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Developing interest is a marketing baby

We had a baby in the house last night, and it was lovely. Lovely to have a baby to hold but also to see how it brought our family together to watch and care for baby Sam.

Sam even came to a school event with us.

We got some interesting looks at the school, too. My daughter even got comments about being a teen Mum as she did most of the carrying at school*.

Some people smiled instinctively when they saw a baby or the baby carrier, others smiled in a bemused way when they realised Sam wasn’t a real baby. Many people were obviously curious and a number actually asked us about Sam.

Why a baby?

A imitation baby looks almost real

Obviously not a real baby, but a close resemblance in many ways

Sam was with us as part of my daughter’s school work – individual students are given 24 hours to care for the baby simulator which cries randomly and needs comforting or feeding.

In this case, it was part of learning about human development although some places run this same program as an anti-teen-pregnancy concept.

The fake baby is about the same size as a newborn, although it felt heavier and bulkier to me – probably because of the electronics in the middle and a lighter head than in a real baby.

Sparks of interest

We walked around a course/career expo and got a lot of interest – a lot more smiles than you would normally expect and exhibitors had a different reason to speak to us.

Goes to show what an ice-breaker a baby can be – it is pretty much the ultimate way to spark interest! Even (or perhaps more so!) a fake baby.

It got me thinking though – what could a SMB person do to spark a similar level of interest at an expo or other business event?

If you have a baby (or a pregnant belly) of your own, the answer is easy!

Carrying a baby simulator to gain attention is a bit weird – actually it would be a lot weird – so I wouldn’t recommend that. I wouldn’t think you’d get one cheaply, either.

So what can you do to generate sparks of interest before you open your mouth and give an elevator speech or mention your USP?

 

* The school event last night was aimed at younger students and my daughter had Sam because of an accelerated subject, thus it wasn’t common knowledge or a common sight and therefore generated comments and wonder.

Making a change can attract interest

On my way to Canberra yesterday, I listened to the flight attendant’s safety message.

Aviation fire truck

A fire truck is a not-so-boring safety precaution at airports

Obviously we are meant to do this every time we catch a plane but it isn’t the most interesting speech you’ll ever hear so it is, uh, challenging to stay focussed on it.

On Tuesday, the Qantas staff acknowledged one of the complaints about these safety messages by starting the presentation with

We know you can operate a seat belt, but we want to give you a few tips on using ours today.

A different message

It was a bit more human to acknowledge most people are smart enough to use a plane’s seat belt so it felt friendly and more interesting than ‘here’s how to do your seat belt up’.

However, just the fact that it was different to the usual safety blurb got my attention. And kept me listening to see what other changes they’d made to their message.

Unfortunately, that was the only deviation from the normal approach.

It certainly wasn’t like Air New Zealand’s safety video!

Nor is it now standard at Qantas. My return flight used a video to present the  safety message and it was routine. And I didn’t really pay any attention to it.

When’s the last time you listened to a flight safety message?

When’s the last time you consciously changed something in your business to keep it fresh and attracting attention?

Three dots to continue…

Ellipsis points, or suspension points, have a couple of uses, but they always come in threes.

Although not generally used in business writing, ellipsis points can be used to show a continuation or an undefined idea. This allows for the reader to complete the sentence in a number of ways which can create interest or indicate uncertainty.

“I wasn’t sure what she meant, maybe it was a mistake…” (shows some confusion about how to react to her words)

“Sally called me yesterday and told me the news…” (makes the reader curious as to what the news is)

Ellipses are also used to show some missing information in a quote. When quoting some text from elsewhere, it isn’t necessary to quote every word but it is also important to not misrepresent the text as being complete. Adding … between words indicates that part of the original is missing.

“Australians all let us rejoice … Advance Australia Fair” shows that some words are missing between those quoted.

However, do not use ellipsis to change the meaning of the original text.

Compare “The root of all evil is in the love of money” and “the root of all evil is … money”

Note that the use of the ellipsis removes the need for other punctuation. If the original quote has a comma or full stop, this isn’t included next to the ellipsis. A question mark, exclamation mark or quotation marks, however, are included with the ellipsis.

Meaningful posts that people love to read

happy readerI’m going out on a limb here but I assume you write blog posts and articles because you want people to read them for some reason (promote your business, share your point of view, etc). If I’m wrong, perhaps another post will be more meaningful for you!

I see two simple rules for getting people to love reading your posts/articles/newsletter:

  1. providing substance is more important (meaningful if you like) than just stringing together relevant keywords
  2. people who like what you write are more likely to come back to read more, and recommend it to others as well

I was prompted to write about meaningful posts by reading an article that sounded interesting. That is, the heading was about whether or not to build a website and it started by discussing the increased sense of needing a website in the small business sector in recent times. However, that’s as far as the article went – it gave a case study of someone struggling to get their web designer to finish a job and then learning building the website wasn’t the end point anyway.

From this example, I think we can learn

  • if you create a question or interest in a heading or introduction, you need to answer it within the article
  • each post/article should be on one topic – not reasons for website growth, optimisation and a case study rolled into one. One topic is simpler to read and understand, and splitting other topics out gives you more articles/posts to write anyway!
  • include something that makes it worth the time to read the article or post – generally this means give some information or insight, but it may mean entertain in some way. The article on building a website left me feeling I learnt nothing and therefore wasted my time – the result being I won’t be heading back for more of their articles

So next time you write for your blog, website or newsletter, ask yourself if you have made it meaningful and of value or if you have just put together some space filler. And then check if there is anything you can do to make it more meaningful.

Grabbing attention

When writing for your business, it is critical that you grab people’s attention quickly – there are too many websites, blogs, newsletters, direct mail letters and emails for any of us to read them all just in case they hold something good further down the page.

Having said that, you need to grab their attention in the right way or it can actually be damaging rather than a marketing opportunity.

What is the right way? Well, it varies according to the situation of course, but when preparing an opening to a document/webpage/newsletter consider:

  • make it relevant – no point grabbing the attention of people interested in retirement villages if you sell motor bikes
  • keep it honest – don’t promise a discount unless one is really on offer
  • keep it appropriate – swearing, sexual references, hateful comments and so on are not necessary and are unlikely to win you good customers
  • keep it as short and/or visual as possible – a half page paragraph is not going to grab like a 6 word word heading
  • aim it at what your customers want to hear, not what you want to say – I recently read an email which started by saying how great their two organisations were – the final paragraph was about a competition they were running. It would have been much more effective to start with the competition to grab my attention.
  • be realistic – or so far over the top that is obviously humour. An almost believable claim probably won’t build trust so people will move on
  • be sparing with bad (or gimicky) spelling – preferably stick to good spelling altogether and be as grammatically correct as possible
  • make it interesting or ask a question – or ask an interesting question!