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Not a Writer? How to Make Writing a Blog Post (And Other Online Content) Come Naturally

writing a blogMany small business owners don’t think of themselves as writers, and they worry that content marketing is for wordsmiths only.

So committing to writing a blog regularly, and creating articles and informational eBooks to engage customers can be daunting. Especially if English was your least favorite subject and you haven’t written anything longer than an email since college.

If you fall into the category of the writing-averse, you could hire somebody to write content for you.

Or, you could develop a DIY content strategy that doesn’t require clever headlines, witty one-liners, or whatever else intimidates you about writing.

In your DIY content strategy plan, think of your content as a stand-in for you. You can’t be physically present when prospects conduct online research to answer their pre-purchase questions.

That’s why your content has to be there instead, engaging potential customers with your authentic voice.

The key is to put your expertise into words easily and naturally, like you do when you’re conversing with a customer in person.

What Topics Should You Write About?

Many business owners are stumped about what topics to cover when writing a blog or article. It helps to remember that everything you write should answer a customer’s unasked question. Here are 3 types of questions that your content should regularly answer:

Questions customers ask all the time.

Pick a question you are asked several times a week (it’s a good idea to take notes on customer FAQs). Now, think about how you would answer in person. Would you give the customer a helpful checklist or some product recommendations? Would you relate a relevant story or provide step-by-step instructions?

For example, our IT consultant blogs about common customer queries and concerns like, “How to Clear Your Cache” and “What is Server Migration?” He started doing this so that when customers asked about these topics (and they did – all the time), he could direct them to the appropriate blog post for more information.

As an added benefit, prospective clients often search for answers to the exact same questions, and they end up finding him through his blog.

Questions customers may not ask you.

Today, clients and prospective clients don’t always pick up the phone to ask their burning questions, particularly when they are in pre-purchase mode and aren’t ready to interact with a salesperson.

Questions that customers don’t ask might include how to find the right vendor, which of two product or service options is best for them, and how they can be prepared to perform their role during a particular project.

For example, one of our moving company clients created a series of videos with topics that include “How to Qualify an Office Mover” and “Common Office Moving Pitfalls to Avoid,” topics customers are typically interested in before interviewing movers.

If you need to generate ideas in this category, try using Google suggestions to see what web users are searching for. For example, typing the word “moving” brings up the suggestion “moving boxes.” Likely, many people planning a move wonder about types of moving boxes and where to get them – that would be a great blog topic!

If you keep typing the phrase “moving company,” Google also suggests “moving company prices,” which could inspire an article about the actual costs of moving (and why customers probably shouldn’t take the cheap route).

Remember, Google suggestions are generated according to the popularity of search terms, so these are valuable clues if you want to learn about the kind of information prospective customers are seeking.

Questions about current events related to your industry.

What might customers want to know about a much-anticipated product launch, a security breach or threat, or an industry change that could affect them?

For example, when Windows ended support for XP in April of 2014, many users looked for articles advising them what to do next: upgrade their operating system, buy a new computer, or keep on using their XP machines.

Another popular topic for technology blogs recently was “What is the Heartbleed Bug and How Can I Prepare?” since many computer users wondered how to protect themselves when this threat surfaced.

The key is to examine the hot topic or current event from the customer’s point of view: what does it mean for them and how should they prepare or react? Explain in the simplest terms possible, and avoid jargon.

Getting the Words Down

You’ve come up with a question you’d like to answer. But how do you turn that into publishable content?

For starters, answer the question as if you are talking to someone who doesn’t know much about what you do. You can even answer the question out loud and record/transcribe what you say. Be as clear as possible, keep it simple, and use your own unique voice.

It’s best to avoid jargon. You could also provide a glossary of terms customers might not understand.

Finally, break down your answer into steps or bullet points if possible. That can help you stay on track and avoid overwhelming the reader with information.

Another option is to make a short video. If you are better at explaining in person than constructing paragraphs, film yourself answering the question. Make an outline of key points first, and stick to it so you don’t ramble.

Getting Your Work Publication-Ready

Once you’ve gotten your thoughts down, it’s time to polish your piece of content and get it out there.

  • Make sure you used the language customers are actually searching by. The Google Keyword Planner is a good tool – it makes it easy to discover that “business phone” is searched about 3 times more frequently than “business telephone,” for example. Common sense could tell you the same thing, but use the Keyword Planner to check your hunches. Then, fine-tune your title and key phrases – not just for SEO, but to catch your customer’s eye by using their own language.
  • Have someone read over your piece and make sure it’s easy to understand, avoids making assumptions about what the audience already knows, and contains no glaring grammatical errors. It’s not a bad idea to have a professional writer give your content the once-over.
  • Make sure there is no self-promotion in the piece. Instead, have a bio and/or call to action so prospective clients can contact you, like: “Planning a move? Learn more about my services.”

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Writing a blog post wasn’t so hard, was it? A professional writer or editor is a valuable resource as you polish your content for publication. But ultimately, you’re the best candidate to head up a content marketing initiative. After all, few people know your industry and your customers better than you do.

You don’t have to be a writer to share useful information, build trust with your audience, and bring new business your way. If you can ask and answer relevant questions in your own voice, you’re on the right track to a natural and effective content marketing strategy.

What’s the hardest part about developing a content strategy when you’re not a “natural writer?” What topics do you write about, and how do you engage your audience? Please share in the comments!

About Shannon Fandler

Shannon Fandler is the Project Manager at InsightPRM, a B2B market research company. She is also an avid writer and enjoys helping clients turn their expertise into natural and compelling content. You can reach her on Google+ or LinkedIn.

14 comments

  1. Thanks, Ryan! I agree, the comments can be a great source of ideas for follow-up posts or new topics altogether. And as you said – when in doubt, just ask customers what they’re thinking, worrying, or dreaming about.

  2. Hi Shannon,

    Super smart post here. Our blog posts are in the minds of our customers, in the form of questions. Some are asked, some have yet to be asked and some are simply industry-wide issues which need to be addressed.

    I like asking customers, clients or my current readers questions about their most pressing issues, or about their most spectacular dreams. Sometimes the easiest way to generate post ideas is to just check with the source.

    Unless we want to write a diary, our readers and customers are the source of our blogging inspiration in that we’re catering to them. We may generate a super creative idea or an inspiration but it needs to be linked to the needs of clients to resonate with our audience.

    I’d add that paying strict attention to comments on published posts can clue you in to future post topics. Some readers will easily point you in the right direction by stating a fear or worry, or problem, or by simply asking you a question for further elaboration.

    This post writing bit grows easier as you practice spotting these idea-seeds in the form of questions asked or problems stated, then of course you must practice writing persistently to hammer out your writing style and voice.

    Blogging gets easier and easier the more you listen, process and create. It’s a 1-2-3 process which can be mastered with persistent practice.

    Thanks Shannon for the helpful share.

    I’ll be tweeting soon.

    Ryan

  3. Since most people write the way they speak, one of the best ways to get a “non-writer” writing is to suggest that they “talk out” their topic into a recording device. As most biz owners are well-versed in their area of expertise, it’s not that hard for them to “just start talking.” 20-45 minutes of thinking out loud (speaking off the cuff) can generate a lot of content. Once that’s done, it’s pretty easy to outsource the recording to a VA who can transcribe it which creates a rough draft that can be polished into a blog post … or two. A good editor can help with that.

    1. Great suggestion, Kathy. Use your strengths! The same person who freezes up when faced with a blank page can often speak easily and engagingly about her company or industry. There’s also many natural writers who have the opposite problem 🙂

  4. This is great information, Shannon. Also, if people need help with creating engaging blog posts, I would like to recommend by eBook, 62 Blog Posts to Overcome Blogger’s Block, that is currently available on Kindle.

  5. Hi Shannon,

    If you are writing in your area of expertise…so to speak, the language used is conversational and impactful. But, if you have to research about and write on an unfamiliar topic…jargon replaces the conversational style.

    1. Exactly, Teejay – and when you write about what you know, you can draw from a wealth of personal examples. The reader will see that you are knowledgeable and passionate about what you do.

  6. The most non-scary way of writing is right here, Shannon. What a great post.

    Sometimes, we just have to write, but your advice is far more methodical. The other thing I’d add is look at how others in your industry present their info – and then do something different. For example, in a market where a lot of people are writing blog posts, a video blogger would stand out.

    – Razwana

    1. That would be a great post on its own – how to cover your competition but still distinguish yourself and let your personality show. A video blog can be a little more work, but it definitely stands out and lets your customers feel like they know you. Thanks Razwana!

  7. Answering customer’s questions is often the easiest way to come up with hot blog post ideas and also have them written. If we are able to help our customers via our content, it will be useful to us as well as our target audience.

    And answering customer questions also makes it relatively easier to get the post written.

    Using Google’s suggest feature to identify those questions that our customers are not asking directly to us is a smart move 🙂

    Thanks for sharing the nice tips Shannon and also thanks for making it positive and encouraging for all bloggers who struggle with writing!

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