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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