3 Ways Your B2B Content Can Provide the Most Value

b2b-social-media-content-giftMost of us wouldn’t give a friend or relative a highly flattering portrait of ourselves as a gift. Yet, B2B marketing organizations and marketing agencies do it all the time on social media and in other marketing communications. They push out self-promoting content about their brand, news, successes, or participation in industry events. You don’t have to go any further than the nearest press release to find examples of this self-serving marketing prose. Has anyone ever described themselves as anything other than a leader, an innovator or an industry disrupter?

The fact is that we know what makes a good personal gift, but we sometimes fail to put that knowledge to work in our marketing.

1. Understand What Content People Care About

Content is based on an understanding of what’s important to others, what interests them, what they care about. To do that you have to listen. In B2B marketing, one thing that fills the lead and demand generation pipeline is content that gives your audiences insight and information on the subjects they care about.

On top of your regular social media engagement, you can go one step further to connect with your buyers by following industry forums, blogs, interest groups and webcasts where they also share content. For example, IT.Toolbox.com does a fantastic job of not only understanding their IT audience, but engaging them with the right content. You can find blogs, research and discussion groups ranging from topics like technology trends and business intelligence to storage and security hardware. Content is available in real-time to stay relevant and engaging, while providing insight into industry behavior and patterns.

2. Make Your Content a Gift That Gives Continual Value

Give people content they can use long after their initial visit. After a lead becomes a buyer, valuable content will keep them engaged. Cisco Communities is a great example of how you can provide a wealth of buyer-generated content around trends, implementation and performance tuning. Help your buyers share what delivers results for them.

One organization found that its Facebook posts generated more interest and followers when it provided tips on using social media effectively, than by simply announcing product marketing news. Everyone wants to know where technology is going, so start a conversation. Ask “what, why and how” questions. Give your audience direct links to industry research and to the thought leaders who are talking about tomorrow’s technology.

Promote others’ relevant content, including that of your industry’s thought leaders. Find out who the thought leaders are in your industry and what they’re talking about. For example, searches in Cisco Communities not only include Cisco’s own product marketing content, but content from other partners and interest-based communities as well. Cisco even provides a filter so visitors can get to that non-Cisco content directly.

3. Be Surprising

People love a surprise. One sure-fire way to surprise people these days: give them content without asking for something in return – their personal information or an offer to chat now. Highlight your buyers’ successes, even when it has nothing to do with your solution. Offer an unexpected additional service or a one-time upgrade at no charge.

Stepping outside the “just business” zone can also favorably surprise your audience. Find out what community service organizations your top buyers support and get involved. Rotary International is one organization with a long track record of proven success at building business by building goodwill. Work with them, or a similar organization, and share what you are doing.

In a nutshell, your content strategy is all about giving content “gifts” that raise your value in the eyes of your buyers. Differentiating your brand isn’t only about your product marketing. It’s also about how you engage with your buyers: Understanding what they care about, reaching out to them wherever they are, supplying content with ongoing value, and, finally, surprising them with unexpected value.

What are some ways your content has given great value? Share what you’ve done in the comments below.

The preceding post is inspired by my podcast interview with Rishi Dave, former Executive Director of Digital Marketing at Dell.

nic-story 3

Photo credit: Flickr

The Search for Meaning in B2B Marketing

b2b-marketing-meaningOur friend Doug Kessler of Velocity Partners has written a lot about the what and the how of B2B marketing, but never the why. In this amazing Slideshare presentation called The Search for Meaning in B2B Marketing, and embedded below, he tackles the question of what makes his career in B2B marketing meaningful.

In addition to the ideas expressed, pay attention to the presentation itself. Presented as a notebook with handwritten notes, sketches and more formal type, this comes across as the simple musings of a creative guy (which Doug certainly is). He really captures the right tone and visual style in this piece. And the voyeuristic quality of reading someone else’s notebook makes it even more fun.

b2b-marketing-meaning-doug

The honesty of Doug’s writing really creates a connection with his audience of B2B marketers. While he is working out meaning in his own career, he hopes that it helps others in the field. My favorite line is:

When you were a kid, you never said, “I want to be a B2B marketer when I grow up.”

You definitely need to check out the whole notebook, but here are the seven things that give his work as a B2B marketer meaning:

1. I like helping companies grow.

2. I Like helping our clients achieve success in their careers.

3. I love working alongside talented, engaged, positive people who also love what they do.

4. I love learning new things.

5. I love work that demands creativity.

6. I like honest work that asks me to build a great case for my client.

7. I like figuring out how the business of business works.

Are there other things that give meaning to your career as a B2B marketer?

The Difference Between B2B and B2C Digital Marketing

I was tempted to write a list of seven or so ideas on the differences between B2B and B2C marketing. Traditionally there’ve been several, but in 2013 (and soon 2014) I think there’s only one, albeit with seven or more consequences and considerations.

It’s important that we recognize the shift in how similar B2B and B2C have become. The method by which people find information has largely become the same, thanks to computing technology and of course Google’s drive to make vast information searchable on every level. Whereas B2C was traditionally led by outbound broadcast and press tactics — and B2B by outbound direct mail and sales calls — we’re seeing an always on consumer now searching online and leading the charge for information, creating an inbound approach from the perspective of both B2C and B2B marketers. This starts to reveal a common set of planning imperatives that we’ve outlined below.

What remains the real difference then?

It’s the number of decision makers and influencers involved in the sales and marketing process. The nature of influencing a purchase decision in an individual or household is of course more obvious and directed in B2C, whereas in B2B we have hierarchies and people in decision chains. Though the same B2B decision makers are as emotional and irrational as they are at home, it matters that there are so many of them in one chain. It sounds simple, but it’s not. The reality is that there’s not a uniform B2B hierarchy that we can expect either. These differ by market, and most of all by business size. It’s OK though, since it’s about employing key observations on strategic planning.

1. Product or service explanation

Some might say that B2B products and services require a lot more detail than B2C. I’d suggest the specific insight here is that those products and services require explanatory content in variable levels of detail and format for more audience types at different stages of the buying cycle. This makes it a longer planning process, with more variables to consider. For example, the requirements of a Finance Director at the closing stages of the sales process are wildly different to those of the Sales Director who becomes motivated to short-list the product initially.

b2b-content-matrix

2. B2B is naturally more targeted

Thankfully, there appears to be a little more common sense for customer targeting in B2B, something that we’d hope would exist in B2C, where the attention is more sporadic and possibly distracted with vague ideas of viral and a misplaced value on collecting fans and followers — only to underserve them afterwards. B2B companies, on the other hand, have a better handle on who they’re targeting and where they are, a natural inclination which is also easier to solve. After all, buyers of a particular chemical product or future technology are inherently more findable that 16-19 year old males interested in football.

3. Creative, marketed content fuels inbound

Placing excellent content where buyers already are, or likely to be, and amplifying that with paid media is good sense for targeted marketing. It’s never been more important for B2B and B2C marketers alike to invest heavily in content that solves the problems of the prospective buyer. For B2B that’s also handling content that the potential buyer may need to manage influencers, too. Especially those holding the purse strings.

b2b-inbound-marketing

4. Content strategy

Related to the above is recognizing that our content exists in an eco-system with our own content hub at the center of that. We must appreciate the difference between content requirements around a sales funnel on owned media platforms, whilst at the same time promoting content to an audience away from owned web properties. The quality of process and planning needed to do this well, and affordably, can’t be over-stated — targeted content can be re-shaped, re-purposed and re-created in multiple formats, for multiple applications. Considering long-form content first, and planning the process of atomizing it, can save time and money. Is it here that B2B marketers can seek inspiration from their arguably more creative B2C cousins? After all, all buyers are people, and entertainment and inspiration does not have to come at the expense of credibility, does it?

5. Integrating email and social media

It’s easy to abuse both social media and email, with poorly targeted ‘blasts’ of information that matter to a hungry sales division. This is something that B2B marketers have been notoriously bad at. Planning how to nurture those vaguely interested enquiries to qualified leads is something different again — and there have never been so many tools and strategies to make this affordable for even the smallest of businesses. Returning to the question of “how do I serve the needs of [the target audience],” at every stage of the buying cycle, will enable prospective customers to take the next step towards purchase by showing intent and re-engagement, not one giant and unrealistic leap. Both B2C and B2B marketers are still learning how to enter the conversational, and in the moment, nature of social media, the power and genuine one-to-one potential for slow and steady relationship building — using the networks, portals and platforms for what they are, catalysts for connection, rather than the be and end all.

The key remains to plan appropriately- to plan to succeed through a combination of targeted, integrated marketing that works in the service of the audience first and foremost.

5 Smart Tips for B2B Content Marketing

b2b-content-marketing-hand-5-tipsAccording to a recent study, buyers contact a sales representative after 70% of the buying decision is made. What does this mean? People do their research online before they even begin to talk with you. So if you don’t have content that interests them, you’ve lost the sale before you’ve begun.

Shelly Kramer and Amy Vernon discussed this subject at the MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum. As Vernon says, organizations need a content strategy, a social media presence, and an understanding of how to connect them both to business objectives. After all, Kramer adds, today’s marketing process, known as “inbound marketing,” is all about attracting people with good content, converting them to prospects, closing the deal, and then continuing to delight them so they return for more.

According to Vernon and Kramer, here are the five steps you need to take to make that process a reality.

1. Develop and Implement a Strategy

Know what your end-game is, because if you don’t know what your goals are, you’ll never reach them. And in order to accomplish your goals, you need to have a strategy.

It’s important to note that developing a content strategy should never be done by marketing alone. You need to talk with sales, customer service, and product management as well. Everyone needs to work together to develop the strategy and everyone needs to contribute knowledge to your ever growing content repository, even if marketing eventually does the writing and/or editing.

2. Produce Good Content

Producing good content involves a number of factors: smart people, good writers, editors who can make the pieces more search-friendly, and more. The most important thing to remember when producing content is not to stop. As someone once told me, the biggest reason corporate blogs die is because people stop writing in them.

Having trouble figuring out what to write each week? Vernon and Kramer suggest putting together an editorial calendar, so you can more easily map content to strategy. For instance, you can easily write several posts about a single event your organization is attending: one pre-event post, one during event post, and one after-event post.

It’s also important to remember that posts can be simple as long as they’re useful. For example, you can put together a “blog posts greatest hits,” where you highlight a group of related posts that got a lot of views in the past. Posts don’t have to be complex; they just have to be consistent.

One other point – you have to be viewed as authoritative. One way to do that is to make your blog into a resource by linking to additional content outside of your material (such as a relevant blog or news article).

3. Be Where Your Customers Are

Social media alone is not enough – use it as one of your tools, not the only tool. As Amy Vernon says, ”Figure out where your audience is and go there.”

A multi-channel approach allows you to include everything from email to Twitter to advertising to guest posting and more. Wherever your audience does its research is where you want to be seen.

At the same time, don’t worry about the number of followers you have on each channel. In the wise words of Vernon, having the right 500 connections is better than having thousands of followers who aren’t engaged.

Furthermore, B2B companies must have a strong presence on LinkedIn. According to Vernon, it’s the most important platform for B2B. Kramer added that Google views LinkedIn as very credible – don’t disregard its power.

4. Use the Tools Available

There is an ever-growing list of tools available for monitoring and utilizing social media. Kramer and Vernon listed quite a few in their talk. Here’s a sample for you to explore:

Free tools to evaluate your website: HubSpot’s Grader, WebsiteOptimization.com, HubShout

Paid tools inbound marketing tools: HubSpot and Moz

A globally-recognized avatar for use when commenting on blogs: Gravatar

Alerts regarding news that is good for enhancing content: Newsle, Social Mention, TalkWalker

Tools to build your social networks: FollowerWonk, WeFollow, Twibes

Tools for building an editorial calendar: DivvyHQ, Kapost

5. Track Your Success

Although it’s listed last, this is one of the most important steps. If you don’t track your accomplishments, you’ll never know if you hit the goals you set for yourself when developing your strategy. Use the tools listed above to make decisions based on your audience’s actions. Become data-driven, and let that drive tweaks in your content strategy.

Photo: Flickr

7 Examples of Innovative B2B Content Marketing

At Content Marketing World, my good friend Ann Handley, coauthor of Content Rules and Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs, presented a number of innovative examples of content marketing. The following are some of the B2B examples she shared in her presentation. Any metrics or results came from Ann’s presentation or published information. These examples are meant to inspire B2B marketers to think bigger than just basic written or video content. And bigger doesn’t mean spending more money.

Content marketing means you consistently create and share information that is

  • Packed with utility
  • Seeded with inspiration
  • Honestly empathetic

to attract customers to you.

Here are 7 examples of innovative B2B content marketing:

1. Kinvey ebook

Kinvey provides a backend infrastructure that makes it easy for developers to set up cloud hosted mobile apps. It is a natural fit for them to create content about creating mobile apps, in this case one called How to Make an App: Android. This first content offering was so successful, they created a series of ebooks on create mobile apps for other platforms. More than 40% of customers who opened a Kinvey account first converted on a content offer.
b2b-content-Kinvey-How-To-Make-An-Android-App

2. Marketo Coloring Book

Marketing automation company, Marketo, wanted to make marketing fun again and created the Marketo Big Activity Coloring Book. It featured such activities as thought leader book matchup, dress a marketer, a revenue cycle maze and a marketing automation mad lib and has been downloaded over 22,000 times.
b2b-content-marketo

3. MarketingProfs Slideshare Infomercial

MarketingProfs wanted to do something different to drive registrations for its upcoming conference, so they called on their love of late night informercials and created one. But on Slideshare. And the results were impressive. They had four sales in the first hour

4. UberFlip Video Infographic

UberFlip helps companies present and distribute their content in dynamic ways, so when they wanted to tell the visual story of the growth of online video, they created a video infographic. This drove tremendous awareness and traffic with 800% increase in blog traffic.

5. Levenfeld Pearlstein Profile Videos

Law firm Levenfeld Pearlstein discovered that the attorney profile pages were the most visited pages on their website. This is not surprising, as prospective clients want to know the backgrounds of the attorneys they would be working with. So they created a series of videos with attorneys answering interesting questions, beyond the usual legal stuff. Attorneys talked about first jobs, most prized possession, how one met his wife, and even time travel.

6. IBM Smarter Planet Billboard

IBM has been promoting its Smarter Planet initiatives for quite a while. One of the most innovative approaches to sharing the ideas of things being smarter is to provide multiple uses for billboards. When posted in cities, they can provide utility, as in this example with a curved top that functions as an awning to people out of the rain. If you wonder if this is content marketing, let’s look back at Ann’s definition. Content marketing means you consistently create and share information that is packed with utility, seeded with inspiration and honestly empathetic to attract customers to you. This is definitely all those things.
b2b-content-ibm-

7. TalkTo iPhone App Update Notes

Mobile app TalkTo lets you text businesses instead of calling them, and TalkTo will make sure they get the message. Even if they don’t use texts. They have created content in an unlikely place. The update notes in iTunes store. The update starts with “now comes with 600 pounds of awesome sauce,” so you get a clue about what to expect. Click the image below to read further updates, including many about David Hasselhoff. This is a company that is building a business, connecting with consumers and businesses by creating a unique voice and having fun doing it.
b2b-content-talkto

What are other examples of innovative B2B content marketing you have seen?

4 Ways LinkedIn is All-In for B2B Content Marketing

b2b-LinkedIn-LogoLinkedIn has always been the professional social network and the most effective network for B2B marketers. The mission of LinkedIn is to connect the world’s professionals and make them more productive. As they focus more on content marketing, there are strong parallels, as the right content can also make users more productive.

The context of LinkedIn is professional. This is important to understand as LinkedIn is a customer first company. Even though customers go to Facebook at night, the next morning they come back to LinkedIn with their professional hat on. They are aspirational as they think about their career and other professional goals. They are investing time in the platform, rather than spending time.

Marketers need to put their prospects and customers first when it comes to content.

Here are the four ways that LinkedIn is all in for B2B Content Marketing:

1. LinkedIn Today

LinkedIn Today promotes content from the web that is shared using the LinkedIn Share button. The most popular content is surfaced to LinkedIn members, and shown to their based on their industry, interests and self-selected categories.

2. Influencers

LinkedIn selected 150 influencers to launch this program by offering the opportunity to post long form content about any topics, or blog, on LinkedIn. The only guidelines LinkedIn provided were that members are interested in content that informs, educates and inspires. These posts generated rich, deep comments from real thought leaders. The program has expanded to 400 people since its launch last year.

3. Slideshare

The acquisition of the world’s largest collection of business presentations really brought the idea of visual content to LinkedIn. There was always a strong connection between two platforms, as they both focused on the business side of things, but by using the Slideshare technology, LinkedIn has created more opportunities to post richer, visual content on profiles and company pages.

4. Sponsored Updates

LinkedIn took their time developing an in-stream, native ad product because of their customer first focus. These updates appear across mobile, tablet and desktop versions of the site. One example of a company that has achieved success with these updates was marketing technology company and power content creator, Hubspot. They got 400% more leads from their sponsored updates than any other source.

Change the marketers mantra from always be selling to always be helping

The key ingredient to better content experience is relevance and as marketers move from information to insights they can create more relevant content. Three ways to create more relevant content in real time:

  • Waiting for the Moment:
  • In the Moment:
  • Anticipating the Moment:

What is LinkedIn doing to help marketers make sure they have relevance content?

  • Highlight content types
  • Quantify content influence
  • Provide recommendations

How have the changes to LinkedIn and their approach to content marketing affected your B2B marketing on the platform? Have these new opportunities driven more traffics and leads to your own content?

21 Unbelievable B2B Content Marketing Statistics

21-B2B-content-marketing-statisticsB2B companies continue to be interested in content marketing as a means to connect with their prospects and customers, as a first step to generate leads with content and social media. While last year’s B2B Benchmark study has not yet been updated, here’s a recent grassroots study from the 50,000 member strong B2B Technology Marketing community on LinkedIn. Here are some key statistics from the study. If you are interested in the breakdown of the 815 respondents, or any other details of the study, I have embedded the slideshare presentation below.

Do these statistics seem to reflect the content marketing activities at your B2B company or clients? All these sorts of studies seem to be a little high compared to what I see in the wild. Active LinkedIn members would be more likely to work for company who understand the value of content marketing. If you have thoughts, or disagreements with these stats, please let others know in the comments below.

  1. 71% of B2B Marketers use content marketing for lead generation
  2. 50% of B2B Marketers use content marketing for thought leadership and education
  3. Only 25% of B2B Marketers use content marketing for customer retention
  4. 89% of B2B Marketers cite customer testimonials as the most effective content marketing
  5. 88% of B2B Marketers cite case studies as the most effective content marketing
  6. Less than 40% of B2B Marketers indicate ebooks as effective content marketing
  7. 71% of B2B Marketers say audience relevance is the most important element of content marketing
  8. 85% of B2B Marketers say LinkedIn is the most effective social network in delivering content
  9. 73% of B2B Marketers say YouTube is an effective social network in delivering content
  10. Only 39% of B2B Marketers say Facebook is an effective social network in delivering content
  11. 93% of B2B Marketers create content from scratch
  12. Web traffic and views or downloads tied at 63% as key metrics to determine content success
  13. 5% of B2B Marketers have no metrics to determine content marketing success
  14. 56% of B2B content is created by corporate marketing
  15. 47% of B2B content is created by product marketing
  16. 82% of B2B Marketers are increasing content production in the next 12 months
  17. 55% of B2B Marketers say their biggest challenge is having the time or bandwidth to create content
  18. 30% of B2B Marketers do not categorize their content by buying stage
  19. 37% of B2B Marketers use marketing automation for lead generation
  20. 36% of B2B Marketers use marketing automation for lead nurturing
  21. 39% of B2B Marketers don’t use marketing automation at all

Photo credit: Flickr

Make Your B2B Social Media Headlines Compelling and Clickable

Every B2B company wants their social media posts read, clicked and shared. These are not just tweets, Facebook posts and LinkedIn updates, but the blog posts, ebooks and webinar offers they lead to. A couple of the following articles focus on the art, science and data of writing the best headlines to make followers, and casual passersby click. Social media headline writing is part marketing, part journalism, part SEO and part sensationalism. And all of them need to pay off expectations with the article itself. That is how you build credibility, authority and ultimately, trust.

As you are creating content for your B2B company, especially blog posts, you need to know what kinds of posts to create. Move beyond company news and product announcements with the below guide to types of blog posts. And finally, we share a review of the next stage of storytelling called storydoing and how it elevates companies to be more productive and to drive business results.

These Five Astonishing Headline Writing Secrets Will Make You Cry, Or At Least Click
For most of us in the online journalism business, writing headlines basically amounts to guesswork. Will people click on this? Are there enough nouns in here for Google to find it? Does this line break look weird? Should I use a question mark? An exclamation point? For Upworthy, it’s more akin to a science — and not one of those mushy sciences like anthropology or psychology, either. We’re talking straight-up particle physics. For every article they publish, its writers come up with 25 headline options. They then A/B test the four most promising before settling on a winner.
Read more

5 Data Insights into the Headlines Readers Click
With the growth of online marketing, both the channels and volumes of content competing for our readers’ attention has exploded, making it increasingly challenging to stand out. Given how significant a headline can be to click-through rate in both search and social online channels, here at Conductor we decided to test different headline types to determine those that resonate most with readers.
Read more

Which Format Is Right for Your Next Blog Post?
When it comes to choosing the right format for your next blog post, there’s quite the smorgasbord to choose from. Perhaps how-to posts are your forte. Or maybe you just can’t resist the list. But just because you have a signature format, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily right for the topic you’re blogging about.
Read more

Good Companies Are Storytellers. Great Companies Are Storydoers
Discussions about story and storytelling are pretty fashionable in marketing circles. I have ambivalent feelings about this. On the one hand, as a lifelong advocate for the power of story in business, I find this very encouraging. For all companies, having a story and knowing that story are crucial steps to achieving success. On the other hand, I’m worried that too many marketers think that telling their story through advertising is enough. It’s not.
Read more

Photo credit: me

10 Ideas to Make Boring B2B Social Media Posts Captivating

Many B2B marketers are still trying to figure out social media for their companies. Years of product marketing driven writing, or content as we now call it, has honed their skills on features-based marketing. No matter how exciting your products and services are, this kind of marketing is boring. And it is not going to work in a social media context.

Prospects and customer want solutions to their problems. They don’t want to hear about your products in a blog post. Once you identify your target audience and their pain points, you can begin creating top-of-the-funnel content to connect with them by solving their problems. With the right content in mind, on paper and on screen, how do you make sure that your content is found, read and shared by your audience?

Start by making it remarkable!

And then here are 10 ideas for make it captivating:

1. Use Keywords in the Headline

No matter what you writing about, you have to include the words that your prospects and customers use when talking about your solutions, business and industry. These are used in the questions they are asking in search engines and of their social network connections. The most important keyword location is the headline. See the headline above (and most of the ones on this site) for an example. They always include B2B Social Media or B2B and relevant terms. That’s how B2B marketers find what they are looking for on this site. Posts without those obvious keywords are just not found by the audience.

2. Use Adjectives in the Headline

Even keyword-based headlines need to be interesting and compelling. Or captivating. As this one is. No matter where you prospects and customers see your headlines, they are looking for something that will be worth their time. As you are establishing your authority on your subject area, every post is an opportunity to draw in new visitors. Interesting and different descriptive words, like adjectives can do that.

3. Find a Compelling Image

In this post I used a recent Instagram photo I took of the San Francisco Bay Bridge. While not entirely relevant to this post, it is a captivating image, which relates back to the headline. Rather than use the same stock photography images of light bulbs or the diverse team around a conference room table, look for interesting images that set the tone for a post. Search Flickr for Creative Commons images and make sure you give credit back to the photographer. Hone your own skills as an Instagram photographer and use your own images. You want to use images that will draw someone in, make them click and make them keep reading.

4. Don’t Talk about Your Products

Successful blog posts are not about products. Your website already does that. Provide real value to prospects and customers by providing solutions to their business problems. Demonstrate your industry expertise by giving them something they cannot get elsewhere.

5. Solve Prospects’ Business Problems

One of the reasons “How To” posts are so popular in different industries is that they answer people’s questions. Search engines are designed to provide the most relevant results to every search. If B2B prospects are trying to find answers to their problems, your posts have a better chance of showing up if you are answering their questions. And using their terms.

6. Share Customer Stories

Leverage your existing customers to tell your story of how your solved their business problems with your products and solutions. These are not just case studies where your product helped your customer reach business nirvana, but a real, human story that is interesting, remarkable and captivating. Ask yourself if you would read the story before you hit publish.

7. Use Video

Video is a powerful way to tell a story, share an important detail or present a point of view. A post with embedded video can capture someone’s attention in a different way than a written post. This is an easy way to share the thoughts of an industry influencer you met at a trade show, but keep it short. Definitely under five minutes, and under three minutes if possible. Video viewing dropoff is pretty significant at two minutes.

8. Experiment with Different Formats

Every post should not always be 500-800 words on a subject. Try shorter posts if you have a simple comment about an industry news story. A link to the story and three takeaways work. Consider an occasional longer analytical post that really takes a point of view. What about an all image post where you show 20 examples of what others in your industry are doing well, where you only have a line or two of explanation. Mixing up your post format keeps things interesting and keeps you from writing the same post over and over.

9. Use Subheads to Make it Scannable

People on the web scan. Subheads make it easy to glean some information from your post without taking the time to read it. That’s why list posts do so well. They match the way people consume information. Scan this post as an example.

10. Remember Social Networks

And finally, getting found in search is just part of the equation. Getting found on social networks is also key. Keep headline length in mind for social networks. Know how images show up on Facebook and Google+. Make sure your post description is captivating, as that may be what shows up on networks.

Remember, all of these ideas will help remarkable content get found, read, shared and clicked, but if your content is not worth reading, none of this will help. And keep in mind that blog posts just to drive traffic are not enough. Include calls to action (CTAs) at the end of every post to bring your prospects into the sales funnel.

What are other ways that you have made your B2B social media posts more captivating?

Integration, Content and Analytics Drive B2B Digital Marketing Success

In a recent study, CEB’s Marketing Leadership Council and Google found that 57% of the buying process is complete before a B2B buyer ever contacts a salesperson. And their results showed an even higher number, 70%, in some instances. The researchers used their interviews with more than 1500 decision makers and influencers in a recent major business purchase at 22 large B2B organizations (spanning all major NAICS categories and 10 industries) as the basis for their Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing whitepaper. The authors contend that mastering the following three topics are required for succeeding in the world of digital B2B marketing:

The project itself is a great example of content marketing. It is featured on the Google Think site, with a narrative written in an informal, friendly style. The research also has its own landing page, complete with an overview video. There are links to download the complete whitepaper or a presentation version (both as PDFs), with no registration required.

Each of the three subject areas (Digital Integration, Content Marketing and Analytics) has its own page including a short video, links to download just that chapter of the whitepaper or the whole whitepaper. There is also a link to take an assessment survey on each topic.

Rather than summarize each section, I have included the key findings below.

Digital Integration Key Findings:

■ Companies still struggle to integrate digital tactics deep into broader marketing campaigns, but there are a few key points of leverage (such as pushing to mandate an objective “Channel Consideration Review” early in the process) that can help weed out reflexive channel bias, opening the door for digital influence.
■ Armed with past performance data and evidence from external best practices, a growing number of marketers are pushing to develop standardized campaign architectures, which offer a strong platform for promoting the best applications and integration points for digital tactics.
■ Increased digital marketing efforts demand continuous and collective management, something few companies are designed to support. The value destroyed by this misfit approach—although hard to quantify—is potentially very large. Several companies are taking steps to restructure as a result.

Content Marketing Key Findings:

■ Many companies are attempting to overlay a coverage model on their existing campaign-oriented content production efforts; this helps to orchestrate a continuous flow of content aligned to the topics and issues customers care about but introduces a hidden danger.
■ Many companies display a troubling overemphasis on tools, shallow consumption metrics, and process—placing a greater emphasis on producing a steady flow of content than the quality of the content.
■ More progressive companies have consolidated strategic and creative guidance for content, to help business units get more impact from their content and to stitch together cross-BU points of view that have broader impact in the marketplace.
■ In selecting what content to create, marketers should place greater emphasis on the power of communication channels versus the competitive noise they have to contend with; many organizations seem to pursue content strategy with little regard for the clutter they are competing with.
■ B2B marketers have been slow to push into more visually engaging content (typically relying largely on text-based content) due to concerns about skill and cost but most directly due to perceiving it as a nice-to-have, not a need-to-have.

Analytics Key Findings:

■ The smartest companies dedicate a greater portion of their marketing budgets to improving their fundamental understanding of effectiveness, interactivity, and causality across marketing programs.
■ A central hub for marketing data is becoming more common but is still a long-term aspiration for many companies. Regardless of the data environment, marketers should be focused primarily on extracting insight and decision-support value from the data they do have (which is a lot of data). The single most important factor for success is getting the smartest people you can find to tackle your most important analytical challenges. Ninety percent of your analytics spend should be on people.
■ Pipeline analyses often overemphasize contact-level web analytics data, neglecting important off-site and social behaviors and collective account-level behavior.
■ Conversion attribution modeling efforts typically ignore key aspects of a supplier’s engagement with potential customers (especially nondigital touchpoints). Marketers should make a greater effort to place estimates of digital impact in proper proportion and context of broader marketing strategy and the market environment.
■ Experiments are difficult to design are often executed poorly, rendering results unreliable and wasting time and money. It is a worthwhile effort to create very strict process guidelines to validate experiment design in advance of execution, so results can be confidently applied to decision making.

If any of these findings reflect situations at your company, download this study for details about these findings, recommendations how to overcome them and examples from companies like EMC, CSC and Level 3.