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” 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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