Our blog is the most successful new business tool we’ve ever come up with. And that’s quite an admission for an advertising agency and brand management firm that spends its time building businesses.
True, our blog wasn’t successful overnight, but now that we’ve established substantial critical mass with a big group of readers, the blog has become a diamond mine of invitations and opportunities. It’s the digital goose that continues laying the golden egg.
Over the past eight years, I’ve learned a bit about what makes people read and respond, and I’ve figured out how to get them to pay attention. If you’re interested in learning how, I’m happy to share the wealth.
Quite simply, successful blogs are like beer commercials.
Most people who see beer commercials on TV hate them. They say beer commercials are sexist, offensive and stupid. They say beer commercials play to the lowest common denominator. They say beer commercials do nothing for them.
But who do you think says that? People who don’t buy a lot of beer.
Beer commercials are aimed at people who buy almost all the beer. A UCLA survey concluded that 5 percent of beer drinkers consume more than 53 percent of all beer sold. And here’s a little secret: Those beer-drinking guys like those ads.
A few years ago, I was invited to teach a marketing class. One student asked what I thought made a good ad. I said something about an engaging visual and a powerful message that caused an emotional response strong enough to stimulate purchase.
The student said my explanation was different from what their instructor told them. Their teacher’s theory was that an ad was good if an alien who just stepped out of a spacecraft could understand it.
Since when do space aliens speak English? Since when do they have mouths to drink beer, feet to wear sneakers or whatever else they need to consume the advertised product? And besides, who’s ever heard of space aliens carrying cash or credit cards?
Now let’s think about the blog you’re about to write. Let’s say you have 10,000 subscribers but only 200 of them are potential customers.
If you want to enjoy the process, then write your blog for everyone on your list. We’ll give you “atta-boys,” make you feel tingly and tell you what a gifted writer you are. But if you want to make money, write your blog for the people who make decisions about where to plunk down their money. Because the folks who can potentially buy from you are the only readers who matter. And the last time I checked, your mortgage company won’t accept compliments in lieu of cash.
If your blog exists to help grow your business, what matters is what the people who can become your customers think. And if you aim your prose directly at them, those customers will be more likely to respond the way you’d like them to respond.
It’s like the beer advertising that you probably despise. Unless you’re in the 5 percent of high volume beer chasers that the bottlers care about, your opinion doesn’t matter.
If you’re serious about reaching your true customers, the question to ask is: How do you get those targeted people to read your blog?
I aim for three qualities in each of my posts. I want them to be enjoyable, useful and valuable to the people that matter. If my posts are fun and interesting to read while they provide my audience with something useful and relevant, my customers will read them and also pass them on to their families, friends and online audiences.
Because I believe the most important part of good writing is rewriting, I try to write my posts with enough lead-time to read them over and over, making them a bit tighter on each pass. But the most important thing to generate readership is the title. And so I often spend as much time writing the five or seven words of the heading as I do writing the entire post.
All of this is done with the simple goal of reaching the people I want to do business with and letting them know that my company has the skills they need to solve their problems. That simple strategy works for me, and it can work for you, too.
Spreading the Word is a new monthly column that will feature professionals sharing thoughts and advice on branding and social media. To be considered, submissions of 750 words or less should be sent to rclarke@MiamiHerald.com.