Nearly half of B2B buyers read 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with any salesperson. If you are a B2B technology or computing company, for instance, around 63% of articles in your industry are found and read through Google searches. Depending purely on social media to tell your story is not sufficient as organic searches overtake social media for website referrals. One common way for your potential buyer to find and learn about your business is through content marketing. Therefore, you might consider starting a business blog.
Starting a Business Blog, Step 1: Setting Goals
Step 1: Setting Goals
Before starting a business blog, you must decide what your goals are. Goals differ from business to business so it is important you take time to:
Establish your goals
Identify ways to measure progress towards your goals
Review your goals in case they need to change
Establish your goals
The ultimate goal of blogging is usually to attract new customers. But you must break down your goal into actionable chunks to allow you focus on creating content that meets specific needs. For instance, you might want to establish yourself as a thought leader in your target market. This goal makes sense if you are new on the scene and you have other competitors offering similar products or services.
A follow-on goal could be to build an email list of people who are interested in your services. Remember people read many things you have written before signing up for anything. Therefore, showcasing your knowledge through thought leadership is the place to start.
Measure your progress
How will you know whether you’re achieving your goal? If you are building your personal brand as a thought leader, you could measure how many followers you have each month. While it is great to see your follower count increase, don’t get fixated on it. It is more about the quality of your network. Invest in your online relationships by creating content that starts conversations. Get involved in those conversations and reach out via email if appropriate. Other measurements might include webpage traffic, number of likes, number of downloads and shares.
Review your goals
Starting a business blog with specific goals in mind is a great way to focus your efforts. However, things change. If you find that your business has changed or the feedback you receive from customers is not quite what you expected, it’s reasonable to review what you are doing. A Tel Aviv-based B2B marketing agency had to review their content marketing strategy after they discovered that they were being investigated for spam. They started tracking and evaluating everything they were doing including:
Links in their content
Which piece of their content linked to
Groups where they posted content
Who’s the buyer persona we’re addressing
Actual post copy
Which buyer personas each content addressed
Feedback from their target buyer personas
They looked at a few other things but the above shows a thorough review, which led to positive changes in their goals and strategy.
Starting a Business Blog, Step 2: Identify Whom
Step 2: Identify Whom
Identifying why you are writing is great but it is arguably more important to know who you are writing for. Developing buyer personas will help you to create focused and relevant content. If your buyer is an Operations Manager with an objective to maintain staff morale while cutting costs, you can start creating articles that will resonate with that buyer. Every buyer has a different set of challenges so you must segment your content accordingly. Consider using categories and tags to do this. For instance, you might have content about time management hacks, improving staff retention and a separate category for the most effective team collaboration apps. When identifying who you are writing for, consider:
When developing your buyer’s persona, you must understand what your target buyer is responsible for and what he is accountable for. Write a rough outline of what his or her job description is likely to be. Note key responsibilities. For example:
Can he/she make buying decisions?
Do he/she have a budget?
How big is that budget?
Is there a team reporting to him/her?
These sort of questions allow you to better understand the motivations and likely goals of your target buyer. There are several great buyer persona templates on the web like this one on the Alexa Blog.
Every job has challenges. To catch your target buyer’s attention, you should offer solutions to their greatest challenges. Now that you understand their job role, you can stand in their shoes and identify the likely challenges that they face. One way to do this is to make a list of all the tasks that are involved in their role. Then against each task, add a measure of performance. Ask yourself: What obstacles would stand in the way of performing well on this measure. You might need to speak to current or previous customers to develop a comprehensive list.
For instance, a Marketing Manager could be tasked with increasing brand awareness for his or her employer. How will the employer know that brand awareness has improved? Perhaps they measure web traffic, time on a web page and the number of followers they have on Twitter. What is likely to make it difficult to achieve good quality web traffic? Poor content, no content or misleading content. Now you can start to provide potential solutions…
Starting a Business Blog, Step 3: Be Practical
Step 3: Be Practical
The most valuable content is always practical and actionable. Valuable content leaves you with at least one thing you can do straight away. Therefore, your readers will be more inclined to tell others about your article. Some ways to create highly valuable content is to:
Answer burning questions
Share interesting/alarming stats about your industry
Create a guide for a beginner or an ultimate guide with more in-depth content for advanced learners
Another approach is to follow popular comment threads in your industry to see what people are saying. This will give you an idea of what is topical. It gives you an opportunity to write content that showcases your knowledge and answers today’s burning questions.
Share interesting/alarming stats
Much like how I started this blog post, stating stats is a powerful way of drawing people in to read your content. Depending on your industry, there are likely to be a worth of resources for trends, stats and case studies that you could use. I often use MarketingCharts.com and WordStream.com. Articles in Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com tend to include stats. You can follow the links to those stats and find the original report.
Create a guide
I love it when I’m looking for advice on how to do something and I find not just a blog post, but a GUIDE. It’s like, “Wow! All my prayers are answered!” A guide is not just about blogging, it’s about creating lead magnets. Lead magnets are content that your readers are willing to give their email address in exchange for access. They are usually more than a 500-word blog and include more detailed information. Popular guides are how-tos, checklists and cheat sheets. You can also create a guide from a series of blog posts. For instance, if you’ve written a few blogs on start-ups hiring their first employees, you could create a kind of compendium for start-up founders. Designrr is a great tool for turning blogs into e-book guides.
Starting a Business Blog, Step 4: Share Online
Step 4: Share Online
The distribution side of blogging is often forgotten. If you write a blog post on your website, it is not automatically found and read. You will start to get organic readership through online searches but that will take time. A new blog needs lots of exposure and that’s where sharing comes in. Here are some channels to consider before starting a business blog:
Online groups and forums
Let’s briefly go through each of these.
Part of setting goals and identifying your audience includes knowing which social media platforms are relevant to engagement. Don’t try to be everywhere. If you are just starting a business blog, pick 1-2 social media platforms and build an audience there. Follow influencers and engage in conversations.
This type of marketing focuses on influencers rather a target customer. To use influencer marketing, you must identify people that might have an influence over your potential customers. These people usually have a passion for sharing content. Direct your content to them and get them to share your content. Influencer marketing platforms such as Mavrck and Social Bakers are good places to get started.
Online groups and forums
If you create content for a niche audience, online forums are your best friend. You can answer questions with your content and explore the real challenges for people in your industry. Over time, you will be known as a thought leader in your area of choice. This is a great way to build an audience for not just your business blog but for your personal brand too.
Have you recently started a business blog? What is working for you? What isn’t going quite as you thought it would?
When was the last time you engaged and became persuaded by a set of bullet points?
One reason you may not have been persuaded (apart from the potential for boredom) is that our brains are not built to retain information that is set out as bullet points on a slide. In fact, bullet points are the least effective way of sharing ideas.
Neuroscientists have found that the fastest way to share ideas in business is through stories – particularly ones that trigger emotions.
The narrative structure of stories is more impactful than bullet points on PowerPoint, our brains are wired for narratives such as storytelling.
Other studies have proven that social storytelling is responsible for more than 65% of conversations had in public. It, therefore, makes sense that when you write content for your business, you’ll get more online engagement if you tell stories about your brand. Storytelling is a great way to keep your online messages consistent throughout your website, social media and blogs.
So why do we try to sell our vision and spread ideas through bullet points? It isn’t very inspiring.
Here are four storytelling ideas for creating content for your business:
Storytelling: Customer stories & anecdotes
Through Your Customers’ Eyes: Customer Stories & Anecdotes
Jeff Bezos notes that when the anecdotes and metrics (data) disagree, the anecdotes are usually right.
Customer stories are a credible way of demonstrating your expertise as a business. Ask customers about how they came to use your product and/or service. What did they try before and how did it feel to work with your company? Document the customer’s journey from finding out about your product/service to getting real outcomes from their interaction with you. It could be rags-to-riches, which develops an instant rapport with your readers and is inspiring.
Storytelling: Pictures, Videos, Action
A Picture Tells A Thousand Words: Use Images, Videos & Action
Neuroscientists have proved that we recall things better when we see pictures compared to when we read text on a slide.
According to a report by Social Media Examiner, 74% of marketers are using visual assets. Visual marketing can help you tell a consistent story with every image, matching with your brand style. Also use video when possible, with eye-catching shots and engaging conversations by staff, suppliers and customers.
Storytelling: Analogies & Metaphors
Get Creative: Use Analogies & Metaphors
As a child growing up in Africa, I was told many stories about the tortoise, the hare and the elephant. There were always lessons in those stories – lessons about the world, manners and good character.
Stories are not just for children and young adults. A great story teaches, inspires and engages. Try using analogies and metaphors to convey your idea to your readers. I once used the analogy of a duck on the water to describe the ease of using a certain software. The duck represented the simplicity and slickness of use while the duck’s feet pedalling like mad in water represented the robustness and accuracy of the algorithm behind the software. It worked very well in conveying a distinct competitive advantage.
Storytelling: Fictional Characters, Buyer Personas
Show You Understand: Use Fictional Characters & Buyer Personas
One of the coolest ways to engage your target audience is to show them you know what is it like to be them.
In a recent video, I used a fictional company to show how B2B companies struggle with internal and external alignment. This video was based on buyer personas, created from years of experience dealing with marketing, sales and engineering teams in medium to large technical industries. Sometimes, they fail to understand their competitive environment well enough to create a unique competitive advantage. The video illustrated an understanding of that misalignment and proposed a solution.
Are there any other types of stories you can tell about your business? Tell us in the comments and share this blog with your network!
Do you struggle to engage with your audience as effectively as you would like? Do you often find yourself stuck for ideas for content? This blog sets out content ideas for software companies seeking to kickstart their company blog.
List useful resources
A simple but helpful blog is always a good place to start for content ideas for software companies. This could include a bunch of online tools. Or you could highlight resources that would help any organisation regardless of industry. Team Gate’s blog looks at 400 awesome free resources you can use to grow your business. It includes everything from social media and community management to SEO and website analysers.
Use video instead of text
Consider using video content instead of text. Video allows you to show your personality and convey your passion for the topic. Recent stats show that 43% of people want to see more video content from marketers and over half of the marketing professionals say video gives the best ROI. In fact, over half a billion people watch a video on Facebook every day. That equates to around 8.3% of the people on earth! Wistia, a video platform for marketers, publishes mainly high-quality video content alongside text-based posts.
Discuss the hottest tech trends
When considering content ideas for software companies, you cannot go wrong if you write about latest technology trends. Some examples of the latest trends in the software industry today include:
Businesses in every industry are going to start building apps on blockchain platforms, which means the demand for blockchain developers is going to go through the roof. There is also interest in blockchain news in general, therefore content on the topic will likely attract many readers.
Similar to Blockchain, cybersecurity is an area which a growing number of developers are finding demand in. In recent years, cyber attacks against organisations have been increasing in both sophistication and damage caused. Articles on cybersecurity would be a good way to enter into regular posts regarding the topic. A good example is an article by The Market Mogul, which describes cybersecurity as ‘The focal point of 2018’ and sets the scene on the topic.
A guide to data management and data governance could be the first step for people setting up their big data initiatives. Eric Brown, an entrepreneur, data scientist and consultant wrote a useful blog called ‘A roadmap to success with big data’. This article gives a good idea of some of the essentials worth considering when starting out with big data.
The use of AI in improving and personalising your customer service is the obvious topic to go for. However, there are countless areas for discussion within this area. AI is being used in supply chain management and even creating a better hiring process. Interviewed developed a software which uses machine learning and natural language processing to sift through resumes to filter the best ones out from the rest.
Respond to industry research
Consider using a new angle to trigger a conversation. Industry research always attracts discussion amongst readers, especially in the comments section of the posting. It would be smart to be first to publish your own thoughts on latest industry research. If you do this, try approaching it from a new perspective to give your readers some food for thought.
The Economist gave a different angle towards automation – mentioning that over half of jobs are vulnerable to automation taking over.
There is a shift within IoT (Internet of Things) from building your own IoT stack to choosing from a range of IoT platform providers. This blog could cover the top categories of considerations that are the foundation of choosing an IoT platform provider – such as security and return on investment. This will assist developers when making the important choice.
For more content ideas for interactive marketing, check out this blog by SurveyAnyPlace:
The past few months have brought some anxiety about GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which comes into force from May 25th. We are yet to see the impact that it will have on email marketing, for instance. Some consequences will be the reduction in email lists and a change in how companies ask for and store email addresses. Our hope is that companies continue to use email marketing as a key channel to reach, inform, educate and engage target audiences.
Compared to Facebook or LinkedIn, email marketing is a particularly profitable channel as you can reach customers who have already indicated interest in your product or service. According to the DMA’s Marketer Email Tracker 2018 report, ROI for email increased from £30.03 for every £1 spent in 2016 to £32.28 in 2017. Therefore, email marketing should be part of your overall marketing plan. In this blog post, we will outline how you can continue to use email marketing effectively, and even increase email open rates with your opt-in lists.
Factors Affecting Average Email Open Rates
First, let’s define Email Open Rates. Email open rates are the % measure of how many email recipients opened your email during a particular email campaign. Email marketing platforms such as MailChimp and Mailjet will give you an open rate for each campaign and also an average contact score for each person on your email lists. Your email open rate depends on many factors. Some factors are:
We generally aim for 25% or higher but if you have open rates that are lower than this, don’t worry too much. As noted above, there are other factors out of your control that could affect your open rates. For instance, the UK has one of the lowest email open rates at 13%, while Denmark has one of the highest at 31%. The important thing is that your email campaign achieves the results you want. That could be sales, engagement or simply raising awareness of your company’s activities.
When it comes to technical B2B markets, where there is usually more complex content and perhaps less marketing know-how, we see low to average email open rates. For instance, Engineering/Manufacturing have an open rate of 21.28% and IT see 26.69% of their emails opened by recipients.
How to improve your email open rates
We’ve touched on a few factors that affect how many recipients open your emails. The reason we want people to open our emails is that we want them to take an action. That action could be to click on a link or offer (we will discuss click-through-rates (aka CTR) in a separate blog). First and foremost, we need to understand the audience that we are trying to reach.
Run some tests
The best way to understand your audience is to run tests. A recent study by the DMA reveals that 47% of companies test under a quarter of their emails. 15% don’t do any testing at all.You could run tests on several aspects of your email. For instance, split your email list and send out identical emails but with a slightly different email headline or call to action. Don’t change more than one thing per test otherwise you won’t know which attribute made impact on your email open rate. Make your opening engaging and personal, then test away!
Write to a specific person
When you send out your emails, write them as if you are addressing one person. Use your recipient’s first name in your opening (add <<First Name>> tag). In the body of the email, use ‘You’ and ‘Your’ when possible. For instance, if you are referring to the recipient’s team, write “your team” instead of “the team”. Familiarity and an active tone are likely to draw in your reader. If you have understood your target audience, you will use words and phrases that engage them and ultimately moves them to take action.
Provide relevant content
Have an email marketing content strategy before you start sending out emails. Your strategy must consider your target audiences’ needs and the kind of content that they are likely to engage with. If your email recipients know that your emails will contain useful and actionable information, they will look forward to it and engage with it. Sending predominantly sales-y emails or irrelevant content or content that they can get elsewhere will result in low open rates.
Avoid words/phrases that scream “Spam”
Many email filters flag up emails that have words and phrases like “discount”, “offer”, “xx% off”, “sale” and “promotion”. Avoid using these words in your emails. Also, do not use all caps in your subject line or inside the body of your emails. If your email appears suspicious, your recipient’s email filter will put your email in the spam folder. Keep your email informative and relevant. Limit the number of links to ensure that your email is safe to open.
Send it from a person rather than from a company
Your emails are likely to get a higher open rate if they come from a person rather than from a company. Some email filters mark emails as “promotional” if they come from a company. For small businesses and startups, it is easy to send your email from your company founder or the marketing director, for instance. You will increase engagement and open rates if your recipients feel that your email is personal. Sign off with your first name – it’s a nice touch!
Ensure your subscribers have opted-in
Best days and times
Some research shows that the best day to send emails is Tuesdays if you want a higher open rate (>19.9%). But Fridays seem to get the highest click-through rate (>4.9%). Avoid sending business-related emails on the weekend or late in the evening. We have found that the best time of day is between 6 am and 10 am to get the most engagement from our email list. But don’t take our word for it! Try sending your emails at different times and days, see what works for your target audience.
Segment your email list
You might have a list of 500 subscribers. Do you send all of them the same emails? If so, you should segment your list and send them only what they are interested in. If you are an IT company, you could have an email segment for IT managers (i.e. decision-makers) and a separate one for IT users (i.e. not decision-makers). IT managers might want to read about cost-efficiency and tips for user adoption to technology. IT users would be more interested in shortcuts to make them more productive in their day-to-day work. When you keep the email relevant, you will see your email open rates increase.
Reward your top contacts
Most email marketing tools will score the people on your email list. Contacts who regularly open your emails will get a 4 or 5 star while those that open your emails occasionally or never open them will receive a 1 or 2 star. Try to offer rewards to your best contacts. For instance, offer an exclusive gift to them or invite them to a preferred contact event. Building a strong relationship with your best contacts will make them even more likely to open your email. Occasionally sending emails only to this group will significantly improve your email open rates.
Content structure: Simple/Complex
One challenge for email marketing is to stand out within an increasingly cluttered mailbox. Companies are finding that their subject lines and content are simply not attracting the attention of their audience.Consider having very brief initial descriptions, coupled with a very clear call-to-action. This is perfect for subscribers who quickly skim their emails. Try short content e.g. an email with just one link to a piece of content. Then try adding videos and more content to test how your email recipients engage with multiple pieces of content. Remember: fewer links are better.
Optimise for mobile
55% of emails were opened on mobile devices from May 2016 to April 2017 – up from just 29% in 2012 [Source: B2B Marketing]. Therefore, it is crucial that you optimise your emails for mobile. Some quick things you can do are to shrink your images and enlarge the font on the page. Remember that mobile devices automatically flip the orientation of the screen so your email should look good in portrait and landscape formats. One way to optimise for this is to use a single column layout. If you are not optimising for mobile, your email open rates are probably much lower than what they could be.
Have we missed a tip? Share your best email marketing strategies with us! And please use the buttons at the top to this blog to share with others!