Writing for Your Audience: How to Keep Them Engaged While Still Selling

How Social Media Holds the Keys to Successful Business Writing

NewspaperAccording to The State of the News Media: 2013 Report by The Pew Research Center, “Newspaper website audiences grew 3 percent as measured by unique visitors from November 2011 to November 2012. However, total visits decreased almost 5 percent in the same time period.” These numbers point out an interesting phenomena occurring in media as consumers are transitioning their readership to online channels, while spending less time reading the news than they did in the past.

So as a writer, how do you keep your audience engaged, especially when your end goal is to sell your product? What are the emerging trends in business writing sales and how can you help stay abreast of the latest writing techniques needed to make a sale? Believe it or not, social media may hold the insider’s tips into keeping your audience engaged.

Keep it Short and Simple

The shear metrics behind the Twitter website should demonstrate consumer’s demand for short and to-the-point information consumption. According to the company’s website, average monthly users soared from 100 million in 2011 to 255 million currently. This represents a 155 percent increase in just three years. Compared to the 3 percent growth for newspaper website audiences, it’s clear to see Twitter has the emerging market cornered.

That said; how can you capture audiences using the same characteristics of Twitter? Well for starters, consider keeping messages short, simple, and to the point. Twitter has a 140-character limit for a reason; people don’t have the time or attention span to read anything longer. Imagine how successful your next media ad text would be if you sold every key benefit within the first 140 characters. Or, what if you wrote a sales blog that got to the point in three paragraphs instead of seven? While short and sweet definitely has its place, the theory of “less is more” cannot be lost when it comes to writing to sell.

Visual Interest Is Crucial

Dog Watching ButterflyImagery is a necessary part of any successful business writing piece. In fact, imagery, be it a company logo, creative photo to accompany your advertisement, or even a fun video to go along side your blog, can be the difference between capturing an attentive audience or receiving a high website click through rate before your readers actually absorb any of your content. For example, organizations such as the Business Marketing Organization are recognizing the value of using up-to-date, intriguing visuals, and are updating their brand imagery accordingly.

Social media sites like Instagram and Pinterest provide leading examples of the use of effective imagery which brands should be striving for. True-to-life, action shots of average people in real life settings are the business imagery that will resonate in the future. Gone are the days of staged portraits with professional actors who know nothing about your product. Looking for great imagery to accompany your business writing piece? Try photographing some of your actual clients using your product in a real-life setting. Or, use customer submitted photos. If you think it would get a “Like” on Instagram or a Pin on Pinterest, it’s probably a solid image.

Relationship Building Is a Necessary Step

NotebookYour business writing piece should speak to your audience in a way they can relate to. Just like your Facebook followers, users who regularly visit your business blog or look for your advertisements will expect a certain caliber and stream of content from you. For example, the content created on a Facebook page for a local rock band would be much different than the Facebook content created for the corner garden and nursery supply store. Keep in mind the audience you are speaking to about your business just like you would your Facebook page:

  • What will my friends/family/followers want to know about this product or service?
  • Will this information actually interest them?
  • Have I already talked about this idea in the recent past?

Likewise, make your business writing a two-way conversation. While this specifically applies to blogs, it is crucial that your audience feels like you are talking with them, not at them. Solicit commentary from your audience. Welcome guest bloggers. Make your writing a conversational piece verses simply just a straight sales pitch. The more social engagement you can bring into your piece, the stronger your final sales results will be.

~ Katie

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Audience, Capturing Audience, Content, Content Marketing, Sales, Social Media, Technical Writing, The Writing Process

Two Unforgettable Keynote Speeches and Why They Were So Good

It is that time of year when the successful, the esteemed, and the sages are orating all over the country. We’d all benefit from turning an ear to their decrees of wisdom.

2014 Graduation SpeechesThese days, we are all privy to the pearls wisdom from the elite through social media. As a result, we have on record some of the most profound and universal principles that have guided the successful for decades.

Graduation and commencements are still taking place. Bill and Melinda Gates will be speaking at Stanford in a few weeks. The first of its kind joint commencement speech will surely have some noteworthy truths shared. But for now, we have chosen these two very different speeches to glean from.

Colin Powell at High Point University

Colin Powell gave the May 3rd commencement address for High Point University. The General’s calm authority is powerful. His recent talk echoed much of his core beliefs regarding the importance of a life dedicated to service, compassion, and making the choice to be a problem solver for others.

Here are some of his words of advice for the class of 2014:

  • “Make sure you share the talent and the time and the treasure you have with others who are in greater need than you.”
  • “Go forth and raise strong families remembering that all you can ever leave behind is your reputation, your good works and your children for the next generation.”
  • “As you go through life, listen to the other side. Have your eyes and your ears and your heart open to counterviews…”
  • “If you want to save the world, start by saving just one kid. That’s what it’s all about.”

You can see General Powell’s speech here in its entirety.

Jennifer Lee at the University of New Hampshire

Jennifer Lee was the honored speaker at her alma mater, the University of New Hampshire. Who is Jennifer Lee? Lee is simply the first female director of a Walt Disney Animation Studios feature film and the first writer at any major animation studio to become a director. That is a big deal. Then she takes it up a notch and writes a little screenplay, Frozen, which goes on to win the Academy Award for the Best Animated feature film.

Looking like she may be a former model, Lee was humble and honest in her appeal to the graduating class of 2014. Like many creative people, it seems that this groundbreaking director has wrestled self-doubt and won. She shares, almost in the tone of a “12 Step meeting,” what happens when self-doubt takes root. She describes how it clouds everything you do and see. It is the opposite of wearing rose-colored glasses. Lee shares, “The lenses of self-doubt are nasty and thick, big and filthy and covered in swamp scum. They are the lenses of, ‘I’m not good enough.’”

Ms. Lee shares from her heart for nearly fifteen minutes. She takes us on her journey through adolescent and young adulthood. Her story is one that everyone can identify with on some level. All, except that blockbuster hit she has on her resume, of course!

Ultimately, Ms. Lee’s speech was worth sharing as another example of how women are respectfully breaking through ceilings. Even having the vulnerability to share authentically, in the vein of Brene Brown, is a bit revolutionary. She implores the graduates to join the revolution.

“When you are free from self-doubt, you fail better. You accept criticism and listen,” Lee told grads. “If I learned one thing, it is that self-doubt is one of the most destructive forces. It makes you defensive instead of open, reactive instead of active. Self-doubt is consuming and cruel and my hope today is that we can all collectively agree to ban it.”

Ban self-doubt? We couldn’t agree more.

There is also no doubt that there will be other great speeches given over the next few weeks that deserve to be shared. Let us know if you spot one so we can all learn from the lives of the successful.

~ Jennifer

Leave a comment

Filed under Colleges, Keynote Ideas, Leadership, Speeches

Leverage the Power of the Second Axiom with Customers

The way you look at the world today is not the way you looked at it when you were ten. Back then, the teacher who frowned and ordered, “walk in the hallway” was “mean.” Going back to visit today, you’d probably find that not only is the building a little smaller, but that mean old teacher is, too.

Teacher and Student RelationshipsIf you were to take her to lunch, you might even find her to be rather “nice” and full of interesting stories and insights about you, your family, and the other kids you knew. You had no idea what the principal was really doing or how two of your favorite teachers never really got along. Maybe she’d even share a story about a child who she really helped. Further, as you think about it more, you might discover that child is you!

The second axiom of Paul Watzlawick’s Interactive Communication Theory is:

“Every communication has a content and relationship aspect such that the latter classifies the former and is therefore a meta-communication. Each person responds to the content of communication in the context of the relationship between the communicators.”
(Wanterfall)

Knowledge and experience shape how we see a situation and react to it. Whether we’re young or old, living in a hut or in a mansion, we bring our own worlds to each interaction. Meta communication is the sub-text through which the real message is found. “It is based on the idea that the same message, accompanied by different meta-communication, can mean something entirely different, including its opposite, as in irony.” (Wikipedia)

Watzlawick’s Interactive Communication Theory suggests that:

“Communication happens because all of the communicators are not ‘speaking the same language.’ This happens because people have different viewpoints of speaking.”

Communication BreakdownThis second axiom begins to explain why some customers don’t respond well to certain emails, commercials, websites, or blog posts- yet alone the newest sales guy on your team. Customer perspectives alter your message.

Just like the teacher didn’t seem so mean after the boy grew up and had a perspective change, so your clients might one day appreciate your product, service, brand, or channel when needs or experiences change perspectives. Of course, until then, you might want to further analyze how to alter how you say what you say, so that it’s more favorably received.

Dominos decided to change the perception of its pizza. Executives spent eighteen months perfecting their product before hiring an ad agency reshape the brand’s message and image. According to Adam Toporek, “All of the campaigns mentioned above blended… the three legs of the modern marketing stool: traditional advertising, public relations, and online/social. The Turnaround Campaign did not approach public relations in isolation and made sure all campaign components supported its core messages.”

JC Penny, on the other hand, lost market share when trying to turn around losses in sales. Because of his previous experiences at Apple, the new CEO was out of step with the majority of Penny’s shoppers when he rid the retailer of couponing. Some say that bargain hunting is part of a female shopper’s DNA.

The relationship one has to the content determines how the content is received. What could make your message more effective?

Leave a comment

Filed under Branding, Education Strategy, Marketing

One Cannot Not Communicate- Is Silence Golden?

Maybe Mom Wasn’t Always Right

The first of Paul Watzlawick’s five axioms is simple- “One Cannot Not Communicate.” Wanterfall says,

Even when you think you are not sending any messages, that absence of messages is quite evident to any observer, and can itself constitute quite a significant message. Not only that, but we usually transmit quite a few non-verbal messages unconsciously, even when we think we are not sending any messages at all.

What do you, as a professional, communicate when you choose not to communicate?

Photo courtesy of Bonoz

Photo courtesy of Bonoz

Perhaps your mother used to say, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” When your new friend with long, braided hair entered your home, she bit her tongue.

Did her silence mean, “I wouldn’t let my son wear his hair that long, but since I have no association beyond his association with you, I’ll make you feel comfortable enough without offering approval?” Her tongue biting left wiggle room- both for your friend’s eventual haircut and her possible opinion change.

While the intent behind silence might be noble, its very form is deceiving – a mask for a mix of thoughts and emotions forming in the sender or else a sign of ignorance. Silence is golden because it buys the sender time and it offers the receiver little information- or so is the hope.

What are the Effects of Non-Responses in Digital Communications? 

One cannot not communicate with social media. Not following a customer or fan on Twitter or G+, for example, could be construed as a slight. You’re too busy, too important, to ignorant to use the tools to follow and interact. Not having your social media in order says a lot about the organization behind your organization. Your brand communicates that it does’t embrace or understand the mediums or struggles to find funds. The receiver never really knows why you’re silent- just that you are and the resulting message is up for interpretation.

Internet marketer, Jay Baer, suggests:

Further, 42% expect a response within 60 minutes. Is your company prepared to handle social media inquiries within the hour? A few are. Most are not, in my experience, which potentially creates a disillusionment gap between customers’ anticipated response time, and your actual ability to provide a response.

Having a workforce to handle your social media interactions could be just what you need to reduce the stress in your customer service department.

One cannot not communicate with blogs. You haven’t written a blog post in weeks. Maybe there isn’t a lot happening in your company or industry – yeah right. You’re too busy, too underfunded, too unorganized. You were in the hospital. Whatever the reason, a lack of action or words communicates a message. Is it the message you want your fans to receive?

Darren Rouse looks at blogging this way:

The more posts you publish over time, the more doorways you present readers with to enter your blog.

1 post a week means you’ve got 52 doorways at the end of the year – daily posts means 365 doorways at the end of the year. This means people are more likely to see your content in RSS readers, in search engines, on social media etc. Over time this adds up.

Contracting out some of your brand’s writing work to writers can keep opening doors verses closing them in silence.

One cannot not communicate with correspondences. Two candidates fly out to your company for second interviews. You extend an offer to one. The chosen candidate receives your full attention. The other doesn’t. The one who didn’t get the job sends an email to you. No reply. This happens once. Twice. Three times. Surely, not communicating is a soft let down, right?  According to Career Builder,

56 percent of employers admitted that they don’t respond to all candidates or acknowledge receipt of their applications; 33 percent said they don’t follow up with candidates they interviewed with to let them know they didn’t get the job.

What does a lack of response communicate? That from the top down, your company’s communication process isn’t clear or even rude when not in need of a person, service, or product. It communicates disorganization and incompetency in the HR department. Don’t think for a moment that the candidate won’t remember the lack of communication when they’re in a better position.  According to the HT Group:

If you’re guilty of this and other bad hiring habits, beware your actions could complicate your recruiting efforts and even damage your company’s overall reputation. Here’s how (according to the same study):

  • Job seekers who don’t hear back after applying for a job are less likely to continue buying products or services from that company.
  • Did a job seeker have a bad experience with you? Half will tell their friends about it.
  • An overwhelming 75 percent of job seekers use traditional networking such as word-of-mouth to gather more information about a company.
  • More than 60 percent will check out your company on social media to find out if what you’re telling them about your culture is true.
  • More than two-thirds of job seekers would accept a lower salary if the company had exceptionally positive reviews online.

One cannot not communicate. What are the unintended messages you send just by choosing inaction or silence with your digital marketing strategies or relationships? From creating blog posts and social media posts to staying up with emails and correspondences silence is not usually golden.  Rethink if you’re clearly, consistently, and honestly, as well as tactfully communicating.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Audience, Blog Writing Tips, Capturing Audience, Content Job Boards, Customer Profile, Leadership, Marketing, Project Management, Reputation Management, Resumes, Social Media

The Future of DuckDuckGo as a Viable Search Engine

Ever since the World Wide Web came into existence, the business of creating the best of the best search engine has been never-ending. When someone asks a question they do not know the answer to, a typical response is, “Why don’t you just Google it?” Obviously, Google has elevated its brand to be a proprietary eponym, a product that is so successful, that has come into general use to refer to the its generic class of objects rather than the specific brand type. Google is trusted by millions of Internet users around the globe.

Duck Duck Go Search EngineSoon though, there may be some new competition in the world of search engines. Instead of saying, “Google it,” you may hear people saying, “Duck it.” This is because DuckDuckGo is climbing the ranks in the search engine business and only time will tell how far it will get up the usage and acceptance ladder.

With so many search engines available, it seems that everyone has their favorite go-to engine for any information they may be seeking. Aside from Google, some of the other top search engines that the average Internet user knows include Ask.com, Bing, Yahoo, and YouTube (of course, it is owned by Google). Even Twitter and Facebook are used extensively for search. So what would make a user of any of these well-known search engines try out DuckDuckGo? Is there something that makes this newer search engine different? Is there something that clearly sets it apart from Google, Yahoo, Bing, and the others? Quite simply, the answer is, “Yes!”

DuckDuckGo has something known as Zero Click Information that provides you with info that goes above the traditional search results. It’s called Zero Click Information because you get what you are looking for right on the search page without having to click on a link unless you need further information. The information you get with this Zero Click technology includes, but is not limited to, a summary of the topic, images, and direct answers to whatever your questions are.

In addition to the perk of the Zero Click, there is also what is known as semantic topic detection. This technology lets the search engine take your questions and quickly sort through all available links, but only showing the topics it detected in your queries. For example, if you input a vague search item such as “apple,” DuckDuckGo actually inquires which meaning you want. Are you looking for information on fruit? Do you need some stats about the company Apple? This allows your search to be better targeted for the optimal results. And perhaps the biggest reason that DuckDuckGo may beat out other more popular search engines in the near future is that it is much less cluttered than other search engines. They have fewer advertisements and their spam is at the bare minimum. Clutter reduction is one of DuckDuckGo’s top priorities.

So, how is DuckDuckGo quacking along? Numbers don’t lie and when it was first introduced on September 25, 2008, the web traffic went up 50 percent in only eight short days. And if the above reasons aren’t convincing enough to convince you that DuckDuckGo is real competition to the other search engine giants, check this out: DuckDuckGo is not putting out a track on you. That’s right.

Duck Duck Go billboard adUnlike its competitors, such as Google, DuckDuckGo has a stellar privacy policy. And unlike other competitors, such as Yahoo, DuckDuckGo does all it can to simplify your search experience. You know how Yahoo and Google add suggested links at the top of your search? DuckDuckGo doesn’t do this. They actually WANT you to find what you need without a hassle. How refreshing is that?

It will definitely be interesting to see where this new search kid on the block ends up…at the front of the class or at the back of the bus.

1 Comment

Filed under Marketing, Search Engine Marketing

Appointments with Heaven – a Worthwhile Read

Choosy Writers Choose Good Books

Are you choosy about the books you read?  I am.

My high school English teacher used to scold me when I found excuses not to read. She’d blink her eyes, sigh, and pinch her nose, “Good writers make time to read.”

Well, she’d be proud.

I read a book over spring break that was worth my time and attention. It was edifying, truthful, and inspiring and there’s a back story on how I received the book, which I’ll share in a moment.

Appointments with Heaven bills itself as “the true story of a country doctor’s healing encounters with the hereafter.” At first, I thought.  Boy. Do I really want to read a bunch of creepy stories about people dying?  (The book was given to me shortly after my mother’s death in 2013.)

I’d seen a lot of death and well, eh.

But, my sister-in-law raved about the book and she’d experienced loss, too, so I figured it had potential.

Heaven’s Southern Setting & Faith Theme

heaven coverMy family packed up our van and headed south to Florida. Dr. Reggie Anderson’s story is set in the rural South.  So literally, my journey included representations out the window of the places described in the story – Alabama on the way down and Tennessee on the route back up. What I discovered is that the story isn’t really a book about death — it is about finding faith in life.

Soak in that statement for a moment.

It’s a book about faith. Your life has purpose and it affects eternity.

Do you believe that? Like I said.  It’s a book about faith.

There are times, even if you believe there’s a higher purpose, when truthfully, you’re just not seeing how the dots connect. You lost a friend, a job, or an opportunity.  You’re stuck in what seems to be a mindless and pointless routine.  You’re disillusioned because of awful events or situations. This book addresses whys.  Does anyone even know we’re here?  Is God real?  Why do bad things happen?

Even if you have answers worked out for yourself, Dr. Reggie Anderson’s perspective, because of his scientific expertise in medicine and his own early disillusionment, is unique. This book find has the potential to be a future workbook and video series for small groups.  The Kendrick Brothers or some other producer ought to take a good look at it.

About Heaven’s Ghost Writer

If you’re a writer, it’s a study on the art of ghost writing.  Truly, the story’s organization, running motifs, theme, voice, and flow were so well constructed that I beamed for Jennifer Schuchmann, the book’s ghost writer. And herein is how I received the book.

Jennifer and I met at a conference in 2010.  She was already a published writer, managing a young family, and at the start of a promising career.  We became Linkedin and Twitter contacts. In September 2013, I was in the midst of managing a big work project, while organizing household moving details for my family, when my mother passed away. With those plates spinning, I accidentally sent an email to Jennifer that was intended for someone else. When I realized my mistake, I sent Jennifer a note asking her to disregard and delete the email.  She did, and then we quickly caught up. I asked her about her current projects and she shared.

“I’m primarily doing collaborative books with people who have stories to tell but don’t have the time or ability to tell them. I’m either hired by them or by their publishers. I’ve released two new books this year.

“Taylor’s Gift” is the story of parents who lost their 14 year old daughter in a skiing accident, donated her organs, and then met the organ recipients.

“Appointments with Heaven” is the story of a country doctor who lost his faith, found it in a dream of heaven and now catches glimpses of heaven when his patients die (he can feel their soul leave their body, smell the scents of heaven, and feel a warmth in the room). Both are good books.

Good to hear from you even if it was a mistake!”

I then confided that my mother had passed away two weeks earlier and that her Heaven book sounded relevant.  She wrote,

  Oh, I’m so sorry!  Send me your address and I’ll send you a copy of “Appointments with Heaven.” Writing that book changed the way I view death. Maybe that’s the whole reason we reconnected was so I could give you a copy of this book.

When my copy arrived, she’d personalized it with a note, “I hope this brings comfort in your loss.”

If you’ve ever lost someone, you know that the cards you receive in the following weeks are thoroughly appreciated.  This was the first time anyone had sent a book.

I read a few pages and stopped. I felt called to send a copy to each of my siblings, but I personally wasn’t ready to digest the book.

By spring 2014, I was ready.

Let’s be clear, I’m not getting paid to write this post for Appointments with Heaven nor am I doing it because I know Jennifer.  I know plenty of authors.  I just like the book and feel it’s worth my time.

I hope it’s worth yours, too.

Yesterday, I interviewed Jennifer about her ghost writing techniques.  Read Tips for Collaborative and Ghost Writing Success, for the back story on how Dr. Anderson’s Appointments with Heaven was written.

1 Comment

Filed under Authoring Books, Conferences, Favorite Websites, Reviews, Women Writers

How Much Time Does It Take to Write Website Content?

This is a question that is near and dear to my heart.  Besides writing client content, I’m rewriting My Web Writers’ website content these days.  I’m finding that as the afternoons drag into the evenings and people circle into my office only to find my hands waving them away with, “Shhh, I’ll be out in a few minutes,” that clearly writing thirty-five pages of my own site’s content is taking more time than I bargained for.  That’s because, while I planned just to copy and paste the old stuff and make a few tweeks, that’s not what’s happening.  I’m rewriting and adding new thought into old verbiage.

I should have hired My Web Writers.

To my defense, I did ask my husband to write a few pages…

Copyright My Web Writers 2014

What a trooper!

Bless him.

So, I guess I can’t really blame you, Ms. Do-It-Yourself for wanting to take on the task of writing your website or blog content all by yourself.  We’re great writers (and so are our spouses), so why do we need help?

Here’s why.

It is taking me (yeah, and him, too) about 1 -2 hours per page each with content that’s close to our hearts.  With those 35 – 70 hours back in our lives, we could be getting our laundry done and getting your laundry done.  I could be working on losing the gazillion pounds I gained eating granola bars while sitting in a computer chair.

Outsourcing projects to writers is efficient.

We have to scale.

You can’t get around to managing a company if you’re grasping to details that others are perfectly capable of delivering.

True.  No one knows the subject matter like you do, but then consider being your project’s editor.  With a good writer, you’ll cut your time in half- at least.

How much do you get paid at work per hour?  How much will it cost to pull three people off your boss’ pet project to get your company’s website content updated?

We have three people waiting for the opportunity to work, so that your team can stay on task.

How long does it take to write website content?

Plan on one to four hours per page if you do it yourself, but it’s a lot less time if you outsource it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Business Strategy, Leadership, Project Management, Time Management