The Focus Group Function of Business Blogs

Focus groups are the most widely used qualitative research tool, according to the Market Research Association, and with good reason. "They foster fruitful discussion and can provide unique insight into customers' and potential customers' needs, wants, thoughts, and feelings." Problem? Yes.  Focus groups can be messy.  Moderators have to contend with competing personality types, including dominant or reticent participants, and the dangers of "group think".

The Marketing Research Association isn't the only group to see some of the disadvantages of focus groups. Greg Cobb of IdeastoGo goes to far as to call focus groups creativity killers.  Why?

  • Too scripted - There are generally stakeholders present who would like feedback from the consumers while they have them captive.  This leads to reaction without room for actual discussion.
  • Too awkward - People are shy about expressing the full strength of their convictions or deepest motivations to a group of people they do not know. Dominant personalities speak, and others tend to just go along.
  • Too short - Two hours, the time allocated for most focus group sessions, is hardly enough time for nine people to get comfortable with each other and explore the topic.

 

As a business blogging trainer, I was interested to learn that Joe McKendrick of SmartPlanet thinks social media can be used to replace focus groups, bypassing some of the disadvantages Cobb lists.  How would that work?

McKendrick describes how the Mercedes-Benz community website is using social media to conduct consumer market research with consumers ages 20-45 who drive compact cards.  With questionnaires, forums, ideation contests, comment areas, and ratings, Mercedes can test marketing materials and ads, finding out what features, support, and services customers want most.

While even the largest of my Say It For You blog clients is tiny compared to Mercedes-Benz, I couldn't help thinking that the idea of using blogs to perform a focus group functions could turn into a very feasible marketing strategy.

The "too short" problem wouldn't exist - blog readers would weigh in on their own time in the form of taking surveys, offering ideas or ratings, all good techniques to stimulate interaction with target customers.

The "group think" creativity-killer Greg Cobb describes in live focus group sessions would be bypassed as well, since "dominant" or "shy" participants would not be directly interacting.  In fact, readers might be offered the opportunity to keep their responses confidential.

One way to increase response to online customer surveys is giving readers the chance to complete the entire survey in less than two minutes, says Bloggetvero. "Save open-ended text areas for the really meaningful questions," he adds.

Have you tried using the focus group function of your business blog?

 

0 Comments »

Don't Let Your Business Blog Become a Tree Falling in the Forest

"If a speaker delivers the most amazing speech of his or her life, but no one is around to hear it, did he or she really deliver a speech?" asks Sean Bradley in Speaker Magazine. "It's the same thing with online marketing and advertising, Bradley goes on to say.  If you're not represented properly online, you won't be found.

Understanding the "lay of the land" means understanding how powerful the Internet is as a resource of visibility, credibility, and business development, Bradley continues.  Traditional marketing talks about three stages of the buying cycle, he reminds speakers:

  • Stimuli (ads that lead to point of interest)
  • First moment of truth (purchasing the product or service)
  • Second moment of truth (the ownership experience)

Google, he notes, revolutionized this cycle in a book titled ZMOT (Zero Moment of Truth). The consumer's ZMOT is the time between stimulus and purchase, where they search for more information, reviews, and feedback to help them determine if they want to make a purchase.

Bradley brings this idea into the speaker's world. "When people hear about you through an ad or blog post, or you're recommended by someone, chances are they will Google before they call," he remarks. "What do you think they'll find? Is your content relevant and current?"

The Content Marketing Institute concurs: "Smart marketers understand that traditional marketing is becoming less and less effective by the minute, and that there has to be a better way."

But what, exactly, IS content marketing? Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience - with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

The operative term here is "consistent content", which is precisely what blogging for business is all about. "Persistent" would be an appropriate descriptor as well, since the long-term effectiveness of any business blog depends on reliability and continued effort.

Content is king online.  But that content must be accurate, current - and dependable.  The content of a business blog must not only attract new customers, but keep regulars coming back.  As the "hub" of any business' or professional practice's online marketing effort, the blog has a steady job to do.

Sure, a business or practice may be just one tree of many in a forest of competitors, but blog marketing is one way to help that tree make a big sound!

 

 

0 Comments »

Instead-of-What Blogging for Business

Back in 1764, I was reminded by the editors of Mental Floss Magazine, Scottish engineer James Watt was pondering the same question that’s on all of our minds when we’re doing blog marketing – How do I convince people they should use my product?  (In the case of us freelance content writers, of course, we’re trying to sell our clients’ products and services.)

Watt had improved the steam engine, but mine operators continued to rely on horses to haul heavy loads. Watt calculated that it took a horse one minute to lift 33,000 pounds of coal one foot. A machine that did that job had a horsepower of 1. Watt’s calculation, the editors point out, was less than scientifically accurate.  Still, because it was based on the familiar, on information the miners already knew, his logic persuaded mine owners to try his engine.

One core function of blog marketing is explaining yourself, your business philosophy, your products, and your processes – all with an eye to converting readers into customers and clients. An effective blog clarifies what sales trainers like to call your "unique value proposition" in terms readers can understand. And one excellent way to do just that is by making comparisons with things with which readers are already comfortable and familiar!  As Dale Carnegie himself advised, "compare the strange with the familiar."

“Before engines could take off, one inventor had to get marketing down to a science,” conclude the Mental Floss editors. Since inbound marketing has been, since 2006, “the most effective marketing method for doing business online,” hubspot.com advises aligning the content with your customers’ interests and levels of understanding.

James Watt was able to persuade the mining operators of his time that the new machines would make a good “instead of” for the horses they were accustomed to using. As blog content writers, we need to know what products and services our target audience is accustomed to using, then make a powerful case for the value of what we’re offering instead.

 

0 Comments »

Bullet Points - Baddie or Boon for Your Business Blog?

Who would’ve thunk it – such ballyhoo about bullet points! It seems content writers either love or absolutely abhor those little black dots.

Representing the critics, Ken Lopez, in The Litigation Consulting Report, lists no fewer than 12 reasons bullet points are bad news, especially for trial graphics. He’d much rather see lawyers actually speaking to the jury, rather than showing them text-heavy presentations riddled with bullet points.

Jon of Presentation Advisors is equally antipathetic towards bullet points in PowerPoint presentations.  PowerPoint and Prezi, he says, aren’t text-based media, but are there to support the information coming out of a speaker’s mouth. What’s more, he gripes, when we use bullets, we tend to lump ideas together on the same slide without giving any one of those ideas a chance to shine.

As a business blogger, I’m kind of partial to bullet points, and from what I’ve been told, Google and the other search engines like them, too.  Online searchers who’ve found our blog posts, remember, aren’t getting the information out of our mouths – we have only our written words, with perhaps some charts or pictures, to engage their attention.

That lists and bullet points are generally a good fit for blogs is something I actually stress in corporate blogging training sessions.  What I’ve found over the years is that lists help keep readers – and writers - on track.

Susan Gunelius (“20 Ideas for Writing a Blog Post”) apparently agrees. She suggests starting with a number, then taking it from there, with. Top 10 lists, 5 things not to do, 3 reasons I love something, etc.

Interesting that in just the past two weeks, there’s been a lot of press about David Letterman’s plans to retire. Letterman’s Top Ten Lists were such an effective way of organizing content that, when the talk show host first moved to CBS, NBC unsuccessfully tried to claim ownership of the idea.

Like anything else, of course, bullet points can be both poorly used and over-used. Using parallelism is a good rule, beginning each bullet point with the same part of speech and using the same grammatical form throughout.

Writers.stackexchange.com has some wisdom to add: “Bullet points are visually attractive and make it easy for a reader to locate important information. Nevertheless, try to use them sparingly: too many bullet-pointed sections in the same document will mean that their impact is lost.”

Those little back dots have their uses in blogging for business!

 

0 Comments »

Are Your 100,000 Going Into Your Business Blog?

“You may not think of yourself as a writer, but research says that you are,” observes
Tom Searcy, CEO of Hunt Big Sales. The average sales person, with emails, proposals, quotes, texts, and other documentation, writes more than 2,000 words per week,  he explains, which adds up to 100,000 words a year.

Not that more is necessarily better, Searcy hastens to add. In fact, he cautions, you want to use as few words as possible to communicate your idea, a tactic he calls ”writing tight.”

Writing tight is good advice for sales presentations and for business blogs.  Interestingly enough, though, the business owners and professionals I meet tend to be worried about the opposite thing happening – running out of material to blog about. A month or two into blogging for their business, the glaring question for them is, "So, what else is there to blog about?"

That’s where those existing 100,000 words might enter the picture. Repurposing content that, while valuable, may be languishing in the email newsletter archive is one way to give it new life. Paul Chaney of Practical Ecommerce points out that “for many companies, email newsletters are relegated to monthly syndication. That means the prospect or customer is only contacted 12 times per year, not nearly enough to establish a ‘top-of-mind’ relationship.” Business blog posts can fill that gap, at the same time making use of the already-written material.

As a business blogging trainer, I’ve always prescribed RALA (Read-Around-Learn-Around) as the cure for content deprivation. Ideas are all over the place, all of the time, I explain, but you’ve got to do a lot of reading and listening and be alert for connections to your own topic. Sharing OPW (Other People’s Wisdom” is one valuable service you can provide your readers.

But, as Tom Searcy is showing us, we blog content writers can look within for our content as well. In line with that idea. NPR Digital media uses the acronym C.O.P.E. standing for Create Once, Publish Everywhere.

How many of YOUR 100,000 words are ending up in your business blog?

0 Comments »

To Become a Great Business Blogger, Become a Know-It-All

Wow!  Fellow blogging coach Jon Morrow really is painfully honest in his “How to Be Smart in a World of Dumb Bloggers”! Reality is, Morrow explains to readers dissatisfied with traffic to their blogs, “popular bloggers are smarter than you are.”

One thing that makes those popular bloggers smarter is, according to Morrow, “They know damn near everything about their topic.  And if they don’t know it, it’s in their reading pile.” So does that mean all the rest of us blog content writers are doomed?  Not at all, says Morrow.  This isn’t about genetics or inborn talent, he asserts. It’s about deciding who you want to be and making yourself smarter. It’s about working to become a know-it-all.

As for Morrow himself, he listens to interviews during breakfast, reads nonfiction over lunch, watches “the smartest TV he can find” during dinner, the day’s news afterwards, then some nonfiction before going to bed.  In the car, he listens to books on tape; he spends a portion of each weekend watching recordings of conferences he couldn’t attend.

The bottom line of this “letting us have it” essay is that “Blogging isn’t only about SEO or social networking.”  It’s about us, we business bloggers need to realize.  We have to change, surrounding ourselves with smart people, burying ourselves in books, and “cutting the crap” (his words, not mine) that he says is distracting us out of our lives.

”Read around, learn around” is my version of Morrow’s advice. Ideas are all over the place, all of the time, but we’ve got to see and hear those ideas, learning everywhere and from everyone, making connections between our own experience and knowledge and Other People’s Wisdom.  We business bloggers then share that OPW in blog posts to help visitors understand what our business owner clients do, what they sell, and what their businesses are really all about.

I agree with Jon Morrow – becoming “know-it-alls” is what it’s all about for us content  writers!

 

0 Comments »

Simplifying the Complex in Business Blog Posts

“It’s tempting to want to explain everything. It’s also hard to know what to throw out,” observes Dane of digital accomplice.com. Dane is talking about video, but the same simplify-the-complex is certainly a guideline for all of us business bloggers. Of course, with blog posts far less expensive to produce than videos, it’s somewhat simpler for us blog writers to focus on just one aspect of a topic and then come back and fill in other information in later posts.

Some products and services are, without question, more challenging to explain. “If, after your thirty-second elevator pitch, the person you’re speaking with still has ten more clarifying questions, says Jeune Ortiz of future-ink.com, you probably have a complex product or service. Ortiz has some good suggestions for blog content writers when it comes to presenting the complex in a way that converts lookers into buyers:

Use What They Know.
Compare the old solution to your new solution to show improvements. Using your blog to offer answers to you’ve heard from customers in the past can help business blog readers relate to the new information.

Let Customers Explain It.
“Stories that illustrate how your product or solution was used successfully can do a lot to help a newcomer understand how it might also improve their life,” says Ortiz. “Customers don’t want to feel like they are being told a brand story.  They want to tell themselves the story, say the authors of “Tips and Traps for Marketing Your Business”.

Don’t Scare Your Visitors.
Technical words can overwhelm your visitors. If you have policies, disclaimers, or warranties, add that to the footer, never in the main content. I train newbie blog content writers that going light on jargon and technical terms without "dumbing down" the material shows respect for the readers' intellect - and for their time.

Tell Them How to Get Started.
The product is complicated enough – don’t make getting started a mystery, advises Ortiz.  Simplify the navigation and have clear Calls to Action.

As we bloggers have learned over and over again, simplifying the complex pays dividends for business owners and professionals every time!

 

0 Comments »

"White House Down" Ties Back to Tiebacks in Blogging

Tie-backs are reverse transitions, explains Annelle Altman of blogspot.com, talking to novel writers.  The author drops hints about the plot and what may come in the future, and then later “ties back” to that hint.
Looked at from the “other end”, a tie-back is a news writing device that refreshes readers’ memory about events that were talked about earlier in the piece.

As a corporate blogging trainer, the way I teach tie-backing is this: The opening line of a blog post is the one that assures readers they’ve come to the right place (and search engines that they’ve made a good match!). The opening line is also the one that presents a question, a problem, a startling statistic, or a gutsy, challenging statement. At the end of the post there’s a finishing flourish that relates back to the opening statement, re-emphasizing to the reader the one main idea you were stressing in that post..

I was given a new appreciation of the power of tie-backs while watching a rerun of the movie “White House Down” the other day. The hero of the film is a Capitol policeman who’s in the doghouse with his ex-wife and teenage daughter, because he’s missed the daughter’s flag-waving demonstration at the high school.  After a heavily armed group of paramilitary invaders bombs the White House and attempts to take over the presidency, the daughter saves the day by waving the flag with the presidential seal to signal their location to rescuers.

For me, that tie-back got its power from the fact that it made me think. I needed to recall that minute detail about the flag-waving that the dad had missed and then realize the irony of the all-important flag-waving  toward the end of the film.  I once heard humorist Dick Wolfsie explain that, in order for a joke to be funny, the person listening to the joke has to figure things out.  I think it’s the same with tie-backs..

In blogging for business, at the end of the post, give your readers the satisfaction of figuring out the tie-back!

 

0 Comments »

"Why-Can't...?" Blogging for Business

“Why can’t I use my cell phone on an airplane?” ask the editors of Mental Floss: the Book. (Note to argumentative readers of this Say It For You blog: The FCC is considering lifting the in-flight cell phone ban.)

Nobody likes to be told “You can’t…”, but explaining the reasoning behind the “Can’t” has a remarkably calming effect. Whenever we business blog writers can debunk and demystify information for our readers, that helps establish our (or our client’s) expertise and even enhances the business’ or the practice’s likeability quotient.  

The real reason, (I learned courtesy of Mental Floss editors), authorities don’t want us flipping open our mobile phones is that mid-flight cell phone use impacts cell phone service on the ground. Calls made while we’re moving through the friendly skies at 550 mph. would connect with multiple towers at once, eating up much valuable space on the circuit.  

See? Don’t you feel better knowing the reasoning behind the rule? There’s only one problem here – even though most readers spend lots more time on the ground than in the air, when they are flying, their concern is with their own convenience.  Having learned the reasoning behind the in-flight cell phone ban, readers are still left with the “So, WIIFM?” question (What’s In It For Me?).

“Why-Can’t…?” blog writing as a marketing tactic  will succeed only to the extent readers know what’s in it for them. The USPs (Unique Selling Propositions) in a product or service might include, as Jane Sheeba points out:

  • High efficiency
  • Time saving
  • Cost savings
  • Low maintenance
  • Support availability,
  • Guarantees or warranties

If as a blog content writer you’re using the Why-Can’t…? card, be prepared to address readers’ concerns about why this particular product or service is a good idea for them.

In other words, start with the “Why-Can’t..? but continue on to the “You CAN…”!

 

0 Comments »

Blogging the Specialness

“What makes No. 2 pencils so darn special?” ask the editors of Mental Floss: the Book, noting that “The No.2 is definitely No. 1 in the pencil market."

Answering the question of what makes ANY one product or service, ANY one business or professional practice special – well, that’s the job description for any freelance content writer of business blogs! In the case of the No. 2 pencil, the Mental Floss editors patiently explain, the medium weight graphite makes No. 2’s ideal for general writing.  (Harder pencils are used for drafting, softer for bowling scores).

As writers and researchers, we business bloggers are using own strengths to play to – and play up – the unique strengths of the business owner and professional clients who’ve hired us to give voice to their story. Make no mistake – it’s a challenge to stress “specialness” without engaging in two practices Indianapolis Business Journal’s Tim Altom calls PowerPoint “sins’: Too much, and Too Self Conscious.

As fizzle.co so aptly puts it, nothing is a bigger turn-off than a blatant sales pitch. Yet, if you have a business, as Corbett Barr points out, you have to sell products or services to earn revenue. But the best sales pitch, he says, is no pitch at all.  In fact, Barr explains, that’s what permission marketing (and blog content writing is a big component of permission marketing, along with search marketing and social media) is all about.

When you’re blogging, you’re talking to a friendly and interested audience about things that might help them (as opposed to forcing your message in front of people who are trying to avoid it), Barr continues. Let the useful and interesting information you offer to readers of your blog bring out the specialness of the product or service.

Did you know, Nicolas-Jacques Conte created the number system for pencils back in the eighteenth century?

 

0 Comments »

Help Business Blog Readers Jump to the Right Conclusions

“With 1.5 crimes per citizen, Vatican City has the highest crime rate in the world.” Is that statement factual?  Indeed. Without further explanation, though, the sentence is highly misleading. As Mental Floss: the Book explains, “It’s not that the cardinals are donning masks and repeatedly robbing the bank. It’s the massive crowds of tourists that make Vatican City a pickpocket’s paradise.”

We business bloggers are nothing if not interpreters. 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.

One use of corporate blog content writing is putting your own “spin” on any messages the public might be receiving about your industry – or about you - from competitors or critics. Sometimes negative perceptions arise from inaccurate press statements, but often, accurate information, incompletely explained (such as the fact about the Vatican City crime rate), causes negative perceptions.  Blogs are a way for business owners to exercise a degree of control over myths and misunderstandings.

In today’s world, readers are subjected to an overload of “spin”, and often mistrust the information they’re provided.  In my work as a corporate blogging trainer, I stress that as business owners and professional practitioners craft their messages, it’s important to use “honest” spin. The challenge is to debunk negative first impressions, so that what we convey to clients and customers (and to the online searchers who are our prospects)serves to alleviate mistrust and create confidence.

Business blogs help readers jump to the right conclusions!

 

0 Comments »

A Business Blog by Any Other Name

“There is not a better way to add relevant content to your website on a regular basis than to utilize a blog,”  says Nicole Beachum  of socialmediatoday.com. “If you do not want to call it a blog, you can call it a “learning center” or any other catchphrase that you want to use to categorize the frequent posts to your website—at the end of the day they are blogs and these blogs are powerful,” asserts the digital marketing adviser.

“For most small businesses, they do not have the financial resources to run a bunch of advertising and marketing campaigns. Many don’t have the resources to even have a professionally designed and optimized website built.  At least with blogging and some simple SEO you can do yourself, you still have an opportunity to be present, be found, and get your business in front of your target market,” chimes in Chris Eggleston.

So, have the latest changes in Google’s algorithm taken away that opportunity to be present and found?  Newbie blog content writers and business owners alike have been asking me that question, having gotten whiff of”  Hummingbird”, the latest iteration in Google’s attempt to render the matchmaking process between searchers and providers ever more effective.

As Jim Yu of All Things SEO explains it, “Hummingbird allows the Google search engine to better do its job through an improvement in semantic search.  As conversational search becomes the norm, Hummingbird lends understanding to the intent and contextual meaning of terms used in a query.”

Search engine results pages were often polluted with misleading results, explains marketingprofs.com. With Hummingbird technology, the “search engine is better able to discern the relationships between words and thus the context and the user's intent, delivering a much more relevant search result.”
 

As my associate Bob Chenoweth explains it, Hummingbird is good news for developers of high-quality content, but bad news for keyword stuffers.” At Say It For You, we’re looking forward to the best Hummingbird matchmaking since Yenta in “Fiddler on the Roof”!
 

 

0 Comments »

Higher Blogging for Business

Why do gurus seek mountaintop retreats?  To get the big picture, of course, says James Rogers in the March issue of the Mensa Bulletin. A TPV (transcendental point of view) is a place "from where one can discern the relationships of part-to-part and part-to-whole," Rogers goes on to explain.  In fact, he adds, we humans are the only primates who stand entirely upright in order to broaden our horizons and get our eyes to TPV level.  From the judge who sits high on her bench to someone who pays to live in a penthouse, people strive for a big-picture aspect of life.

My business blogging trainer's point of view (BBPV?) doesn't wax nearly as philosophical as Rogers', who ends his essay by saying that "Going to higher and higher TPV's draws us nearer and nearer to God." Nonetheless, I agree with the general concept.  I always remember a comment local radio talk show host Denny Smith once made.  Smith said that people look to their advisers for more than just information - they need perspective.  That, I think, is absolutely true when it comes to blog content writing.

Fact is, the typical website explains what products and services the company or the practitioner offers, who the "players" are and in what geographical area they operate.  The better websites give at least a taste of the corporate culture and some of the owners' core beliefs.  It's left to the continuously renewed business blog writing, though, to "flesh out" the intangibles, those things that make a company stand out from its peers.  In other words, it's the marketing blog that often is the place readers get TPV. 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?" or "So, is that good for ME?"

Whether a business owner is composing his or her own blog posts or collaborating with a professional blogger, it's simply not enough to provide even potentially valuable information to online searchers who've landed on the site. You have to add the perspective.

Are you taking your blog readers to TPV level?

0 Comments »

Blogging the Right Stuff to the Right Audience

“If your marketing is not getting enough people into the pool, you’ll find the problem is in one of three places.  You’ve either got the wrong STORY, the wrong STUFF, or the wrong AUDIENCE,” says my Rockstar friend and fellow blogger Thaddeus Rex.

Since blogging for business is all about telling and selling stuff, I found Rex’ list of “Four Ways STUFF has of Differentiating Itself” worth sharing with Indianapolis blog content writers:

  1. Features – your product or service can do something your competitors can’t (or yours does it better).
  2. Location – your product/service is available someplace your competitors’ is not (or it’s more easily available)
  3. Service – the buying experience you provide sets you apart
  4. Cost – you’re the cheapest or the most expensive (exclusivity).

(As a corporate blogging trainer, I need to repeat here that what you don’t want to do in any business blog post is “litanize”, meaning offer an extensive "boast session" of all the ways your stuff is better than their stuff.  In fact, this stuff-characteristic list is for your own use, your tool kit from which you’ll select just one item to emphasize out of all the things your have, do, and know how to do.)

The real secret, as Thaddeus Rex so rightly points out, is to know, really know, your audience. That way, you’ll know which “tools” out of your STUFF list will be most likely to appeal to that audience.
To achieve that outcome, advises blog consultant Mark White, “your knowledge (of your target audience) needs to influence every aspect of your blog, including:

  • What your blog looks like
  • The content of the blog
  • The style of writing
  • The length and frequency of posts
  • How you elicit comments and feedback

Your “water slide” (which is how Thaddeus Rex refers to the sales process) must take people where they want to go. “Otherwise you just generate work vetting leads that will never convert,” he cautions.

When you blog the right stuff to the right audience in the right way – magic happens!

 

0 Comments »

The Journalistic Side of Blogging for Business

OK, so I’d chosen to buy Time Magazine because the title “Who really decides which flights get canceled?” had intrigued me and made me curious. But, how did reporter Bill Saporito structure the article itself to keep me reading through a four-page, small-print article? And what can we freelance blog content writers learn about keeping online readers engaged?

As a prelude to the article “Mission Impossible”, the magazine served up a giant visual showing the American Airlines Integrated Operations Control Center outside Dallas, with labels for the key players in an flight cancellation decision: the Manager on Duty, the Repair expediter, the Maintenance controller, the Jet specialist, etc. While the picture didn’t live up to the expectation of some inside secret that the word “really” had conjured up, it certainly went a long way towards helping me visualize the enormity and urgency of the flight cancellation process.

Fellow blogger Michael Fortin believes most blogs would be strengthened by a visual representation of the product, the business, the person, the quality, the claims, or more importantly, the benefits of the product or service.

The journalist opens with an anecdote, immediately humanizing the narrative and making it more relatable to readers. “Tim Campbell, senior vice president of air operations for American Airlines, is staring at a diagram of the Charlotte, N.C. airport,” Saporito begins.

Stories of all kinds (“case studies”, customer testimonials, famous incidents from the news, Hollywood, folklore – you name it) help personalize a business blog. Even if a professional ghost blogger is doing most of the writing, employees and customers can provide true-story material.

Now, having set the stage, Saporito gets to the down-and-dirty implied in the “really” title:
“But the weather alone does not explain why on any given day, tens of thousands of passengers may find themselves stranded…” Explaining the vast complexity of the issues surrounding crew scheduling concerns, backup jet scheduling and placement, passenger reimbursements, safety issues, and on and on takes up the remainder of the thousands-of-words-long article.

My question has been answered, though. Who or what is really is in control? It’s the Cancellator, a computer algorithm that “weighs which flights can be shelved while keeping an airline’s schedule as whole as possible.”

As a business blog post, of course “Airport Confidential” would violate some of the rules I teach newbie blog content writers:  It’s much too long, and the primary focus isn’t on the need of the reader..

What this very well-written piece of journalism did accomplish, of course, was getting me, the prospective reader to “click” by buying the magazine and then keeping me interested through the entire article!

 

0 Comments »

Once-They've-Come-Inside Business Blog Content Writing

OK, so I’d chosen to buy Time Magazine because the title “Who really decides which flights get canceled?” had intrigued me and made me curious. But now, was I going to stay interested enough to read through the entire issue?

That’s precisely the sequence of events for businesses and practices that engage in blog marketing. Blog readers are “deposited” at your “doorstep” due to the fact that the keyword phrases you’ve used proved a good match for the words those readers had typed into their browser’s search bar. If they are intrigued with your blog post title, readers click on the link, where they gain access to the blog content itself.

In a way, online readers who arrive at your business blog have already “drunk the the Kool-Aid”. They already have an interest in your topic and are ready to receive the information, the services, and the products you have to offer. Your task is to keep them engaged with valuable, personal, and relevant information. You don’t have a very long “window” to accomplish that task, really just a couple of seconds.

The Neilsen Norman Group make it their business to measure that “window”. “Users often leave Web pages in 10-20 seconds, but pages with a clear value proposition can hold people's attention for much longer,” says Jakob Nielsen. Neilsen Norman uses a reliability engineering concept called a Weibull distribution which measures the probability that a component will fail. Applying that same concept to web readers, Nielsen found that “It’s rare for people to linger on Web pages, but when users do decide that a page is valuable, they may stay for a bit.”

“If you can convince users to stay on your page for half a minute, there’s a fair chance that they’ll stay much longer – often 2 minutes or more, which is an eternity on the Web.,” Neilson concludes.

As a corporate blogging trainer, what that “negative Weibull distribution” says to me is that we content writers should “give out the goodies” early in the post. (Interestingly, that very thought seems to trigger a certain degree of fear in many business owners - if they share too much information about their field, prospects won't need to pay them to provide expertise!). 

Well, they won’t be paying if they aren’t staying, now will they?

 

0 Comments »

The "Really" Factor in Business Blog Content Writing

There must’ve been eighty of them – which magazine did I want to buy? Even after I’d ruled out knitting, motorsports, men’s health, motorsports and bridal fashion as topics, the choices were overwhelming.  And then I saw it - the one I had to have: TIME, its cover sporting the following absolutely irresistible question:    Who REALLY decides which flights get cancelled?

In training blog content writers, I like to compare searchers browsing the internet to people visiting a trade show.  People are walking around the exhibit hall on the lookout for a product or service that meets their needs. When they pass your "blog booth", you want them to find something that draws their interest.  That "something" is the title, promising fresh, engaging content in your post. Once you’ve caught their interest, you hope, you’ll have the opportunity to invite those customer to “come inside” to your website or to follow one of your Calls to Action.

Speaking of Calls to Action, it was essentially the word “really” on the TIME cover that “called” me to buy that very magazine as opposed to any of its 79+ neighbors on the display. Made me think about how we marketing blog writers could accomplish the same sort of results using the Really Factor.

The implied promise in the word “really” is that readers can expect to be given some “inside scoop”, stuff not everybody else is privy to. And if that information can be related to a recent news story, all the better. As a professional ghost blogger for business, I know that one way to ensure blog content is fresh is tying that content to current events. I also know that Indianapolis residents are not the only blog readers who've been enduring flight and travel delays due to "weather events" - the topic of flight delays is timely.

Like garlic or hot pepper in food, the Really Factor should be added to SEO marketing blogs  with a really light hand.  After all, we wouldn’t want to be accused of “crying ‘wolf’” in our every post. On the other hand, entering conversations that are “trending” at the time , tying our blog content to current events, now that’s a good habit to develop.  Really! 

 

0 Comments »

Aiming for Less in Business Blog Content Writing

It’s no fun to think about it, but as marketers, we know we’re “befogged”. My National Speakers Association friend and fellow blogger Karl Ahrichs calls it “the media fog surrounding us all”. As a benefits professional, Ahlrichs advises his benefits brokers to “explain it all in 6 second or less”.

What’s all the need for speed? In the space of any fifteen minutes of our typical day, our brains are likely overloaded with messages on television, radio, and the web, while 100 emails hit our inbox. We have bare seconds to make our point with any modern business professional before that person shuts us off mentally and starts thinking about something else.

Uh-oh, so where does that put us blog content writers in terms of capturing the attention of readers? How about 8 words?  That’s how many steamfeed.com says bloggers have to make an impact.  “Every day, you fight a battle, competing with the internet, emails, texting and voicemail. “  Kimberly Yuhl of SteamFeed quotes a quite startling word quota from Statistic Brain: The average attention span in 2013 was 8 seconds. If the average adult listens to or reads one word per second, that gives us eight words to capture our readers’ attention.  “They had better be some powerful words,” advises Yuhl.

Your best chance, she says is telling stories.

  • Through storytelling, you can immediately connect with people and other distractions will fall to the wayside.
  • ” Don’t be afraid to talk about feelings. People can relate to a feeling while they don’t necessary relate to a number, statistic or even logic. Talk to Each Person
  • You have to talk directly to someone in order for them to commit their attention. Bring the reader into the story.

As a corporate blogging trainer, I’m always considering different ways of communicating with online readers. We see ourselves at Say It For You as a matchmaking service that helps our clients “meet strangers” and hopefully convert at least some of them into friends and customers.

Karl Ahlrichs’ piece reminded me that we content writers need to “matchmake” a little faster!

 

0 Comments »

"Wait, Wait - Don't Tell Me" Business Blog Content Writing

Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! is NPR's popular weekly quiz program, in which contestants test their knowledge by figuring out what's real news and what's made up.  

In corporate blogging training sessions, I’m sometimes asked whether quizzes are a good strategy in business blogging. The answer is yes, and for several different reasons. ASTD, the world’s largest training and development association, thinks quizzes are an extremely valuable training tool.  Why?  Quizzes “help get participants enthused and curious about what they will learn.”

Blog readers tend to be curious creatures and, as a longtime Indianapolis blog content writer, I’ve found that “self-tests” tend to engage readers and help them relate in a more personal way to information presented in a blog.

A second way to look at the Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me! show from the point of view of business blogging, is that we blog content writers are, in fact, telling them.  What’s more, often we’re telling ‘em the same information we’re already told ‘em in earlier posts! One concern I hear a lot from business owners or professional practitioners is that sooner or later, they’ll run out of things to say in their marketing blog posts.  “I’ve already covered my products and services on my website – what else is left to say?” is the question. In other words, if we content writers make a habit of repeating ourselves, won’t we run the risk of being bo-o-o-ring?

Paradoxically, effective business blogging is centered around the repeated use of keyword phrases and key themes. One of the challenges in blogging for business over long periods of time is keeping the content fresh. Quizzes and surveys are just two ways to vary the menu.

The main goal of training, says the ASTD, is “to ensure that learning is applied to work.” Quizzes can serve as a good start, is the idea ASTD professionals point out. With marketing blogs for businesses or for professional practices, learning is certainly one goal. But a second goal is to invite readers to take the next step by following one of your Calls to Action. In other words, the goal is to move those potential clients and customers down the “sales funnel”.

For me as a corporate blogging trainer, the significance of the radio show name “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!” lies in the fact that listeners (and similarly, blog readers) often can’t remember what they once knew about a subject. And while the quiz or the show lets them have a chance to try to recall the answers, readers and listeners what us to tell them the answers and put those answers in perspective.

By telling readers, “Hey, you can do this… let me show you” and then showing them, we create a sense of confidence in prospects,” is Jeff Molander’s idea in “Making Social Media Sell”. Wait-wait-don’t-tell-me blogging for business is great way to empower readers while becoming their go-to source as they prepare to turn that knowledge into action.

0 Comments »

Add To Your Expert Power by Blogging for Business

Not only will keeping up with industry news help you make better decisions for your business or practice, points out mindtools.com, it’s the key to building expert power, earning the trust and respect of people around you.
Why is expert power so important in leadership?  “If they can see your expertise, team members will believe that you have the wisdom to direct their efforts towards a goal that is genuinely worthwhile,” mindtools goes on to explain.

Trust is a mightily important element in SEO marketing blogs. Sales trainer Tim Roberts talks about validating customers and becoming their Trusted Advisor! When it comes to blogging for business, remember that readers found your blog in the first place because what they needed corresponded with what you sell, what you know, and what you know how to do. Now that those searchers are “meeting” you through your content, you have the chance to establish credibility and reliability. One way to come across as an expert is to share valuable information you’ve learned by staying abreast with the latest developments in your field.

Besides coming across as more credible, when business owners or professional practitioners stay up to date in their fields, explains mindtools.com, they are in a better position to spot threats and opportunities early on.

Sometimes, an “outside eye” can be the first to pinpoint those threats and opportunities. A “ghost blogger” can do much more than “say it for you”.  In fact, through the research we constantly are doing, we freelance blog content writers sometimes spot trends in the marketplace even before our clients do!

“So you don’t have to…” is a popular advertising slogan for different kinds of concierge service providers. Those words, I believe, have become popular because they describe what customers and clients want from providers.  In considering a product or service purchase, the client expects the provider to have expert power. Mindtools has it exactly right – If they can see your expertise, prospects will believe you have the wisdom to direct their efforts towards a goal that is genuinely worthwhile.”

Add to your expert power by blogging for business!

 

0 Comments »