Why-In-The-World Business Blogging

It wasn’t a blog post, but the article might well have been just that, I thought, reading the advertorial in Senior Living, in which David Ring, owner of Indiana Funeral Care, answers the question “Why In the World Would I Plan My Own Funeral?”

Last November, in my Say It For You blog, I quoted the advice of speaker Todd Hunt.  Hunt suggests “the next time someone asks you a seemingly stupid question, stop and look at it from their side.”  As business blog writers, we need to impress readers before they’ve had the chance to ask us their questions, “stupid” or otherwise, I explained.  In fact, readers find our blogs precisely because they’re searching for answers to questions they have and solutions for dilemmas they’re facing.

In the Senior Living article, Ring does just that – he anticipates, and in fact lists, the many questions our survivors are going to face our survivors if we don’t face them ourselves:

  • Full tradition service or private graveside?
  • Open casket with cremation to follow or cremation with memorial service?
  • Wood or steel casket? (What’s the difference?)
  • What’s a burial vault?
  • What should be done with cremated remains – bury, scatter, in an urn?
  • Newspaper obituary, online obit, or both?
  • List several charities for memorial contributions or just one?
  • What if I move to another city or state?

The final paragraph of the Senior Living article reminded me of a second important business blogging principle: Since our content is often being ready by people who are not yet our clients or customers, how can we address their expectations? Readers need to envision how they will be helped by using our products or services.

As a retired financial planning professional, I know that most planners begin a meeting with new clients by asking the simple question “What is it that brings you here today?” One innovative planner, though, goes further, as a Journal of Financial Planning article reports, asking, “At the end of our meeting today, how will you know that it has been successful?” Through the design and language of each of the corporate or professional practice blog posts we compose, we need to bring readers to the point of figuring out “why in the world” their time with us has been – and will be – well spent.

“The other comment we often hear,” Ring relates, (referring to surviving family members of someone who has passed), “I am so relieved they planned this ahead!”

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Blog Content Writers Take Lessons from the Past

Alexander Pope and Sir Ross Smith lived centuries apart, but both came to the same conclusion on the topic of arguing. Both men are quoted in Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People.  “Why prove to a man he is wrong? Is that going to make him like you?  Don’t argue – proving you’re right doesn’t win hearts,” Smith said 100 years ago.  200 years earlier, poet Alexander Pope used different words to convey the same idea: “Men must be taught as if you taught them not.”

David Ogilby, aptly named the Father of Advertising, stressed that “advertising is not an art form, but a message with a single purpose – to sell. Postcron’s Camila Villafarie points out that the “Ogilvian” techniques that worked in the 70s can be applied today in blogging. “The man goal of creating ads, Ogilvy was fond of saying, “is not to prove who’s more clever or witty.  People don’t have that much time to stop and read, so if you think you should surprise them with your words and creativity, you can do it, but never at the expense of making the sale,”,

There are several things the purpose of blogging is not. Not only isn’t the purpose to prove how clever or witty the writer is, it’s definitely not to prove how uninformed the reader is! Still, myth busting is a popular (and rightly so) use of corporate blogs, the idea being to disprove misconceptions about the product or service being offered.  Addressing misinformation is certainly one way to shine a positive light on a business owner’s or professional practitioner’s expertise in the field. The only problem is that people don’t like to be “argued out” of their misconceptions, and they definitely don’t like to be proven wrong!

What about issues where there’s no “myth” involved, but on which there are differing opinions? As a long time blog writer, I tell business owners that it’s fine to take a stand, using various tactics to bolster that stance in the eyes of readers. Then, through including guest posts on their blog and also citing material expressing the opposing viewpoint, they can demonstrate that there can be a productive exchange of ideas. Blogs, after all, are not ads.

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.
Where the continuously renewed business blog writing comes in is to offer ideas and inspiration. 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?” A good idea is its own “advertisement”!

Sir Ross Smith was so right – proving you’re right doesn’t win hearts.  But, unlike Ogilvy’s insistence that the prime goal is making a sale, the purpose of business blogs may be a different one – winning hearts and inspiring action!

 

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Blog Content Writers Try to Hit Their Own – and Readers’ – Time to Shine

“Many leaders are at their best in the first hours of the morning; others hit their prime in the late morning; others still, in the afternoon”, authors Steve Chandler and Scott Richardson explain in the book 100 Ways to Motivate Others.

“We all have 24 hours.  It doesn’t matter how rich or powerful you are, you still only have 24 hours..Only you can slow time down by choosing what you choose to do.”  As a professional blog writer and corporate blogging trainer, I often talk about the “drill-sergeant discipline” it takes to maintain the frequency and longevity needed  for successful blog content writing.

“All the world’s a stage,” Chandler and Richardson tell leaders. “When it’s your turn to be in a scene, try being really enthusiastic……Glow. Sparkle. Radiate leadership and solutions.” For blog writers, I believe, this line in the book is one to remember:  “Whichever is your best time to shine, don’t waste it on trivial, low-return activities.” We should be doing our writing at our own “prime time”, when we are at our absolute best emotionally, physically, and mentally. Unfortunately,  Chandler and Richardson explain, we too often “find great pleasure in spending our highest-energy state on small tasks.”

“Timing is everything, and maintaining a blog is no exception to the rule,” cautions the Kissmetrics Blog.  “Learning when your audience is tuning in, and therefore when to post, is mandatory for any successful blogger.” There are pros and cons to posting during high-activity hours; although there might be more visitors, the content can lose prominence due to “noise”. Posting at night, conversely, affords easier front page promotion, but your post is likely to draw less engagements.

Specific insights offered by Kissmetrics include:

  • The highest percentage of users read blogs in the morning.
  • The average blog gets the most  traffic at the beginning of the week.
  • The average blog gets the most comments on Saturday.

If timing is everything, then what about frequency?  “You should be making a concerted effort to keep up with a consistent publishing schedule to maintain fresh content,” blogmutt.com asserts. “Search engines regularly crawl your site looking for new content…if you are posting new, quality information frequently, you increase your chances to rank even better the next time your site is crawled.”

Blog content writers must try to hit their own – and readers’- time to shine!

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Let Me Count the Ways to Use Numbers in a Business Blog

numbers in blogs

“Use numerals to express numbers 10 and above, and use words to express numbers below 10,” Paige Jackson of the American Psychological Association reminds writers.
Another writing guidance source, the Purdue OWL, has this to say: “Although usage varies, most people spell out numbers than can be expressed in one of two words and use figures for other numbers.” The OWL offers several examples of each choice:

Words:

  • over two pounds
  • six million dollars
  • after thirty-one years
  • eighty-three people

Numbers:

  • after 126 days
  • only $31.50
  • 6,381 bushels
  • 4.78 liters

When Pamela Vaughan and her colleagues at HubSpot analyzed all there own blog posts to see which titles had performed the best in terms of search results, the top eight each included a number, starting with::

  • “12 Quick Tips to Search Google Like an Expert”
  • “12 Mind-Blogwing Statistics Every Marketer Should Know”
  • “How to Monitor Your Social Media Presence in 10 Minutes a Day”
  • “The 9 Worst Ways to Use Twitter for Business”

Ryan McCready of Vennage.com is even more specific, suggesting, after looking at 121,333 unique articles, tthat 10 is the best number to use in blog titles. The number 5, McCready points out, is second. Avoid using the teens, he adds, and never, ever use the number 2.

Career coaches suggest that using numbers may be one of the most underutilized strategies in cover letter writing. Numbers are a great way to be specific about your accomplishments.  They also show that you pay attention to benchmarks and concentrate on setting and meeting goals.

As a blog content writer and trainer, I stress that numbers can be used in business blogs to “build belief”. For example, statistics can demonstrate the extent of a problem your product or service helps solve.

Whether you follow the APA formatting or the Purdue OWL, using numbers in your business blog is a way to quantify, or to qualify – and get the business!

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Collating and Curating in Business Blogs – What’s the Dif?

curating content

 

“Expressing our love, gratitude and appreciation to others on the New Year by sending happy New Year messages for friends and loved ones is a great way to share in this spirit of renewal and joy with those around us,” Richard Kronick writes in the Huffington Post. “Expressing our love, gratitude and appreciation to others on the New Year by sending happy New Year messages for friends and loved ones is a great way to share in this spirit of renewal and joy with those around us.” Kronick continues, following this with a collection of both funny and serious new year messages.

What Kronick has done here is collate, meaning he has collected information from different sources and organized that information in a new way.  Collating, in fact, is one important way in which business blog content writers can bring value to readers. Using content from our own former blog posts, newsletters, or even emails, adding material from other people’s blogs and articles, from magazine content, or from books, we can collate that material into new categories, summarizing the main ideas we think our readers will find useful.

In his introductory remarks, Kronick has taken at least a small step into curating, which goes further than merely putting together collections. In fact, effective blog posts must go from information-dispensing to offering the business owner’s (or the professional’s, or the organizational executive’s) unique perspective on issues related to the search topic.

Think of an art museum. “Too often, when people walk into a museum, they secretly think, I can’t see the point of this,” says Alain de Botton in Art as Therapy. The curator’s job, he explains, is to take the “snob factor” out of art, offering perspective on each painting, so as to help viewers connect with the artist’s vision. That’s actually a very good description of the way business bloggers can help online readers connect with information presented in a blog post. That information might have been taken from various sources, represent a review of trending news topics, or consist of facts and statistics that need to be put into perspective so that readers realize there’s something important here for them.

As a freelance blog writer, I’ve always known that linking to outside sources is a good tactic for adding breadth and depth to my blog content.  Linking to a news source or magazine article, for instance, adds credibility to the ideas I’m expressing.

Collation and curation – they are both tools we blog writers use to stay in touch – and keep our readers in touch with new ideas and current happenings.

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Add a Little “Why” to Your Business Blog Content

When speaker Todd Hunt saw a sign in his health club reading:

“Please Do Not Pour Water on the Sauna Rocks”

Hunt’s first thought, he relates, was “I’ll pour water on the rocks if I want to.  Nobody tells me what to do!” But after spotting the second line of copy on the sign, Hunt changed his tune:

“Our system is not built for water.”

“Oh, now I understand,” he thought.  Hunt reminds his audiences to always add “why” statements to make statements more customer-friendly.

The same concept of “explaining why” is used in training parents, teachers, and caregivers of children with behavior challenges to used “scripted stories”. Here’s an example:

:.
I like to run. It is fun to go fast.
It’s okay to run when I am playing outside.
I can run when I am on the playground.
Sometimes I feel like running, but it is dangerous to run when I am inside.
Running inside could hurt me or other people.
When people are inside, they walk.
Walking inside is safe.

In the case of the sauna and the behaviorally challenged children, the purpose was to prevent action (pouring water or running).  But in marketing, calls to action (CTAs) often use imperative verbs designed to provoke immediate positive action: find out more, call now, provide contact information, etc. The concept, Horner explains in “Writing a Better Call to Action”, is to show consumers how to take the next step and to create a sense of urgency around the offer.

Just as Todd Hunt intuited about the power of explaining why in sign copy, searchers who’ve found themselves at your blog want to know why they ought to keep reading/follow your advice/buy your products and services. Answering the “why’s” before they’re asked overcomes buyers’ natural skepticism.

Prospects actually need answers to five “why’s”:

1. Why me?  Why did you target this particular market (the one represented by this potential buyer)?
2. Why you (the author)? What is our expertise and experience?  Why do we care?
3. Why this (the offer) What are the specific solutions you provide?
4. Why now (the urgency)
5. Why this price (the value)

Adding “why” makes blog content statements more customer-friendly!

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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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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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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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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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