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

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

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

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

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

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

– Mitch Joel in “The End of Blogging”

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Premise-Based Blogging for Business

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

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

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

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

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

 

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“Ever-Wonder-Why” Blogging for Business

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

Trivia can be used in business blogs for:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Halloween Hints for Your Business Blog

blogging to answer questions

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Halloween, all!

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Having the Last Word in Your Business Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The-Truth-About Business Blog Titles

The Science of Exeercse

 

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

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

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

There were emotional “grabber” titles, such as:

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

There were how-to titles, including:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Remember the Golden Triangle in Blogging for Business

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember the golden triangle in blogging for business!

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Showing Them How Shows Them YOU In Blogging for Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

Showing them how to – shows them YOU!

 

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Respect the Rules of Reversal in Blogging for Business

first impressions in blogging

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Respect the rules of reversal in blogging for business!

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Blogging for Business While Inspiring Three Types of Trust

blogging to inspire trust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Same Old, Same New Blogging for Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Metaphoric Blogging for Business

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Ask, But Also Persuade

Pay Raise Word Increased Income Workers Lift Arrow

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

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More About Quotations in Blogging for Business

Chocolate Quotation Marks and Asterisk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In Business Blogs, Quotations Can Be a Good Idea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Blogging to Inspire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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