While this may seem like a very specific question, it is actually part of a much larger conversation. Every day the Internet is flooded with millions of new content pieces. Why in the world should anyone read yours? Simple: you have something to offer them, and better still–you already know what it is and have what it takes to use it successfully.
When I first started my journey into writing, a constant theme I found was that my work sounded NOTHING like me! Those who know me know that I am very conversational, and rarely take on a serious tone. I even carry this persona on stage with me when preaching or speaking–I can’t NOT be authentic.
But for some reason, when writing, I suddenly became an entirely different person. I was using big words (seemingly just to impress people), and I wasn’t really giving readers the opportunity to get to know me for who I really am.
This was not only deceitful but harmful to my message and to my readers.
I quickly learned that if I was ever going to resonate with my readers and potential customers, I was going to have to put MYSELF out there–not some made up version of me that looked good on paper.
Here are a few reasons why:
1. I write to develop relationships. When I write, it is not to stroke my own ego. And yet, that’s all my writing accomplished! Real writers write to develop relationships with their readers/potential clients, and it makes no sense to introduce yourself (with your writing) as someone you are not. You WILL be found out when/if the relationship moves to the next level.
2. When people begin to pay, they expect more from you. When the time comes that you convert the reader into a paying customer (whether it be for small products or for pricey services), their expectations IMMEDIATELY jump higher. You can probably identify with this–I’ll bet you hold someone to a higher standard once you have given them your credit card number, huh?
3. Nobody likes to be deceived–for ANY reason. Another reason writers write in the first place is to build trust. The very moment trust is broken, it is nearly impossible to regain it. One of the quickest ways to lose trust is to misrepresent yourself.
So when someone asks me, “how personal should my blog posts be?”, I can’t help but answer enthusiastically: “COMPLETELY, TOTALLY, 100%!!!”
I repeat for clarity: It DOES NOT matter that you are a business owner promoting your business. If your blog posts do not accurately represent the person you are, your blog could actually cause you to LOSE business and lose trust with your audience.
To help you overcome this hurdle and start writing insanely personal blog posts today, I’ve made a list of four strategies you can use in each and every post.
Strategy #1. Establish a Connection
When it comes to resonating and identifying with your readers, establishing a genuine connection is really the only way to stand out.
Here’s the deal: No one is going to read your material if they don’t feel a connection to your message.
To give a personal example: One of my favorite bloggers in the world is Michael Hyatt. But, it’s not his grammatical accuracy that makes me look forward to his posts three times a week. In fact, it’s not really the fact that he has good advice or even that he is a great writer.
What draws me to Michael’s blog each week, time and time again is that I resonate with his message. When I read his material, it feels like he is talking to ME. There is no greater feeling than that.
Similarly, the only people who will read your blog are the ones who can resonate and identify with you.
It’s likely that if you are even reading this, you are a small, service-based business owner. What made you seek out my advice? Likely, it’s because I too am a small, service-based business owner, and have decided to share with others what I have learned on my journey.
Of course, that makes sense because the services I offer align with my expertise AND what you need to know.
That is the sweet spot.
Likewise, your small business blog should be the perfect mix of what knowledge aligns with your expertise and what knowledge your potential customers are seeking. That, quite literally, IS the connection. It’s personal, because it directly aligns the customer’s need with your solution.
Drive your blog strategy with that concept in mind, and you will begin to see the fruits of your labor.
Strategy #2. Get Your “Voice” Right
This is more of a technical marketing term, but every brand has a “voice.” When putting together a content marketing strategy for your small business, determining your “voice” is the key step.
Like making a connection, this is one of the main differentiators between you and every other business.
A brand voice, as I’ll define it for our purposes, is simply the tone, style, word usage, and textual styling that will be found throughout all of your marketing and promotional materials, including your blog.
This is important.
If your blogging tone is conversational and your website copy is serious and cryptic, your “voice” is not consistent, and you will leave your customers confused about who you are, what you do, and what the experience with you will be like.
Yes—your brand voice actually tells your customer ahead of time what it will be like to work with you.
Do you see what makes this so important? In fact, getting the brand voice right is almost as important as starting your blog in the first place. You don’t have to be an expert, but there are a few ground rules you need to follow (hence the reason for this blog—so we can help you get started on the right foot!)
We don’t have space here to cover how to fully develop this—that will be covered later—but what we can do is look at the few elements that make up your voice. From there, you should be able to identify key personality traits unique to you and your business that can work for your brand voice.
1. Tone. This is the broadest category. The tone of your marketing materials can usually be summed up in one or a few words. For example, you may decide that you want to have a conversational tone. Or, a serious tone. Perhaps you want to have a humorous, conversational tone. Don’t worry about getting too specific here—we’ll narrow down further in the next element.
2. Style. This element takes what we know about our tone and expands upon it more tactically. While your tone tells you what your readers can expect your overall marketing to sound like, your style gives you the practical measures to apply it. For instance, say you’ve chosen a conversational tone. Your style description might sound like this: “Since our readers can expect a conversational tone from our company, we should make sure to use words that are not too complex. We should stay away from speech that sounds “salesy”, and instead, focus on the journey our customers are on between discovering their problems and finding our solution to it.” It is tempting here to talk about what kind of words to use—but that is a step all its own.
3. Word Usage. Getting even more practical, you are now going to take what you know about your tone and style and find words specific to your industry that will, hopefully, resonate with your readers. This depends entirely on what business you are in because what you want to do is find words that YOU understand and find out what words your customers are using to describe those things—likely, they are different. One example in our business would be the phrase “long form content.” I know what long form content is, both in the broad sense and specifically. I know that long form content basically refers to long guides, eBooks, physical books, etc., and can usually involve a word count of anywhere from 2,500 to 100,000+ words. But, none of my readers are searching for “How to write long form content” on Google! In fact, they’re likely not using that term at all. But they are using their own “layman” version of it, and it’s my job (and yours!) to find out what that is and incorporate that into my brand voice.
4. Textual Styling. Lastly, and most practically, is our textual styling. This takes the last three steps or elements into account and describes how this should actually look/feel on paper (or online). Are we going to use big walls of text, or are we going with extremely short paragraphs, bulleted lists, bolded elements, etc.? This also informs what sort of fonts you will be using, header sizes/spacing/coloration, and text size. This also informs what grammar elements can be tweaked and used differently. For instance, conventional wisdom says NEVER to start a sentence with the word “and.” And, that would be right—if your tone was conventional (see what I did there?). But if your tone is conversational, you are going to type how you talk, which very likely could have a sentence starting with the word “and.”
So you see, your brand voice is, in a way, limiting you. But these are good and safe limitations. In much the same way that a fish is limited to existing in the water for its own good, so does your brand voice for your marketing.
Also, I would be remiss not to tie this back to the personality of your blog posts. Just as your voice is very personal to who YOU are, so is the brand voice very personal to what your business is and who it serves!
It allows you to speak directly to one type of customer (the right one!), and not at all to the wrong one. Therefore, I believe your brand voice is of utmost importance to the success of your small business marketing.
Strategy #3. Let Your Customers In
This, more than anything, addresses the question posed by the blog post.
I’m a preacher and writer, and one thing that has taught me is the importance of illustrations and good stories.
You just can’t connect with people unless you get personal with them.
Often times small business owners make the mistake of treating their customers like businesses. But, your customer is not the business. Your customer is a real person—whether it be the business owner, manager, or some other key decision maker.
And real people love stories!
To develop that further—people love PERSONAL stories. People want to be able to identify with your wins, weaknesses, and worries. Nothing makes a decision maker move on faster than getting a stale impression from a potential vendor or service provider.
By letting your customers in, you open up a completely new level of trust. Plus, since much of your life is likely wrapped up in your business, it’s very likely that the bulk of your personal stories will resonate closely with your customers.
Practically, here are five strategies you can use to let customers in and be more personal in your blog posts:
1. Talk about your family. If you have a spouse and kids at home, talk about them! Let your clients know you’re a family person and community matters to you. This will build major trust almost immediately.
2. Have a recurring theme. Have someone or something that shows up regularly in your blog posts. A good example would be a pet. Everybody loves a good pet story! Perhaps this pet gets in trouble often, and you could somehow relate this back to your business? Get creative!
3. Involve your employees. It’s a huge mistake to leave your employees out of your online presence. Companies want to see real people working at your business. The more transparent you are about them, the more their personalities shine through and give another touch point of personality for your small business.
4. Be embarrassing. This one is huge. Being honest—most of your customers will be able to identify with your failures MUCH better than your wins. You have the authority and ability to help them because you have experienced their failures already, and figured out how to win. They need to know that.
5. Be transparent. This follows the same logic, but y’all, be as open and honest as you can possibly be. I’m not talking about disclosing business or financial details—just make sure that you are not someone different in person than you are online. They should be hiring you because they already know and identify you from the trust you’ve built with them on your blog.
A word of warning—this step is hard!! It’s not easy to let people you will be doing business with into your personal life, especially if you are completely new to internet marketing and blogging.
But trust me—the payoff is worth it.
Strategy #4. Display Your Personal Value
Many small business owners deal with the unreasonable fear of self-promotion.
I get it, though.
Nobody wants to be the guy on Facebook who annoys all his friends with his business posts.
I myself can identify with you there.
But if you’ll give me a chance to explain, I think you can begin to look at this with an entirely new perspective. If you grasp this, it will change the way you feel about marketing your business.
Don’t miss this: If you have something valuable to offer, you are doing a DISSERVICE to the marketplace by not telling anyone about it.
Please read that again and again and again until it sinks in. The whole reason you’re in business in the first place is that you have something to say or sell–a message or product that somebody needs–and it is tremendously selfish of you not to share it!
However, there is an important distinction to be made. While you should definitely be displaying your personal value, when blogging, you don’t do this by promoting; you do it by sharing.
In layman’s terms, give away the farm!
The whole point of a blog is to share your knowledge, and I think you should take it one step further: share your BEST knowledge!
Give your customers insight into your skillset by telling them exactly how to do what you do. Think that’s crazy? Have you considered asking yourself why you’re reading this blog post?
I happen to think this is pretty good advice I am giving you right now, and all it took to get this advice was a click of the mouse. I didn’t charge high consulting fees for this kind of advice–even though I could!
I’m giving you a backstage pass right now, so shh!
I am sharing my knowledge with you because I want to empower you as a business owner, of course! But truth to be told, I really just want you to know that I know my stuff! #micdrop
I enjoy writing, but I had rather you pay me to help you accomplish this for your business than to do it for free. So why write? Because otherwise, all you have is my word for it on my website that I know what I’m talking about. By actually sharing the knowledge, I am putting my money where my mouth is.
You’re a busy person–so even though you HAVE this information, you may not have the time to implement it on your own. But, you may elect to bring in someone like me! That’s what I’m counting on.
I’m sure a small percentage will take this information and either do it themselves and give someone else their business, but if that’s the case, I don’t want to work with that sort of client anyway. By sharing like this, I am actually filtering out my lead pool such that only folks I want to work with are reaching out to me.
That, my friend, is top-notch lead generation.
So you see, by sharing our most valuable information, and proving that we know what we’re talking about we accomplish numerous things for our business:
1. We back up our claim to knowledge.
2. We empower our customers to take action.
3. We do the business community a good service (for free!)
4. We automatically filter out good leads from bad ones.
Now, this advice carries right over to Social. It is outside the scope of this post to talk about social media strategy, but I want you to walk away knowing that it is OK to share what you have written with others!
It does no good to write an awesome blog post and not tell anyone about it.
Don’t get trapped by intimidation and the fear of self-promotion–you owe the world better.[bctt tweet=”No one is going to read your material if they don’t feel a connection to your message.” username=”northmacsvc”]
Question: How do you plan to practically implement these strategies into your own blog?