When marketing a product such as a new perfume to an individual buyer, you generally need to persuade only one person to buy – or two, depending on how your prospect’s spouse feels about gardenias. In B2B marketing, by contrast, you have a constellation of important decision-makers to impress. While it’s important to speak to everyone in your audience with your content, these six influential people are the ones who will ultimately make the choices. Impress them, and you’re well on your way to a good relationship with a new customer.
They may be in the middle of an organizational hierarchy, but the researchers who get the order from higher-ups to comparison-shop or gather information about your product line are often the first to see your website. They rely on search engines for their initial foray into their fact-finding expedition, and if your content team has done its work, your site will be on the first page of Google results. That first page is where 80 percent of search engine users stop; give researchers what they need on the first page, and they won’t need to dig deeper. Give them white papers, case studies and infographics they can take back to their supervisors to win them.
Researchers report to someone, and often, it’s the person in charge of new ideas, especially in tech sectors. People who succeed in research and development are typically analytical, linear and fact-oriented in their decision-making process. If you want your products to become a part of their number-crunching decisions, give them enough raw material to chew. Present factual data, spec sheets and statistics to help them choose you. If your company offers services or products that are harder to quantify, focus on straightforward content with a minimum of sales copy.
Having a blog and knowing what to do with it are two different things, as any cursory look around the Internet can attest. Neglected blogs that have a few paltry posts before disappearing, pages containing nothing but one-sentence entries and posts rife with spelling errors are common. Others exist solely to push a product line instead of engaging with readers. There’s no single recipe for the perfect blog for every industry, but these “five F’s” are a good place to start building better content.
Updating your blog frequently is one of the simplest and best ways to improve it. Search engines and human readers alike crave novelty, and frequent blog posts keep them coming back to see what you say next. Because Google pays attention to how often a page updates, regular posts help push you to the top of the heap. Once you’re in the spotlight, other bloggers may link to your site or invite you to write a guest blog post, widening your circle of influence and establishing you firmly on search engine front pages.
It’s no coincidence that some of the busiest blogs are also the most frequently updated – often multiple times daily. Niche and industry blogs don’t need to be updated quite that frequently, but posting no less than once a week is a good plan. When your content team is starting your new blog from scratch, publishing two to four times a week to build up a library and establish a following is an even better idea.
It isn’t enough to post often; you also have to have something original to say. Posting the same information multiple times doesn’t earn you Google juice and could even cost you if it’s mistaken for duplicate content. This is why it’s vital for your content creation manager or professional blogger to produce original material with every post. “Original,” in this case, means custom-written content, not necessarily revolutionary ideas or Pulitzer-worthy journalism. Blogs are great for pieces under 1,000 words, but if you have an idea you want your writing team to polish to lapidary brilliance, make it a white paper or feature article.
From the Harry Potter films to the movie version of “The Hobbit,” magical realms are big in Hollywood right now. Harry and Gandalf could change reality with a wave of a wand or staff and a few magic words, but content creation teams don’t have that luxury. As much as the marketing industry would like to have a list of words that guarantee high open rates, click-throughs and conversions, they don’t exist. While no “open sesame” will make readers reach for their wallets, some words have a little more magic in them than others.
One of the oldest marketing words is still one of the most potent. People love getting something free, and studies such as this one from the University of Miami have proven repeatedly that the word is a major motivator for conscious buying decisions. Interestingly, surprise free gifts – those offered without being advertised – were good emotional motivators, but with content marketing, you may not get the chance to sweeten the deal before your prospective customer has bounced away to another site. If you have a gift for visitors to your blog or social media channel, tell them up front; they’ll appreciate it.
In content marketing, “you” is one of the most powerful words you can use. Businesses that spend all their time and effort talking about their features are missing the point; their customers also want to know about the benefits they provide. “What’s in it for me?” is the tacit question every reader presented with an offer asks, and that includes your content marketing audience. Why should a visitor pause long enough to read your blog post or find out more about your new product line? One way to make that clear is by addressing readers directly and specifically. “You” also creates a connection between the reader and the writer; you aren’t just a face in the crowd but an individual who’s being addressed directly. Once you start looking for it, you’ll notice how much online content is written in the second person – including this blog post.
Business-to-business marketing has its own set of rules. Typically, just one person decides on the purchase of a pair of shoes, and only a few make buying decisions on the family car, but corporate purchases can involve dozens of decision-makers and multiple steps. Entire teams discuss whether they’re going to go with you or one of your competitors, so it’s vital to make an impact on everyone involved in the process.
Content can be powerfully influential well before your prospective B2B customer has reached out to you. Whether it’s a review of your latest product line, a blog post linked by a colleague or an article unearthed via a Google search, your prospects already know plenty about you by the time they pick up a phone or send an email. Knowing how to connect with key influencers with your content is pivotal to closing the deal.
Researchers – the First Wave
In the earliest stages of decision-making, team leaders may assign research duties to lower-level employees to see what’s available. These initial window-shoppers aren’t experts in the field yet, and they may be fairly unfamiliar with the products or services you offer. They’re looking for something valuable enough to bring back to their supervisors yet easy enough to understand at a glance. Accessible information is a strong selling point for this first wave of browsers; they’re still searching broadly rather than in depth. Give them a clear, well-designed site that offers a white paper or useful article to show to the higher-ups, and you’ve done much to win them over.
Users – the Front Line
The people who will use your products and services almost always have a strong vote in purchasing decisions. They’re knowledgeable about their own pain points and the solutions they expect you to provide. Experience and industry knowledge typically matter most to them; they aren’t as concerned with cost as they are with effectiveness at addressing their needs. Give them industry-savvy blog posts, newsletters and webinars to get their stamp of approval.