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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7th Century Dance Plague Could Be a Plus in a Business Blog

 

Fitness dancing

The first outbreak of “dancing mania” occurred in the seventh century, Mental Floss magazine relates, and cases sporadically struck every few decades after that. France, Holland, and Germany all suffered, we’re told.  Worst, though, was the July 14, 1518, when Frau Toffea of Strasbourg, France danced for three straight days.  By the time she was hauled away, more than thirty other dancers had joined in, and within a month, one hundred people were frantically jogging without being able to stop! Dancers hyperventilated and hallucinated, unable to stop for food or rest.  Heart attack, heat, and exhaustion claimed lives. After striking 400 people, the Strasbourg plague, which had lasted until September, suddenly ended.

Medical historians have ventured opinions as to the possible causes for the plague, attributing it factors ranging from ergot, a poisonous mold to Sydenham’s chorea (a disorder linked to rheumatic fever that causes twitching).One theory attributes the plague to stress-induced mass psychosis (smallpox, syphilis, and famine were everywhere at that time).

I love “reading around” and “learning around”, as I call it, and encourage all blog content writers to do the same. This piece about dancing mania, like any piece of trivia, can be used to spark curiosity and entertain readers. You may use trivia to:

  • put modern-day beliefs and practices into perspective
  • explain what problems can be solved using that business’ products and services
  • define basic terminology
  • offer statistics showing that many others have faced the same issue as the one concerning the current reader

It’s easy to imagine using the dance mania story in the business blog for a dance studio or a, disk jockey, but it might also be used by a nutritionist or exercise coach to stress the importance of regular meals and maintaining hydration during exercise.

Continually coming up with fresh content to inform, educate, and entertain readers is a pretty tall order for busy business owners and employees. Trivia can solve the problem! 

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Healthy Plate Business Blogging

 

Healthy-Plate

In honor of National Nutrition Month (last month), my friend Mary Ann Wietbrock published a blog post that exemplifies some of the key advice points I’ve been offering in my Say It For You business blogging tutorials:

  • “Grabber” opening line or focus sentence
    “What is on your plate?” Wietbrock asks.  Sure, in any SEO 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.
  • Visual
    The picture is colorful and illustrates the precise points the author is stressing in the text. In business blogging, every post needs a visual element in order to be truly effective.  While the words you use to tell the story are the most important part of blogging for business, what visuals do is add interest and evoke emotional responses.
  • Easy to understand chart
    “This plate of food has the following essential nutrients and takes less than 5 minutes to prepare,” the blogger assures readers. For each nutrient, she lists the amount and the reason that nutrient is important (the 112 grams of protein help build muscle, while the 292 mg. of potassium help keep the heart calm). Charts help organize the information in readers’ minds, aiding the learning process.
  • Offer of resources
    “Menus available at www.cardinalelements.com” takes readers to the relevant page on the website. One way to add value to a blog is aggregating resources for the benefit of your readers, in the form of outside content  – giving proper credit – along with your own. In fact, by “marinating” our own ideas in others’ material, we never run out of fresh content to satisfy both the search engines and the searchers.
  • Calls to action
    There are at least four calls to action in this one short post: Contact at… phone number and website. Request menus.  Sign up for Lunch & Learn. Comment. Does asking for a customer’s business invalidate the good information provided in the blog? Not in the least.  When people go online to search for information and click on different links, they’re aware of the fact that the providers of information are out to do business.  As long as the material is valuable and relevant for the searchers, they’re perfectly fine with knowing there’s someone who wants them for a client or a customer.

Does your business blog include all the elements of a “healthy plate”?

 

 

 

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For Business Blogging, Get in the Remote Mindset

 

Photographer Willie B. Thomas

 

“In the last decade, remote work has exploded in popularity,” says Skillcrush. “It’s totally feasible to land a lucrative, fulfilling career without selling your soul to the daily commute,” Browning assures readers, cautioning that interviews for remote jobs come with their own set of pitfalls.

Interviewees for remote jobs have to demonstrate they are pros at managing time, prioritizing tasks, and communicating with boss and coworkers. Business blog content writers, I reflected, reading this advice, have precisely the same challenges. Without being face to face with the prospect reading the blog, the business owner or professional practitioner (or the blog content writer they’ve hired) must demonstrate expertise, reliability, and empathy.

With all the different communications options, including not only blogging, but social media, mobile apps, forms, webinars, etc., “It’s easy to forget that Expertise is the #1 ingredient for  successful content marketing and blogging,” according to pushingsocial.com. “Without expertise, all these methods are reduced to fancy magic tricks that capture your reader’s attention for a moment.”

Readers come to your blog looking for the answer to two questions, pushing social.com explains:

  1. Can this person/company/practice help me?
  2. Do these people know what they’re talking about?

Without being face to face with readers, blog content writers use words to prove that the answer to each of those two questions is a resounding “Yes!”

But how do you demonstrate that you can help a prospect when you have no proof  – no case studies, testimonials, or clients yet? That question was actually asked of John Jantsch of ducttapemarketing. Jantch’s three-point response:  Publish, Partner, Podium. “Start sharing your expertise and point of view on your own blog,” Jantsch advises, and ”Offer to write guest blog posts.”

Whether you’re a newbie or veteran blog content writer, for business blogging, get in the remote mindset!

 

 

 

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In-Command Business Blogging

COMMAND -   3D stock image of Red text on white background
Messages have two aspects, explains Elizabeth J. Natalle in Teaching Interpersonal Communication, the report aspect and the command aspect. Since we blog content writers are always looking to find the right tone to translate corporate message into people-to-people terms, I found Natalle’s explanation of the two categories very useful.

I put the well-written article “50 Ways to Live a Longer, Healthier Life” (in the March issue of the AARP Magazine) to the control/command test. Author Nick Farrai offers lots of information and statistics from credible sources, including:

  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel review
  • 15 studies published in the European Heart Journal
  • New York University’s Langone Medical Center
  • Harvard University’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health
  • JAMA Internal Medicine
  • American Heart Association
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Concordia University
  • U.S. Department of Transportation

So how did this long article fare when it came to the command aspect? (Remember that the command aspect related to the relationship between the communicants – the people offering the advice and those for whom the advice is intended). I gave Farrai high marks for knowing his audience, and for showing how the information he was serving up would help you (he uses the word “you” a lot, which is great for creating a relationship). He’s “giving away” highly useful tips with no hint of salesmanship. “With this collection of some of the most important longevity findings, you’ll have the road map you need to get to 80, 90, 100 or beyond.”

The 50 healthful hints following each set of statistics and findings come in the form of definitive “commands”.

  • “Go nuts”.
  • “Keep watching LOL cat videos”
  • “Get social”
  • “Watch your grandkids”
  • “Read more”
  • Practice home fire drills”
  • “Take the stairs every day.”

You might say the art of blog marketing consists of supplying facts, and then putting those facts in context, which is precisely what this AARP article does. As bloggers, we’re giving readers the raw materials to think about, but we need to go one step further, demonstrating why those facts matter, and suggesting ways readers can use the information for their own benefit. That’s exactly what in-command business blogging does!

 

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Does Your Blog Post Command or Report?

 

 

remote control
There are two aspects to any communication, explains Elizabeth J. Natalle in Teaching Interpersonal Communication. The report aspects conveys information, while the command aspect refers to the relationship between the communicants. The command aspect sets a tone, which might be focused on:

  • this is how I see myself…
  • this is how I see you…
  • this is how I see you seeing me…

Natalle contrasts two statements about driving a car to make her point:

  1. “It is important to release the clutch gradually and smoothly.”
  2. “Just let the clutch go, and it will ruin the transmission in no time.”

One interesting perspective on the work we do as professional bloggers is that we are interpreters, translating clients’ corporate message into people-to-people terms, trying to find exactly the right tone. That first statement about the clutch would be purely informational, for example, with no connection being formed between the reader and the business owner or practitioner. On the other hand the second statement takes a “how to” tone, a tone that can be very useful in blog marketing.

Crystal Gouldey of AWeber Communications names five different “tones” to consider when planning a blog:

  • The formal, professional tone
  • The casual tone
  • The professional-but-friendly tone
  • The sales pitch tone
  • The friendly sales pitch toneConsistency is important, Gouldey thinks. “It will be very confusing for subscribers if you talk to them one way and the next week you talk to them in a different way,” Gouldey says.

’T aint necessarily so, I teach. For one thing, a company blog can have different contributors, each of whom might have a different styles of presenting information. But even with a single author, the use of different tones can lend variety and interest.  The only exceptions would be the “sales pitch” tones, probably better left out of the blog mix.

Does your blog post command or report? Your business blog can do both!

 

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In Blogging, the More Things Change……

old newspaper ads

 

On a recent tour of interesting Indiana places, I picked up the most fascinating souvenir – The Daily Review newspaper published February 19, 1908 in Crawfordsville.

Since my work at Say It For You centers around business marketing, I was particularly fascinated with Page 3 of the paper, which sported a crazy patchwork  of advertisements. Needless to say, the prices of goods more than 110 years ago provided a source of entertainment: Men’s tailored suits were available for a cost ranging from $18 to $40, while two light brooms were advertised at 25 cents for the pair. Interested in real estate? 58 acres of good land, including a six-room house, a barn, a large orchard were going for $2,450.

Since a favorite topic of mine as a professional ghost blogger and business blogging trainer is commanding readers’ attention, even more interesting to me as I scanned the Daily Review were the different appeals advertisers used to grab readers’ attention:

Problem solving
“Is your heating apparatus working satisfactorily?  If there is anything wrong, just telephone me and I’ll fix it in a jiffy,” claimed Dan Pickett.  “If you have forgotten your laundry till Friday or Saturday, call on us.  We make a specialty of time work,” James P. Grimes & Sons assured prospects. “Kill the cough and cure the lungs!” is the way Dr. King promoted his cough medicine.

Price reductions
“Our entire stock of furniture and stoves to be closed out in the next 30 days at prices unheard of before,” said Joel Block, while jeweler and optician Otto announced he would be selling 101 Masonic Temple souvenir spoons, normally priced at $1.75 and $2.25, for only $1.00 each.

Special expertise
“I make a specialty of high grade enlargements consisting of all sizes and finish.  Remember this work is done by hand, which I make in my own studio,” claimed Bert Vancleave. “You get the benefit of our technical knowledge and of our persistently clear cut methods,” said corner jeweler J.A. Oswald.

Fear marketing
“How is your home?” asked O.W. Stafford & Co. “Is it fully insured? When the fire is started, it is too late to get it insured.  Better let us write that policy today.”

Appeal to customers’ desire to be part of a trend
“Smoke a clay pipe. They are the thing in pipes just now.”

 

Back in 1908, to be sure, no one was blogging. Still, today, although blogs should be more like advertorials than advertisements, every one of these advertising approaches might be used in business blog writing to appeal to consumers.

You know what they say:  The more things change, the more they remain the same!

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Put Words in Blog Readers’ Mouths

Word Toolbox Teaching Tools Resources Spelling Reading Lesson Ai“Learn the lingo to beat the scammers,” advises Sid Kirchheimer in this month’s AARP magazine. “Knowledge is power” the author explains, proceeding to “put words.in readers’ mouths” so that they can feel confident about protecting themselves from fraudsters.

A “catfish”, Kirscheimer explains, is someone who creates a fake online profile to intentionally deceive you, while “hash busters” are random words contained in spam emails that allow them to bypass your spam filters. “Pharming” refers to malicious programs that route you to their own websites, while “scareware” displays on-screen warnings of nonexistent infections.

“Powerful Phrases for Effective Customer Service”, a customer service training manual by Renee Evenson, is based on the same knowledge-is-power idea. “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 Evenson.

We know. And, 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. But what the AARP article made clear to me was the importance of what they say (meaning the customers and prospects).

One very important use of the blog becomes arming readers with a sense of control. It’s that feeling of confidence in knowing the lingo which allows readers to feel ease in making buying decisions.

Sid Kirschheimer spends an entire page teaching readers “scam-speak”.  An essential part of business blog marketing, I’m convinced, is “putting words in blog readers’ mouths!”

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Case Study Business Blogging

Case study
“To explore uncertainty reduction theory, I ask students to analyze a case study in groups of four to six people for about 15 to 20 minutes,” says Elizabeth Natalle in Teaching Interpersonal Communication. The case study, she adds, is a good teaching technique because students can participate actively and demonstrates choice making.

Stories of all kinds – customer testimonials, famous incidents from the news, Hollywood doings, folklore – you name it - help personalize a business blog. Even if a professional  writer is composing the content, true-story material increases engagement by readers with the business or practice. Case studies are particularly effective in creating interest, because they are relatable and “real”.

I think that’s why, back in Journalism 101 class, we were taught to “put a face on the issue” by beginning the article with a human example  A story about rising food prices, for example, might begin with “Susie Hellenbecker’s putting things back on the shelf. With the price of cereal and fruit so high, she’s decided there’s no longer room in the budget for those, or for her favorite salad dressing.”

A case study takes that personalization even further, chronicling a customer or client who had a problem or need, and taking readers through the various stages of using the product or service to solve that problem. What were some of the issues that arose along the way? What new insights were gained through that experience, on the part of both the business and the customer?

“Case studies are a great way to tell the world how valuable your products or services are. They go beyond simple testimonials by showing real-life examples of how you were able to satisfy your customer’s needs and help them accomplish their goals,” kissmetrics.com teaches. “With great case studies, you will be able to highlight your successes in a way that will make your ideal potential customer become your customer.”

 

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Blog the Second Side of the Story

pinkeye

An anecdote submitted by a grandma to Reader’s Digest reminded me of something my own maternal grandmother taught us grandkids: there are at least two sides to every story.

The opthalmologist’s very cute assistant was examining my 20-year-old
grandson, when out of the blue she said, ‘You must really work out.’ ‘Well,
yes, I do,’ said my grandson, beaming.  ‘I run and lift weights. Thank you for
noticing.’ ‘Oh, you misunderstood,’ she said. ‘You have popped blood vessel
in your eyes.  We see that with people who work out.’

As a corporate blogging trainer, I’m always considering different ways of communicating with online readers.  Basically, I think of myself and my writers at Say It For You as offering a sort of matchmaking service that helps our clients “meet strangers” and hopefully convert at least some of them into friends and customers. At the same time, we need to keep in mind that readers’ will process the information we offer in the context of their own past experience.

Part of the secret to avoiding misunderstandings lies in our getting to know our target market. “There’s no hard and fast rule that governs what fields are mandatory for all landing page forms,” cautions Meghan Lockwood of HubSpot.  “Instead, marketers need to review their sales and lead generation goals and balance how much information they absolutely need from their leads vs. how much information those prospects will actually provide on a first form,”

Even with the best of research, different consumers are going to process our content in different ways. That’s not necessarily bad news. In blogging for business, why not present several aspects and opinions on an issue, allowing for the merits of each? In other words, make clear that this business or professional practice has chosen to carry on in a certain way, but that there were other options. Let readers come to their own conclusions about which approach is more in tune with their needs and opinions.

Understand your target market, but don’t be afraid to express a strong opinion. There’s something to be said for blogging the second side of the story!

 

 

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The First Blog Post is Like the First Day of Class

Young teacher near chalkboard in school classroom

“What impression would you like to make on the first day?” asks Elizabeth Natalle, author of Teaching Interpersonal Communication. In fact, the first day of class gets a lot of attention from pedagogues, Natalle explains to teachers, because “what happens that first day demonstrates to students what to expect from your instruction.” Some teachers even forget to introduce themselves before launching into the lecture, she notes.

Like Natalle, Harsh Agrawal of Shout ME Loud stresses the importance of demonstrating to your audience what to expect, except that Agrawal’s referring to bloggers, not classroom teachers. “Get it wrong,” he warns, “and you’re doomed to fail.  But, if you get it right, you’ll lay the proper foundation for success,” he tells those just beginning to post blogs. “People want to connect with you on a deep level, Agrawal says, advising new bloggers to tell readers what their experiences have been in life, revealing who they are as a person, as a professional, and as a blogger. Include pictures of yourself to show authenticity and to help readers connect with you, he advises, cautioning them to “make it clear why you’ve decided to offer a blog”.I couldn’t agree more with Agrawal’s advice.  In fact, the first post for every new Say It For You client is a why-blog-about———– (pet care/ bankruptcy/ tutoring, etc., etc.).

The art of writing a good blog post has dramatically evolved in recent years, as teamtwago.com points out in “How to Write Your First Company Blog Post”. “Readers expect far more in return for their time than an ill-conceived or badly-written blog post, Twago warns. “If you aren’t able to talk authoritatively and in-depth on a subject in your chosen field then you can wave conversions goodbye.”

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 actions we would like them to take when they have reached the end of the blog post.  “Readers actively seek this out; they want to know what comes next,” explains Twago.

Remember – the first blog post is like the first day of class!

 

 

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Every Blog Post Should Have Two Winners

Dilbert

“My philosophy is that every phone conversation has a loser,” says Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams (the implication seems to be that one of the parties on the phone is being talked into buying something or doing something that benefits only the other. A second Adams quote reveals a similarly negative viewpoint: “There’s a gigantic gray area between good moral behavior and outright felonious activities.  I call that the Weasel Zone and it’s where most of life happens.”

Cynics, I imagine, would see blogging for business in the same light – a thinly disguised attempt to attract online readers who must be persuaded to buy “stuff”. At Say It For You, though, we try to come at blogging from a totally different direction and with a win-win attitude.

In the early stages of creating a new blog, the blog content writer and the client (the business owner) are trying to strike precisely the right “tone” for the blog.  I’ve discovered one very interesting thing in the course of dealing with different content writers in Indianapolis and with the client businesses they serve.  Whenever there’s a “disconnect” between the two parties, it’s almost always about how “sales-ey” the blog should or should not be.

Generally speaking, as I often stress when I offer corporate blogging training, blog posts are not ads, and there should never be a hard-sell or boastful tone to the content.  When asked to provide business blogging help, I explain that blogs are closer in nature to informative “advertorials”, positioning the company or practitioner as helpful, well-experienced, and knowledgeable.

Primarily, the blog post has to add value. Not just a promise of value if the reader converts to a buyer, but value right then and there in terms of information, skill enhancement, or a new way of looking at the topic. The best blog posts are never about yourself, your company, your services, or your products, but about why you see things the way you do.

Does every phone conversation have a loser? I don’t know, but what I do know is this: Every blog post should have two winners – the business owner (or professional practitioner) and the online reader!

 

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Effective Blog Titles Emphasize Effects

 

Pointed List Five blank business diagram illustration

 

Mental Floss Magazine chose a good title, I believe, for its financial planning article:

“How These 7 Money Moves Can Affect You Down the Road”

What’s good about that title, and what can we blog content writers learn about creating effective titles for our clients’ posts?

It contains a numbered list.
Lists spatially organize information, helping to create an easy reading experience. The point of using numbered lists, I explain to blog content writers, is to demonstrate ways in which your product or service is different, and to help them organize the valuable information you’re giving them to help solve their problem or fill their need. “If your service or product is highly complex,” says Whale Hunters’ sales trainer Barbara Weaver-Smith, “it may turn off buyers, who might seek simpler solutions elsewhere to avoid having to deal with a many-step, high-commitment process.” Numbered lists are a good way to keep things simple for blog readers.

The advice is offered in terms of how decisions today will affect you “down the road”.
Discussing “down the road” is less threatening to readers than being told that what they are doing right now is wrong. While debunking misunderstandings is a good function for blogs, people generally don’t like to have their assertions and assumptions challenged. Putting things in terms of “down the road” softens the effect of the implied critique.

It’s not promoting a product or service, merely promising to offer helpful tips.
One point I’ve consistently stressed in these Say It For You blog content writing tutorials is how important it is to provide valuable information to readers, while avoiding any hint of “hard sell”.  Providing tips and hints may very well be the perfect tactic for accomplishing that goal. “While blogs can be used as a tool for selling, they are at their best when they are relational, conversational, and offer readers something useful that will enhance their lives in some way,” Damon Rouse of problogger.net advises.

The title mentions how the information can affect YOU.
The implication is that readers are in control of their own outcomes; there’s no “listen-to-me-and- my- wisdom” approach.  There’s no hint of “scare marketing” in the title, either.

Effective blog titles emphasize effects!

 

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Go Ahead – Blog About Your Misplaced Oscars

????????????

 

Winning an Oscar is a big deal, but still old news; losing your Oscar – now that makes for more attention-catching copy. I think that’s the appeal of the Mental Floss Magazine story about ten award-winning movie stars who actually misplaced the statuettes they’d been so excited to win in the first place.

“Owning a little gold guy is such a rarity that you’d think their owners would be a little more careful with them.” Apparently, that’s not the case:

  • Olympia Dukakis’s Moonstruck Oscar was stolen from her home.
  • “I don’t know what happened to the Oscar they gave me for On the Waterfront,” Marlon Brando wrote in his autobiography. “Somewhere in the passage of time it disappeared.”
  • Colin Firth nearly left his new trophy for “The King’s Speech” on a toilet tank the very night he received it.
  • Matt Damon and Ben Affleck took home Oscars for writing Good Will Hunting in 1998, but in the confusion of a flood in his apartment while he was out of town, Damon isn’t sure where his award went.
  • Whoopi Goldberg sent her Ghost Best Supporting Actress Oscar back to the Academy to have it cleaned and detailed. The Academy then sent the Oscar on to R.S. Owens Co. of Chicago, the company that manufactures the trophies. When it arrived in the Windy City, however, the package was empty.

So how does all this apply to blog marketing for a business or professional practice?  It brings out a point every business owner, professional, and freelance business blogger ought to keep in mind: Writing about past 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 practice. What tends to happen is the stories of failure create feelings of empathy and admiration for the entrepreneurs or professional practitioners who overcame the effects of their own errors.

Blogging about mistakes has another potential positive effect: it can turn out to help with customer relations and damage control.  When  complaints and concerns are recognized and dealt with “in front of other people” (in blog posts), it gives the “apology” or the “remediation measure” more weight. In fact, in corporate blogging training sessions, I remind Indianapolis blog writers to “hunt” for stories of struggle and mistakes made in the early years of a business or practice!

Go ahead – blog about your misplaced Oscars!

 

 

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We’ve All Heard the Naysayers

Outdated technology concept.
“We’ve all heard the naysayers – they argue that speechwriting is losing relevance in a world of unscripted comments and 140-character attention spans”, reads the invitation to the 2017 Speechwriters Conference. The reality, Ragan explains is that organizations need thoughtful communicators more than ever.

Importantly, all three skill areas on which the speechwriter’s conference promises to focus are highly relevant for us as blog content writers.  (We’ve all heard the naysayers, haven’t we, arguing that blogging is losing relevance?)

1. Ensure strategic messages get through
There are two kinds of goodwill that can be conveyed through messaging, as business valuator Lindon Kotzin puts it: ”Personal or professional goodwill attaches to a particular individual, while enterprise goodwill is derived from the characteristics of the business itself, regardless of who owns or operates it.” Both those types of strategic messages can be conveyed through our blog content, which is frequently updated and thus relevant to the current climate in our industry.

2.  Use humor appropriately to capture your audience’s attention
Hope Hatfield of LocalDirective.com points out that humor is a hook, having the same impact as a strong headline to grab the audience’s attention. Humor’s an icebreaker, she adds, but only so long as you carefully consider your target market, focusing the humor around a problem your company can solve. No matter how funny your marketing messages are, don’t forget that the goal is to educate your prospects about your products and services. “You want to make sure that you don’t lose the message in the humor, Hatfield cautions.

3. Develop an authentic and trustworthy voice
Successful content creation consists of capturing the unique style of the business owners, practitioners, and employees who will be delivering the service and products. Business coach Donna Gunter calls it the WYSIWYG approach (what you see is what you get), referring to authenticity in advertising and promotional materials.

Yes, we’ve all heard the blogging naysayers, arguing that blogs are losing relevance.  The reality, though, is that professional practitioners and business owners need thoughtful communications more than ever!

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Basically, We Bought Their Car For Them

Buying a new car

 

At a recent study session for financial planners, Waypoint Residential’s Todd Patterson made it really easy for us in the audience to understand exactly how excellent a return Waypoint had managed to generate for its investors over the last two years. After comparing dollars invested and dollars realized, Patterson summed up the situation in these simple terms:  “Basically, we bought their car for them.”

Let’s face it – most business blog posts make claims, either outright or implied.  The claims may be understated, exaggerated, or exactly on the money, but still – a claim is a claim is a claim. And when you make a claim, the problem is, blog visitors probably don’t know how to “digest” those claims you’ve “served up”.  They simply don’t have any basis for comparison, not being as expert as you are in your field. What I’m getting at is that every claim needs to be put into context, so that it not only is true, but so that it feels true to your online visitors. That’s precisely what Todd Patterson did so well in talking to us financial planners.

One core function of blogs for business is explaining yourself, your business philosophy, your products, and your processes.  An effective blog clarifies what sales trainers like to call your “unique value proposition” in terms readers can understand. And one excellent way to do just that is by making comparisons with things with which readers are already comfortable and familiar! Even those financial planner “numbers people” assiduously taking notes on their laptops, intending to share those stats with investors, needed something more.  That “more” was the “sound bite” about investors making enough money in two years to fund a car.

There are tens of millions of blog posts out there making claims of one sort or another, even as you’re reading this Say It For You post. Based on my own experience as an online reader, I’d venture to say fewer than 10% of them attempt to put their claims in context; and only the very top few manage to convey to their blog visitors what those claims can mean for them!

Basically, blog content writers, ask yourself what benefit your product or service “buys” for your customers and clients!

 

 

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Did-You-Know Blogging for Business

Book of the Bizarre
The Egyptians wore eye shadow to prevent blindness, and lipstick to keep the soul from leaving the body through the breath, Varla Ventura informs readers in The Book of the Bizarre.

What a great lead-in that sentence might make for a blog on the website of a beauty salon, cosmetologist, cosmetic surgeon, or even an ophthalmologist, I couldn’t help thinking. And Ventura’s book offers 300 pages’ worth of just such fascinating tidbit fodder!

I think the reason I’ve always liked “tidbit blogs”, just one of the dozens of blog “genres” we writers can use to lend variety to our posts, is that they put the blogger and the reader on the same side of the presentation. In other words, in a typical marketing blog the business owner or practitioner is presenting something to the reader, trying to forge a connection and engage interest (and, over time, convert lookers to buyers, of course).

In contrast, when I’m sharing that tidbit about Egyptians believing lipstick kept the soul from leaving the body, it’s as if I’m “on the same side of the table” with the reader, with both of us experiencing wonder at how religions have evolved over thousands of years and how customs change. (Well, it feels that way to me, anyhow…)

The function of tidbits in business blogs is to serve as “triggers” or jumping-off-points for blog posts about any subject.  In corporate marketing blogs, tidbits help:

  • educate blog readers
  • debunk myths
  • showcase the business owners’ expertise
  • demonstrate business owners’ perspective

    We blog writers, I’m convinced, need never run out of ideas if we just keep a file (or, as I do, collect books the likes of The Book of the Bizarre) of “did-you-know” tidbits!

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Cover the Blog Genre Gamut

VARIETY -Realistic Neon Sign on Brick Wall background

“Don’t be afraid to write in tried-and-true blog genres,” Gary DeAsi and Evan Stone advised their fellow financial planners as part of the FPA Practice Management Solutions Magazine almost three years ago, listing eight kinds of blogs they called “proven attention getters’”:

  1. Advice
  2. Collections and top lists
  3. Reviews
  4. Predictions
  5. Motivation
  6. Trouble-shooting
  7. Interviews
  8. Editorial/ Personal reflection
  9. Now, five years later, I’m inviting each of you Say It For You blog readers to come up with titles you’ve written or found that fit into each of these categories. If you submit your favorite titles, I’ll publish them here, along with some tips on flesh out those ideas to suit your own business. More important, ask yourself whether you’re lending variety to your blog by including all these genres.

    Meanwhile, over those same five years I’ve come up with at least four blog genres I believe ought to be added to the list to round out the “blogger’s dozen”…:

    9.  The tidbit blog uses a piece of trivia to spark interest and help readers understand a concept or product.
    10.  The comparison blog uses a metaphor to explain a complex idea in terms of a tangible object.
    11.  The “confession” blog tears away the “stage curtain” between the business owner and the reader, humanizing business or practitioner and hopefully generating feelings of empathy and admiration.
    12.   The “brag blog” shares accomplishments of which the business owner or practitioner had every right to be proud – a product breakthrough, an award, a milestone reached, an unexpected success.

DeAsi and Stone were telling financial planners not to be afraid to write in tried-and-true genres. As a business blogging trainer, I’d go a few steps further, advising content writers to keep it fresh, saying “Don’t be afraid to keep creating new blog genres!”

 

 

 

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