B2B sales are much more complicated than most people realize. Not only do B2B sales cycles tend to be longer than those of companies selling directly to consumers, the purchases that business customers make tend to represent major investments. And in this tight, competitive economy, these customers don’t just trust anybody with their firm’s cash!
As a result, B2B businesses are practically forced to build credibility, relationships, and trust long before the customer actually needs to make a purchase. While there are tons of different ways to do this, many B2B companies forget how effective blogging can be. This powerful strategy allows these businesses to build their brand recognition and increase their visibility in a creative, inbound way.
But that said, not all blogs are created equal! To leverage B2B blogging’s greatest advantages, you must follow these four crucial best practices.
Document Your Blogging Strategy
Companies with a documented content marketing strategy are twice as effective as those without one, so it pays to write down what you’re doing and why. Start by setting goals for your blog that are linked to specific engagement or sales results.
Are you blogging in order to build brand awareness? If so, you’ll want to track such metrics as social shares or inbound links. Alternatively, if you’re blogging to support your conversions, a multi-touch attribution modeling program will show you how your content plays a role in your company’s sales performance.
From there, you can develop strategies to meet those goals, including how often to post and what platforms to use. If, for example, you’re trying to use your blog posts to boost your sales, you’ll want to consider deploying content pieces that support every stage in your typical buyer’s sales cycle. Finally, move forward and implement those strategies.
By documenting your blog’s goals and strategy, you’ll not only have a better idea of what you’re doing and why, but you’ll be better able to keep everyone on your team on the same page. If an executive or manager needs to understand more about your B2B blogging needs, you’ll have documentation showing the standard and strategy that has been set, allowing for specific feedback. You’ll also avoid disagreements and contention about who should be doing the writing, posting, and editing, when it should be done, and where it should be posted.
Write With Your Audience in Mind
Too many websites and blogs are purely promotional and are based on selling the company and its services. Remember that you are writing to an individual who’s reading your post - think about how you’d talk to that person face to face. Would you immediately launch into why you and your company are amazing and why that person should work with you? If you wouldn’t do it in person, don’t do it on the blog.
In this case, the often-used 80/20 rule can be very helpful. Write 80% of your blog posts based on the interests, needs, and questions of your audience, while writing only 20% to be promotional or advertise your services. Even on those 20%, of course, be sure to link your content to a specific need of the customer or a benefit the product provides to your audience. Internet users today are savvy enough to know a sales pitch when they see one. If your promotional post feels out-of-context, it’s simply not going to perform well.
Make Your Blog Posts Attention-Catching
When it comes to business blogging, remember that your B2B customers are like all other people today - short on time, short on attention span, and jaded from over-exposure to advertising (both online and off).
As a result, your posts must be attention-catching and easy to digest. This starts with your headline, which should be short, catchy, and promise a specific benefit to visitors in exchange for reading the post. A good example would be a headline like, “3 Ways to Do [X] More Effectively.” The lead paragraph should then build interest based on this headline, causing readers to want to finish the blog post.
After the headline and first paragraph, keep things easy-to-read by using well-spaced paragraphs that are brief and to the point. Use bold text to highlight interesting facts and link to reputable websites to reinforce your credibility. Use excellent copywriting techniques to not only compel visitors to read, but to drive conversion on your sales requests and calls-to-action.
End With a Call-to-Action
All blog posts should have a call-to-action, though this important conversion feature doesn’t have to be specifically sales-related. You can certainly ask your readers to check out a relevant product, but you can also ask them to share the post, comment with feedback, or answer a question to promote further engagement with your brand. You can even introduce a contest and ask them to share or tweet your post to enter.
Regardless of your request, the action should lead readers into a higher degree of trust, participation, and interaction with your brand. By building these relationships over time, you’ll build a firm foundation and stay top-of-mind with your readers. This will serve you well in the long-run; no matter how long it’s been since past visitors have been on your site, they’ll remember you when they find themselves in need of your products or services.
With long sales cycles and major cash on the line, B2B companies - much more than most B2C entities - need to build strong relationships with their customers long before a sale can occur. Through blogging, these firms can establish credibility over time and sell their value to their industry, helping them become the first solution a prospect thinks of when they need a product or service.
If your B2B company isn’t blogging - or isn’t taking it seriously - it’s time to put this important connection-building strategy at the top of your marketing to-do list.
Does your B2B company have an active blog? If not, what’s holding you back? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
About the Author
Sujan Patel is the VP of Marketing at When I Work and founder of ContentMarketer.io. He's helped companies like Mint, TurboTax, Salesforce, and others land more customers, make more money, and grow their businesses. As the Founder and former CEO of Single Grain, he grew his business from a bootstrapped consulting startup to a multi-million dollar digital marketing agency.Follow on Twitter More Content by Sujan Patel