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Better business writing – 6 ways to avoid annoying your readers.
Do you sometimes click on a tempting headline only to be disappointed by what you read? How often do you find yourself thinking “so what” at the end of a blog? Worse still, do you find yourself thinking “this is just another sales pitch” when you get to the *artless plug* for the product or service? [Warning - watch out for the artless plug a bit further on.]
If that’s your experience of business articles and blogs, you are not alone. Although the term ‘clickbait’ only entered the Oxford dictionary in 2014, it already annoys millions of web users worldwide. Too many companies churn out low grade content that fails to deliver interesting, useful or relevant information for the reader. But why?
Many do it in the (often futile) hope of converting some hapless reader into a loyal customer. Perhaps some think they’ll become blogging superstars with millions of followers and invitations to glamorous parties, if they can only “produce enough stuff.” Most are simply wasting their reader's time, damaging their brand and burning a valuable chunk of their marketing budget.
The question is: how do you avoid the same problem with your business blog? How do you write ‘stuff’ that people will enjoy reading? And how does this activity fit with the rest of your marketing communications?
*Artless plug* alert!
If you’ve read this far, you might like to sign up for my Norfolk Chamber workshop called “Engaging Writing for Business” – click here for more details on what to expect.
Meanwhile, back to this post...
What’s the point of blogging?
Blogging can be a great way to build your brand authority and, in time, encourage people to do business with you. But a huge number of blogs go live every day. Here are just some of the startling stats for WordPress blogs alone (there are other content management systems).
Around 70 million sites worldwide use WordPress, making it the most popular blogging platform. These sites (in over 120 languages) produce around 53 million news posts – every month. Yet WordPress only accounts for 23% of the top 10 million websites (by visitor traffic).
That’s the publishing side of the equation but figures on the audience side are even more startling. According to WordPress, around 409 million people view in the region of 19 BILLION pages every month. We are drowning in a sea of ‘information’ – and much of it appears to be of little real value.
So how do you cut through? What makes you different?
Blogging is not your business...
HubSpot is a marketing and sales software site used by some 15,000 companies in over 90 countries. It employs around 785 people, including a large team of writers whose sole job is to research and write (and rewrite) in the region of 200 blog posts every month. Unless you have those sorts of resources, you cannot compete on that quantity of output.
But here’s the thing. HubSpot admits that over 46% of their blog leads come from just 30 posts – in other words, just 0.5% of their 6,000 published blogs generate most of their leads. So could you produce 20-30 really good posts in, say, the next two years, that might compete on quality?
Possibly – but remember, HubSpot uses professional writers. While you are a professional, your skill probably lies in managing your business. If you are like most people, including many professional writers, you’ll find writing hard work – but, unlike most professional writers, you have other work to do too.
So what hope is there? Plenty – if you focus on your audience.
...Your business can be a source of engaging blogs.
Far too many people get hung up on the mechanics of blogging. They worry about their keyword density and whether their blog is optimised for SEO. They fret about their data capture and which analytics to use, or whether to split infinitives and how to format info-graphics.
They constantly ask: “when is the best time to post?” “How do I get more followers?” And: “Should I guest blog on LinkedIn or stick to my own site?” But, all too often, they forget to ask the fundamental questions: who are you writing for, what are you going to say, why will they listen?
Remember: you have something Hubspot doesn’t have. In fact you have something that no other blogger in the world has. You have YOU.
It might seem obvious but you are an individual – and so is everyone who works with you. You have your own way of thinking and talking – and your own perspective on business. If you (or whoever writes your blogs) can capture this, you have the chance to communicate with an authentic ‘voice.’
Finding your voice – and your brand’s voice – is half the battle to writing stories that people will want to read. With a distinct voice you can create a blog with something far more important than catchy headlines: you can create a blog with personality. People buy people – so give your readers a sense of the people and the passion behind your brand.
Only start a conversation when you know what you want to say.
This is probably one of the best bits of advice you can heed in life – but particularly in blogging. Too many companies start blogs with no clear idea about the fit with their overall marketing communications. “Everyone has a blog,so we must have one” says the MD, as they send their marketing team rushing off to produce a blog.
The marketing team then spends a lot of time and money telling customers about their blog. Yet the customers, poor souls, invariably remain baffled about the value this blog is supposed to have in their busy lives.
Make it easy for your readers: have a clear sense of purpose. Then ask yourself (in all honesty) why would I read this blog – what makes it worth my time? If you can’t answer truthfully and convincingly, then you need to think harder about what you are trying to achieve.
What’s your purpose?
Here are six things to help you identify your purpose before you start blogging (whether on your own site or elsewhere).
The six honest servants of communications (after Rudyard Kipling)
1. Who are you writing for? Do you really know your customers?
2. What will you say? What unique perspective can you bring to the subject?
3. Why will they listen? Are you telling them something relevant, useful, interesting or inspiring?
4. Where will you connect with them? What's the best platform to use?
5. How do you want them to respond? Do you want them to follow, share, buy, ask a question, or simply gain a better understanding of your brand?
6. When do you need them to act? Now, today, or at some specific future event?
If you enjoyed this blog and want to find out more...
...Join me for my Engaging Business Writing workshop. Better Business Blogging sessions. You'll get the chance to ask specific questions about your business and the blogging challenges you face - as well as learning from other participants. Let’s start exploring ways you can use blogs to add value to your business relationships.