Business Blog Writing to Boost Readers’ Brains – and your Own

blog writing to boost memory

Turns out I was right about the “training effect” of a business blog. When you blog, I like to say, you verbalize the positive aspects of your business in a way that people can understand. You put your recent accomplishments down in words. You review the benefits of your products and services and keep them fresh in your mind. In other words, you are constantly providing yourself with training about how to talk effectively about your business.

“Learning to express yourself clearly and compactly is useful not just in terms of coming across well when speaking to others, but it also helps you to think with great clarity,” the Paragon Books Brain-Boosting Challenges explains.

“When we think we can remember a first letter but no more, there’s a good chance we’re actually correct,” the authors say. The first letter of a word is a critically important part of our ability to identify it.”  Two creative writing techniques that can make your blog post titles, as well as some of the text content, memorable and interesting are alliteration and assonance. Alliteration repeats the same consonant (Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers) or the same vowel sound (Honesty is the best policy).

“To help make a memory stronger, when you go back over the same material, it’s helpful to try presenting the content to yourself in a difference way to force yourself to think it through from a fresh angle.” Isn’t that precisely what business blogging is, continually approaching the same core topics from different angles?  What you can do with the blog is offer different kinds of information in different blog posts. Each time you post you’re pulling out just one of those attachments on your “Swiss army knife” and offering some valuable information or advice relating to just one aspect of your business.

As a blogging trainer, one concern I hear a lot from business owners or professional practitioners is that sooner or later, they’ll deplete their supply of ideas for blog posts. “I’ve already covered my products and services on my website – what else is left to say?” is the common thread in the questions I’m so often asked.

That’s when it’s important to remember the readers. Smart blog marketers know there are many subsets of every target market group, and that not every message will work on every person. At Say It For You, we realize online searchers need to know we’re thinking of them as individuals.

Repeating the same information in different forms is not only  good for your own memory – it helps your blog readers remember YOU!

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Can Business Blog Writing “Make the Man”?

ShakespeareWhen Shakespeare’s Polonius was sharing his wisdom with Laertes, he mentioned how important clothing is in making a good impression:

“Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man.”

Generations later, Mark Twain quipped, “Clothes make a man.  Naked people have little or no influence in society.”

But clothes affect not only the impression we make on others, Dr. Jordan Gaines Lewis points out in Psychology Today. What we wear affects how we perceive ourselves. Lewis cites a study done at Northwestern University that revealed that when researchers wore a white coat when interacting with participants and parents, they not only received more respect, but subconsciously felt more professional.

“How we behave is clearly affected by the clothes we wear,” Dr. Helene Pavlov opines in the Huffington Post. It is important for individuals to realize that maybe the clothes DO make the man or the woman!

I’ve actually expressed something of the same sentiment on the Say It For You website.   “When you put up a blog with excellent content that engages your potential and current customers, you will typically receive the following four types of benefits: An SEO benefit, a promotional benefit, a credibility benefit, and (this is the one that comes closest to the “clothes make the man” concept), a training benefit.

The way I explain the training benefit is this: When you blog, you verbalize the positive aspects of your business in a way that people can understand. You put your recent accomplishments down in words. You review the benefits of your products and services and keep them fresh in your mind. In other words, you are constantly providing yourself with training about how to talk effectively about your business.

Can it be that the words in which you “clothe” your business or practice, as you presenting it to the world in your blog, will have an effect on the passion with which you  actually run your business or practice?

Can business blog writing “make the man”?

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Business Blogging 2.0

business blogging

“Your Best Staycation May Be in Your Own Back Yard” is the theme of the latest issue of Travel Indiana magazine“.  “Statistics show that one-third of Americans visit coastal areas each year, confirming our strong draw to the water and the activities surrounding it. But if you think you have to travel outside of Indiana to get your fix – think again.”

You don’t have to go far outside your own company or practice to get material for your business blog, either. A number of years ago, I remember, I introduced companies who had made the list of Forrester’s Top 15 Corporate Blogs. One pick that caught my attention was Accenture, whose blog was chosen because their writers tap the company’s own employees for insights about technology, hiring, and consulting. The concept, I realize is that of a “staycation”; you don’t need to travel far afield to get your writing idea fix for blog posts. Important to note is that, even if it’s not practical for your employees or associates to actually write blog posts (and, of course, for the majority of my Say It For You clients, it’s not), their input can immensely enrich the company’s – or practice’s blog.

More recently, Forrester named Top 10 B2B Marketing Blogs, with the most-read blog of that year, written by Laura Ramos, making two important observations:

1. The best marketing mix varies by company at any given time
2. What you have to say is more important than the channel of tactic you use to say it.

“Staying close to home” in terms of blog content marketing involves focus, as Mark Leccese and Jerry Lanson emphasize in the book “The Elements of Blogging: Expanding the Conversation of Journalism”. “Force yourself to break your topic into three potential sub-topics,” advise the authors.  Then “Ask yourself whether one of these along might be rich enough for a blog…The tighter your focus, the better your odds of success.”

Focus means “staying at home” in individual blog posts, as well. Each post should have a razor-sharp focus on just one story, one idea, one aspect of your business. Other important things you want to discuss?  Save those for later blog posts! Focused on one thing, your post has greater impact, since people are bombarded with many messages each day. Respecting readers’ time produces better results for your business.

At Say It For You, our business model is based on the Power of One, taking on only one client per type of business per metropolitan area, and assigning one writer to each client. In every way, we believe, your best blogging “staycation” will be in your own “back yard”!

 

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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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Great Business Blog Stories Are Rarely Aimed at Everyone

 

“Consumers are used to telling stories to themselves and telling stories to each other, and it’s just natural to buy stuff from someone who’s telling us a story,” observes Seth Godin in his latest book All Marketers Tell Stories.

Not all stories succeed, Godin points out, because not all stories have the following essential elements:

  • Great stories are authentic
  • Great stories promise fun, money, safety, or a shortcut.
  • Great stories are subtle, allowing the target audience to draw their own conclusions.
  • Great stories happen fast, engaging the consumer the moment the story clicks into place.
  • Great stories appeal not to logic, but to the senses.

Each of these principles is important for effective business blog content writing, to be sure.  Today, though, for the benefit of my target audience, I want to highlight Godin’s most cryptic (and, I think, most interesting) statement: Great stories are rarely aimed at everyone.

“Average people,” Godin says, are good at ignoring you.  If you need to water down your story to appeal to everyone, it will appeal to no one.” It’s not that marketing no longer matters, the author says.  In fact, it matters so much that we have an obligation to do it right. But “no marketing succeeds if it can’t find an audience that already wants to believe the story being told.”

As writers, then, when we tell the story of a business or a practice to consumers, we “frame” that story a certain way.  A frame, Godin explains, is the way you hang a story on to a consumer’s existing world view. Smart marketers, he’s saying, don’t try to use facts to prove their case, insisting that people change their biases. “Your opportunity,” he tells marketers, “lies in finding a neglected worldview, framing your story in a way that this audience will focus on.”

Translated into blog content writing insights, I want to underline Godin’s three elements, the three things he claims will determine the success or failure of our efforts:

  1. Attention:  If our readers’ worldview is that they don’t think they need what we’re marketing, and don’t recognize a lack or a need, they won’t notice our solution.
  2. Bias: Predispositions may color our information negatively in readers’ minds through no fault of our own.
  3. Vernacular: Consumers care about the “how” as much as the “what”.  If our story doesn’t match what the consumer thinks is fitting, “weird things happen”.

“Small businesses can effectively compete with large companies by targeting a niche market,” writes Mandy Porta in Inc. Magazine. “Target marketing allows you to focus your marketing dollars and brand message on a specific market that is more likely to buy from you than other markets.” At Say it For You, one principle we try to keep in mind is:

“Great business blog stories are rarely aimed at everyone!”

 

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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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Giving it Away to Get ‘Em – the Other Side of the Useful Info Story

useful info in blogs

No, (as I spent some digital “ink” saying in my last post), I don’t think sports scores or snow statistics belong on the blog sites of jewelers, dentists, or veterinarians, when those are used primarily as a way to attract visitors. My take on that form of marketing is that it works counter to the purpose of establishing trust and credibility for the business owner or practitioner.

But there’s always an “on the other hand”, as I will be first to admit. Offering tidbits of information loosely related to the industry or field represented in the blog is something readers tend to like. It “puts words in their mouths”, gives them “ready-to-microwave” cocktail conversation consisting of little-known or just plain interesting things to mention at the appropriate moment.

Humor speaker Todd Hunt doesn’t have a blog, but his e-newsletter, Hunt’s Headlines, does that “words-in-the-mouth’ thing for me. This time, Hunt explained the difference between acronyms and initialisms:

An acronym is a word, Hunt reminded me, that is formed from initial letters and pronounced as a word:

Scuba = Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (I’d forgotten this)
NATO = North Atlantic Treaty Organization (I knew that one)
Laser = light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation (who knew?)
Zip (code) = Zone Improvement Plan (I would’ve missed this on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire)

Now that I think of it, to illustrate my Say It For You blogs and emails, I use JPEGS. I was never informed (until now) that the acronym stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group.

In an initialism, in contrast to an acronym, the letters are actually pronounced individually (not as one word). Examples are:

FBI – Federal Bureau of Investigation
IRA – individual retirement account
AAA – American Automobile Association
ATM – automoated teller machine

One initialism pertaining to our work as blog content writers is HTML, which (I should’ve known this, but somehow didn’t remember)) stands for Hyper Text Markup Language.

I’m far from actually reneging on my earlier assertion that “you cannot afford to tax their (online readers’) patience by distracting them with sports scores or weather updates; you’re best focusing on the search topic that brought those readers to you in the first place. Still, in blog marketing it’s well worth the effort of digging up curious and little known facts relating to your business or profession.

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Marketing a Professional Practice Through Business Blogs

practitioner blogging

“Services – unlike products – cannot be seen, touched, held, etc. Buyers only know the true value of your service after they receive it (often with full effects taking place weeks or months later,” Oren Smith of Precision Marketing Group explains.

Since, at Say It For You, our content writers serve the needs of both product vending businesses and of professional practitioners, I was very interested in Smith’s breakdown of the challenges he believes are distinct in professional services marketing:

1. Intangibility: When people purchase a service, they are essentially buying into trust and ideas, “requiring professional services firms to market not only the service itself, but the people, knowledge, and skills behind it.” Use blog content to answer the “why”, the “what’s-your-purpose” question.  What drives the passion? Give your online visitors the chance to get caught up in your passion. I once wrote a reminder to eager-beaver business blogger newbies: In the dictionary, the word “belief” comes before “blog”!

2. A longer buying cycle: A professional practitioner’s sales cycle is longer and more complicated than a product-based sale, “as the perceived buying risk is typically much higher.” For practitioner blogs to be effective, I teach, they must serve as positioning statements. The visit has to conclude with readers understanding not only what your value proposition is, but exactly why that should make any difference to them. What’s the benefit in this for ME? How will MY interests be protected and served if I choose to become your client or patient? What will you do to keep ME “safe” from risk?

3. Relationships vs. transactions: Buyers often determine which provider is going to be the best fit for their business based on a serious of personalized interactions. As business blog content writers, we can work to inspire three types of trust in the business providers and professional practitioners who hire us to convey their message: Prospects must trust in the practitioner’s know-how, ethical conduct, and empathy.

4. An ongoing process: As sellers of professional services, “every touch point you have with a prospect or current customer throughout an engagement matters. and supports the value you bring.” The blog sets the stage for readers to make a judgment about their own expectations: potential clients are asking the question: “How will I know I’ve been helped by using your services?”

5. Education: “Understanding your customers’ pain points and what makes their businesses tick is a key preliminary step to selling your services.” Even though you’re offering a professional service, you’ll find that customers tend to respond better if you show them how the process works, even how to “do it themselves”. Readers often realize that they’re not an expert or don’t have the time, so they call you to come do it for them.
.
“Fully understand the benefits you bring to the table, why only you can do it, and why the client isn’t able to do it as effective on its own,” are Smith’s final words to marketers.

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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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New Year Resolutions for Blog Content Writers

BLOG CONTENT

 

During the holidays, at least here in America, we seem to be “into” list-making. From shopping lists to Santa’s twice-checked  list, we now culminate the series with lists of New Year’s resolutions.

Looking back at the past year of offering Say It For You business blogging assistance, I found several simple lists I used to help readers come up with ideas for corporate blog posts:

1. Things consumers are likely to type into the search bar that could bring them to your blog:

  • Their need
  • Their problem
  • Their idea of the solution to their problem
  • A question
  • 2. Calls to action to include in titles and If-you-click-on-this-link promises, such as:
  • This link will lead you to a blog post that explains how to obtain more of something desirable
  • This link will lead you to a blog post that explains how to obtain less of an undesirable effect
  • This link will explain why one popular idea is falseMake a list of your own of content pieces that that might:

    …engage the interest of online readers who have found your blog post
    …provide valuable information to them?
    …clarify what you have to offer to fulfill their needs

    Hard to believe, our little content writing company, Say It For You, just celebrated its tenth New Year’s! Our content, now some 35,000 unique writing selections strong, may be found in clients’ corporate brochures and on their website pages, in press releases, “nurturing emails” and Facebook posts. Primarily, though, our pieces populate the blogosphere.

    In 2018, our “listicle” of wishes for you include:

  • Personal success
  • Business success
  • Good health
  • Lots of old friends
  • Scores of new ones
  • Superb SEO results

A YEAR OF GREAT BLOGGING!

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