A recent survey showed that 82 percent of B2B marketers use blogs as part of their content marketing strategy. The same study found that only 59 percent rated their blogging efforts as effective, down from 2015.
There are likely a number of reasons why that effectiveness rate isn’t higher, but if you look at the most successful company blogs, you’ll find that they do a lot of the same things right. Many of them are tried and true PR tactics — just because you’re publishing the content yourself doesn’t mean best practices don’t apply. Here are five quick tips on what the best corporate blogs do well and how to develop a tech blog that people actually want to read.
1) They check their bias at the door.
Just as a reporter likely won’t be interested in commentary from experts who talk only about their products, neither will the audiences reading your blog. Approach your corporate blog as if it’s a third-party trade publication. Study your go-to trades. What makes you want to read their content? What makes those writers reputable? Those insights – and a dose of objectivity – will make your own blog better.
The GE Reports blog, while it does include the occasional GE-focused story, primarily offers a high-level look at the latest developments in energy, transportation, health care, manufacturing, and other spaces that GE works in. Rather than focus on products, it covers how technology is changing the world, reinforcing GE’s mission and its status as a future-focused leader.
— GE Reports (@GE_Reports) March 7, 2016
2) They focus on education over selling.
It’s not uncommon to find your posts starting to read like advertorials, especially when consulting salespeople for blog content and expertise. But leave the selling to your website and sales team.
Instead, use your company blog to educate readers on the technologies, trends, and issues most prevalent in your industry. Offer analysis of recent technological advancements, checklists to help readers evaluate their needs, and definitions of industry buzzwords. Give readers the knowledge and tools to make informed purchasing decisions, and they’ll come to see you as a trusted authority that just may be top of mind when they’re ready to buy.
CoSchedule, a content marketing scheduling platform, focuses on offering advice that will make its audience of marketers better at their jobs. From an HTML cheat sheet to social media strategies to content lessons learned from other successful businesses, the company’s blog offers a mostly agnostic resource that draws in the people who can best benefit from what CoSchedule offers.
3) They answer the questions their customers are asking.
Your sales team interacts with customers and prospects every day, addressing their needs, concerns, and questions. Without even realizing it, they’re unearthing a treasure trove of potential blog post content and themes. Check in with your sales and customer service reps frequently to identify the most commonly asked questions, and then address them in a post. Chances are your customers aren’t the only ones seeking out this kind of information.
At a client launch meeting with SCHOTT three years ago, executives revealed the most frequently asked question they get from customers is the best way to clean a glass-ceramic cooktop. Recognizing search engine gold, we encouraged company executives to write and publish a blog post on the topic. Since it was published in early 2014, that post has consistently ranked as one of the most widely read, and been a steady driver of blog traffic as consumers search for the best method to keep their cooktop looking new.
See for yourself how easy it is to clean burnt food off your SCHOTT CERAN® glass-ceramic cooktop! https://t.co/iMH0VTurvB
— SCHOTT North America (@schottusa) May 26, 2015
4) They tell a story with original visuals.
The best blogs incorporate multimedia into storytelling by creating a number of visual assets. Let your readers digest an infographic, view a short video, or click through a SlideShare instead of just reading a giant block of text. Visuals take more time to develop, but there’s a big bonus: Visual content is more likely to be shared. Consider these stats:
- Visual content receives 30x more reads and 40x more shares than text-only content.
- Infographics are 3x more likely to be shared on social media than other types of content.\
- Facebook hit 8 billion daily video views in 2015.
You probably won’t be surprised that Instagram’s blog does this well. The blog highlights user content, letting a selection of photos do most of the talking, then includes a brief paragraph about the user and the work they do. The posts offer a cross section of the community, giving a stage to the diverse styles, subject matter, and users telling their stories through Instagram.
5) They give salespeople conversation-starters.
While your company blog isn’t the place to tout your products or services, it is a perfect medium for promoting your company and yourself as an industry expert and thought leader.
Buyers are much more likely to work with a company that demonstrates a clear and current understanding of their issues. Written, original content is a great way to show you’re on the same page as your customer and are anticipating their future needs.
That said, what you do after the content is posted is just as important as what you publish. Don’t just share the link with your company’s social networks; encourage your sales team to share the post with customers and prospects they may be wooing. These communications serve as a great touch point with customers, and prove that you not only know your stuff, but you’re also committed to helping them.
Client SHI International has mastered this strategy, arming its sales force with each published blog post as a piece of collateral.
In one example, an SHI sales rep shared a new blog post addressing the challenges of migrating to Office 365 with a customer that was considering a pilot of the software but had similar concerns. The customer appreciated the touch point and went on to schedule a call with SHI about moving forward with the initiative.
The sales rep later confirmed that SHI had achieved its goal: “I would not have had that call today without the introduction from the blog reply.” And this wasn’t an isolated incident. SHI reps frequently and successfully use company blog posts as conversation and sales starters.
Sometimes it can be a battle to drop a salesy tone from your blog. But starting with even one or two of these guidelines is the best way to establish credibility, which will attract and retain readers, and — though it might seem counterintuitive to your sales superstars — even attract new customers.