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How to Promote Your Services Without Breaking Rapport

Blogs are great for creating rapport and building relationships over time. The opportunity to meet, learn from, listen to and interact with readers is second to none. And the comments and conversations that follow can lead to significant (if indirect) business benefits like new partnerships, joint ventures, and consultancy work.

But if, like me, you don’t have another website but rely on your blog to explain your business and promote your services the question quickly comes up: how do you give people the information they need without breaking rapport?

You need to pace the experience of your readers to create rapport. The challenge comes because that experience, the place people are starting from, will vary wildly from reader to reader.

  • Some people are visiting for the first time, others have been following you for months or years
  • Some will be reading 100s of blogs (with expectations to match), others will only follow one or two
  • Some will arrive ‘just’ looking for the products you’re selling, others ‘just’ for a new feed to read

How you can write in a way that delivers for all of them?

The answer is - you can’t.

You need to create different frames to meet the need of different readers.

Frames you can (and can’t) use to promote services on your blog

We communicate through the channel of a blog post. It’s the main frame that we use for our writing, our words, our ideas. Trouble is, it doesn’t work for direct selling. (Of course this is an advantage from the point of view of the reader, ‘cos we’re heart sick of being sold to.)

I try and avoid rules when it comes to blog writing (or any writing come to that), but if you try and sell directly in a post you’ll quickly break rapport - because you’re ignoring the frame that your reader is viewing it through.

Blog posts are NOT designed to sell your end product or service. In this regard, you should treat your posts as sacred ground, too valuable to sacrifice for a few (if any) sales.

Brian Clark

It follows that you need to create another frame to promote or sell your product, or as the Copyblogger puts it, to take your material ‘off road’.

A good web (or blog) design will create that space for you. An easy-to-find, well-signposted frame for the information your visitors are looking for - or at least those visitors who want to know how they can buy your products or work with you.

If you’re looking for work, don’t be afraid to say it simply and boldly. Stick a ‘Hire Me’ button, link or section on your site. Simplicity is the key to good web design. Potential clients will have one key question: where do I go if I’m thinking about hiring this person? Give them the answer, as simply as you can.

Skellie

Once you’ve created the frame, you need to use it well. You want to keep your copy simple, succinct, and focused on the benefits to your customer or client.

Of course this is easier said than done… I used bullet points (an old friend) to keep the ‘work with me’ page succinct, and tried to pick out things people say to me about a) what brought them to me in the first place and b) the benefits they notice after we’ve been working together.

I work with people who want to realize the power of their own words, whether that’s

  • finding your unique writing voice
  • expressing your values and identity
  • communicating your business purpose and intention
  • improving your writing style for greater impact
  • overcoming barriers to write with confidence

So far so good, but I’m not convinced a ‘hire me’ page is going to be sufficient in itself. It doesn’t provide the opportunity to share information with people who:

  • only read your material in a feed
  • visit often and won’t bother to check what’s on offer in a ‘back’ page
  • would love to spread the word about the great work that you do

That means we need to think of different ways to use the basic frame of the blog post. To use our words, our writing, to create an alternative frame. The holy grail - a way to spread the word about what we do… without breaking rapport.

We use 6 ‘ways of being’ to create rapport: be real, be sincere, be competent, be congruent, be there. (And in case you’re wondering we might add a 7th ‘be-ware: you can’t fake it’)

And we can use those ways of being to create frames with our words, wrapping up the information we want and need to transmit without going for the full sales pitch.

There are lots of ways that you can do this - and there’s oodles of blog writing advice that I won’t try and replicate here - but some things you can try include:

  • Share your personal experience - of doing the sort of work that you do
  • Be open - about the challenges that you face and how you overcome them
  • Ask readers for their help - other people can spread the word about your work more effectively than you, and your most loyal readers will want to a) help you b) pass the info on to friends & colleagues

And at a very practical level you can also create an extra frame: use a footer to create some extra space, beyond the frame of the core conversation. You can use it for links and resources, a call to action (like ‘subscribe to this feed’) or to flag up relevant products and services.

How do you deal with this challenge?

I started off this series of posts by saying that writing a business blog was “easy, rewarding and fun”. And it is, by and large, but this is the bit that - for me - is the very hardest part. The way I’ve tried to work round is it to:

  • Create a separate space for direct promotion of services
  • Focus on the benefits you offer
  • Keep your copy succinct
  • Get clear on which frame you’re using, and why
  • Use your words to create frames around the information you need to pass on

But I know I’m still learning, and I’d love to hear your take on this.

What kind of techniques have you used to spread the word about what you do? What kind of writing maintains rapport - and what kind breaks it? What writing advice would you give a new business blogger who was trying to find their way through this?

If you’re looking for more pointers on this topic, as well as reading the whole of the Copyblogger archive I’d suggest looking at:

Going off road to sell by Brian Clark at Copyblogger

Blogs and self promotion by Seth Godin at Seth Godin’s blog (both valuable message + masterful demonstration of how to use frames - can you spot them?)

Building a killer on-line portfolio in 9 easy steps by Skellie at Freelance Switch

 

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Comments

  1. Brian Clark says:

    Great post, Joanna. I will say that I wrote the post you quoted two years ago, and the climate has loosened a bit. But while it’s more acceptable to “pre-sell” in a post, it’s still very smart to go “off road” with landing pages for the real offer.

  2. Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Thanks for the feedback Brian. Although I didn’t find this post easy to write I feel better having worked it through.

    I agree with you that it’s smarter to go ‘off road’ for the real offer, it works better for the reader, and it’s also easier to write. Well that’s what I find anyway - and it means we can get to be more creative in the way we use our frames.

    Joanna

  3. Trevor Gay says:

    I feel so strongly that Simplicity is the Key I wrote a book with that title. I have a passion for simplicity in management, business and leadership business that knows no limit! Thanks for supporting simplicity

    Trevor Gay
    http://www.simplicityitk.blogspot.com/

  4. Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Hi Trevor, thanks for stopping by

    I’m a great fan of simplicity in writing too :-)

    Joanna

  5. Robert Hruzek says:

    Joanna, of all the things I’ve learned here (and no denigration of everything else is intended!), this has to be the most powerful thing you’ve written yet. Mainly because it really hits me between the eyes! (Ouch! That hurt!)

    This is something I’ve struggled with for some time now. I have a side business (you may have seen me mention it from time to time), but I can’t seem to quite figure out how to transition folks from MZM to my business side.

    Now I realize the concept of Framing is exactly my issue (sound of whack on head and shout of Sacre Blue!) Thanks for clarifying that persistently thorny point for me - you’ve made my day!

    ‘Course… now I have to go figure out the solution! :-\

  6. Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Robert, I’m glad you found it valuable. This is the bit of blogging that I find the most difficult too, but I felt better about it having worked this (most pesky) bit of writing through

    Joanna

  7. Potential joint ventures says:

    Joanna, Writing good is not easy. One needs great skills and presence of mind and good mood above all. Never try to write your blog when you are in a bad mood.

  8. Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Hi, I’d agree that your frame of mind, mood or state will affect your ability to write well. It’ll come across in the way that you write.

    Mind you I think that writing without an identity would affect my writing style too - how about you? :-)

    Joanna