Blogging is big, there's no denying it. However, there still seems to be some stigma associated with the practice in certain circles and particularly among companies in the B2B sector.
In this guide, we'll bust some myths about B2B blogging and provide some concrete advice on how B2B firms can use content marketing to attract, nurture and cultivate qualified leads.
The Difference Between B2B and B2C blogging
While there's certainly some overlap, consumer-oriented blogs are a very different creature to those geared towards a B2B audience. While the latter typically deals with relatively long sales cycles, the former is chiefly geared towards quickly building brand awareness and ultimately bolstering sales.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing, however, as B2B organisations can commonly build a much clearer profile of their key audiences than their B2C counterparts. Similarly, due to lengthy sales cycles, it can be much easier for firms on the B2B side to build a more accurate picture of their ideal prospect and the journey they make from lead to customer.
The nurturing process is arguably much more important in B2B, with purchasing decisions having a profound impact on the individuals and companies that make them. As such, it is absolutely vital to educate, engage and build trust among your prospects - a task that content marketing excels at.
How effective is blogging?
So in theory at least, there's a clear case as to why blogging is such a powerful marketing tool for B2B companies. But how effective is business blogging in practice? The short answer is 'very' - but don't just take my word for it; check out these persuasive statistics:
- Companies that blog get 55% more visitors than those that don't
- Nearly 40% of B2B marketers claim blogs are their most valuable content asset
- Figures indicate that almost 60% of B2B professions have utilised blogs to as a source for business information
- Blogging has really taken off in the B2B sector during the past few years, with the Content Marketing Institute recording exponential gains in the amount of resources devoted to business blogging in particular.
So why is this? Turns out there are a whole host of benefits for businesses that blog. As mentioned, it can help promote confidence and trust between a company and their prospect, boosting the chances that'll they'll opt for you when the time comes to spend some cash, but the fun doesn't stop there.
SEO: Google and co. have put a lot more weight on sites that have a large amount of relevant content, sites that update and refresh their content regularly, and social signals like inbound links.
Blogging not only increases the number of indexable pages on your site, but also enables you to use optimisation techniques like internal linking and the honing of metadata to increase your stock of content on relevant terms that you want to be found for.
PR: A well-written blog or piece of research can be a sourcecoverage that goes well beyond the web. In addition to being inherently shareable via social media (accruing you more of those precious inbound links), genuinely good blogs can and will be referenced by a variety of relevant on and offline publications.
While some content marketers advocate purely focusing on content that moves prospects down the marketing funnel, we've found general thought leadership pieces to be a great tool for raising a company's profile within its industry.
Feedback and crisis communications: Blogs can be used to garner feedback from visitors, helping you to determine the direction of future products and services, as well as allowing you to take ad-hoc polls on relevant issues. Your site's blog can also be your first port of call in a crisis - allowing you to instantly communicate your side of the story in a developing situation in a more accessible way than an interview or press release might.
Building a Brilliant Blog
While we can (and have) filled entire posts with tips on crafting top-notch blogs, a few of the key areas you'll want to pay attention to include:
Headlines: People will pass judgement on the body of your blog post from the headline, not the other way round. Take ample time to craft a headline that is both enticing and descriptive. This is also a good chance to optimise for search by including a key word or phrase that you want to be found for.
Two great tools I'd recommend for informing which key phrases you should pick are Ubersuggest and Google's Keyword Planner. The latter will provide concrete data on the search volumes associated with specific terms, while the former will help you brainstorm other keywords around these.
Imaging all the People: For better or worse, the way we browse the internet has conditioned us for instant gratification - drastically reducing our attention span and patience for content that doesn't quickly deliver. As such, it's a good idea to break up your text with eye-catching images, graphics and in some cases, video.
Break it up over there: Similarly, walls of text can often be intimidating - so don't be afraid to use plenty of subheadings, bullet points and white space.
Make no Mistake: While it's easy for tiny mistakes in spelling, grammar and syntax to slip in during the writing process, these can seriously damage your credibility in the eyes of your readers.
It's easy for these to become invisible to you during the writing process, so take a break after you finish writing, come back and review the piece with a fresh pair of eyes. You'll be surprised how many previously-unseen errors leap out at you.
Don't be sloppy with sources: When writing about trends, it's always a good idea to include statistics and research, but don't be lackadaisical about where you source these. When possible, try to find the original sources and verify the quote or statistic you want to use. Also include links to these sources - it's not only good etiquette, but also makes your copy more search-friendly.
Calls to action: Blogs will be dramatically less effective as a sales tool if you're not using them to move your prospective customer's journey forward. A call to action is simply a way of directing your visitor onwards - whether that's to learn more about your products and services, download a resource or simply buy. Make sure these flank all your posts and don't shy away from testing different formats to see which works best.
Ask and ye shall receive: In the early days, it's unlikely that your blog will attract reams of comments, but this doesn't mean you shouldn't ask. Pose a question or ask for your visitor's thoughts on whatever topic you've discussed and be sure to respond promptly when a comment does arrive.
The Bottom Line
While B2B business blogging is undoubtedly effective, it's not a simple case of 'build it and they will come'. One common misconception is that it's possible to 'game the system' by producing reams of low-quality content, however this isn't a sustainable or useful tactic.
If your content isn't genuinely readable and doesn't add value to visitors, all the optimisation in the world won't help you one iota. You'll get out what you put in to blogging, so don't waste time trying to trick people into visiting your site - draw them in with quality, value-adding content and nurture your relationship by showing a razor-sharp focus on their needs and problems.
Do you have any business blogging successes, failures or top tips you'd like to share? We're always keen to hear what you have to say so don't be afraid to drop us a line in the comments.
And if you're after more tips on B2B blogging, or simply want to find out more about content marketing in general, why not get in touch or check out our new content marketing eBook, which is bursting full of tips on producing content that attracts qualified leads and boosts your bottom line:
Images used courtesy of Calita Kabir and Eran Sandler on Flickr and Hakan Dahlstrom on Fotopedia.