Today I caught up with Susan Weiner, CFA, who teaches the highly regarded class for financial advisors “How to Write Blog Posts People Will Read.” I wanted to get her thoughts on writing to attract more clients.
Her Investment Writing blog is popular with financial advisors, but the lessons apply to any business owners who want to deepen connections with their clients and prospects through writing.
In today’s more demanding economy, people demand deeper and more intimate relationships with businesses. Her clients are mostly leading investment and wealth management firms for whom she writes and edits articles, white papers, and investment performance commentary. However, if you’re not in that category, you can discover what’s working for these companies and apply it to your business.
Chuck: Susan, can you briefly explain who your clients are and how you help them?
Susan: I work mostly with larger firms with investment or wealth management professionals who have interesting ideas that appeal to their clients, prospects, and referral sources. They don’t have the time—or maybe the skill—to put their ideas into writing persuasively. I work with smaller firms mainly through my blogging class.
Chuck: The more I write, the more I realize how important it is to be very clear about your intent with each piece that you write. Do you agree and can you share your perspective.
Susan: Absolutely! A good plan saves you time and makes your writing more persuasive. I suggest writers narrow their focus by answering the following questions:
- Who is my audience?
- Why will my readers care about whatever I’m writing? In other words, what problem do I solve for them?
- What do I want my readers to do after they finish reading my piece?
Chuck: With your clients, what is the top mistake that new writers make, that if they solved, would result in the greatest results?
Susan: Too many writers focus on “we, the firm offering the service,” instead of “you, the reader who needs a problem solved.” Your potential readers are busy. They’re not going to spend time with you unless it’s in their best interests.
Chuck: How important is title selection and how do you come up with good titles?
Susan: Titles are incredibly important. As Brian Clark of Copyblogger.com has pointed out, “On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest. This is the secret to the power of the headline, and why it so highly determines the effectiveness of the entire piece.”
Make your titles convey the main benefits of your articles or blog posts and use enticing words to get them read. For example, which article would you read? One entitled “Cost Basis Records” or “Save Your Cost Basis Records Now, Or Pay More Taxes Later”? Give your readers a reason to feel excited about your content.
Chuck: I agree with what you said about people reading headlines. In fact, I suspect that on Twitter most retweets are from the title alone. Are there differences for writing online versus offline, such as in a blog or a printed newsletter?
Susan: People’s attention spans are shorter online, so shorter sentences and smaller blocks of words work better online. Bullet points help people to scan.
Chuck: Since we’re talking about writing online, how important is it to blog these days? Is it necessary and how helpful is it?
Susan: Blogs bring new clients and expand their authors’ social media reach. It’s not just a matter of using search engine optimization, more commonly known as SEO, to attract readers to your blog. If your content offers nothing of value, you won’t develop a relationship with the folks who visit your blog due to effective SEO. In fact, they may feel irritated that you wasted their time by failing to meet their expectations.
On the other hand, if you demonstrate you can solve readers’ problems, you’re on your way to developing relationships that may eventually turn into new business for you. It can take time. In one case, I had an online relationship for seven years before my reader turned into a client.
The personality you express in your blog posts helps you win new business, too. This is especially true if the product or service you offer is much like those offered by your competitors. Personality may be the one true differentiator. Plus, it’s better for your bottom line to compete on personality than on price.
Chuck: Thank you very much for your time and valuable information today Susan, oh but one more quick question, what are some good blogs that you like to read?
For people who’d like to learn more about blogging and writing, here are some of the online resources I recommend:
- GrammarGirl Quick & Dirty Tips for Better Writing
- Michael Katz’s E‑Newsletter on E‑Newsletters
- Publication Coach newsletter