Posts Tagged ‘blogging’

If You Want to Get Attention, Say Something Worth Hearing

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Every day, we’re bombarded with more online information than our brains can possibly absorb. It’s as if a truck backed up to our homes and businesses each morning and dumped a ton of junk mail at our feet.

If you want to get any work done, you simply have to ignore or trash about 95 percent of anything you receive, even if it’s a subscription to a blog or eNewsletter you really mean to read.

So how do you get others to pay attention to your marketing messages?

Not by yelling louder or more often.

Here are my guidelines for being heard by the people you want to reach:

1. Know your ideal client and what problems she’s trying to solve.

If you don’t know whom you’re trying to attract and how you can be of help, it’s time to stop and figure that out. Everything else flows from this fundamental knowledge.

2. Provide quality content that solves a problem, teaches a new skill or inspires.

If you can do all three, even better. People are busy and easily distracted. To get your ideal client to pause and read, you need to give her content that’s immediately useful. It can be as short as a few sentences or as long as a feature article. Just be sure it’s worth her time.

3. Write with clarity and precision.

Nothing undercuts your message more than rambling sentences and poor grammar. If you’re not sure of your writing and editorial skills, find a good copyeditor to review your work before publishing.

4. Be consistent.

Produce and distribute your messaging content, via a blog, eNewsletter or other form of social media, on a predictable schedule, so your readers know when to expect your quality content—and look forward to it.

5. Be truthful and trustworthy.

Building a good reputation for your work is contingent on being a good person to work with. Enough said.

There is, of course, much to master about messaging tactics—how to build a good email distribution list, how to write effective headlines that get noticed, how to integrate keywords into your content to maximize search optimization, and so on. But even if you’re brilliant in all of these skills, if what you have to share isn’t worth reading, you’re wasting your time and everyone else’s.

The best test of your content? If you weren’t the author, would you take the time in the middle of a busy day to read it? I hope your answer is yes, but if not, you know what you have to do.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Photo Credit: maol via Compfight cc

Boost Your Blog with a Strategic Publication Plan: 5 Steps to Managing Your Time and Content

Monday, January 14th, 2013

If you enjoy writing, blogging is a great way to reach out and build connections with people who share your interests and who can benefit from your services. It’s also a great way to add fresh, search optimized content to your professional website and attract qualified inbound links, which improve your rankings

But it’s also a serious commitment. If you want to develop a following, you need to come up with a topic at least once a week, on schedule. You need to find time to research, write, revise and post. You need to stay on top of trends in your field and find an original angle. You need to understand your audience and what questions they’re asking.

It can seem easy at first, especially when you’re excited about launching your new blog, to find something good to write about. Without a publication plan, however, it’s also easy to run out of steam.

I’ve seen this happen time and again with clients who want a blog as part of their new professional websites. They’ll write a few posts, maybe even for a month or two. But soon, other commitments and demands of a busy schedule squeeze out the blogging, and it becomes a dated, dead-end section of their websites.

The best way to avoid that trap and keep your blog fresh and compelling is to develop a strategic publication plan. Here are the basic steps:

1. Identify your ideal client’s top questions.

What are your target audience’s biggest concerns that you can help solve? What are the questions you’re asked most often? This is the starting point for a series of blog posts. Write down the questions and group them into several main categories.

2. Develop a list of keywords that tie to your main blog categories.

You can do this using Google’s free keyword tool, if you’re on a budget, or a good paid service, like Wordtracker. You can find a lot of excellent free guidance about how to select keywords and phrases on Wordtracker.com. Keep this list handy as you develop keyword tags and headlines for your posts.

3. Plan out a series of post topics, one per week to start, for two to three months at a time.

Keep it manageable, based on a realistic assessment of your availability to write. As you plan, try to rotate your topics so that you cover the range of your main categories over a month or six weeks. I like to set this up as a table, with a column each for the post topic, the category, who’s writing the post (if you work with a team) and when the post is scheduled to publish.

4. Plan your time for research and writing.

You can tackle this in a variety of ways. If you work best on a weekly basis, set aside time for research and writing the first draft several days ahead of the publication date, so you have time to review and revise. Another approach is to set aside a day each month to focus on your blog, do all the research and first drafts, then take a few hours later that week to revise and set up a series of four scheduled posts, one for each of the next four weeks.

5. Track your traffic.

Review your blog stats to see which posts were most popular and got the most comments. Be sure to keep up with any comments in a timely fashion, to encourage interaction. Evaluate your publication strategy based on this feedback and develop your schedule for the next three months.

While some people favor writing several times a week, and even daily, to build a following, my preference is to write well, consistently, once a week. We’re all inundated with too much information every day, every hour, online. If you write something worth reading that your followers can look forward to on schedule each week, chances are they’ll read it and pass it along. And you’ll have more time to focus on the work you love most.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Seven Ways to Repeat Your Message and Get Noticed

Monday, October 1st, 2012

There’s a golden rule in public speaking:

Tell your audience what you’re going to tell them.

Tell them.

Then tell them what you told them.

When it comes to delivering a memorable message, repetition is key. With so much information battering us for attention every second—from emails, texts, tweets, social network posts; on our smart phones, radio, TV; not to mention from live beings in our midst—it’s amazing that we can remember anything at all.

The Rule of Seven
So how many times do you need to repeat your marketing message for your ideal customer to pay attention, remember and follow your call-to-action?

The annoying answer is—it depends. If you’re an expert in a small but clearly defined niche, you may have a dedicated following who just need to hear your advice once to take action.

But if you’re competing in a crowded marketplace, you need to repeat and repeat and repeat. Some marketing pros cite the Rule of Seven—a minimum of seven times to repeat your message in order to be noticed. It’s probably no coincidence that seven is the average number of bits of information that we can hold in our short-term, conscious memory.

Vary the Medium to Develop Your Message
This doesn’t mean you need to repeat the exact same message in the exact same format, over and over. In fact, it helps if you promote your message with some variety, so your ideal client doesn’t yawn and move on because she’s heard it already. There’s a balance to be struck between reinforcing your message and annoying the people you’re trying to convince with too much of the same thing.

So here are seven ways to get your message across in different styles and formats:

  1. Blog about it. Tell a story about how your helped solve a problem for a client. Be sure she’s someone your target audience can identify with. Tweet about your blog post, using keywords that your target audience is likely to use for search.
  2. Create a video of your client explaining how you helped her solve that problem. Embed it on your website homepage, post it on your social networking sites and tweet to your followers.
  3. Create a short guide to solving that problem, optimize it with keywords and post it on your website as a download in exchange for email addresses. Promote it through your social networks.
  4. Promote a free webinar about how to solve that problem in greater detail, using  your email list of qualified potential clients and social networks.
  5. Do the webinar. Offer participants a discount for your product or service.
  6. Guest post on a blog with a significant audience of potential clients about how to solve that problem. Link to your website and your problem-solving download.
  7. Get yourself an interview on your local business radio show and tell your story. Promote your next webinar.

And so on. You can, of course, also tell your story through traditional advertising, such as newspaper ads, if your budget allows. The point is to think creatively, across media that your ideal client favors, and plan your promotional push within a short enough period that will help you to reinforce your message multiple times.

As you develop your campaign, be sure to measure results. Which tactic garnered the most inquiries? Which gave you the best return on your investment of time and resources? Experiment, test and refine. With each new round of repetition, you’ll have a better shot that your ideal client will actually be listening.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

 

Enough With the “Ten Best” Blog Posts: Give Me a Great Story

Monday, January 30th, 2012

A client recently told me, when I suggested he start blogging to build his consulting practice, that he was reluctant to do so. Most bloggers, he said, just write anything that comes to their heads. He was concerned that if he started blogging, he’d just “dumb down” his subject matter.

Though I strongly disagree with his premise, and we’re in the midst of an ongoing conversation about the strategy and craft of blogging, he also has a point.

A lot of blogs ramble, a lot of writing lacks strategic focus and many bloggers could use a good editor.

There is plenty of excellent content online about how to avoid that. Copyblogger Media has built a highly successful business teaching how to write effective blogs that help you sell your product or service. I’ve learned a great deal from them and recommend their free Copywriting 101 course for anyone new to blogging or who needs to sharpen their focus and improve their style.

Formulaic + Predictable = Boring + Not Worth Reading
At the same time, however, I think my client is onto a deeper problem with the current state of blogging. Among more experienced bloggers, I find a lot of writing has become so formulaic that it’s boring and predictable.

Yes, lists work. Yes, there is a fine art to writing effective headlines that compel your reader to open your post. Yes, chunking your copy into shorter paragraphs with smart subheads that make the post easy to skim is essential for busy, time-pressed readers.

Still, I think we can do much better. After all, marketing is essentially all about telling a good, true story. So why not apply key elements of fiction writing—story arc, the telling detail, dialogue, scenes, voice, prose rhythm, character development—to our blog stories?

Art and Craft of Fiction Writing + Blog Format = Great, Compelling Stories
Look at how the field of journalism has evolved over the past few decades to encompass the genre of narrative nonfiction (pioneered by writers like Tom Wolfe, Joan Didion, Norman Mailer, John McPhee and Tracy Kidder), reporting that tells nonfiction stories with the art and skill of a novelist. Why can’t blogs tell great, compelling marketing stories with the art and skill of a short-short story writer?

I’d rather read a great story that truly demonstrates the value of your work over another list of ten “bests” any day. Both, if well-crafted with a strategic focus, will undoubtedly capture your ideal client’s attention—with one major difference: The list will keep them skimming for a minute or two; the story will stick with them after they go offline.

I’ll have more to say about how to apply the art and craft of fiction writing to marketing blogs in future posts. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts. What are some of the best examples of storytelling on marketing blogs that you’ve come across? What made them work for you?

Stuck in the Blogging Rut? Think Like a Magazine Editor-in-Chief

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Note to self: Write weekly blog post today. But you’re stuck. No brilliant ideas. The words just won’t come.

Sound familiar? Take a break from your computer. Forget about the Internet for a while and sit down with a copy of your favorite magazine. Yes, a magazine. Traditional print media. There’s a lot you can learn about blogging from a magazine if you approach your blog as an editor-in-chief.

Your Blog is Not Just a Series of Random Posts
As editor-in-chief of your blog (and lead writer), you don’t just churn out random posts. You make decisions about content based on a solid knowledge of your target audience. You plan issues well in advance of publication, including short features in regular departments and longer, special in-depth stories.

You may structure your issues around themes and develop those themes in a series of linked feature stories. You include a mix of stories—how-to’s, breaking news, commentary, thought pieces, profiles of fascinating people.

If you think of your blog as a multi-faceted magazine, you begin to see it as a coherent publication with a series of related topics that you develop, thoughtfully, over time, rather than as a hole to fill each week with something brilliant.

As I’m writing this post, I’m scanning a recent issue of Poets & Writers Magazine, one of my favorite publications and a great resource, if, like me, you’re pushing your writing frontier to create fiction.

Develop a Theme for a Series
This particular issue focuses on literary agents—a hot topic for writers striving to break into publishing—and includes a feature story on four agents who “turned their debut writers into last summer’s hot new authors” plus a companion piece, How Agents Operate.

Blogger’s Takeaway: Select a relevant theme for your audience and create a series of posts that you can publish over a period of weeks or months. Work out a publication schedule. Do your research. You can write the series all at once or over a period of weeks. The advantage of developing a themed series is that it enables you to dig into a substantive topic of interest and frees you from that deadline panic of what to write about this week. This content can also form the basis for a short e-course or the foundation for an e-book.

Capture Your Audience’s Attention with Page-Turning Headlines
Here are a few samples from this issue:

  • Decisions, Decisions: Three Different Paths to Publication
  • Network: How to Use Twitter to Connect with Readers
  • Grants & Awards: Over 50 Upcoming Deadlines, plus 10 New Awards, and 202 Recent Winners.

Notice that the payoff is articulated clearly in each headline. If you want to get your fiction or poetry published, you’re going to check out these articles.

Blogger’s Takeaway: Strong, smart, compelling headlines are crucial to getting blog traffic. Copyblogger Media is a terrific source for how to write great headlines (and for a raft of other excellent advice about web-based content development). Here’s a link to their series, How to Write Magnetic Headlines.

Encourage Your Audience to Tell You What They Think
Magazines have been doing this for years with Letters to the Editor. In my copy of Poets & Writers, people wrote letters about the struggle of writing when you have a full-time job versus writing full-time, the inspiration derived from a profile of author Tayari Jones, and writing craft—in this case, how to write violent scenes without alienating your reader with too much gore!

Of course, they’re responding to articles in previous issues, but the questions and comments in these letters point to the kinds of articles readers would like to see in the future—about authors who’ve made it and how they got there, the day-to-day struggle of creative writing, how to sharpen your writing technique.

Blogger’s Takeaway: If you’re getting thoughtful feedback on your posts, congratulations, and take it seriously as a source for more content. If your blog is still new and you’re in the early stages of developing an audience, go to where your ideal client hangs out, on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and listen in to the conversation. The Internet is a great free resource for market research. Use that research as the basis for future blog posts.

Excellent Writing Counts
I wouldn’t read Poets & Writers unless the quality of writing matched the content. But that isn’t just significant for a writer’s magazine targeting readers with high standards. Your writing is a reflection and expression of who you are. If you churn out a post filled with grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and a bunch of disorganized nonsense, anyone who reads it will assume that you’re careless and disorganized, too.

Blogger’s Takeaway: Invest the time and effort to create excellent content. Great blog posts take a lot of thought, writing and revision—to get the content right, the headlines right and the strategy right. In addition to Copyblogger, check out the Content Marketing Institute for outstanding advice about how to improve your own content.