Here are seven answers to that question...
- Blogs increases early stage funnel flow and conversion - Unless you are an omnipresent consumer brand or a big fish in a small industry pond, chances are the vast majority of your potential buyers have never heard of your brand. Furthermore, even though 91% of adults use search engines, most of your potential buyers won’t turn to Google looking for a solution like yours anytime this month, quarter, or year. However they will be using search engines looking for other information related to their job and responsibilities.
This means that because your current website is focused on your company and your services, it’s content doesn’t match what your largest group of potential buyers are looking for. To be found by this group via organic search, you need solid, early stage content, and blogs are the perfect vehicle for this.
So what is good early stage content? Blogs which effectively engage early stage prospects focus on topics such as these:
- General best practices - sharing lessons learned the hard way is an excellent way to get broad reach, endear prospects to you, and segment potential buyers via targeted content topics. It’s important to emphasize that the best practices should not be best practices for using your product, but instead be product agnostic. You will see from the made up topics below, using Ford Motor Company as an example, that all potential car owners can gain value from reading these posts regardless if they are currently looking for a car. Also, they are phrased in a way to match what people are likely to search for:
- How much should you slow down when it’s raining?
- 10 tips for road tripping with kids
- Benchmarks - real data showing what peers and peer companies are doing is as equally as hard to find as it is invaluable. Some made up examples, this time using TurboTax as an example:
- Study finds 26-33 year olds spent 2 hours on average doing their taxes in 2012
- 34% of filers used charitable donations to reduce their tax burden
- Newsjacking - big news like industry mergers, breakthrough new products, and even Super Bowls can make great blog posts that are relevant and give your company an opportunity to insert your brand into a cultural or industry milestone. Again, made up examples using Hershey’s chocolate:
- How to choose foods that reduce rainforest deforestation
- Super Bowl of chocolate: where will you be eating your half time snacks?
- Trends - everyone loves to pontificate on the future and where things are headed, but good blog content on trends focus more on data and real world examples. Shy away from philosophical rambling and lengthy manifestos, because they will usually just make you sound self involved. Made up topics using Cisco Networking as an example:
- Macs vs. PC’s, guess which is logging into more company networks?
- Virtual v. physical networking: predictions for 2014
You’ll notice that at no point in any of the examples did I reference the companies’ products or services, but instead focused on content that a prospect who doesn’t know of the brand or company could find via search and find value in.
2. Blogs builds a portfolio of thought leadership for your company’s public figures - chances are you already have a stable of team members who regularly go on stage at trade shows, give webinars, and speak with analysts. But there is also a good chance that you are frequently denied highly visible speaking engagements because your brand spokesmen and spokeswomen don’t have the resume of thought leadership and wake of followers event promoters are looking for. By promoting authorship on your blog and pushing the faces of your company to contribute regular, good early stage content, you allow contributors to create portfolios of thought leadership that can be submitted to event promoters and help you get more visible speaking engagements (and drive more prospects into your funnel!).
3. Blogs create a consistent stream of content for social channels - matching content to social channels can be difficult, because most social media users aren’t looking for white papers and product demos when they log on to Facebook. However, bit sized thought leadership, best practices and trends tend to work really well. By publishing weekly, or more frequent, blog posts, you are also creating the perfect content to promote socially!
4. Blogs strengthens SEO rankings via intra-site linking - While SEO is a dark art, most marketers understand the SEO value of intersite linking (other sites linking to pages on your site), however most also overlook the value of intra-site linking (pages within your site linking to other pages within your site).
For example, if you have a blog post with the phrase: “...driving a truck is different than driving a car...”, and you hyperlink “truck” to a page on your site about trucks, you are telling search engines that that page about trucks is the best page on your site about trucks. Doing this consistently throughout your blog and core site is a great way to convert general SEO strength into focused strength on key terms and pages, and hence make it easy for search engines to promote more of your content.
5. Blogs forces you to better understand your market - producing 52 or more fresh, early stage posts a year is really going to push your box of understand for your industry. By constantly coming back to the question “what are my prospects doing today and what might they find interesting?” you will find that you gain a greater understanding of who they are and what challenges they face. This will absolutely improve your ability to market and sell to them throughout your funnel, and also help your product development organization build better product.
6. Blogs are R&D grounds for new messaging and ideas - Online marketing is all about content, and blogs can serve as a testing ground for new content ideas and messaging before significant investment is put into developing webinars, white papers, etc... Also, because blog posts are essentially free to produce and engagement can be easily measured, greater autonomy can be given to contributors. This avoids the stifling HIPPO syndrome (HIggest Paid Person’s Opinion), and promotes an internal atmosphere of marketing innovation from the ground up.
7. Blogs create the opportunity for guest post horse trading - if you take these steps and are able to build a good blog with a mass of readers, you will quickly find that you will become a popular person in your industry! Partners and analysts will all wish to contribute and you should let them--provided they also follow the best practices above. This opens the door for new partnership, cross promotions, and is simply another asset you have to leverage when closing deals with vendors and customers.
The fact that a blog can help you engage and convert early stage prospects is probably what will resonate most with people, but don’t discount the impact a blog can have on company culture as outlined in it’s ability to help you understand your market and provide a testing ground for new ideas. Afterall, the only thing that stays the same in business is the need to adapt!
Author: Chris Russell
P.S. - Here are some examples of quality b2c and b2b blogs:
- Marketo - excellent b2b content, with targeted channels for specific audiences: http://blog.marketo.com/
- Hubspot - as an inbound marketing company, blogging is there bread and butter. Take note of their tactics--it’s built a company that will be most likely IPO’ing in the next 12 months. http://blog.hubspot.com/
- Lonely Planet - most people are familiar with the brand, but they do a great job of leveraging the traveling community to create participatory content that they then use to drive further engagement. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/blog/
- The Clymb - outdoor apparel deal of the day company, uses outdoor orientated “stories” to engage prospects: http://www.theclymb.com/stories/
- Intercom - another good b2b example. Solid early stage content and a very cool design: http://insideintercom.io/