7 Very Cool Blogging Stats for B2B

social media marketingBlogging is important to lead gen. There’s a reason that my retainer clients all include multiple monthly blogs in our contracts – because regular, consistent blogging works.

This post started from an information-packed post called “52 Incredible Blogging Statistics to Inspire You to Keep Blogging” by Julia McCoy. I encourage you to read it. It’s written as much for solo bloggers as B2B companies, but there is a lot of applicable research for B2B .

Luckily for you I’m not repeating all 52 statistics (read the original post). I will list the following 7 stats and their sources that I can personally attest to.

7 Cool Blogging Stats

  1. Social Media Examiner says that B2B businesses are more likely to use blogging for lead gen than B2C. It’s true that consistent content marketing can significantly shorten sales cycles, especially in technology marketing. A big reason is that buyers will typically begin their research online, and not reach out to a vendor until they’ve consumed several pieces of good content. (Defining “good” as practical, problem-solving, smart, easy-to-consume, and/or thought leadership stuff.)
  2. HubSpot says that B2B marketers who use blogs in content marketing get 67% more leads than the ones who don’t. Again, not surprising – if your content is rising in natural search results and it’s attractive to the kind of buyers you want to attract, you’re going to get more leads.
  3. HubSpot also says that blogging is more cost-effective and takes less time than advertising. Well, yeah. Look — I don’t have anything against advertising. The right ad in the right channel at the right time can bring in good leads and a lot of industry attention. But advertising can be a crap shoot, and consistent blogging will cost a lot less and have better persistent results.
  4. Back to HubSpot; those guys are nothing if not prolific. Their research shows that an average of 1 in 10 blog posts are compounding, meaning that they get a high proportion of shares, traffic and content. In fact, because they’re so active they’ll generate nearly 40% of overall traffic. The higher quality and quantity that you publish, the likelier more posts will compound. But sometimes a post you thought was a minor piece hits the market sweet spot. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth; publish frequent blogs to get more compounding effects.
  5. Demand Gen Report, 2016 says that B2B buyers highly rate content from industry thought leaders. How do to this can be a puzzler because your thought leaders probably aren’t writing 3 blogs a week; they’re doing their jobs. So, let your writers interview the leader and draft the posts, and the leader finalizes them. Best of all possible worlds.
  6. Contently makes an excellent point about nearly 60% of marketers repurposing their content 2-5 times. Content repurposing is the most important tactic for feeding the content maw. Put those blogs together into reports; break down that white paper into web pages; take 5 case studies and turn them into a field report.
  7. Don’t give up on older content. HubSpot reports that 75% of its blog views and 90% of blog leads come from old posts. However, don’t just let them sit there– revise them periodically and republish them. Show evergreen blogs some love, and they’ll love you back.

Takeaway

Writing the occasional blog post when you don’t have anything else to do really will not cut it. You need to consistently produce high quality, interesting posts that your audience wants to read. That’s not incredibly easy to do, and you will need to devote staff time to it. Many companies also have good luck with retainer agreements with freelance writers, who contract to write 2-4 (or more) blog posts a month.

However you do it, just do it – blogs are important to inbound marketing results and healthy lead gen.

Make Money, Save Time – Use Freelancers to Create Your Content Marketing Assets

“Oh sure,” you say. “Just what I need, another line item in my budget. Gabe or Laura will write it.”

But Gabe is madly creating pages for a major website overhaul, and Laura is heads-down on media relations for a big launch. They must do what they’re doing; the blog / white paper / eBook / case study will wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Meanwhile your content marketing isn’t showing the results you hoped for, the CMO is not impressed, and Sales is being, well… Sales.

The upshot is you saved $5,000 by not using a freelancer. And you lost $150,000 from the qualified leads who would have engaged with your company thanks to your engaging content.

They went to your competitor instead. The one with the active content.

Don’t think mediocre content cuts it. We’re in the middle of a content arms race. As more B2B marketers adopt best practices, buyer expectations continue to rise. They demand greater insights and information tailored to their deepest needs, not generic one-size-fits-all platitudes. That means you need to bring your A game.” (Chuck Frey)

Freelancers Can Fix It

Good freelancers understand your difficult role as a B2B marketer. You strive to help your clients hit their marketing objectives and sales goals. You position and focus and create the content that reels in the leads. You don’t stop until you fill that sales funnel — in fact, you don’t stop at all.

That’s where we come in. We lighten your load by taking on your strategies, messaging, facts, logic, and stories. We build them into persuasive content, and analyze the analysis so we can adjust and improve. Then we do it all over again, as long as you need us.

Unsurprisingly, Good Content Marketing Takes a Lot of Good Content

“Times They Are a-Changin’”, wrote Bob Dylan, although he may or may not have shown up in Stockholm.

Nobel prizes aside, this is true for B2B technology sales cycles. In the good old days, prospective customers called up IBM or Sun to see what’s new and if they needed it. After a few years, buyers heard of some scrappers called Network Appliance and Hewlett Packard, and called them to start the sales process.

Three out of four of those companies are still around, but this isn’t the way it works anymore. Today people fire up Google to launch the buying process.

75-80% of prospects conduct their own research online before they ever reach out to vendors. They’ll search and read, talk to their peers. They may or may not run across your product in their research. And if they do, they may – or may not – care.

You need them to care. They need to understand what you do and why you do it and how you are going to make their work lives better. How do you get the message across if they won’t talk to you until you’re on the short list, or may never talk to you at all?

This is where content marketing comes in. The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing like this: “A strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Takeaway: Stack the odds in your favor. Create and position content for three main sales stages: brand awareness, customer research, and buying decision.

When they’re searching for the type of solution you offer, and you have put out plenty of good content, they’ll find you.

Put your interesting, attention-grabbing, original thought pieces out there. Readers will like it and look for more. They’ll read your blog, maybe subscribe. They like the eBook download with checklists, which has practical tips for their real problems. And they really like the persuasive white paper that they can share with their boss, because by now you’re on their short-short list.

Takeaway: You need quality, interesting content written for strategic marketing and lead capture. Invest in a B2B copywriter who knows what to write, how to write, and who to write it for.

You know that you’ve got to get the content in front of your prospects. Link to it on social media, support it with email, send it to sales and channel partners, post it on the website, create landing pages, capture sign-ups – yeah, it’s a lot. But it’s worth it because unshared content is as useful as a helium-filled paperweight.

Not everyone sets up analytics on content. It takes web page analytics, social media analytics, and download tracking. None of it is particularly hard to do, but someone must set it up and keep it going.

Marketing acts on analytics by consistently monitoring and adjusting.

  • How many sign-ups did the new eBook get this week? How many downloads from your website, how many click-throughs from the landing page?
  • The thought leadership piece is three times as popular as the technical white paper, or is the other way around?
  • And look at that – people shared your infographic 972 times and counting.

Track the content your prospects are consuming. Plan content additions, revisions, and marketing channels accordingly.

Takeaway: Invest in a B2B copywriter who understands your analytics and uses the information to adjust content.

Call me a snoop, but when I’m at a technology conference I glance around at what other people are doing on their laptops. While the speaker drones on, people are typing emails, checking their Twitter feed, and reading the news. I’m pretty sure I saw one top analyst sneak onto a recipe site.

The same fate befalls boring content. When your white paper comes over the transom, your would-be readers don’t even have to feign interest. They’ll scan your headline and make a run to a recipe site.

The fix? Good design is important, but stories are vital. Story-led content increases brand awareness and encourages downloads and shares. In B2B marketing, the customer success story is the most obvious example. Another example are white papers that illustrate challenges and solutions using stories. Infographics, email, video, presentations: stories work because people remember.
Takeaway: Find an experienced copywriter who knows how to punch up your content and tell your stories.

Marketing pros give it all to their clients. Let B2B content writers give their all to you.

 

What Content Writers Need to Know

b2b copywritingWrite to customer personas. Find out what motivates them and worries them at work. Write educational content they can use today and product-specific content when they’re ready to buy.

Understand their paint points. Write core content to answer the big questions that define your prospects. Then sharpen the message by writing specific content to different customer segments.

People are people, not data points. Tell business stories about your company, and how you made your customers’ lives more productive, easier, or more profitable.

Create a lot of content. Create infographics, eBooks, and video scripts for brand awareness. Write business white papers, blogs, case studies, and presentations. Collaborate on technical white papers, focused case studies, and field reports. Aim for quality AND quantity – you can do it by creating consistently, and leveraging each piece to create or revise other pieces.

Reach out for help when you need it. Work with B2B writers to get your core content started, or to keep up with ongoing content creation like blogs or newsletters.

Smart Strategies for Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn

social media marketingHubSpot ran a seriously interesting study on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook social media publishing. The original article is here: “How Frequently Should I Publish on Social Media? A HubSpot Experiment”

Writer Daria Marmer analyzed 10,000 HubSpot customer accounts, plus 15,000 LinkedIn company page posts, 25,000 posts to Facebook business pages, and 60,000 tweets. This is what she found out. (For more details and charts, click on the original post.)

Twitter

Time: Doesn’t matter. Focus on content, not time of day.

Day: You guessed it – no statistical significance. Post whenever you like.

Frequency: Frequency does matter. The more you post, the more visibility, the more clicks.

Content: Don’t publish trash tweets, but quality is not as important as quantity in this medium.

LinkedIn Company Pages

Time: There is a small click loss (very small) with posts published in the evening. It’s not a huge difference, but best to publish during the business day.

Day: Unlike Twitter, days make a difference in LinkedIn. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday generally perform better than Saturday, Sunday, and – surprisingly – Monday. Of the better days, Tuesday and Wednesday perform the best in terms of clicks.

Frequency: The top frequency seems to be 2-5 posts a week. More than that and you get diminishing results, especially if you’re posting more than once on the same day.

Content: Good content will get more likes and comments, and will build your business reputation over time.

Facebook Business Pages

Time: Timing doesn’t matter very much, because the majority of Facebook posts don’t get much attention anyway. (Awesome.)

Day: Once again your post probably isn’t going to any action anyway, so who cares. There is a dip on Friday and Saturday and an uptick on Sunday.

Frequency: You’ll see diminishing returns if you post more than 5 times per week and more than once a day. Like LinkedIn, posting 2-5 times a week on different days is best. Your motivation should be to get those likes and comments – Facebook likes interactive and engaging posts, and rewards you with more appearances in news feeds.

Content: Like LinkedIn, better quality content has more of a chance to rise to the top.

Question: If it’s so hard to get traction, why publish at all on Facebook? According to HubSpot, there are three reasons:

  1. Prospects will research companies on Facebook, so have something attractive to show them.
  2. Most posts don’t get much action — but when they go viral, it’s a very big deal with thousands of clicks.
  3. Facebooks Ads offer high ROI among social media platforms.

 

The Three Sales Stages Part 1: The All-Important Awareness Stage

Because your end-stage content is worthless if no one knows you’re there.
Sales stages

The goal of the awareness stage is not to sell, not yet. The goal of the awareness stage is to:

  1. Identify with your prospect on the nature of their problem.
  2. Educate your prospect on solutions to the problem
  3. Make your content attractive and available so your prospect will consume it.

In my day, we walked uphill to school. Both ways.

In my misspent youth, I worked for many years in IT. We didn’t need some vendor telling us what our problems were. Half the time they didn’t understand them anyway, and the other half of the time they tried to sell us a solution that we didn’t want.

But sometimes a vendor came along that did two things: first, they really understood what our issues were in our environment, sometimes better than we did because they spent so much time thinking about the problem and how to solve it. Second, they communicated practical steps to solve it that didn’t necessarily include their product. Third, they weren’t jerks – we liked them as people.

This approach developed an atmosphere of mutual respect and short-circuited the defenses that any buyer throws up when someone is trying to sell them something. When we were sold on the vendor’s understanding of our problem, we were more inclined to believe that they might have the solution too.

At that time, most of this interaction happened at conventions, or initial sales calls, or even vendor briefings that they know what they were doing.

These days this awareness stage primarily happens online. Problem/solution education remains the same, but attractive and highly available content replaces the initial sales call chemistry. However, vendors must still take the initiative to reach prospects. These days, that means less cold calls and more being Johnny-on-the-spot when prospects search online for information.

Expose your content to the right readers.

There are two primary awareness stage channels: Google search and social media exposure.

Google is still the 1000-pound gorilla.

When it comes to online research, Google is still the king of the world. You need to do everything that you can do to encourage Google’s algorithms to position you far up in the natural search order. (PPC can work too but not for everyone.) This is why you still need strong SEO based on highly targeted longtail keywords. To know what those keywords are, you need to understand your prospects’ pain points — exactly what I’ve been talking about for the last page or so.

Your prospects may not be looking exactly for your product. But they will be seeking related answers. Let’s say for example that you develop software that creates virtual clusters in VMware environments without having to adopt VVOLS. VMware owners search using phrases like “how hard is VVOLS” or “how to deploy VVOLS” or “virtual volumes VMware.” Learn these keyword phrases and include them in your content, where you explain that yes indeed VVOLS is complicated and there are simplified solutions to developing highly elastic virtual volume clusters. (No insult meant to VMware, which is a great company. But competition is good for the soul.)

The best opportunity for awareness stage SEO is frequent keyword-centered blog posts. Google likes fresh new content and it likes the intelligent use of keywords and keyword phrases. And once your prospects read your interesting blog, CTAs expose them to more educational content.

Social media gets its share of the love.

The second primary channel for the awareness stage is social media. For B2B technology marketing that is largely LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube. (YouTube is the second-largest search engine behind Google.)

There are other avenues. Some businesses use Facebook well, others use Instagram and Pinterest, some use Google+. I’m not knocking these sites but if you’re going to do social media – and you should – then make good use of the Big Three.

For the awareness stage, use LinkedIn to build thought leadership and trust with your executives and your company. Republish your blogs as LinkedIn articles with linked CTAs at the bottom of your articles. You might do this once a week or once every two weeks along with daily status updates. As with all your awareness stage content, concentrate on understanding problems and educating on solutions.

Use Twitter to make pithy comments and link to educational assets, including your own. (Note that it’s OK to be amusing on this platform – my favorite tweet ever is the CIA’s very first official tweet: “The CIA does not confirm or deny this tweet.” Talk about humanizing a spy agency.)

What Kind of Content?

Let’s drill down into the tone and types of content that work best at the awareness stage. At this point, you want to use a conversational and relatable tone. A note here: if your content is usually highly technical, please do not use the horrible phrase “dumbing down.” Your prospects are a bunch of very smart people, and you will not be dumbing down anything. What you will be doing is taken the first steps to building a trusted relationship with of them. And if your content assumes too much familiarity with your product, you will never get eyes in the first place.

A conversational, attractively designed, and interesting asset designed to get attention is what you’re after. Intelligently use your prospects’ search phrases and keywords for Google attention. This type of content is also very well-suited to the world of social media, which positively responds to highly visual and well-organized content with compelling headlines.

  • Educational blogs. This is not the place for the technical how-to blog, although readers will notice technical blogs in the feed. Focus the educational blog on identifying and resolving problems. The more blogs of this type the better, since you can leverage them as LinkedIn articles, cut them apart for status postings, and put them together for awareness stage e-books and other assets.
  • Social media postings.Share your blog posts and other content assets in LinkedIn status updates and articles, and as Tweets. Post a status at least once a day and follow industry influencers and prospects. Don’t be stalker-ish — you will be posting and following as an individual, but build those relationships and that interest.
  • You can use videos on your website and on hosting platforms, but make sure you keep a lot of them on YouTube. Millions of users issue search requests on the application every day, and not all of them are for cat videos. If someone wants to know more about virtual failover in the cloud, then educate them about it –becoming a trusted leader in the process.
  • Website. Make sure that your website includes awareness stage content like your educational blogs. Don’t be afraid of landing pages either. When you post an awareness blog or article with a link back to your website, you don’t necessarily want to go to the homepage with a listing of your products. You might want to link to an attractive landing page with your assets, and offers for more. Consider gating some of your content for email sign-ups, and include subscribe links on most pages. By the way, some engagement marketers are preaching that email has reached the end of its usefulness, but that’s silly. Email is still enormously useful for lead and customer nurture. Don’t ignore it, use it.
  • Webinars (maybe). Webinars have saturated the market and their popularity is waning. Still, a well-produced educational webinar hosted on a popular site like BrightTALK can get good interest and leads.
  • Downloadable content. Content assets are the workhorses of your content download and sharing strategy. The ones that count the most at the awareness stage are the ones that are easy to consume, visually attractive, and practical. The usual suspects include checklists, infographics, e-books, videos, and testimonials. Not only are these easy to consume, they are simple to share in social media.

 

Be strategic in the awareness stage. Don’t try to short-circuit the process; people in this stage are not ready to buy yet. Remember that you are working against inertia. It can be far easier to let the problem continue then to take the initiative and spend the budget to solve it.

By easing them into the process, you spur their interest. By educating them, you generate interest in their need for solution. Ideally, they will discover the solution in your product, which they are now inclined to trust.