The Content Marketing Institutereports that “70% of B2B marketers are creating more content than they did one year ago, even those who say they are least effective (58%) and those without any type of strategy (56%).” In 2015, only 38% of B2B marketers rated themselves as “effective” at content marketing — which is down from 42% last year. Most marketers seem to think they are not completely ineffective — but rather, fall somewhere in the middle.
As an experienced digital marketing firm, we’ve seen all manners of content — the good, the bad and the ugly. We’ve worked with some amazing companies that just needed the right presentation of their brand to boost their bottom line and gain more customers. Good B2B content is informative, unique, inspires action, and attracts an eager audience that is most ready to buy. Easier said than done, though, right?!
In today’s post, we’ll take a look at eight specific problems B2B marketers encounter with their business blogs…
The latest statisticsshow that 60% of those with a documented strategy rate themselves “highly effective” in their content marketing, versus just 32% of those with only a verbal strategy in place. There is no generic template to use for writing down your strategy, as each company approaches the task with their own distinctive needs in mind. Yet, most businesses, regardless of industry, will find it helpful to include the following information in their plan:
– Mission Statement: What measurable goals do you hope to achieve with your content marketing?
– Platform: Decide where to publish, be it a blog, social media site(s), video sites, or discussion forums.
– Target Market: Who are you writing for? What information do they need? What problems do they have?
– Reader Personas: Where does your “bread-and-butter” lie? What demographics BUY the most from you?
– Keyword Research: Which keyword phrases will link your target audience with your content?
– Editorial Calendar: What are some topics to write about? When/where will you publish? Who is in charge?
– Analytic Reports: How can progress toward your goals be measured and monitored?
We get it… the vast amount of content monitoring tools out there is totally overwhelming! Even so, you’ve got to pick one. At the very least, use social media dashboards to look at retweets and brand mentions. Also, learn to use free tools offered by Google, like Google Analytics, to assess website traffic, clicks and leads coming in from your keywords or social sites. You want to know what your best performing blog posts are, how many unique visits you’re getting, how much of your overall traffic comes from social media, and which topics are converting readers into buyers. Focus your efforts on what’s working and grow your subscriber base to grow your sales.
Hint: One of the programs we love for social monitoring is Sprout Social.
As the graphic above illustrates, 50% of marketers cite “producing content consistently” as a major challenge. Often, a busy entrepreneur will make blogging a priority at first and dump lots of time and effort into the task; but soon, time and energy are lacking and the posts become less frequent. Sometimes they go several weeks or even months without an update. The same holds true for social media accounts. To fix the problem, you need to hire dedicated personnel who can put in the time, effort and resources necessary to keep the content engine humming. Even if your budget only allows room for one blog post a month, it’s still important to have a person who makes the update his or her priority. Remember, every piece of content doesn’t have to be a blog. It can be a social media post, a video, an infographic, or even just a question posed to your readers to get them thinking. How often to post is a question B2B marketers grapple with, depending on your industry, audience, needs and budget. Mod Girl Marketing can help you develop an editorial calendar you’re happy with — that provides results, too!
A survey by The Economist Group found that marketers are falling short of providing content with substance. We’ve seen a lot of business blogs that enter post after post about a product they’re developing, staff member achievements, awards they’ve won, parties they’re throwing, updates to their building, or a contest they’re holding. While you feel the company news approach builds brand awareness and shows a strong, thriving, innovative company, not everyone outside your firm will see it that way. Readers want to know: “How will this help me?”
Sharing company news is important, of course… just don’t make it the central basis of your content strategy. Think of company news as a seasoning, to be used sparingly. According to Marketingland,decision-making executives find that the most useful content:
– Delves into the industry outlook & trends.
– Examines both sides of a complicated issue.
– Educates them on an area of business unfamiliar to them.
In short: Aim for content that is unique and timely. Avoid the hard sell.
5. You Don’t Know How To Include Calls To Action.
Some bloggers are hesitant to include a call-to-action because they don’t want to appear salesy or pushy. However, people expect to be directed to a place where they can learn more or act upon the new information you’ve just given them. A call-to-action can be as simple as a mailing list signup, a link to another article, or a “contact us” sentence.
Other options include:
– Offer a coupon, discount or offer.
– Promote a free trial or demo.
– Provide a contact form at the end of your article.
– Send readers to a piece of thought leadership like an eBook, whitepaper or video.
– Transition your audience to a testimonial or case study to demonstrate your expertise.
Keep in mind, most readers are hungry for more content, rather than a sales pitch. Make your company contact information readily available on each page, but focus your efforts on lead cultivation through information.
6. You Focus On “Just Doing It” Instead of “Doing It Right”
There are people who can write… and then there are people who live to write. If your heart and head are not in every blog post and you find the task to be drudgery more often than not, then it’s best to leave the job up to a professional. Readers are drawn to writing that oozes passion, expertise and information. That sort of substance can’t happen when your mind is elsewhere and you’re feeling overtaxed. Free up your own time to work on what you do best by delegating your content marketing to someone else. Use what precious little time you can muster to speak with your content producer regarding topics, keywords and the type of thought leadership you’d like exemplified in your blog. Be sure that your content strategy is guided by sound research, so your approach is effective.
Cherry-picking topics from a competitor blog might be tempting, but it’s ill-advised. You may see a lot of comments or shares on a piece, but do you know how well the post is performing compared to other posts on the site? Perhaps the success is more an indication of the blogger or the company’s success, rather than the success of the topic itself.
Most of your competitors have as much of a clue about content marketing as you do. Some businesses get hung up on content formats their competitors are using. Your competition may be running surveys, publishing loads of whitepapers and making original videos, but if you don’t have the resources or the ability to accomplish these tasks well, then what good are these tactics?
You need to focus on what’s working for you and what you do best. Think of it this way: the best marathon runners aren’t competing against the pack; they’re competing against themselves and their own best times. You should do the same by looking at analytics data particular to your industry and your company. If you’re working with a consulting firm, you want to make sure they don’t apply a one-size-fits-all formula to every brand they service.
Marketing pioneer Don Schultz once said, “Your competition can copy everything you do except for the story you tell.” Just as you’re researching keywords and whipping up a post focusing on each phrase, so is your competition. What differentiates run-of-the-mill content from true thought leadership are unique stories, particular to YOUR business, YOUR experience and YOUR outlook.
Sure, not every post can be a brilliant masterpiece of originality, but you want to make sure that you’re at least taking the time to share intimate details of your day-to-day operations with your content producer. As CopywriterToronto.com puts it: “Where can you illustrate some of your key points with stories? How can you tell stories with words, videos and images to connect with your target audience?”
As Open View Labs points out: Most companies have brilliant CEOs or product developers who are simply not good at writing. The challenge is to get these executives to open up — in an email, at a lunch meeting, during a phone call, or on a notepad — and let the content writers create a compelling story worth telling.