What’s-Really-in-Your Blogging For Business

fear blog titles

There’s a reason the cover of Consumer Reports has a picture of a cow on the cover of this month’s issue, along with this very compelling question: “What’s Really In Your Meat?”  Titles catch the eye (that one certainly did mine) and set up readers’ expectations for what kind of content they’ll find if they open the magazine and read the article. As a blog content writer, I’m interested in titles.  What elements in the titles listed on a magazine cover, for example, are most likely to induce a browser to buy that issue? Then, which titles tempt the magazine reader to read those articles first?

I categorize this particular title, “What’s Really in Your Meat?”, as a “truth-about”. This type of header is meant to instill fear, one of the two dominant buying motives (desire for gain and fear of loss). In fact, people are drawn to articles with negative titles, my friend and fellow blogger Lorraine Ball pointed out a year ago.

A few other salient titles in the October Consumer Reports issue fall into the “How-To” category:

  •  “Beating Back Surprise Bills”
  •  “Keeping Your Data Private”
  •  “Simple Ways to Add Convenience and Security”
  •  “Good Riddance, Robocalls!”

Less disturbing (some might argue less compelling) than “truth-abouts”, in blogs, “How-To” titles perform the very important function of confirming to searchers that they’ve arrived at the right place to find precisely the kinds of information they need. 

Using a consumer question in a title, then answering that question in the article or blog post is yet another approach.  Three such pieces in Consumer Reports were:

  • “My car is starting to smell musty, and an air freshener isn’t cutting it.  What else can I do?”
  • “Can I catch food poisoning from another person?”
  • “How can I keep my leftover paint fresh enough to reuse?”

Truth-abouts, how-tos, and question titles, I teach at Say It For You, can all be effective blog titling techniques, with the purpose being to tell readers why they should bother to read what you’ve written in the blog post.

Most important, when choosing a title, design it so that it conveys not only the nature of the content, but the value readers can expect to receive from that content! Ask yourself this question:

For my readers, what’s really in my blogging for business?

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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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Business Blogging With Round-Up Posts – Part 2 of 2

 

 

Round-up posts are blog posts consisting of lists of best sources of information. Those might be lists of best websites, best You Tube clips, or best of any kind of web content that relates to your topic. As a business blogging trainer, I loved many of Authorunlimited editor Cathy Presland’s ideas for round-up posts and am formatting  both of this week’s Say It For You posts as “round-ups” of noteworthy pieces of advice and observations about business blogging…..

“If you hang around the barber shop long enough, you’re going to get your hair cut. The more pages (blog articles) your website has, the more time consumers will spend on your site.”

– Marcus Sheridan in “50 Blogging Benefits that Will Change Your Business Forever
 

“ Your company blog is all about your buyer persona, not you.”
– Ramona Sukhraj in “Blogging for Business? Here’s Everything You Need To Know”

“The best business blogs answer common questions their leads and customers have. If you’re consistently creating content that’s helpful for your target customer, it’ll help establish you as an authority in their eyes.”
– Corey Wainwright in “The Benefits of Business Blogs for Marketing”

““The blogscape is not for the faint-hearted….There’s a shocking disconnect between one fact — you sitting at your computer — and the next — what you just wrote being instantly visible to the entire world.”- Brian Appleyard of the London Times, quoted by Jeff Bullas

“Blogging is one of the fastest and easiest ways to promote your business and increase traffic to your website.”
– ThriveHive

But is sharing others’ content really a smart strategy for business owners and practitioners?  After all, blog writing for business, as I’ve often pointed out in this Say It For You blog, will succeed only if two things are apparent to readers:  a) You (the business owner or professional practitioner) understand online searchers’ concerns and needs and b) you and your staff have the experience, the information, the products, and the services to solve exactly those problems and meet precisely those needs.

The answer is yes, as Presland explains: “Round-up posts are fantastic as an education source for your audience: they can see where your inspiration comes from, and widen the scope of their knowledge at the same time.”

 

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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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Premise-Based Blogging for Business

Whether you’re pruning hedges, painting a room, or cooking dinner, having the right equipment for the job matters a lot.  That’s precisely the concept upon which a radio ad I heard recently was based.  The ad sponsor was mattress manufacturer BeautyRest, and I couldn’t help feeling that the commercial was impactful as a result of its getting us listeners to first agree on a premise before they introduced their product.

Once everyone was “on the same page” about the importance of the right equipment for each job, it made sense for the sponsor to posit that, to achieve high-performance sleep, you had to have the right “tool”, e.g. their mattress.  Beautyrest marketers apparently knew that, only after we listeners had gotten “on page” would all the information they had to offer – about how a mattress affects how you sleep, how to best shop for a mattress, etc. – make any difference to us.

The premise on which I believe blog marketing is based is this:  Websites present the big picture – the different services and products the company offers, who the principal players are, the mission statement, the geographic areas the company deals with, the “unique selling proposition” – in other words, the whole enchilada!

But readers, like radio listeners, can’t focus on everything at once. And, on a website, each page and each block of content takes the mind away from all the others. What each blog post does, then, is focus on just one aspect of your business, so that online searchers can feel at ease and not be distracted with all the other information you have to offer. In previous Say It For You blog posts, I’ve compared blogging to job interviews.  Each post is like one question at the interview.  The question might be about your technical knowledge in a given area, or it might be about your reliability, or about your salary expectations.  The interviewer will expect you to stick to that one subject in answering that question in the most direct way. That’s exactly what each blog post is designed to do.

Each post should be focused on one “premise”, just like the BeautyRest radio commercial.  The first task is to get everyone “on the same page” or the same “wavelength” with you.  Then, and only then can you make it clear why this one product you have, this one piece of special information, this one service, relates to what everyone has bought into as a basic premise!

 

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Intro Blog Posts

I picked up Pulp Media’s 501 Things You Should Have Learned About Math from the bargain rack outside my favorite bookstore, and spent the next hour happily browsing through it.  As the printed introduction promises, “Several facts in this book are bizarre, mind-boggling, fun and interesting, but not one will make you want to put it down.”

But even better than that intro actually printed in the book itself, I found, was the intro offered by Amazon:

“This eminently browsable book presents history’s greatest mathematicians and mathematical discoveries in fascinating, easy-to-understand chunks.”

Every business blog, I believe, could use an introductory post telling readers exactly what to expect in posts to come.

“You’ll learn about Archimedes, Pythagoras, Isaac Newton and how their experiments and breakthroughs have changed the world. You’ll learn how “zero” came to life, how geometry was discovered and how mathematicians throughout history have cracked the world’s most challenging conundrums.”

An introductory post needs to entice readers, arousing their curiosity.  (And, did you notice the intro writer’s skillful use of alliteration such as in “challenging conundrums”))

“So if you don’t know your Fibonacci from your tagliatelle what are you waiting for?”

Nothing like offering a challenge to readers, giving them a reason to slimb aboard. (I knew who Fibonacci was, but needed to look up tagliatelle!)

Just as instructors make clear to students what the syllabus is for the semester and what tasks they are expected to complete before the next session, it’s crucial for us blog content writers to tell the readers what to expect of our blog, making it clear why we decided (or why our client decided) to offer a blog in the first place!

 

 

 

 

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Contagious Blog Marketing

“Why do some products, ideas, and behaviors succeed when others fail?” Jonah Berger asks in his book Contagious. Berger first lists some traditional answers:

  • they are just plain better – easier to use and more effective
  • attractive pricing
  • advertising

None of these explains the whole story, Berger claims, without including social influence and work of mouth. “The things others tell us, e-mail us, and text us have a significant impact on what we think, read, buy, and do,” he says.

Why is word of mouth marketing so much more effective than advertising? Berger offers a couple of reasons:

  1. It’s more believable – we tend to believe our friends’ stories and recommendations
  2. It’s more targeted – we don’t share a news story or a recommendation with every we know, only with people who we think will find the information relevant

Berger’s marketing principles might serve as a perfect checklist for business blog content writers:

  • Social currency – give people ways to achieve visible symbols of “insider” status they can show off to others. (Nienke Vlutters of the University of Twente agrees: “With their consuming behavior, individuals symbolize with which groups they want to be associated.”)
  • Triggers – link your products and services to prevalent trends.  Keeping up with trends in your field helps earn you “expert power” with readers.
  • Emotion – contagious content evokes emotion.
  • Utility – craft content that is useful in saving time and money and improving health.

You may be convinced your products and services are “just plain better”, but to really connect with consumers through your business blog, you need to use contagious blog marketing!

 

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How-I-Did-It Blogging for Business

“Starting and running a business is traveling a landscape filled with opportunity and hazards.  Knowing which is which can make the difference between growing your company and blowing it up,” begins the special issue of Inc. magazine in which twelve company founders describe how they rose to success.

‘How-we-did-it” stories make for very effective blog content for both business owners and professional practitioners, I’ve learned. In a post a couple of years ago, I quoted The Moth founder George Dawes Green, who teaches storytellers to share their own human failures and frailty. “It’s easier to connect with someone who is or has been where you are,” is the way Beccy Freebody of the Australian charity realisingeverydream puts it.

Sounds great, but how can sharing secrets and failures help when you’re trying to market a business or a practice?

  1. True stories about mistakes and struggles are very humanizing, adding to the trust readers place in the people behind the business or practice.
  2. Stories of struggles and failures can be used as a means to an end, using the special expertise and insights you’ve gained towards solving readers’ problems.
  3. Blogs also have a damage control function.  When customer complaints and concerns are recognized and dealt with publicly (there’s nothing more public than the Internet!), that gives the “apology” – and the remediation – a lot more weight in the eyes of readers.

The interesting thing I’ve noticed is that many business owner and practitioner clients are so close to the subject matter of their own past and present business battles, they can’t see how valuable those “failures” can prove to be in terms of blog content. That’s where the outside eye of a professional blog writer becomes especially valuable.

In “how-I-did-it” blogging for business, failures can sometimes be the secret to success!

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Does Your Blog Post Command or Report?

 

 

remote control
There are two aspects to any communication, explains Elizabeth J. Natalle in Teaching Interpersonal Communication. The report aspects conveys information, while the command aspect refers to the relationship between the communicants. The command aspect sets a tone, which might be focused on:

  • this is how I see myself…
  • this is how I see you…
  • this is how I see you seeing me…

Natalle contrasts two statements about driving a car to make her point:

  1. “It is important to release the clutch gradually and smoothly.”
  2. “Just let the clutch go, and it will ruin the transmission in no time.”

One interesting perspective on the work we do as professional bloggers is that we are interpreters, translating clients’ corporate message into people-to-people terms, trying to find exactly the right tone. That first statement about the clutch would be purely informational, for example, with no connection being formed between the reader and the business owner or practitioner. On the other hand the second statement takes a “how to” tone, a tone that can be very useful in blog marketing.

Crystal Gouldey of AWeber Communications names five different “tones” to consider when planning a blog:

  • The formal, professional tone
  • The casual tone
  • The professional-but-friendly tone
  • The sales pitch tone
  • The friendly sales pitch tone

    Consistency is important, Gouldey thinks. “It will be very confusing for subscribers if you talk to them one way and the next week you talk to them in a different way,” Gouldey says.

’T aint necessarily so, I teach. For one thing, a company blog can have different contributors, each of whom might have a different styles of presenting information. But even with a single author, the use of different tones can lend variety and interest.  The only exceptions would be the “sales pitch” tones, probably better left out of the blog mix.

Does your blog post command or report? Your business blog can do both!

 

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Go Ahead – Blog About Your Misplaced Oscars

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Winning an Oscar is a big deal, but still old news; losing your Oscar – now that makes for more attention-catching copy. I think that’s the appeal of the Mental Floss Magazine story about ten award-winning movie stars who actually misplaced the statuettes they’d been so excited to win in the first place.

“Owning a little gold guy is such a rarity that you’d think their owners would be a little more careful with them.” Apparently, that’s not the case:

  • Olympia Dukakis’s Moonstruck Oscar was stolen from her home.
  • “I don’t know what happened to the Oscar they gave me for On the Waterfront,” Marlon Brando wrote in his autobiography. “Somewhere in the passage of time it disappeared.”
  • Colin Firth nearly left his new trophy for “The King’s Speech” on a toilet tank the very night he received it.
  • Matt Damon and Ben Affleck took home Oscars for writing Good Will Hunting in 1998, but in the confusion of a flood in his apartment while he was out of town, Damon isn’t sure where his award went.
  • Whoopi Goldberg sent her Ghost Best Supporting Actress Oscar back to the Academy to have it cleaned and detailed. The Academy then sent the Oscar on to R.S. Owens Co. of Chicago, the company that manufactures the trophies. When it arrived in the Windy City, however, the package was empty.

So how does all this apply to blog marketing for a business or professional practice?  It brings out a point every business owner, professional, and freelance business blogger ought to keep in mind: Writing about past failures is important.

True stories about mistakes and struggles are very humanizing, adding to the trust readers place in the people behind the business or practice. What tends to happen is the stories of failure create feelings of empathy and admiration for the entrepreneurs or professional practitioners who overcame the effects of their own errors.

Blogging about mistakes has another potential positive effect: it can turn out to help with customer relations and damage control.  When  complaints and concerns are recognized and dealt with “in front of other people” (in blog posts), it gives the “apology” or the “remediation measure” more weight. In fact, in corporate blogging training sessions, I remind Indianapolis blog writers to “hunt” for stories of struggle and mistakes made in the early years of a business or practice!

Go ahead – blog about your misplaced Oscars!

 

 

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