When an Internet marketing professional sees the phrase “blog post ideas” they’ll automatically think of two things: keywords and users. The hard core technology avoider lives on a different island; they are instantly lost. Only the hearty among them will ask, “What is a keyword, and what is a user?”
You and I know that they need to know some of this stuff to blog successfully. However, some of them may not need to know it all right away. Too much information would distract them, because there is a language and culture gap that they’re not ready to cross. You know who I’m talking about. You’ll see it in their eyes.
They’re the same people who go blank and nod politely when you try to talk about what you did today. When faced with getting web content together they get that deer-in-the-headlights look. Their web project frustration level may be pre-tuned to “high.” Some may seem like they’re ready to argue about every detail, when in reality they’re drowning, fighting to be in control. Sometimes they have created detailed plans in hopes of keeping the web site technology demon in check. Often those plans are based on misconceptions of how the print world might translate to online marketing. One symptom I’ve noticed is a determination to do what I think of as “leafleting,” by signing up for as many online “yellow pages” and directories as possible, though their own web site may consist of an under construction notice and a seldom-checked email address.
Don’t be surprised if in some cases there is a near-total disconnect between what you say and what is heard. Sometimes support will help. Some people may need to spend a few weeks with a Blogging for Dummies book before they feel ready to deal with a real live Internet professional, and some may throw up their hands and trot off to some form of DIY WYSIWYG hell. Let them go, if they need to go. The important thing for both sides is to be comfortable doing your best, whatever that is at the time; don’t let problems become stopping points.
Getting Content Gold From Technology Avoiders
First off, though this post was inspired by Jenn Osborne’s thoughts on blog post ideas for challenging industries, the truth is that I don’t think that there are any truly challenging industries. There are challenging mindsets – yours, mine and theirs. Try to put aside preconceptions and greet the adventure.
Avoid temptation to speak as if the technology avoider needs a vocabulary lesson. Do they start to zone out at the mention of unfamiliar terms? Get creative, and use alternative words that are not specific to the search industry. Try saying “Google” instead of “search engine,” or “article idea” instead of “targeted keywords.”
Don’t sidestep difficult communication by relying too much on keyword insight tools. Keyword insight may not get you to the low hanging fruit that can be a new site’s bread and butter. For the long tail and the low hanging fruit you are going to need user insight, and that’s probably going to involve getting the technology avoider talking about their customers, using specific, concrete terms.
Trust their knowledge. Get them talking about what they know. Take notes. Consider recording phone calls and keeping logs of online chat sessions. Try to listen at least as much as you speak.
Use what they already have. Customer questions can show what needs to be written about, and response emails can provide the bones of new posts. Ask about any previous writing. Any customer support type materials can be expanded upon online, where customers can review them at their leisure. Technology avoiders may not have considered that what they already have is useful as web content.
Ask specific questions. Be ready to prime the pump with some phrases from keyword insight tools, though you may not need to. Chances are they’ll have better insight into their customers than any keyword tool.
Don’t make the question list too long. Be aware of when that glazed-over, frustrated behavior starts to surface. Consolidate questions into related clusters, and let the client pick and choose. Be aware that in some people uncertainty leads to trying to take an overly authoritative posture on too broad of a focus. In reality there is no need to do it all, and certainly not all at once, and the business’s existing approach to authority and brand identity will probably translate to online just fine.
Steer towards short phrases that use concrete language. Help them boil answers down to words that are as specific as possible. For example, phrases like “our cheese is better” aren’t as useful as “local [county name] organic cheese.”
Here are some questions that may help get blog post ideas rolling.
- List the client’s products and services. Add some issues associated with them, by listing ten things you’d like to tell a prospective customer about, in five words or less, using specific language.
- Describe the customers. Are they individuals? Stores? Designers? Cooks? Daughters? Husbands? Sons?
- Describe reasons for buying. Are customers purchasing necessities, gifts, treats? Are they buying for themselves or someone else?
- What are customer’s frequently asked questions? What gets to them, in a good way? What bugs them, resolves their resistances, solves their thorny market-related compulsions?
- Examine the research phase. Why might customers be searching for your client online? Are they researching something specific? Are they comparing products or services? Are they likely to pass on information to others?
- Customer language. What informal and formal terms are they likely to know and use?
- What are some customer problems and complaints? What do they worry about? What do they want to fix?
- Unmet needs can become wish lists. What might they want more of? What do they wish they could find?