I don’t know who said “Every business is now a publishing business” first, but you see the expression everywhere. How true is it?
It certainly doesn’t apply to all the small businesses that have an online business card for a website. You know the sort of thing: a single page with the most basic details about what the firm does and how to get hold of them, or a listing on a directory site. Those guys know they need to be online to have any credibility but they’re just not interested in communicating with their customers. They often don’t distribute fliers or any other marketing bumph either. Fair enough. They probably get most of their work by word of mouth and would rather do it than talk about it.
I don’t know what proportion of the business community they constitute, but I know that pretty much everyone else is clamouring to be heard. So how do you make yourself stand out above the racket? The answer isn’t to yell more loudly – in fact speaking more softly often works (ask any schoolteacher). It takes time and persistence but it builds relationships.
Do you remember the days before supermarkets? You’d go to the same butcher, baker and greengrocer every day or so for your supplies. They’d say hello and have a bit of a chat while they dealt with your purchases. Shopping took ages but you’d build a relationship with them and, eventually, you might be offered a special little something they’d held back for their good customers.
That’s still how all business works, deep down. We’ve become much more impatient, though: we want “supermarket” results, an ATM for clients, relationships in a packet.
But you can’t just pick buyers off a shelf. Customers aren’t cans of beans. They’re people – cynical, untrusting people, especially when it comes to advertising and promotions. You have to communicate with them on a personal level, on their terms, and much of that communication will happen in writing, via web content, blogs and newsletters: i.e. content marketing. You become – you guessed it – a publisher.
The challenge is that communication should be a two-way process, or else it’s a monologue, not a relationship. So you need to make what you write challenging, original, funny, or in some other way engaging.
• How can you hook readers with your opening line?
• How can you get people to reply to what you say?
• How can you phrase something so it doesn’t sound hackneyed?
• How can you turn a snippet about a new staff member into something readers will react to?
• How can you use humour effectively?
• How can you tell most of the story but leave readers wanting more?
I’ll be covering the answers to these questions in future posts. Meanwhile please do comment below – let’s have a chat.