Get inspired! 5 ways to turn on the blogging light bulb.

If you read my last post about the importance of blogging for your business, maybe it motivated you to finally get that blog started. Maybe you excitedly sat down at your computer, opened up your blog, cracked your knuckles, put your hands on the keyboard and thought…

“What the heck am I going to write about?”

Yep, I feel your pain. I’m a writer. I write for a living. I can come up with topics all day long for other people. But when it comes to my blog? Nada. Zip. I can practically feel the tumbleweeds rolling through the hollow recesses of my brain.

It’s just harder writing for yourself. It’s a scientific fact. Okay, I don’t know that for sure but I bet there’s some research on that somewhere.

Anyway, I’ve found that sitting down at your computer and waiting for inspiration to strike you while staring at a blank screen is the absolutely worst way to get inspired.

So don’t do that. Try some of these instead:

Look at other blogs.

Please notice I said “look” not “copy.” Copying = bad. Very, very bad. But checking out other blogs in the industry – even if they’re not in your particular niche – is a perfectly legitimate way to see what other people are talking about and interested in. Particularly note which topics are popular or have a lot of conversation around them. And don’t think because someone else (or 100 someone elses) has written about dog poop that you can’t write about dog poop, too. Your perspective and spin on the topic – even more than the topic itself – is really what helps set you apart and keeps people coming back.

Keep on top of current events

Just scrolling through your Facebook feed can be a wealth of inspiration. Be aware of the things that everyone seems to be talking about and jump on that wagon, especially if you have expertise in that area. For example, is there a new, controversial training technique people are discussing? Or a hot news story about the rescue community? Or proposed legislation that potentially affects pets or pet owners? Blog about it!

Get personal

 Some of my most popular posts have been when I’ve gotten a little more personal. For me, having a blog is really about two things – helping others and making connections. And there’s nothing that will make others feel more connected to you than cracking the door a little and letting people see inside. I’m not saying to air your deepest, darkest secrets because that would be, well, awkward. But, for example, if you’re a trainer and you’ve struggled with training your own dog, it’s okay to tell your readers. It makes you human and more relatable when you say, “Look, I get it. I’ve been there, too.”

Interview people

Interviewing someone else about a topic is probably one of the easiest blog posts you’ll ever write. This is especially great when you’re not an expert on a topic but you know someone who is. After the interview, you can write a post around the topic and insert their quotes. Or…even easier…just transcribe your interview into a Q&A form. (Be sure to ask them if you can record the interview before you start.) It’s also a great way to cross-pollinate audiences by linking to their site within the interview and by asking them if they would be willing to post the interview on their own platforms.

Ask

If you’re still not sure what to write about…ask! Reach out to your mailing list (you do have a mailing list, don’t you?) with a quick one-question survey: “What topics would you like to see covered on my blog?” Add some multiple-choice answers to make it easy and also leave a spot for them to fill in their own topic. People really love to help other people out and you’ll probably be surprised by the number of responses you get. I’ve used both Survey Monkey and Wufoo, and had good experiences with both.

I hope those suggestions helped! And if you have any inspiration suggestions of our own, I’d loooooove to hear those, too. Just leave a comment below.

Do you really need a business blog?

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters

If you have an online presence, you’ve probably heard that blogging is important. And maybe you’ve kinda sorta hoped that was just a mean, awful, exaggerated rumor. Because, yeesh, who has time to blog? And what would you blog about anyway? And does blogging really make that much of a difference? Isn’t it enough to just have a nice site and offer a great service or product?

Well, maybe. Maybe you could just putter along doing what you’re doing and still get an okay search ranking and make a decent living. But if you want to stay ahead of the competition, reach more people and grow your business, the hard truth is that you’ve gotta blog.

I know. I’m sorry.

But here’s the good news: When you blog on a regular basis – meaning even once a month – you reap a whole passel of rewards, like:

Better search rankings

Google rewards sites that offer authentic, helpful, original content. So whenever a search engine crawls your site and finds super awesome new content, bam! Up in the rankings you go.

Creating positive connections

Even in the seemingly impersonal world of the Internet, customers still want to buy from people they feel like they know and can trust. Surveys have found that 82% of consumers feel more positive about a company after reading custom content. And when consumers feel warmly toward you, they’ll be more likely to do business with you.

Encouraging more time on your site

Consumers love great content. In fact, surveys show that 68% of consumers spend time reading content from brands they’re interested in. Regularly posting content that your customers or prospects find useful will help ensure they return to your site again and again.

Getting people talking

By writing helpful content that people want to share, your blog posts will reach people that may never have heard of you otherwise. This is especially important since it’s estimated that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their business relationships without ever talking to a human being!

Generating more leads

At this point you’re probably thinking, “Yeah, but does blogging actually make me money?” It sure has the potential to. That’s because B2C businesses that blog get 88% more leads than small businesses that don’t. HUGE!

Listen, I get it. Blogging is one of those marketing things that gets pushed down the list for “when I have more time.” I’m guilty of it myself, even though I know how important it is (and even though I actually write for a living). But if you want to build your business and bring in more money in 2018, it’s time to dust off that long-neglected blog of yours or finally start a new one!

Your turn: Do you blog regularly? If not, what’s holding you back? Share with me in the comments.

P.S. If just the thought of blogging makes your eyes roll back in your head, I’m happy to help! Start by sending an email to amber@commahound.com to learn more about my blogging services.

Want more fans? Be like Barry Manilow.

bm beagle

About six weeks ago, I opened a Facebook message from my sister:

Barry Manilow is going to be in concert in OKC in April. If you don’t come, you are dead to me.

She didn’t have to twist my arm. Growing up in the 70s, the two of us wore out our mother’s Barry Manilow albums. His songs, full of drama and emotion, appealed to our theatrical sensibilities and we knew every lyric by heart. So there was no freaking way I was going to miss the chance to belt out those songs with my sister again.

I may or may not have told just about everyone I know about the concert, including posting it on Facebook. The reactions were mixed. Like me, some waxed nostalgic about how much they loved him. Others, however, just looked perplexed and wanted to know why.

Why? WHY? Because he writes the songs that make the whole world sing, that’s why!

Well, the big night finally arrived last week, and IT WAS AWESOME! He is an absolutely amazing showman. More than that, though, he connects with his audience in a very personal way. He’s having fun, you’re having fun and for about an hour and a half, the world is a very happy, joyful place to be.

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My aunt, my sister and I getting ready to get our Manilow on!

Of course, I get that Barry Manilow isn’t for everyone. But who cares? He doesn’t have to resonate with ZZ Top fans or Marilyn Manson fans or Taylor Swift fans. He just has to resonate in a deep and meaningful way with his fans. Which is something he does very, very well.

And that’s why I’m telling you to be like Barry Manilow.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to appeal to everyone by playing it safe when it comes to copy and branding. But the truth is, there are always going to be people who don’t necessarily connect with you or what you have to say. And that’s okay! Because they’re never going to be your biggest fans, anyway.

On the other hand, if your messaging genuinely reflects who you are and what you stand for, you’ll attract the people you’re meant to work with and serve. The ones who resonate most deeply with your message will become your most loyal fans, and they’ll help grow your fan base by telling others about you.

In other words, you’ll have groupies! Seriously, who doesn’t want groupies?

And on that note, I have to go change into my Barry Manilow concert t-shirt.

 

Random question: If you could see anyone in concert, who would it be? Tell me in the comments below.

The Gift of Gab: Growing Your Business Through Word of Mouth

gift of gabAt the end of last year, I made a decision to improve my health. I’ve been a pretty faithful, if reluctant, exerciser for several years. But recently, I’d started to let it slide. So I decided I needed something fun and snazzy to renew my interest in cardio, squats and burpees.

I’d heard a few friends and family members mention how much they liked their Fitbits. A Fitbit, if you haven’t heard, is a bracelet that records the number of steps you’ve taken, calories burned, etc. It records all your stats and sends them to a nice little computer interface.

Intrigued, but not yet convinced, I decided to check out the reviews online. After all, this wasn’t some $5.00 purchase. I hit Amazon for everyday user reviews and a couple of other official review sites like CNET.

Overall, the reviews were good and I was sold. I ponied up the money and as I type this, a Fitbit is snuggled comfortably around my wrist.

My guess is that you’ve done the same sort of thing recently prior to making a purchase. Either the reviews and testimonials encouraged you to buy or you moved along to a different product with better feedback.

That, my friend, is the power of social proof.

Year after year, the Nielsen Group asks consumers which forms of advertising they trust. And year after year, consumers rank “recommendation from people I know” as number one. Number two is “consumer opinions posted online.”

And guess what? It’s the same for both B2B and B2C businesses. After all, corporate decision-makers are human, too.

Word of mouth. It’s the number one reason people buy what you’re selling.

If you’re not capturing comments from your deliriously happy customers, you’re missing the boat. Please, promise me that you’ll start. I mean it. Put up your right hand and repeat after me, “I, (insert name), solemnly swear to start getting feedback from my deliriously happy customers.”

It doesn’t matter how you do it, just do it. It could be email surveys, comments your customer service department receives, or an online review system. Just choose something and start implementing it now.

Then, when you have all these glowing reviews and recommendations, write them up. You can either turn them into short testimonials or longer, in-depth case studies/success stories.

Once that’s done, for the love of dog, don’t hide them. Make sure you get them in front of potential customers. Consider distributing them in various ways, including:

1. Your website
2. Facebook
3. Twitter
4. Pinterest
5. YouTube
6. Emails
7. Press releases
8. Google+
9. Blog posts
10. Product descriptions

As you can see, the ways to use social proof are almost endless. Get creative. Have fun with it. And whatever you do, get going!

Speaking of going, my Fitbit tells me I’ve still got 2,417 more steps to do today. Guess it’s time to leash up the dogs!

Your turn: Are you gathering customer feedback? How have you leveraged it? If you haven’t, what’s stopping you? Tell me in the comments.

Oh, and as always, if you enjoyed this post or found it helpful, I’d love for you to share it via one of those buttons below. No obligation, of course!

Sell More By Avoiding This Copywriting Mistake

Sell More By Avoiding This Copywriting Mistake, CommaHound.com

Let’s pretend for a moment that you manufacture dog toys. And not just any dog toys. The world’s best dog toys.

There are no other dog toys that compare. They’re indestructible, interactive and made with all-natural materials. To top it off, your company donates to rescue organizations every time one is sold.

Now let’s say that you put all that in your copy. Since you have the world’s greatest dog toy with all these amazing features, they should practically sell themselves, right?

Wrong.

The single biggest mistake that companies make in their sales copy is forgetting that all the customer really wants to know is…

What’s in it for me?

I hate to be blunt but they really don’t care about you or your business. Customers only care about how your product or service makes their lives better in a direct and specific way.

They want to know:

  • Will it save me money?
  • Will it make me happier?
  • Will it make me (or my dog) healthier?
  • Will it make my life easier?
  • Will it make me feel good?

When creating your copy, answer those questions for them in a concrete way.

Don’t just write about the toy being indestructible.
Instead, explain how its durability will save them money since they’ll be buying fewer toys.

Don’t just tell them it’s made from all-natural materials.
Instead, put their mind at ease by emphasizing that it’s safe for their dog to chew on.

Don’t put the emphasis on your company making a donation.
Instead, make them feel good that they’re helping save homeless animals.

By showing your customers that you understand what they really want, you can create an emotional connection between them and your business. And by doing so, you’ll generate loyalty (and sales!) in a way that just competing on features and price won’t.

Your turn: How does your product or service make your customers’ lives better? Tell me in the comments!

As always, if you enjoyed this post and found it helpful, I’d appreciate it if you’d share the love via those little buttons below. No obligation, of course!

Don’t Let Creativity Mute Your Message

For the last five years, I’ve written a blog from the point of view of my dog, Mayzie. When we first adopted her, she was fearful and I began writing the blog to keep track of her progress.

At the time, I thought I was probably one of only a handful of pet bloggers. Boy, was I wrong! Turns out, the pet blogging community is huge, filled with people as crazy about their pets as I am.

Since then, I’ve read hundreds of posts by dozens of bloggers. Whether they blog as themselves or their pets, the voice of each is as distinct as the person at the keyboard.

There were certain blogs, though, that I eventually stopped reading altogether: the ones that took the “I Can Has Cheezburger” talk a little too far.

The deliberate misspellings and awkward sentence structures employed by these sites meant I spent too much time trying to translate their message, and not enough time enjoying it.

They may have been creative but they were just too much work to read.

Interestingly, it doesn’t just happen in the blogging community. I’ve seen the same type of device used on some corporate blogs and websites.

It’s not surprising, really. Because of the industry we’re in, it can be super easy to fall into the trap of cutesy language or wordplay. And there’s certainly a time and place for that, depending on your audience and your brand.

However, when it comes to writing marketing copy – the kind that either builds your brand or sells your product or service – clarity trumps creativity every time.

"When writing copy, avoid sacrificing clarity for creativity." ~Amber Carlton, CommaHound.com

Remember, good copywriting:

  • Is easily understood
  • Is concise
  • Avoids jargon and hyperbole
  • Communicates benefits
  • Builds trust
  • Encourages a response or action
  • Never makes the reader feel dumb
  • Never makes the reader work too hard

Does this mean you can’t have fun with your copy? Of course not! People love to do business with companies that have a personality. But let that come through in your tone, voice and visual branding instead of trying too hard to channel Grumpy Cat.

Your turn: Are there any “cutesy” words in our industry that you think are overused? Tell me what they are in the comments.

And if you found this post helpful, I’d LOVE it if you’d share it via the little buttons below. No obligation, of course!