Showing Them How Shows Them YOU In Blogging for Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

Showing them how to – shows them YOU!

 

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Respect the Rules of Reversal in Blogging for Business

first impressions in blogging

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Respect the rules of reversal in blogging for business!

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Blogging for Business While Inspiring Three Types of Trust

blogging to inspire trust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Same Old, Same New Blogging for Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Metaphoric Blogging for Business

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Ask, But Also Persuade

Pay Raise Word Increased Income Workers Lift Arrow

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

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More About Quotations in Blogging for Business

Chocolate Quotation Marks and Asterisk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In Business Blogs, Quotations Can Be a Good Idea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Blogging to Inspire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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