It’s maddening. You’re publishing great articles on your website but not seeing results. Maybe traffic has spiked but that hasn’t translated into leads or customers. Before you throw in the towel, let me just say, I get it. I’ve been there when results don’t seem to roll in despite the best writing efforts.
But I’ve also seen the results brands can achieve with a little strategic brainpower. Content can and should lead to new business. If it doesn’t, the content strategy is probably lacking. Many companies try to do too much with any given blog post. And the content isn’t serving a specific purpose tied to one, tangible marketing goal. Each piece you publish should help you do primarily one of three things:
- Build a targeted audience by growing website traffic
- Convert website visitors into leads
- Turn those leads into customers
Building your targeted audience
Traditionally, most b2b brands have built awareness through print ads, trade show attendance, targeted sponsorships and the dogged pursuit of press coverage. But with so many ways to disseminate branded content today, publishing has never presented more opportunity. Now’s the chance to “own” an audience, not just rent one with ads or hope a news feature brings customers. Owning an audience means creating a steady pipeline of potential new customers who visit your media assets. For most b2b industrial companies, the most important asset is the tried and true company website and blog.
But what content brings the right people to your website? While there are a thousand and one ways to skin this cat, I’ll cover three of the most popular ways, the ones most relevant to the majority of b2b industrial companies:
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Guest publishing
- Your business’ social media pages
With so much traffic online, you could develop an entire brand awareness strategy on SEO alone. According to a recent, comprehensive study from IHS Engineering360, 58 percent of technical professionals don’t make contact with suppliers until the latter stages of the purchasing process and 89 percent turn to Google for purchasing information. That means people are researching decisions without the help of a sales staff. Unless you publish informative content, not just promotional content, you won’t reach the majority of those looking into a purchase. So, if you’re trying to draw website traffic by ranking for specific searches, you’ll need to publish content that’s educational and fully SEO-focused. What does that look like?
For one article, select one keyword and give people searching that term the information they want. Think of it this way. Billions of people search for answers to their questions each day. Search engines have a mission to show only the best answers. To rank on page one of Google for a keyword and draw website traffic, your blog posts must provide the best answers. If you want to rank for “building demolition costs,” answer the who, what, where, when, how and why of building demolition costs. Don’t muddle your posts and hurt your rankings by making your SEO-targeted content promotional, turning it into rants about misperceptions of your industry or using them as arguments for why customers shouldn’t skimp on budget. SEO-focused content is about giving researchers the information they want. And when you do, you’ll get results.
The other common mistake people make is assuming that simply writing a good article will get you traffic. Sometimes, it can. But for the best results, you’ll first want a well optimized website that’s built on a solid structure with the right core page content.
Guest articles present another great opportunity. By submitting articles to industry publications, journals or blogs, you can tap into their audiences to grow your own. Put a link in those guest articles and drive readers back to informative content on your website. Not only will you draw traffic, the links back to your website will help your content rank higher in Google search results. To get an article picked up, you’ll need to follow publisher guidelines, pitch content to an editor and submit something worth publishing — something informative and tailored to the publication’s audience. But the rewards are worth it. In addition to growing traffic and improving rankings, you’ll become a thought leader in your industry and gain trust with customers. One key here is to find the right publications — online industry journals are a great place to start.
I’ll spare you the typical, “be engaging, don’t just promote yourself, have a voice, be human” advice you’ve already heard about social media. Broadly speaking, for most b2b industrial companies, we advise focusing first on your website, SEO and email marketing as a means of driving real business. If you do invest in social to grow awareness, remember, the goal is to bring people back to your website where you can generate leads. But you’ll see more success on social by stepping beyond the technical, specialized content that helps you rank on Google, and instead sharing content people will send to their colleagues. Survey results, info graphics, trends pieces, stances on industry issues — these are more likely to earn shares and website traffic, largely because they grab the attention of bloggers, publications and industry influencers who disseminate content. But these pieces usually require more time or money to create than it takes to post keyword-targeted articles that directly drive business.
Turning those visitors into leads
You’ve got visitors to your site, but how do you turn them into leads and business? At any given moment, the vast majority (likely more than 90 percent) of visitors on your site aren’t ready to buy. And most aren’t ready to fill out that contact form or call you either. Instead, they’re independently researching their problems and potential solutions. That means to turn them into leads, you need to give them useful information worth filling out a form to access — so you can then email or call them.
Some of your content must be focused specifically and entirely on lead generation. At Gorilla 76, we publish white papers and other premium pieces for this purpose. Using calls to action, we direct site visitors to download these premium guides and require them to fill out a form to access them. The key here is to understand what your customers want. Premium guides are highly educational and answer the key questions. Some examples are our guides to launching an effective industrial b2b website and evaluating online marketing ROI. These pieces help our potential customers as they’re learning what they want to accomplish and how to go about it. And similar pieces have worked for our clients. Ultimately, you’ll need to put yourself in your customers’ shoes and think of the key questions they ask at the early, middle and latter stages of their purchasing process.
Nurturing leads into customers and repeat customers
With their contact information, you can call or email your leads. But most probably need buy-in from others and have a long purchasing cycle. Now’s the time to provide insightful articles that help your potential customers answer the questions that arise later in the purchasing process. Some of these might be related to costs, schedule, logistics and justification for a purchase (which they may need to convince decision makers in their organizations). Publish content you can use in e-blasts to stay top of mind and bring your leads back to your website.
This is where you create content arguing for a purchase, showcasing your work (possibly using case studies), building goodwill with brand journalism, highlighting your sponsorships and yes, promoting yourself. This content helps you re-engage with leads, get them on the phone and lead them to finally make a purchase. We’ve seen this process generate business, even the largest purchases.
One common problem is burdening this content with keywords. This content’s purpose isn’t primarily to draw traffic; focus on making it compelling, useful and interesting. If a keyword happens to fit, that’s great, but don’t waste time and compromise your content by force-fitting one. Another common problem many brands have is they only create this content. The reason? Most branded content has traditionally addressed only these topics. But today, that doesn’t cut it. You won’t generate traffic or leads if this is all you publish.
Create content with purpose
Don’t just publish content. Publish content that’s tied specifically to marketing goals — content that helps you grow your business.