Each month, 151 million people Google the words “how to blog” or “what is a blog,” so I thought I should start this first post by helping to answer those questions—and then offer some advice on how to use a blog in your B-to-B marketing efforts.
Basically, a blog is an online journal that is written for public consumption. The word blog is short for Web-log, or an Internet-based diary. If you remember Star Trek’s Captain Kirk in the show’s opening voiceover stating “Captain’s Log, Star date 1673.1,” you get the picture.
Blogs are created for many reasons, but in B-to-B marketing, your hope is that by demonstrating knowledge and expertise in an industry or on a subject matter, it will help position your brand positively in the mind of your target. That’s why blogs are the ideal way to demonstrate thought leadership or to provide a perspective on a timely topic that’s relevant to your customers and prospects.
Blogs are much easier to create, distribute and leverage than a typical newsletter. Content can be added or updated easily, at any time and from virtually anywhere. If a blog is designed properly, content can have a very long shelf life as past blogs can be archived and viewed at the reader’s leisure. Archiving past blogs also means a search engine can find one based on a particular topic, and serve the appropriate page as a search result (make sure to include a month/year with each blog posting, if your system doesn’t add it automatically, to help put your content into perspective).
Many companies discover that the biggest challenge in blogging is finding the time and resources to keep it updated and filled with fresh content. Many marketing/sales departments start out with a few topical ideas then run out of steam after a few weeks or months. Remember: There is no “rule” as to blog length or timing of your posts. No word minimums or maximums. Oftentimes, a short, pithy insight is preferable because it’s easy to scan and therefore it may be read more frequently. But if you don’t blog regularly (whether it’s daily, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly), your brand appears dated. Readers want real-time engagement, and if you’re going to commit to a blog, you need to nurture that commitment.
To help you keep those creative juices flowing, here are nine ways to keep your blog current:
1. Identify a “hot topic” in your industry and provide a point of view on that topic. Interview executives inside your company to gain insights. Talk to the sales team—they’re often at the forefront of the topic as it’s probably already been raised during a sales call. As you read your latest industry publications, or review topics within LinkedIn Discussion Groups, jot down ideas on topics being discussed, and use that as a springboard to form your company’s point of view.
2. Leverage current case studies that demonstrate the value of your services. If you’ve never crafted a case study, the biggest tip I can offer is “Keep is simple.” Give some background to the situation and state the problem the client was facing (you don’t need to name the client per se; often a description like “A multi-location national retail chain” can do the trick.). Follow it with how your product/service solved the problem. Finally, summarize with results … measurable results. For example “Saved the organization over $100,000 in costs.” Or “Reduced the number of employees needed to do the task.” Create a template for your case studies (for consistency!) and make it visually appealing (add charts/graphs and photographs) to help tell the story. Don’t forget to include a call-to-action with email address and phone number. Save it as a high res, easily downloadable, PDF (easily downloadable means don’t design it as a set of spreads that won’t print properly when I click the “print” button). You can either use the case study content in your blog, or write an executive summary and provide a link to the PDF.
3. Post educational content that helps your customer/prospect learn something new. “How to” tips and tricks are popular and can often be crafted into a series of continuous content. Video is the new hot medium and your blog can include a short introduction/overview before providing a link to the video (or better yet, the video itself, posted in the middle of your blog page).
4. Talk about your upcoming events especially if they’re proprietary. Promote a webcast or industry roundtable discussion; you can go into more depth about the speakers and the topic, plus you can provide links to your registration page. If your company is appearing/speaking at a conference, talk about the topic and the background of the speaker. If you’re attending with a booth, talk about where you’ll be on the tradeshow floor and why readers should visit, and what they’ll see/learn. In fact, if you want to try and measure the readership level of your blog, invite readers to say or do something “unique” at your booth, and you can reward them with a special thank you gift (and no, not the cheesy pen you’re handing out to anyone who walks by).
5. Blog from the event especially if you’ve just listened to a great speaker, or attended a good session. Share what you heard and learned; provide a point-of-view on the event itself; interview fellow attendees and get their perspective. Talk about the event in a way that helps non-attendees understand what they might have missed, especially if it’s an event that’s ideally targeted to your customer/prospect base.
6. Comment on news in your industry. Interview your CEO or key spokesperson on a hot topic and use that Q&A as your blog. Talk to your sales force and understand how the news might affect how they’re selling/possibly repositioning the product. Ask one of them to help you write your blog content on that topic.
7. Profile a key staffer if they bring something interesting to your organization that will help your readers better understand your product/service/brand. Many B-to-B organizations struggle to give their company a human “personality.” This is an ideal way to help targets understand the people behind the organization in a new and fresh way.
8. Invite guest bloggers from your pool of staffers or clients/customers. Visit client sites and read their blogs and decide whether you’d like to reprint that blog (make sure you give them credit for the article!) or invite them to write a new, topical one for your blog site.
9. Link to other blog sites and tell your readers why they should read that particular article. Provide a quick synopsis and an easy way to click through to the site.
Many thanks to Editor-in-Chief Thorin McGee, for inviting me to start a blog on this site—I look forward to posting regularly, and welcome your comments/feedback or suggestions for topics… or, if you feel the urge, hit me with your best right hook.