“Ever-Wonder-Why” Blogging for Business

My friend Larry M. shared a fascinating list of “Ever Wonder Why Trivia” that I think you’ll enjoy.  More important, there’s a lesson here: trivia and blog marketing go together like “a horse and carriage” (if you’re my age) or maybe like peanut butter and jelly (if you’re not).

Trivia can be used in business blogs for:

  • defining basic terminology
  • sparking curiosity about the subject
  • putting modern-day practices and beliefs into perspective
  • explaining why the business owner or practitioner chooses to operate in a certain way

Here are some choice tidbits from Larry M.’s list – see if they spark some ideas related to your own business or profession:

  • Why do men’s clothes have buttons on the right, while women’s clothing has them on the right? When buttons were first invented, they were very expensive and used primarily on rich people’s clothing.  Most people are right-handed, so the buttons went on the right. (Rich women were dressed by their maids).
  • Why do Xs at the end of a letter signify kisses? In the Middle Ages, few people knew how to write, and documents were signed with an X. Kissing the X. was a sign of accepting the obligations specified in the document.
  • Why is someone feeling great said to be “on Cloud Nine”? Clouds are numbered based on the altitudes they attain, with 9 being the highest level.
  • Why do we save coins in jars called “piggy banks”? Dishes and cookware in Europe used to be made of an orange clay called “pygg”.

A tidbit of trivia, I’ve found, can be the jumping off point for explaining what problems can be solved using your business’ products and services. Trivia is just one of the many tools that can help business owners present what they know, what they do best, and what they have to sell.

When I’m offering business blogging assistance to writers and owners, I talk about the need to create as much fresh material as possible to inform, educate, and entertain.  That’s a pretty tall order for most busy business owners and employees.  Collecting trivia can be part of “keeping up” with blog content creation.  “Ever-wonder-why” blog posts are one good place to start. 

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Having the Last Word in Your Business Blog

closing lines in blogs“Nothing can be more annoying to your reader than an article that ends too abruptly or shabbily,” Elizabeth Soumya writes in BlogVault.com. “As writers we can often feel complacent, as if we have little to say by the time we find ourselves at the end.” But concluding means bringing your blog post to a convincing end, one that doesn’t leave readers feeling dissatisfied, Soumya cautions.

My favorite trivia magazine, Mental Floss, understands the importance of last words, devoting a long article to 64 famous people and their famous dying words, including:

  • Blues singer Bessie Smith: “I’m going, but I’m going in the name of the Lord.”
  • Frank Sinatra: “I’m losing it.”
  • Benjamin Franklin: “A dying man can do nothing easily.”
  • Charles Gussman (writer and TV announcer): “And now for a final word from our sponsor…”
  • Sir Winston Churchill: “I’m bored with it all.”
  • Steve Jobs: “Oh wow, oh, wow, oh wow!”

“How you start will determine if you get read,” says Brian Clark of copyblogger.com, but “how you end will determine how people feel about the experience.”  Of course, he admits, the direct response copywriter’s favorite closer is the call to action. “Make it clear what you’d like to have happen,” Clark warns. Endings are critical, he points out, because the last impression you leave with people is the most important.

End with a lesson, a discovery, or a revelation, is the advice of world-words.com. You shouldn’t simply repeat what you’ve already said, however.  Use an image, fact, or anecdote that helps summarize and demonstrate all that has gone before, while simultaneously hammering home the main point.

A great opener with a lame last line is.., well, lame, I point out to business blog content writers.. Sure, it’s super-important in blogging for business to have great titles and strong, curiosity-stirring openers, but you’ve got to “close your parentheses”. One way to do that is the tie-back, a news writing device that refreshes readers’ memory about earlier parts of the business blog post.

In corporate blog writing, it all matters – the title, the opening line, and the reader-friendly, relevant, updated, useful content.  Somehow it’s not the same, though, without a great finish. Have the last word in your own business blog!

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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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Would-You-Rather Blogging for Business

People like hearing other people’s opinions almost as much as they like expressing their own, which accounts for the popularity of the party game “Would You Rather”, in which a dilemma is posed the form of a question beginning with the words “Would you rather”. Would you rather be forced to wear wet socks for the rest of your life or be allowed to wash your hair only once a year? Wear someone else’s dirty underwear or use someone else’s toothbrush? Always have to tell the truth or always have to lie?

The format is highly adaptable to different audiences. The Seventeen Magazine version, for example, asks whether you’d rather live in a fro-yo shop or own your own ice cream truck, and whether you’d rather get thrown into the pool fully clothed or get caught skinny-dipping.

My point in all this? The Would-You-Rather format can work for business blogs. (As a corporate blogging trainer, I’m always considering different ways of communicating with online readers.)

While my writers at Say It For You offer a sort of matchmaking service to help our clients “meet strangers” and hopefully convert at least some of them into friends and customers, we need to realize that the readers will process the information we offer in the context of their own past experience and form their own opinions.

Opinion is compelling. When your blog reveals your unique slant or philosophy relating to your field, potential customer and clients feel they know who you are, not merely what you do. Revealing what you would rather, why you chose to do the kind of work you do, why you’ve created the kind of company or practice you have – that’s powerful stuff.

But what if we find that a business owner or practitioner hasn’t yet formed an opinion on some important trending topic? That’s where the blog can “take a poll”, asking readers for their slant! It’s even valuable to readers when you clarify and put into perspective both sides of a thorny issue within your industry or profession.

“Would You Rather” is popular because people like hearing other people’s opinions almost as much as they like expressing their own. Taking advantage of that in a business blog makes great business sense!

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Wedding and Pro Bono Business Blog Gifting

If you’re going to disregard the preferred wedding gift list, what you give has to be good, advises Nicole Garner in Mental Floss Magazine. But, amazingly, the author adds, the most unique and valuable wedding gifts might not cost you anything except some through and effort. You might pass on a family treasure, offer your skills in floral design, dress alternation, or invitation design, Garner suggests, or offer your time pet or house sitting while the couple is on their honeymoon.

At Say It For You, we believe that same concept of “freebie- gifts-with-thought” can apply to business blogs as well. When I’m helping new clients who are business owners or professional practitioners, I often find they feel some ambiguity about planning their blog post content.  In the beginning, many feel uneasy about giving away valuable information “for free”, even though they realize their blog will become a way of selling themselves and their services to online searchers.

Coschedule.com’s Julie Neidlinger talks about the power of blog giveaways, including portable content  in the form of downloads that don’t require people to stay on the site to enjoy. Blog giveaways get shared, and Neidlinger recommends giving away material that is:

  • fun
  • educational
  • reputation-building
  • ongoing

“The reason there is disagreement on giving things away is because some bloggers are approaching it purely from the viewpoint of marketing, while other bloggers are trying to make their living off of content,” she notes. (In the case of our Say It For You team, we’re coming at blogging from the marketing side, helping business owners and professionals tell their stories.  Neither our writers nor the clients are in the business of selling content to readers.) That means there’s every reason to openly “give away” tips and how-tos that relate to each client’s expertise.

Through the blog content we write:

  • A caterer “gives away” recipes and table decorating tips.
  • An hospital operating room supply company “gives away” tips on pressure ulcer prevention.
  • A insurance company “gives away” tips on workplace safety.
  • A jeweler “gives away” tips on safety cleaning and storing necklaces.
  • A search firm “gives away” valuable resume-building and interviewing advice.

Yes, as Nicole Garner points out, what you give has to be good, but the most unique and valuable pieces of advice offered on a good business blog might not cost readers anything!

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In Business Blogs, Keep the Downbeat Upbeat

Orchestra conductor
In blogging for business, the last thing you’d want to be is “downbeat”. (One dictionary definition of “downbeat” is pessimistic, gloomy, negative, and fatalistic.). On the other hand, “downbeat” might be the very effect I want to achieve in order set the mood for my blog post. (The word “downbeat” is a musical term referring to the opening bars of the music, in which the composer sets the mood for the concerto to come.)

The equivalent in blog writing of an orchestra’s downbeat (the conductor’s baton is raised while a hush falls over the audience, then comes down to start the music) is the opening sentence of each post.

From a search engine optimization standpoint, of course, I want to use keyword phrases in the title and in the first sentence, because that helps search engines match my content with the search terms online readers use. Even more important, though, it’s imperative to make the first ten words of any post count.

“Great opening sentences are critical when you’re writing for the internet, where readers have the attention span of fruit flies,” John Hargrave of Mediashower.com says, citing a survey done by Microsoft of more than 2 billion page views, and found that users spend ten seconds on an average Web page On the other hand, the longer you retain them, researchers learned, the more likely they are to stay. At Media Shower, Hargrave says, “we train our writers to spend more time on the opening sentence than any other part of the article.”

Wayne Schmidt agrees. “Whether a story’s fifty words long or a hundred thousand, the most important passage is the opening paragraph. In the few seconds it takes to read it, most readers decide if finishing the tale is worth their time.” Start with a sentence that makes the reader ask a question, Schmidt suggests. (People hate unanswered questions.) It doesn’t have to be a literal question, just something that piques the reader’s curiosity.

Another approach for the “downbeat” is a “tease”, Michael Pollack suggests, withholding a key piece of information till later in the piece so the reader is compelled to keep reading. “What if I said that every TV network, movie, blog, book, and other forms of media use this same tactic?” Writing something that goes against the status quo or conflicts with conventional wisdom is another way to get attention, Pollack points out.

In business blogs, it’s downright important to keep the downbeat upbeat!

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For Business Blogging, Get in the Remote Mindset

 

Photographer Willie B. Thomas

 

“In the last decade, remote work has exploded in popularity,” says Skillcrush. “It’s totally feasible to land a lucrative, fulfilling career without selling your soul to the daily commute,” Browning assures readers, cautioning that interviews for remote jobs come with their own set of pitfalls.

Interviewees for remote jobs have to demonstrate they are pros at managing time, prioritizing tasks, and communicating with boss and coworkers. Business blog content writers, I reflected, reading this advice, have precisely the same challenges. Without being face to face with the prospect reading the blog, the business owner or professional practitioner (or the blog content writer they’ve hired) must demonstrate expertise, reliability, and empathy.

With all the different communications options, including not only blogging, but social media, mobile apps, forms, webinars, etc., “It’s easy to forget that Expertise is the #1 ingredient for  successful content marketing and blogging,” according to pushingsocial.com. “Without expertise, all these methods are reduced to fancy magic tricks that capture your reader’s attention for a moment.”

Readers come to your blog looking for the answer to two questions, pushing social.com explains:

  1. Can this person/company/practice help me?
  2. Do these people know what they’re talking about?

Without being face to face with readers, blog content writers use words to prove that the answer to each of those two questions is a resounding “Yes!”

But how do you demonstrate that you can help a prospect when you have no proof  – no case studies, testimonials, or clients yet? That question was actually asked of John Jantsch of ducttapemarketing. Jantch’s three-point response:  Publish, Partner, Podium. “Start sharing your expertise and point of view on your own blog,” Jantsch advises, and ”Offer to write guest blog posts.”

Whether you’re a newbie or veteran blog content writer, for business blogging, get in the remote mindset!

 

 

 

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Blog the Second Side of the Story

pinkeye

An anecdote submitted by a grandma to Reader’s Digest reminded me of something my own maternal grandmother taught us grandkids: there are at least two sides to every story.

The opthalmologist’s very cute assistant was examining my 20-year-old
grandson, when out of the blue she said, ‘You must really work out.’ ‘Well,
yes, I do,’ said my grandson, beaming.  ‘I run and lift weights. Thank you for
noticing.’ ‘Oh, you misunderstood,’ she said. ‘You have popped blood vessel
in your eyes.  We see that with people who work out.’

As a corporate blogging trainer, I’m always considering different ways of communicating with online readers.  Basically, I think of myself and my writers at Say It For You as offering a sort of matchmaking service that helps our clients “meet strangers” and hopefully convert at least some of them into friends and customers. At the same time, we need to keep in mind that readers’ will process the information we offer in the context of their own past experience.

Part of the secret to avoiding misunderstandings lies in our getting to know our target market. “There’s no hard and fast rule that governs what fields are mandatory for all landing page forms,” cautions Meghan Lockwood of HubSpot.  “Instead, marketers need to review their sales and lead generation goals and balance how much information they absolutely need from their leads vs. how much information those prospects will actually provide on a first form,”

Even with the best of research, different consumers are going to process our content in different ways. That’s not necessarily bad news. In blogging for business, why not present several aspects and opinions on an issue, allowing for the merits of each? In other words, make clear that this business or professional practice has chosen to carry on in a certain way, but that there were other options. Let readers come to their own conclusions about which approach is more in tune with their needs and opinions.

Understand your target market, but don’t be afraid to express a strong opinion. There’s something to be said for blogging the second side of the story!

 

 

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Every Blog Post Should Have Two Winners

Dilbert

“My philosophy is that every phone conversation has a loser,” says Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams (the implication seems to be that one of the parties on the phone is being talked into buying something or doing something that benefits only the other. A second Adams quote reveals a similarly negative viewpoint: “There’s a gigantic gray area between good moral behavior and outright felonious activities.  I call that the Weasel Zone and it’s where most of life happens.”

Cynics, I imagine, would see blogging for business in the same light – a thinly disguised attempt to attract online readers who must be persuaded to buy “stuff”. At Say It For You, though, we try to come at blogging from a totally different direction and with a win-win attitude.

In the early stages of creating a new blog, the blog content writer and the client (the business owner) are trying to strike precisely the right “tone” for the blog.  I’ve discovered one very interesting thing I’ve in dealing with different content writers in Indianapolis and with the client businesses they serve.  Whenever there’s a “disconnect” between the two parties, it’s almost always about how “sales-ey” the blog should or should not be.

Generally speaking, as I often stress when I offer corporate blogging training, blog posts are not ads, and there should never be a hard-sell or boastful tone to the content.  When asked to provide business blogging help, I explain that blogs are closer in nature to informative “advertorials”, positioning the company or practitioner as helpful, well-experienced, and knowledgeable.

Primarily, the blog post has to add value. Not just a promise of value if the reader converts to a buyer, but value right then and there in terms of information, skill enhancement, or a new way of looking at the topic. The best blog posts are never about yourself, your company, your services, or your products, but about why you see things the way you do.

Does every phone conversation have a loser? I don’t know, but what I do know is this: Every blog post should have two winners – the business owner (or professional practitioner) and the online reader!

 

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Blog About How You See Wildlife or Whatever, Not About What You Sell

Two penguins Gentoo.

A Canon commercial on the back cover of an old issue of National Geographic reminded me of a piece of blogging advice that will never grow old: The best blog posts are never about yourself, your company, your services, or your products, but about why you see things the way that you do.

There are many newer examples of this Canon campaign, but the one I came across was from the Decembr 2012 issue. The photo featured a penguin couple, and the opening line of text consisted of two words: “Teamwork works”.  By dividing responsibilities, male and female royal penguins give their young the best start in life, I learned.

  1. The parents alternate two week shifts in incubating the egg.
  2. Once the egg hatches, the mail does guard duty while the female forages for food.
  3. After about 20 days, the chick joins a crèche, free both parents to bring meals home.

The problem: The food sources on which the penguins depend are becoming uncertain due to the effects of climate change.

Anticipating readers’ question “Why is a camera company telling me all this?” the authors go on to explain: “Raising awareness of endangered species is just one of the ways we at Canon are taking action for the good of the planet we call home.”

The “advertorial” ends with a Call to Action: Visit canon.com/environment to learn more.

This Canon campaign is a wonderful example for blog content writers. When I offer corporate blogging training sessions, I try to make sure, especially when it comes to corporate blog writing  “newbies”, that they understand the importance of conveying business owners’ core beliefs through their blogs.

Why is that such an important element in creating effective content? In general, blogging can help achieve quite a number of goals:

  • Building good will
  • Staying in touch with existing customers and clients
  • Defining
  • Announcing changes in products and services
  • Controlling damage when it comes to negative PR or complaints
  • Recruiting employees

    Of all these goals served by writing for business, though, the most important might be ”humanizing”.  Existing customers need their trust reinforced. Online searchers need to come away with the impression they will be dealing with real, likeable people, not just with ”a company”.

    Blog about how you see wildlife – or whatever – not about what you sell!

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