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. As a former social worker, Laura claims, the way people respond to the various things he says and asks give him valuable clues as to how to work with them. Shock and awe 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, however, 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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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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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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