Should Business Blog Posts Shock and Awe?

shock in blogging for business
“Most advisors don’t spend their day thinking about how to jolt their clients, but I do,” asserts Certified Retirement Coach Robert Laura, writing for Financial Advisor magazine. A former social worker, Laura claims the way people respond to the various things he says and asks provide valuable clues as to how to work with them. Shock and awe, he says, are his tools to jolt clients in order to start new conversations that will help clients be better prepared for the future.

Can “shock and awe” help start conversations when it comes to blogging for business? Maybe. At Say It For You, I’ve maintained that the tone of any business blog needs to be consistent with the company’s brand. In order to appeal to a better kind of customer – the kind that buys for the right reasons and then remains loyal – my thinking has been that the Calls to Action (both the implied CTA’s in the blog content writing itself and the Call to Action buttons) should appeal to readers’ better nature.

The other side of the argument (and the point Robert Laura is making) is one that is also emphasized in MLT Creative, “Using fear appeals or scare tactics may be more effective than statistics or data because they may cause people to think more about the issue.”

With our blog content writer hats on, let’s take a closer look at three of Laura’s list of seven “shockers”:

1. “The difference between today’s haves and have-nots isn’t money.”
This statement is a thought provoker, counter-intuitive enough to grab attention and to encourage people to keep reading to learn the underlying thinking. Unlike scare tactic selling, bold assertions can serve as “conversation starters” in blogging for business.

2. Twenty of the 43 most stressful life events take place at or near retirement.”
Here Laura is grabbing his readers’ attention with a startling statistic. Statistics can be a tool in blogging for business. If there’s some false impression people seem to have relating to your industry, or to a product or service you provide, you can bring in statistics to show how things really are. Statistics can also serve to demonstrate the extent of a problem, which is what Laura is doing.  Once readers realize the problem, the door is open for you to show how you help solve that very type of problem.

3.  “Traditional estate planning is backwards and may be more damaging than no planning at all.”
There’s something very appealing and curiosity-stimulating about contrarian content, and, whether it’s business-to-business blog writing or business to consumer writing, being a contrarian has two effects: It makes readers sit up and take notice (This is not going to be same-old, same-old, readers realize) and it clarifies what differentiates your business or professional practice from its peers.

Should business blog posts shock and awe?  I don’t believe so. But should they arouse interest and provoke thinking?  You bet.

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Skiing Downhill in Business Blog Posts

Putting a summary or conclusion at the beginning of a piece of writing certainly sounds like a strange thing to do, but that’s exactly what Brandon Royal advises in The Little Red Writing Book. The pow-opening-line idea I teach in corporate blogging training session focuses on that very sort of “descending” writing structure.

Given the notoriously short attention span of online readers, the sooner it becomes clear there’s a match between what the searcher wants and what’s to be found in our blog post, the more favorable our chances of having that prospect take some action. And, of course, from a Search Engine Optimization standpoint, the “match” between query and content needs to be addressed (through key phrasing) in the blog title and in the opening lines of the blog post.

“In addition to their brevity, news stories have a particular structure that is easily recognizable,” the MTTC Communication Arts Practice & Study Guide explains. “The big, bold headline, for example, is intended to grab readers’ attention, while the first sentence or paragraph lays out the story so the reader knows what to expect.”

In a dialogue or speech, the problem with “working up to” a conclusion is that once you finally find out what the speaker’s point is, you’ve forgotten all the necessary details, Royal says. It’s just as frustrating, the author adds, “when you’re reading a piece of writing and you do not know where it’s going.”

But, when you’re a blog content writing serving up many posts over time, all revolving around the very same general topic, how do you keep things different and engaging, while still going smoothly “downhill”? And are your title and opening line going to “spoil” it for readers?

Awhile back in this Say It For You blog, I described a study done at the University of California’s psychology department. Subjects were given short stories to read, some presented with “spoiler paragraphs” that told readers how the stories would end, others without the spoilers. “Subjects significantly preferred the “spoiled” versions

Here’s the parallel: Readers come online searching for information, products, or services, and they are not going to take the time to read your “manuscript” (the full text of your blog post) without assurance that they’ve come to the right place.

If we freelance blog content writers frustrate online visitors by being unclear about the points we plan to make, they’ll be gone in a click.  We simply must learn to “blog downhill”.

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Business Blog Posts are Made for Biting the Bullet

bullet points in blogsIt seems content writers either love or absolutely abhor those little dots.

Jon of Presentation Advisors, for example, is antipathetic towards bullet points in PowerPoint presentations.  When we use bullets, we tend to lump ideas together on the same slide without giving any one of those ideas a chance to shine, he says.

Myself, I’m kind of partial to bullet points, and from what I’ve been told, Google and the other search engines like them, too.  In fact, as I actually stress in corporate blogging training sessions, lists and bullet points are generally a good fit for blogs; they help keep readers – and writers – on track.

“The aim of bullet points is to break complicated information down into digestible form or to highlight the main elements of a story, the Reuters Handbook of Journalism explains. Bullet points work in many story formats, Reuters adds, including briefs, updates, wrapups, interviews, and market reports.

Reuters offers several important guidelines for using bullet points:

  • Bullet points must be succinct, in the active voice and in the present tense
  • The minimum number of bullet points is two, the maximum five
  • They cannot exceed one line (about 10 words) in length

Lynn Goertner-Johnston’s Business Writing blog teaches how to punctuate bullet points:

Use a period after every bullet point that is a sentence.
Use no punctuation after bullets that are not sentences.
Use either all full sentences or all fragments, not a mixture.

Sometimes bullet points complete a stem, and then there should be a period after each one, Goertner-Johnson goes on to give an example of how a “stem” works.

I like living in Seattle because of its:

  •  access to work opportunities.
  • moderate climate.
  • liberal politics.

(None of the three bullets is a sentence in itself, yet we use a period for each because it completes the original sentence.)

What about using numbers in place of bullet points? Cypress’ Catherine Hibbard explains that using numbers in place of bullet points would imply an order of importance; with bullet points, all items have equal value.  Hibbard recommends beginning each bullet with an action word where that’s appropriate, but in all cases making tenses and verbs consistent.

One bullet point “compromise” I’ve found very useful is inserting a longer explanation after each point. That way, I am giving the individual items a “chance to shine”, while still taking advantage of the organizational simplicity of the bullet points.

For example, in this bullet-pointed list of Three Tips to Remember in Revamping Your Resume, J.P Hansen  gives three 2-3 word pieces of advice, all in directive (command) form, but then explains each in a longer sentence:

  • Explain, don’t list.  Write three full sentences about your current or previous job with three to five bullet points highlighting your achievements.
  • Limit activities. List just two hobbies to showcase your interests without seeming preoccupied.
  • Use active language. Opt for strong, positive verbs like sold, earned, and developed.

Business blog posts are naturals for “biting the bullet”!

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Blogging for Business B2B or B2C – the Basics Remain the Same

Earlier this week, I discussed personal, “Can’t-Leave-the-House-Without-It” – type blog content writing, inviting readers’ personal involvement in the subject. The question is: does that very personalized type of content work as well in business-to-business marketing?

Is business-to-business marketing really different from business-to-consumer? Masterful Marketing.com’s  blogger Debra Murphy certainly thinks so, listing at least four key differences:

  • B2B has a longer sales cycle
  • B2B is multi-step selling
  • B2B depends on awareness-building educational activities
  • B2B buyers make more “rational” decisions based on business value

As more and more businesses are beginning to call on Say It For You to help them get their message out to business buyers, I don’t perceive that the differences between B2B and B2C are all that great. After all, the process involved for the provider of products and services is the same – understanding your target market, bringing readers to the website, engaging them, and converting them into buyers. The basics remain the same – building trust and offering valuable information.

If anything, the longer and multi-step sales cycle in business-to-business blogging makes the frequent posting of new and relevant content even more important to the marketing effort. Also, in the case of  business-to-business blog writing, the blog content itself needs to contain opinion and insight, not only information and products. Our readers need even more from business blogs than competitive pricing and expertise, I’m convinced. In addition to valuable subject matter, but we must offer guidance in processing that material.

That People Magazine personal interview format could definitely be adapted for B2B online marketing, inviting readers to “complete the sentences”, recalling their own business’ experiences and their own needs.

What is it that your company should “not leave the office/plant/workplace without”?

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Can’t-Leave-the-House-Without Blogging for Business

can't leave without it blogging for business
It’s been five years now, but I still often think about that People Magazine Style and Beauty Extra with the article about staying “gorgeous at any age”. (Okay, I have a growing personal interest in that subject, but it also fits in with my ongoing efforts to help business owners and professionals use blog content writing explain what they do and how and why they do it.)

What caught my blog trainer’s eye in that magazine issue was the write-up of an interview with actress and businesswoman Jessica Alba, revealing her beauty secrets. The interviewee was asked to complete sentences such as:

  • I can’t leave the house without….
  • I’m really good at….
  • I learned to love….
  • My beauty trick is….
  • I first wore makeup when

I particularly liked that format because it’s so personal – a real person is filling in real details about “I” and “my”. As a reader, I started asking myself the same questions:  What can’t I leave the house without? What did I learn to love?

“‘Often personal examples go hand in hand with the use of the personal pronoun “I”,” explains Brandon Royal in The Little Red Writing Book. “Do not be afraid to use this pronoun; it’s personal and specific. Readers appreciate knowing how a situation relates to the writer in terms of his or her personal experience.”

Even more important, the statement-completion format invites readers to complete their own sentences, putting themselves “in the picture”, and recalling their own experiences – and their own needs. That People Magazine article, I thought, had a social media-like sharing “feel” Of course, the products and services being discussed (cosmetics) were of a personal nature. But in promotional content writing on any topic, as vividimage points out, people-focused stories bring more content-sharing opportunities.

Get your blog readers to ask themselves which of your products and services they shouldn’t be “leaving home without”!

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“Working the Room” by Blogging for Business

Just one of the ”49 secrets and shortcuts you need to know” asserts author Geoffrey James in Business Without the Bullsh*t, is how to “work a room”.  As you circulate among the crowd, hoping to build connections, James says, position yourself in a single sentence.”

Rather than giving your own job title or history, “provide a description of the benefits your customers, investors, or employers get as the result of buying from, investing in, or hiring you.,” he advises. Include an intriguing fact, he adds.

That idea of positioning oneself casually, yet precisely is perfectly suited to business blog content writing, I teach at Say it For You.  But, unlike the undifferentiated crowd at the gathering Geoffrey James described, readers find themselves on your blog because their search has already indicated a tie-in with what you have, what you do, and what you know. The task now is to make clear to those visitors

a) how you differ from your competitors

b) what a transaction with you looks like

c) what the end goal is.

By definition, blog visitors are ready for the second stage of “working the room” , involving people who have already shown preliminary interest.

“Casually reveal one of two facts about yourself that show how you’re different from the competition in a way that might be interesting or essential to that person’s company“, James says. “Working the room”, when it comes to business blogs, would ideally have involved doing preliminary market research to understanding the “pain points” and “points of interest” for target readers. That research, which is the blog writer’s version of James’ directive to “be curious about people you meet”, then allows you to choose an “anecdote” that resonates with your target reader.  Here’s one of the samples the author offers:

“At MIT I created a study that revealed how retail sales clerks can use
past purchases to help customers take advantage of what’s available
now in the store.”

Blogging- without- the- bullsh*t posts, as we see them at Say it For You, are the results of skillfully “working the room”!

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Cool Doesn’t Sell in Blogging for Business

enthusiasm in blogging“Cool doesn’t sell. A chilly professionalism doesn’t make much of an impression.  It is immediately forgotten, along with the idea you are promoting,” authors Steve Chandler and Scott Richardson declare in the book 100 ways to Motivate Others. The way to be enthusiastic is to act enthusiastic, Chandler and Richardson assure business managers.

The most effective way to position yourself in the market as a thought leader in this digital age, Rhiza Oyos claims, is to blog:

  1. Clients prefer to be informed and entertained. If you want your business to prosper, you need to publish valuable content.
  2. Publishing timely content on a regular basis requires you to do research on the latest trends and news in your field.
  3. Communication feels more personal when your customers know that you’re directly addressing their problems and concerns.

But how do you “act” enthusiastic in writing blog content? Well, first, be human.  Let you hair down. “People connect with people, and “your digital marketing strategy is begging for the human connection to make your content stand out from all the marketing ‘noise’,“ Kathy Heil writes in businss2community.com.

Ray Anthony and Barbara Boyd wrote Innovative Presentations for Dummies to help speakers get their audiences committed and acting upon their requests. They recommend:

  • Relating personal anecdotes and memorable stories
  • Conveying enthusiasm about the process or product, demonstrating that what you’re really selling are solutions to problems.

    Enthusiasm is contagious.  If your content shows you’re excited about your idea, your solution, your product, your service, readers will get excited. No doubt about it – enthusiasm sells. And, when it comes to blogging for business, enthusiasm spreads – to searchers, search engines, and right back home to YOU!

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Blog About What It Takes

Until I read “10 Things About Britain” in Mental Floss Magazine, I had never dreamed that, in order to become a certified taxi operator in London, drivers must study up for an extraordinarily difficult exam that involves detailed recall of 25,000 streets, along with the locations of clubs, hospitals, hotels, parks, theaters, schools, restaurants, government buildings and churches.

This article, I realized, makes a very important point about blog content writing for business, reminding me that online visitors searching for a product or a service typically have no idea what it takes to do what you do and how much effort you put into acquiring all that the expertise, which you are now going to use for their benefit.

I absolutely love the opening line of the “10 Things About Britain” piece:

“Cabbies are smarter than Google Maps.”

Blogging about the benefits readers will reap through using your products and services is not a matter of waving your credentials around or showing off – (OK, it is, in a way). But, in today’s click-it-yourself, do-it-yourself world, your content writing needs to demonstrate to online searchers that, in your field, you ARE smarter than Google Maps, or eHow, or Wikipedia.  What’s more, your corporate blogging for business must make clear, you’re a lot more caring of your customers!

 

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Varying the Voice in Your Business Blog

“Your greatest tool as a speaker is your voice,” cautions Toastmasters International. “When you speak, your voice is the primary link between you and your listeners. It is the medium of your message.” In fiction, the term “voice” describes the author’s style, the quality that makes his or her writing unique, conveying the author’s attitude, personality, and character

“Finding a voice for your social media marketing can be difficult,” observes Kevan Lee in Buffer Social. Voice is not a statistic you can track or a design element you can tweak, Lee points out. What “voice” is, he posits is your brand personality, which might be lively, positive, cynical, or professional. Voice helps you create content that is sensitive to and resonates with your audience, adds Lauren Pope of gathercontent.com.

In your business blog, while viewers are reading, not hearing the voice, it’s important to have “voice variety”. That can come from writing some of the content in I-you format, with other posts written in third person. If a company person or a customer is being interviewed, the can be written in the “voice” of the interviewee or that of the interviewer.

“Third person narratives so often mimic the ‘beige voice’ of an objective reporter,” William Cane says in Write Like the Masters. With first person, he advises, “it’s usually easier to be intimate, unique, and quirky.”

No one communication style is best. What is effective is varying the voice in your business blog posts!

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Go Ahead – Write Blog Content About “Un-related” Topics!

unrelated topics

 

“Be generous. Be informative. Be funny. Be inspiring. Be all the characteristics you enjoy in other human beings,” says Gary Vaynerchuk in Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, a book about ”telling your story in a noisy social world”. From a marketing standpoint, the author explains, content writing can be about not just your brand, but about related topics.  You can even talk about un-related topics, the author says. Jabs can be anything that helps set up your commercial “ask”.

“No one wants to be interrupted (with banner ads and popups), and no one wants to be sold to.  Your story needs to move people’s spirits and build their goodwill, so that when you finally do ask them to buy from you, they feel like you’ve given them so much, it would be almost rude to refuse,” Vaynerchuk advises.

Visitors arrive at your blog to find information on specific topics.  But, once your opening lines have reassured them they’ve come to the right place, it’s a great idea to use some unlikely connections, even unrelated but fascinating tidbits of information to give readers a sense of being ahead of the crowd, having some unusual “inside information” or amusing tidbits to share with friends.

Getting personal is a huge element in the success of a blog for any business or practice Sure, Indianapolis blog content writers must focus on personal anecdotes and on the personal values of the business owners and of the people delivering professional services. But, to give the blog that needed extra boost, the content can reflect current happenings and concerns and topics trending on social media.

“Jabs” are nothing more than marketing “touches”, ways to establish connection between you and the reader. The trick, of course, is keeping up the flow of content. When I found that the biggest fear business owners have when it comes to maintaining a company blog was running out of ideas, I came up with the concept of tidbits.

Tidbits are interesting, little-known facts. While at first the tidbit appears to be unrelated to the business or practice, it can be used to explain the company’s products, services, and expertise.

An HVAC company, for example, could share the story from Mental Floss magazine of how, when President Garfield was shot and lay dying in the White House, inventors rushed forward with devices they hoped would help, using a contraption to blow air over a box of ice into a series of tin pipes, eventually using a half-million pounds of ice.

Jab, jab, jab, even about seemingly unrelated topics, Vaynerchuk explains, working up to that big “Right Hook” ask!

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Jabbing and Dee-jaying it for Blog Content Writers

blog jabs

 

“It isn’t about breaking the news or spreading information – it’s about dee-jaying it,” says Gary Vaynerchuk in Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, a book about ”telling your story in a noisy social world”. From a marketing standpoint, the author explains, news has little value on its own, but the marketer who can skillfully spin, interpret, and remix it in his or her own signature style can often tell a story that is more powerful and memorable than the actual news itself.

In Vaynerchuk’s metaphor, jabs are the content you put out, and the right hook is the “ask” – for the sale or for a donation. The right hook sells and self-promotes, but the jabs engage readers and trigger an emotional response, Tanner Hunt comments on Vaynerchuk’s book.

The thing about blog content writing, we’ve learned at Say It For You, is that your stuff might be high-quality and informative and still not have any measurable effect if it lacks emotion. But can “emotional” blog marketing be effective in B2 situations? Yes, yes, yes! Remember that computers don’t make the buying decisions; there’s always a person involved, and, by definition, a person has feelings.

What Vaynerchuk calls “remixing” I refer to as putting your own spin on the information. There is no lack of sources for readers to be “told” information; you want to “show” readers, using examples that are more unique and vivid, fact-based , but not focused on the facts.

Long before getting to the “right hook”, bloggers for business need to go beyond providing information and become “thought drivers”. Whether it’s business-to-business blog writing or business-to-consumer blog writing, the content itself needs to use opinion to clarify what differentiates that business, that professional practice, or that organization from its peers. In other words, blog posts will go from information-dispensing to offering the business owner’s (or the professional’s, or the organizational executive’s) unique perspective on issues related to the search topic.

A deejay, remember, is a very special type of performer, someone who does so much more than play tracks from a playlist.  The deejay answers questions and calls, offering comments and “slant” on the selections being played. Over time, listeners come to trust the deejay and value his/her advice.

Blog marketing isn’t about breaking the news or spreading information – it’s about jabbing and dee-jaying it.

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The 9 Types of Essays You Meet in the Blogosphere

9 types of essays in blogs

“Your college compositions will like take one of the following formats, ”Quick Access” authors advise students. The same list of 9 might apply to us business blog content writers, I couldn’t help thinking.

1.  Illustration essay – “Just as in a visual illustration, a written illustration shows the reader something or illustrates a point.” Beginning with a startling statistic is certainly one tactic blog writers can use to bring a point to the forefront of readers’ minds, then illustrating that point with specific examples.

2.  Narrative essay – A narrative is any type of story, and good ones should contain some dialogue and sensory details. Stories of all kinds – case studies, customer testimonials, famous incidents from the news, Hollywood, folklore – you name it) help personalize your blog post.

3.  Descriptive essay – The writer creates a picture for the reader, using close observation. Basic information about your business, material you’ve presented again and again in earlier business blog posts, can assume new power when you relate that content to different sounds, sights, or smells.

4.  Process essay – This essay explains how something happened or how something works.  There’s no end to the technical information available to consumers on the Internet, but as business blog content writers, we can help readers absorb, buy into, and use that information. How-to blog posts engage readers while establishing business owners and practitioners as knowledgeable in their fields. It might well be that, teaching is the new selling!

5.  Definition essay – A word or term is defined by using examples, descriptions, comparisons, or contrasts. Sometimes, in corporate blogging training, I ask writers to make zany comparisons: Online searchers almost certainly lack expert knowledge in your field. That makes it difficult for them to judge if your prices are fair, how experienced you are relative to your peers, and where you “place” in the big “scheme” of products and services.

6.  Comparison-contrast essay – The writer explains the similarities and differences between two things. Compare-and-contrast is one of several structures we blog writers can use to help customers and prospects derive the greatest use out of the information we’re presenting. Use what they know, comparing your ”new” solution to traditional “old” solutions to the problem your company solves. Compare unfamiliar things to things with which readers are already comfortable.

7.  Classification essay – The writer puts things into groups of related objects, with the purpose being to break down larger groups of things into smaller components. Collecting information from different sources and organizing that information so that it is more understandable to our readers plays a big part in creating value through a blog.

8.  Cause and effect essay – A cause is the reason why something happens – the effect is the result of that cause. Consumers reading a blog post are not trained in whatever the company’s specialty is, and could understandably misunderstand the significance of the data presented, and the advice and the intent behind it. Clarifying the best way to address certain problems is one important function of business blogs.

9.  Persuasive essay – The writer is trying to convince the reader that his or her own opinion is valid. In blogs, you want to be perceived as a Subject Matter Expert offering usable information and insights rather than as a salesperson. The blog content itself constitutes a persuasive Call to Action! 

Are you using all the 9 essays as you  create content for the blogosphere?

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The Long and the Short of Business Blog Writing

“So which is better for you: long or short content?” Rob Marsh asks on copyhackers.com.

The short of it as per Forbes.com: “Write short, pithy posts.  After 750 words – or sometimes after only half that – you risk losing your readers’ attention”.

The long of it as per Buffer:  “Posts longer than 2,500 words received more than twice the social shares of posts less than 2,500 words long.”

But, forget long vs. short. What do people actually read? March asks. An easy way to “fatten up” your thin content is to make it longer, but should you, he wonders. In other words, what do human beings prefer?  According to the Medium.com data lab, the optimal posts take the average reader seven minutes to read.

To succeed with longer content, you have to use your WORDS, March cautions.

W –well researched, with examples and case studies
There’s a privilege to blogging, I always tell content writers, and that privilege comes with a duty we have to offer usable, high-quality, well-researched content, presented in quality fashion.  Our online readers have a right to expect no less.

O – outstanding, triggering an emotional response.
At Say It For You, I tell blog content writers that one reason I prefer first and second person writing in business blog posts over third person “reporting” is that I believe people tend to buy when they see themselves in the picture and when can they relate emotionally to the person bringing them the message.

R – regularly posted
Recency and frequency are crucial. Once-in-a-while blogging just doesn’t do the trick, even if it’s high-quality stuff.  To satisfy a search engine, your blog material must be updated frequently, and I mean very frequently.  It seems that when it comes to blogging for business, search engines are saying, “Never mind what you’ve done. What have you done for me lately?”

D – designed to encourage reading
A scannable, easy-on-the-eye layout, with subheads, bolding, graphics, and paragraph breaks ,keeps readers’ attention.

S – substantive – important and covering the subject in depth
Blog posts that demonstrate a high degree of expertise backed by solid research, plus a very high degree of focus, give readers a sense that paying attention longer is “worthwhile”.

Smaller Targets, Better Hits in Blogging for Business

So which is better for you? At Say it For You, my own motto over the years has been this:

Make blog posts as long as they need to be to get the point across, but not a single sentence longer!

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Shedding Shame in Business Blog Marketing

blog marketing

 

Have you ever asked someone to “pardon your tartle?” Tartle is actually the Scottish term for the kind of “brain freeze” you get while introducing someone because you’ve forgotten their name.” Helping readers avoid (and, if necessary, deal with) awkward and embarrassing situations is one valuable service business owners and practitioners can offer through their blog content.

“A learning culture (in an organization) is often open to employees failing, considering it a part of growth,” writes Bill Howatt in theglobeandmail.com. In blog content writing, it’s important to reassure readers that they have come to the right place to arm themselves with the information they need to perform well, but that on the other hand, they are not expected to do things perfectly right “out of.the gate”. Your products, your services, and your advice will help them get the job done and avoid the faux pas they fear.

“The web is one big network of advice,” writes Rebecca Haden in Haden Interactive. “After all, she says, “people come online either to play or to get information”. There’s a difference between valuable information and a diagnosis, Haden cautions, particularly when it comes to medical information online. Yet modern consumers like to be informed and they will go online for it, and you’d like them to find that information at your website rather than elsewhere, she observes.

“We are constantly on the lookout to see what other people think about us. When we think that people are evaluating us negatively, our sense of self takes a huge hit,” a study by John Jay College professor Joshua Clegg showed. By showing that you’re able to handle the discomfort and move on, you will minimize the effect on the way others view you, Clegg advises.

“Tips and tricks to…..” are popular with blog readers, making them feel “armed” and prepared to handle the situation. In fact, one point I’ve consistently stressed in these Say It For You blog content writing tutorials is how important it is to provide valuable information to readers, while avoiding any hint of “hard sell”.  Well, providing tips and helpful hints may very well be the perfect tactic for accomplishing that very goal. Readers who feel empowered to “shed shame” and cope with awkward situations are readers who are likely to feel loyal. 

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Business Blog Marketing – Explaining When the Cows Come Home

old sayings in blog content

When exactly do “the cows come home”? And who was the first person to “steal someone’s thunder?” Who would ever put a cat in a bag? Writing in Reader’s Digest, Jacopo Della Quercia shares the history of several colorful expressions that are part of the English language, but which have “lost the connection to their delightful origins”.

For us business blog content writers, “delightful origins: can be a tool for livening up blog posts designed to market a business or a professional practice. In fact, I teach at Say It For You, history has an important place in blogs. “History-of-our-company” background stories have a humanizing effect, engaging readers and creating feelings of empathy for business owners or practitioners who overcame adversity or at least extricated themselves from a “pickle”.

What’s more, I have a pet theory about the kind of trivia Della Quercia is presenting in the Reader’s Digest piece: I think our curiosity is most intense when we’re testing our own knowledge. We’ve all heard the colorful English expressions he’s talking about, we all use them, but now that he’s brought them up, we realize we have no idea where they came from.

It’s fascinating to realize that cows were often milked in their barns at night, making that task one of the last ones on a farmer’s list. People used to sell piglets tied in bags, but a shady dealer might swap the piglet for a less expensive animal, such as a cat. 18th century dramatist invented a device to simulate the sound of thunder for his plays – and a rival dramatist copied the method for a production of Macbeth.

From a blog marketing standpoint, the expression “the cold shoulder”, which might have originally meant serving a guest a cold shoulder of mutton (an inexpensive, undesirable dish) to get rid of him, could be incorporated into a blog on etiquette – or on fashion (“cold shoulders” are all the rage). The expression “Till the cows come home” could be used in a message about a provider’s prompt service. Several of the other sayings Della Quercia mentions can also be useful – I can see “Blood is thicker than water” being used in a blog post about estate planning or business succession planning.

Della Quercia writes about “the surprising sources of great sayings’> As writers, we need to be on constant alert for surprising sources of great blog content!

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Business Blog Title Threesomes

 

A couple of years ago at Say It For You, I began calling attention to the idea of using certain literary devices in business blog titles with an eye to making them more “catchy”.  In addition to alliteration, a second creative writing technique is “threesomes”. The same Fortune magazine that used those ten alliterative titles I named in my last post also had at least two good examples of the Power of Three:

  1. Introducing MUFG Bank – trusted, global, seamless
  2. Right place, right fit, right now (WorldBusinessChicago.com)
  3. “Real Reliable”, “Real Service”, and “Real Pride” (parts of an advertorial series about the Stihl Company)Like alliteration, The Rule of Three is a language device. We’re all familiar with these examples in which three related words or points presented in quick succession for literary effect:
  •  “Friends, Romans, countrymen”
  •  “I came, I saw, I conquered”
  •  “Of the people, by the people, for the people”

Things that come in threes are more persuasive, Moodle explains. Since we process information using patterns, threesomes make content more memorable.

Some more modern examples include:

  •  Stop, look and listen
  • The good, the bad and the ugly
  • The Olympic motto Faster, Higher, Stronger.

“It’s no accident that the number three is pervasive throughout some of our greatest stories, fairy tales, and myths,” writes Brian Clark of Copyblogger.com. the combination of pattern and brevity results in memorable content, which is why three bullet points are more effective than two or four, Clark adds.

Blog posts, I teach at Say It For You, have a distinct advantage over the more static website copy. Each post can have a razor-sharp focus on just one story, one idea, one aspect of your business, and call for a single action. The single topic focus, though, can be supported by three points.

Alliteration, according to Hubspot, makes text “lovelier to read.”In business blog content writing, threesomes might not add “loveliness”, but they do tend to leave an impression!

 

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Business Blog Title Tongue-Twisting on Purpose

alliteration

 

Remember the two old tongue-twisters “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers” and “She sells seashells by the seashore”? Those two sentences are actually extreme examples of a creative writing technique called alliteration, in which you repeat the same letter or sound at the start of nearby words.

A couple of years ago at Say It For You, I began calling attention to the idea of using alliteration in business blog titles with an eye to making them more “catchy”. You see, it’s one thing to write great content, and quite another to get it read and ranked, as Corey Wainright of Hubspot reminds us.

Apparently, alliteration is a good idea not only for blog posts, but for magazine content as well. The other day, reading through this month’s issue of Fortune, I noticed many examples of alliteration in article titles:

Turning Travel Time into Quality Time is about private aviation company Wheels Up.
Critical Condition is a piece about a “botched acquisition by Pfizer”.
How to Connect with Tomorrow’s Customer is a piece about a “botched acquisition by Pfizer”.
Facebook’s Fix-It Team is about the company’s efforts to purge hate speech and criminal activity from its site.
Make Your Business “Sense” Smarter and More Self-Aware is about microelectronic sensors.
An article about Mattel is titled Barbie’s Diversity Dance.
A congressman from California is pushing an Internet Bill of Rights; the write-up is titled Man in the Middle.
An ad for Botox® is headed The Details Make the Difference.
The toy company Bird is featured in a piece called America’s Scooter Showdown.

“It is important to note that alliteration is about the sounds of words, not the letters; therefore, the letters “k” and “c” can be used alliteratively (as in  kitchen and cookie), as well as the letters “s” and “c” (as in sparkle and  cycle),” ereadingworksheets.com explains.  The words don’t need to be directly next to each other in the sentence or stanza to be considered alliterative, the website explains, but a good guideline to follow is whether you can detect the repetition of sound when you read the line aloud.

“Have some fun with alliteration,” Hubspot advises in “Foolproof Formula.” Why? “It’s a device that makes something a little lovelier to read, and that can have a subtle but strong impact on your reader.” Making a subtle but strong impact on readers? That’s precisely what our work at Say It For You is all about!

 

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Take Blog Readers to Where You Want Them to Be

guiding blog readers

More data in business blog posts may not be the best way to persuade readers and to overcome skepticism, Jeremy Porter Communications teaches, because “those who make the most emotionally persuasive arguments win.”

Both this week’s Say It For You posts are focused on Jeremy Porter’s “Nine ways to create an emotional connection”. On Tuesday we covered the first three; here are the remaining six:

Tell a story
“Stories are memorable, easily shared, and inspire action.” Successful content writing for blogs is all about the power of story, I’ve found over the years. In fact, one big, big part of providing business blogging assistance is helping business owners formulate stories.

Use metaphor
Metaphors can make a speech interesting and memorable, Porter teachers, using as an example the one used by Martin Luther King said that “America has given the Negro people a bad check…But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.” In a business blog, even though the overall topic is the same, there is endless variety that can be used to make each blog post special. One technique is usuing metaphor to make an unusual comparison between two things.

Visuals
“Support your speech with photos or video.” While the story line is paramount in blogging for business, 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.

Get the delivery right
“It’s important that your tone, volume, and speed of delivery matches the moment.” It’s true that Porter is coaching speakers, but the same lessons apply to us business bloggers. The “facts” about the business or practice, I teach Indiana blog writers, must be translated into relational, emotional terms that compel reaction in readers.

Words matter
“Have a thesaurus handy and be ready to swap words that don’t pack enough punch, or pack too much punch. Do you want to say pain or agony? Sad or devastated?” One of the many delights of my work as professional ghost blogger derives from the discovery of “word tidbits” in other people’s writing. A really good word tidbit hits you smack between the eyes; in just a couple of words, it conveys an entire situation.

Use rhetorical devices
The Rule of Three makes a message easier to remember: The iPad2 was “thinner, lighter, and faster”; Abraham Lincoln spoke of a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
In business blogging, I recommend a razor-sharp focus on just ONE story, one idea, or one aspect of a business, a practice, or an organization (other aspects can be addressed in later posts). But the “rule of three” still applies, in that you use three examples or three details that support the main idea of that blog post.

The lesson we business blog content writers can take from the Porter Nine: in writing business blog posts, more data may not be the best way to persuade – logical arguments are important, but appealing to readers’ emotion will win the day!

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Emotion in Business Blog Posts – When Facts are Not Enough

business blogging with emotion rather than facts

In writing business blog posts, giving them more data may not be the best way to persuade and to overcome skepticism. That’s a lesson Science News editor-in-chief Nancy Shute needed to learn. One of the first inclinations of scientists and journalists, Shute observed, was to shower skeptics with facts, sure those skeptics would “get it” when it came to, say, climate warming or the efficacy of vaccinating children.

As counter-intuitive as that may be, Shute warns, it’s time for scientists to learn how to connect with people with different views. Why? “The fear of solutions may be greater than the fear of impacts” and being bombarded with facts can make people dig in even more. People tend to seek out evidence that supports their own world view. In short, emotion trumps fact.

When it comes to climate change, for example, scientist and professor Katherine Hayhoe first provides stories that are deeply researched and fact-checked, but then offers together-we-can-fix-this messages of hope.

In blog marketing’s two horse race, as Jeremy Porter Communications teaches, “those who make the most emotionally persuasive argument win.” The goal, Porter explains, is to create a connection with your audience that makes them receptive to your message. He names seven emotions and their opposites that marketers can tap into to get an audience “from where they are to where you want them to be”:

  • anger/calmness
  • friendship/enmity
  • fear/confidence
  • shame/shamelessness
  • kindness/unkindness
  • pity or compassion/indignation
  • envy/emulation

When it comes to business-to-consumer blog marketing, each of these emotions can be tapped to give the facts you’re providing more “depth” and power. This week’s Say It For You posts will focus on Jeremy Porter’s “Nine ways to create an emotional connection”:

Be human
“Remove the metaphorical barriers between you and your audience.” In business blogging, one goal should be to present the business or practice as very personal rather than merely transactional. Remind them there are real life humans behind the scenes, providing the product or service.

Be authentic
Don’t put on an act. Don’t “lecture” your audience. Infuse a sense of humor into the content once in a while, and include photos of your team being themselves.

Use the right frame
A speaker on clean energy, Porter says, rather than warning and threatening about the dangers of too much carbon, might describe “opportunities for people in a clean energy economy”. In blog marketing, it pays to accentuate the positive, offering readers a vision of the results they can experience through using your products and services.

In writing business blog posts, more data may not be the best way to persuade!

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Business Blog Posts – the When and the Why Then

timing for posting blogs

 

“While planning your blogging strategy and schedule, you want to avoid busy times, when a lot of brands are posting to their blogs and there is increased competition for readers’ attention,” advises trackmaven.com. So, what is the best time to publish a business blog?

The question of timing is an important one – according to a recent report by MarketingProfs.com, 75-80% of marketers use blogging as part of their company’s content marketing strategy. In general, the most competitive day of the week to publish a post is Wednesday, with Sunday posts getting the most shares.

Writtent.com offers the following Rule of Thumb: Find the perfect balance of what you want and what your audience wants. Easier said than done, of course, but key questions to ask yourself, Writtent. adds, are whether you can keep that schedule consistently and publlish high-quality content at that frequency.

Of course, the best time to publish blog posts, Writtent.com concludes, varies by audience. If they are mostly business people, blogging on Saturday wouldn’t work well. As blog content writers for businesses and professional practices of many varieties, at Say it For You, we have come to realize the truth of that finding. (Our Say It For You blog is published every Tuesday and Thursday, first thing in the morning, and many of the subscribers “open” it very early in their business day.

Research continues apace on the when-and-why- then question about blog post publishing. Dan Zarrella of Hubspot aggregated millions of lines of data over three years, pinpointing three stats about when to publish blog posts:

  • For page views – Monday between 8 and 11 AM
  • For increased engagement – Saturday between 8 and 11 AM
  • For more Facebook shares – Friday, Saturday, and Sunday

The most important of the insights Zarella offers, in my humble opinion as a content writing trainer, is this one: “Increasing publishing frequency leads to more traffic and incoming links.”

 

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“Flesh Out” Business Blog Posts with Details

Business blog content writing can balance feature stories with news. News stories are time-sensitive, while feature articles might have the same impact whether they are read today or months from now.

When it comes to blog marketing, “news” can mean two entirely different things.  The first type centers around you and your company or your practice, including new products and services you’re offering, new employees you want to introduce, or your recent or upcoming activities in the community. (Of course, it’s important to present this news in a way that makes it clear why your readers would want to know about it.)

Then, there’s news related to your city, your country, even worldwide events, keeping your readers updated on “what’s-going-on-and-how-do-we-fit-in. 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 simply repeat what’s already been said, but to showcase your own expertise and experience, offering a new perspective on that very news item.

I had reason to reflect on the concept of using community news in blogs as I attended the
500 Festival Memorial Service here in Indianapolis. From a business blog writer’s point of view, the web page about the service is a very good example of content that is detailed, informative, and which contains an implied Call To Action (spurring readers to attend the event).

There is a hyperlink from the article to the webpage of In.gov that shows a picture and offers detailed information about the War Memorial itself. In the same way, business blog posts can link to landing pages on the business’ or the practice’s website.

The article includes plenty of detail, explaining the terms Cortege (military funeral procession) and Caparisoned (riderless) Horse, and demystifying the symbolic meanings of the reverse Cavalry boots in the horse’s stirrups and of the Army Saber attached to the saddle. “Examples and details are the very things people remember long after reading a piece,” states Brandon Royal in The Little Red Writing Book, and I emphasize to Indianapolis blog writers the importance of.”fleshing out” their content with visual detail.

Business blog writing can balance feature stories with news, but for maximum impact, put “flesh” on the facts with details!

 

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Does Your Business Blog Offer Advice That Sticks?

 

blog advice that sticks

“Helping people do sensible things with their money is just as hard as getting people to do the right things for their health,” Moira Somers tells financial advisers in the Journal of Financial Planning. Financial planners’ advice, she believes, is too often unskillfully given. (As business blog content writers, I wondered, are we falling into that same trap?)

The field of adherence research, Somers points out, has led to a revamping of medical education. What would make it easier for patients to do the right thing? In financial planning, she adds, advisers “contribute mightily” to the problem of advice being ignored. Key advice-giving “sins” she names include:

  • using incomprehensible jargon
  • disregarding the emotional side of the client experience
  • acting as though the prospect lives in a social vacuum
  • failing to plan for “non-adherence”
  • dominating meetings by talking too much
  • take a judgment-laden stance towards clients

Valuable to-dos we promotional business writing professionals can glean from this article:

  1. Make all content as free of professional jargon and specialized lingo as possible.
  2. Aim for shorter “meetings” (break technical information into bite-sized pieces).
  3. Do not assume understanding of critical points. Offer anecdotes and focused testimonials to prospects can really “see” the advantages of what we offer.
  4. Make it clear that we have an understanding of our target readership’s needs.
  5. Project warmth, showing our “human side”.
  6. Use clear typeface, bullet points and bolding to draw attention to important points.
  7. Suggest questions readers can ask themselves while choosing among options.

    It matters where on the page we put our Calls to Action in each blog post. I often remind business bloggers to provide several options to readers, including “read more”, “take a survey”, “comment”, or “subscribe. On websites with no e-commerce options, of course, “Contact” is the ultimate reader “compliance” step

“Does your advice stick?“ Moira Somers asks financial planners. “Learn strategies for giving advice that clients will follow,” she concludes.

Does your business blog offer advice that sticks?

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Blogging to Help Make Them or Save Them Money

blogging to save them money

“Before we write a single post, we ask ourselves, ‘Does this help our readers make or save money?’” says Kathleen Garvin, editor and marketing strategist for finance blog The Penny Hoarder. “That’s key for us. We’re content creators, but we only want to publish a story if we think it’s truly helpful or interesting for our readers.”

“When developing content, keep in mind the three E’s of content: Educate, Entertain and Engage,” writes Dennis Wakeman of the Social Media Examiner.

Teaching is, in fact, a large part of what we blog content writers do. How does the product or the process work? How can the business owner or professional practitioner solve the problem?

In the broadest sense of the word, entertaining is part of the job for blog writers. No, you needn’t become a comedian, but unusual anecdotes, tips, trends, and tidbits help keep readers on site.

Getting people to actually connect with you and participate in the conversation is much harder than it looks, Wakeman admits. He suggests using polls and very specifically asking for comments. Whenever somebody actually clicks on a link, takes a poll, or posts a comment, he explains, that brings them closer to becoming a client or customer.

So what about helping readers make and save money? The personal finance blog Squawkfox.com was voted #1 blog in Canada, because it’s full of tips on de-cluttering, cutting spending, and staying within a budget. (In training career mentees, I would coach them, both on their resume and in the job interview, to tell their prospective employer how, in their summer jobs, they had saved their employer money, time, and hassle.) Similarly, at Say It For You, I teach writers to make the content about them, not about you and your business or practice!

So what about helping your own business or practice make money? Your call to action should point readers to the next point in the sales funnel, says ProBlogger. You might ask web visitors to subscribe to your newsletter or sign up for a free webinar so you can turn them into paying customers in the future

In blog content marketing, it’s all about helping readers make and save money!

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What-Do-You-Want-To-Own Blogging for Business

 

In an interview with a top investment strategist, the reporter from Barron’s posed many of the questions that have become standard for that type of encounter: “Why are you still bullish?” “What do you see as the biggest risk in this market?” “What are the ramifications of more money in passive strategies?” “Which sector is the most crowded?”

As a blog content writer,I have to admit that I found one of the reporter’s questions the most impactful. Why? The reporter said “you”: What do YOU want to own at this stage of the bull market? (“OK,” was my gut reaction as a reader. “Now we’re getting down to the heart of the matter; what is she doing with her own money?”)

Marketing blogs, I firmly believe, tend to be most effective when they are at their most conversational and most personal. Blogger John Haydon runs a bootcamp about “narrative voice”, and recommends using second person (“you” and “your”) in corporate blogging for business to provide useful information to readers and give those readers the feeling that the author is speaking directly to them.

There’s more to the “what do-you-want-to-own thing than having content writers understand and speaking directly to their audiences, believe. The Barron’s reporter wanted the interviewee to commit, not merely offer advice. The question demanded an “I would” answer.

Nobody likes guys or gals who can speak of nothing but themselves, their skills, and their products, you know, the “But-enough- about-you” types.  Yet, as a corporate blogging trainer, I stress the importance of first person business blog writing because of its one enormous advantage – it shows the people behind the posts.

Imagine that every visitor to your blog is asking you a question that demands an answer beginning with the words “I would” or “We would.” Try What-do-we-want-to-own blogging for business!

 

 

 

 

 

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For Further Explanation, Bring in the Cockpit Crew

personal opinionShould fliers be forced to watch the safety video? Most definitely, writes George Hobica in USA Today. Whenever there’s been an emergency on a plane, we see videos of passengers doing the wrong things, such as escaping a crash landing carry luggage and not wearing shoes, or not knowing how to put on oxygen masks, he reminds us.

As a blog content writer and trainer occupied full time with getting people to read the content my team prepares for our clients, I was highly interested in Hobica’s take on the subject. His premise: If the videos explained the reasons behind the instructions they give, then people would listen more.

For instance, Hobica suggests, the exhortation to “place the mask over your mouth and nose” could be changed to “Place the mask over both your nose and mouth because otherwise you won’t get enough oxygen and you’ll pass out.” In other words, he’s saying, tell why your audience should follow your advice.

Acknowledging that “the longer the video lasts, the more passengers will tune out,” Hobica suggests that just one fine point be explained in person by one of the cockpit crew just before takeoff:

“Folks, this is your first officer.  Before takeoff, I’d like to remind you that in the
event of an emergency evacuation, it’s imperative that you leave all belongs in
the overhead bin or under the seat.  Do not bring them with you.  Doing so could
cause death or injury to other passengers.”

From a business blog content writing standpoint, there’s more than one lesson to be gained from Hobica’s observations:

  • The interview format can be very useful in creating blog posts that are more compelling in many cases than the typical narrative text. The blog writer serves as “reporter”, eliciting direct remarks from the business owner, key employer, or practitioner.
  • Attempting to cover too much ground in a single blog post, we lose focus and strain readers’ attention span. Other things to cover? Save those for later posts.

The takeaways for blog content writers? Explain your reasons for your recommendation or advice.  Then, for further explanation, bring in the cockpit crew!

 

 

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In Blogging and in the Air, a Bit of Explanation Goes a Long Way

explanations in blogging“Although many frequent fliers think they know what to do in an emergency, in fact most probably haven’t listened to the safety videos in years and if you quizzed them about the content, they’d flunk,” writes George Hobica in USA Today.

The basic content of safety videos, Hobica explains, is established by the International Civil Aviation Organization, with room for additional advice at each airline’s discretion. It’s all super-important content, he says, because whenever there’s been an emergency on a plane, we see footage of passengers doing the wrong things – escaping a crash landing carrying luggage and not wearing shoes, or not knowing how to put on an oxygen masks, for example.

So what can be done to get passengers to watch the videos? (As a blog content writer and trainer who’s occupied with getting people to read the content we prepare, I was really interested in what Hobica would have to say on the subject.)

“I truly believe that if the videos explained the reasons behind the instructions they give, then people would listen more,” he says. “For instance, the exhortation to ‘place the mask over your mouth and nose’ could be changed to ‘place the mask over both your nose and mouth, because otherwise you won’t get enough oxygen and you’ll pass out'”.

Blogger Michel Fortin says he’s a big fan of reasons-why advertising. “Good, successful copy,” Fortin adds, “tells the reader why right up front.” (If you don’t, he warns, they’re left wondering why you left that information out.) Why are you highlighting a certain topic now? Why is the solution you’re proposing particularly relevant for this reader?

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If They Don’t “Get” Annie, They Won’t Buy the Gun

allusions

“Imagine,” LitCharts.com writes, “if every time someone used the expression “it was a real Cinderella story,” they had to retell the entire story of Cinderella to explain exactly what they meant.” By using an allusion to something a majority of people will already know, you can clarify your own message – provided they DO know what you mean.

Around six years ago, the Indianapolis Star ran a story about an auction at which items title of the piece was “Annie Get Your Checkbook”, referring to the movie and Broadway show “Annie Get Your Gun.”  As it happened, I recognized the allusion immediately, but as a blog content writer and trainer, I had to wonder how many other readers would have “gotten” the point. That’s the thing about allusions, I tell writers – they need to be handled with caution.

“Use pop culture references sparingly,” cautions Joanne Brooks of Helium.com, offering two main reasons why:

  1. You want your work to have relevance several years from now.
  2. Pop culture references can delay reading and cause you to lose your audience.

On the other hand, the last thing you want is to be ho-hum and b-o-o-r-ing,so there are reasons to consider popular culture references. For one thing, as Neda Ulaby noted on National Public Radio, even if only a minority among in your audience understand your allusion, they are going to feel like really special insiders and be bonded to you.

The Blocabulary blog points out that allusions can:

  • help people see unique connections between two ideas
  • help readers better understand the subject
  • be surprising and funny

My own observation, based on working with Say It For You blogging clients from many different industries and professions, is that it’s a challenge to find the precise style of communication that will best connect with target readers. While this is especially true in business-to-consumer blog content writing, even with suppliers and distributors, you want to avoid anything that is a barrier to understanding.

Going back to my original example of the IndyStar auction promo, in business blog copy writing, it’s a simple equation: If they don’t “get” Annie, they won’t buy the gun!

 

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In Blog Marketing, Look for a Plot

plot in blogging

 

“Don’t look for a plot here. This is a polemic,” are the words a reviewer in the Mensa Bulletin uses to describe J.K Hillstrom’s book, A Humanitarian’s Fantasy. The book is a more like a series of lectures, the reviewer complains, rather than a coherent, sequential piece of prose.

Individual business blog posts may appear to be non-sequential, separate pieces of writing rather than parts of a coherent whole. Yet a small business owner’s or professional practitioner’s blogging efforts can have an effect on marketing results that is disproportionately larger than might seem possible from mere short, informal selections. The power comes from the “plot”.  

Whenever I’m sitting down with new Say It For You business owner clients as they’re preparing to launch a blog for their company or practice, I find that one important step is to select one to five recurring – and related – themes that will appear and reappear over time in their blog posts. The themes may be reflected in the keyword phrases they are going to use to help drive search, but themes are broader in scope than just key words.

The variety in their blog is going to come from the details we will be filling in around those central themes, different ways the company’s products can be helpful, different valuable tidbits of information or how-to tips, plus specific examples of how the company helped solve various problems.

The unifying themes in a business blog are the beliefs of, and the unique “slant” of, the business owner or professional practitioner. Those “leitmotifs”  help the separate blog posts fit together into an ongoing business blog marketing strategy.

In blog marketing, look for the plot!

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Business Blogs – Inviting Buyers into Your Own Walled Garden

blogging for business

 

“Perhaps the world has moved past the idea of merely having a webpage that’s your own, and nobody else’s. Perhaps we’re expected to do everything, instead, on social media or in someone else’s walled garden,” muses Ernie Smith, editor of Tedium, in response to the question “Is blogging dead?” Maybe, when blogging was on the rise, Smith says, we needed an onramp to the information superhighway, a starting place in a culture where many people chose to both consume and create in equal measures. Smith prefers to think that blogging is very much still alive, but that we’re not using that term to describe our actions.

“There will always be a market for good content,” says “Redditor” William Pitcher. “What is gone are the days you could post what sandwich you had for lunch and have people read it because of the novelty.”

What about the studies showing that as many as 60% of social links are shared without ever  being clicked? The truth is, you still need those blog posts for the audience that does read and does care, says Dave Choate of rakacreative.com.

“Think about it: if you have a website and are putting out content on it, you are blogging,” says Gary Vaynerchuk. Blogging has simply morphed into a much broader category in which the attention graph has shifted.  Social networks are where you meet readers to direct them to your blog page. Don’t abandon the traditional blogging format, Vaynerchuk advises; instead test like crazy on social media to get people to click over to the website content.

Personal blogs offer something that social sites will never have, Vaynerchuk says – the fact is that you control the platform; you decide the amount and frequency of content output.  In a world of “rented:” social media space, that’s valuable, he explains.

As a freelance copywriter providing corporate blogging training, I’m finding the same thing. Businesses  are continuing – and more are beginning –  to use blogs to get their message out to business buyers.  The concept is the same as for personal blogs – bring readers to your website in order to convert them into buyers.

In the early days of Say It For You, I remember, Seth Godin was writing about cat blogs, boss blogs, and viral blogs. The “cats” were personal and idiosyncratic. The boss blogs were written to share ideas with team members. It was the viral blog category my professional ghost writing business was designed to serve. What each of my business clients is interested in remains the same: spreading the word about what they know, what they know how to do, and what they sell.  In other words, I help invite buyers into my clients’ very own walled gardens!

 

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Worm Your Way Into Readers’ Hearts with Business Blogs

 

The Tatoeba Project, which helps foreign students by translating from a foreign language into their own native language, has a lot to say about worms. Examples provided include sentences such as:

  • Tom put a worm on the hook.
  • Worms are sometimes beneficial to soil.

Even more interesting are these sentences:

  • Tom opened a can of worms.
  • The early bird gets the worm.
  • Tom seldom reads an editorial and is not a bookworm.

As blog content writers in Indiana, the basic tool we use to bring our business owner clients’ message to their prospects and customers is – language. True, the majority of our targeted readers might be U.S. born and bred, but some of the “lingo” we sling about so casually – in our effort to write “engaging” copy – well, it might need explaining.

English idioms, the FluentU blog explains, are groups of words which have a meaning which isn’t obvious from looking at the individual words.  “They’re used so often in everyday English,” the authors explain, “that if you don’t know them, it’s almost impossible to understand the context.”  FluentU offers a number of examples:

  • to hit the books
  • to hit the sack
  • to twist someone’s arm
  • to be up in the air
  • to stab someone in the back
  • to lose your touch
  • to sit tight
  • to pitch in
  • to face the music
  • to be on the ball
  • to be under the weather
  • to blow off steam
  • to cut to the chase

In blog marketing, the right words can make a big, big difference in what we like to call “the sales cycle” (itself an idiom!).  When it comes to lingo and industry jargon, we can literally “arm” readers by sharing – and explaining – the buzzwords.  That feeling of knowing the “inside scoop” allows prospects to feel in control and in a better position to make buying decisions with confidence.

Worm your way into blog readers’ hearts!

 

20 Essential English Idioms for Sounding Like a Native

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Business Blog Readers’ Fourth Drive

blog reader curiosity

 

One of the many things we don’t understand is this: What is interestingness? observe John Lloyd and John Mitchinson in the Book of General Ignorance. What we do know, the authors tell us, is that, while we humans have the same three primal drives as animals (food, sex, and shelter), it’s the fourth drive which makes us uniquely human – curiosity.

Appealing to blog readers’ fourth drive is certainly one secret to success in content writing.  Arousing curiosity through blog titles and through the opening lines of blog posts has proven to be a winning tactic. Why is that? For one thing, we like completion and balance.  Put a question out there and we are driven to find the answer, Lloyd and Mitchinson explain.  “What’s the name of the tallest mountain in the world?”  Most of us are quick to answer: Mt. Everest. But no, measured from the seabed, it’s Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii. Everest is the highest, but not the tallest.

Curiosity explains why readers enjoy juicy gossip tidbits about sports and movie stars, even personal details about the lives of famous people from the past.  Curiosity explains the interest readers have in how stuff works in the world and how things came to be. And, yes, (as I always stress in corporate blogging training sessions), by definition of their having found your blog, readers have curiosity about some aspect of your profession or business. What my own experience has taught me is that readers are most curious about themselves, how they “work” and the limits of their own knowledge and their own physical capabilities. I believe that’s why magazine “quizzes” are so hard to resist.

Unlike novelists or even reporters, we blog content writers can’t afford to be enigmatic in the name of arousing curiosity, since it’s essential for us to assure readers that they’ve come to the right place to find the information that brought them online to find answers. Five times as many people read headlines as read the body copy, “Father of Advertising” David Ogilby taught. If the headline doesn’t do the trick, even if we appeal to searchers’ general curiosity, the danger is they’ll bounce away from our site before we get to share our thoughts!

In the preface to their book, Lloyd and Mitchinson may have unwittingly hit upon the business blog writers’ solution.  “The human brain is the most complex single object in the cosmos….what are we supposed to do with all that astonishing computing power? We think we know the answer – ask more questions.”

Appealing to blog readers’ fourth drive may be one secret to success in content marketing!

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Blog Two Viewpoints to Make Your Point

 

viewpoints in blogging

To promote my Say It For You content writing business, I became involved in various networking groups. Invited to make a presentation one day on the subject of asking for referrals, I chose to present not one point of view about referrals, but two…

Viewpoint #1:

  • Referrals build business; the more you ask for referrals, the more you’ll get.
  • Asking for referrals represents a small effort with a big reward.
  • According to the Wharton School of business, referral customers have a 16% higher lifetime value.
  • When you are referred by a trusted source, you gain “reflected trust”.

Viewpoint #2:

  • Asking for referrals feels “pushy” and “sales-ey”.
  • Real referrals aren’t made on request; they grow naturally out of satisfied customers wanting to have their friends enjoy the same benefits you’ve given them.
  • Requests for referrals are often ill-timed and poorly perceived (“Who do you know that could use my product/service?”)

Now, blogging for business, you’d have to say, is not an argumentative pursuit.  Still, your company’s – or your practice’s  – blog is your way of “arguing” in favor of your point of view relating to your industry or profession as compared with opposing viewpoints.

In the book Blogging for Business, Ted Demopoulis suggests referring to other online resources, listing different viewpoints and tips from others, and then clarifying your own position. “There are four different views on giving children an allowance” is more welcoming, he suggests, than “There is one right way to giving children an allowance”.

By offering more than one point of view, we blog writers can actually showcase our knowledge of thought trends related to our field, while at the same time clarifying our own special expertise and slant.

Blog two – or more – viewpoints to make your own point!

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Two Important Blogging Beginnings – Anecdotes and Questions

introductions in blogging

“The opening paragraph, or introduction, of your essay is key,” the Research & Education Association’s QuickAccess laminated writing guide advises. The guide suggests two “methods you can use to hook the reader”:

  1. Anecdote – a story that illustrates your point
  2. Question – establish a reason to keep reading (to find the answer)

“The introduction should include both your thesis statement and some background information about your topic,” QuickAccess continues.

In business blog content writing, anecdotes serve to keep the material fresh. While the message may be one that you’ve delivered in your blog many times before, adding a new story to illustrate the point makes the material seem brand new. Emotional appeal is what makes readers take action, and anecdotes give “heart” to the information. You may be selling a product or a service, but what you’re really selling is a solution to a problem readers are facing. The story makes that solution come alive.

Another way to state the importance of harnessing the power of storytelling in business blogs is this:  Use more examples; make fewer claims; “showing, not crowing”, will get you a lot farther in blog content writing.

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

You can use a customer question as a headline, then use the post to answer that question. Specifically, the question in the title or in the opening line “grabs” readers, demonstrating what they can expect to find in the blog post, and showing that you understand the dilemmas they’re facing and how to solve those!

Ask a question you know will catch their eye.  You can even add in a layer a curiosity, copywriter Amy Harrison suggests, by following your question with “The answer might just surprise you….”.

Anecdotes and questions – two important “Ones” in the one-two punch of blog content writing.  The “two”? All the valuable and interesting answers those readers were hoping to find.

 

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Build the Thesis Ahead of the Blog

thesis building in blogs

“Before you begin writing an essay or writing a research paper,” the Research & Education Association’s QuickAccess laminated writing guide advises, “draft a working thesis statement.”

That’s great advice for students, even better advice for business blog content writers, I believe.  It’s advice too often neglected, I find, with the operative work being “before”.

The thesis statement should contain two parts, REA explains:

  1. the subject of the essay
  2. your opinion on the subject

As an example of a weak thesis, REA offers this: “High school dropout rates are increasing.”

What’s wrong with it?  Lacks an opinion and is too general.  A stronger version, the guide suggests, would read:  “Because higher education is needed more than ever before in order for members of today’s workforce to be successful, the rising high school dropout rate is harmful to society.”

For business blog writing, though, that second version is far from ideal – too wordy, for one, and lacks “pow”. Two shorter, related sentences might create more impact: Here’s my version:

“Our kids are dropping out of high school; to staff our workplaces, we need to give our education system two major tweaks.”

Writing with impact, as REA is correctly telling students, requires thinking. And not just any thinking – it takes pre-thinking and planning. Composing an effective college essay is serious business; composing an effective marketing blog post IS business. Sure, our blogs may state a business owner’s or practitioner’s case in less formal, more conversational style than essays, but preparing a working thesis statement forces writers to focus, which translates into impact.

Just as REA teaches, the thesis statement should contain two parts:

  1. the subject (ONE main idea, ONE aspect of the business or practice)
  2. the opinion (a slant or unique value proposition, the answer to the online searcher’s questions – Why should I do this now? Why should I choose you?)

Build the thesis ahead of the blog!

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Bloggers – Avoid the 5 Big Mistakes Advisors Make

marketing blogs like newspaper interviews

“When dealing with the media, there are five common mistakes that financial advisors tend to make, “ writes Sally Cates in Financial Planning Magazine. “I should know,” Cates remarks (for 25 years, she’s been helping advisors have discussions with reporters).

I should know, too. As a now-retired financial planning practitioner who trains blog content writers, the mistakes Cates mentions are the same ones I often notice in business blogs.  Although reporters are not our business owner or practitioner clients’ target readers, we writers need to avoid committing the same “doozies” Cates lists:

Too general a message
“Reporters like examples, case studies, interesting details, and fascinating client situations,” Cates coaches advisers.  (Blog readers find those details and case studies engaging.)

TMI (too much information)
Don’t provide too much technical detail, Cates tells the advisors.  “Your article shouldn’t require a law degree to decipher.” Use true stories to highlight the mechanics.

Over-sharing
Don’t vent about prior firms or share resentments about co-workers or job conditions, Cates cautions. In similar vein, I caution blog content writers to avoid bashing competitors, focusing on their own strengths.

Delayed response
Reporters work on tight deadlines, so call them back promptly, Cates tells advisors.  The equivalent in the blogosphere is allowing too much time to elapse between posting.  Frequency and regularity earn “Brownie points” from both readers and search engines.

Being disorganized
Prepare talking points for each interview, Cates says, including data to support the points you want to make. Business bloggers need to curate – and property attribute – materials from different sources to support the points and add value for readers.

We should all know these things, of course, but Sally Cates’ piece is a good reminder to avoid those 5 big interview/marketing mistakes!

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Eye-Catching Titles for Business Blogs

blog titles that are eye-catching

 

While the February issue of Science News Magazine had great examples of statement titles followed by explanatory statements, last November’s issue of Science News was a treasure chest of eye-catching and tantalizing titles – you just had to read those articles to find out what they were all about!

In business blog content writing, of course, we don’t have the luxury of using “mysterious” titles, since the “spiders” (search engine algorithms) will be matching the phrases used in our titles with the terms typed into readers’ search bars. The trick is to use keyword phrases while still catching the eye!

One option is to include the “Oh!” part of your title in the meta tag description, which is the blurb of information that shows up beneath your clickable website address on search engine results pages.)

You wouldn’t know it, but the article “Lumpy Space” is about matter in the universe clumping together due to the pull of gravity.  “Big Moves” is about how Asian nomadic herders build new Bronze Age Cultures. “Robot doesn’t stop at flying” is enticing, but with few clues as to the content about a new insect-inspired flying machine used for search-and-rescue operations. “Faux cells could treat diabetes” is a much more of an informative title.

Among all those titles in the Science News Magazine issue, it was easy to choose my favorite:   “Ewe look familiar”. The “meta description”: Trained sheep have advanced face-processing abilities similar to those of humans, researchers have found.

Although I’m using a science magazine as an example, truth is, composing business blog post titles involves a combination of art and science ; reaching readers and, at the same time, satisfying search engines takes an elusive combination of narrative skill and business practicality. 

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Statement Titles for Business Blogs

 

blog post title ideas

Leafing through some Science News Magazine issues, I realized their writers are fond of using statement titles followed by explanatory statements, sort of like the “Huh? Oh!” titles I often use in writing business blog posts. The “Huh?s” are there to startle and capture interest, but the “Oh!’”s are needed to match up with the terms searchers used.

  • “Slow Childbirth Can Be Normal” is attention-getting, for example, but the explanation in the subtitle is needed to a) make the author’s intention clear and b) have search engines match the article with readers searching for information about caesarian sections surgery: “Rethinking labor could lead to fewer unnecessary C-sections”.
  • “Life had a chance in Earth’s infancy” is curiosity-stimulating, but the intention of the article is made clear in the subtitle, “Asteroid barrage didn’t leave plant sterile, scientists claim.”
  • The title “Magnetic Knots” gives almost no clue to the subject of the article, and we need the “Oh!” subtitle: “Swirls called skyrmions could transform data storage.”

In business blog content writing, there are different ways these “Huh?”/”Oh!” pairs can be used to accomplish the twin goals of stimulating curiosity and interest and improving SEO rankings. From an SEO standpoint, of course, we content writers don’t have the luxury of using very long titles, since the “spiders” will use only a certain number of characters for ranking. Still, the beauty of the “Huh?” is that it’s a grabber.

We might need to say “Forgo the C-Section: Slow Childbirth Can Be Normal”, with the rest of the explanatory material going into the opening lines of the post itself.

One option is to include the “Oh!” part of your title in the meta tag description, the information that
describes your page to search engines.  (The meta is the blurb that shows up beneath your
clickable website address on search engine results pages.)

It was easy to choose my favorite among the titles in that Science News Magazine issue:  “Ewe look familiar”. The meta description: Trained sheep have advanced face-processing abilities similar to those of humans, researchers have found.

No, I don’t believe search engine algorithms would have matched “Ewe look familiar” to “face recognition ability”. But putting just a little “Oh!” in that “Huh?” might be just the recipe for getting that fascinating blog post about the face-recognizing sheep “found”.

 

 

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Business Blog Openers That Wait to Reveal

blog writing

Yes, as I emphasized in an earlier post this week, opening lines are key in blogging for business. Why not, I suggested, use the opening sentence to make your thesis clear along with your topic? In other words, searchers should be assured not only that they’ve clicked on the right link to get information on the topic they typed into the search bar, but get a preview of your slant on the subject.

“To drive quality traffic to your site, you must think like a publisher,” content marketer Rustin Banks observes.  One model Banks suggests online content writers should copy from print journalism is the inverted pyramid structure, beginning with a broad thesis, getting more specific as you get further into the post.

But, of course, there’s more than one way to skin that thesis statement, as quickstudy.com explains to college students. And, of course, there are many different ways to approach what, in corporate blogging training sessions, I call the “pow opening line”.  And, while searchers must be assured they’ve come to the right site for the information they want, you don’t necessarily have to “show your slant” at the start of the post.

Show our slant we must, though. Blog posts, to be effective, can’t be just compilations of even very useful information we’ve aggregated. One thing I’ve learned over the years of creating blog content for dozens and dozens of clients in different industries and professions is that it is opinion that humanizes a blog and differentiates a business, professional practice, or organization from its peers.

We can wait to reveal, however. Shopify’s suggestions for blog templates, for example, include listicles, how-to posts, and storytelling posts. Listicles “round up” existing content such as “10 Interesting Indiana Foods to Try for Your next Pitch-in”. How-to posts tell ways to solve a problem, while storytelling posts offer interviews with customers, or experiments you’ve done.

Using any of these formats, we can explain what conclusions we’ve arrived at. Having set the stage, we can end with our opinions, putting our own unique slant on best practices in our field.

 

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Opening Blog Lines Say Which Side You’re On

blogwriting tips

In blogging for business, I teach, opening lines are key. In fact, they’re key in all kinds of writing, as quickstudy.com’s “Writing Tips & Tricks” points out to college students.  Their thesis statement, Quick Study explains, will set the tone for their entire essay.

Now, the thesis statement of a blog post doesn’t necessarily need to come in the opening line, but in a recent Time Magazine issue, I found three very effective articles where the thesis is made clear in the very first line:

  • “Movies that were a lot of work to make shouldn’t be a lot of work to watch.”
  • “Vladimir Putin believes he’s destined to make Russia great again.  He has a long way to go.”
  • “Steven Soderbergh is one of those directors who can do anything – which doesn’t necessarily mean he should.”

In each of these articles, it’s clear to us as readers, from the author’s very first words, not only what topic will be under discussion, but on what side of the issue the author finds himself. In other words, we’re introduced to both topic and thesis straightaway.

As a business blog content writer, I like that.  And, were these three articles in fact blog posts, they would have obeyed the SEO rule of incorporating keyword phrases in their opening sentences, assuring readers who’d searched for information about movie reviews or about Russia that they’d come to the right place and inducing search engine algorithms to make that match.  I like that the author’s slant on the subject is clear as well as the topic.

In blog marketing, the reality is that readers have their choice of providers for whatever product, service, or information they’re seeking.  Our job, as I tell newbie blog content writers, is to help those readers make sense out of the absolutely oceanic online “library” of information available to them. Showing what our own choices have been (in terms of the way we’ve chosen to create or market a product, or in the way we’ve chosen to practice in our profession) helps them make choices.

Why not start out a blog post by making your thesis clear along with your topic? Let your opening line say what side of the “line” you’re on!

 

 

 

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Long-Tail Keyword Phrases in Blogging for Business

long tail keywords

 

 

To optimize your blog content, Lindsay Kolowich of Hubspot advises, focus on one or two long-tail keywords that match the intent of your ideal reader. In other words, optimization is not about incorporating as many keywords into your posts as possible (that actually hurts SEO), but about answering the intent of your visitors in a way that doesn’t feel unnatural or forced.

What are “long-tail keywords”? These longer phrases (three to four words), often question-based, focus on the specific goals of your audience. Website visitors searching long-tail terms, which are highly specific, Kolowich explains, are more likely to read the whole post and then seek more information from you.

In addition to using those keyword phrases in the content itself, there are certain other elements of a post in which you should try to include the keyword phrase or phrases you’ve chosen. :

Title
The headline of each post will be the first stop for both the search engine and the readers. The search engine will use the keyword(s) to determine the relevancy of your content to the search; the title tells readers they’ve come to the right place for the information they need. If you have a lengthy title, put your keyword near the beginning.

Meta description
On a Google page, for example, when you see an item, you’ll see the title in large blue/purple typeface (that’s the part you’d click on to be taken to the site), then under it the url address, and lastly a couple of brief lines explaining what you can expect to read in the post. It’s crucial, I explain to blog content writers, for you to use that meta description to “sell” readers on clicking there so they can read your content. Because the meta description has the power to satisfy certain readers’ intent, Kolowich emphasizes, the more engaging you can make it, the better.

Images’ alt text
Using images in your blog posts help explain your content and visually “perk it up”. But the images also offer an opportunity to incorporate those all-important keyword phrases as well.  Because search engines can’t “see” images the way humans can, Kolowich stresses, they use the alt text to tell them what the image is about.  It is worth the extra minute it takes, she says to change the name from “IMG23940” to “puppies-playing-in-basket”. It’s all the better, of course, if the description incorporates your keyword phrase.

Post content
Use keyword phrases multiple times in each post, first within the first 200 characters, several times throughout the post (depending on length of the post) and near the end, advises Susan Gunelius in abouttech.com.

The skill of choosing the right long-tail keywords to choose grows out of knowing your own business and knowing who your target customers are. What types of searchers is your business or your professional practice most likely to attract? How long is your blogging tail?

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Contrarian Content: Go Ahead – Blog to Differ

contrarian blogging

Whatever the conventional wisdom is, Brute Squad coach Ariel Jackson begs to differ. “In order to progress, we need to stop automatically accepting conventional wisdom as dogma and train ourselves to explore nuances and identify new approaches,” Jackson says.

There’s something very appealing and curiosity-stimulating about contrarian content, and, whether it’s business-to-business blog writing or business to consumer writing, being a contrarian has two effects:

  1. making readers sit up and take notice (This is not going to be same-old, same-old, readers realize.) 
  2. clarifying what differentiates your business or professional practice from its peers. (Again, why should we choose you if you’re serving up the same product and service as everyone else?)

On the issues relating to your field, what words should follow “I beg to differ”? When online readers find your blog, they want to know “Who lives here?” To be perceived as not only a provider, but an influencer, you need to formulate – and clearly state – your opinions!

Neen James explains the subtlety well in Speaker Magazine.  A Subject Matter Expert or SME, she explains, knows something, whereas a thought leader is known for something. Thought leaders know how to present ideas in ways that appeal to a marketplace craving direction and wanting solutions to problems. Those ideas, those opinions, often go against conventional wisdom, James adds.

“I hope I change some minds along the way, and I hope my mind is changed here or there,” Ariel Jackson says in his introductory blog posts. “What if I start my blog, writing strong opinion pieces and then later change my mind about the right way to do things?” is a fear one new blog content writing client expressed.

The way I answer that question is this: People are going to want to do business with someone who has something to say about the way they choose to operate within their world, offering strong recommendations and opinions in their blog.  People are going to LOVE doing business with a real person, someone who’s continuing to think about improving the way they operate and how to incorporate new knowledge and new developments..

Blog content writing is an absolutely wonderful way to express what you think and why you do things the way you do. It’s also the ideal vehicle to ride as you change and develop in your thinking as a business leader.  Go ahead – beg to differ (including with your own earlier ideas!).

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Smart and Humanizing Blogging About “Alumni”

 

In my last post I took inspiration from Nuvo editor Laura McPhee, who devoted an entire section of the paper to highlighting NUVO alumni, people who had worked at Nuvo, then departed for “better things”.

From my vantage point as a professional blog content writer, I thought McPhee’s idea was fabulously innovative. Sure, many company websites have a section called “Our Team”, with bios of their key employees, but I’d never seen feature articles about the “exes”, people who’d, after all, left the company because they wanted a more promising work environment.

To me, blogs are often the humanizing members of the online communications family, making a company or practice relatable, by introducing the readers to the people behind the brand. And, of course, nothing can be more ”humanizing“ than  stories about real humans, even if they are no longer involved in making your products or providing your professional services. Those alumni are part of your company’s history, and, to the extent you’ve kept in touch with your “alumni”, what a great thing it would be to let your readers know that your company or practice is a great place even to have been!

But what do you write about those “exes”? Nuvo came up with some great interview question, and you can use those as models for blog content:

  • What do you remember most about your time here?
  • How did your time at ______shape your career?
  • Got kids, life partners, or work projects you wanna brag about?
  • Is there a particular story you remember from the time you worked here?
  • How did working here influence the work you’re doing today?

Staying in touch with ex-employees can be a win-win situation, Kelly Services advises. “Clearly
When an employee leaves your company, maintaining and strengthening your relationship can add value for both parties.”

From a blog content writing point of view, staying in touch makes for smart and company-humanizing blog posts!

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Humanizing Your Company by Blogging About “Alumni”

“We have a lot to be proud of after 28 years of publishing a weekly newspaper,” Nuvo editor Laura McPhee wrote. One of the things McPhee is most proud of, she adds, is the NUVO alumni, people who worked at Nuvo, then went on to “better things”.

What a captivating notion, I thought, reading that section of the issue. Many company websites have a section called “Our Team”, with bios of their key employees.  But alumni, people who left you because they wanted a more promising work environment??? But what incredible blog content those stories would make, I couldn’t help thinking….

There was a time, Susan Milligan recalls (HR Magazine), when, leaving a job, you’d likely get a few hugs and a promise that you’ll be missed, but both employer and employee knew they’d likely never speak to each other again. Nowadays, though, Milligan notes, companies are treating ex-employees as “alumni” in the hopes that those people will think fondly about their previous employer.

Eventually, Hank Gilman, deputy managing editor of Fortune points out, new and/or better jobs will come along for your more talented people – or they’ll want to experience something else.
You just have to understand and hope that someday they’ll return, he says.

Since I work as a professional blog content writer, I’ve obviously needed to abandon most of my generational bias towards long, individually composed business letters and long phone conversations in favor of electronic marketing tools.  But there’s a reason I gravitated towards composing blogs rather than website copy.

In a way, blogs are the humanizing factor in the online communications family, making your company or practice relatable. The blogs are where you meet the people running the business or professional practice. And, of course, there’s nothing more ”humanizing“ than  stories about real humans, the ones making your products or and providing your professional service – or who, in the past, did those things.

At Say It For You, we definitely encourage clients to include “Who’s Who in our business/our office/our industry” blog posts. Apart from the typical “Our Team” landing page on your website, which introduces people by name with a brief bio, the blog would offer close-up[ views of the functions each person serves. And, if you’ve kept in touch with your “alumni”, what a great thing it would be to let your readers know you’ve kept in touch with them and their doings.  Makes your company or practice look like a great place to be – or even to have been!

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Business Blogging Tips Out of Consumer Reports Magazine – Part B

blogging tips

 

“My TV prompts me to do updates, but I often ignore the requests.  Is that bad?”  That question was the headline of an article in the March issue of Consumer Reports Magazine.

Think about that tactic for a moment as applied to blog marketing – using a customer question as a headline, then using the blog post content to answer that very question! Hardly new, that “Dear Abby” idea (in my former career, I used that very question answer format for 24 years in my weekly financial planning column).

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

Entrepreneur Magazine’s Ultimate Small Business Marketing Guide thinks that giving away information to get clients in just this way is a good idea: “By providing visitors with free and valuable information and services, you entice them to return to your web site often, and in doing so you increase the number of selling opportunities you have with each individual visitor.”

Specifically, the question in the title “grabs” readers, not only demonstrating what they can expect to find in the blog post, by showing that you understand the dilemmas they’re facing and how to solve those.

Question-answer is actually a very good format for presenting information to online readers. But there’s no need to wait until readers actually write in their questions. (Were all the Dear Abby questions actually sent in by readers?  Does it matter?) Every practitioner hears questions from clients; every business owner fields customer queries daily. Sharing some of those in blog posts reminds readers of challenges they face – and the solutions you have to offer!

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Business Blogging Tips Out of Consumer Reports Magazine – Part A

numbers in blog titles

2.8 billion.  That was the entire headline – “2.8 billion” of an article in the March issue of Consumer Reports Magazine. How could you not want to find out more?

The first paragraph of the article consisted of three very short sentences: “That’s how many robocalls – computer-generated calls – were sent to Americans in December 2017. Some are legitimate, such as surveys and political messages. But many are scammers using ‘spoofing’ software to masquerade as a company or even a government agency.”

As the owner of a professional blog content writing company, I’m always talking about the “pow” opening line. That’s the line that contains keyword phrases (important in SEO marketing blogs to reassure search engines they’ve made a good match and readers that they’ve come to the right blog.) The opening line is also the one that presents a question, a problem, a startling statistic, or a gutsy, challenging statement. The two-word Consumer Reports title is nothing if not gutsy.

The second reason the “2.8 billion” title is a brilliant tactic is that it’s a number. Numbers lend strength to a case. Statistics provide factual proof, by showing the extent of the problem (in the case of blogging, the problem your product or service helps solve!).

Using numbers in blogs is hardly a new concept. Business blogs are filled to the brim with statistics. In fact, one of the hottest trends in business blogging today is infographics, which is a way of presenting statistics in visually appealing form by combining numbers with graphic images.

Numbers grab attention and firm up facts. Where the words come in, though, is putting the statistics into perspective, so that readers are given the answer to their “So what?” and “So what’s in it for me?” questions.

About those robo-calls?  Consumer Reports follows up the “pow” number with three pieces of good advice: Block ‘em, Don’t answer them. Don’t engage.

What startling NUMBER could you use to grab readers’ attention before offering them good WORDS of wisdom?

 

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Steering Clear of Duplicate Content in Business Blogging

duplicate blog content

“Blogs are owned media.  Your blog content is yours,” Says Heidi Cohen of SocialMediaExaminer.com. But is it? “They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Yet, on the Internet, some people take this type of compliment way too far,” laments Nick Schafferhoff of torquemag.io, and “copied content runs rampant online.”

Schafferhoff’s referring to duplicate content.  Sure, parts of any blog writer’s content will always be based on what other people have written before, Schafferhoff concedes. But, when using information from someone else, create a link to them, he advises, even if you express the idea in your own words.

The technical problem duplicate content creates is that, when similar content is being shown on multiple URLs (web locations), it’s as if road signs are pointing in different directions for the same destination, Joost de Valk of yoast.com explains. The duplication is no problem for the readers, who are steered to the information they were seeking.  If it’s your content being duplicated, it’s your problem,         de Valk stresses, because that hurts your rankings. Since most duplicate content is caused by technical factors, your web developer can sometimes solve the problem, he says. (A canonical tag tells search engines that a specific url represents the master copy of a page, and using rel canonical prevents duplicate content from appearing on multiple urls.)

What about “rejuvenating” your old blog posts and reposting the new version?  Does that create duplicate content? It does, explains Gretchen Louise in “What Bloggers Need to Know about Duplicate Content”. If you publish a post that is a very close duplicate of another – even your own- Google might consider that content scraping, she says. Better to edit and refresh an old post rather than re-posting it. On WordPress, for example, Gretchen suggests, you can show “last updated” on the original post rather than “posted on…”.

According to the law, the moment a blog post is “created and fixed in a tangible form that is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or a device”, I assure business owners, that work receives copyright protection. Blog marketers do not need to register their blog or even attach a © symbol.

There are no official “laws” specific to providing the kind of fresh, relevant content that helps move your corporate blog higher in search rankings while continuing to engage readers’ interest. Remember, ideas are not copyrightable, and you are free to use someone else’s idea as a jumping-off point for your own expression, which means, of course, others enjoy the same freedom when it comes to your ideas!

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A Good Story Can Get Rid of the Business Blogging Blues

tangents

 

My friends from the MindTripping Show  thought a nice feel-good story would help get rid of mid-winter blues, and they were certainly right. Interesting thing, though. While the story they chose to share in their Mind Trip of the Month did change my negative perception of rats, the tale has little to do with the wonderful kind of mind-tripping and magic that are the hallmark of Christian and Katalina’s long-running show.

There’s a lesson here for us business blog content writers, I thought. In fact, I’ve found going off on “tangents” can serve a real purpose in business blog posts. The business blogging challenge is both simple and daunting: How can the content of a business blog stay relevant over long periods of time, without becoming repetitive and even tedious to both writer and readers?

True, it’s important for business blogs to stay on task and on topic, because the search engines help readers find your blog based on topic. On the other hand, there are compelling reasons for not being repetitive in blog posts:

Technical reason:  avoiding “duplicate content”.  Search engines tend to penalize rankings of sites that duplicate content that’s already in the blogosphere.

Common sense reason: avoiding staleness and continuing to engage readers.

OK, then, so, how do you keep talking, several times per week over periods of months and years, about essentially the same thing, without becoming either duplicative or stale? Answer: You go “orthogonal”, meaning you veer off-course.  On purpose. You come up with material that’s unusual and unexpected, given the nature of your business. My Say It For You blog, for example, is about business blogging.  So why, back ten years ago, did I blog about an advertisement for a piano? I was being orthogonal.

The Mind-Tripping Show hosts were being orthogonal, presenting the story about heroic rats trained to ferret out land mines in order to save human lives. Blog posts need to capture readers’ attention in precisely the same manner, by presenting examples and illustrations that don’t at first glance appear to relate to the subject at hand.

A good story can get rid of the business blogging blues!

 

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Practitioners Blog to be Viewed as SMEs

practitioners' blog

 

Mand training is an essential component of verbal behavior training for any individual who lacks this skill,” is the opener of an article on the website of the National Institutes of Health, discussing the treatment of children with autism.

“What are mands and why do we need to teach them?” is the title of an “advertorial” for the Applied Behavior Center for Autism published in the little Indy Kids’ Directory I picked up at the grocery store.

That entire page, I thought, helped “position” the professionals at the Applied Behavior Center as SMEs (pronounced “Smee-s”), or Subject Matter Experts. According to About.Com, “a Subject Matter Expert is an individual who understands a business process or area well enough to answer questions”.

“Provide valuable information to people who need it, and let word-of-mouth marketing do the rest.” 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. Nowhere is this more effective than for professional practitioners’ blog content.

“It takes a lot of time and consistency, but teaching things how to request things open up a whole new world for them, the Indy Kids’ Directory article explains. ”Once a child learns ‘I talk, I get’, it is likely their ability to communicate will increase.”

Even if readers are satisfied they have gotten value out of the article, they may or may not choose to follow the Call to Action.  In this case, program director Jen DeRocher is saying, “If your child isn’t currently a patient at the Applied Behavior Center for Autism and you’re interested in finding out more information, contact us today at…….

The one critique I might have of the DeRocher piece is that she does not make clear what  differentiates that practice from its peers (Are there any peers in Indianapolis?). Primarily, though, I think the article is very successful in conveying value, which is what every blog post must do. Whether or not readers of a practitioner blog convert to buyers, there must be information, skill enhancement, or a new way of looking at the topic.

Practitioners blog so that they can be viewed as SMEs!

 

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Question/Answer Blogging Benefits Readers and Bloggers

question-answer blog posts

 

The one-page advertorial in the February issue of Indy Kids’ Directory could serve as the perfect model for any professional practitioner’s blog post, I thought. The page is headed by a parent’s question: “My child is struggling with reading.  Could it be related to his speech difficulties?”

Yes, begins the answer. The speech pathologist, owner of Speech Connections, follows up by citing study results showing that as a group, preschoolers with speech sound disorders are at increased risk for reading disabilities and developmental dyslexia.

The rest of the page consists of a chart listing guidelines for speech sound development at each age.  For example, by age 1 ½, children typically develop the sounds P, M, H. B. and N, while the sounds “sh”, “ch”, and “z” may not be developed until  as late as age 8.

“The above chart is a general guideline,” the author cautions, following up with a gentle Call to Action: “If your child is not able to say sounds in his or her age range, then a consult with a speech-language pathologist is recommended.”

Entrepreneur Magazine’s Ultimate Small Business Marketing Guide thinks that giving away information to get clients in just this way is a good idea: “By providing visitors with free and valuable information and services, you entice them to return to your web site often, and in doing so you increase the number of selling opportunities you have with each individual visitor.”

Some business owners, I’ve found, are afraid that, if they share too much information about their field, clients won’t need to pay them to provide expertise! “Many advisers won’t share information with potential clients until they’ve been hired. But, by giving very useful information to parents about how to judge their children’s sound development, pathologist Boyer is establishing her own credibility.

A second concern 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. Think about it, though. That information about children’s speech development is highly useful and may galvanize parents into taking action on behalf of their own kids. “We have to sell ourselves to potential clients so that they choose to work with us rather than the competition, Steve Wamsley writes in his book Stop Selling And Do Something Valuable.

Question-answer information blogging can benefits both reads and bloggers!

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Business Blog Writing to Boost Readers’ Brains – and Your Own – Part B

helping blog readers remember

The deeper I delved into that delightful little book. Brain-Boosting Challenges, the more I realized how right I’ve been about the “training effect” of a business blog.  As you’re busy describing your accomplishments and reviewing the benefits of your products and services, you’re keeping them fresh in your own mind, constantly providing yourself with training about how to talk effectively about your business.

The many brain-boosting ideas and memory “hooks” the book offers hint at techniques business blog content writers can use, including this one:  “A useful technique when learning facts is to contrast them in some way.”  Compare-and-contrast is one of several structures we blog writers can use to help customers and prospects derive the greatest use out of the information we’re presenting. Use what they know, comparing your ”new” solution to traditional “old” solutions to the problem your company solves. Compare unfamiliar things to things with which readers are already comfortable.

“Chunking” is a memory device that binds sequential digits or words into groups. Telephone numbers, for example, are usually both written and pronounced in groups, the Brain-Boosting authors explain. Chunking is one way business bloggers can offering technical information in “chewable tablet form”, because it breaks down information into bite-sized pieces so the brain can more easily digest it. The “reverse” form of chunking is to take individual pieces of information and show how they are related, perhaps in ways readers hadn’t considered.

Bullet points represent a graphic way to organize information, and it seems content writers either love or absolutely abhor them.  Myself, I’m kind of partial to those little black dots as a way to keep readers’ attention on track. Like anything else, of course, bullet points can be overused, but they’re certainly visually attractive.

The idea, of course, when it comes to marketing a business or practice through blogging, is not to have the readers memorize your content, but to have them find it – and by association – you, memorable. If the writing style is clear and simple, triggering familiar associations in the readers’ minds, those memorable business blogs can improve their memories, and, quite possibly, your own bottom line!

 

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Business Blog Writing to Boost Readers’ Brains – and your Own

blog writing to boost memory

Turns out I was right about the “training effect” of a business blog. When you blog, I like to say, you verbalize the positive aspects of your business in a way that people can understand. You put your recent accomplishments down in words. You review the benefits of your products and services and keep them fresh in your mind. In other words, you are constantly providing yourself with training about how to talk effectively about your business.

“Learning to express yourself clearly and compactly is useful not just in terms of coming across well when speaking to others, but it also helps you to think with great clarity,” the Paragon Books Brain-Boosting Challenges explains.

“When we think we can remember a first letter but no more, there’s a good chance we’re actually correct,” the authors say. The first letter of a word is a critically important part of our ability to identify it.”  Two creative writing techniques that can make your blog post titles, as well as some of the text content, memorable and interesting are alliteration and assonance. Alliteration repeats the same consonant (Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers) or the same vowel sound (Honesty is the best policy).

“To help make a memory stronger, when you go back over the same material, it’s helpful to try presenting the content to yourself in a difference way to force yourself to think it through from a fresh angle.” Isn’t that precisely what business blogging is, continually approaching the same core topics from different angles?  What you can do with the blog is offer different kinds of information in different blog posts. Each time you post you’re pulling out just one of those attachments on your “Swiss army knife” and offering some valuable information or advice relating to just one aspect of your business.

As a blogging trainer, one concern I hear a lot from business owners or professional practitioners is that sooner or later, they’ll deplete their supply of ideas for blog posts. “I’ve already covered my products and services on my website – what else is left to say?” is the common thread in the questions I’m so often asked.

That’s when it’s important to remember the readers. Smart blog marketers know there are many subsets of every target market group, and that not every message will work on every person. At Say It For You, we realize online searchers need to know we’re thinking of them as individuals.

Repeating the same information in different forms is not only  good for your own memory – it helps your blog readers remember YOU!

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Can Business Blog Writing “Make the Man”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can business blog writing “make the man”?

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Business Bloggers Can be Authors of Defining Moments

bloggers as authors of defining moments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Business Blogging 2.0

business blogging

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Why-In-The-World Business Blogging

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Great Business Blog Stories Are Rarely Aimed at Everyone

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Blog Content Writers Take Lessons from the Past

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Specific insights offered by Kissmetrics include:

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

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

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

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

useful info in blogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Blog Marketing – Giving it Away to Get ‘Em

useful information

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

numbers in blogs

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

Words:

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

Numbers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Marketing a Professional Practice Through Business Blogs

practitioner blogging

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

curating content

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New Year Resolutions for Blog Content Writers

BLOG CONTENT

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A YEAR OF GREAT BLOGGING!

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Why “Blog” and “Glob” are Antigrams

blog/glob

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

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

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

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

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

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

The focus of a single blog post might be:

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

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

Don’t turn your blog into a glob!

 

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Add a Little “Why” to Your Business Blog Content

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

“Please Do Not Pour Water on the Sauna Rocks”

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

“Our system is not built for water.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Recovering and Recycling Business Blog Content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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People-to-People Blogging for Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

citations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Translation Blogging Can Translate Into Transactions

blogging vocabulary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Have Attitudes Changed About Price Point Blogging?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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What Blog Title Phrasing Doubles Your Click-through Rates?

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Musing About Blogging for Business and Being Human

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Amen to that.

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Business Blogging Takes Visitors Through Relationship-Building Meetings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Mitch Joel in “The End of Blogging”

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Premise-Based Blogging for Business

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

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

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

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

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

 

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“Ever-Wonder-Why” Blogging for Business

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

Trivia can be used in business blogs for:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Halloween Hints for Your Business Blog

blogging to answer questions

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Halloween, all!

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Having the Last Word in Your Business Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The-Truth-About Business Blog Titles

The Science of Exeercse

 

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

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

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

There were emotional “grabber” titles, such as:

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

There were how-to titles, including:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Remember the Golden Triangle in Blogging for Business

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember the golden triangle in blogging for business!

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Showing Them How Shows Them YOU In Blogging for Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

Showing them how to – shows them YOU!

 

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