A loyal Just a Digital Minute subscriber contacted me seeking ammunition for a polite debate with one of his clients. The client questioned the need for blogging and posting on social media for companies doing business-to-business (B2B) marketing. The client made three main objections:
- Do managerial-level B2B prospects really read social media posts—or are they just another unwanted distraction?
- What’s the return on investment from paying for social media writing and management? Can B2B social media justify its cost by driving leads to take action on the business website?
- Are social media posts vital to achieving higher organic rankings on Google? If yes, does that make the cost of social media justified regardless of prospects reading the posts?
Research Based Ammunition
Let’s look at the research into how potential clients make their decisions. TheAcuity Group presented research on B2B content marketing found that 94% of B2B buyers do online research to help them make purchase decisions and then a CEB report states that the average B2B buyer is 57% through the purchase decision before they contact your sales department.
So how are they making these decisions? If someone is in the market for a product whether business or consumer, they will look for companies online. When they get to your website, will they find what they need to be 57 percent sure about working with you? Will they be mesmerized by your stellar sales page? Will they flip over your About Page? Wooed over by your page of 30 testimonials? Will that be enough to have them dying to do business with you?
Not a chance.
A good content strategy must be in place for your company to position itself as an expert. Without jumping up and down telling people how great your company is, your content should nurture the relationship with existing and potential customers. Your strategic content provides prospects with information that is helpful and useful in making their decision to do business with you, and after they come on board.
Avoiding rubbish content
If your B2B business is not seeing any effect from your content marketing efforts, you likely are writing boring drivel that your prospects and customers do not find helpful or useful. You need a major mental and behavioral shift that involves some or all of the following.
- Do not write all about yourself and the features and benefits of your product. This is not content; it is advertising, and there is a difference.
- Start by really understanding your clients, their issues, and interests. What’s important to them? What are they always asking you about? What’s a new solution?
- Look for the growing edges, where there are more customers or more customer interest. This may intersect with where your field is expanding and offering new products and solutions. What customers find important may in fact be things that you find important and are your growing edges too. Write about these edges.
- Relevant content comes from relevant curiosity. What questions does your company have about your industry and improvement in your field? What do your customers need to know to do their jobs better?
Answer thoughtfully. In order to create posts your prospects want to read, think about the questions your prospects have, or find questions your own team has and do the research to answer them. If you and your team are interested in these posts, your prospects will more likely find them of interest too. If you can put out quality content consistently, your business clients will look forward to getting and reading your informative and usable posts – in their email.
A success story
Eric Stromquist, president of an HVAC controls company in Atlanta, came to me some years ago because he wanted to start a blog for his business. Eric’s company sold parts and pieces to manage the HVAC systems for large commercial buildings, and its ecommerce site handled web sales. Eric envisioned his blog as a platform for educating himself as well as his customers, by gathering and providing insider information about the industry. For instance, when he heard his installers trading helpful information about certain products in specific situations, he knew this type of information was more helpful than documentation from Honeywell, Siemens and other manufacturers. Note that he didn’t want to write about what he already knew, but use his knowledge to find and curate new knowledge for his customers and the industry.
So we set up a blog site that Eric called Control Trends. He started researching, interviewing and writing. He also got others involved.
Note also that Eric’s main concern was not to sell more control parts; Stromquist Company can only sell in the Southeast. Eric’s blog met the need of customers and industry insiders. He was giving them information they could not get elsewhere. Control Trends became the HVAC industry’s go-to source for “the real scoop” on what works, why and how.
Today, everyone in his industry knows Eric and appreciates his expertise. Do managerial people read Control Trends? Yes they do. Has Control Trends helped Eric grow the business? Yes it has. Eric now has a podcast and is invited to speak all over the world. And Control Trends now sponsors yearly industry award program. His blog helped him expand on his knowledge and curiosity, and understanding of what his customers and peers needed, to establish him as a leading industry expert.
Another example of great B2B content strategy is MailChimp. Any business sending out email newsletters can see the kickass job that MailChimp does with their B2B content marketing.
Through fun and accessible branding, the MailChimp team makes it their mission to help people send better emails. They not only educate their clients on how to use their program, but also train them on email marketing—which is also offered to businesses and individuals who are not clients. What they write at MailChimp—and how they write—works to create rabid fans.
Like the readers of Control Trends, people read MailChimp content. They read to feel smarter and more equipped to make better decisions about purchasing HVAC parts or email marketing. Both of these B2B companies go the extra mile to create great content that improves the performance of the entire industry.
Both companies make content marketing a priority for the good of their clients. Control Trends and MailChimp create content that builds the customer relationship, and from that relationship comes sales. So when people read content from your company that is useful and helpful, the ROI to your company jumps.
Back to the polite debate over drivel
By now you are getting an idea of the hard work and thoughtfulness that goes into effective B2B marketing content. Creating content that your prospects and customers actually want to read is an art rather than a science.
But how necessary is this? Remember the polite debater’s questions. Couldn’t a business owner get away with writing drivel? Wouldn’t any fresh content of any quality achieve a boost in traffic?
It doesn’t work that way with Google. Here’s how it does work.
- You post content on your website that is insanely interesting/helpful to your target market.
- You share this content by means of social media updates or email newsletters to your list, which lets people know you have new content. (You have to send it out because otherwise no one will know it’s there).
- When people read your updates, or a snippet of the post in an email, they will click on to your site to continue to read your post—and hopefully share it with others. That’s what people do with information that is insanely interesting/helpful.
- Google sees your social media updates and immediately goes to your site and indexes your content.
- As people share your content, you gain links back to your site, and more links bring more visitors to your site. Google sees this traffic and links and infers that you must be important and respected. In Google’s world, websites get traffic and links because people find the site helpful and relevant.
- Google rewards you with higher page ranking for the search terms that are used in your content.
Search engines, as we all know, love fresh content. Google’s all-time favorite motto is “Content is King.” But there is no getting around it: Your website content has to be useful and relevant to attract both clients and search engines and build relationships that lead to sales. Anything less is a waste of time and money on content that no one reads and attracts zero interest from Google.
By shifting to content marketing that focuses on building relationships, you will boost your visibility, attract a steady stream of leads, and nurture those leads until they are ready to buy. They know that you have moved past the question of what content to provide, to providing content that can solve their problems.
Great content is the secret to bringing in more people who are 57 percent certain about your capabilities, and making more of them 100 percent sure that you are the right business partner for them.