Tips for Writing Blog Posts that People Will Actually Read

If a blog post lands online and no one is there to read it, does it really make any noise? There are more than 152 million blogs on the Internet, and with the number growing by one every half-second.

The good news is that the sheer number of blogs shows that people are regularly reading them. Use these tips to create valuable blog posts that keep viewers coming back for more.

1. Start with a Compelling Premise

Just as a beautiful flower grows from a tiny seed, a great blog post begins with a small but powerful idea. People sometimes make the mistake of starting with the points they want to make and then looking for a theme to hang them on. Come up with a timely and relevant idea and your content will flow organically.

2. Know Your Audience

When you try to be all things to all people, your message ends up so vague and watered-down that it doesn’t appeal to anyone. If you don’t already have a buyer persona, create one and use it as the target for your writing.

3. Make It Readable

Readability involves more than just language, words and tone. With only 10 to 20 seconds to grab a viewer’s attention before they leave your site, be sure to make your post as visually appealing as possible.

• Break up large chunks of text into smaller bite-size pieces of no more than five lines. Forget what your English teacher told you: One-sentence paragraphs are no longer frowned upon.

• Include short but punchy subheadings that convey your message at a glance.

• Use bullet points, boldface and other formatting that make the post “skimmable.”

4. Add Graphic Interest

Did you know that 65 percent of the people who visit your website are visual learners? That’s one of the reasons why infographics and videos are such powerful formats. Pictures, GIF’s, videos and other graphic content make your message more powerful and increase the shareability factor for a greater reach.

5. Craft an Attention-Grabbing Headline

First impressions always count. No matter how vibrant, topical and thoughtful your content is, no one will read it without a catchy headline to draw them in.

6. Proofread and Proofread Again

Would you have confidence in a person who showed up for a business meeting with soiled clothes, greasy hair and grimy fingernails? Readers will have the same reaction if your blog post is riddled with misspellings, poor grammar and inaccurate facts.

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How the Changes to the United States Postal Service Affect Businesses

USPS has raised rates.

To decrease its staggering financial losses the U.S. Postal Service is considering closing up to about 250 processing facilities and eliminating about 28,000 jobs. The U.S. Postal Service lost $5.1 billion dollars in 2011. According to a U.S. Postal Service press release, mail volume decreased by 3 billion pieces in 2011, a 1.7 percent decrease from 2010. According to spokesman Dave Williams, the proposed changes will save the U.S. Postal Service $2.1 billion annually.

Ruth Goldway, chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission, which has oversight but not total authority over the U.S. Postal Service, said “The Internet does have an impact on first-class mail, but that’s not the major cause of the deficit. People are still using mail. Packages are growing and mail can adjust to the niche environment.” Goldway believes the major reason for the losses isn’t the Internet; she stated “The Postal Service is overly burdened to prepay health care benefits and to pay for that at a high rate has really drained the Postal Service” (Source: Wauwatosa Patch).

Closing Processing Centers

Williams mentioned the closing of post offices in small town and eliminating Saturday delivery are being studied. Local businesses throughout the nation are concerned the closing of processing centers will affect their business. However, in Terre Haute, Indiana, one business owner stated he received some assurance from officials that businesses will still have a place to drop off mail for a discount, although the new place is not official. Businesses should check with their local Postal Service officials.

Proposed Service Standard Changes for Package Services

The Postal Service reports it doesn’t have any plans to change service standard business rules for Package Services due to network rationalization. However, changes will be made in the service standards applying to specific three-digit to three-digit ZIP Code origin-destination pairs based on the reconfiguration of the network as well as changes to the labeling lists which implement the current service standard business rules. Relatively minor service standard business rule changes for Package Services unrelated to network rationalization are being proposed for mail addressed to non-contiguous U.S. destinations. No service changes associated with the request will be implemented before May 15, 2012 (Source: United States Postal Service).

Beginning January 22, 2012 the cost of mailing services are expected, on average, to increase by 2.1 percent and shipping services are projected to increase, on average, 4.6 percent. Price changes affect the full range of Postal products:

Mailing products include:

  • First-Class Mail Letters, Flats, Postcards and Parcels
  • First-Class International Mail
  • First-Class Mail Presort Letters
  • Standard Mail
  • Package Services
  • Extra Services

Shipping products include:

  • Priority Mail
  • Priority International
  • Global Express Guaranteed
  • Express Mail
  • Parcel Select
  • Express Mail International

FedEx and UPS will increase prices for expedited and ground shipments on January 2, 2012.

First-Class Mail

The USPS plans to end overnight delivery for first-class mail. The USPS has stated letters and many bills and bill payments will have a two to three day standard service. This could affect businesses requiring prompt billing which rely on the Postal Service instead of the Internet.

Williams mentioned beginning in spring the USPS plans on changing the geographic reach of its two-day standard from a 12-hour drive from a letter’s place of origin to approximately four hours, thus the Postal Service will guarantee delivery in two days or less within a four-hour window. Anything beyond that has a guarantee of three days or less. Only commercial bulk mailers might be able to have first-class mail delivered the next day; if they’re able to get it properly bundled to the Post Office early in the morning.

Beginning January 22, first-class mail will increase by one cent to 45 cents and post cards will cost 32 cents to send instead of the current 29 cents. The good news is mail weighing up to 1.9 ounces (as apposed to only one ounce) can be sent first-class mail, allowing businesses to place additional inserts in their packages at no additional cost.

It’s not certain all the proposed changes will be enacted or enacted without modifications. Due to pressure from Congress the Postal Service has delayed the changes until the middle of May. If the changes are enacted, some businesses using the services of USPS, including fulfillment centers, may have to make adjustments due to longer mail processing times and the possibility of the elimination of Saturday deliveries. Some experts claim the changes made by the Postal Service will likely just make slow delivery a little slower. We shall see.

Top Tips to Motivate Your Sales Force

How to Motivate Your Sales Staff

Motivating your sales team is not merely a matter of reaching for your wallet and offering more money. In fact, money is one of the less effective predictors of employee success.

Instead, you can reach for a more lasting impact by considering the emotional and psychological factors that drive performance.

Maslow Has the Answer
At college, you may have studied Maslow’s hierarchy in Psych 101; this familiar, colorful triangle demonstrated the fundamental human needs beginning at its base (physiological needs — air, food and water, sleep) and ending at its point (self-actualization, or achieving wisdom).

Near the top of the triangle are two more layers: social needs and esteem needs. Down much lower on the hierarchy comes money, as part of the “safety needs” that include job security and medical insurance.

What does Maslow have to do with closing sales? You can use the hierarchy to get a better handle on motivating your sales team. And because different people are driven by different needs, you will call upon your human resource and managerial skills to recognize the motivators among your staff in these categories:

  • Social needs include the drive to attain friends and belong to a social group. Sales people, who are typically outgoing and gregarious anyway, might respond well to small gestures you make — sending a thank-you card on behalf of the company, showing up with a birthday cake, or granting an invitation to join a new-business strategic team, task force or some other “exclusive” group.
  • Esteem needs are driven by the desire to gain recognition, status, attention and a sense of accomplishment. It’s easy to imagine many sales reps seeking such validation. You can fulfill esteem needs by publicizing a great sale, making promotions publicly known, by interviewing a top performer for the company newsletter or blog, or asking him or her to mentor new employees.
  • Finally, self-actualization refers to those motivated by such intangibles as truth, wisdom and meaning. Few people achieve and maintain this level of awareness in life, much less in business, but if you recognize such traits in a sales rep, you can foster it by enrolling her in special training to grow her skills, by giving him your most challenging customers (and letting him know why he was chosen), or by asking her to assess the entire organization’s sales tactics in pursuit of better results.

Does Money Talk?
So is there still a place for money as a motivator? Yes and no. A bonus or raise can prompt short-term performance, but money on its own is not a long-term motivator, even in a volatile job market. Once a sales rep reaches a comfortable living wage, he or she is less likely to see more money in the same desirable light as, for instance, more responsibility or more recognition.

Say It Right
In any recognition you offer, make your gestures sincere, specific and timely.

  • For instance, “You did a good job today” is a general compliment, while “Denise, you did a good job today addressing that unhappy customer” is specific.
  • Be aware of whether a sales rep desires public recognition — some people don’t. If they appear uncomfortable being the center of attention in a staff meeting, for example, save your praise for a one-on-one meeting.
  • Don’t wait to recognize accomplishment — make recognition a priority, not an afterthought.