Often times, peripheral buying considerations become the themes on which a marketer can build community: opportunity, sustainability, safety, patriotism and charity.
You can read all the articles you want about social media marketing for B2B companies, but until you jump in and do it, you probably won’t realize what you need to succeed. As many have found out, hiring a college-age daughter or son to set up your Facebook page or your twitter account isn’t the answer.
If hardly anyone is reading your blog, visiting your Facebook page or following you on Twitter, there is a good chance you may be lacking in at least one of these three success areas.
Success Factor No. 1: Content
You don’t have the foggiest idea what your customers would find interesting or engaging. You find it hard to think beyond what you sell, and you probably don’t enjoy staring at a blank page.
A content strategist can help you plan what you want to say and how you are going to say it. Content strategists know how to find engaging stories about your business or topic area that people actually want to read. And the best part … they never run out of ideas.
Content creators get the work done, creating blog posts, videos, and slide shows. Crafting messages that sound like you or your brand, only better. Content curators select the “best of the best” information and ideas, creating value for your B2B audience.
Success Factor No. 2: Technology
Words like “meta tag,” “API” and “robots” scare you. You’ve never seen or even attempted to find the traffic statistics for your website or blog. You aren’t interested in learning a whole new language.
Without knowing the technology behind social media, the best content in the world can remain lost. And without reviewing your website analytics, content opportunities will be lost.
Boosts in website traffic require link building and that means knowing where on the Web you need to be. Each social media network has its own characteristics. Do you have the patience to listen and learn?
Social media training will shorten the learning curve and let you know where you need to focus first. Mastering the technology skills can help your social media efforts deliver a better ROI from the get-go.
Success Factor No. 3: Time
Once you engage your B-2-B business in social media, you quickly understand the tedium of it all . Day after day, week after week, you need to participate, create content, and promote content. Conversations aren’t all in one place. Information needs to be posted in a lot of places with thoughtful messages targeted to the audience. It’s downright time consuming.
However, the more you are involved in social media, the greater the benefit you are likely to receive. Do you have the time? Do you know the tools that can help you best manage and monitor your efforts? Do you have someone who can do the “grunge” work for you?
Some businesses and business owners want to do social media themselves and they have everything they need to succeed: Content, Technology and Time. That’s terrific. Some may have the content, but lack the time and energy. Others may have the technological skills, but lack content.
The important thing is to not get hung up on what you don’t know.Recognize it and get some help. Hire someone to get you started. Build a team and share your knowledge. Sign up to receive some social media training. Move on. Don’t give up.
What has held back your social media efforts? What kind of help does your business need?
Did your company jump into blogging without a plan? Has it been months since any content was created? Are your subject matter experts failing to create the content you need? It’s not all that uncommon. But don’t give up before you have tried these tactics.
Get Blogging Training
As you have probably discovered on your own, there is a lot more to blogging than meets the eye. The more your corporate bloggers understand about your goals and objectives, keywords and other blogging basics, the better job they will do. A boot camp for bloggers will empower and reenergize your team, build camaraderie, and demonstrate management’s commitment to the blog.
Hold a Content Creation Brainstorming Session
Devote a few hours exclusively to developing content ideas for the blog. Invite a professional content manager to lead a discussion using your keywords as a jumping off point. Do you have content related to every stage in the buying process? Can you make your customers the stars? What information lends itself to video? Consider a series of posts related to a specific topic. Get input from bloggers, customer service and sales and other departments. By the time the meeting is over you will have plenty of ideas to fill an editorial calendar. But don’t stop there. Assign various topics to your contributors. Realize that some content takes longer to develop. Choose quality over quantity, but also recognize that there are benefits to frequency.
Start Reviewing Results with Your Team
Share analytics and help your team identify those posts that are drawing traffic and response. Can you elaborate on hot topics or create similar posts using different examples? Identify trends in keywords. Reward bloggers who successfully engage the audience.
Build Your Social Networks
Understand your audience and encourage participation of employees in industry-related social networks so you can share your expertise and introduce potential customers to your blog. Know where your blog traffic is coming from. Create a plan for promoting posts online, generating inbound links and more. Share links with older posts as well.
There is no doubt business blogging requires a big commitment, but the rewards do appear to be worth the effort. In a study conducted by HubSpot, the average company that blogs has 55 percent more visitors, 97 percent more inbound links and 434 percent more indexed pages.
Can we help you get your blog unstuck so you can reap the benefits?
I spent some time in Williamsburg, Va., last week and we visited the nearby Jamestown settlement and Powhatan Indian village exhibit. There was something about Caucasians playing the part of the Indians that left me thinking about authenticity, or the lack of it.
Case studies can provide compelling content, but authenticity is key. Potential customers want to read real stories, and if your copy sounds like a sales pitch, they will quickly move on.
An authentic story begins with an interview that goes beyond the basics. Here are some of the methods and questions I have found helpful in capturing an authentic and compelling story from a business owner, customer or subject matter expert.
Before the Interview
Learn as much as you can about the business of the person you are interviewing. Check their profile on Linked-In, view the company website, make a personal visit to their business if possible. By doing this you will avoid the obvious questions, become familiar with the industry-specific language, and identify topics for discussion.
Begin with some small talk and set a friendly tone. Let them know you will provide them with an opportunity to review their comments. This serves to relax the person being interviewed. If someone is rushed, offer to call back when they are not distracted by pressing business problems.
During the Interview
A vivid description of the customer and their problem will engage readers who will identify with the story. Ask questions in a non-threatening way. Don’t just run through a predetermined list of questions (although it’s a good idea to prepare questions in advance). Show genuine interest and ask follow up questions. And if the person goes off on a tangent, be patient.
Ask about their responsibilities and their biggest work challenges. Ask how the product or service fits into the grand scheme of their job or product. Ask what life was like before they found a solution. If they are a business owner, ask how they got into the business. Uncover what the true pain points were. Get all the details that will create an authentic story.
If you are a marketer, you must take off your marketing hat and think like a journalist, asking the who, what, when, where and why questions. Ask them to compare how they do things now, vs. how they did things before. Ask how they came to find out about the solution. Ask what they were apprehensive about in choosing a supplier and how they were able to alleviate these doubts. Ask about the other options they considered and why they didn’t choose them. Ask what they would do differently, if they had to do it over again. Avoid presenting a completely one-sided view.
Ask how the solution met or exceed their expectations. Focus on customer service issues as well as benefits of the product. Ask about any critical timing or delivery issues. Ask if there were any unexpected benefits or rewards. Ask if any problems came up and how they were resolved. Find out if there was positive feedback from customers, sales or the management. Are there any quantitative measures of success? If so, find out what those numbers really mean to the business. Were they able to increase profits or reduce costs? Facts and figures are an essential component of a convincing case study.
After the Interview
When writing the case study, use quotes, facts and details gleaned from your interview to add authenticity and personality. Make your story easy to read and skim online through with good use of subheads and call-out quotes. Don’t forget to include your keywords and phrases.
I like like this case study from Trimble. The details and conversational language helps to make it both authentic and readable.
What are some other ways to add authenticity to your website content?
CONFAB was a first of its kind conference held in Minneapolis this week. Planners brought together leaders in the field of content strategy to discuss best practices, dispel myths, and bring thoughtful solutions to business needs for quality content. Here are my highlight notes from the first morning of the two day conference.
What is Content Strategy and Why is it Important?
Definitions, Needs, & Roles
Content is defined as everything that can be uploaded to an online site.
Content needs to be planned prior to launch dates, during, and beyond. Inconsistent content through channels is a problem. Multi-platform content development is critical. Get rid of the silos. Content needs to be nimble. Content is a business asset.
Establish a visual rhythm that is recognizable across channels.
A content strategist articulates, investigates, integrates, appreciates, and ideates. They set procedures for content creation, delivery, and governance. They ask: “How can we make content grow by applying urgency and purpose?”
SEO cannot solve the content problem. Even Google has abandoned the word “search” in favor of “knowledge”.
Content curators are finders who filter information. Information created up to the year 2003 totaled 5 exabytes. That amount is now being created every two days. “I can’t keep up” was expressed by 46% of survey respondents. Sleeping less was a solution for 34% of information consumers.
Humans are replacing algorithms. Ideas are replacing data. “What are people thinking?” is the question to ask; not “How do I manipulate search engines?”
Choose your endorsements, “Likes,” retweets, links, and posts carefully. That is curating the web.
Listening is more powerful than speaking. Gather, organize, and filter good stuff. Monitor for positive re-enforcement and use it as social proof.
In a noisy world, customers embrace clarity.
Questions That Support Quality Content
Where does our data live and why?
What can people do with our content?
What can they do with what they create from our content?
What is our framework for building content?
What’s working? What is not working?
What kind of place does the content create?
How is the content connected?
What forces does content resolve?
How do you keep control of your own content?
Reactive and fragmented response is poor content delivery.
Deliver the right information at the right time to the right audience.
Recommend. Share. Be social.
Serve up content.
Move content from a cost center to a profit center by meeting business objectives.
Marketing focuses on new leads, not base. What does your base need and want? How satisfied are they? Existing customers may be more valuable than new customers.
Teach everyone what good content looks like.
* Thank you Kristina Halvorson, Steve Rosenbaum, Erin Kissane and Valeria Maltoni for sharing your thoughts at CONFAB.