I just finished gulping down the International Data Group (IDG) B2B Technology Content Marketing 2016: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America.
There’s so much great information and guidance in this report, but I noticed that my preferred content marketing technique — the corporate blog — took a blow in perceived effectiveness among respondents. Then I noticed that blogs are added into a mix of very different categories of content — discrete pieces like white papers and ebooks and infographics, as well as specific one-time events like webinars and conferences.
I contend that a blog is a unique kind of content strategy, focused on entirely different goals and value to the brand than any of the other choices in the question. Apples and oranges, as it were. Every kind of content has its (important) role, but a blog, to me, is in a separate category from “one-off” content. It’s part of a much bigger picture.
Unlike a white paper or ebook or a webinar — a corporate blog is an ecosystem representing what your company wants to convey to the world about your business value. Blogging can be done with a lackadaisical formulaic approach; it can also be carefully developed with your buyer persona and sales funnel in mind. With the latter mindset, the blog can become an essential part of your brand identity.
In short, a blog can be done poorly or well. It can be managed effectively or indifferently — it’s a business choice.
The stakes are much higher than for a white paper or e-newsletter.
Here are some blog tactics I’ve found effective in setting your blog apart as a strategic feature and a competitive differentiation:
A Blog Is Not for Selling
To me, a corporate blog must serve your audiences by presenting information, reportage, and entertainment that helps them with their own business goals. If you have a product, don’t sell it on the blog. Yes promote product changes, updates, tutorials, and releases — but don’t sell. The blog is not the place for that — ever. It serves, instead, as a way to build confidence and trust in your organization and your mission. Hawk your wares and you’ll lose your readership in the blink of an eye.
Mix It Up
Include multiple knowledge levels and multiple points of view in your blog content. Don’t be parochial, and don’t be afraid to offer up differing points of view. Think of a favorite magazine; lots of different kinds of features to look forward to in each issue. I advocate the inclusion of regular “columns” that cover aspects of business that might not be the norm. For example, a column on business etiquette, or even thought leaders’ favorite recipes. Why not? If it doesn’t resonate, you can just try something else. Nobody will be harmed from experimentation.
Many Voices Are a Choir
If you read something you like on another blog, reach out! Invite and embrace many ages, many voices, many styles. Thought leaders are great, but what about this young datahead who’s making exciting observations? What about your own team? Employees are a rich vein of stories and expertise. My only caveat here: no posers. Posers (and self-promoters) are the bane of the blogging world.
Bring Value to Contributors
Find ways to help your contributors outside the blog. Put their downloadables into your resources. Include them in your social sharing. Make them part of your family. This is not altruism, it’s good business. They will fold you into their world. In so doing, your brand amplifies its reach. Side benefit: your network is enriched beyond belief. It’s like magic. These relationships are a brand’s most valuable asset — in the same way your personal (professional) network is a tremendous support and benefit.
Get Known For Something
When you have a certain emphasis on a feature or tactic, it gets noticed. For instance, I take a lot of joy in finding the right images to illustrate posts — visuals that are funny, thought-provoking, a little off center, or startling. (Of course, I have to be careful not to go too far, but it’s fun to hunt down the visual to match your words.) Once you’re known for something, people come just to see what you’re up to. Maybe you’re prone to be edgy like Dan Waldschmidt or Gary Vaynerchuk, or maybe you have a satisfyingly straight-shooter style like Jill Konrath. Concentrating on what matters to you is a good thing because people respond to what’s genuine.
Develop the Blog Outward
A blog can be the launchpad for much more strategic efforts. Consider companion content. With your best contributors, you can choose to “co-create” content that you then “advertise” on the sidebar of your blog, and/or at the bottom of posts. Everybody wins — contributors get new content to share with their peeps, and you have name-brand content to add to your resources. Now, for the cost of a bit of writing and some graphic design love, when someone visits your blog, they are also being drawn deeper into your site and zeitgeist.
Unlike an eBook, A Blog Is Dynamic
There’s not much you can do after you release a piece of content or even a webinar except promote it. It’s nice when the content is evergreen; that’s useful. But with a blog, it’s not just promotion that boosts the effectiveness of your blog — it’s EVERYTHING you do. A blog is tangled up with the way your company’s culture works. Is there a real alignment with the Sales team? Have you studied the gaps in content that might up the game for the blog? Are you doing enough with social (not just one person tweeting, but the entire team)? All the things. All the time. All the little chores you must do — repetitive or boring — each of them affects the blog path. A corporate blog is not “set it and forget it.
Track, Measure, Rinse, Repeat, Adjust
It’s not scalable, technically, to do all the things to make your blog what it should be. But it works. I’ve seen it time after time. Whatever you choose to do, track the effectiveness of your tactics — even if you have to take a hand count of the metrics that matter to you. What posts are most effective? What posts got the most comments? Is your traffic going up? Blog subscriptions rising? Are your social channel metrics going up in tandem with the other metrics? How is social sharing going for your posts? KPIs are crucial, and sometimes difficult to nail down, but without them, you do not have a glass-bottomed boat. You should fight for that glass-bottomed boat! Knowing what’s effective (and what’s not) is the way you judge tactics and how to adjust course.
Your blog is a living, breathing entity — a constantly morphing content philosophy that helps position your organization where it needs to be in the current moment, in the rapidly-changing world of your buyer. It needs attention, agility, and dedicated care.
Like that line in the movie Dirty Dancing, “Nobody puts Baby in the corner,” your blog should always be ready to take center stage. That’s an effective content strategy.