How to avoid the biggest errors made when blog writing

More than 10 million blog posts are published every day! When do you next plan to add to the mountain of content out there?  As we spend a lot of time either writing content, getting content written, or checking the writing of others, we thought we would pick the brains of a number of experts we know. The aim: to help you avoid the biggest errors made in blog writing.

Our panel come from various parts of the writing world:

  • Professional content writers
  • Journalists
  • Authors
  • Public relations specialists

Between them, they’ve written millions of words, putting them in the right order to make people want to read more. Let’s now look at what they have to say…

1. Don’t forget who your audience isimage of Dr Claire Trevien

Dr Claire Trevien, a content specialist, says a common error she sees is people forgetting who their audience is. All too often she sees content that is focused on making the company look good or on details that aren’t really of interest to anyone external to the company.

You have to remember “what’s in it for them?” and make the content useful, or entertaining, or inspiring. Otherwise, why would anyone bother reading it?

2. Write what your audience wants to readimage of Chantal Cooke, PR specialist

Along a similar thread, Chantal Cooke,  from Panpathic PR, says from a PR perspective the biggest mistake she sees (again and again) is businesses focusing on what they want to say, not what journalists (or their audience) want to hear.  Yes, of course, the point of PR and creating content is to get your message out to a wider audience, but it needs to be framed and delivered in a way that people want to engage with it. Otherwise, at best, you’re wasting your time and at worst you’re irritating people and damaging your reputation. So before creating any content make sure it passes the ‘so what?’ test. In other words, if your audience will read it, shrug, and go ‘so what?’ – you’ve failed the test.

Whenever you are creating content, for any reason, about any message, ask yourself ‘what’s in it for the reader/listener/viewer? Why would they care?’ If you can answer that question, you’re well on your way to creating great content.

3. Remember the search engines too

Whilst we agree completely with both Chantal and Claire, it would be remiss of us to not mention the search engines at this point. You are producing content because you want to be found by your target audience and get them engaging with you. To do that, you have to be ranked in the search engines, so you do have to follow their guidelines too. by writing for your audience, you will meet many of their guidelines, but remember your meta descriptions, sentence length and keywords. If you have a WordPress website, Yoast is a great plugin that will really help.

Think of Google, et al, as a secondary audience, but one you do have to at least nod towards.

4. Remove the formalityimage of Nicole Johnston

Nicole Johnston is a ghost writer and writing coach. She thinks that people think that to come across ‘professional’ they need to write in formal language and use technical phrases for credibility. Nicole says the best approach with content is to write as you speak.  There are two advantages to this:

  • it builds connection and trust.  People feel as though they get to know us through our content and are therefore more likely to buy from us.
  • No-one wants to read formal or technical language.  Simple, ‘down to earth’ language will not only communicate our point better but will make us seem more accessible.

Nicole suggests that we almost need to ‘unlearn’ the academic and ‘correct’ way of writing to communicate effectively with real people.  Einstein said ‘If you can’t explain it simply, then you don’t understand it well enough.’ Nicole agrees with him.

Author and journalist, Emma Bamford,  agrees with this and says people try too hard. A lot of the time, when non-professional or less experienced writers write content, they get so worried about sounding good that they go a bit over the top and/or formal.

Emma recommends following George Orwell’s advice. In his 1946 essay “Politics in the English Language”, wrote: “Never use a long word when a short one will do.” Clarity is key; ditch the thesaurus and write in a similar way to how you would speak (but with better grammar).

Emma gave us three more errors she sees regularly:

5. Stop overusing adjectives and adverbsimage of Emma Bamford

When people write marketing copy, they often think that if they pile on the superlative adjectives, it’ll make their product seem amazing and people will be clicking the ‘Buy’ button like there’s no tomorrow. In truth, it can easily become too much, and have a ring of falsity.

Emma recommends that you:

  • Cut the adjectives and adverbs (the describing words),
  • Let the actual facts and features of the product or service do the selling.
  • Avoid overdone, meaningless descriptors such as ‘sumptuous’ like the plague. You might have used that word in copy/content, but have you ever said it out loud in conversation? I’m betting not…

Gary Adams, a financial journalist, also highlighted the use of additional, and unnecessary words. He gave a few examples:

  • Nobody has ever risen ‘down’ so why rise ‘up’?
  • You could just swap something rather than swap it ‘out’.
  • ‘Interestingly’, if you prefix a point with that word, it probably describes the exact opposite.
  • Do you expand ‘inwards’?

6. Cut out the jargonimage of Gary Adams

You spend your whole day using the jargon of your industry. You know it, you love it and your team knows exactly what you are talking about. That doesn’t mean your target audience does, however. Using too much jargon is highly likely to confuse your audience, so cut it out.  Your target audience wants to know how you can help them, not how many big words you know. For more on this topic, you should read one of last year’s blogs.

Gary supports this point and adds that the social media world has created a new type of jargon. Witness the change from investment ‘baskets’ to investment ‘buckets’ and from ‘embracing’ something to ‘leaning in’ for an example of how quickly pointless change is taken up on a global scale and how something descriptive quickly becomes a slogan, something used thoughtlessly. Endless repetition of ever-more refined phrases will steal your identity. It also dates your work.

7. Using the active voice is best

“I’m telling you – avoid the passive voice.”

“You’re being told by me to avoid the passive voice.”

Which sounds better to you? Both sentences mean the same thing, but the first version is in the active voice, and the second is in the passive. Passive adds distance between writer and reader. If you find it tricky working out if you’re writing in the passive voice, look out for tell-tale words like “being” and “by”. Check that the subject (the doer) in the sentence comes before the verb (the doing word), rather than after it.

8. Use the right wordimage of Maia Morris, journalist and sub-editor

The English language doesn’t always make this easy, with many words being very similar, but Maia Morris, a journalist and sub-editor, lists this as one of her biggest bugbears. You will be able to think of many different examples, but this is the one Maia gave:

  • To complement is to complete something, supplement it, enhance it, or bring it to perfection. For example, your accessories may complement your dress.
  • To compliment is to give praise. For example, if I were to say that you have a very nice turtle, this would be a compliment to both you and your turtle.

The mixing up of to, too and two, as well as your and you’re are frequently seen too.

9. Missing the possessive apostrophe

Maia also gave us this one. Saying it is one of Maia’s bugbears will keep her happy. If you said it was one of Maias bugbears, you would expect to face her wrath!

10. Over-use of punctuation

Maia also really hates it when she sees people over-using exclamation marks!!!!!!

11. Don’t go on too long

Shorter is almost always better, when it comes to content length. Get in, say what you want to say (clearly, cleanly and in active voice), and get out.

Brian McGee has a journalist background, is a qualified teacher and over 20 years’ experience in creating content. He gave us three tips to look out for

12. Never Deleteimage of Brian McGee

Brian says just keep writing, however much the words don’t seem right for now. You can go back and improve it in the next draft: delete, polish and craft then. Not before…

13. Remember the three sections

Brian says there is always a beginning, middle, end. It’s better still if your conclusion links back to the start of your writing, even if it’s a discreet nod. That doesn’t mean you need to draft in a linear way. You have more ideas about the conclusion after that bracing walk? Ignore the introduction and get (happily, here’s hoping) drafting.

14. Think flow

Brian’s final tip is that if the transition from one idea to another jars, record that in the draft. Seeing the shortcomings of the current version is progress too.

What have we missed?

If there are any key blogging errors we’ve missed in this list (we’re sure there are), add them as a comment below. In the same manner, if you disagree, tell us why…

To conclude

If you can avoid the biggest errors made in blog writing, it can make the difference between you wasting your time and you attracting your next big client. Writing styles and best practice changes over time, so these points may well be redundant in a few year’s time, as Gary points out above. When you’re next planning a content piece for your business, why not try some of these points. See how much of a difference it makes to the flow of the article. More importantly, look at your performance metrics in a few weeks’ time and see if there is a difference.

We hope the tips provided here will help you to improve your content generation and improve the performance of your content marketing. However, if you find that you simply don’t have time to produce the quality content you want, or you want someone to review what you have written, get in touch. Call us on 020 8634 5911 or email us on SMEgrowth@smeneeds.co.uk

What To Do When A Prospect Doesn’t Buy

What to do when a prospect doesn't buy

So, you found the perfect prospect through LinkedIn. You made first contact, an amazing introduction. Over a few weeks you built your relationship and waited until the time was right. Then  you hit them with the pitch… and they don’t buy it.

First off, it’s not the end of the world! It might be painful to fail in your pitch to a prospect you’ve spent weeks or even months buttering up, but you can’t win them all. At least not the first time around.

What’s important in this situation is not to sulk, and make sure your next step is in the right direction. They said no to your offer, but that doesn’t mean the door is closed. There’s several steps you can take to keep your foot in and catch that prospect the next time around.

At the point of purchase…

At the point of conversion there’s three things that can happen:

  1. They don’t buy at all
  2. They buy from a competitor
  3. They buy from you (hooray!)

Before we look at what you need to do, let’s look at why they may have made this decision…

1. If they don’t buy at all

Don’t be too hard on yourself (or your sales team). There’s reasons why prospects don’t buy.

  • Cost: Maybe your prospect just doesn’t have room in their budget right now. This doesn’t mean there was anything wrong with your pitch, or that they won’t buy from you at a later date.
  • Priority: Perhaps there’s other more pressing purchases for your prospect to make before they buy your product.
  • Market forces: Recessions, price of goods and other external factors (global pandemics, for example) are beyond the control of yourself and your client and can make it impossible to buy.

2. They buy from a competitor

Ouch. It’s not nice to learn you’ve lost a prospect to a competitor. First, ask yourself why they went with the competitor. This is usually for three main reasons:

  • Price: If your competitor has a cheaper product, it’s possible that they’ve made a promise they can’t deliver on. It’s an old adage that “if you buy cheap you buy twice”, but if your competition fails to deliver, you want your name to be at the top of the prospect’s inbox.
  • Relationship: Maybe your prospect has a pre-existing relationship with a competitor. This kind of inside advantage can be difficult to overcome. But a good relationship with a rival salesperson doesn’t mean that your competitor has a superior product. Relationships may open doors, but if they don’t deliver, you want to make sure yours is the door they come knocking on.
  • Perceived risk: Perhaps your prospect bought from a competitor because there was a lower perceived risk with purchasing from them. Consumers are less likely to risk buying more expensive products, or from less established companies. Perceived risk can be reduced over time as your brand becomes and more established and reviews and recommendations begin to spread. Keep your prospects sweet and, in the meantime, see what you can do to reduce perceived risk.

3. They buy from you

I know this blog is called “what to do when a prospect doesn’t buy”, but it’s important to note that even if a prospect coverts, it’s still not the end of the story. In fact, it could be just the beginning. Some of the benefits of maintaining communication with your customer are

  • that customers who have already used your product will be more likely to purchase other products from you since they know you as a credible supplier.
  • They may choose you over your competitors for other products. The cost and logistical benefits of having fewer, bigger, suppliers means you always have the chance of increasing your sales to the same client.
  • Promoting your brand through regular communication will help you keep up with competitors. Remind your customer why they opted for you over your competitors to begin with!

So what do you do now?

The answer is simple. Keep in touch.

  1. Make sure they are on your mailing list. Regular email campaigns, sharing case studies, articles and whitepapers ensure your prospects are kept aware of what you are up to. There’s a chance they will unsubscribe, but only if your communication is too frequent and not relevant.
  2. Connect with them on social media. When you’re connected, you will stay in the back of their mind, in readiness for the future.
  3. Go to the same events. Particularly if they are local to you, “bumping into them” once in a while maintains awareness and gives you the chance to keep talking about how you’ve helped other clients.
  4. Call them. Nobody says you’re not allowed to call them every few months. Just because they didn’t buy before doesn’t mean they won’t in the future, and the personal touch could sway things your way.

Closing

It’s never nice to lose a prospect after you’ve spent resources promoting your business and time building a relationship. But it’s not a waste. There’s no reason for your relationship with the prospect to change: the economic climate is always moving and you want to put yourself in the best position when your prospect is looking to buy again.

Get back on the horse, keep communicating the value of your product and wait for the time and effort you’ve invested to pay off down the line.

If you need some assistance in ensuring you stay in touch with old prospects, give us a call on 020 8634 5911 or email us at smegrowth@smeneeds.co.uk