How to Become a Heroic Business Blogger

Superman

Ready to add more to your bottom line from business blogging?

What you need is a hero.

You likely already know that business blogging is not about blatantly self-promotional posts. Your focus should be building your authority and credibility with compelling content that provides true value. Over the long term, this strategy will easily convert a good percentage of readers into paying customers.

Even then, you’ll likely pitch the benefits of working with you or buying your product outside of your regular post stream. That’s why business bloggers need to be paying attention to Roberta’s landing page articles, because that’s where you’ll be sending people for more focused selling.

Is it ever okay to do a bit of “selling” in a blog post? Absolutely, but your best bet is to do it in a way that doesn’t come across as selling. The good news is that the technique you can use is one of the most potent forms of selling around.

Confused? Let’s take a closer look at the bad, better and best approaches.

Bad: Blatant Self-Promotion

Any kind of copy that focuses on telling people how wonderful you and your company are is doomed to fail. And even though the web is littered with bad self-promotional corporate-style websites that don’t work, there’s never been a better example of how poorly that type of content works than on a blog.

All great copy focuses on the prospect, and all great blogs focus on the reader. You’re wasting your time telling people how great you are, because odds are no one will care enough to decide whether to believe you.

Better: Customer Testimonials and Media Blurbs

As I’ve said a couple times before, what other people say about you is more important than what you say about yourself. This is the foundational aspect of linking and the backbone of social media.

Testimonials and media mentions are important because of the concept of social proof. We all, to vary degrees, look to others for indications of what to do and how to behave. Social proof is the basis of buzz, word-of-mouth marketing and fashion trends, but it’s also an important aspect of our day-to-day lives. We avoid sensory and information overload by looking to social indicators for judgmental heuristics that help us make decisions.

However, outside of a focused attempt to get someone to take immediate action (like order a product or call you), testimonials are not very compelling. Simply regurgitating what someone has said about you is not nearly as interesting as it is when it’s read somewhere else. In short, testimonials do not make good blog content.

Can we do better?

Best: Hero Stories

What’s a hero story?

A hero story is similar to a testimonial, except that it transcends praise and becomes a compelling, engaging narrative that your readers can directly relate to. Instead of you or your business being the center of attention, your customer or client is the “hero” who solves a problem utilizing your solution.

Here are some key characteristics of the hero story:

  • The story is not about you or your company
  • The story is about your customer and how they solved their problem
  • First, introduce the hero
  • Next, introduce the problem
  • How did the hero solve the problem?
  • What did the hero learn along the way?
  • What specific results did the hero achieve?

Woven into the story, of course, is you and your solution. But you’re really just an “extra” who supports the hero. You want the hero to speak to your readers and prospective customers in terms they can relate to. Or in other words, a hero makes you look good in ways that are difficult for you to achieve yourself. People will tune out your own horn-blowing, but they’ll love a good story with a protagonist who conquers challenges that are similar to their own.

A Hero Story is Simply a Good Story

The key, of course, is a good story, and a good hero story is just like any good story—it contains drama, obstacles, conflict and resolution. And the key to writing a good hero story is to be engaging in your presentation.

You need to add some flair and a great hook to your story. Imagine yourself at a cocktail party with a small crowd of people gathered around to listen to you. Are you going to offer some drab, monotonous recitation that bores people to tears, or are you going to tell a wonderfully animated tale that keeps the crowd engaged and hanging on your every word?

I think we know which approach works better. Now, just write that way.

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Comments

  1. I think Ross from Rossboxing.com does this really well in the fitness industry. He markets his company as a hardcore fitness/boxing style and does so by showing how his methods have helped him. His blog/site is full of videos and pictures of the feats he can do and people love him for it. This might seem like self promotion but it really is proof that his stuff works.

  2. I can see how what Ross does can be quite compelling. But if he actually found a student of his who could do amazing feats thanks to his training, he’d sell tons more of whatever products he sells. No doubt.

  3. Brian,

    If most corporate blogs had heroes stories, I would be more likely to subscribe to their feed. It is really boring to read about how great a company or product is.

    We just launched Nveevo’s corporate blog and while we tried to not to be too direct, we are far from your heroes approach.

    Thanks for the tips

  4. Since ancient times the stories grab people and attract their attention. But to read a great story the blogger needs to be a good storyteller. Not all of the bloggers are good enough :))).

    I suppose this is the difference between the good blogger and the remarkable blogger.

  5. I saw Bob Killian present at a conference, and he talked about the importance of having good brand narratives, rather than canned lists of features.

    What you’re talking about is very similar. Tell a story, preferably one in which the reader can see themselves potentially playing a role. Allowing them to get past seeing you as a salesman, and instead as a storyteller opens the door to a business relationship.

  6. Interesting tactic, are we going to see an example of you doing this soon?

  7. Yeah agreed Brian.

    What I like about Ross, though, is that at least he shows his proof. Many landing page/product sales type sites promise with words but not action. I am so sick of crappy ebooks.

  8. Brian,

    I just told a similar story on my blog, discussing classic books and movies and how they let heroes overcome obstacles. Then I applied the concept to advertising.

    The trick for a copywriter is to create the hero in the copy, but know, at the same time, that the actual hero story you are creating is the real life “man vs. self” drama played out as a customer (man) overcomes any internal objections(self) and decides to convert or purchase a product.

    Great post that offers a unique angle.

  9. So, who’s your hero Brian?

  10. Brian,

    Hoping we’ll see an example or two of this.

    I use the “hero” concept in producing corporate films, but would love to see how to employ this technique in the blog world.

    Thanks!

  11. Brian,

    Great idea of using an underdog/protagonist figure to humanize and market a business.

    Just wondering.. do you think it would be better for the hero to remain an independent opinion giver?

    I’ve seen some heroes being co-opted into the business itself as official spokesman or spokeswomen. While it might work, I can’t help thinking that some people might feel that they’ve ‘sold out’ in some way.

  12. Hi Brian, I agree with the concept but like others would find it useful to see some examples – any great bloggers out there who are already doing just this?

    Joanna

  13. This is a very nice post

  14. Thanks for the comments everyone.

    As far as examples go, it’s much more appropriate to use a hero story when you are selling something. I used them in law and real estate quite a bit, as well as when selling information products.

    I suppose I could do one that shows how someone succeeded by using the principles taught on Copyblogger. I have something in mind, but I will need to get the victim’s, er… I mean the hero’s permission before I do it. :)

  15. One things I miss, becoming a hero!

  16. These hero stories are a great idea – similar to something I’ve been working on with my company for some time now.

    They really work wonders for credibility and building customers, the only downside is they are downright difficult to write.

    I’ve been working on one incredible hero story (which I’ve been calling a Success Story) for about two weeks now. Suffice it to say, it’s not quite there yet.

    Great advice Brian, and good luck to everyone who’s writing.

  17. Meredith Keeney :

    This really jumped out at me because it is one of the biggest reasons that FlyLady is such a phenomenon. Even though her main purpose is to educate rather than sell a product, she uses multiple testimonial stories every day to encourage her readers. Her readers are fanatically loyal, will sacrifice to buy things from the website’s shop in order to support her, and vigorously promote her through word of mouth. It is a very powerful business model and real education to study.
    Great post!

  18. Hi. My comments are not appearing so I’m just testing this one.

  19. I’ve been working at this on the FreshBooks blog & PR to help build up the SaaS sector’s profile. The average small business doesn’t feel comfortable using web apps for business services yet. The idea is to show small businesses the new faces of Internet business are like them, not some ‘new’ economy.

    http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/category/superentrepreneur/

    I have to admit, it’s fun writing them! And I’m looking forward to write up our customers’ stories next. In the meantime, we just started having our own customers write their success stories on our blog:

    http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/tag/fresh+faces

    If your customers write half decently, writing their own story in their own words on your blog is more compelling than anything you could ever do or say.

  20. Excellent examples Sunir. You’ve been doing a great job with the Freshbooks blog.

  21. While i agree with the ‘heroes’ story concept, i feel that sincerity is core. We should not try to formulate stories with the intention of making it into a hero story, without being sincere and genuine. It will back-fire in the end. So if you genuinely care about your customer, these stories will actually emerge on its own accord :)

  22. I never really thought about an alternative to Testimonials before. In the Internet Marketing world, they hammer home the importance of testimonials, which I understand.

    I agree though with this Hero idea. It is completely simple and genius.

    The hard part is finding a customer of mine with a great story…

    :)

    PS- Brian, do you like Joe Vitale’s work? I’m thinking of getting his book Hypnotic Writing after I finish my Joe Sugerman book.

  23. I really believe the narrative structure is at the heart of communication. From a news article, to blockbuster movies, to persuasion, when these things are performed successfully the basic structures of narrative are usually expressed. Pretty cool how improving your story-telling skills will also improve so many other crafts.

    Ryan

  24. To be a “heroic blogger” you have to BE a hero for your client, before you can “tell a hero story”.

    It seems to me that the heroic part is more about what you actually do each day that is heroic, not in the telling of the tale afterward.

    The trickly part of “heroic blogging” is not giving out confidential info. Or making your clients nervous that they will be reading about themselves tomorrow, even without their name, it can make them cringe.

    Being a real estate agent affords me many opportunities to be a hero, in many small ways, most every day. Not all fields provide a blogger with that opportunity equally or to as high a degree.

    So maybe “making someone’s day” should be the bar…and not being superwoman.

  25. Hi Ardell. I would never advise anyone to write about a client without their express permission. That’s the rule with testimonials, so it certainly applies to hero stories. Most people are flattered when you ask.

    And of course the technique presupposes that you’re doing a great job for your clients, or else you would have no hero stories to tell. The point is, from a marketing standpoint, it’s much more effective to tell someone else’s story about how they overcame their challenges than it is to tell people what a hero you are, in many small ways, every day.

    For example, if your comment above was seen in another context (maybe on a real estate site), it would seem self serving. But if one of your clients commented about the way Ardell helped her in many small ways, day after day, in her hunt for the perfect home, you would come across looking fantastic.

    Make sense? You can apply the same thing to blogging, as long as you tell a story that is engaging and puts the focus on someone other than yourself.

  26. Makes perfect sense to me, Brian. Good post.

  27. Great post Brian! In fact I have understood the theory sometime back, but indeed it’s not easy to carry out the hero story line.

    What I mean is to have a quality hero post, the products shall be slipped in indirectly and let the readers realize themselves on the solutions. When come to this “slipping in”, there are many pit and fall that will make the copy even worse if done unsuccessfully.

    What is your advice on this “slipping in”?

  28. Brian:

    Thanks for including the use of heroes in this blog post. I’ve been addicted to comics since I was a kid and even today, I enjoy reading them.

    One of my mentors asked us this: “How many of you think you’ll still be relevant 4-5 decades from now? If the answer is no, you better start studying comic books and soap operas to see they have fans that span generations.”