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Business owners. Marketing departments. Agencies. All can be guilty of the SEO blog: that driven NOT by the desire to ignite and educate, but the need to rank high on Google, driving inbound leads. The sad result is periodic content authored by $10 writers and targeted not at humans—but at algorithms.
Without thought leadership or novelty, an SEO blog gets shared once or twice on social media—usually by the company that penned it. We at MarketSmiths are a little more old-fashioned in our approach to ghost-blogging. Here’s what we think:
- Blogging consistently strengthens your knowledge base—and drives branding. Nothing injects energy into your business quicker than a continual mandate for fresh angles.
- Your blog engages readership. Write a post with substance and flair—and watch it get passed around. Be strategic, and you’ll find that quality trumps quantity.
- It establishes you (author, team, business) as a distinct authority. Rupture the mold, and you’ll blow past intelligence into the stratosphere of thought leadership. Who doesn’t want that?!
- It delivers takeaway value by illuminating a crisp principle, idea, or action. When you deliver this value to your audience, you’re reinforcing it for yourself (see no. 1). Voila! Branding, through and through.
- Through natural context and SEO keywords, it implants relevance for search engines like Google, building rank through readership, frequency, and punch.
Trust us: an SEO blog—or one that rambles, recapitulates, replays—hones in on no. 5, and nothing more. Save your ten bucks. Do it smart, hire a worthy writer, or don’t do it at all.
Small Business Saturday is almost here! November 30th will mark the 3rd-ever #SmallBizSat, a neato holiday meant to encourage everyone to shop at small, local, brick-and-mortar stores around our communities. Think of it as Mom-n-Pop’s own Black Friday/Cyber Monday.
But wait a second... How’d Small Business Saturday get so popular so fast? The collective willpower of small business owners synergized by social media? Nice thought, but nope. It’s all thanks to American Express, the $17 billion behemoth.
This got us thinking about content strategy, big and small—and how businesses of all sizes can take advantage of our preconceived associations.
Whether we realize it or not, we’ve all got certain stereotypes of big businesses: grey, cold, faceless multinational conglomerates just waiting to gobble up any hint of individuality or local color.
On the flip side, we think of small businesses as friendly mom-n-pops, singular spots that make your little neighborhood that much more unique. Watch this 30 second video on Small Business Saturday. What do you see? Real people connecting, smiling, laughing. Kids playing. Communities thriving. Why, it’s all as American as baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie.
Once you realize this, you can adjust your content strategy and copywriting to take advantage.
For small businesses, going toe-to-toe with the big boys may not be a fair fight, but you can offer something they can’t: you can make people feel good about where they shop. People naturally root for the little guy, they cheer to see David beat Goliath, and they feel good about supporting their own community. This is one of your greatest strengths as a small business—don’t ignore it!
So go ahead, emphasize your smallness by using it to reach out, build intimacy, and connect. Tout your human touch! Gab about your home-grown roots! Celebrate your community focus!
Big(ger) businesses, prove that faceless stereotype wrong. You don't have to sponsor a whole holiday, but leave the corporate speak on the editing room floor. From web copy to product descriptions, get personal with your customers (heck, Amazon calls me Greg). Use "you" to address them. If you’re writing a blog post, slap a name and a smiling face on it! In fact, emphasize faces wherever you can (our brains are hardwired to read, remember, and connect with faces).
In short: local businesses can benefit by trumpeting their feel-good neighborliness; bigger companies can fight against the faceless Big Brother image by being warm, personal, and real.
Contracts. Employee handbooks. Demand letters. Training manuals. All are instruments that express a policy, define a relationship, or direct a particular course of action. Chances are, they were also penned and approved by non-marketers.
The structure and wording of a legal document impacts what happens, and that’s critical to business. A lawyer-turned-startup founder, I’ve reviewed hundreds of legal docs, and applaud the ones that nail their complex architecture, identifying key concepts in ways that cover a broad swath of contingencies. Bravo to the fine lawyers and operational specialists behind them.
By and large, these authors are less concerned—if at all—with things like brand tone, brevity, culture, and access. By definition, legalese is not humanese. But! I don’t see why not.
Humanized content, of course, is the trade of a talented content writer. The trick is to ensure that the instrument remains in full legal effect, while gaining expansive reach and impact. The latter makes it a pleasure to absorb, understand, and remember, thereby ensuring that it will get read, not ignored, misunderstood, or—worst of all—tossed in the trash (a fate endured by so many employee handbooks).
Last year, MarketSmiths rewrote an employee manual on behalf of a Fortune 500 company. The VP of Human Resources was a visionary who realized that the relevant subsidiary—a thriving hospitality chain—was expressing a disconnect between the fun and empowerment of its employee base and the tedium of a straight policy document. Here’s what we did:
- Restructured the handbook to make sections clear, non-redundant, and easy to find.
- Converted literalness into delight, capturing the fun professionalism cultivated among staff and management.
- Pruned structural and wording redundancies, ensuring that we stated things powerfully the first time…and then never again.
- Eliminated exhaustive lists, which add tedium without value.
The handbook that emerged was a breeze to read, without compromising mission, impact, or purpose.
The next time you’re putting together a legal doc, consider whether it’ll get read, or shelved.