DORIS Research, I learned in the Indianapolis Business Journal, uses design thinking to organize workplaces. As a blog content writer and trainer, I particularly liked two suggestions DORIS founder Samantha Julka offers for being “more designerly”
1. “Spend time thinking about people. Think about how they would react or feel about the action you are making or the thing you are creating.”
This statement reminds me of a statement I found in a West Bend Insurance promotional piece: “Much like beauty, ‘value’ is in the eye of the beholder.” Because of that truth, success in blog marketing is knowing your particular audience and thinking about how they (not the average person, but specifically “they*) would probably react or feel about your approach to the subject.at hand.
For example, while you may point out that your product or service can do something your competitors can’t, that particular “advantage” may or may not be what your audience is likely to value. Are you the cheapest (is that likely to appeal to your audience?) or the most expensive (is your audience on that prizes exclusivity?)
2. “Simple is smart. Making something simple for other people is actually much harder than making something complex…When it feels effortless to them, you’ve done your job.”
There is actually a Simplicity Score for writers, based on the idea that average sentence length is a good indicator of text difficulty. In preparing blog content, simple can be the smarter choice. There’s a caveat, though, we maintain at Say it For You. Given the limited attention spans of online readers, we may need to compromise between interesting and simple.
On the keeping-it-simple side, content writers can dump qualifiers (extraneous adverbs and adjectives), while at the same time, using repetition of key phrases to build “blog muscle”.
To be effective, let’s try to be more designerly in our blogging!
Blog post titles have two seemingly contradicting jobs to do – arousing readers’ curiosity while still assuring them they’ve come to the right place, I’ve often explained to blog content writers at Say It For You.
Sometimes, in either the title or the body of a post, “misdirection” adds humor. I remember Jeff Fleming of the National Speakers Association of Indiana teaching us that speakers and magicians use misdirection to cause a surprise, which tickles listeners’ funny bones.
Just the other day (Employee Benefit News is just one example of the “reading around” I do to keep content fresh), I came across two examples: “Not-So-Sweet-Dreams” was the title of an article about lack of sleep on the part of workers. (We’re used to the expression “sweet dreams”, so the title sort of brings readers up short.) A second article in the same issue was called “Thank God It’s Thursday”, discussing the merits of a four-day workweek. Since the expression “Thank God It’s Friday” is so ubiquitous, the insertion of “Thursday” arouses curiosity.
Using unlikely comparisons is another technique content writers can use to engage readers. Putting ingredients together that don’t seem to match is not only an excellent tool for creating engaging business blog content, but also a good teaching tool. Going from what is familiar to readers to the unfamiliar area of your own expertise, allows your potential customers to feel smart as well as understood.
One point I keep stressing to business owners and practitioners hesitant about launching a blog
on the grounds that “I’ve already covered my products and services on my website – what else is left to say?” is that the blog is there to provide relevant, useful, and timely content to your prospects and customers to help them solve problems, understand industry trends, and make sense of the news and how it relates to them.
One caution about surprising readers – far-fetched can come across as “bait ‘n switch” if the unlikely comparison doesn’t clarify and help readers get the answers they came to find. You might say that, when it comes to blog content writing, misdirection needs to end up by offering direction!
Most businesses are good at 95% of what they do, says billionaire restaurateur and hotelier Tilman Fertitta in his newest book Shut Up and Listen. It’s the remaining 5%, he says, that determines whether the business excels or not. That 5% is the difference driver or tipping point, the author explains, offering examples from restaurant settings.
On the negative side, that 5% difference can be made by a server bringing a drink without a napkin or a four-person table with one mismatched chair. A positive “fiver” could be knowing the names of repeat customers and where they prefer to be seated
Fertitta’s firm message for success: “Aim for a culture that puts the five percent at the forefront of your thoughts, decisions, and acts.”
Blog titles and content, we emphasize at Say It For You, need to focus on the positive aspects of your business or practice, and primarily on the positive results customers can expect from selecting to work with you. Fellow blogger Michael Fortin agrees. “Leave out the ‘buts”, he advises, and substitute ‘ands”.
And, while one approach in blogging is to compare what you have to offer with competitors, avoid devaluing other companies’ products and services. Focus on demonstrating what you value and the way you like to deliver services.
Behavioral science introduced a term that can be very useful for blog content creators: framing. Even a slight alteration to the way something is presented can result in a completely different response or decision, the authors of the digitalalchemy.global blog explain.
It’s interesting that when customers have a bad experience, they are four times more likely to dump your brand, as ZCNetreminds us. What’s so ironic is that the bad experience almost always relates to the 5%, not to the usually satisfactory performance that results in customer loyalty to providers whose overall performance is just OK. Psychologists refer to this phenomenon as “negativity bias”, which explains our tendency to make judgments based on negative far more than positive information.
In your business or practice, you’re probably on top of your 95%. The 5% tipping point is what you need to clearly convey in your blog!
“Including one, or a combination of certain aspects can generate higher opt-in,” Ryan Duss and Russ Hennesberg explain in the book Digital Marketing for Dummies. Those important aspects include:
There’s a big caveat – these will work only if they are specific, the authors caution. Generic or clever titles, for example, generally decrease conversions, so it’s important to craft a clear promise. An example must also be specific, perhaps in the form of a case study, and the more specific you are in describing the shortcuts and solutions, the more engaging that content will be.
One way to keep it “real”, we agree at Say it For You, is to be specific. One concern business owners and practitioners express to me is that they don’t want to come across as boastful in their blog. At the same time, they need to convey the reasons prospects ought to choose them over their competition. This is where being specific comes in – let the facts do the boasting, I explain.
When Inc. Magazine interviewed the purchasing agents of several mega-corporations, asking how each preferred to sold to by suppliers and vendors, the responses supported the concept of specificity. Northrup Grumman executives actually said, “”Be as specific as possible when describing what you can do for us. Don’t be shy. If you have a capability, highlight that capability.”
Benefits consultant Mel Schlesinger tells salespeople the same thing. Instead of a generic opening (“I have an idea I want to roll by you”), he suggests agents switch to idea-specific ones (I have an idea that can help you reduce employees’ pressure on you to increase wages.”)
Web searchers are on a fact-finding mission, looking for information about what you do, what you sell, and what you know about. The more specific the key words and phrases in the title and in the body of the blog post, the greater the chance search engines will direct those searchers to your blog.
To succeed in blog marketing, it’s important to stay specific!
“A well-chosen organizing principle can serve as a strong differentiator for your story, helping to set it apart from the competition,“ suggests Paula Munier in her book the Writer’s Guide to Beginnings.
Organizing principles run from beginning to end throughout the story, and can:
help add layers of meaning
enhance the imagery
deepen the story’s themes
If you’re writing from the first-person point of view of the heroine, for example, you should stick to that point of view for the entire story, Munier suggests. But, using the novel Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple as an example, Munier shows how a resourceful author uses devices to being other voices into the story. Semple incorporates emails and letters received by Bernadette, school notes, signs, police reports, even report cards. That way, even though the entire novel is in first person, the reader can enjoy other points of view and styles of writing.
In corporate blogging, I stress first person business blog writing because of its one enormous advantage – it shows the people behind the posts, revealing the personality of the business owner, practitioner, or the team standing ready to serve customers. In terms of getting creative, though, curating materials from different sources allows the content to keep its organizing principle intact while offering a broader range of information and adding interest as well.
Different blog posts, of course, serve different purposes. Second person (“you”, “your”) is a good fit for how-to blog posts, while third person (“he”, “she”, “they”) may be a choice for news items.
“The voice of a writer is usually easier to hear in first person,” says William Cane in Write Like the Masters. Why? “Third person narratives so often mimic the ‘beige voice’ of an objective reporter,” Cane explains, whereas “with first person, it’s usually easier to be intimate, unique, and quirky.”
Each blog (not just each blog post) needs an organizing principle, which should be based on a deep understanding of the target audience. Still, by incorporating outside sources, “Other People’s Wisdom”, and even quoting from documents, letters, comments, etc., blog content writers can get creative around that principle.
To stay personal, we Indianapolis blog writers need to show readers we’re talking very specifically to them. At the same time, blogging for business will be at its best when it’s colorful, filled with the company’s special brand of energy and passion, all built around that all-important organizing principle.
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