Restaurant Reviews, Shrimp Tacos, and Blogging

In my other writing life as a restaurant reviewer, I spend a lot of time writing sentences like:

I decided to go for the gusto and sample three of their Mexico-City-style tacos: the carne asada served with pico de gallo and cotija; the chile lime shrimp served with a pickled cabbage slaw and a tomato pasilla chile salsa that had a pleasant kick; and the pork carnitas taco dressed in tomatillo salsa and cotija.

…and looking for synonyms for the word “delicious.”

But I discovered that when I started writing sentences more like this:

If Beehive were a person instead of “a West Pearl Eatery + Bar,” as the website says, she would be that unbelievably hip acquaintance of yours who always looks perfectly chic, who dances ballet instead of going to the gym and who uses mason jars in her décor without a hint of irony.

and this:

I was really, really hoping that someone—preferably dressed in a newsboy cap, horn-rimmed glasses, and a tweed waistcoat—would amble over to the piano and start belting out a soulful version of something by Mumford & Sons.

…suddenly people were talking about the reviews and responding more.  In fact, if I go back and look at the articles for which I have won awards from my journalism colleagues they are almost always stories about the experience rather than descriptions of the food.

Because here’s the thing: People don’t actually read restaurant reviews to find out what the shrimp tacos taste like. If they want to know what the shrimp tacos taste like, they will go to the restaurant and eat a shrimp taco.

People read restaurant reviews to find out what the experience of dining at the restaurant was like. They want to live vicariously through me and picture themselves in my seat—and then decide if they want to go there and try the shrimp tacos.

It’s not enough for me to say that the shrimp tacos are good. Any hack on Yelp can say that the shrimp tacos are good—or bad. Or delicious. Or disgusting.

I need to go one step further. I need to put my readers in my seat and give them a taste of the experience, not the tacos.

And this is true of all good writing.

You may have heard the old writing chestnut, show don’t tell.

It absolutely applies to you.  Yes, you.  The one blogging about your massage therapy business, your personal training business, your veterinary practice.

  • Don’t tell me that you offer Swedish massage. Show me what I will feel like when I’m getting that massage and how my life will be improved when you’re done.
  • Don’t tell me that I will lose weight if I work with you. Take me on the journey of someone just like me who experienced an amazing transformation.
  • Don’t tell me that you’ll be kind  and loving to my pet. Show me how terrifying it must be for Fifi and Fido to have to go to the doctor, and then walk me through the steps you take to make it a happier experience.

It doesn’t matter what your business is or what you’re writing about on your blog; if you give your reader a taste of the experience of working with you (or buying your product), you will engage them.

If you tell them about your product, you will lose them.


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Which Social Network is Right For Your Business?

I pulled up the Google Analytics for my food website this morning, and to my surprise, I found that Pinterest beat out Facebook last month for referring traffic to my site.

That’s a big deal, especially for a small business like me.  Here’s why:

The Number One Mistake Small Business Bloggers Make

Lots of small business owners have heard that they ought to have a blog to keep readers (aka: potential customers) coming back to their website and keep their business top of mind.

But too many take the plunge into blogging without ever asking themselves: who am I blogging to?

Does My Small Business Need a Blog? 3 Questions You Must Ask

Does your small business need a blog?  According to Bloomberg Business Week the answer is probably yes.  But the more important question might be, are you ready to commit to a small business blog? Ask yourself these questions to find out:

  1. Are you ready for the responsibility of a blog?
    Starting a blog is a bit like adopting a pet: you have to really be ready for the ongoing responsibility of its care and upkeep.  A blog that hasn’t been updated in six months or a year will turn off a potential customer faster than you can say “good intentions.”

    Small business owners are notoriously busy, but that doesn’t mean that a blog is out of your reach. Updating your blog once every two weeks, or even once a month is sufficient, as long as you’re consistent about it.  You can also delegate the job of writing posts to one or more trusted employees; giving an employee a byline and a forum to share his or her passion for your business can be a great motivational perk for the right person. You can also hire a professional blogger (like me!) to write posts for you.

    Be honest with yourself up front about the amount of time you can dedicate to a blog for your business, and decide on your blog strategy accordingly.

  2. Do you have something to say that your ideal customers want to read?
    My guess is that you absolutely do.  You are an expert in your field, and having a blog can let others know about your expertise.  In the new web economy, the more you give away, the more you will receive. Giving away some of your best information for free will build trust with your readers and potential customers.

    There are also lots of different ways to make a blog work for different businesses—and the personalty types of different business owners.  For example:

    You can also use a blog as a FAQ (frequently asked questions) database for your product or service. If you find yourself answering similar questions for your clients over and over again, making the answers available on the web can be a boon for you and your customers. Plus, it will show that you are serious about customer service and that you listen to your customer’s needs.

    Your blog can also become an ongoing conversation with your customers that you might not otherwise be able to have. Think of all the valuable feedback you could receive by asking your ideal customers their opinions about your business—and the strides you could make by applying that knowledge.

  3. Will a blog be worth the effort you put into it?
    The short answer is almost certainly yes. Of course, some types of businesses will benefit from a blog more than others, so you have to really consider these key questions and others before taking the plunge.  But having a blog can have a huge net positive impact on your business.  You can:

    • Position yourself as an expert in your field.
    • Humanize your business and put a face or personality to your brand.
    • Build trust with your customers and potential customers, so that when they need your service, you are the first one to come to mind.
    • Improve your search engine results.
    • Leverage your message with social media.
    • Start a conversation with your customers and receive invaluable feedback.
    • And much more.

Think you’re ready to take the plunge? Click here to schedule a free 15-minute blogstorming session with me.
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