No matter what marketing benchmark data you look at, “content” always plays a leading part in a successful digital marketing strategy. According to the 2016 B2B (Business to Business) Content Marketing report for North America, 88% of B2B marketers use content marketing. They allocate an average of 28% of their total marketing budget to content. However, the most effective B2B marketers allocate 42% of their marketing budget, and those at the most sophisticated/mature level allocate 46%. 76% say they’ll produce more content in 2016 than they did in 2015. That is, of course, because it works better than virtually all other inbound marketing methods for website traffic, lead generation, and sales conversion.
A company blog is often center stage in a content marketing plan, from which the majority of digital communications are launched (such as social media or a newsletter). A blog is basically content management software that makes it easy to produce, publish, organize, and share content on your website. As the term “blog” has become common, people know to look for it on a website if they want the latest information from a company. The above-mentioned Content Marketing Report found that 81% of respondents use blogging as part of their content marketing strategy. 59% said blogging is their most effective tactic.
If you’re not seeing positive results from your blog content, chances are it’s your method that’s to blame. Following is a comprehensive list of B2B blogging best practices to help you more effectively utilize the power of blogging for your business, along with some special considerations to help you reach the Canadian business market.
B2B Blogging Best Practices
Be Dedicated – First and foremost, you have to understand the value of your blog and be dedicated to producing content for it. Update at least once per week and make it a priority. I’ve worked on content with many clients and the only ones who don’t see results, are those who don’t commit to doing the work (or hiring someone who will). It’s also important to keep in mind that you won’t see results overnight, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t going to work for you.
Reader Profile – You have to know who you’re writing for, what they’re looking for, and what they’re concerned about. Once you fully understand your target reader, you need to develop a strategy that will satisfy them while also accomplishing your content goals. In other words, use what makes them tick to make them click.
Headlines – Stay away from cute or elusive headlines in all B2B digital communications. Busy business people don’t have time to indulge their curiosity, they need to know what they’re clicking on.
Stop Selling – Your blog is not for copy-writing and pitches. Blogging and social media are all about providing value. Your readers don’t want to be told how awesome you are, they need to conclude that on their own. That should be on the mind of every single person who writes your content. It’s OK to make company announcements and so on, but even those should be written with the reader’s needs in mind. That said, you can creatively work your products and services into your blog posts. For example, instead of making a sales pitch, casually mention a possible solution for a problem and link that text to your product or service page. Another thing you can do is go through product features, pick one, and write an informative blog post around the topic.
Be Professional – I once visited a marketing website based in the UK that had lots of knowledgeable, interesting content. Unfortunately, none of the founders were capable of writing a sentence without profanity. Not only did it make them look unprofessional, it called into question whether they could be trusted to represent a company in a professional manner. They appealed to a small niche of followers but they never grew. While that may be an obvious error in judgement for a business blog, you can do as much damage with more subtly unprofessional behaviour. For better or worse, your content reflects your level of expertise, professionalism, values and trustworthiness.
Keep it Fresh – Nobody wants to read the same old content on the same old topics. Share new information (such as innovation news, case studies, and statistics). Come up with fresh angles that are tailored to your ideal reader. If your market is in Canada, make sure you “Canadianize” your content whenever it’s appropriate.
Be Exceptional – Dig deep into niche topics and make every attempt to answer any related questions your readers may ask. There are way too many fluffy articles online that provide basic information that the average person already knows. Business people (and search engines) want details and truly helpful guidance. It’s even more important when you’re targeting business people, because they don’t have time to waste going from one garbage post to another until they find what they need. However, providing details doesn’t mean you get to ramble on and on. Get to the point. Make sure your information flows logically, and use headings, short paragraphs, bullets, illustrations, etc., to make it an easy, quick read. Always avoid industry jargon, or at least provide a definition with it.
Credibility – Establish your high level of expertise with quality writing, respected sources of information, and top quality recommendations. You can also include links to credentials and testimonials nearby, such as with a menu that appears on every page of your blog. Edit writing for basic spelling, punctuation and style. It amazes me how many business posts and eMails I see that don’t capitalize words like “I”, or words at the beginning of sentences. Just because everyone is texting, doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to use shortcuts in business communications.
Evergreen Content – Content that is virtually timeless will serve you well for an indefinite period of time.
Professional Illustration – Images, infographics, memes, videos, slides, and other post illustrations reflect the level of quality that can be expected from the company posting it. The images are often the deciding factor in visiting your website and sharing your content on social media. Keep the branding on these images subtle, you’re not posting a billboard.
Choose a mobile-friendly theme – Nobody is more mobile than business people and they’re often researching on the fly or multi-tasking. There are professional, mobile-friendly themes available for just about every platform.
Solve Canadian problems – In the competitive B2B world, it’s tough to set yourself apart. You can do so in Canada by solving problems that are more common here than in other countries. A focus on Canada will also tell search engines to send Canadian traffic your way.
Sales and Customer Support – You can provide customer support and enhance the sales process through your B2B blog. You probably won’t see as many comments as you would with a B2C blog, but you can still use it to save time for your prospects who have questions. Cover FAQ’s in greater detail, publish critical news like recall information, and address concerns that your customer service or sales team hears about. Do you frequently hear a particular sales objection? Subtly address it in your blog. Email and social media support can even refer customers to helpful blog posts. This part of your digital content strategy emphasizes the need for all departments to participate in content production, from brainstorming to having your entire staff follow the company blog.
Guidelines – Consistent, professional B2B blogging relies on guidelines. You can have your whole team involved with blogging and social sharing and they need to know what is expected of them. It’s also important to have blogging guidelines for when the writer is on vacation or if you need to hire someone new for the job.
Build upon successful content – If you have a blog post that gets a ton of traffic and conversions, you know you need to produce more content like it. That can mean more blog posts on the topic, a similar writing style, or the same content in multi-media format.
Keywords – Don’t go keyword crazy, the search engines see it as spammy and it makes your content difficult to read. If you’re focused on your niche, the keywords should come naturally. You can do some keyword research to find out what people are looking for, then create content to answer that need. People aren’t searching for keywords, they’re searching for information related to them.
The End – Never end your blog post without giving readers a reason to go deeper into your website. That can be a list of related articles on your website, a call to action like a newsletter sign-up, or a product recommendation if appropriate.
Promote – Your blog is nothing without readers. B2B decision makers are a tough crowd to grab because they’re so busy and already drowning in information. If you want their attention, be where they are with advertising, blogger outreach, and guest posting. Also, make sure you have social sharing buttons with every post. An email newsletter will increase repeat traffic and provide a plethora of opportunities to increase conversions. Invest in professional email marketing tools, such as Constant Contact, Aweber, or ConvertKit (for bloggers).
Editorial Calendar – How extensive your editorial calendar needs to be, will depend on the writer more than necessity most of the time. However, if you need to focus on dates or seasons for product sales or maintain a high level of accountability, it can’t hurt to keep a calendar. It can also be a good collaborative tool for all who contribute ideas or content. It can be as simple as setting up a Google calendar and assigning privileges to those who need them.
Business Blog Metrics and Analytics – Most companies measure unique page views, repeat visitors, the time spent on each page, inbound links, RSS subscribers, blog and social media comments (engagement), and how many times a post is shared on social media. To determine ROI, businesses must also track leads and conversions whenever possible, which can be done (to some extent) with custom links and special landing pages. Expenses such as stock images and time investment should be subtracted. You can use sales and marketing tools like Infusionsoft to help. There are also Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools that will help collect, interpret and use this information. Ecommerce software solutions often come bundled with CRM and analytics tools, such as Canada’s Shopify and Volusion
Digital marketing excellence doesn’t cost you money, it makes you money. If you don’t have anyone on staff who knows how to maintain a results-driven B2B blog, hiring someone will be a worthwhile investment with high returns. It’s the perfect position for remote hiring, so don’t hesitate to seek out Canadian talent from across the country. Skill comes from knowledge, writing is a talent. You need someone who has both.
B2B Blogging Resources
10 B2B Companies That Show What a Killer Blog Looks Like
B2B Content Marketing Courses
PR3+ Canadian-Owned Blogs for Blogger Outreach and Guest Posts
Reaching Canadian Consumers Through Niche Bloggers
How to Use Content Marketing to Skyrocket Holiday Sales
Statistics Source: 2016 B2B (Business to Business) Content Marketing report for North America
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