “Don’t fall into the trap of providing only content that has a broader audience. Narrower content may actually be more likely to be shared, Berger asserts, because “it reminds people of a specific friend or family member who could use that information.”

Go for the practical; people like to help one another.  Of all the principles of contagiousness, what Berger calls Practical Value may be easiest to apply. Business owners and professional practitioners need to package their knowledge and expertise so that people learn about them even as they are passing the knowledge along.

Accentuate the practical, communicating the fact that you and your staff have the experience, the information, the products, and the latest technology to solve problems and meet needs, yet offer choices of action to help readers feel they are in control.

For effective blog marketing, keep accentuating the practical!

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Contagious Blog Marketing

“Why do some products, ideas, and behaviors succeed when others fail?” Jonah Berger asks in his book Contagious. Berger first lists some traditional answers:

  • they are just plain better – easier to use and more effective
  • attractive pricing
  • advertising

None of these explains the whole story, Berger claims, without including social influence and work of mouth. “The things others tell us, e-mail us, and text us have a significant impact on what we think, read, buy, and do,” he says.

Why is word of mouth marketing so much more effective than advertising? Berger offers a couple of reasons:

  1. It’s more believable – we tend to believe our friends’ stories and recommendations
  2. It’s more targeted – we don’t share a news story or a recommendation with every we know, only with people who we think will find the information relevant

Berger’s marketing principles might serve as a perfect checklist for business blog content writers:

  • Social currency – give people ways to achieve visible symbols of “insider” status they can show off to others. (Nienke Vlutters of the University of Twente agrees: “With their consuming behavior, individuals symbolize with which groups they want to be associated.”)
  • Triggers – link your products and services to prevalent trends.  Keeping up with trends in your field helps earn you “expert power” with readers.
  • Emotion – contagious content evokes emotion.
  • Utility – craft content that is useful in saving time and money and improving health.

You may be convinced your products and services are “just plain better”, but to really connect with consumers through your business blog, you need to use contagious blog marketing!

 

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How-I-Did-It Blogging for Business

“Starting and running a business is traveling a landscape filled with opportunity and hazards.  Knowing which is which can make the difference between growing your company and blowing it up,” begins the special issue of Inc. magazine in which twelve company founders describe how they rose to success.

‘How-we-did-it” stories make for very effective blog content for both business owners and professional practitioners, I’ve learned. In a post a couple of years ago, I quoted The Moth founder George Dawes Green, who teaches storytellers to share their own human failures and frailty. “It’s easier to connect with someone who is or has been where you are,” is the way Beccy Freebody of the Australian charity realisingeverydream puts it.

Sounds great, but how can sharing secrets and failures help when you’re trying to market a business or a practice?

  1. True stories about mistakes and struggles are very humanizing, adding to the trust readers place in the people behind the business or practice.
  2. Stories of struggles and failures can be used as a means to an end, using the special expertise and insights you’ve gained towards solving readers’ problems.
  3. Blogs also have a damage control function.  When customer complaints and concerns are recognized and dealt with publicly (there’s nothing more public than the Internet!), that gives the “apology” – and the remediation – a lot more weight in the eyes of readers.

The interesting thing I’ve noticed is that many business owner and practitioner clients are so close to the subject matter of their own past and present business battles, they can’t see how valuable those “failures” can prove to be in terms of blog content. That’s where the outside eye of a professional blog writer becomes especially valuable.

In “how-I-did-it” blogging for business, failures can sometimes be the secret to success!

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If-We-Haven’t-Moved Blogging for Business

Nine years ago I posted a Say It For You blog about an experiment concerning the way people’s attention is engaged. The subjects of the study were people who drove the same route every day to work and back, passing a giant billboard advertising new cars.  When questioned, almost none of those people remembered even seeing a billboard, but the moment any individual was in the market for a car, he’d notice the billboard immediately. The point was that if whatever a billboard is advertising is not relevant to our life just then, our brain brushes off the information and doesn’t make room for it in memory.

Anyway, I used that experiment to make the point that everybody’s blog posts are out there on the Internet “super-highway”, available for anyone to see, but that the only people likely to notice your blog at all are those searching for the kinds of information, products, or services you offer.

The other day I had an experience that showed me  an interesting twist on that whole theory. I took a different route than usual driving home from a meeting and, coming across E. 96th, happened to pass a billboard advertising a Chipotle’s restaurant.  Here’s what the sign said: “Chipotle – ½ mile ahead – if we haven’t moved!”

Now, I was returning from a lunch meeting; I’d had plenty to eat, believe me, and so wasn’t consciously or otherwise craving food. What caught my eye and aroused my curiosity was the “if we haven’t moved” thing. What was that about? Were they planning to move? Were they being forced out?  Why weren’t they saying what their new location might be?

I’ve reminded you about my theory on billboards and blogging. I also have a theory about human curiosity and how that tests out in corporate blogging.  This is it: our curiosity is at its most intense when it concerns testing our own limits, which is why I advise blog content writers to include quizzes and self-tests in business blog posts. Well, in those couple of seconds driving past that billboard, my brain went into high challenge gear – Where IS that restaurant?  Is it still there or will I see a “Moved” sign on the door?

The really curious thing is, even had I been in the mood for a meal, Mexican cuisine would never have been my first choice. It was the “IF we haven’t moved” that made that billboard serve as a come-on, making my brain make room for its message.

What curiosity factors can you add to your business blog so that online searchers will make room for your marketing messages?

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Conversational Blogging Takes Practice – Part B

Counter-intuitive as that may seem, Gallo explains, “Conversational delivery takes practice,” Gallo stresses in Talk Like TED, tracing the creation of a Dr. Jill presentation in Indianapolis.

As a content writer for marketing blogs, I often explain to clients and to newbie writers that that blogs (compared to, say, brochures, white papers, and newsletters) are casual and conversational.  In fact, that’s precisely what makes it convenient for companies and professional practitioners to use blogs to achieve the frequency needed to win online search engine ranking.

But, as Gallo so aptly points out about the Dr. Jill TED talk, “conversational” still takes practice. The point I want to make is that the steps Dr. Jill used in preparing for her talk can be extremely valuable in blog content writing. Earlier this week, I discussed idea generation and the method any serious blog writer must develop for capturing ideas – from conversations, magazines, radio, billboards, for later blog post content. After typing out her longhand notes, Dr. Jill condensed the material into major points. Gathering ideas, then selecting one central concept to emphasize in each post are each vital steps in blog marketing.

Having honed her ideas and condensed the content, the next step for Dr. Jill was perhaps the most challenging – figuring out how to deliver the message. “Great speakers act out a story,” Gallo says, noting that Dr. Jill “weighs the entertainment component of her presentation as equally as she does the others.” In fact, Gallo’s opinion is that “the problem with most technical or scientific discussions is that presenters fail to make their content visual, interesting, and entertaining.”

When it comes to business marketing blogs, a true content contribution solves customer problems in three ways:

  • by educating
  • by informing
  • by entertaining

While good blog posts can and should be entertaining, most online searchers are not pursuing a recreational activity, but instead are on a fact-finding mission. On the other hand, images can go a very long way in adding excitement and interest.

Dan Hughes of jtvdigital observes that “In this day and age, pictures and video are powerful promotional tools that cater to the attention span of the modern digital consumer.” However, Hughes continues, “well-crafted copy is an essential part of success.”

Conversational blogging may not take all the prep time of a TED talk, but it certainly takes practice!

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Conversational Blogging Takes Practice – Part A

 

When Dr. Jill gave her TED Talk in Indianapolis, reports Carmine Gallo in Talk Like Ted, her presentation seemed natural, authentic, animated, and conversational. Counter-intuitive as that may seem, Gallo explains, “Conversational delivery takes practice. Dr. Jill rehearsed her presentation not once, twice, or even 20 times. She rehearsed it 200 times!” Gallo notes.

Dr. Jill went through several important steps in preparing to deliver that TED talk, Gallo says:

  1. walking the beach with a notepad, writing down words and ideas
  2. reading what she had written out loud to feel how the words and sounds worked together
  3. typing out the notes she’d written in longhand
  4. condensing the material into five major points
  5. figuring out how to deliver the message in a visual, interesting, and entertaining way
  6. rehearsing, rehearsing, rehearsing

As a blog content writer, I often explain to clients and to newbie blog writers that that blogs, unlike brochures, client newsletters, online magazines, and websites, are short and concise, less crafted and more casual and conversational than other marketing pieces. In fact, that’s what makes it so feasible to use blogs to achieve the frequency that’s needed to win online search engine rankings – there simply aren’t as many steps to the process.

But, as Gallo so aptly points out, “conversational” still takes practice. It may not be feasible to create 200 different iterations of each blog post, yet in great part, the steps Dr. Jill in preparing for her conversational TED talk can prove extremely valuable in blog content writing.

While walking the beach with a notepad may not always be feasible in the Midwest, idea generation begins the blogging process. “The best blog ideas often happen during a conversation, in the shower, or while listening to a seminar. Don’t fight it. Instead, have a method for capturing these ideas so you can save them for later,” advised Michael Reynolds in a guest post for Say It For You.

Condensing is a crucial step in blog marketing; the rule I cite when offering business blogging assistance is simply: “Make blog posts as long as they need to be to get the point across (and just one or two points should be emphasized in each post to begin with), but not a single sentence longer.

Conversational blogging may not take all the prep time of TED talk, but it certainly takes practice!

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Opening Gambits in Blogging for Business

 

When you’re serving up seventeen articles about the very same topic, how do you keep things different and engaging? It’s all in the opening lines, I discovered, looking through TIME’s special edition, The Science of Exercise.

Of course, that’s hardly “new news” – I’ve always stressed to new content writers that opening lines have a big job to do. “Cute-sy” writing may not cut it, either, because, as blog content writers, we can hardly afford to be enigmatic in our attempt to arouse curiosity. We have to assure readers they’ve come to the right place to find the information that satisfies their need for answers. On the other hand, a “pow” opening line may be just what’s needed to keep a reader progressing through the page.

  •  “Ever since high school, Mark Tarnopolsky has blurred the line between jock and nerd.”
  • “Is your DNA your destiny? Not if you exercise, suggests new research.”
  • “If you’ve ever opened a birthday card to a message that reads ‘It’s all downhill from here’, you’re likely at an age when, according to popular opinion, your best days are behind you.”

Openers come in different flavors and sizes.  To help my business owner and professional practitioner clients and their freelance blog content writers focus on their blog post openers, I’ve selected several personal favorites out of The Science of Exercise:

Bold assertion
“Exercise is a miracle drug,” is the opening statement of “The Incredible Medicine of Movement”, in which New York sports medicine physician Jordan Metzl reviews scientific research providing “irrefutable evidence of the medicinal value of exercise.”

In-your-face statement
“There’s such a thing as good pain.” Robert Davis is referring to DOMS, the  delayed-onset muscle soreness that comes after exercise, but that opener is counter-intuitive enough to grab attention.

Thought provoker
“There’s no denying that running is one of the most democratic ways to work out.” Author Alexander Sifferlin explains that running can be done anytime, anywhere, with the only requirement being a good pair of running shoes and stamina. That opening line leaves readers wondering just why Sifferlin selected the unlikely descriptor “democratic” for exercise, and encourages them to keep reading to learn the answer.

Personal anecdote
“As I huffed and puffed up the subway stairs, trying to catch the elevated train to work one recent morning….” Blog readers respond to first and second person nouns. It can be highly effective to relate how you personally went through the same failure stages.

When you’re a blog content writing serving up many posts over time, all revolving around the very same general topic, how do you keep things different and engaging? It’s all in the opening lines!

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Text Still Tops in Delivering Information

infographic

“For years now, I have been listening to numerous digital marketing experts preach about the end of written content as we know it,” Milica of fourdots.com writes. “Even though the entire Web is basically built on it, more than a few experts believe that sooner or later, video is going to take over.”

According to those text-doomsday-ers, Milica explains, the two main reasons text is nearing its death are a) the dramatic decrease in the average attention span of readers, and b) lack of time. Of course, there’s also content overkill, she adds, expressing sadness over the fact that, “although almost every brand is creating and publishing at least some type of content on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis – the overall quality of it has never been lower.”

As a Say It For You blog content writer and trainer, of course, I share Milica’s commitment to words, appreciating the despite-all-that, 4-point case the author makes for text’s continuing viability as the primary driver of online communication:

  1. Unlike video, text gives you the option to stop exactly where you want to, wrapping your mind around a certain piece of information.
  2. Unlike video, text can be easily updated and upgraded.
  3. B2B buyers consume whitepapers, case studies, and webinars, looking for industry thought leadership.
  4. Text stimulates the mind like nothing else.  Video communicates many different things all at one, destroying focus.

The Infographic Design Team agrees. “First, consider the fact that nothing can replace the spoken or printed word. Words are the most important center of our system of language. They express things in a direct manner that carried more meaning than any amount of images, graphics, or pictures could do. At the same time, the Infographicdesignteam authors admit, infographics “captivate the eye in a stronger way due to their attractive images, colors, shapes, and forms, allowing you “to have a more minimalist type site that focuses more on images and graphics to tell a story”.

At Say It For You, we like to cover both bases with “infographic blog posts” designed to include both visual elements and text in a “show-and-tell” combination. As infographicdesignteam.com aptly puts it, “Graphics and infographics complement the text you write in your blogs”.

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Would-You-Rather Blogging for Business

People like hearing other people’s opinions almost as much as they like expressing their own, which accounts for the popularity of the party game “Would You Rather”, in which a dilemma is posed the form of a question beginning with the words “Would you rather”. Would you rather be forced to wear wet socks for the rest of your life or be allowed to wash your hair only once a year? Wear someone else’s dirty underwear or use someone else’s toothbrush? Always have to tell the truth or always have to lie?

The format is highly adaptable to different audiences. The Seventeen Magazine version, for example, asks whether you’d rather live in a fro-yo shop or own your own ice cream truck, and whether you’d rather get thrown into the pool fully clothed or get caught skinny-dipping.

My point in all this? The Would-You-Rather format can work for business blogs. (As a corporate blogging trainer, I’m always considering different ways of communicating with online readers.)

While my writers at Say It For You offer a sort of matchmaking service to help our clients “meet strangers” and hopefully convert at least some of them into friends and customers, we need to realize that the readers will process the information we offer in the context of their own past experience and form their own opinions.

Opinion is compelling. When your blog reveals your unique slant or philosophy relating to your field, potential customer and clients feel they know who you are, not merely what you do. Revealing what you would rather, why you chose to do the kind of work you do, why you’ve created the kind of company or practice you have – that’s powerful stuff.

But what if we find that a business owner or practitioner hasn’t yet formed an opinion on some important trending topic? That’s where the blog can “take a poll”, asking readers for their slant! It’s even valuable to readers when you clarify and put into perspective both sides of a thorny issue within your industry or profession.

“Would You Rather” is popular because people like hearing other people’s opinions almost as much as they like expressing their own. Taking advantage of that in a business blog makes great business sense!

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Wedding and Pro Bono Business Blog Gifting

If you’re going to disregard the preferred wedding gift list, what you give has to be good, advises Nicole Garner in Mental Floss Magazine. But, amazingly, the author adds, the most unique and valuable wedding gifts might not cost you anything except some thought and effort. You might pass on a family treasure, offer your skills in floral design, dress alternation, or invitation design, Garner suggests, or offer your time pet or house sitting while the couple is on their honeymoon.

At Say It For You, we believe that same concept of “freebie- gifts-with-thought” can apply to business blogs as well. When I’m helping new clients who are business owners or professional practitioners, I often find they feel some ambiguity about planning their blog post content.  In the beginning, many feel uneasy about giving away valuable information “for free”, even though they realize their blog will become a way of selling themselves and their services to online searchers.

Coschedule.com’s Julie Neidlinger talks about the power of blog giveaways, including portable content  in the form of downloads that don’t require people to stay on the site to enjoy. Blog giveaways get shared, and Neidlinger recommends giving away material that is:

  • fun
  • educational
  • reputation-building
  • ongoing

“The reason there is disagreement on giving things away is because some bloggers are approaching it purely from the viewpoint of marketing, while other bloggers are trying to make their living off of content,” she notes. (In the case of our Say It For You team, we’re coming at blogging from the marketing side, helping business owners and professionals tell their stories.  Neither our writers nor the clients are in the business of selling content to readers.) That means there’s every reason to openly “give away” tips and how-tos that relate to each client’s expertise.

Through the blog content we write:

  • A caterer “gives away” recipes and table decorating tips.
  • A hospital operating room supply company “gives away” tips on pressure ulcer prevention.
  • An insurance company “gives away” tips on workplace safety.
  • A jeweler “gives away” tips on safety cleaning and storing necklaces.
  • A search firm “gives away” valuable resume-building and interviewing advice.

Yes, as Nicole Garner points out, what you give has to be good, but the most unique and valuable pieces of advice offered on a good business blog might not cost readers anything!

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In Business Blogs, Keep the Downbeat Upbeat

Orchestra conductor
In blogging for business, the last thing you’d want to be is “downbeat”. (One dictionary definition of “downbeat” is pessimistic, gloomy, negative, and fatalistic.). On the other hand, “downbeat” might be the very effect I want to achieve in order set the mood for my blog post. (The word “downbeat” is a musical term referring to the opening bars of the music, in which the composer sets the mood for the concerto to come.)

The equivalent in blog writing of an orchestra’s downbeat (the conductor’s baton is raised while a hush falls over the audience, then comes down to start the music) is the opening sentence of each post.

From a search engine optimization standpoint, of course, I want to use keyword phrases in the title and in the first sentence, because that helps search engines match my content with the search terms online readers use. Even more important, though, it’s imperative to make the first ten words of any post count.

“Great opening sentences are critical when you’re writing for the internet, where readers have the attention span of fruit flies,” John Hargrave of Mediashower.com says, citing a survey done by Microsoft of more than 2 billion page views, and found that users spend ten seconds on an average Web page On the other hand, the longer you retain them, researchers learned, the more likely they are to stay. At Media Shower, Hargrave says, “we train our writers to spend more time on the opening sentence than any other part of the article.”

Wayne Schmidt agrees. “Whether a story’s fifty words long or a hundred thousand, the most important passage is the opening paragraph. In the few seconds it takes to read it, most readers decide if finishing the tale is worth their time.” Start with a sentence that makes the reader ask a question, Schmidt suggests. (People hate unanswered questions.) It doesn’t have to be a literal question, just something that piques the reader’s curiosity.

Another approach for the “downbeat” is a “tease”, Michael Pollack suggests, withholding a key piece of information till later in the piece so the reader is compelled to keep reading. “What if I said that every TV network, movie, blog, book, and other forms of media use this same tactic?” Writing something that goes against the status quo or conflicts with conventional wisdom is another way to get attention, Pollack points out.

In business blogs, it’s downright important to keep the downbeat upbeat!

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It’s Been Said Before, and That’s OK in Blogging for Business

Repeat - 3D image of colorful glass text on vibrant background

“Good writing doesn’t get hung up on what’s been said before,” advises Ann Handley in Everybody Writes. “Rather it elects to simply say it better.”

That piece of advice, I believe, applies not only to what others have written on your topic, but to what you’ve had to say in earlier blog posts. In corporate blogging training sessions, I often explain that it’s perfect OK – in fact a good idea – to repeat themes you’ve already covered in former posts, adding a layer of new information or a new insight each time.

Rather than asking yourself, each time you’re preparing to blog, whether you’ve already covered that material and how long ago, I teach newbie content providers to plan around key themes. Then, what you’re doing in any one post, I explain, is filling in new details, examples, and illustrations.

And when it comes to writing on topics that others have already written about, remember that ideas are not “copyrightable”. As one writer put it, “You are absolutely free to use someone else’s idea as a jumping-off point for your own expression.”

One interesting thing I’ve discovered over the past ten years of writing Say It For You blogs and offering business blogging help to others, is that blogging forces business owners and professional practitioners to verbalize the positive aspects of their own products and services.  Those “training benefits” are not lost to those who hire freelance content like me to be their voice. That’s because the very process of choosing themes, sharing strategies, and planning for content creation involves both owner and writer.

When that synergy is created, something much better than OK happens, resulting in nothing less than great blogging for business!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Even More About Words to Use in Blogging for Business

 

Word Of Mouth Represents Social Media Marketing And Connect
“Having something to contribute to a conversation makes us feel good,” schoolwebmasters.com points out, advising schools on communication strategy. “Everyone likes to feel knowledgeable, included, and validated. It’s even typical in group conversations for someone to be thinking more of what they can add to the conversation than actively listening to what other people are saying”.

Rule #4 schoolwebmasters offers school personnel is this: “Keep your mission and message short and memorable.  Think about what you want people to say when they start talking, and work that message into your communication strategy.” As blog content writers, we can truly appreciate this next piece of advice: “A long, complicated message isn’t going to be repeated in word-of-mouth instances….Keep things positive and simple.”

Since the words we use in business blog content are our most important power tools, how can we use words to enhance word of mouth marketing results for our business owner and professional practitioner clients?

Marketers used to focus on the 4 Ps, Kimberly Whitler writes in Forbes. Now, Whitler claims, we need to focus on the three Es: Engage, Equip, Empower. In blog marketing, I teach, one of the goals is to “put words into readers’ mouths”, equipping them to make meaningful contributions to conversations – about you and about your products and services.

Often what really makes up a consumer’s mind is a word-of-mouth recommendation from a trusted source.  “As consumers overwhelmed by product choices tune out the ever-growing barrage of traditional marketing, word of mouth cuts through the noise quickly and effectively,“ observes the McKinsey Quarterly.

In blogging for business, we need to “put words into consumers’ mouths”!

 

 

 

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Still More About Words to use in Blogging for Business

Words have power text on notepad
It’s the one lesson blog content writers can never afford to forget – the right words are our business blogging power tools. Sure, images (pictures, video clips, infographics) have power of their own.  But never forget that, in blogging, words matter, as Jennifer Olney of bealeader.com points out. Words are art, Olney emphasizes, and, as bloggers, we must “convey our message in words so that we can be understood without distraction”.

“Blogging has become the best possible way to leverage your online presence and gain traction with Internet searches performed by your potential clients.”(No surprise there, but what I did find surprising is the source of the remark – none other than the National Association of Realtors!)

 “Using powerful phrases – the right words – when you communicate gives you the confidence that you’re communicating your best…What you say can make all the difference in how your customers view you and your company,” says Renee Evenson in “Powerful Phrases for Effective Customer Service.”  As blog content writers, we need to be conscious of the difference the right words can make in marketing our clients’ businesses or professional practices.

Customers and clients talk to each other. “Research generally supports the claim that WOM (word of mouth marketing) can be more influential than print sources,”  An essential part of business blog marketing, I’m convinced, is “putting words in blog readers’ mouths”, helping them feel knowledgeable and in control in discussing the buying choices they’ve made with friends, neighbors and family.

“Building a successful word of mouth marketing machine is a dream for nearly every small business,” explains Chelsea Segal of Targetwise. “Word of mouth is about making your product and customer service so incredible that people can’t help but talk about it.”  Segal advises combing through what’s being said about you on various social media channels.  As blog content writers, we should look for congruence between the words customers use and the words we use to describe the product or service.

The words we use in our blog content, the words our clients use in talking to us and to others about us – it’s all about words.  The right ones are our business blog marketing power tools!

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Magic Marketing Words to Use in Blogging for Business

 

Hand drill
Certain words and phrases are time-tested to boost response and conversion rates, vertical response.com explains. Those “magic” words include “free”, “value”, “guaranteed”, “amazing”, “easy”, “discover”, “new”, “proven”, and “secret”.

Since your marketing message is often the very first contact between you and a potential customer, it’s important to nail that first impression, adds Brandon Redlinger of kissmetrics. Since people make buying decisions with emotion and then justify those decisions with logic, your message must use psychological triggers to elicit a feeling in the reader’s mind.

Every time someone in your target audience reads your primary marketing message, you want to create an implicit question that follows your statement – “How do you do that?”  Rather than describing your business or profession by its title or category (plumber, dentist, tutor, hardware merchant), think mission statement, describing how you help customers.  Instead of “XYZ is the largest recruiting firm in the Midwest”, try “At XYZ, we help customers find better paying jobs that they love.”

There are four simple rules to help blog marketers choose words for a persuasive post, explains Henneke of enchantingmarketing.com. Pick:

  • words your readers use
  • precise words
  • sensory words
  • relevant words

There are bland words, which should be avoided, Henneke adds:

  • Chewy and tasteless words (really, actually, very) that slow down the reader without adding meaning
  • Stale words (ultimate, amazing, awesome) that have lost meaning over time
  • Doughy words (them, there, is, was, are) no longer flavorsome
  • Low nutrition words (good, nice, bad, successful, effective) whose meaning is weak

Cut out unnecessary words, advises Kayla Izard of resoundcreative.com, listing examples that include:

  • essentially
  • really
  • due to the fact
  • past history
  • for all intents and purposes
  • in terms of

Remember, the right words are our business blogging power tools!

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The Right Words – Business Blogging Power Tools

Cordless power tools, isolated on a white background
It’s too bad that in the course of doing business, we get so tied up in making a good, marketable product and in serving our customers’ needs, we often forget how much help the right words can be. In fact, when it comes to web-based communication, words, along with images are our only tools. As a blog content writer, not only do I derive special pleasure in nicely turned phrases, I consider those “word tidbits” to be business blogging power tools.

Use “I did” phrases, not. “I am” phrases
Just as on a resume or in a job interview, employers want to see strong action words that highlight specific accomplishments rather than titles, a blog should focus on how the business or professional practice has been able to deliver value to customers and clients. In composing the blog content, think “we achieved”, “we improved”, “we created”.

Avoid zipping points
Zipping points, according to witty public radio host Michael Feldman, are over-used phrases he believes should be kept inside our heads and never allowed to escape our lips – or pens! Avoid once-popular expressions such as “going forward” and “low-hanging fruit”, or “game-changer”.

Use keyword phrases effectively
Proper use of keyword phrases to enhance Search Engine Optimization is the “science” part of the blogging equation. But avoid “stuffing” by keeping the percentage of keywords in the text below 5% of total content, incorporating the keywords in the text in an unobtrusive and natural way to that readers’ attention is focused only on the message.

Use words to put statistics into perspective
Using numbers in blog post titles is a great way to set expectations for a post. But where the words come in, I believe, is that one of the primary functions blogs serve is putting statistics into perspective, so that readers are given the answer to the “So what?” and “So, what’s in-it-for-me” questions.

Words you never use in blogging for business
There are three categories of potential trouble in choosing words, asserts Jay Baer, author of Hug Your Haters:  words that lack humility, words that diminish the customer, and words of argument and avoidance.  As business blog content writers, of course, we’re trying to create great online interactions with customers and prospects, so Baer’s advice is particularly apropos.

The right words are our business blogging power tools!

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Blogs and Lawyers’ Briefs

lawyers guide
Having spent years trying to write like a lawyer (I think the number of blog posts I’ve created for attorneys is now approaching 5,100), it was amusing to learn they might be trying to write like me! In fact, there’s a new book out called Thinking like a writer: a lawyer’s guide to effective writing and editing. 

Lawyerist.com teaches lawyers how to create powerful introductions when arguing a case in court. An effective introduction, the authors teach, does three main things to and for a judge:

  1. It rouses the judge.
  2. It gives the judge an overview.
  3. It tells the judge what to do.

Lawerist offers one example of an opening line that does all three things – grabs the judge’s attention, explains what the motion is about, and gives the judge a reason to keep reading:

“Plaintiffs’ complaint could not violate more fundamental pleading requirements….”

Rousing the judge
Unlike trial lawyers, we blog content writers can ill afford to bash our competition, much less in our opening line.  Our task is to assure readers they’ve come to the right place to find the information that satisfies the need that brought them online in the first place. Of course we need to arouse interest and curiosity, but it’s important for us to be quick to clarify where we’re going with the content of the post.

Giving an overview
As in a press release, in a blog post the most important information needs to be delivered up front, so the reader knows the overview of the story before you go into the details.

Telling the judge what to do
One core function of a blog marketing strategy is to engage audiences and drive action. What corporate blogging does best, I’ve often remarked, is deliver the kind of customers to a business website who are already interested in the product or services that website is touting. But then what?  In any marketing blog strategy, something needs to happen next.

“As a lawyer, you spend much of your time writing – so why not do it well?” asks ResearchGate. “You may think you’re an excellent lawyer, but you will not be a successful practitioner unless you can communicate the law effectively in writing to the person who must read and act on your letter or document.”

In blogging, as in lawyers’ briefs, we can be successful only by communicating our messages effectively in writing to readers.

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Good Business Writing Attracts Good Business

All Or Nothing Keys Meaning Entire Or Zero

 

Poor business writing can never be undone, the American Marketing Association cautions in Business Writing Tips for Professionals. “It can cause you to lose business to your competition and could even cost you your job.”

Good business writing, on the other hand, is marked by using a strong, active voice, avoiding company acronyms and buzzwords. “Be clear, concise, and get to the point,” guiding readers by including a clear call to action, The AMA advises.

One AMA tip I found particularly relevant for business blog content writers is this: “Replace hyperbole with solid facts and reputable testimonials. Phrases like ‘We’re #1’, ‘We’re the leader in our field’, or ‘We provide the best service’ aren’t going to get you anywhere.”

I couldn’t agree more – blogging is not boasting.  In fact, the whole idea behind blogging is that, rather than running traditional ads for your brand of hats, or vitamins, or travel, you provide lots of information on the history of hats, on why vitamins are good for you, and about exciting places to go on safari.  Consumers interested in your subject, but who never even knew your name, come to see you as a resource. When blog readers follow your “calls to action” by phoning your business, faxing in a request or an order, signing up for your newsletter, subscribing to your blog through an RSS feed, or by proceeding to your shopping cart to buy your product or service, you know your blog marketing strategy is working.

But there are millions of other blogs out there for searchers to find, so what is it that can transform yours into a powerhouse?  Fellow blogger Michel Fortin answers that question in one word: PROOF!  People are skeptical, he explains, today more so than ever before.  If there’s reasonable doubt, you’re going to lose the sale.

There are several kinds of proof you can use:

  • Factual proof:  Offer statistics about the problem your product or service helps solve
  • Reverse proof: Compare your product or service with others that are on the market.
  • Credentializing proof: Tell about your years of experience, degrees, newspaper articles you’ve written or that have been written about you.
  • Evidential proof: Clinical trial results, testimonials, company or professional awards.

“A well-written article or report can be like that Porsche 911 Turbo, “the AMA concludes. “It will generate a ton of new business in half the time with more fun.”

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How Will They Know They’ve Been Helped?

Composite image of hands showing expectations

 

Financial planners could start the meeting with new clients by asking a simple question: “What is it that brings you in today?” the Journal of Financial Planning suggests. Another question to ask to get a sense of expectations is: “At the end of our meeting today, how will you know that it has been successful?”

“Managing expectations, for me, is the single most important aspect to maintaining a healthy and rewarding relationship with my clients,” Annie Pace Scranton writes in Forbes. Scranton suggest five ways to manage client expectations:

  • Be honest from the get-go
  • Under-promise and over-deliver
  • Anticipate the client’s needs
  • Be accessible for communication
  • Use reports to track work done of the course of a week or month

In thinking about how all this might apply to blog content writing, the question I want to raise is this: Since our content is often being read by people who are not yet our clients or customers, how can we address their expectations?

Sure, it’s easy to fall back on analytics: If readers remain on the page for a certain number of seconds or even minutes, if they click through to our website landing pages, if those readers call or email us, if they sign up for our RSS our blog or newsletter, etc., etc., we’ll know our blog posts have been successful.

But I’m fascinated by that image of the financial planner, before the interview has even begun, asking the prospects how they plan to judge whether or not their time was well spent in sitting down with her. Are there ways for us, through the design and language of each of our corporate or professional practice blog posts, to challenge readers to define in their own minds what would make them feel their time on our blog site was well spent?  Here are a couple of thoughts from Darren Rowse of problogger.com:

  • Communicate your own expectations clearly (how often you’ll post, what topics you’ll be covering, etc.
  • Identify common unmet expectations and pre-empt them
  • Don’t hype yourself

For my part, I put a lot of stock in the opening sentences of blog posts, because that’s where I think readers get a cue as to whether they’ve landed in the right place to find the information, products and service, or advice they were searching for.

Sure, it’s the keyword phrases in the title that start the job of getting the blog found. But, once the online visitor has actually landed, it takes a great opener to fan the flicker of interest into a flame, is how I see it.  In fact, a big part of blog content writing, I’ve found, involves getting what I call the “POW opening line” right. That line might be a bold assertion, an in-your-face statement, a stage-setting phrase.

Whichever tactic you choose, you’re setting the stage for the reader to make a judgment about their own expectations, forcing them to answer that financial-planning-interview question, “At the end of the encounter, how will you know it’s been successful?”

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Him/Her Blogging for Business

You Can Get Your Ex Back

 

“If you want your ex back, but you lash out against them in hurt and anger, they will probably have trouble getting over that,” Gene Morris assures readers in the little book You Can Get Your Ex Back.”

Getting an ex back is not something I need help with just now. But as a business blog content writing trainer, I couldn’t help noticing something very interesting about this little paperback book: In just 56 short pages, the author managed to use the pronouns “they”, “them”, and “their” no fewer than 192 times when referring to ONE ex-spouse!  In addition to the opening line which I quoted above, examples include:

  • “Now, if the relationship ended because the other person cheated and left, you might be tempted to think that they left and you did not do anything wrong.”
  • “Do not slander, insult, or otherwise speak ill of your ex to anybody, because it will get back to them eventually, and that will kill your chances of getting back together with them.”
  • “”Let your ex have their new relationship, because you will still have a chance.”
  • “When it is time to contact your ex, they will notice the improvements.”
  • “Show them that you are serious by getting out of the depressed state and putting a smile back on your face.”
  • “You have been eagerly awaiting your moment where you can contact them and profess your love and your regret to them.”

The grammar question, of course is this: Is there a pronoun to use when referring back to a singular noun? Actually, as englishstackexchange.com explains, “singular “they” enjoys a long history of usage in English. For example, it’s OK to say “Each student should save their questions until the end.”  It’s standard to use the masculine: “Each student should save his questions until the end”; feminists might prefer “Each student should save her questions until the end”. One solution might be to use pronouns of both genders together, like “he or she” or “him/her”, but that quickly becomes awkward. You might, the website authors suggest, reword sentences to always use a plural:  “Students should save their questions until the end.”

In doing online marketing through blogs, the last thing we content writers want is awkwardness – the whole idea is to engage readers, not frustrate them! To me, using “they”, “them”, and “their”, referring to just one ex-spouse in every other line of that little paperback was awkward enough to derail the message that book was obviously designed to convey.

I think the answer in blog content writing is to be direct.  “Your ex will notice the improvements you’ve made.” “Show your ex that you’re serious”. “You’ve been eagerly awaiting the moment when you can convey your love and regret to your ex.”

Above all, in blog content writing, avoid the awkward!

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Book-Review Blogging for Business

Book review word cloudOnline visitors are “test-driving” your company or practice through reading your blog posts. They want to see whether you understand their problems and can quickly and effectively help solve those. Often, the way to be of most help to searchers is to offer “book reviews”, collections of material you have “curated” (gathered and presented) for them.

Remember, though, a review is more than a mere summary. Whether you’re blogging for a business, for a professional practice, or for a nonprofit organization, you’ve got to have an opinion, a slant, on the information you’re serving up for readers. In other words, blog posts, to be effective, can’t be just compilations; you can’t just “aggregate” other people’s stuff and make that be your entire blog presence. But, even while putting your own unique twist on the topic, give your readers links to websites from which you got some of your original information or news.

There’s another reason to curate and review other sources in your own business blog – you need to read what others are saying in blogs and in the press about your field. If there are bloggers whose writing you especially enjoy, create links between your websites.  Your own blog content will be all the richer for this back-and-forth sharing.  What’s more, you’re likely to win the wholehearted approval of the search engines; you’ll notice that “approval” in the form of upward movement of your blog in the rankings!

Omnivoracious, Amazon’s official book review blog, is focused on books, author interviews, and industry news. As  business blog content writers, we are aiming for an Omnivoracious-like effect – making our blog the “go-to” place for target readers interested, not only in the things we sell, the things we know and that we know how to do, but in what our colleagues and competitors know and what they know how to do.

Condensing information is a general term whereby the source message is reduced in length without impacting meaning or grammatical accuracy, says dailycues.com. “Writing for online readers is distinctly different than traditional writing; this means your online content must cater to these readers to grab and keep their attention,” write.com adds.

Try book-review blogging for business!

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Why and Why-Not Blogging for Business

book Aliens

 

Aliens would probably come to Earth in peace, quantum physicist Jim Al-Khalili assures readers in his book Aliens, proceeding to bust no fewer than five commonly held myths-from-the-movies about encounters with visitors from other planets.

The author uses scientific knowledge to debunk each myth:

Aliens will eat us. No, because, in order for them to process our molecules of amino acids and sugars, they’d need to have a biochemistry similar to ours, “a long shot for a species that hails from a different world”.

Aliens will breed with us.  No, we can’t even reproduce with our nearest evolutionary relative, the chimpanzee.

Aliens will look like us.  No, because their evolution would not have been parallel to human evolution and it’s “near impossible that they would have human-like features.”

Aliens will be living creatures. No, should aliens contact us, “we will hear not from fellow organic creatures, but from the robots they produced.”

Aliens will come to steal our water and metal.  No, most of our metal is in the Earth’s core, not its crust; asteroids would be better for mining, and icy moons would be easier places to stock up on water.

The Time article about Aliens is a good example of mythbusting, which is used in many fields to counteract counterproductive thinking. For that very reason, I’m a firm believer that myth debunking is a great use for corporate blogs.

In the normal course of doing business or operating a professional practice, misunderstandings about your product or surface are bound to surface.  (It’s even worse when those myths and misunderstandings don’t surface, but still have the power to interrupt the selling process!)

That’s why the de-bunking function of business blog writing is so important. It’s our way of taking up arms against a sea of customers’ unfounded fears and biases.  Blog content writing can “clear the air”, replacing factoids with facts, so that buyers can see their way to making decisions. The technique is not without risk, because customers don’t like to be proven wrong or feel stupid.  The trick is to engage interest, but not in “Gotcha!” fashion.

In other words, business owners and professional practitioners can use their blogs to showcase their own expertise without “showing up” their readers’ lack of it, assuring prospects and clients that they, like movie aliens, are coming in peace!.

 

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Posing the Question in Business Blog Content Writing

people question markI tell new Indianapolis blog content writers that, in creating content for marketing blogs, we need to keep in mind that people are online searching for answers to questions they have and solutions for dilemmas they’re facing.  But, even if those searchers haven’t specifically formulated a question, I suggest we do that for them by presenting a question in the blog post title itself:

  • “Is the U.S. Ready for Future Disease Threats?”
  • “Can the Mind-Body Problem Be Solved?”
  • “How Many Lego Bricks Would It Take to Build A Bridge from London to New York?
  • “Do Baby Boomers Deserve Social Security?

Using a question in the title of your blog post can arouse readers’ curiosity about which side of the issue your opinion is going to represent, and about the answers you’re going to provide in the content of the post itself. The question-title also informs the reader that you’re going to be providing information specifically relating to their search:

Blog questions can be either confirmatory (closed-end, yes-or-no) or exploratory (open-ended). Remember, unlike marketing research firms, business owners or professional practitioners are not out to gather consumer data; they want to engage their blog readers and show that they understand the dilemmas those readers are facing.

  • Did you know….?
  • How do you….?
  • What’s one of the most common problems in…..?
  • Do you want to learn how to…?
  • Have you ever…?
  • you ever wonder if…?

Besides offering readers a promise of relevant content in the body of the blog post, the title question can include keyword phrases to help Google index the blog.

Question: Does your business blog deserve better titles?

 

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Your Business Blog Can Be Their User Manual

User guide book illustration design
“In the olden days – say the 1980s – if you bought a piece of technology, a paperback user guide came with it.  It was the manufacturer’s one big chance to explain its engineers’ thinking to you, to communicate what the designers and marketers had in mind,” David Pogue writes in Scientific American. Then, Google happened, Pogue says ruefully, and physical manuals began disappearing from our hardware and software boxes.

It’s not that users understand all the features of the devices they’ve purchased, although the kind of technologies we use has changed, Pogue explains. “People increasingly spend time in apps and social sites that have a fairly simple interface”. To this day, however, “it’s astonishing how little we know about our phones, computers, and software,” he observes.

Hardware and software makers still operate with their traditional business model: Every year or so they sell us a new version, whose appeal is supposed to be more features. Yet our access to documentation remains scattershot and incomplete, Pogue concludes. That is true, he asserts, despite the availability of answer sites, online communities, and YouTube mini-tutorials.

Enter business blogging.  In fact, according to Forbes, the #1 most important component of the perfect business blog post is answering this question: “What’s the unique angle of this post, and how will it help my audience?”  A blog post can be well-written, but it will be virtually worthless if it doesn’t speak to its audience’s interests, needs, preferences and pain points.

People are online searching for answers to their problems.  They might be there because they need answers to questions they have or solutions for dilemmas they’re facing – or because they don’t know how to use a product or service they’ve already paid for.! That’s when, if you’ve been consistently blogging, they find you, because your blog post gives them just the information they’re looking for in terms of “how-to” content.

Now, I’ve been touting “how-to” content in business blogs for years.  yet it often happens that new blogging clients have a fear that, if they “teach” in their blog, demonstrating the steps in their process, they’ll lose, rather than gain, customers and clients, because the customers will be able to “do it themselves”! In reality, the opposite is true: Consumers who feel fairly informed often prove more willing to make buying decisions.

Let your business blog be their user manual!

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The Power of Place in Business Blog Content Writing

The Power of Place
“Branding helps people identify and recognize your products and organization,” asserts thebrandingjournal.com. And just how does that happen? Branding:

  • makes your company different from the competition
  • helps you connect with customers emotionally
  • helps consumers know what to expect
  • allows you to be clear with your strategy and stay focused

So, in today’s world of online marketing, is physical location important?  Obviously it is  for businesses that sell goods or services directly at brick-and-mortar establishments, yourbusiness.azcentral.com states. Location influences operating expenses, taxes, and regulations. But, even for home-based businesses, I think it’s important for customers to envision you at work; a photo of you at your desk should be included on your website.

“In a world where the movement of people, capital and ideas is more fluid than ever, a strong place brand is more important than ever,” Resonance explains. Having done online marketing for the past decade, I couldn’t agree more.

The story of the O.K Corral bears out that idea of the power of place in consumers’ minds.  The OK was a livery and horse corral from 1879 to about 1888 in the mining boomtown of Tombstone, Arizona, near the Mexican border. It was there that the most famous shootout in the history of the American Wild West, portrayed in 1957 film Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, was supposed to have taken place.

Truth is, the gunfight did not take place either within or even next to the O.K. Corral, but in a narrow lot six doors west of there. Despite the historical inaccuracy, the corral is currently marketed as a tourist attraction where visitors pay to see a reenactment of the shootout between Wyatt Earp and his brother in a faceoff with the Clanton-McLaury gang.

“Today’s world of commerce is not kind to those who serve average products to ‘average Joes’,” remarks eograndrapids.org. “You’ll need to identify your niche, or your unique value proposition.” For blog content writers seeking to attract readership in their niche markets, I add the reminder, “Don’t forget the power of place in business blog content writing!”

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Mythbusting Blog Content is More Than OK

OK

 

“There may be more stories about the origin of ‘OK’ than there are uses for it,” a Mental Floss magazine article points out. Writers have attributed it to:

  • the Haitian port Aux Cayes
  • a Puerto Rican rum labeled “Aux Quais”
  • the German alles korrekt
  • shipbuilders marking wood for “outer keel”
  • Civil War soldiers carrying signs for “zero killed”

The truth, as Allan Metcalf explains in OK: The Improbable Story of America’s Greatest Word, is that the expression “OK” was born as a lame joke by the editor of the Boston Morning Post in 1839, meant to poke fun at poor spelling habits.

Today, Mental Floss points out, “OK” has become an all-purpose expression in dozens of languages, used as:

  1. an enthusiastic cheer
  2. an unenthusiastic rating of a movie or a meal
  3. a way to draw attention to a topic shift in conversation

What Metcalf has achieved is a myth debunk, and myth-debunking is one great use for business blogs. Many misunderstandings about a product or service present themselves in the natural order of business, in the form of questions and comments from readers and customers. Shining the light of day on that misinformation shines light on your own expertise.  If your blog post is well written, perhaps with a bit of tongue in cheek, it can offer enlightenment in a way that engages searchers and keeps them coming back.

In the process of debunking a myth, I tell business blog content writers, you can:

  • Offer little-known, interesting information related to your industry
  • Season that information with your own unique slant
  • Demonstrate your knowledge and expertise as a business owner or  practitioner

An important caution is in order when it comes to myth busting in blogs, however. As a blog writer, you want to use myth busting in your corporate blog to showcase your knowledge (as opposed to “showing up” your readers’ lack of it).

So long as you keep that important caveat in mind, mythbusting blog content is more than OK!

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Deep Dive to Create More Blog Content

 

Diving suit equipment isolated over white
Deep dive, freshsparks.com advises blog content writers. “Take articles with more general information and create a separate article focusing on one specific area.”

All the way back in 2008, I wrote about target marketing in a Say It For You blog post titled “If the Parents Hate It, the Kids Will Love it”. I had based the post on an article in Speaker magazine about the Alice Cooper rock music group, whose stage show was considered “over the top” by anybody’s standards at the time, complete with guillotines, electric chairs, fake blood, live chickens, and a boa constrictor, with a male in tattered women’s clothing holding a snake. The band, according to professional speaker Terri Langham, had made a brilliant career decision, focusing on one target audience – kids.  “If the parents hate it, the kids will love it” became the motto.

In that post about the Alice Cooper band’s marketing strategy, I advised blog content writers to emulate that kind of targeting, narrowing down their market focus. It doesn’t matter, I advised blog writers, if other segments of the market hate your blog, so long as your target customers love it.

In the years following, I’ve come back to that target marketing theme time and again to take a deeper dive:

  • In Blogs and Podiums – Choose Yours Wisely: “Who are your target customers or clients? What approach would have the most appeal to that segment of your market?  Will the emphasis be on your product or on special service and expertise?  Pick one primary area of focus – don’t try to do everything in one blog.”
  • In Befitting Bloggery:  “Everything about your blog should be tailor-made for that customer – the words you use, how technical you get, how sophisticated your approach, the title of each blog entry – all of it.”
  • In With Blogging, a Small Business Can Have a Long Tail: “Regular, high quality content, posted consistently on your blog, can have a huge effect in a small market.”
  • In Scoping Out Your Blogging Niche:  “Blogs, after all, use “pull marketing”.  The people who find your blog are those who are already online looking for information, products, or services that relate to what you know, what you have, and what you do! Your online marketing challenge is not to seek out the people, but to help them seek you out!”
  • In Smaller Targets, Better Hits: “Blogs are smaller, shorter and more centered around just one idea than e-zines or newsletters or even web page content. And blog posts will stick around forever. Blogs can link to other blogs and web sites, turning mini-power into maxi-power, and increasing exposure to the search engines.”

Deep dive into your own blog content, creating more content and more detailed information.

 

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Above All, Do No Puzzling in Blogging for Business

Confused Geeky Woman“Many claim that the word “forte”, coming from the French fort, should properly be pronounced with one syllable. Common usage, however, prefers the two-syllable pronunciation (for-tay), which has been influenced by the music term forte, borrowed from Italian. Speakers can continue using forte as one syllable knowing that the origin of the word supports this pronunciation, but they do so at increasing risk of puzzling their listeners.”

For us blog content writers, of course, the “listeners” are our readers and, needless to say, puzzling those readers is absolutely the last thing we should aspire to do. (For bloggers, that is equivalent to the “above-all-do-no-harm” warning in the Hippocratic Oath.)

One way we can inadvertently puzzle readers is by using allusions (figures of speech) where the reference is unfamiliar. If we allude to someone’s “Achilles’ heel”, for example, we need to be pretty sure our readers’ level of education will allow them to know what we mean. If we mis-calculate their ability to recognize the allusion, the danger is they’ll find our content frustrating rather than illuminating.

“Basic English” simply means using words that people will understand,” says business humorist Todd Hunt. Blogging for business means using understandable, clear language. My own observation, based on working with different industries doing corporate blogging training, is that lack of clarity between writer and reader is worse with business-to-consumer corporate blog writing.  But even among suppliers, consultants, and retailers within a single industry, there’s no question that the clearer the words are to all the parties, the easier it becomes for transactions to happen.

Clarity is the soul of business blog writing. Not only does making yourself clear keep online searchers from quickly “clicking away” to another website to find what they want, but clarity avoids misinterpretation of the message in each post.

Above all, do no puzzling in blogging for business!

 

 

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Use the First Minute to Make Blog Readers Feel Safe

27 Powers of Persuasion
“Use the first five minutes to make people feel safe,” advises Chris St. Hilaire in 27 Powers of Persuasion. (This week my Say It for You blog is devoted to business books that offer wonderful guidance on selling and presentation skills.)

  • Politicians know: You can change a conversation by touching the other person’s arm.
  • Lawyers know: You don’t ask a question unless you already have the answer.
  • Reporters know: People hate silence. They fill it with stuff you can use.

And the most relevant to online marketing through blogs: “Marketers know: It’s easiest to convince people of what they already believe.”

When your main goal is to persuade, the first five minutes are not so much about impressing other people as they are about putting them at ease, the author asserts. (According to blogbuffer.app.com, after seven minutes’ time on blogs, the average reader’s interest has peaked, so perhaps it makes sense to consider the first minute as the limit for putting your readers at ease.)

“If you already know the people you’re meeting with, use the first five minutes to make them feel valued,” St. Hillaire advises salespeople. Since a target market represents a set of individuals sharing similar needs or characteristics that your company hopes to serve, business blogging is the perfect tool for niche marketing.  After all, the people who are finding your blog are those  who are already online looking for information, products, or services that relate to what you know, what you have, and what you do!

Now they’ve found you, your two-part, first-minute challenge is to:

  1. put readers at ease by assuring them they’ve come to the right place
  2. make them feel valued

Searchers who’ve found your blog site won’t linger longer than a couple of seconds if what they see doesn’t reassure them they’ve come to the right place for the information they need. Each claim a content writer puts into a corporate blog needs to be put into context for the reader, so that the claim not only is true, but feels true to online visitors.

Use the first minute to make blog readers feel safe!

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Using the Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs in Your Business Blogging

 

Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs

 

“Your listeners are asking themselves ‘Why should I care?’ Carmine Gallo reminds marketers in his business skills and development book The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs. Jobs, the author reminds readers, is the guy who transformed business presentations into an art form. Using those presentation secrets, a top Apple executive said, you can:

  • take charge of any room
  • sell products
  • build brands
  • engage teams
  • convey ideas persuasively
  • turn prospects into clients

That sounds almost too good to be true, but, hey, if using some of those presentation skills in business blog content writing can turn prospects into clients – count me in!

Gallo points out Jobs’ unrelenting focus on results – will using your product or service help prospects:

  • make money?
  • save money?
  • have an easier time of it?

“Remember, your widget doesn’t inspire,” Gallo reminds marketers. Whichever the primary benefit you have to offer, tell prospects about that, and tell it to them early, often, and clearly, Gallo says.

Gallo pinpoints 3 practical applications of Jobs’ style speakers can use (and, of course, we content writers are nothing if not presenters):

  1. Casual language is what the people want. (Make the numbers relevant to something with which readers are already familiar.)
  2. Minimal content is best suited for long term memory. (Create a memorable moment for the audience, revealing some new and unexpected information, or telling a story.)
  3. Create ways to use the villain/hero narrative. (Spend time describing the problem in detail. “Build the pain.”)

The goal of each business blog post should be to leave readers absolutely knowing why they need to care, not about your product or service, but about the way they are going to feel after using it!

Use the presentation secrets of Steve Jobs in your business blogging!

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Two “Ifs” to Making Interview Blogs Intriguing

Job applicant having an interview

 

Just one of “101 blog post ideas that will make your blog ‘hot’” offered by startbloggingonline.com is this:  Interview someone. But interviews, the author warns, are popular only in two cases:

  1. You deliver an interview with an important “someone” who rarely speaks in public

You rally useful and practical tips and content.

As a blog-content-writer-for-hire by business owners and professional practitioners, I’ve found, the interview format very useful in creating posts that are more compelling in many cases than the typical narrative text. I do the interview blog in two steps:

Step One: In a face-to-face (or Skype) interview with a business owner or executive (or professional practitioner), I am able to capture their ideas and some of their words.

Step Two: I then add “framing” to the post with my own questions and introductions.

Although this Say it For You blog has a non-monetized business model, unlike Mi Muba’s, I like what Muba has to say about the five most common objectives of publishing an interview blog post:

  • To help your readers learn from the expertise of interviewee
  • To inspire your readers with the success story of the interviewee
  • To practically guide your readers how to succeed in a given field
  • To provide your readers the chance to interact with interviewee through commenting
  • To add variety to your content after several simply descriptive posts

When you think about it, business blogs themselves are nothing more than extended interviews.  Just as in a face-to-face job interview, searchers who read your blog evaluate the content, judging whether you’re a good fit for them. Most modern job interviewers follow a behavioral interview style, meaning they focus less on facts (the employer already has read those facts on your resume) but on how you, the prospective employee, tend to function in various situations. In other words, the employer is trying to discover the person behind the resume.

We blog content writers need to conduct interviews the same way, and, for the benefit of the readers, reveal the business owner behind the blog!

 

 

 

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