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®.

How B2B Marketers Can Build a Community of Influence with Content

B2B Community of Influence with Content

B2B Community of Influence with Content
One of the most compelling scenarios for B2B marketers to build content and community is through a combination user generated content (UGC) and strategic content collaborations. To do this, many B2B brands will initiate ongoing social media content and engagement programs to stimulate dialog with customers, community and influencers to build essential relationships.

With B2B marketing shifting to digital first, there is more demand for content than ever, but there are also resource challenges with the need to continuously create new content. At the same time traditional social media and content marketing can have trust issues if the brand isn’t engaging with the community or the right influencers on a regular basis. A content marketing focused solution that solves for both of those challenges that also helps build community and influence for B2B brands can be found through participation marketing – aka, user generated content in the form of content collaborations with external influencers, brand community and customers.

As brands participate in social communities, asking and answering questions, engaging customers and sharing content, numerous opportunities exist to involve the community with content creation.

Crowdsourcing content with the different audiences of a brand helps create new, meaningful content as well as providing an opportunity to use the act of content collaboration as a way to build relationships, community and influence. When you make a relevant ask to contribute content and then use the resulting content to create mutual credibility and exposure for the contributors, the experience can drive deeper engagement and organic advocacy amongst the influential voices your customers trust.

Like all B2B marketing tactics, there are pros and cons for a crowdsourced approach to content. Some of the pros include:

  • User generated content is trusted
  • Contributors have an interest in helping promote the content
  • UGC provides more content for search engines
  • UGC provides more information sources for prospects & customers
  • UGC publishing allows for critical feedback about products and services
  • UGC publishing provides tools for brand evangelists
  • UGC facilitates brand conversations within the marketplace

Of course there are a few cons too:

  • Resources are needed for oversight and moderation
  • Who owns the content?
  • Where is the content published?
  • What is the value exchange for contributors? If paid, it could hurt content credibility

The good news is that most of the cons can be mitigated with good communications, oversight and process.

From a practical application standpoint, here are a few examples how content can be crowdsourced and repurposed

1. Interviews. Asking other people questions is one of the most basic ways to crowdsource content. There are a number of ways to implement such an approach according to the desired outcome. Asking the community for suggestions of who to interview and what questions to ask is a great way to involve people in the process. Interviewing industry thought leaders provides the brand’s audience with unique content and creates a positive association between the “brandividual” and the company.

Be sure to empathize with thought leaders and their busy schedules. It will often be far more effective to ask one question of ten famous people than ten questions of one person. When you do that, you’ve made it easy for each person to answer and have also multiplied the number of potential influencers that will help promote the finished product.

2. Social Q & A – Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks can provide very useful platforms to present B2B focused questions and attract answers from a variety of people for use in your content project. Of course, your intent needs to be clear and permission for reuse should be obtained before republishing. Those familiar with the Q & A communities can word questions to attract replies from specific influentials who might not otherwise respond to a content participation pitch via email.

3. Contests Resulting in Content – Examples of contests where consumers produce their own videos or share images abound on the social web. Community members or influencers could be invited to create videos, blog posts or other media as a way to “enter” the contest run by a B2B brand. Entries hosted on the respective participant publishing channels would link back to the contest home and then the top 10 entries could be compiled into a highlight video or ebook according to the format used.

4. Comment Feedback Loop – One of the most meaningful ways for a community to engage with a brand is through comments made on social networks about a brand, in reaction to brand content or topics of mutual interest. Soliciting the community of readers to participate in a dialog by commenting can result in content that is more engaging and specific to what the audience is interested in.

Brands can then recognize commenters by drawing attention to the “best of” comments in separate blog or social media post, or as we do it at our agency, on our TopRank Marketing Newsletter.

5. Print or eBook Authoring by Community – Reaching out to industry experts to share their insights as part of a larger project can be a very effective method for crowdsourcing content. Author Michael Miller did this with “Online Marketing Heroes” of which I was a part many years ago. He interviewed 25 successful marketers and the result of those interviews became a print book.

Another commonly used format of crowdsourcing ebook content involves creating an outline for an ebook with portions like the premise, key points and conclusion reserved for the brand point of view and allocating specific sections for contributions for subject matter experts – industry influencers, customers, and key opinion leaders.

Through progressive content collaboration experiences that result in content that is simultaneously useful to customers and great visibility for contributors, B2B brands can develop a community of influence that helps

  • Relieve some of the pressure of ongoing content creation
  • Creates content that is trusted and hyper relevant to audiences
  • Builds credibility for the brand by association with the influencers who contributed
  • Develops mutually valuable relationships with trusted voices in the industry
  • Inspire organic brand advocacy on the topics engaged

While there are many upsides when done well, it’s important to know that it’s possible to over rely on a community for content creation too, so don’t overdo it. Also, genuine recognition inspires better work and can motivate participants to share future crowdsourced content more enthusiastically than something that is more transactional.

As you look at the social networks, communities, prospects, customers and influencers that make up the ecosystem of information sources that are important to your brand, think about the gaps of information that exist in your industry that could be filled with user and influencer generated content. Looking beyond the fundamental benefit of content creation for marketing, even greater opportunities exist when the content collaboration experience helps build genuine relationships with community and industry voices that your customers trust.

The post How B2B Marketers Can Build a Community of Influence with Content appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Content Marketing Optimization Audits – Find Where SEO Can Boost Content Marketing Success

Content Marketing Optimization Audits

Content Marketing Optimization Audits

SEO and content marketing intersect in more ways than optimizing web pages with keywords.

Answering the question, “How does SEO and content marketing strategy interact?” starts with understanding customers, behaviors and preferences for information discovery, consumption and sharing. Knowing what customers care about and how those concerns and interests manifest as search keywords and social topics folds very well into the keyword research practiced by professional SEOs.

Keyword Glossaries and Editorial Plans can be valuable tools for marketers to aid in creating relevant content that is inherently optimized for customers and target audiences alike. Specific keyword optimization is appropriate as well, but the end content product becomes much easier to find, consume and share if an understanding of customer questions is translated into topics and keywords from the start. This is the core of how brands can become the best answer for what customers are looking for.

The role of a content plan is to outlines content types, topics and the keywords they’re optimized for. Content plans also show where and if the content will be re-published and re-purposed, plus which channels of distribution will be used to promote the content. Search engine optimization also applies to social media content that emphasizes popular and relevant social topics vs. search keywords.

Planning, creating, optimizing, promoting and engaging with content on topics that customers and target audiences care about is where SEO has evolved as Content Marketing Optimization. SEO expertise, which also includes knowledge of how search engines crawl and index websites, content management systems, the impact of how websites are coded and organized, provides a powerful ally to Content Marketers when goals and objectives are in alignment.

To understand where SEO can create performance optimization opportunities for content marketers, it’s important to evaluate the current situation and uncover the gaps that represent opportunities for improvement through a series of audits.

5 Fundamental SEO Research and Audit Reports

Keyword Research – Customers often speak a different language when it comes to using search engines to find answers or solutions. So, it’s important to identify what phrases represent the mix of reasons for using a search engine to find solutions like those offered by your company. Of course, people search for more reasons than to buy products and services, so keyword research can provide essential insight into the demand for topics that customers might have across the entire journey from awareness of a problem, to consideration of options to choosing specific solutions. A Keyword Research audit will asses your website, competitors, consumers, web analytics and keyword research tools to identify, organize and manage your target search keyword phrases. From the audit, you can then discover what keywords will best motivate customer actions from top of mind consideration to leads and sales.

Content Audit – Once target keyword phrases and topics have been identified, a comparison with current website content is made to determine optimization opportunities as well as to recommend new content creation. It’s pretty tough to be found in search for topics that do not exist on your website. In competitive categories, a website must be the best resource for a topic to stand out. Content optimization takes inventory of all content and digital assets that could be a potential entry point via search and recommends SEO copywriting tactics to showcase those pages as the best answer.

Technical SEO Audit – If search engines have difficulty with finding, crawling and indexing your content then it may put your site at a disadvantage. Search engines are far from perfect, so the more website owners and marketers can do to help the engines do their job, the more advantage we can create for desired visibility in search. From core web vitals and performance of individual pages to structured data, xml sitemaps, duplicate content, mobile friendliness and many other aspects of how web page content is delivered to search engine bots when they crawl, a technical SEO audit will reveal a prioritized list of fixes that can result in both better search engine visibility and a better experience for your customers.

Inbound and Internal Linking Audit – Links help search engines and customers alike find your content. Links from one page to another serve as a signal that can be factored by search engines as they decide the best answers to display in the search results. A Link Audit identifies the quantity and quality of links from web sources pointing to your content. A comparison with top performing websites in your industry and keyword category can reveal numerous opportunities to attract more high quality links to your content.  Additionally, the site architecture of your website and how pages link to each other using anchor text is important for both search engines and user experience.

Social Media Audit – The influence of social media on search engine visibility may be more indirect due to the use of nofollow in links but the inclusion of social content within search results represents an opportunity for brands to earn substantial real estate in search results beyond the brand domain name. Assessing a brand’s social presence, engagement and distribution through social channels is as much an audit with SEO implications as it is for social media marketing. Understanding a brand’s social authority and content distribution can lead to a much improved approach with benefits to customers as well as to the business.

If there’s a market demand through search for solutions offered by a company, then search engine optimization solutions are essential for maximizing that opportunity. But SEO doesn’t work on it’s own. Content is the reason search engines were created and it is content that represents the best optimization opportunity that impact discovery, consumption and action by customers.

Optimizing for better search visibility goes beyond driving sales. People use search engines to find the best resources in a variety of ways that benefit businesses. For companies that expect to gain new business, protect their online reputation, grow social networks, attract new employees and provide a great user experience with online customer support, then SEO is an essential tool in the content marketing mix.

The post Content Marketing Optimization Audits – Find Where SEO Can Boost Content Marketing Success appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

How to Accelerate Reach and Engagement of B2B Content Through Co-Creation

Co-create B2B Content

Co-create B2B Content

“Look, I made this!”

Sharing things we create is a human compulsion that traces back to childhood. Whether you’re showing your mom a drawing so she can pin it up on the fridge, or linking social media followers to your latest blog post, it’s natural for people of all ages to proudly broadcast their creative output.

Therein lies the power of co-creation for content amplification. “If you want your content reach to be great, ask your community to participate.”

Let’s explore this approach to content collaboration from a B2B marketing perspective.

Why Co-create Content for B2B Marketing?

There are many benefits to collaborative content creation. TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden covered several in his writeup last year on winning at B2B influence with the magic of content co-creation. Among them:

  • Incorporating the first-hand viewpoints of experts infuses greater authority and credibility to your content.
  • Featuring various outside voices makes your content more relatable and accessible to varied audiences.
  • Relevant influencers can inspire action and foster trust in unique ways.

These qualities all trace back to a core fundamental advantage of co-creation: it generates better and more resonant content. And that contributes heavily to the more easily-observable benefit we’ll focus on today: co-created content drives greater reach and engagement without needing to rely on paid boosting.

The influencer marketing campaign we partnered with monday.com to develop serves as a prime example. With a diverse team of influencers helping shape the content and sharing it out to their respective networks, the company surpassed its goal for social reach by an astounding 1,790%, driving more than 300,000 organic impressions on social media.

B2B Influencer Marketing Metrics Monday.com

Maximizing Reach & Engagement with B2B Content Co-creation

Of course, content collaborations are not as simple as pushing a button. Taking the right strategic steps before, during, and after your B2B content co-creation initiative will make a vast difference in reach and engagement.

Make the Content Great
There are many tactics and techniques that can be activated to increase reach and engagement, but none are more important than simply creating awesome content that people are genuinely compelled to share.

Instead of asking “How can co-creation partners maximize the reach of this content?” start by asking “How can co-creation partners make this content incredible?” Tap their prime area of passion and expertise so that their distinct strengths are fully reflected.

Get Influencers and Co-creators Invested
If the extent of your co-creation approach is adding someone’s generic and extraneous insight on top of your completed content, solely for the purpose of shoehorning an influencer into the mix, those partners are not likely to feel the level of ownership that inspires them to enthusiastically share and amplify.

Two specific pointers to drive greater investment from influencers:

  • Invite them to take part in the planning and shaping of the content, rather than asking for an add-on quote at the very end.
  • Avoid the urge to push for product-focused or promotional contributions — people will be more motivated to share content if they feel it advances their reputation as a thought leader, as opposed to shilling a solution. (And audiences will find the content far more authentic.)

Make It Easy (and Valuable) to Share
Consider drafting social messages on behalf of your co-creators to make the process of amplifying as simple and effortless as possible for them. The key nuance here is to know these partners well enough to be able to create social copy that matches their voice, and to center your message on the content’s value to their audience, rather than its value to your company.

For example, if your influencer is Wile E. Coyote, you’ll get better results with the framing, “I recently shared my thoughts on what’s next in the future of trapping technology and desert ecology,” compared to “I joined a podcast to talk about why Acme brand products are great for dealing with pesky roadrunners.” Meep meep.

Involve Influencers that Bring Authority and Credibility by Proxy
One of the underrated motivators for influencers and co-creators to share content is what I like to call “authority by association.” In part this can stem from the brand itself — if you’ve built a respected and buzzworthy reputation, people in your industry will see value in having their names attached to your content — but also from the other co-creators.

Wile E. Coyote will be more inclined to share content he’s involved in if Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck also contributed. (Maybe not the Road Runner.) Or, to tie things back to real life, there’s the aforementioned monday.com campaign. Our roster of influencers included recognizable big names from the creative world, as well as up-and-comers who were extremely enthused to have their insights appear alongside the likes of Ann Handley and Minda Harts.

As a more personal example, a few years ago I was invited to write the Minnesota Twins chapter in the Baseball Prospectus 2018 annual. And while I was moved to promote the book in large part because it featured my writing and because Baseball Prospectus is a giant name in the realm of baseball media, I was extra-excited to spread the word because Nick Offerman (aka Ron Swanson) wrote the Cubs chapter. How cool is that?!


via GIPHY

Plan for Continued, Ongoing Promotion
Given how much effort, time, and resources are often poured into large-scale content projects, it always astounds me how frequently the promotion plan basically entails sharing out a few links when the content goes live, and little else. Brands leave so much reach and utility on the table when they fall victim to Invisible Content Syndrome.

Think about ways you can extend the lifecycle of your content promotion and keep co-creators engaged for weeks rather than days. A few suggestions:

  • Make timely updates to the content over time, giving influencers a prompt to re-share and highlight new value for their audience.
  • Repurpose the content so they can share their portions in different ways (video, quote snippets, customized visuals, etc.) while linking back to the larger piece or asset, and space them out.
  • Keep tagging co-creators on social media whenever you’re promoting the content, so it stays on their radar long after launch.
  • Stay committed to mutual value. Continue to invest in your relationships with these influencers and co-creators, and promote their work on your own feeds when relevant to your audience.

Fuel Your B2B Marketing Reach with Influencer Co-creation

Our famous friend Jay Baer has famously stated that “content is fire, and social media is gasoline.” It’s a great way to describe the role that each plays in a marketing strategy, and I think it can easily be applied to co-creation as well. Selecting the right strategic partners to develop awesome content will start the fire, and taking smart steps to encourage promotion and sharing will help those flames rise high enough to be seen from miles around.

Ready to get cooking? Learn more about how TopRank Marketing approaches influencer marketing and how we can help you.

The post How to Accelerate Reach and Engagement of B2B Content Through Co-Creation appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Trust and the Search for Answers: How Influence Optimizes SEO Performance

influence search optimization

influence search optimization

According to the annual Global Digital Overview Report from We Are Social and Hootsuite, 81% of internet users search online for a product or service to buy and 74% have purchased online. Without question, digital engagement and commerce is the new normal and is as relevant for B2B companies as it has been for B2C.

During the pandemic, search engines have become even more important as B2B brands and buyers alike digital transform to virtual engagement for information discovery, consumption and interaction. As a result, many companies have invested more in search engine optimization in order to capture the fast-growing opportunities to be the best answer for customers at the moment of need – when actively searching for solutions.

Best practices for SEO abound on the web including this list from SEMrush:

  1. Find Your Competitors’ Best Performing Pages
  2. Inform Your Content Strategy Using A Keyword Gap Analysis
  3. Use Digital PR To Earn Authority Backlinks
  4. Improve Your Organic CTR Using PPC Testing
  5. Optimize For ‘People Also Ask’
  6. Steal Your Competitor’s Broken Backlinks
  7. Use Supporting Content To Show Topical Expertise
  8. Use Internal Links To Supercharge Page 2 Rankings
  9. Optimize Core Web Vitals
  10. Make Your PR Team’s Efforts Work Harder For SEO and Turn Brand Mentions Into Links
  11. Optimize For Image Search
  12. Clean Up Toxic Links

But what good is optimization for visibility if buyers don’t trust what they find?

Research from CSO Insights reported by MarketingCharts, 27.2% of buyers say web searches are their preferred source of information for solving business problems but 43% rely on subject matter experts (SMEs) from the industry. Trust in marketing has become a challenge and it’s no different with search marketing. A Forbes/Yext study found that only 50% of people trust what they find in search results and research from HubSpot reports that 65% don’t trust ads.

Virtually all SEO efforts emphasize the KPI of ranking on a search engine as the proxy to success but without trust in content, that’s simply not true. Even when companies make the investment to create “great content”, without signals of trust and credibility, those content and SEO investments fall short of being a mediocre user experience at best.

In the world of SEO, you are what you E.A.T.

According to Google’s search Quality Rater Guidelines, one of the most important criteria for evaluating best answer content is the expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness of content, creator of the content and the website that hosts the content. More than ever, it is important for marketers that are striving to capture the fast growing opportunities coming from increased use of channels like search to go beyond simply creating great content that is SEO friendly. The new opportunity to be the best answer for customers means optimizing for findability and credibility.

How can marketers optimize content for trust?

According to research from the Demand Gen Content Preferences Study, 95% of B2B buyers prefer content from industry experts and influencers. Partnering with credible experts that have influence, trust and audience attention for the very same topics that marketers are creating and optimizing content for brings together very powerful elements for a successful digital customer experience. Relevant and findable information that is credible.

Creating best answer content in 2021 and beyond means an approach to content marketing that involves aligning best practices SEO and content strategy with influencer marketing and employee advocacy. Effective Content Marketing in 2021 is a team sport and in order to achieve the signals of credibility that search engines need for high rankings and the trust that buyers need when they click through, marketers are finding that collaboration with experts is the solution.

Creating best answer content that is findable in search involves the keyword research and content optimization that you would expect along with core web vitals and tech SEO, internal link optimization and the attraction of relevant links into the site/pages from other websites.

When it comes to content collaboration with experts, whether they are external industry influencers with their own blogs and columns in industry publications or internal key opinion leaders and subject matter experts that also publish, topical alignment is essential. In other words, the topics your customers are looking for should drive both content optimization for search as well as the effort to find the right experts to collaborate with.

Optimize for findability and credibility

What better way to optimize for findability and credibility than to make sure brand content is relevant for what customers are searching for and includes contributions and citations from people that are experts and influential on those very same topics? Activating influencers in SEO friendly ways can mean collaborating on keyword specific content that lives on the brand website or the influencer’s channels. It could also mean collaboration on new web entities or content that lives where the influencer publishes editorially.

Beyond content creation is content distribution because let’s face it: search engines are not the only way buyers can discover great content. Links in social shares can drive substantial visibility, engagement and even conversion when relevant industry experts share with their audiences directly.

When you’re reviewing your SEO performance think about ways to take optimization to the next level and create even better experiences for customers. Make content findable but also credible. Find ways to align your content, SEO and influencer engagement opportunities including:

  • Identify experts creating on-topic content with great search visibility
  • Seek influencers with Knowledge Panels in Google
  • Evaluate influencer’s link attraction rate when they publish or contribute content
  • Provide influencers with SEO audits of their blogs so they can improve their search visibility

When content is credible, it not only creates a better user experience for customers using search, it creates E.A.T. signals that can help improve search visibility even more to help your brand truly become the best answer for customers when they need you most.

The post Trust and the Search for Answers: How Influence Optimizes SEO Performance appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

B2B Content Marketing: 10 Tips to Level Up Your Writing Skills

Typewriter on Faded Blue Wood Background Image

Typewriter on Faded Blue Wood Background ImageWhat is the biggest challenge a writer faces? 

Nothing.

Well, by “nothing,” I mean a blank white screen and a blinking cursor. 

It mocks you with its unlimited potential. It fills you with fear that anything you put on that screen won’t be an improvement over its pristine emptiness.

We content marketers have to face this challenge nearly every day, and somehow find a way to write content that connects, engages, and persuades.

I’ve spent my entire adult life working in the content trenches — first as a comedy writer, and now as a content marketer. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up that can elevate your writing and make that blank screen less daunting.

10 Tips for B2B Marketers to Elevate Their Writing Skills

#1: READ

In his excellent book On Writing, Stephen King says: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write.” And if one of the world’s most prolific and celebrated authors can take time to read, we can, too.

Read marketing content, for sure, to see what the competition is up to. But don’t stop there. Read poems, novels, fiction, nonfiction, good stuff and guilty pleasures. Anything you read will help you continue to develop a distinct voice — even a bad example can show you what not to do.

#2: Be Aware of Rhythm

Now, I’m not saying you should write blog posts in iambic pentameter (but if you do, please link me). But it’s good to keep an eye on the rhythm of what you’re writing. 

For example, watch out for parallel structures. In time, these will bore your reader. Soon enough, they’ll tune out completely. 

Notice how all three of those sentences in the last paragraph have the same cadence? The same goes for short sentences. You put them one after the other. They’re all the same. 

Vary the rhythm in your sentences — string them together with punctuation; let one stretch out like a rubber band. Then, snap! Put in a few short ones. Maybe a fragment, even. See how the writing comes alive?

#3: Practice Introductions

For many writers, just getting started is the hardest part of writing an article. Many will even write the entire body of the text and add the introduction after the fact. 

Too many of us were scarred by high school English class, where an introduction had to introduce every point we were going to talk about, and had to start with something like, “Throughout recorded history,” or “Webster’s dictionary defines…” 

Practice writing introductions that break the mold:

  • Ask a question
  • Make a controversial or otherwise intriguing statement
  • Write a personal anecdote

In short, think less about introducing every talking point, and more about hooking the reader and pulling them in.

#4: Don’t Tell the Audience What They Already Know

This one goes along with the last point, because frequently introductions are all about stating the obvious. “Everyone knows that…” “We all understand that…”

Whenever you find yourself lecturing the audience on something you both know, take a step back. What can you tell them that they haven’t heard yet? What’s the quickest way to get to the good stuff?

#5: Let Go of Obsolete Rules

And speaking of high school English class: It is better to be clear, natural and genuine in your prose than to follow archaic rules of grammar. Language is a living thing that is constantly changing. So don’t feel beholden to what Mrs. Funke told you back in 9th grade.

For example:

  • End sentences with prepositions
  • Put commas where they feel natural
  • Use sentence fragments
  • Use. Weird. Punctuation. For. Emphasis!
  • Embrace the singular ‘they’

And many more. Basically, you should sound like a real live person, not a textbook.

#6: Read It Out Loud

When we talk about writing in a “conversational tone,” we’re saying the writing should feel more like talking to a friend than reading something stiff and formal. What better way to make sure you’re conversational than actually reading your work out loud?

Now that we’re all in home offices instead of open-concept half cubicles, this one’s easier to do. Back in the before times, I would sometimes duck into a conference room or huddle room to read my work out loud. It’s amazing how many opportunities you’ll find to make your writing sound more natural when you’re hearing it instead of reading it.

#7: Experiment with Editing

I love the way that Google Docs saves a version history of everything I write. It makes editing so much easier, and the stakes so much lower for making major changes. You can try something, and if it doesn’t work, it’s easy to revert to the previous draft.

Experiment with the structure of your content — move paragraphs around and see if that improves the flow. Try cutting out the sentences you’re most proud of — odds are they’re the most self-indulgent and least likely to connect with your audience. Believe me, I speak from experience.

One easy way to experiment with editing: Cut the first paragraph of your introduction and see if you miss it. I frequently find that first paragraph is either wheel-spinning or scene-setting that the audience doesn’t really need.

#8: Write, Wait, Review, Revise

Writing and revising require two different mindsets. If you’re trying to do both at the same time, you’re likely not doing either as well as you might. For your first draft, concentrate on getting the words on the screen. When you’re done, walk away and let it rest — overnight, if possible. 

Then you can approach what you’ve written with fresh eyes, read it through, and revise. After that, make sure to have at least one other person review it before you publish, just to catch whatever you might have missed. 

[bctt tweet=”“Writing and revising require two different mindsets. If you’re trying to do both at the same time, you’re likely not doing either as well as you might.” — Joshua Nite @NiteWrites” username=”toprank”]

#9: Spice Up Your Conclusions

Lastly, in conclusion, at the end of the day, finally… there are many ways to begin a conclusion, and most of them are (yet again) holdovers from high school. Ditto the idea that you shouldn’t introduce new information in a conclusion, but just rehash the points you’ve already made.

Thankfully, we’re not writing five paragraph essays anymore, and a conclusion can be more than an awkward recap. In fact, for marketing, it’s essential to make every conclusion a launchpad, a call to action that compels the reader to take the next step. Bland, by-the-book conclusions won’t get that job done.

Beat the Blank Screen

If you feel anxious when faced with that blank screen and its judgmental blinking cursor, start by letting go of some preconceived notions about what business writing has to be. It turns out that B2B buyers are actual people, and they would rather read something personable and expressive than something stiff and by-the-book. My tenth tip: Give yourself permission to write the way you talk, and you’re more likely to make a human connection with your reader.

Need help leveling up your content? Contact us today.

The post B2B Content Marketing: 10 Tips to Level Up Your Writing Skills appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.