Get your blog on – a beginner’s guide to blogging

 

Better Google rankings, increased website traffic, improved conversion rates and growing brand awareness. These are just some of the benefits that a blog can give your business and so if you value any of the above, it’s important that you make time and effort to write and publish a blog regularly. But where do you start and how do you make sure, it’s not like 80% of the other blog posts out there which deliver absolutely no value to the reader and leave you clicking on the exit button before you’ve even finished the first paragraph? Well, here at businesshands, we write a lot of blogs for a lot of different clients so here’s our top 5 tips on how to produce a compelling blog.

Tip #1 – Understand who you are writing for

The first thing to remember when you are blogging is that you’re not writing for you. You are writing for the reader. Ask yourself what kind of person do you want to come to your website. What are their interests in relation to your offering? What questions might they have? What topics would they find useful? How can you educate them or excite them so that they go away thinking “I enjoyed that, I want to come back.” What value can you give them? Write down your thoughts. This should give you the basis for Tip #2.

Tip #2 – Write a content plan

So you’ve just completed a brainstorm about your ideal website visitor. You know who they are, what they like and what they might like to know. Now turn all of that into a content schedule. Build a list of weekly topics. Try to come up with an enticing title for each and underneath write a few bullet points to help frame what points you want to get across and any conclusion that is to be drawn.

Tip #3 – Structure your blog

Typically each blog post will contain an introduction, “the meat”, and then a summary / conclusion / call to action. Your introduction needs to be punchy, particularly in the first couple of sentences as this is what will appear in the preview when you post it on social media. For many writers however, it’s these first two sentences that prove to be the hardest to write. If you’re suffering a case of writer’s block, try pretending that you’re already two or three sentences in and start from there. You can come back and add the introductory first sentence later on, once your article is in full flow. If you’re truly stuck, and need the introductory sentence before you can get going, think about using a statistic and then building off it. For example:
“A recent survey found that 88% of B2B marketers see content production as the most important part of their marketing strategy”

Tip #4 – Pack it full of personality

The chances are, your company is not the only one offering the product or service that you do. As an insider in the company, you no doubt firmly believe you are unique, but to an outsider a hat shop is just like any other hat shop. A POS software company is just like any other POS software company, a legal or accountancy firm is just like any other legal or accountancy firm. It’s what you say (Tip #1) and how you say it that will make your business stand out so try and pull your writing away from corporate speak and give it a human touch. The more human and real you can be, the more powerful your blog will become. Don’t be afraid to share your own experiences and relate them directly to your readership… and don’t believe for a second that this tip is not relevant for the industry you are in. No matter how corporate or formal your industry is, adding personality and humanness to your writing will make the information you are providing far more digestible.

Tip #5 – Use great imagery

A good image can speak a thousand words and even if it doesn’t, it will be a powerful lure to bring more readers to your blog. It’s important then, to choose your image carefully. For many bloggers today, the standard practice is to use a google image search to find something they like and then use this on their own blog. But there’s a danger with this. Most of these images are not royalty free. If you are using an image without the consent of the image owner, you are liable and could face legal action or be forced to pay a fee for the use of the image. Better practice is to use a stock image or create one yourself.

Of course, there is a danger with stock images too… in that some of them look too much like a stock image. Shy away from bland, overly corporate or cliché images and try and find something unique that fits in with your topic. In our next blog, we’ll be providing a list of great websites you can use to get truly inspiring (and mostly free) stock imagery so watch this space.

So there’s five quick tips on how to blog for beginners… and here’s a bonus one which is probably the most important of them all.

Tip #6 – Content is nothing without distribution

You’ve done the hard work of writing and publishing your blog on your website but you’re not finished yet. Unless you promote your blog and distribute it to your audience, nobody will see it. A blog is typically distributed in one of two ways.

  1. Through a newsletter to your existing database
  2. Through social media – this can be posted on your company page and also be boosted to reach new audiences by turning it into an ad. Don’t forget with social media, you can post your blog multiple times, simply by changing the headline image and choosing a different message to display alongside the link to your blog

Thanks for reading. If you’ve enjoyed this article, don’t forget to share it with your connections and if you would like to discuss any of the topics covered, don’t hesitate to drop us a line on +44 (0)203 458 4788 or email us at info@businesshands.co.uk.

How to market any product or service effectively

You’ll find a million articles on the net these days about the virtues of different types of marketing and why it’s great. SEO fanatics will tell you about the importance of getting your business high up the list in Google, whilst social media bods will tell you the importance of brand engagement and emotional connectivity. Content writers love to tell a story which puts the consumer at its heart and email marketers will provide you with statistical analysis showing how they deliver ROI. And all of that is great except it misses out one vital piece of the marketing puzzle. One so powerful, it can render any marketing activity you do, regardless of the medium you choose – as completely useless. And that’s asking one very important question – “what exactly am I trying to sell?”

You see a spade is not just a spade. They’re big, the small, they’re tall, they’re short, they’re squared headed, they’re rounded headed, they’re wooden handled, they’re plastic handled, they’re expensive, they’re cheap. Each spade has a different set of properties and consequently, has the power to fulfil a slightly different need and that will make it more or less attractive to a particularly type of customer. The same goes for almost any kind of product or service you can think of. So with that in mind, here’s a few things you need to be thinking of before you begin to deliver your marketing message.

1. The problem

Does your product or service solve a problem, if so what does it solve? Not only that, why specifically is your product or service particularly good at solving this problem and why is that important to your customer?

2. The emotion

How will the customer feel if they have their problem solved by your product or service? Paint a picture and put them in the moment. Ahh, isn’t it just great having that problem solved? If your product or service doesn’t solve a problem, let’s say for example, it’s purely a recreational offering – that’s even more of a reason to pull on the emotional benefits of that your audience can expect from buying your product or service.

3. The user or the buyer?

The user of your product /service and the buyer are not necessarily the same person and it’s important to understand who has a greater influence in the purchasing decision and make sure you speak / market mostly to them. Take for example, a toy doll. The buyer will most likely be a responsible adult whilst the child will be the user and the person who influences the decision, hence most adverts for toys (except educational ones) are focused on selling to the child. Move that into a B2B environment however and you might have an expensive piece of software that you’re trying to sell. The users might be a group of salesman, but the buyer is the CEO. He’s the one trying to solve a business problem and he’s the one you need to direct your marketing towards. What problem are you solving for him / her and how?

4. The competition

No matter how good you are at what you do, there’s always experts in your field that you can learn from. More often than not, they’re the competition. Now I’m a firm believer in the idea that whatever you focus your mind on will grow. If you focus on your business, it will grow. If you always focus on the competition, they will end up growing because you’ll be distracted. But that shouldn’t stop you from doing some occasional research on your rivals. What are they saying? How are they positioning their products or services and is there anything that your product or service offers which theirs doesn’t? A little look at the competition doesn’t hurt, but make sure your research is objective and not artificially negative or biased and don’t get obsessive.

5. Define yourself

So now you’ve pulled together all this information and you have a better idea than ever of what it is you’re trying to sell and who exactly you need to be selling it to. Now it’s crunch time. You need to condense everything you’ve learnt into a series of short, well-defined messages about your product or service which you will consistently focus on through your sales and marketing campaigns. It doesn’t have to be many, in fact in many cases – the fewer the better. Make sure your messages are succinct and aimed at the right person and you’ll have a much better chance with your sales and marketing activities, no matter what medium you choose to push your message out through, be it social media, email, content or SEO.

We’d love to hear your comments below and if you like this article, don’t forget to share it with your colleagues and of course, if you need help with your marketing – don’t hesitate to drop us a line today on 0207 458 4788.

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How to write a killer introductory email pitch

If you’re like me, you probably receive upwards of 10 introductory emails or LinkedIn messages every day pitching all manner of product and services. Do you read any of them? Probably not. I know for a fact that most of mine don’t even get opened because of the email subject line and those emails that do, rarely get read below the first line. That’s not because I don’t need their products or services. In fact, in the time it takes me to hit the delete key I probably don’t even know what half of them are selling. The point is – they are selling and I don’t want to take time out of my busy day to be sold to.

And that’s a problem. What if you or I want to use an email pitch to reach out to relative strangers and stoke up new business? Is email dead? Should we give up before we even start? Not so fast. You see, out of the hundreds of unsolicited emails which arrive in my inbox every month – very rarely, one does catch my attention and I do go onto (i) read it and (ii) take action. So what makes this rare email pitch different from all the others? Here’s a few observations, which if followed – are much more likely to lead to your email being picked up and read.

Get Personal

Blanket, impersonal, generic emails are of no interest to anyone. If you are sending volumes of unsolicited emails (i.e. spam) – don’t. Respect your receiver. Learn a bit about the person, their role and their business through their LinkedIn profile. Be sure to demonstrate that you have spent time doing this in your email. It shows a more considered approach.

It’s not me, it’s you

Here’s a golden rule about introductory emails. It’s not about your products or services, it’s about your reader’s problems and their pain points. If you’ve not spent time understanding the trigger point which makes people think “I need to buy one of those…” about your product or service – do it now. Make everything in your email about their pain and how you can take that away.

Cut the Crap

Have you ever read an email and thought “I don’t even understand what this is about”?  I had a sales email the other day exactly like that. In fact, it was one of the few emails that made me read past the first line, purely because it made no sense whatsoever and I was intrigued to understand how bad the email could get (it actually motivated me to write this). The bottom line is – cut the jargon, the over familiarity and the clichés and tell it how it is. Your reader will appreciate the normality and honestly of what they’re reading.

Don’t do the Loop

There’s a common thought process in sales, that the more you contact someone, the more likely they are to buy from you and to an extent that’s true. However, some very lazy people are taking this to the extreme and simply setting up repetitive, automated email loops containing four or five messages, hoping that at some point the recipient will finally break down and buy (or cry). DON’T DO THIS. WANT TO KNOW WHY? Your domain will be blacklisted. Take a look in your spam filter and you’ll probably see hundreds of emails from people putting this lazy practice into practice. Why are they in your spam folder? Because their domain has been listed as junk. Do you want to risk all of the emails addresses in your entire organisation being listed as junk? If you are sending out junk you deserve to be classed as junk so don’t take the risk.

Size Matters

When we work with clients to create an email pitch, they often want to squeeze every last possible bit of information they can think of into a message. Who they are, how long they’ve been going, why they’re great, what they offer, what this means, who else they’ve done it for, what else they might be able to do and an infinite number of ways they can be contacted. Your recipient has no time or interest in this. All they want to know is what’s in it for them… and rightly so.  Keep your email pitch short, simple and to the point. Here’s quite an extreme example of a good message that does the trick:

Dear <name> . I notice that you <demonstrate you know who they are> . We help companies do <value add> .  We could <explain exactly how you could improve their circumstance> . Would you be Ok with me dropping you a phone call at some point this week to tell you a bit more / demonstrate our product?

I look forward to hearing back from you shortly,

Provide an Incentive

If you want to add extra spice to your email, try adding a time-limited incentive. Maybe the reader can get a free upgrade to the next service package. Maybe they’ll get entered into a prize draw or receive a tempting discount. The choice of incentive is up to you. Just make sure it’s something that will motivate the recipient to take action. The offer of a free “consultation” is about as popular as a leaky pen.

Be Precise

As I’ve shown in the short email example above, be precise. There’s a temptation with emails to write an elaborate play on words, a war and peace email showcasing your literary prowess. But every unnecessary word your type is taking the reader’s focus away from your message. Be precise in what you’re offering and be precise in what you want. Leave the storytelling for your blogs and other extra-curricular activities.

That’s all from me for now. If you like this article, please share it and if you need help with any area of your marketing, drop us a call today on 0207 458 4788.

How to maximise the potential of every blog post you write

If you’ve worked hard to write an article or a blog post, you want to make sure that it gets seen by as many people as possible. To do this, you need to do more than just post it on your website and hope someone sees it. Below we’ve put together a few simple ideas to help you maximise the usage of every article or blog post that you write. Let’s begin.

Post it on to your social media pages

Ok, let’s get the obvious one out the way first. Great content is nothing without a means of distributing it. That’s just as relevant for blogs as it is for paper flyers. Unless you already have excellent SEO and a large number of visitors coming to your website on a daily basis, it’s unlikely your blog will ever get read. The cheapest and most cost-effective way of distributing your blog is by posting it on your social media pages. Be sure to use a short punchy headline and always use a high quality image to go with it. Social media posts with images are about 5x more likely to get clicked on than posts without. Also, remember if you’re posting to Twitter, to maximise the reach of your post further using #hashtags.

Post it on to your social media pages (again)

That’s right. It’s amazing how many companies choose to post their blog just once. What a shame when you’ve invested so much valuable time in writing it. At businesshands, we would typically post the blog twice in the first week, once in the second, once in the fourth and then once a month for the next three months at least.  Try posting it with different titles, different excerpts and different imagery each time. Posting at different times of the day or alternating between weekdays and weekends is a good way of reaching different audiences every time.

Turn it into an email

A great way to build a relationship with your prospects is to send a regular email, but there’s no need for you to spend hours writing original content. Turn your blogs posts into an email campaign with a call to action at the end. We create e-newsletters for many of our clients and we generally create one email campaign for every 2 blogs. This gives us two great pieces of content for each campaign and by having a third sector focusing on the company or the offering, we’re able to provide our clients with a well-rounded, informative e-newsletter to send on to their database of prospects.

Make a statement

Business strategy planning

… and then post them to your social media feeds.

Consider publishing the blog in full on other websites

If you’re obsessed with your Google website ranking and already have a strong SEO strategy in place, then this probably isn’t something you should be doing. For the 95% of us that don’t however, posting your blog on multiple sites provides an opportunity to get your brand in front of a whole new audience. Platforms like Medium and LinkedIn’s Pulse are a great place to start.

Targeted Delivery

If your blog post solves a very particular problem, think about how you can send a link to your blog to the very people that are experiencing the problem. Platforms like Audiense allow you to data-mine your Twitter followers to find people with key attributes. You can then send them a personal, direct message with a link to the blog. Similarly, LinkedIn’s premium membership will allow you to search for specific people by job title, location, industry and even company size. Through LinkedIn’s Inmail you can then send them an introductory message with a link to the relevant post. LinkedIn’s groups are also a useful way to reach a more broader, targeted group of people.

Social advertising

Last but not least – use the paid advertising feature on whichever social media platform you use to turn your blog post into an ad. Doing this means you can reach out to thousands more targeted people each day, growing brand awareness and driving hundreds more high quality visitors to your website. If you’re looking to increase your website traffic, social advertising is a really cost effective way of doing this. It’s a useful skill to learn and the better you get at it, the cheaper your advertising becomes. We’ve ran Twitter campaigns for clients where the cost per click (i.e. – the cost to get a visitor to the website) is just £0.08. In those situations, a £500 spend can go a long way.

So there you go – just a few ideas to make your blogs go further. Of course, it’s not an exhaustive list. You’ll find advice on the web encouraging you to turn them into PowerPoint presentations, short video montages and a whole host of other ideas besides. The bottom line is we know the ideas above will genuinely deliver more traffic to your website (which is what you blog is about, right?). We know this because this is what we do for our clients. They are both time and cost effective and most importantly – they deliver results.

If you would like help with your social media, blogging or email campaign management – give the experts a call (that’s us by the way). We’re on 0207 458 4788 and we’d love to become part of your team and help your business reach new heights through our outsourced marketing services.

How to get people to read your blog

Investing time and effort into a good blog should be at the core of every organisation’s marketing strategy. Blog posts have the capacity to build trust, to educate your audience, improve your SEO and even increase sales… but for many organisations, this simply isn’t happening – so why is that? Here’s a look at how to get people to read your blog.

Choosing the right topic

The first thing is to choose a good topic. Sounds obvious doesn’t it? But what actually is a good topic? One thing is for sure – writing endlessly about how great your product or service is, is not a ‘good topic’.  Your target audience really isn’t that interested in you, they’re interested in themselves and so you have to think about the problems that your product or service solves. Think about the implications that problem has for the people who are experiencing it… money, time, business, family – how are they affected?

Blog content marketing services from businesshandsThink about the type of people that uses your product or service… what do they do, what are they interested in and how can you indirectly relate their interests back to your organisation or industry sector? A very successful way of finding a topic that works, is to take a popular news story and show how it relates to your values, your products or your services.  When Leicester City Football Club won the premier league for example, leadership development companies blogged about the virtues of good leadership, small business consultancies blogged about the ability to beat the competition with limited resources and accountancy firms about the need to manage your finances well.

But writing about things that are in the news today can be a bit of a challenge. It puts a writer under pressure and if you only have time to write once every couple of weeks, you might find it’s a slow news day when you put ‘pen to paper’ so you need to have another plan in reserve.

A good and equally successful idea is to think about what questions your target audience might type into Google to solve one of their problems… just like we have done with this post.

Having an opinion or at least a personality

Potential clients are not just looking to buy your product… they’re looking to buy into your organisation as a brand. That means that bland, instructional type blog posts are a complete no-no. Try to keep your writing relatively informal and personable, regardless of the industry. If you think you’re in a sector where being personable and informal doesn’t work… it’s probably one of the area it will work best. Accountancy, legal, finance… even funeral services. They will all benefit from posts that sound like they’ve come from a human being.

Getting the message out there

Get the message out there about your content marketing blog

For many organisations – this is where it their blogging process comes to a grinding halt. You publish the blog on your website and then you wait… and wait … and wait… and nothing happens.

Great content is nothing without distribution. Writing a blog post and publishing it on a website that gets 10 visitors (or even 1,000) per month is a pointless activity unless you let people know it’s there. You do this by distributing the post through as many mediums as possible. Social media is an obvious starting point… with any luck you already have a social media strategy in play.

Generally, over the course of a month, we’ll push out a blog post around 10 times… yes 10 TIMES on each social media platform we’re using. Choose different times of day, different lead-in images and a slightly different message each time to really get the most out of the blog post you’ve worked so hard on. As you write more blog posts, you’re likely to find that you have multiple posts in circulation and that’s when you really to start to generate traffic to your website. By sponsoring your posts through pay-per-click campaigns, you can reach an even wider audience and generate yet more, high quality website visitors.

If you have a database of customers or prospects, you should also think about turning your blog post into an email newsletter.

What about the conversion

So now you’re writing some great pieces of content and you’ve got multiple posts being circulated daily through your social media channels. It’s driving traffic to your website… just a few at first, but as time goes on – the numbers are getting bigger and bigger. What now?

Now you have to ask yourself… “what do I want my visitors to do?”.  If you want them to purchase an item, think about directing them to the product page at the end of the blog post and maybe including a time limited discount code.  If you want them to make an enquiry, have your phone number at the bottom and ask them to call you, or alternatively – have an enquiry form which the reader can fill in.

If you don’t ask you reader to do something, they won’t – it’s that simple.

First class content marketing service from businesshandsHere at businesshands – we offer a first class content marketing service. We write well-researched, compelling content for organisations across a wide range of sectors from healthcare, to finance and from architecture to I.T. and we can combine this with our unbeatable social media management services. It’s a winning combination that delivers great results.

If you would like to discuss this article or if you would like to learn more about the services we offer, contact us today on 0207 458 4788. We’d love to hear from you.

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5 Business Blogging Tips for Beginners

So you’ve finally made the decision to write some regular content for your website. You don’t know where you’re going to find the time to do it and you’ve no idea what you’re going to write about but the important thing is, you’re going to do it… the only thing is, you made that decision 3 months ago and you’ve yet to publish your first piece. Sound familiar…? Then here’s some handy blogging tips to help you on your way.

Figuring out what to write about

This is the first and biggest stumbling block. There you are, allocating a couple of hours in your diary to writing your first piece – only when you come to sit down, your mind is as blank as the screen in front of you… so what should you write about?

A good idea is to make a note during the week of any great articles you read which you think might help or influence the topic of your blog post / article. Here at businesshands – we keep a notepad file in a shared location and copy and paste the URL of any good articles into it, to review when we come to writing our own.

We’ll also write down any ideas we have during the week, no matter how random so that when it comes to the time for writing – there’s plenty of material to kick start the writing process

Be consistent – diarise your writing time

The time you can dedicate to blogging will obviously depend on your resources but it’s vital to make a commitment to blog consistently – whether that be once a month or once a week. Set reoccurring appointments in your diary and honour them as you would any other business activity.

Think of the bigger picture before you start to write

One of the great bonuses of writing regular content is that it can help with your website optimisation. That means it can improve the chances of your website showing up on the first page of Google when people search for a particular search term. Your job is to think about what those search terms might be so that you can begin to include them in your posts going forward.

Think beyond the type of company you are (i.e accountant London) and think instead of the problems you solve – for example “how to fill in a tax return”. You might want to make that a blog in it’s own right or at least have the word tax return within an article a number of times.

The truth is, if you start to think about the problems that your target audience is facing – you can build a content strategy entirely around this and that means you’ll struggle less on a weekly basis to figure out a topic for your post.

Understand the overall objective

Apart from website optimisation, the main reason for producing content is to increase the number of visitors to your website, which in turn you hope will increase enquiries and drive sales. With that in mind, simply placing a blog post on your website and waiting for someone to pop along and take a look is not a good strategy – you’ll need to promote your article or blog post. This can be done through social media, pay-per-click campaigns, email marketing and a range of other products and services. The goal is to ensure as many relevant people as possible click on the link to your content and visit your website.

But don’t fall into the trap of thinking the journey is over when a person visits your website. Once they’ve read your post… what do you want them to do? Adding a call to action in the guise of a buy-it-now button, an enquiry form, a newsletter signup box or a link through to your products and service section will help to convert your visitors into leads or maybe even customers if you’ve done the job well.

TOP TIP: Don’t just post your article once through social media. We publish our articles around 15 times over the course of 3 months using slightly different titles and imagery to engage with different people.

Make your articles visually engaging

The use of quality imagery is vital to the success of your article. Web users are fickle people and short on time. Articles with images draw 94% more views than articles without.

To add further clout – make sure you choose a short catchy headline. Remember that readers are likely to share your article if they like it and a short headline means more room for them on twitter to share their comments.

Another important aspect not to overlook is the content itself. Giant columns of unbroken text don’t make for inviting reading. Make sure your article is properly formatted and split into bite-sized paragraphs.

Measure your results

This is crucial if you’re to improve the success of your articles going forward. If you think back to your objectives, the core goals were probably website optimisation, an increase in website visitors and an increase in enquiries / sales.

RankScanner is a great free tool to monitor the performance of your website for a set of key words over time. It’s important to note that website optimisation takes time so don’t expect results in days or even weeks – think long term.

To measure the popularity of your posts you can use the in-built analytics tools included in all of the major social media platforms. They will tell you how many people have looks at your post and who has liked, favourited and reposted it.

And lastly, to measure the amount of traffic that has come to your website and the behaviour of the visitors once they arrive – the best tool by far is Google Analytics. Google Analytics is a free tool and provides invaluable information about how visitors interact with your website so you can take advantage of this in future blog posts.

Finding the time to write and creating content of high enough quality are key hurdles when it comes to the success of a blog and that’s where businesshands content marketing services can help. We offer a weekly, well researched, high quality 600-word blog post for a monthly fee of just £395 and this can be combined with our popular social media management services to give your organisation a great value, professional and productive online presence.

To learn more, contact us today on 0207 458 4788 or email info@businesshands.co.uk.

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