Attract, Don’t Demand Attention with Stick Blog Content

Making messages deliver impact is, of course, “our thing” as business blog content writers, and this week’s Say It For You blog posts are devoted to sharing wisdom from Chip and Dan Heath’s book Made to Stick. 

We can’t succeed if our messages don’t break through the clutter to get people’s attention, the authors point out, and surprise gets our attention, Chip and Dan Heaths agree. Opening your blog post with a startling statistic can be a way to grab visitor’s attention, I often point out to writers, adding power and focus to posts, and showcasing your own knowledge and expertise.

“If you want your ideas to be stickier, you’ve got to break someone’s guessing machine and then fix it.” Gimmicky surprises can’t do that job; you must target an aspect of your audience’s thinking that relates to your own core message, the Heaths emphasize. To be satisfying, the surprise must be “post-dictable”, so that the next step becomes obvious to readers.

But we also can’t succeed if we can’t keep people’s attention, the authors caution. I agree. My experience as a blogger and as a blogging trainer – has shown me that statistics, even the startling sort, aren’t enough to create positive results for any business or practice. We need to search for sticky ideas that have the power to maintain our interest over time – and to propel action.

The authors offer specific steps to follow in crafting a message:

  1. Identify the central message you want to communicate.
  2. Figure out what is counterintuitive about the message. Why isn’t the result already happening naturally?
  3. Communicate the message in a way that “breaks the audience’s guessing machine”.
  4. Help them refine their “machine” with a solution.

    Item #1 on this list is the foundation. It’s advice writers too often forget; their blog content is often the worse for it. Each article, each blog post, I teach, should have a razor-sharp focus on just one story, one idea, one aspect of a business or practice.

Using the counterintuitive is an excellent tool for engaging interest. But in creating blog content, I add, look beyond the surprise. The risk content writers face is being perceived as “bait and switch” advertisers. The unlikely comparison must clarify issues, helping readers get the answers they came to find.

Attract attention with sticky blog content that gets and keeps people’s attention by offering solutions.


Blogging Who You Are

Ahead of the launch of its inaugural flight from Indianapolis to Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago, Spirit Airlines announced two new year-round flights coming to market this November.  Since Spirit is new to our airport, John Kirby, vice president of network planning, delivered some introductory remarks at the press conference:“We are a leisure airline, so we look for opportunities to enhance our leisure position in the marketplace.”

In training Say It For You business blog content writers, I can use this one sentence to talk about niches. A niche is all about serving a particular group of clients with a particular need, applying a solution to that need.  After all, that’s what we do as blog content writers – serve niche markets.  As writers, we define a narrow target audience made up of people who are already looking for products, information, and services relating to a particular need they have.  For our part, rather than presenting ourselves (or the clients who’ve hired us to write for them), as knowing a little about a lot of things, we demonstrate that the owners are uniquely informed – and passionate – about just one or two.

“When approaching a new market niche, it’s imperative to speak their language.  In other words, you should understand that market’s ‘hot buttons’ and be prepared to communicate with the target group as an understanding member – not an outsider,” advises Kim T. Gordon, writing in Entrepreneur Magazine. That advice is particularly applicable to business blogging, and that principle is part of the “Power of One” concept on which Say It For You was founded. “The more focused a blog is, the more successful it will be in converting prospects to clients and customers.

Spirit’s “We are a leisure airline” is a great example of “blogging who you are.” It relates to what I call the “training benefit” of blogging.  When you create and maintain a blog, you’re verbalizing the positive aspects of your business in a way people can understand.  You’re putting your accomplishments down in words. You’re reviewing the benefits of your products and services, keeping those fresh in your mind.  You reveal some of the early struggles that helped you forge your business beliefs.  In other words, the very act of blogging provides constant training on how to talk effective about your own business or practice.




Surprise-Laden Blog Post Titles

two part blog post titles


Blog post titles have a multifaceted job to do, arousing readers’ curiosity while still assuring them they’ve come to the right place. One compromise I’ve suggested to blog content writers is using a two-tiered title, combining a “Huh?” (to get attention) with an “Oh!” (to make clear what the post is actually going to be about).

The latest business book covers use this “compromise solution” all the time. Here are some samples of recently published titles (The main or “Huh?) title is shown in bold, with the “Oh!” subtitle below it):

When to Jump
If the Job you have isn’t the Job You Want

Do  Nothing
Discover the Power of Hands-Off Leadership

The Persuasion Code
How Neuromarketing Can Help You Persuade Anyone, Anywhere, Any Time

The Scientific Secret of Perfect Timing

How Non-conformists Move the World

The Culture Code
The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups

The Energy Bus
10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy

In This Together
How Successful Women Support Each Other in Work and Life

Unlike book publishers, we business blog content writers simply don’t have the option of using “mysterious” titles, since search engines will be will be matching the phrases used in our titles with the terms typed into readers’ search bars. So, just how can we get those keyword phrases in while still being enticingly enigmatic?

One possible way is including the “Oh!” part of our title in the meta tag description (the blurb of information that shows up beneath your clickable website address on search engine results pages).

Worth a try, anyway, with the idea being to pique readers’ curiosity and maintain the surprise, but meanwhile, giving the search engines the “advance scoop”.


They-Know-Why, You-Know-How Blog Marketing

Even if you’ve never smoked, there’s a lot to learn about blog marketing from the “Josh and Kayla know quitting is hard” TV commercial for NicoDerm CQ®, I was thinking just the other day.

Story power:
You may or may not ever have been addicted to nicotine, but as humans, we’ve always been addicted to stories, Alex Limberg writes in Stories, he explains, engage a deeper part of our brains than any logical explanation ever could. In the NicoDerm CQ® video, Kayla, leaving her dad’s hospital bedside to grab a smoke with Josh, realizes she needs to quit – she’s found her “why”.

People-based marketing is driving change across the U.S. advertising industry, reports Even if your blog is devoted to marketing product, focus the content on how people will experience using it. The NicoDerm CQ® commercial shows “real” smokers experiencing the “real” challenge of quitting in a “real” human hospital setting. In blogging for business, where face-to-screen is the closest blog content writers come to their prospects,  introducing people (both people working for the company and users of the product or service) can ignite the kind of personal connection that gets readers emotionally involved.

The “You know why, we know how” slogan is catchy, to be sure. More importantly, the tag line creates an emotional response. While advertising communicates a message about what a brand does, the way the message is conveyed has a greater influence on how likely consumers are to buy, David Brandt of Nielsen explains.  Ads that make people feel closer to a brand have a positive empathetic score.

Obviously, the Nicoderm CQ® ad is focused on a target market – viewers who are smokers, and smokers who know they need to quit.   In the same manner, business blogs must be targeted towards the specific type of customers you want and who will want to do business with you.  Everything about your blog should be tailor-made for that customer – the words you use, how technical you get, how sophisticated your approach, the title of each blog entry – all of it.

Advertising is “push marketing, while blogging is “pull marketing”, designed to attract searchers who have already identified their own need for a particular product or service. Those searchers already know why.What your blog content needs to demonstrate is this: you’ve done your homework and understand their “why”.  Your function is to furnish the “how”!


Two-Tiered Business Blog Titles

What’s “Into the Endgame” about? (How Parliament should weigh up the Brexit deal, of course.)
What about “Click to Download Teacher”? (Technology can help solve the problem of bad, absent teachers in poor-country schools.) “The New Abnormal”? (California faces the most destructive fire in its history). And “Drop It!”? (An argument about firearms will help to shape next year’s election.)

These and other two-tiered titles from this month’s issue of The Economist magazine can serve as a master tutorial for blog content writers. There are two types of titles, I’ve taught in workshops on business blog content writing. The “Huh?s” need sub-titles to make clear what the article is about, while the “Oh!’s” are self-explanatory. With one important purpose of marketing blogs being to  attract online shoppers, blog post titles are a crucial element in the process. That means that catchy and engaging as a title might be, it won’t serve the purpose if the words in the title don’t match up with the ones searchers used.

That’s the reason two-tiered titles use two layers. The first-tier “Huh?” startles and arouses curiosity.  The “Oh!” sub-title then serves to clarify what the focus of the content will be.  (No, this is not a bait-and-switch play, but more like a bait-and-focus one)

Which brings me to meta-tags, which are 160 character snippets of text that describe a page’s content; the meta tags don’t appear on the page itself, as explains, but readers can see them on the search engine page. In addition to being scanned by search engines, those little content descriptors help readers decide whether they want to click to read the content. The snippet serves as a preview of the “Oh!” portion of your blog post title.

For example, underneath the actual link, a searcher would see this snippet: “6 days ago – Britain and the European Union Into the Brexit endgame. How Parliament should weigh up the Brexit deal. Print edition | Leaders. Nov 15th”.

“The New Abnormal” – Huh? “Oh!” It’s about the California fire. In writing engaging business blog content, try using two-tiered titles.