Top 25 B2B Content Marketing Influencers and Experts To Follow #CMWorld 2021

2021 Content Marketing World 25 Content Marketing Influencers Collage Image

2021 Content Marketing World 25 Content Marketing Influencers Collage Image

The in-personal and virtual Content Marketing World 2021 is finally upon us. As the largest content marketing conference in the world, CMWorld brings together a leading array of talented professionals who are filled to the brim with curiosity for future trends, marketing insight, and aspirations for new levels of success in the post-pandemic world.

For the past 13 years leading marketers from all over the world have joined to gather in Cleveland, Ohio for one of the world’s most authoritative content marketing events, and this year’s Content Marketing World returns for in-person networking and learning, after taking place entirely in the virtual realm in 2020.

Readers of our blog know we have a long history with the conference starting at the beginning, with 11 years of speaking and attending along with eight years during which we partnered with the Content Marketing Institute to develop speaker and influencer content marketing campaigns.

A TopRank Marketing tradition that has been imitated in recent years but never truly duplicated is our annual list of content marketing experts ranked according to their social influence, a helpful compilation derived from the hundreds of excellent #CMWorld 2021 speakers.

List Methodology: For this list we utilize the Traackr influencer marketing platform to filter the content marketing subject matter experts who are speaking at the current year’s Content Marketing World conference — using a large number of criteria including the relevance of the individuals to the topic, the degree to which their networks engage, the size of their networks, and other factors. Online data is pulled in from blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn and other social platforms.

The focus topic in question is most undoubtedly “content marketing,” and everyone included on this list is:

  • A speaker at #CMWorld 2021
  • Ranked in the top-25 for “content marketing” according to our relevance, resonance, reach and audience metrics

CMWorld 2019 Influencer networkMany thanks go to all the people who are actively sharing knowledge about content marketing in 2021 by engaging and helping others with helpful opinions, insights and expertise on the social web. This list is only a beginning point to help expand your own content marketing universe.

In this year’s list there are a few familiar faces and a welcome number of new additions. We plan to learn new lessons from each of these 25 content marketing influencers, and hope you’ll do the same throughout the rest of the year and into 2022 and beyond.

25 Content Marketing Influencers Speaking at CMWorld 2021

Ann-HandleyAnn Handley @MarketingProfs
Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs
Presenting: The Art of Storytelling: Telling True Stories Well

Jay BaerJay Baer @jaybaer
Founder, Convince & Convert
Presenting: How to Lower the Three Drawbridges of Content Success

John JantschJohn Jantsch @ducttape
Founder, Duct Tape Marketing
Presenting: Rethinking the Customer Journey

MichaelBrennerMichael Brenner @BrennerMichael
Content Marketing Agency CEO & CMO Influencer, Marketing Insider Group
Presenting: 10 Steps To Optimize Your Content Marketing Program for ROI
Presenting: How to Define and Build Your Content Marketing Strategy

Andy-CrestodinaAndy Crestodina @crestodina
Co-Founder & CMO, Orbit Media Studios
Presenting: From Keyphrases to Content: The SEO Workshop for Hands-on Marketers

Bernie BorgesBernie Borges @bernieborges
Vice President Global Content Marketing, iQor
Presenting: How to Produce Epic Content by Conducting Epic Interviews

Carla JohnsonCarla Johnson @CarlaJohnson
Marketing & Innovation Strategist, Keynote Speaker & Best Selling Author
Presenting: Courageous Creativity: How Content Marketers Get to “YES!” with Bold Ideas

Andrew DavisAndrew Davis @DrewDavisHere
Keynote Speaker & Best-Selling Author, Monumental Shift
Presenting: Embrace The Constraints: Why Adding Constraints Sparks Creativity, Inspires Action & Creates Better Content

Ardath AlbeeArdath Albee @ardath421
B2B Marketing Strategist & CEO, Marketing Interactions
Presenting: Building B2B Buyer-Driven Digital Experiences

Amy BalliettAmy Balliett @AmyBalliett
Founder & CEO, Killer Visual Strategies
Presenting: Building B2B Buyer-Driven Digital Experiences

Melanie-DezielMelanie Deziel @mdeziel
Chief Content Officer, StoryFuel
Presenting: Prove It: Using Content as Evidence of Your Most Important Claims

Doug KesslerDoug Kessler @dougkessler
Creative Director & Co-Founder, Velocity Partners
Presenting: Ask A Dev: Why Your Content Team Needs Developers!

Pam DidnerPam Didner @PamDidner
Author, Founder & VP of Marketing, Effective Sales Enablement
Presenting: Create A Scalable Global Content Marketing Strategy in 7 Steps
Presenting: Let’s Get Glocal…Balance Global and Local for Content Marketing

Kathy Klotz-GuestKathy Klotz-Guest @kathyklotzguest
Founder, Keeping It Human
Presenting: Yes And…And the Culture of Now: Why the Future of Marketing is Improv

Erika HealdErika Heald @SFerika
Marketing Consultant, Erika Heald Consulting
Presenting: How to Conduct a Social Media Audit That Helps Your Community Thrive

Meryl EvansMeryl Evans @merylkevans
Digital Marketing Professional,, Equal Entry, ProResource and Diamond
Presenting: Accessibility Is Everyone’s Job — Marketing Included

Michele LinnMichele Linn @michelelinn
Co-founder and head of strategy, Mantis Research
Presenting: From Flat to Fascinating: 8 Essential Elements to Help Your Original Research Stand Out

A Lee JudgeA. Lee Judge @ALeeJudge
Co-Founder & CMO, Content Monsta
Presenting: The Content Remix: Turning Familiar Into Original
Presenting: The Future of Work: The Importance of Mentorship Programs

Shafqat-IslamShafqat Islam @shafqatislam
CEO, Welcome
Presenting: Embracing the Silver Linings: Applying What We’ve Learned to Build Better Connections (& Become Better Marketers)

Zontee HouZontee Hou @ZonteeHou
President & Chief Strategist, Media Volery
Presenting: Content Optimization & Distribution Workshop
Presenting: Data & Storytelling: Using Social Insights to Shape Your Content

Michael BarberMichael Barber @michaeljbarber
Brand Consultant and Marketing Strategist,
Presenting: Email Marketing for 2021 and Beyond
Presenting: Open Rate Is Dead: What Marketers Need to Know About iOS15

Jessica BestJessica Best @bestofjess
Vice President, Data-Driven Marketing, Barkley
Presenting: Email Marketing Workshop: What Works and What Doesn’t Work

Joe LazauskasJoe Lazauskas @JoeLazauskas
Head of Marketing, Contently
Presenting: What Buyers Want from Content Marketing — And Where Marketers Are Falling Short

Joe PulizziJoe Pulizzi @JoePulizzi
Founder, The Tilt
Presenting: 10 Content Strategies in 20 Minutes: What Corporate Content Creators Can Learn From Content Entrepreneurs

Tequia BurtTequia Burt @TequiaBurt
Global Blog Editor, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions
Presenting: How LinkedIn is Using its Blogs as a Vehicle for Building Diversity Against a Backdrop of Growth

Even the most detailed statistical analysis, no matter how deep and well-researched, can only take you so far in finding the people who you’ll consider the most helpful and influential in your own daily professional marketing lives, which is why we’d love it if you’d please share the name of other content marketers that influence you the most in the comments section below.

To further your own content marketing expertise, here’s a bonus list of some of our best recent posts about content marketing:

If you’d like to learn more about how being the best answer can help B2B marketers dominate in search, you’re in luck, as our CEO and co-founder Lee Odden will be presenting at Content Marketing World on the topic. Here are the details:

LeeOddenThursday, September 30 – 2:45pm – 3:15pm Eastern
Workshop with Lee Odden
How B2B Content Marketers Can Dominate in Search: Be the Best Answer

We hope to see you either in-person or virtually at the Content Marketing World 2021 conference, and be sure to follow us on Twitter at @toprank for real-time updates during the conference using the #CMWorld hashtag.

The post Top 25 B2B Content Marketing Influencers and Experts To Follow #CMWorld 2021 appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

How Influencers & Best Answer Content Help B2B Marketers Dominate in Search #CMWorld

Be the Best Answer with B2B Content

Be the Best Answer with B2B Content

Great content isn’t so great if it’s not easy to find. And findable content isn’t so effective if it’s not trusted.

Content is the reason search engines began and yet many B2B content marketers are not taking full advantage of opportunities to attract customers that are actively looking. Instead, the content marketing function at many B2B companies is more about creating content and not so much about promoting it.

Where Has the Marketing in Content Marketing Gone?

The problem with content marketing that focuses mostly on content creation is that the marketing is missing. Sure, B2B brands can throw advertising at their new content to attract visitors – but do B2B buyers love clicking on ads?

Fewer than 1 in 5 US adults trust social media ads. eMarketer

Compare the experience of clicking on an ad vs. seeing relevant information that answers the question behind the search effort? There’s an argument to be made that clicking on an organic search result and seeing content that credibly and effectively provides answers to the questions a buyer has, is a much better search experience than ads driving visitors to a landing page.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with running ads in on social networks or on search engines . If done well, it can be highly effective. But B2B marketers that limit the discovery of their content to advertising are missing the opportunity to create are more meaningful and trusted experience for buyers.

By optimizing the search experience for both findability and credibility, B2B content marketers can help their brands be the best answer for the questions that drive customers to use search engines. And not only search, but any source of information discovery.

A better search experience is not limited to simply ranking for popular keywords. Connecting interested buyers with the information they need, wherever they are in their journey, means an intentional effort to create findable, credible content that buyers can trust and benefit from.

So how can B2B marketers optimize for search and customer experience with their content?

Say hello to E.A.T. Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness

Here’s a deeper explanation of E.A.T., but basically it represents important characteristics of content that Google is looking for when deciding the most relevant and helpful content to show searchers. In other words, what content is the best answer for your customers?

Experts on E.A.T. and SEO like Lily Ray have produced substantial content on what to do and what not to do when it comes to E.A.T and search engine optimization.  Within the array of tactics marketers can take to demonstrate expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness, there is a distinct opportunity for B2B marketers to consider how key opinion leaders, industry experts and influencers can play a role in their content.

When it comes to content and B2B influencers, we’ve covered that story from A to Z over the past 9 years or so. B2B marketers know that partnering with influencers creates a number of advantages:

  • Industry experts can add credibility to brand content
  • Influencers can help lesser known B2B brands build their exposure and credibility in the marketplace more quickly
  • Trusted influencers can help B2B brands c0-create more authentic content that resonates with buyers
  • Influencer partners can help B2B brands create more content than they could on their own
  • Key opinion leaders can drive conversations about topics important to brands and their customers through content
  • Influencers can help create and promote brand content to new audiences that ignore traditional tactics like ads
  • B2B brands that develop relationships with the experts in the industry that customers listen to can realize important marketing objectives like increased advocacy for the brand and its solutions

Those are just some of the reasons B2B brands engage with influencers. But what about the SEO value of the expertise, authority and  trust that influencers can bring to content marketing?

That’s exactly what I’ll be presenting on this week at Content Marketing World 2021.

Content Marketing World 2021

Here’s my session info and a link to a detailed description on the Content Marketing World conference website.
Thursday, September 30th – 2:45pm – 3:15pm (Eastern) Room 26:
How B2B Content Marketers Can Dominate in Search: Be the Best Answer

Are you a B2B marketer that has worked with influencers?

B2B Influencer Marketing Survey

Join other B2B marketers sharing their experience and insights for the 2021 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report. This survey provides B2B marketers with all sizes and levels of experience working with influencers the opportunity to help elevate the practice of influencer marketing in B2B.  Take the Survey today and get early access to the Report plus some great incentives.

The post How Influencers & Best Answer Content Help B2B Marketers Dominate in Search #CMWorld appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Equilibrium: 10 Tips to Balance Creativity and Process in B2B Content Marketing

Two marketers aside illustration of brain showing creative and intellectual sides image.

Two marketers aside illustration of brain showing creative and intellectual sides image.Marketers have to continually earn and reward people’s attention. If we fail at that task, there are plenty of other content options out there. People — yes, even B2B buyers — want engaging, entertaining and valuable content.

That’s great news for those of us on the content side! It means we should be regularly exercising our creative muscles, breaking free of boring B2B, and coming up with new ways to delight our readers. How cool is it, for example, to make Ghostbusters referencesfor your job?

But as fun and creative as the work can be, there’s a cerebral and analytical side to marketing that we can’t neglect. If you came into marketing through creative writing, not the other way around, you may need to develop the left-brain part of the job:

  • Writing for a specific audience
  • Meeting audience demand for information
  • Prompting the audience to take action
  • Staying organized
  • Improving results over time

Here are 10 tips that I use to make sure I stay grounded and organized, even while working on wildly creative content. (Speaking of which, our client Dell Technologies just published this spy-movie-themed eBook which is just lovely). 

1 — Embrace Keyword Research

For too long, content creators treated SEO like an add-on — something you sprinkled in after the content was done. It wasn’t part of the creative process. It was just a thing you had to do to make sure the bots recommended your content.

But now we know better. Keyword research should be part of the content planning process. And not because it makes bots like your content better, either. A high-volume keyword means it’s a keyword that real actual people are searching for, because they have a need that must be met.

Every keyword is a statement of desire. For a creative content marketer, it’s the next best thing to a telepathic bond with our target audience. 

And speaking of which…

2 — Learn Your Audience

If you’re a creative writer, you probably have an audience you’re used to addressing. When I was writing for my online comedy game, it was nerds like me — people who lived and breathed Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, et al. 

At TopRank Marketing, however, I’ve written for CFOs, CEOs, cybersecurity experts, small business owners, millennials in the job market… in other words, a lot of people who aren’t a lot like my default audience. So I had to learn what each of these groups wanted, loved, hated, were afraid of, and needed. That means a lot of research to underpin your creative content.

3 — Involve Diverse Voices

How can you make absolutely sure your content will resonate with a broader audience? Bring more people into the creation process. That means bouncing ideas off of both the millennials and boomers in your office. It can mean talking to people in other departments, too — if you’re writing for CFOs, take a meeting with people in the finance department.

But beyond the internal collaboration, look for ways to highlight both respected industry experts and potential clients in your content. All of which requires you to…

[bctt tweet=”“How can you make absolutely sure your content will resonate with a broader audience? Bring more people into the creation process.” — Joshua Nite @nitewrites” username=”toprank”]

4 — Release the Ego

There’s nothing wrong with taking pride in your work, of course. But we writers tend to be protective of the things we write — we don’t like too many people meddling about with our precious words. 

When we’re writing for personal expression, that’s fine. But when it comes to marketing, we have to make sure the content is the best it can be for the target audience. And that means plenty of editorial oversight. It’s important to get feedback and quality checks on your work, and to keep your eye on the ultimate goal: Content that serves the brand, no matter whose name is on the byline.

5 — Read Other People’s Content

Stephen King famously said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write.” That’s true in marketing as much as in thousand-page novels about killer clowns from outer space. There are three absolutely vital reasons to read other marketing content, especially content targeting the same audience you’re aiming for:

  1. Find great ideas to steal… er, borrow
  2. Find gaps where you can insert your own brilliant ideas
  3. Identify cliches to avoid

For example, you might want to start a blog with “In these uncertain times…” however if you’ve been reading other content regularly, you’ll know that 99% of all blogs written in 2020 started with that phrase, and you’ll be compelled to be more original.

6 — Don’t Confuse the Garnish for the Meal

About a month into my time at TopRank Marketing, I finally got to really flex my creative muscles. We were writing a superhero-themed eBook for a client. I went all out — each section had a full page about a superhero, followed by a page comparing the superhero to the client’s subject matter. So there was a section on Batman, and his methods, and his utility belt, and then a section tying in the metaphor to the cloud software we were writing about.

That first draft was one of my first lessons in letting go of ego and collaborating, too. My colleagues gently informed me that people wanted to learn about the technology, not the superhero stuff. I was giving people too much parsley and too little steak.

The creative theming in your content should provide a hook for your audience and liven up the subject matter. But it shouldn’t get in the way of the information you’re trying to get across.

7 — Have a Clear Next Step

Marketing content should compel your reader to take specific action. No matter how creative and fun your piece is — and it should be plenty of both — at the end, there should be a logical, meaningful, and measurable next step.

You should plan out the content journey and the calls to action before you write a single paragraph of content. Keeping the focus on the customer and their journey will help make sure your content is doing the work it should be.

[bctt tweet=”“Marketing content should compel your reader to take specific action. No matter how creative and fun your piece is, at the end there should be a logical, meaningful, and measurable next step.” — Joshua Nite @nitewrites” username=”toprank”]

  8 — Get Invested in Results

When you have measurable calls to action, the logical next step is to — wait for it — measure them. As a creative writer, my impulse when I’m done with a piece is to release it into the world and never look at it again. As a marketer, we have to do the opposite.

Don’t just check in on your content’s performance from time to time. Get into those results — who is reading the content? Who is bouncing off of it straight from the search page? How long are people spending with it, and how many of them are clicking your CTA link? 

A larger organization might have people whose full-time job it is to look at those results. But you should be fixated on them, too; these metrics are an ongoing performance review from your target audience.

9 — Collaborate with Analytics Folks

As much as content marketers want to be invested in results, it can be hard to collect, analyze and visualize the data. That’s why we should be partnering up with people who eat, sleep and breathe data. Those analytical types who are writing queries and building pivot tables are indispensable allies for quality content marketing.

Talk to them, make friends with them, buy them cookies and take them out for the beverage of their choice. The more you learn about each others’ disciplines, the more effective your marketing will be. 

And speaking of learning…

10 — Continue Your Education

I came into the marketing field with one very particular skill: I can write stuff people want to read, and I can do it quickly. But I only stayed in marketing because I kept learning about all the other aspects of the business. 

We’re in the era of the T-shaped marketer now. If you’re a content specialist, you should also know a little about SEO, be conversant in analytics, and even take a lunch with the sales team from time to time. Everything you learn will inform your content and make you a better marketer — and will enable you to explore your creativity and still get meaningful, measurable results.

Looking for creative B2B content that inspires action? We’ve got you covered.

The post Equilibrium: 10 Tips to Balance Creativity and Process in B2B Content Marketing appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

5 Tips for Promoting B2B Content Co-Created with Influencers

5 Tips Promote B2B Influencer Content

5 Tips Promote B2B Influencer Content

Working with influencers creates an amazing opportunity to co-create and co-promote content for B2B brands. The brand can promote the influencer and vice versa. It’s a win-win.

Along with the win comes a responsibility to promote your B2B marketing content in a way that captures attention. It’s social media marketing after-all. To help you get the most out of  your investment in content collaborations with influencers, here are 5 tips to spice up your social media posts. Follow this advice and the valuable content your influencers have helped you create will better reach, engage and inspire your customers.

Tips for co-creating share-worthy influencer content

Tip 1 – Tag, tag, tag

It’s important to give credit where credit is due, so be sure to mention and tag all influencers included in the content piece within the copy of your social posts. It’s a great way to spotlight and highlight your co-creators and add third party credibility to brand content. If an influencer is not on a particular social platform, you can mention them and tag their company.

When you @ tag influencers on platforms like LinkedIn or Twitter, the post can create a notification to the influencers and prompt them to engage and share. When influencers interact with brand social content, it can trigger the social network ranking algorithm to show the brand post in your community’s feed more frequently helping you stand out and reach even more influencers and customers.

Extra tip – having a hard time tagging an influencer on LinkedIn? Follow them first, and post it natively on the platform.

Tip 2 – Be concise

Social media, especially Twitter, is short and to the point. Think about social posts like you would a headline. If you were asked to write 3-6 headlines and subheadings for your post, what would you include?

You don’t need to call out that this is a blog post from MY BRAND. If it’s coming from your handle, readers will assume it is your post, unless you call out another source.

When writing for LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram, just because you can use more than 280 characters, does not mean that you should. If your goal is to get someone to click on a link, think short, sweet and to the point.

Tip 3 – Start with an engaging opening line

Have you read a social post that started with “Our latest post…” or “We spoke to…”?

I have.

Did it drive you to read that post?

Probably not.

The first line of your social media posts need to stand out and pull the reader in, so give them a reason to pick and click your content out of the hundreds of thousands of posts in their feeds. It’s just like the opening line of an article. Here are some ideas on optimizing the title of influencer social content:

  • Start with a statistic
  • Call out a great quote from the thought leader
  • Tease out an interesting point

Here is an example of a social post on LinkedIn that leads with a statistic and showcases influencers

Dell Technologies

If you start with the most interesting points from the content co-created with influencers in your promotional content on social channels, it will stand-out more for both customers and the influencers.

Tip 4 – Create engaging visuals

Your images need to be as engaging as your copy. Use the great content you co-create with thought leaders to find a stat, line or quote that you can use in visuals that will entice the reader to stop and read your post. Jeff Bullas calls out that tweets with visuals are retweeted 1.5x more than text tweets in his post on visual statistics.

When you include a great thought leader, ask them if you can include their headshot in the visual. It’s nice to show that your content contains great thought leadership.

Here is an example of a gif image that promotes our State of B2B Influencer Marketing research report that features statistics and a key contributing expert, Rani Mani from Adobe.

B2B Influencer Marketing Report Preview

Tip 5 – Repurpose on Purpose

Many content collaborations with B2B influencers result in substantial content like an ebook, report or blog post as well as involve content opportunities like events. To maximize the promotion opportunity of including the most credible experts in your content, think about going beyond pulling out influencer quotes and sharing them on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

When you plan your brand content and where influencers will contribute their expertise, think ahead about how you might repurpose that content in different formats and on different channels. For example, you might pull all the influencer quotes from an ebook about a certain topic into an infographic that also includes key industry statistics.

Or you might have someone livetweet/blog a webinar given by an influencer, then create social graphics out of compelling comments the influencer made during the presentation. Those comments could be re-used in a wrap-up blog post and even added to articles about the topic contributed to industry publications.

Creating a Meaningful Experience

When working with influencers, you want them to understand you value their content and want to share it with your brand’s community. Taking that to the next level with great social content they will want to share with their followers is key. Giving them a good experience will lead thought leaders to want to work with you again, and help to drive positive outcomes.

Inside B2B Influence
If you would like to learn about B2B influencer marketing from the B2B brand marketers who are doing it every day, be sure to check out the Inside B2B Influence podcast.

The post 5 Tips for Promoting B2B Content Co-Created with Influencers appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

6 Timeless SEO Tips Content Marketers Can Do Now

Timeless SEO Tips

Timeless SEO Tips

Content is the research search began in the first place.

Learning about how to get customers to visit newly created websites is where my search engine optimization education began. In that journey from before there was a Google to today, many things have changed. What has stayed the same is the opportunity to grow business by connecting customers to content by being the best answer and inspiring those customers to take action.

The best SEO practitioners stay on top of what’s current, always experimenting and evaluating what works for topics in a particular industry for the websites and content they’re in charge of attracting customers to. At the same time, the best SEO advice isn’t worth much if it doesn’t get implemented. That’s why many marketers with long term SEO experience emphasize the fundamentals.

If content can be found in search, it can be optimized for better performance.

With over 200 million search results for the phrase “search engine optimization” on Google, there is no shortage of advice for marketers, copywriters, designers, web developers, programmers and creatives. SEO is definitely a team sport. In the spirit of simplicity with the goal of easy implementation, here are 6 timeless tips for content marketers to improve their search visibility:

Avoid overuse of pronouns like “it”, “they” and “them” in favor of more descriptive keyword phrases where Google is looking for them: in page titles, file names, text links between pages, image alt text and in body copy.

Facts tell, stories sell: Figure out why customers buy and create keyword optimized content that tells stories about how and why your products solve customer problems. Problem solution formatted content naturally invites the kind of information structure that can satisfy customer intent when they are looking for solutions. Google is dedicated to creating a great search user experience so anything content marketers can do to deliver topically specific information that satisfies what people are looking for is likely to be rewarded with better placement in search results.

Links are like electricity: “Light up” your website content to be so useful and engaging that it is worth linking to by others who compile and share resources. To make it easier for others to know about your link worthy content, promote it by sharing with industry influencers (better yet, invite them to help you create it), on social networks, through blogging, byline articles in industry publications, through guest posts on industry and association websites and by being digitally active in the industry you are working in.

Be the best answer: Create and promote comprehensive and remarkable information resources on topics of interest to prospects and relevant to your business. Strive to “be the best answer” for what customers are looking for by creating content that is in-depth, engaging, and inspires deeper clickthroughs into your site. Develop content based on topic clusters and aim to answer any questions buyers might have about those topics, keeping in mind to use an index page and to cross link between pages.

Close the gap with an SEO audit: Have your website audited by a SEO professional (yes, we do audits) to ensure keyword targeting in content, technical friendliness of your website to being crawled, and the health of links between pages as well as inbound links from other topically relevant websites. The audit will uncover gaps and provide prioritized opportunities where you can focus your efforts to improve search visibility and the marketing performance of your content.

Always be optimizing: Optimization of content including text on web pages, videos, audio, images or a combination for better search visibility is a continuous process. Search Engine Optimization is not a project or a single event. SEO is an ongoing effort to create and promote keyword optimized content that can be the best answer for what customers are looking for. It is also the process of monitoring performance through analytics and making refinements at regular intervals.

There are numerous long lists of SEO best practices that you can and should follow. There are also some fundamentals that can be made part of the content marketing operation and process which are very doable for most organizations. Leaving search engine visibility to chance isn’t something most companies can afford to gamble with as competition for customers continues to increase in digital channels. Search Engines are a trusted resource for customers at all stages of the buying journey and represent an opportunity for brands to be useful at the very moment buyers need help the most.

The post 6 Timeless SEO Tips Content Marketers Can Do Now appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Write from the Heart for More Memorable B2B Content Marketing

Hands holding illustrations of a human brain and heart image.

Hands holding illustrations of a human brain and heart image.B2B marketers have been pushing for personalized content for a good long while. Now we’re also trying to humanize content — to make the case that B2B buyers are human beings who want to connect with other humans on an emotional level.

Isn’t it remarkable that we still have to make that argument? 

But I’m not here to write another 1000 words about humanizing content. I want us to take it a step further, beyond personalization, humanization, personality and empathy.

B2B content marketing needs to come from the heart.

True, genuine heart is the last frontier in content. Every brand has an Instagram with behind-the-scenes content to boost authenticity. Every brand is striving to give at least the appearance of sincerity, personality and transparency.

A lot of it is about as deep as the checkout clerk telling you to “have a nice day.” To stand out now, B2B content needs to hit on a more fundamental level. 

Why Write from the Heart?

Even as we talk about “human to human” or “B2Me” marketing, we still tend to think that B2B content needs to be head-driven, mostly logic and reasoning, with a thin gloss of personality and emotion on top to “humanize.” 

The truth is, of course, that humans are inherently emotional creatures who seek connection with each other. We most often decide with our hearts first, then apply logic in retrospect. 

B2B content with heart seeks to make a connection first, then supply value, then finally ask for a next step. It has to be in that order.

So, what does it mean to write from the heart? 

1. Upgrade Personality to Passion

 I am not passionate about, say, a software-as-a-service platform that collects customer data for marketers. And I’m not sure I want to meet the person who is. 

But I am passionate about less intrusive marketing, about people getting connected with solutions that meet their needs, and about a future where marketing is helpful and productive, not annoying. So I can lead with the passion, the why that drove us to create this solution, and then I can talk about the product’s capabilities.

2. Upgrade Empathy to Compassion

Let’s face it: The marketing term ‘empathy’ sometimes has little to do with what the word actually means. While we may strive for truly feeling someone else’s hopes and fears, it tends to be in the service of persuasion, rather than connection.

Compassion is more than just walking a mile in someone’s shoes. It’s sincerely desiring to help them — to ease suffering, bring joy, and help them be successful. Do you care if the people you’re marketing to get promoted, get to spend more time with their kids, can finally afford to buy a starter home, and so on?

If you can show that you have true compassion for your audience, beyond the solution you’re offering, you’re far more likely to make a connection.

3. Upgrade Authenticity to Vulnerability

Here’s a hard one. Very few brands want to seem vulnerable or fallible. Even with behind-the-scenes content, they tend to present a highly sanitized version of the business. If you admit a fault, or share an obstacle you had to struggle to overcome, will you lose people’s trust and confidence in your brand?

Absolutely not. You’re writing to people who experience hardships and make mistakes. You’ll make a better connection if you show that your brand is made up of fallible human beings, too.

There’s nothing more authentic and transparent than a warts-and-all look at the problems your company faces and the ways in which you try, fail and ultimately succeed. 

4. Upgrade Thought Leadership to Humility

What’s the fastest way to make a connection with a stranger? Ask them to do you a favor. Ask for help. Most salespeople are familiar with this phenomenon, sometimes called the “Ben Franklin Effect.” The idea is that if someone does you a favor, they’re demonstrably more likely to do a second one, and to regard you more kindly than if you had done a favor for them. 

I think the same is true with content marketing. Thought leadership content tends to lack the notion of humility — it usually focuses on establishing knowledge and authority, of the author as an inerrant source of truth.

The problem is, no one really likes a know-it-all. A hefty dose of humility can make thought leadership content much more engaging, and much more likely to start a conversation. 

Imagine a blog post that goes, “I’ve seen success in my business with x, y, and z. But I’m still not sure how to best go about a, b, and c. What are your experiences? What do you do in this situation?” 

The thought leader in this case is adding value by sharing their own experience and success, but also allowing others to share their expertise as well. The result can be a conversation that benefits everyone involved – author, audience, and brand.

Your Heart Will Go On

As Maya Angelou famously said, people may forget what you say, but they will never forget the way you made them feel. And the best way to engage someone’s emotions is to share your own. We can’t settle for the shallow marketing equivalents of passion, compassion, vulnerability, and humility. 

We need to embrace the difficult but rewarding task of bringing our whole hearts to what we’re creating.

How do you create content with heart? Let me know in the comments.

And take our B2B Influencer Marketing Survey to share your opinions.

The post Write from the Heart for More Memorable B2B Content Marketing appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Inside B2B Influence 14: Ann Handley of MarketingProfs on Content Marketing and Influence

Ann Handley

Ann Handley

Inside B2B Influence is a show that goes behind the scenes of B2B marketing and showcases conversations with insiders from the world of influencer marketing. We connect with influential practitioners at B2B brands of all kinds and sizes to answer the rising number of questions about working with influencers in a business context.

In this first episode of the second season of Inside B2B Influence, I was able to catch up with the incredibly popular, talented and beloved Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs, Ann Handley. I’ve known Ann for well over 10 years and she’s been a great friend, client and source of inspiration to me about more meaningful content marketing.

Ann talks with me about a variety of topics ranging from the nature of influence in B2B, demand for B2B influencers during the pandemic and our mutually favorite “dogfluencer”, August – the most dashing Cavalier King Charles Spaniel you may ever meet.

Highlights of this episode of Inside B2B Influence with Ann Handley include:

  • Does everybody have influence? Yes and no
  • How the change to digital first B2B marketing has affected demand for influencers
  • The importance of a relationship driven approach
  • Trends in B2B influencer content collaboration
  • Growing emphasis on executive thought leadership and influence
  • Worst practices influencer engagement
  • How to integrate influencers with your newsletter
  • What B2B marketers should do to improve their influencer marketing
  • Some of Ann’s favorite B2B industry influencers

Listen to episode 14 (Confluence: The B2B Content and Influence Connection) of the Inside B2B Influence podcast here:

You wrote the best selling book, Everybody Writes. Do you think everybody has influence?

Ann: That’s such an interesting question because at first pass it’s like, well of course. But then on the other hand it’s kind of an existential question, isn’t it? I really had to think about that for a second. I mean, yes, I do think that everybody has influence, but not everybody has credibility, right? Yes, we all have influence, but not in all topics. Like for example, I really like sushi, but that doesn’t mean that I’m a fish influencer. Is that a thing fishfluencer? I think we all have our spheres of expertise and we are influential within those spheres of expertise. But I don’t think that people are influencers across all things.

Everybody has influence, but not everybody has credibility. @annhandley

I also think that, especially in B2B, that the notion of influencers is even more narrowly defined than it is in, in B2C. Because the expertise that I have in marketing is, you know, it’s content, it’s writing. It’s very specific. I don’t think you would come to me if you were looking for somebody to talk about analytics. Like you would go to Chris Penn for that. He’s an influencer in marketing analytics. So I think, especially in B2B, that that it is absolutely true that the credibility I have as an influencer is very specific and narrow. And I think that’s true of any, any B2B influencer.

The pandemic accelerated digital transformation in B2B impacting all aspects of doing business including marketing. What impact has an emphasis on digital first in B2B marketing had on the demand for influencers like yourself?

Ann: I have definitely seen more of those opportunities come my way because I think, just to your point, all of the traditional B2B tactics of field marketing and in person trade shows and other moments to experience the brands face to face, all of that went away in the past 15 months or so since the pandemic. So what takes its place? That’s been what’s fueling a lot of that digital transformation happening at B2B companies.

Influencer marketing is very much part of that because, how do you build that sort of trust with your audience if you don’t have the ability to meet them in person, to sit down, to have a conversation with them? So I think influencers have become a proxy and a conduit for that.

We’re going to see more companies start to embrace the opportunity to form relationships with influencers versus straight up transactional. @annhandley

What’s interesting and what I see straight up from an influencer standpoint, is that more of those companies seek to have those relationships with me. They’re seeking to build those relationships with me in much less of a transactional way. You and I have talked about this Lee, I remember saying to you that this is like the future of B2B influencer marketing. We’re going to see more companies start to embrace the opportunity to form relationships with influencers versus, you know, straight up transactional – make it less of an advertising / transactional play. Like here, I’ll pay you X amount of dollars if you share my thing, you know? That’s more of a B2C model.

I think in B2B what we’re seeing, and this has been fueled by the pandemic, is that we are seeing those relationships start to happen between brands and influencers like me where they’re reaching out to me proactively and saying, “Hey, we don’t have a thing right now, but we want to work with you. Can we sort of get to know each other?”

And so I think we’re seeing an increasing impetus toward an approach that I feel, has more sustainability long-term and it’s the way that I like to work personally. So yeah, I think we’re seeing a whole lot more of that.

What are some of the content collaboration opportunities between B2B brands and influencers that you’re seeing more of in 2021?

Ann: There are yeah. I want to caveat this by saying that I’m speaking from my personal experience versus, you know, I haven’t necessarily polled B2B marketers. So you probably have a better perspective on this too and whether what I’m talking about is actually reflected in the broader B2B community.

What I see is more brands looking to have a longterm relationship. Not just, come speak at our webinar, but, can we actually think about this over like a fiscal year? What can we do together in Q1 and Q2 and Q3, so that it becomes much more of a, not quite ambassador, but at least more of a brand alignment, right? So that I’m saying, “I believe in what you do” and and you’re saying that you trust me as well.

More long-term engagements and less transactional is honestly the foundation of a successful B2B influencer marketing program. @annhandley

I think longer-term engagement with a trust foundation to it is definitely something that I’m seeing. I’m also seeing these situations where even if it is about providing a quote for this, or for example, I’ll put something in my newsletter that’s sort of sponsored but for me, it’s not anything that you can buy. It’s something where I read the paper and I believe in it. I have a relationship with the company and so therefore I will share it with my audience. So yes, it’s sponsored, but it’s like, it’s sponsored with my whole self. I guess I’m a little bit goofy, but you know what I mean, with integrity, I should say.

That is a situation where it’ll be over several months, so it’s not just like a one and done. But can you help us promote this and here’s what’s in it for you and here’s what we want to give to you and your audience, that kind of thing. I guess to sum up, much more long-term engagements and less transactional, which I think is honestly the foundation of a successful B2B influencer marketing program anyway. But you probably have more perspective on that than I do.

It’s been really interesting what’s happened not just in terms of content creation and the thought leadership through partnerships between executives and external influencers, but also the relationships that are being facilitated.

Ann: Yeah, that’s really interesting. I think it makes total sense, right? Because in the past 15 months of the pandemic, I think that the brands who have really demonstrated that we’re all in this together, have actually had to show up in a real human genuine way and to be there for their audiences. I think that’s in part what’s driving the kind of collaboration that you’re talking about.

Brands realize that to trust somebody, you’ve got to know them. And how can you trust a B2B brand unless you sort of see the faces of the people behind the brand? @annhandley

Because I do think brands realize that to trust somebody, you’ve got to know them. And how can you trust a B2B brand unless you sort of see the faces of the people behind the brand? I think that cascades throughout B2B marketing as well as influencer marketing. I think that’s clearly one area where we are seeing where that comes to life,

Along with best practices there are also bad practices. I’m curious if there are any bad behaviors in terms of how people reach out or engage with you?

Ann: I think there’s been a few situations where I just, I tend not to engage basically. That’s a situation where a big agency will reach out and it’s clear that I’m one of many. Like I’m like part of a stable of influencers that they’re looking to. And they ask me to respond and fill out this Google form about the size of my audience. I’m not going to do any of that. That’s not what I want and that’s not who I am. It’s not what my brand is all about. That’s just not what I’m going to do.

It doesn’t matter to me how much money is on the table, because damage to my brand, reputation and my credibility far outweighs anything else. @annhandley

So it doesn’t matter to me how much money is on the table, because damage to my brand, reputation and my credibility far outweighs anything else. That’s a situation where I just wouldn’t engage. I can’t even say that it’s a bad practice but it’s de-motivating. When those come in we just sort of delete it immediately.

Or they come at it from a tactic standpoint. I get this a lot. For example, my email newsletter. I’ve talked a lot about it the past couple of years, it’s grown pretty significantly and it has really healthy, open rates. The list is just over 50,000 now. So it’s a good, robust list. I get a lot of people who say, will you share this in your newsletter? And I don’t know them. I don’t have a relationship with you. So if the onus is on me to do the legwork and figure out who you are, what your solution is all about or what your piece of content is all about, then I’m not going to do it.

Also, that’s not the role of the newsletter. If you know me, and if you’re on the list, then you know that, right? So, if you want to get something in my newsletter, then that’s not the first step. The first step is engaging me on social, get to know me. All the things that, you know, you do to start a relationship. All the best practices around that. Not. “Will you share this in your newsletter?” That’s all the stuff that just ends up being deleted immediately.

What are some ways you can imagine someone incorporating influencer content in a newsletter?

Ann: If you’re a marketer and you’re publishing your own newsletter and you want to work with influencers, trying to figure out a way to highlight them in that environment could be something simple, like highlighting some of their content or highlighting them as an individual. Or it could be something more like inviting them to be like a guest editor depending on the relationship.

I think there’s lots of opportunity there to influence the influencer as part of your brand and not just thinking that your relationship with the influencer is only in the social space. Because I think an email newsletter is just such a rich opportunity to communicate directly with your audience. The degree to which you can invite influencers into that relationship is going to solidify your relationship with the influencer as well.

Who are some of your favorite influencers, you know, that would, you know, that operate in the B2B world in some way, whether it’s marketing or tech or somewhere else?

Ann: Avinash Kaushik at Google. I don’t even know if he would consider himself an influencer, but he is. I think mostly because his brain functions so differently. I’m on his newsletter list. I love to read his perspective and his point of view, and follow him on social for the same reasons.

Chris Penn is somebody else who you know, again, has a very different approach. But if you took Chris Penn’s brain and took my brain and sort of put them together, you’d get like this whole body marketer, you know? I think I come at it very much from the art and high touch perspective and he comes at it very much from a science and analytics standpoint. I appreciate his message so much because he helps me elevate in what I do just by paying attention to what he’s doing.

I love what April Dunford talks about around positioning. I think she offers some really valuable advice and I always love seeing what she has to say and hearing her point of view on things.

You certainly. I think you, and I know it’s like your show so I probably shouldn’t, but like the work you’ve done around influencer marketing, I think you absolutely are helping to push the industry forward in terms of like how to do it right. And, and how to create programs that actually do sustain themselves long-term and deliver value for your organization.

Thanks Ann! You are a great source of inspiration to B2B marketers all over the world and a wonderful human being!

You can also watch the full video interview with Ann Handley here:

For more B2B marketing insights, you can subscribe to Ann’s amazing Total ANNARCHY newsletter here and connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn. Also, don’t miss out on the MarketingPros B2B Forum coming up October 13-14 this year.

Be sure to stay tuned to TopRank Marketing’s B2B Marketing Blog for our next episode of Inside B2B Influence where we’ll be answering the B2B marketing industry’s most pressing questions about the role of influence in business marketing.

You can also download The State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report featuring insights from a survey of hundreds of B2B marketers plus case studies and contributions from marketing executives at brands including Adobe, LinkedIn, IBM, Dell, SAP and many more.

The post Inside B2B Influence 14: Ann Handley of MarketingProfs on Content Marketing and Influence appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Optimize for B2B Customers with Digital First Content Marketing

Digital First B2B Content

Digital First B2B Content

The evolution of B2B marketing has required companies to extend the transformations and pivots made during the pandemic to more permanent changes in marketing driven by evolving consumer preferences for information discovery, consumption and interaction. B2B marketing is evolved as a digital first practice and there’s no going back.

While most marketers understand it is simply not enough to rely on push marketing tactics and advertising, they still rely on these familiar and comfortable tactics.

Today’s business customers have more content choices in text, images, audio, video and interactive formats on more devices than ever. They expect more than just useful information from the brands they buy from.

In reaction to many of these changes in technology and an increased demand for information, many businesses have resolved to creating more content; more information to feed the insatiable appetite of the search and social web.

B2B marketers are responding to this need. Yearly research from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs on Content Marketing consistently shows marketers are dedicated to using content in their marketing.

Unfortunately, simply creating more digital first content isn’t the answer. Competition is fierce for customer time and attention, raising the bar on content from simply providing information to delivering meaningful experiences. To stand out, engage and inspire action, todays businesses must engage in smarter, customer focused content marketing.

The shift from traditional digital marketing to a focus on integrated content experiences is requiring companies to rethink their approach. Making that transition requires an understanding some essential shifts:

Information Overload
According to a study from IBM, we’re creating 2.5 quintillion bytes daily— so much that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone.

Competition for attention has increased exponentially as brands evolve their publishing efforts and consumers are increasingly empowered to publish themselves. Blogs, social media sharing sites and networks are powered by brand and user generated content, all competing for time and attention.

Since most consumers are confronted by thousands of marketing messages every day, it’s essential that companies understand their customers and those who influence them. Using the right tools for everything from influencer discovery to topic optimization, brands can embark on a continuous effort to improve the performance of their content investment.

Data analysis and optimization tools will surface knowledge of specific customer segments and their pain points, goals and those who influence them. Armed with such insight, marketers will be better prepared to craft meaningful content marketing experiences to exceed customer expectations and pass the competition. Businesses must think beyond the mechanical and transition to a more meaningful approach to PR, search, social media and content marketing.

Disruption or Evolution?
Traditional publishing models have been significantly affected by these changes in technology and consumer information preferences. Print based publications are on the decline, newsroom resources and staff are shrinking and the roles of brand publishers and traditional media publishers are exchanging.

Driven by the Customer Journey
The diversity of information options and access through myriad devices empowers consumers with more decision making power before they ever act on an intent to purchase. The customer journey from awareness to consideration to purchase weaves it’s way through channels like search, news and social media in a dynamic path that is rarely linear and increasingly numb to push messaging.

Those companies that can attract and engage consumers earlier in the journey can establish a stronger brand connection and influence sales, despite a greater diversity of content and rising competition.

Architecting a content marketing plan across the customer buying cycle will enable marketers to plan content topics meaningful to each stage: awareness, interest, consideration, purchase, retention and advocacy. Content discovery, consumption and action at each stage can then be planned to optimize the customer experience.

Great content isn’t great until it’s discovered, consumed and acted on.

Re-thinking a content marketing strategy and it’s integration with search, social media and PR requires a solid definition of content marketing:

Content marketing is the planned creation, promotion and optimization of brand stories designed to create useful and meaningful experiences that attract, engage and inspire a target group of customers from awareness to purchase to advocacy.

With that definition, marketers can build a content marketing strategy that draws from both consumer insights and brand goals to create great content that is optimized for discovery, engagement and conversion towards business goals

Next steps and key questions:

  • What business goals could be solved by more useful and meaningful content?
  • Who are the target audiences your business needs to connect with? What do they care about? What are their goals?
  • Develop an editorial calendar that takes into account how each target customer segment discovers, consumes and acts on information needed during their buying cycle
  • Build search, social media and media optimization best practices into your content planning and promotion efforts.
  • Continuously analyze key performance indicators and business outcomes to optimize the performance of your content marketing investment

The post Optimize for B2B Customers with Digital First Content Marketing appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

6 B2B Content Marketing Summertime Sizzlers To Increase Audience Engagement

Dog surfing in the summer of B2B marketing image.

Dog surfing in the summer of B2B marketing image.I’m going to knock on wood as I type this, but: It looks like we might have a (mostly) normal summer this year in the U.S. After the lockdowns, isolation, anxiety and fear of 2020, it finally feels like things are opening up.

This is all great for everything except getting people to read your marketing content. In 2020 we had a captive audience starved for entertainment. Now we’ll be competing with everything from music festivals to movies to walking in the park.

The way to break through and have a “hot brand summer?” First, don’t use phrases like “hot brand summer,” because you’ll just make people hate you. Second, it’s all about customer engagement. That means connecting with people on a personal level, offering something novel and fascinating, and using that contact to build a meaningful relationship.

No sweat, right? According to a recent survey, though, 54% of brands have trouble connecting with customers on an emotional level. And only 22% say they excel when it comes to customer experience! 

How can B2B marketers make their content more engaging? Here are a few tips.

1 — Go Live

Uncensored. Interactive. Up close and personal. There’s nothing quite like a live stream to break free from safe and boring content. There’s a reason every social media site, from Instagram to LinkedIn, is doing live streams.

Granted, going live is not without its risks. If you’re concerned about potential slip-ups or off-message chatter, you can always practice ahead of time. Live doesn’t have to mean “completely improvised and unscripted.” 

A few more tips for going live:

  • Consider hiring a host to help keep the conversation flowing
  • Have someone behind the scenes to watch the comment thread and engage the audience
  • Use a tool like restream for multi-platform streaming
  • Prime the pump for audience questions by having employees in the audience with pre-written questions. 
  • Make sure to record the stream for repurposing later  

 2 — Take People Behind the Scenes

“Authenticity” is one of those marketing buzzwords that makes an easy thing seem difficult. People like brands that are “authentic?” No, people like to know there are actual people of good will at work behind the brand’s messaging. That’s all authenticity means: Real people saying true things.

Let your employees be brand ambassadors on social media. Go behind the scenes to meet the folks who make your brand’s magic happen. Highlight employee stories, even if they aren’t directly related to the brand. For example, if an employee is an Eagle Scout who now runs their own scouting troop, that’s a heartwarming and engaging story that subtly shows off your brand values.

In short, when you’re going behind the scenes, look to celebrate your people and even your customers.

3Try Interactive Content

None of us would use a cellphone from the late 90s today. So why are we still so enamored of a content format that hasn’t changed in the past 30 years? That old standby, the static PDF, has lost a lot of its power to persuade. 

Our agency has been seeing better results with interactive, animated assets. For example, this one from client Mitel brings our stats and influencer contributions to life. Tools like Ceros make developing an interactive asset almost as easy as a static one.

You don’t have to create an entire immersive VR experience to snag people’s attention, either — just a few touches of animation, interactivity and sound can go a long way.

4 Explore Social-First Content

We all know how the blog to social media pipeline works: You publish a blog, link to it on your social media, and hope people click that link. If they don’t click through, it’s a lose-lose situation. Neither your brand nor your audience is getting any utility out of the content.

One way to change the equation is through social-first content: That is, content designed to be consumed right there in the social media feed. For B2B marketers, LinkedIn is the right destination for social-first content. 

For example, consider slicing a blog post into 150-200 word segments and posting it on LinkedIn, with a hashtag to make it easy to find all the installments. Ask a question at the end of each segment that’s designed to elicit discussion, then participate in that conversation as long as it goes.

Ultimately, social-first content can help grow your brand’s social media presence and deepen relationships with your audience. And you can still collect the content and publish it as a blog later, too!

5 Collaborate with Influencers

As you may have noticed, TopRank Marketing is pretty sold on influencer marketing. There’s one simple reason: When you do it right, it gets results. Every time. Everything from a social media post to a blog post to a 5,000 word interactive asset is better with influencer contributions. 

We co-create content with influencers for many reasons, including:

  • Increased organic amplification of the content
  • More diverse and informative content
  • Reaching new audiences
  • Developing relationships with influential experts

Over time, you can build up a community of influencers to co-create content that benefits them, your brand, and your audience.

6 Measure Engagement Metrics

One key element for increasing engagement is to … well … measure it. If you’re still looking at overall blog traffic or bounce rates to define your content success, you need to recalibrate your metrics to include engagement signifiers like:

  • Comments on social media posts
  • Reshares on social posts
  • New social media followers
  • Scroll depth on interactive assets
  • Time on page for long-form blog posts

Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

Ready to have a hot brand summer (sorry)? It’s as simple and as complex as doing things that you haven’t done before. It’s pushing your brand away from the staid and static old-school B2B mindset and putting out content that people want to interact with, comment on, and share. 

Need more proof? Here’s how interactive content for our client Prophix led to a 642% increase in engagement.

The post 6 B2B Content Marketing Summertime Sizzlers To Increase Audience Engagement appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

What B2B Marketers Can Learn from Stand-Up Comedy

Stand-up comedians need to make a connection with their audience. It starts with getting attention, then stoking interest, developing a rapport, and ultimately provoking a reaction. 

To do it right, you need empathy, knowledge of your audience, creativity…oh, and a spark that makes you unique.

B2B marketers: Does any of the above sound familiar? I’ve been a professional marketer and an amateur comedian for over a decade, and it’s surprising how much the two inform each other. 

Here are just a few lessons that B2B marketers can learn from standup.

Keep It Real

In the early 19th century, standup comedy depended on wordplay and absurdism. For example: “Take my wife…please!” or “The other night I shot an elephant in my pajamas… how he got into my pajamas, I’ll never know.” 

As the art form of standup has evolved, however, personal observations with a unique point of view (more on that later) have become more popular. Here’s a classic bit from Ellen Degeneres as she dissects the minutiae of her life:

For marketers, keeping it real means being honest and sincere with your audience. It could even mean not being afraid to show flaws or own up to mistakes. Look for ways to bring the audience behind the scenes to meet the people behind the brand. 

I like the way Stacey Marx from AT&T Business brings her personal life into her content, as in this post, “Gold Medal Advice: SMB Lessons from a World-Class Coach.” The personal touch elevates the content and makes it unique. 

Adjust to Your Audience

Telling a marketer to know their audience is like telling a comedian to… well… know their audience. It’s not a radical new technique; it’s part of the toolkit. At the same time, it’s easy to think of your own culture, background and thought processes as universal. That’s one of the reasons comedy can be so hard to translate. 

One famous example is when Jimmy Carter told a joke to break the ice at a college in Japan. He was gratified when, after a brief translation from his interpreter, the crowd erupted in laughter! It wasn’t until later that the interpreter confessed that what he said was, “The president has told a funny story. Please laugh.”

For marketers and comedians alike, the only way to truly get in your audience’s head is to do the research. Putting out the same message for audiences with different cultural backgrounds is a path fraught with peril. 

This Jerry Seinfeld bit — a superbly clever American Express commercial — illustrates the point precisely: 

Alternate Storytelling with Quick Jabs

John Mulaney and Mitch Hedberg are two of my favorite comedians, and for wildly different reasons. John is the master at telling longer stories, taking a few minutes to set the scene, not rushing to a punchline. Here’s an example (with some strong language, be warned):

On the other side of the spectrum, Mitch Hedberg is the undisputed master of the one-liner. “I don’t have a girlfriend. But I do know a woman who’d be mad at me for saying that.” Or, slightly longer, “One time, this guy handed me a picture, he said ‘Here’s a picture of me when I was younger.’ Every picture is of you when you were younger! ‘Here’s a picture of me when I’m older.’ Woah, lemme see that camera.”

Just as there’s room in comedy for the Mulaneys and Hedbergs, there’s room in marketing for both long-form narratives and short, punchy taglines. Invest the same energy into each one, and you’ll resonate with a wider audience.

Develop a Unique Voice

In the ’80s, there was a brief stand-up fad of weird, extreme voices. For example…

Thankfully, it was a short-lived trend, but it does illustrate how memorable a unique voice can be. Anyone who has heard Bobcat Goldthwait, Gilbert Gottfried, Judy Tenuta or Sam Kinison will never mistake them for someone else. On the flip side, the junkyard of comedy is strewn with the careers of bland comedians who were indistinguishable from each other.

In marketing, it’s easy to slide into a kind of homogeneous, safe, “professional-sounding” corporate speak. Don’t make waves, use — I mean, utilize — the right jargon, and you can avoid offending anyone. The problem is, you’re also unlikely to avoid affecting anyone, too. Make your brand voice personable, lively and unique, and you will have something no competitor can copy.

Serious Business Can Be Funny

All of the above can help you as a marketer address, connect with, and affect your audience. But there’s one other thing that comedians do that marketers should do more often: Be funny. There’s plenty of room in B2B marketing for actual comedy, and those who do it well tend to be rewarded. And hey, if Intel can do it, so can you.

Want more B2B marketing tips? Check out our report on the State of B2B Influencer Marketing.

The post What B2B Marketers Can Learn from Stand-Up Comedy appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.