The first profile story I ever wrote detailed an inked-up tattoo artist in Columbia, Mo. He’s an interesting guy with interesting tales, but that profile story was awful. Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some excellent editors, including some expert marketers and award-winning journalists. From experience, I can tell you it takes time and practice to write effective and engaging stories, articles and blog posts. You can always improve your writing skills, but you can never perfect them.
B2B blogging is about leads not perfection
Luckily for you, B2B blogging’s beauty lies in its practicality. It’s not about impressing editors with an interesting story; it’s about measuring progress with hard numbers and business leads. You can be successful without writing overly snarky and clever pieces or reporting Pulitzer Prize winning stories. You just have to write content that’s targeted, informative and clear.
Identify your audience
Blogging starts with targeting the right people with the right content. In blogging, marketing, and even newswriting, it’s all about the audience.
Know whom you want to reach. Is it potential customers, business partners who can refer you to clients, a journalist at the local paper? Answer this question before you start writing. The second post in our B2B blogging series gives you a step-by-step B2B blogging strategy and shows you how to organize all of your blog content for your B2B audience.
Satisfy your audience
Once you define your audience, intelligently answer a question in a way that will satisfy their information cravings. If I were writing for a healthcare construction company, I might tell hospital administrators about constructing buildings for better patient outcomes. Your blog posts should be as specific to your audience as possible. For more on what to write about, check out post three in our B2B blogging series on how to find great blog post ideas. You don’t have to provide expertise on everything or reach everyone. Just write for the people who can help you do business.
If you want to nail down in-depth answers to customer questions, put on your brand journalism hat and interview your coworkers. Once you have your answer to a common question, write it down as concisely as possible — ideally, in just a few short sentences.
Make your posts memorable by making them flow
As a writer, I’ve been asked from time to time to edit my friends’ essays, cover letters and reports. I’m happy to do it, but I’m amazed by one mistake that many people make: writing disjointed copy. Most people don’t expect writing to be perfect — I’m a bit of the perfectionist with my own writing — but everyone wants to understand precisely what your point is. At the very least, every blog post you write should flow from beginning to end so your audience gets the whole story.
The concise, three-sentence answer you jotted down will form the basis for your insightful company blog post. The short answer gives you an excellent introduction and overview, while the question itself can make up your blog post title. The long explanation — there’s always a long explanation — will provide you with the meaty content for your post.
Break your short answer down into three main points that you can write about in detail. When you sleep, your brain erases useless information from your memory and retains only the most important pieces of information. Make your three points so clear and memorable that your reader’s brain will hardwire them in and not forget them the next day.
Back up your main ideas with sub points
Then, dive a few meters deeper into your answer. Identify two to four sub points for each one of the memory-making main points that you highlight in your post. Think of these sub points as the quotes you used to put into your high school English papers — in fact, they can actually be quotes from the coworkers you interview. These sub points reinforce what you’re trying to say.
Vary them. Don’t say the same thing over and over with different quotes or reworded sentences. Keep the tasty, informative morsels coming. Once you have your main points and your sub points together, outline them into a logical flow that builds up to one, synchronous idea. Your words and points should snap into place and seamlessly carry your reader from beginning to end.
Stop. You’re almost ready to write, but take a step back and think about context.
Context is everything
If I told you Mizzou beat Oklahoma St. behind three rushing touchdowns from running back Henry Josey, you might be a smiling Tigers fan. If I told you Henry Josey overcame a horrific knee injury, grew up in Texas, and led Mizzou to a victory in the Cotton Bowl (in Dallas) and the most wins in school history, you might have a deeper appreciation for his performance.
Providing context unlocks your content to your audience.
Think about the basic questions that information foragers would ask if they wandered into your website and knew nothing about your industry. They might ask questions such as, “Who is the author and what does he do?” “What exactly does this company do?” “What is marketing automation?” “They’re promoting this Google Analytics case study, do they do design work or just blog?” (Yes, by the way, we have talented web designers on staff here.)
Write your article completely so someone first strolling into your industrial world can easily understand its context and answer all of his basic questions. Sometimes, you can’t cover everything in one blog post, so you can link to other articles — as I did earlier in this piece.
Okay, put the pen to paper and write this thing
Show. Don’t Tell. No, I’m not talking about pictures. You don’t need graphics or pictures to illustrate a nice blog post. I’m talking about splattering murals of color and thought across your blog with every key your fingers strike. Write so your audience can see your ideas as they read your words.
Write with your own, unique voice. If you read your words aloud, do you actually hear your voice? You’re the expert who’s been enlightening others on your work for years; it should sound like you — a clear and concise you.
Last step, proofreading and editing
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen great journalists and professional writers have editors tear apart their work. You have to learn to become detached from your beautiful writing. It’s just a fact of life.
Less is more. Be a snarling, bloodthirsty hyena when you edit your writing. Cackle with conniving villainy as you viciously shred your words and forget all emotional attachment you once had to your ideas. You probably used too many words and need to kill off a few hundred of them. Track the reduction of words in MS Word’s Word Count tool and take pride in their demise. Make it an art to say as much as you can in as few words as possible.
Some editing tips
As a rule of thumb, convey your thoughts so a 5th grader can understand them. Use only “qualified jargon.” Don’t fire out industry terms such as “EGR valve,” “Harmonic Balancer” or “Rolling Contact Fatigue” unless you clearly explain what they mean. When you do explain jargon, be an expert by writing an authoritative explanation.
Use an active voice, varied verbs and colorful language. Nothing bores readers more than to-be verbs. We don’t want everything to simply be, we want people, things and nouns to actively do things.
Pick one writing mistake you make consistently — you might consider the overuse of to-be verbs — and focus on improving that one thing in your next article. You will continually improve, and make a habit of writing excellent blog posts.
Have fun with it and be creative
Your experiences have given you a wealth of business knowledge. Share it and build up your audience to create business leads. Identify your audience and satisfy their cravings for actionable information. Write out a concise answer to a commonly asked question, break it down into three main points that drive that answer home, and support those points with sub-points. Finally, viciously edit your copy.
You know how to write effective business blog posts, but do you know the strategy behind them? Don’t let your blogging go to waste.