A few weeks back, Jeff Bullas posted a guest blog I wrote called “How to Be the Real You in Your Blog Writing.”
The post received hundreds of comments, from blog writers afraid to be genuine given their acerbic personalities to others happy to get permission (finally!) to express themselves.
One of my fave questions came from Jennifer Erickson of Impart Video in Washington, D.C., who worried she might come across like a hawker on late-night TV: “How do you blog effectively for your business, without sounding like a salesperson? It seems every time I try to write a blog for our business, I’m trying to promote something (because the ultimate goal is to drive traffic to our website, right?).”
Right on the back end, wrong on the front end. Yes, we all want more visitors, more leads, more sales for our business. But No, the worst way to do that is to focus on promoting something—anything!
So what do you use to fill up your blog posts? Info.
1. Create content your prospects and customers love. (Hint: It’s about them, not you.)
I’ve been participating in Social Media Examiner’s Content Success Summit 2013 for the past month. At this point, I have a recipe to engage in content marketing techniques form blogging to video, podcasts to slideshows.
But the session that made my neurons start hopping like kernels in a popcorn machine—the one with a strategy I could implement that very day—came courtesy of Marcus Sheridan of The Sales Lion. His topic: “Seven Content Marketing Tips to Increase Visitors, Leads, and Sales.”
Marcus advocates creating content your prospects and customers love. Guess what? They don’t love hearing you talk about yourself, the product you sell, the service you provide, the horse you rode in on. (Well, maybe the horse.)
So what do they love?
2. To find out what your customers want, listen to them.
What they love is info they can use: the answers to their questions, the solutions to their problems, the balm that will let them sleep at night.
Of course, if you want to find out what they’re asking, you have to listen. Trust me, they’re yakking away everywhere: On Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, groups and forums. They’re even asking you and your salespeople questions, either online or to your face.
Happily they have an endless supply of questions you can answer. Marcus provided a great example: He was running a failing pool company when he hit on content marketing (not that he knew that’s what he was doing). Content marketing could be sharing of any type of info or entertainment to acquire customers. Marcus’ company resolved to be the best %$^# teachers in the world at what they do.
You can write a blog post to answer every question your customers ask. You’ll never run out of content—which is good news.
But don’t think like a marketer; you’ve got to flip your mindset on its head (sounds painful, I know). Would you be excited about the blog post you just wrote if you were your customer?
This isn’t a case study, where the solution to every problem is a product or service you offer. A blog must be a valuable exchange of information—and that could mean you never mention your company or its products and services.
3. Don’t shy away from the hard questions.
Ask questions that make you and your salespeople squirm, the ones you really don’t want to answer unless you’re face-to-face with your customer. When you’re a little uncomfortable about how much info you’re sharing, you’ve got it right.
So what can you talk about? The cost of your products and services, the factors to consider when buying them, the reasons why your competitor’s offerings might be a better fit in some cases. If the answer to a question is the all-purpose “It depends,” then tell your customer why it depends.
A bonus from supplying the answers to questions your customers ask is that your company will pop up when your customers go to Google to search for information. That’s especially true if you target long-tail search terms—three words or more.
For example, one of my clients plans to target “stereo speakers for outdoor weddings.” They’ve found a lot of searches on those keywords but not a lot of competition. They’ll be providing info on how to ensure the best sound possible, with or without the speakers they sell.
And that’s the point: You give your customers all the info they need to make the best decision for them, even if that means the choice isn’t you.
Did anyone see Miracle on 34th Street over the holiday season? Kris Kringle, the department store Santa at Macy’s, creates a huge controversy when he tells a Mom she can buy the skates on her child’s wish list at Gimbells—Macy’s #1 competitor—because they’re not in stock at Macy’s.
The mucky-mucks at Macy’s don’t like it—until the press picks up the story and applauds Macy’s for their Christmas spirit. Try a little Christmas spirit yourself—it’s in season with your customers year-round.
4. Disarm your customers by being someone they can trust.
Sure, you’re still going to push your own products, but you can do it objectively. You might compare the pros and cons of your products and similar offerings (Marcus compared asphalt, fiberglass and vinyl liner pools), the problems with your product and solutions for them.
Marcus noted that fiberglass pools aren’t completely trouble-free but, if you talk about that up front, you overcome an even larger issue: Objections.
If you talk about the problems with your product or service before your customer does, you’ve disarmed them—and handled their objection before they’ve ever made it.
5. Aspire to thought leadership by showing you care about your customers and the industry.
Ultimately you want more visitors, more leads, more sales—but that’s not enough. What you really want is to be an industry thought leader, someone who cares enough about what you do to keep your prospects and customers informed, address issues when they arise and call for change when it’s needed.
If you want more tactics from Marcus (as in 294 pages more), check out his ebook, “Inbound Content Marketing Made Easy.”
But what about me?
So do you never get to promote you products and services? Yes, you get to promote; you just don’t get to pimp. Tell your customers when you have news they can use—new products and services, a new launch or completed project.
Or maybe you’ve won an award or earned some recognition—it’s OK to share. And who knows? Maybe you can unearth a benefit to your customers in your company’s prize for Best 4th of July Parade Float.
Eclipse has never had a float in a parade. But to do a better job of listening up and giving you info you want, let me ask: What questions on copywriting, content writing, blogging, marketing or anything else can I answer for you?
Diana Kightlinger is a professional copywriter, content writer and blogger. For lots more helpful info, sign up for the EclipseWriter Blog and get her FREE REPORT on “50 Things You Must Check Before You Send Your Email Offer.”