How To Get The Most Out Of Your B2B Blog
Since 4 out of 5 B2B marketers use blogs, the key question is what do you maximize B2B blog results?
You shouldn’t be.
Blogs are far from the new, new marketing thing. They’ve been around since the late 1990s. (No, Al Gore didn’t invent them!)
So why talk about blogs?
Because over half half of B2B marketers expect them to be critical to 2017 content marketing. In fact, it’s top tactic on their list. (Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs’s 2017 B2B research)
3 Key B2B blog challenges
Before we show you how to maximize B2B blog results, let’s examine 3 key B2B blog challenges that hinder blog success.
1. Most B2B blogs don’t have a methodology for consistently creating quality blog content
300+ people pre-registered and showed up for my Social Media Marketing World 2016 blogging workshop, “How To Create Quality Blog Content Quickly and Consistently.”
The show producers were surprised at the demand. (BTW—Please join me at Social Media Marketing World 2017!)
Bloggers aren’t born; they’re self-made! You have to know what quality content is and how to create it.
41% of B2B marketers’ organizations have clarity on content marketing success (2017 B2B research).
2. Most B2B blogs are forced into a corporate blog template homogenizing content
Most B2B blog content is bland. Without calling a company out for being bad, it’s hard to show an example.
Put yourself in your readers’ shoes and ask, “Who wants to spend time reading boring blog posts when there’s much more interesting information?”
Corporate blogs are forced into company-wide templates. As a result content publication and distribution is easier. This may be a win for corporate processes. BUT it robs your blog content of any personality related to your business and/or product. (Hat tip to Jeffrey L. Cohen for helping me to understand this challenge.)
3. Most B2B blogs don’t measure key performance indicators contributing to content marketing success
- Blogs require staff and resources to attract and build an audience. If they’re not a priority for your management and marketing team, they can’t be a priority for your employees.
- Blog don’t necessarily produce sales directly. As Content Marketing Institute’s Joe Pulizzi noted at his MarketingProfs B2B Forum presentation, “The biggest mistake that B2B blogs make is going [directly] for the sale.” Translation: Your audience needs to warm up to you and your blog. Don’t push them to purchase or risk loosing them.
- Blogs aren’t a once and done content strategy. Rather blogs require careful nurturing and time to yield results that translate to business success. Content Marketing Institute’s Michele Linn says a content strategy takes about 12 to 18 months to yield results.
Maximize B2B blog results: 10 Tactics you need
Integrate these 10 tactics into your B2B blog strategy with your content and overall marketing plans. Your goal: Maximize B2B blog results.
1. Align your B2B blog with your marketing and business strategies
Your B2B blog can’t stand-alone on your website or content marketing.
Your company’s blog must be coordinated with your marketing and business goals to yield the greatest return on investment (aka: Content ROI).
After determining your business and marketing objectives, create your blog mission statement. Like your content marketing mission statement, it’s aligned with your marketing and related content. But it’s specific and targeted to your blog.
Blog Mission Statement: Fill in the blanks for your blog within your content marketing offering. Get your content marketing and blog teams together. This is a short exercise.
Use your blog mission statement to determine if your blog content is aligned with your objectives. If not, don’t create it.
Incorporate your firm’s brand guidelines into your blog. Go beyond your logo and colors. Applied to your blog, branding includes your voice, tone and language. Branding identifies your blog content, even if it’s out of context!
Want to improve your B2B blog post quality?
Define your firm’s brand rules for your blog. Then publish them so that your entire firm can use them.
MailChimp’s Content Style Guide is a great branding example. It gives specifics for blog posts.
RELATED BRANDING POSTS:
2. Know your B2B blog audiences
You read that correctly: Audiences.
B2B blogs have 3 distinct audiences.
- Customers include the people who are part of the buying process at every stage of the purchase. Most B2B sales involve an average of 5.4 people to formally sign off on each purchase. The variety of jobs, functions, and geographies represented is wider than it was. (Source: Harvard Business Review- Making the Consensus Sale-March 2015)
- Employees are the people within your organization. Marketing, sales and customer service staff attract and engage your prospects and customers. Don’t overlook staff who may need, create and/or distribute your blog content.
- Promoters consist of social media followers, influencers, investors and others. Your competitors are watching!
Actionable B2B Blog Marketing Tactics:
Based on your 3 audiences, develop these aids for blog content creation and distribution.
- Develop your blog persona. Based on your marketing persona, these are the 3-4 target audiences you want your blog content to reach. (Check how to integrate your marketing persona into your marketing.)
- Create a “Who we don’t want as a customer” post. Based onRoy F. Baumeister and Mark R. Leary’s psychological research, humans want to belong. Tell prospects you don’t want them; they’ll try harder to qualify. According to Marcus Sheridan, this post is a high converter.
- List blog content your audience actively seeks. Give blog readers information they want. Where possible determine the content format they want for specific topics or posts. No brainstorming needed. Time saved.
- Catalog blog content your audience can and will help create. Don’t go content creation alone. Provide support to improve quality.
- Record the blog distribution channels your audience uses. Don’t guess. Ask: “Where do you actively seek content? Which devices do you use to find and consume blog content?”
3. Audit existing B2B blog content
Before creating new B2B blog content, examine your existing content.
Analyze 3 B2B blog audit sources:
- Blog analytics: Articles get the most traffic.
- Search results: Keywords visitors use to find your blog.
- On-site and blog search: Content readers seek but can’t find.
Audits work. Don’t take my word for it!
Top 50 media entity Vox’s editorial staff republished, updated and/or totally revised 88 existing stories over 5 days in December 2015.
- Results: 500,000+ readers.
Blog audit improve organic search. Update existing blog content and delete out-of-date information signals quality content for search engines. After an audit, Phase Design Studio’s content yielded an eightfold lead increase (Source: Moz).
B2B blog audit benefit:
- Updating and repromoting existing B2B blog content is much easier and cheaper than creating new posts. You eliminate the creation, editorial and approval . You increase B2B blog ROI!
Actionable B2B Blog Marketing Tactics:
Use these 5 ways to extend the life of existing quality B2B blog content:
- Republish posts. Reprint existing content. Distribute older blog content to a new audience that hasn’t seen it.
- Update out-of-date posts. Change outdated information.
- Add content upgrades. Offer another way to consume your content. Social Media Examiner adds an audio version to top performing posts.
- Extend success blog content into a series. Once you discover topics your readers like, offer more information on it.
- Curate existing content. Combine related articles in a new curated post. This is good for thin posts. Also, spotlight related content in new articles.Copyblogger does this well. (Here’s content curation help.)
4. Plan B2B blog content plan
Your blog provides an owned vehicle for consistent publishing. Like any media entity, you must stick to a regular publishing schedule to attract and retain a loyal readership.
Integrate your blog into your overall content marketing editorial calendar.
Have an editorial lead responsible for your blog.
- Ensures your blog’s consistent content publishing schedule
- Integrates your blog into your content marketing and business plans.
- Balances your blog content to drive traffic.
To provide the information your blog audience needs and balance content creation efforts, you need 5 types of core blog content.
- Foundational content – Support key words you want to be known for.
- Customer-focused content – Answers customers’ questions.
- Cyclical content – Reports news in your content niche.
- Crowd-pleaser content – Attracts readers.
- Long playing content – Updates, curates and reposts existing content.
Remember your B2B blog supports your other content marketing initiatives. At a minimum, your blog provides another channel for content publishing and distribution.
5. Create B2B blog content
Provide 5 basic types of content customers actively seek.
- Offer product information. This is top on B2B customers’ information list.
- Answer your customers’ questions . This is Marcus Sheridan’s “They ask, you answer” approach.
- Show how to use your products. Step-by-step explanations or videos.
- Explain how to style your product. These are best practices for B2B customers.
- Supplying ratings and reviews.
Key point: Disconnect between the content that marketing and sales teams think prospects want and what they actually want (Source: LinkedIn). Prospects seek product information, demonstrations and best practices. Customers need this content at different points during the buying process.
Handle wide range of content formats. Includes text, images, videos, audio and presentations. Many podcasters use blogs to distribute audio content. For example, Social Media Examiner’s Mike Stelzner hosts a weekly Friday podcast.
Extend other content marketing efforts. Include your blog as a distribution channel for other versions of your big rock content, product initiatives, business needs and executive presentations.
For example, Top Rank blog spotlights major content efforts and event attendance on their blog. These blog posts are planned. For MarketingProfs B2B forum, they created an ebook and multiple blog posts before, during and after the conference. (Hat tip: Lee Odden, Ashley Zeckman and Caitlin Burgess)
B2B blogging benefit:
- Plan blog content as part of other content marketing. It reduces ideation and content creation efforts.
Create recurring (or regular) B2B blog columns. Create blog posts that appear on a regular basis. This can be once a week, every-other-week or once a month. Consistency is key to building a following.
If an employee has a column on another media entity (like an online or offline magazine or newsletter), get permission to republish on your blog. (Link to the original source). Then spotlight it in your newsletter. This fills your blog editorial calendar and gets more from existing content.
6. Optimize B2B blog content
Optimize your B2B blog for 5 key audiences.
- Customers. Make blog content attractive and easy-to-read. Where appropriate add related video, audio and presentation content.
- Social media. Format posts to be contextually relevant on key social media platforms. (Note: Make this part of your content planning.) Make it easy for readers to share your content (including email!) Social media proof encourages other readers.
- Search. Is your blog’s long game. Your goal: Rank for your business’s keywords. Many search experts have transitioned into content marketing.
- Influencers. Get people others follow involved. Andy Crestodina says, “A partner in content creation is a partner in content distribution.” BuzzSumo helps determine influencers in your niche.
- Business. Don’t forget: Your blog content must support your business or it’s useless. Even worse, it’s a waste of money. At a minimum, have landing pages to convert readers into email subscribers, related welcome letters, and content gifts worth their email address.
7. Publish B2B blog content
After editing, optimizing and approving your blog content, you’re ready to publish it.
Keep your post publishing schedule consistent. Always publish on the same day and time. Orbit Media publishes new content every other Thursday. It’s a timetable they can maintain.
Determine the schedule and content that work best for your business. For example, Spin Sucks’s Gini Dietrich publishes a video curation post every Saturday. It’s fun content her audience enjoys consuming. It’s entitled “Gin & Topics”, a play on her name.
Test different options. Pricenomics uses a small $50 budget to A/B test titles. Test other elements such as images and positioning.
Use blogs to distribute other content. Many businesses use their blogs to distribute other content formats. The most common format is podcasts.
Extend other content efforts with blog posts. When you’re creating other major content efforts, include relevant information for your blog.
For example, MarketingProfs’s Ann Handley shared 3 Examples From The Cutting Room Floor of My Latest Presentation – the content that didn’t make a presentation. I love this idea. You’ve already done the work and it’s new examples for your core audience!
Republish columns employees publish on other media entities. Your company’s industry experts don’t all work in the marketing department.
Your technical experts may be columnists for industry media, online and offline. Check if you can republish their articles. Often this requires a link to the initial publication. Also get a link to your blog included in the expert’s bio. (But don’t make this a deal breaker. You still can use the exposure.)
8. Amplify your B2B blog content
Once you’ve published your B2B blog content, you need to test and amplify it.
Ideally, maximize your blog content distribution on each platform before moving onto the next channel.
4 Amplification options
- Participate in aggregation sites. Think Reddit and Inbound.Org. Be part of the conversation and only contribute your best posts. Some categories may have older forums.
- Guest posting. Write what Andy Crestodina calls the “Evil Twin Post”. The goal is to write about the same topic from the opposite perspective. It avoids duplicate content. If you advertise in the major media entities in your field, ask to create content there and link to your blog.
- Paid advertising. Many bloggers consider paying for blog post promotion heresay. But the reality your blog content needs help to stand out. Don’t pay to promote every post. Instead follow Wordstream’s Larry Kim approach. Focus on the top 1-2% of your content. Then test advertising with small budgets on Facebook and Twitter. (Use Kim’s 10 tips.)
- PR. This depends on your business and blog focus. At The Economist, I got a quarter page article in the South China Morning Post’s Sunday Edition; it was a big coup for an online media entity! Sign up for Help A Reporter Out. Use this free service to answer other people’s content requests.
Keep promoting your B2B blog content. This is the real win. Keep existing content in front of new readers.
9. Assign resources and budget to your blog
Without dedicated resources and budget, your blog content creation, optimization and distribution are one more thing on employees’ to-do list.
This doesn’t mean your employees are lazy.
Rather, your employees’ time is scarce. They focus it on work they’re rewarded for.
To make your B2B blog an integral element of your over-arching content marketing strategy you need management and HR support.
- Management has to value your blog as a key element of your marketing and sales effort.
- HR has to ensure supporting your blog is part of employees’ jobs and assessments. This means individuals responsible for the blog and non-marketing support.
You need supporting budget for related editorial and creative if they’re not part of your content marketing team.
10. Measure your B2B blog results
Unlike other content marketing, blogs yield trackable results. Integrate Google Analytics, your search analytics and/or other analytics package with your blog. (BTW, Andy Crestodina’s Orbit Media Blog provides great blog analytics resources.)
Measure what’s key for your business, not what’s easy to measure!
Laser-focus on key blog metrics. Content Marketing Institute’s Joe Pulizzi’s blog metric of choice: email addresses.
Because Content Marketing Institute discovered readers who consume their content on 3 or more platforms are more likely to purchase.
According to Pulizzi, the worst thing to do on a B2B blog—
- Ask for the sale. This doesn’t mean that you can’t include a link to your products. Don’t make it your key reader action.
Use your blog to build a relationship and answer your prospects’ questions.
Most B2B buyers do their own pre-purchase research before you know they’re in-market. Use blog posts to warm sales leads and support social media and search.
Use OptinMonster (affiliate link) to support email capture.
- Result: RazorSocial’s Ian Cleary increased subscriptions by 520% with content upgrades and OptinMonster
By contrast Drift went stopped gating content.
- Result: Increased readers and email subscriptions.
The bottom line to maximize B2B blog results:
Ensure your B2B blog is integrated with your core business and marketing goals and plans.
Include your B2B blog in each content marketing effort. Incorporate your blog content at the planning stage to reduce additional content creation resources later. Further, use your blog to promote and distribute related content.
Leverage the power of your B2B blog to build your email house file, reduce content creation costs and support content distribution.
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