Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Blogging Remains Top B2B Content Marketing Tactic

Whatever is old is new again. Timeliness and relevance still reigns in this instant message, zero-attention span environment.

What’s the top B2B content channel to support your primary marketing objectives? Facebook? Twitter? Youtube? Webinars? Actually it’s blogging, the good old fashioned workhorse of business thought leadership, according to a new Focus Research report on the challenges and priorities of B2B marketers.

According to researchers, nearly two in five (39%) B2B marketers cited Blog Posts as their No. 1 type of content to support their primary marketing objectives. Webinars and Virtual Events came in next, cited by 38 percent of respondents, followed by Industry Whitepapers (31%), Videos (23%) and Data-Driven Research Reports (20%).

OUR TAKE: This research shouldn’t surprise you. In today’s fragile “wait and see” business climate, sales cycles have gotten longer. That’s increased the need to keep your prospects engaged during the consideration phase of the sales cycle. To that end, smart marketers are providing valuable content to decision-makers and influencers at their target customers. Blogs have been particularly successful as they can be updated and delivered much faster than a webinar, video or white paper—but with a lot more “meaty content” than a banal twitter post or Facebook “like.”

Blogs drive traffic and search results

Hubspot’s latest study shows that the number of companies actively blogging has grown to 65 percent today from 48 percent in 2009. Here’s why. Researchers found that companies that blog have 55 percent more visitors, 97 percent more inbound links and 434 percent more indexed pages than companies that don’t blog.

But, I’m not a writer

You don’t have to be a journalist—or hire one on staff—to create a meaningful blog for customers. You just need to show customers you understand their pain points and can help them solve their problems. If you understand your market, you’ll never run out of material. You can alternate an opinion post one week with a customer testimonial the next week, with an employee (or product) spotlight the next week with a short how-to article the next. Still not enough? Then try linking out to articles or research in the trade publications your prospects follow and then comment on the article with your authoritative spin on whether you agree or disagree with the findings.

“Blogs are a great way to get your name out there as a thought leader—and search engines love them, Bill Sheridan told us over coffee the other day. Bill is the editor and electronic communications manager of the Maryland Association of CPAs a very progressive professional society when it comes to connecting with members in this electronic age.

So don’t worry about being a writer, or even a hotshot blogger. Just be the expert in your target niche and if nothing else, be the best friend of your customers, prospects and decision-influencers at your target companies. Give them some ammunition to convince their boss, CFO or board and they’ll be your advocate for life.


Saturday, August 06, 2011

Don’t Sweat the Stock Market, Sovereign Debt crisis or Jobs Report

There’s lots of work to be done and companies are spending money. They’re just not hiring full-timers to do it. Be wary of over-weighting your marketing portfolio on Facebook.

It’s a lazy, muggy Saturday in August. Like millions of American’s we’re headed to the airport, but not for vacation. We’re on our way to a hot, landlocked Midwestern city for the start of a client’s biggest annual convention. That’s right. It kicks off on the first Saturday in August, goes full tilt first thing Sunday morning and extends only into Monday for most attendees. Perhaps it’s a sign of the times, but more and more B2B event organizers have realized that to attract a crowd in this zero-job-security economy, they’ve got to minimize the amount of time attendees spend out of the office. And they better stress the educational and business development parts of the conference, and de-emphasize the aura of a drunken social junket.

We’re not going to spend much time here re-hashing yesterday’s jobs report and the roller coaster week on Wall Street. From a glass half full perspective, it wasn’t so much the 120,000 new people added to American payrolls last month, it was the breadth of the new jobs, as many sectors—not just one or two-- showed some initial signs of hiring activity. Are we worried about the bloodbath on Wall Street which essentially wiped out the entire year’s worth of gains in 2011? Not so much. The market has long been decoupled from the overall economy as corporate earnings are more a factor of (a) low interest rates; (b) relatively easy access to credit and (c) the ability to sustain operations with fewer employees which improves the bottom line.

NOTE: None of the aforementioned factors are sustainable in the long term—especially doing more with less, as frustrated underappreciated workers will bolt for the doors when the job market eventually improves. While many are concerned about the debt ceiling right now, we’re more concerned about the “Great Brain Drain” that will eventually devastate companies who don’t start taking better care of their burned out talent.

OUR TAKE: If you’re a savvy B2B marketer, business are being very selective about how they spend their dollars for advertising, capital improvements, technology and raw materials, but they ARE spending—and they’re doing so at a healthier clip than individual American consumers. Our advice, be just as selective about who you target and fortunately there are a great many tools out there to help you stay hyper focused on the best prospects for new business.

If you’re waiting for us to start trumpeting the merits of mobile and social media, you’ll be disappointed. There are hundreds of thousands of other blogs you can spend time with. We just want you to be smart about how you use these widely publicized, albeit hard to measure tools. And just like the financial advisors whose balanced portfolio approach will successfully guide their clients through the latest financial crisis, you don’t want your marketing portfolio too heavily invested in any single channel.

Face the facts about Facebook

New research indicates that Facebook shouldn’t automatically be the linchpin of your social media strategy. Data from ROI Research, Inc. found that companies who actively use social media found Twitter more effective than Facebook for getting your customers/followers to talk about your product or service, recommend it to friends and buy it. ROI researchers found Twitter to be 13 percent more likely than Facebook to induce followers to attend your promotional or sponsored event; 12 percent more likely to talk about your company or product; 6 percent more likely to recommend your company or product and 12 percent more likely to link to an ad for your company or product.

And that’s not all. Upstart StumbleUpon.com recently unseated Facebook as the No.1 social media site for referring traffic to other website, according to the web analytics firm, StatCounter. If you haven’t checked it out yet, StumbleUpon.com is a search engine that finds and recommends videos, articles and other web-based content to you based upon your tastes and the interests of your peers.

Finally, a Smartbrief poll on Social Media found that marketers and others interested in social media in business say their companies have not lost money because of social media, but more than 25 percent said they “spent too much on maintaining a social presence for the level of return we’re seeing.” Another 3 percent said they lost money because of legal issues, leakage of sensitive information, or brand damage.

Bottom line. You need to use the tools that most effectively connect you to your clients, customers and prospects for the long-term. You don’t need to be cool for the sake of being cool. Don’t be afraid to experiment. But just like investors who chase the latest fad, marketers who chase the latest cool communication tools without carefully weighing its merits and pitfalls will get burned in the long run.