Business Blog Posts – What’s In It for Them?

WIIFM blogging

There are several similarities between the skills a speaker uses in giving an effective talk and those we bloggers use to write effective business blog posts, I was reminded just the other day,  listening to estate planning attorney Rick Randall address our group at the Financial Planning Association.

What’s In It For Them?
Just a few paragraphs into his lecture on some of the more arcane aspects of designing estate planning trusts,, Randall stopped, looked at us in the audience, and posed the question:  “Why do I care if I’m in your seat?”, proceeding to answer that very question from the point of view of the individual financial planning practitioner.

For business blog content writers, the cardinal rule to remember is that potential clients and customers want to know about Radio Station WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?).

Visuals – the Third Leg of the Stool
One of the legalities Randall wanted to get across to his audience had to do with protecting trust assets from creditors. Many clients are reluctant to take control of the assets away from their beneficiaries in order to obtain that protection. The law considers certain people to be “under our control”. To help us understand and remember which beneficiaries are “too close” (deemed to be under our control in decision-making), Randall used a simple visual of a pointing index finger.  “Up” refers to parents, “down” to offspring, “sides” to siblings, “front” to spouse, and “behind” to employees.

Visuals are one of the three “legs” of the business blog “stool”, along with information and perspective, or “slant”. Whether you use actual original photos or “clip art, visuals add interest and evoke emotion, in addition to cementing concepts in the minds of readers.

Case in Point
To increase interest and understanding of the legal concepts he was explaining, Randall employed a “true story” approach, using as an example an actual drawn-out Indiana estate planning dispute about which we’d all read in the newspaper.

For online searchers, nothing beats landing on a blog that has just the information, the products, and the services they were looking for. That’s doubly true when readers get the “people like me” effect, and stories of all kinds (“case studies”, customer testimonials, famous incidents from the news, Hollywood, folklore – you name it) help personalize your blog post.

For both effective professional presentations and effective business blog posts, it’s all about remembering the “what’s-in-it-for-them”!

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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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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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The Long and the Short of Business Blog Writing

“So which is better for you: long or short content?” Rob Marsh asks on copyhackers.com.

The short of it as per Forbes.com: “Write short, pithy posts.  After 750 words – or sometimes after only half that – you risk losing your readers’ attention”.

The long of it as per Buffer:  “Posts longer than 2,500 words received more than twice the social shares of posts less than 2,500 words long.”

But, forget long vs. short. What do people actually read? March asks. An easy way to “fatten up” your thin content is to make it longer, but should you, he wonders. In other words, what do human beings prefer?  According to the Medium.com data lab, the optimal posts take the average reader seven minutes to read.

To succeed with longer content, you have to use your WORDS, March cautions.

W –well researched, with examples and case studies
There’s a privilege to blogging, I always tell content writers, and that privilege comes with a duty we have to offer usable, high-quality, well-researched content, presented in quality fashion.  Our online readers have a right to expect no less.

O – outstanding, triggering an emotional response.
At Say It For You, I tell blog content writers that one reason I prefer first and second person writing in business blog posts over third person “reporting” is that I believe people tend to buy when they see themselves in the picture and when can they relate emotionally to the person bringing them the message.

R – regularly posted
Recency and frequency are crucial. Once-in-a-while blogging just doesn’t do the trick, even if it’s high-quality stuff.  To satisfy a search engine, your blog material must be updated frequently, and I mean very frequently.  It seems that when it comes to blogging for business, search engines are saying, “Never mind what you’ve done. What have you done for me lately?”

D – designed to encourage reading
A scannable, easy-on-the-eye layout, with subheads, bolding, graphics, and paragraph breaks ,keeps readers’ attention.

S – substantive – important and covering the subject in depth
Blog posts that demonstrate a high degree of expertise backed by solid research, plus a very high degree of focus, give readers a sense that paying attention longer is “worthwhile”.

Smaller Targets, Better Hits in Blogging for Business

So which is better for you? At Say it For You, my own motto over the years has been this:

Make blog posts as long as they need to be to get the point across, but not a single sentence longer!

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Shedding Shame in Business Blog Marketing

blog marketing

 

Have you ever asked someone to “pardon your tartle?” Tartle is actually the Scottish term for the kind of “brain freeze” you get while introducing someone because you’ve forgotten their name.” Helping readers avoid (and, if necessary, deal with) awkward and embarrassing situations is one valuable service business owners and practitioners can offer through their blog content.

“A learning culture (in an organization) is often open to employees failing, considering it a part of growth,” writes Bill Howatt in theglobeandmail.com. In blog content writing, it’s important to reassure readers that they have come to the right place to arm themselves with the information they need to perform well, but that on the other hand, they are not expected to do things perfectly right “out of.the gate”. Your products, your services, and your advice will help them get the job done and avoid the faux pas they fear.

“The web is one big network of advice,” writes Rebecca Haden in Haden Interactive. “After all, she says, “people come online either to play or to get information”. There’s a difference between valuable information and a diagnosis, Haden cautions, particularly when it comes to medical information online. Yet modern consumers like to be informed and they will go online for it, and you’d like them to find that information at your website rather than elsewhere, she observes.

“We are constantly on the lookout to see what other people think about us. When we think that people are evaluating us negatively, our sense of self takes a huge hit,” a study by John Jay College professor Joshua Clegg showed. By showing that you’re able to handle the discomfort and move on, you will minimize the effect on the way others view you, Clegg advises.

“Tips and tricks to…..” are popular with blog readers, making them feel “armed” and prepared to handle the situation. In fact, one point I’ve consistently stressed in these Say It For You blog content writing tutorials is how important it is to provide valuable information to readers, while avoiding any hint of “hard sell”.  Well, providing tips and helpful hints may very well be the perfect tactic for accomplishing that very goal. Readers who feel empowered to “shed shame” and cope with awkward situations are readers who are likely to feel loyal. 

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Business Blog Marketing – Explaining When the Cows Come Home

old sayings in blog content

When exactly do “the cows come home”? And who was the first person to “steal someone’s thunder?” Who would ever put a cat in a bag? Writing in Reader’s Digest, Jacopo Della Quercia shares the history of several colorful expressions that are part of the English language, but which have “lost the connection to their delightful origins”.

For us business blog content writers, “delightful origins: can be a tool for livening up blog posts designed to market a business or a professional practice. In fact, I teach at Say It For You, history has an important place in blogs. “History-of-our-company” background stories have a humanizing effect, engaging readers and creating feelings of empathy for business owners or practitioners who overcame adversity or at least extricated themselves from a “pickle”.

What’s more, I have a pet theory about the kind of trivia Della Quercia is presenting in the Reader’s Digest piece: I think our curiosity is most intense when we’re testing our own knowledge. We’ve all heard the colorful English expressions he’s talking about, we all use them, but now that he’s brought them up, we realize we have no idea where they came from.

It’s fascinating to realize that cows were often milked in their barns at night, making that task one of the last ones on a farmer’s list. People used to sell piglets tied in bags, but a shady dealer might swap the piglet for a less expensive animal, such as a cat. 18th century dramatist invented a device to simulate the sound of thunder for his plays – and a rival dramatist copied the method for a production of Macbeth.

From a blog marketing standpoint, the expression “the cold shoulder”, which might have originally meant serving a guest a cold shoulder of mutton (an inexpensive, undesirable dish) to get rid of him, could be incorporated into a blog on etiquette – or on fashion (“cold shoulders” are all the rage). The expression “Till the cows come home” could be used in a message about a provider’s prompt service. Several of the other sayings Della Quercia mentions can also be useful – I can see “Blood is thicker than water” being used in a blog post about estate planning or business succession planning.

Della Quercia writes about “the surprising sources of great sayings’> As writers, we need to be on constant alert for surprising sources of great blog content!

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Business Blog Title Tongue-Twisting on Purpose

alliteration

 

Remember the two old tongue-twisters “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers” and “She sells seashells by the seashore”? Those two sentences are actually extreme examples of a creative writing technique called alliteration, in which you repeat the same letter or sound at the start of nearby words.

A couple of years ago at Say It For You, I began calling attention to the idea of using alliteration in business blog titles with an eye to making them more “catchy”. You see, it’s one thing to write great content, and quite another to get it read and ranked, as Corey Wainright of Hubspot reminds us.

Apparently, alliteration is a good idea not only for blog posts, but for magazine content as well. The other day, reading through this month’s issue of Fortune, I noticed many examples of alliteration in article titles:

Turning Travel Time into Quality Time is about private aviation company Wheels Up.
Critical Condition is a piece about a “botched acquisition by Pfizer”.
How to Connect with Tomorrow’s Customer is a piece about a “botched acquisition by Pfizer”.
Facebook’s Fix-It Team is about the company’s efforts to purge hate speech and criminal activity from its site.
Make Your Business “Sense” Smarter and More Self-Aware is about microelectronic sensors.
An article about Mattel is titled Barbie’s Diversity Dance.
A congressman from California is pushing an Internet Bill of Rights; the write-up is titled Man in the Middle.
An ad for Botox® is headed The Details Make the Difference.
The toy company Bird is featured in a piece called America’s Scooter Showdown.

“It is important to note that alliteration is about the sounds of words, not the letters; therefore, the letter “k” and “c” can be used alliteratively (as in  kitchen and cookie), as well as the letter “s” and “c” (as in sparkle and  cycle),” ereadingworksheets.com explains.  The words don’t need to be directly next to each other in the sentence or stanza to be considered alliterative, the website explains, but a good guideline to follow is whether you can detect the repetition of sound when you read the line aloud.

“Have some fun with alliteration,” Hubspot advises in “Foolproof Formula.” Why? “It’s a device that makes something a little lovelier to read, and that can have a subtle but strong impact on your reader.” Making a subtle but strong impact on readers? That’s precisely what our work at Say It For You is all about!

 

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