B2B Marketing – Are you Capitalising on your most Valuable Asset?

Posted on May 30, 2014 in content strategy, search marketing | 0 comments

So what is your most valuable asset in B2B marketing? And how can that asset can be used to deliver the maximum possible advantage to your business?

B2B Marketing

Does your content answer the questions your customers are asking?

I’d argue that your expertise is your greatest marketing asset.  After all, it’s why your existing customers stay with you – they know they can bring you a problem and they can trust you to provide the solution. And if your expertise is so powerful in growing business with existing customers , doesn’t it seem logical that it should also be a powerful factor in persuading new customers to do business with you?

But how well do you leverage that expertise when it comes to creating leads and winning new business?

One way of getting new business, of course, is to pound the phones. Set up as many appointments as you can and gradually filter the field down from leads and prospects to potential sales.  Again, success will come down to how well you can apply your expertise to would-be customers’ needs.

The other way to capitalise on your expertise – potentially more productive and less painful – is through publishing content.

Acknowledged expertise, trust, authority, call it what you will – on-line B2B marketing and business development is largely about how you apply your expertise to potential customers’ needs.  In the on-line marketing world it’s also about how you use that process of applying expertise to customers’ needs to generate interest, understanding and trust, and how you convert those factors into sales.

Why do businesses buy anything?

Let’s start with a stark reality. In the B2B world nobody would buy anything if that was possible. Nobody really wants to buy our services or products. That means spending money; and as businesspeople we avoid that wherever possible. What businesses have are problems and ambitions. And they are only interested in buying solutions to those problems and ways of achieving those ambitions.

The good news for on-line marketers is that people increasingly turn to the internet looking for answers and solutions. So, populate your on-line presence with relevant answers and your potential customers will find you and engage with you. Obviously there’s a bit more to it than that but for B2B marketing this basic understanding should be what underpins your on-line marketing strategy. Which brings us back to content.

What content should you publish?

This is a common stumbling block for businesses even after they get the message about content marketing. The answer to this is not always easy to find. You have to think long and hard, and possibly commission research to help you understand the answers your potential customers are seeking.

Once you have that understanding, matching those issues to the specific expertise you can offer will lead you towards a rich seam of valuable content. Headline writing, for one thing, will become less of a chore because you’ll understand the issues and specific words that will get the attention of the people you want to engage.

Ultimately your authority and trust will grow as you use your content and your expertise to help people solve problems and achieve their ambitions.  Which also means you have to go beyond superficial information sharing and offer content with real substance and genuine insight.

And, of course, content doesn’t just appear because you’ve identified that you need it. There still has to be a publishing plan: the who, what, where and when. Responsibilities have to be assigned and time has to be scheduled. But all of this is easier when you have clear objectives and a sense of purpose.

Is publishing enough?

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Well, not really. The greatest content in the world won’t help you much if nobody sees it. Promotion, or content amplification is crucially important. And this means much more than just tweeting links to what you’ve published. You need a concerted strategy for building social media and influencer networks to give your content visibility and ensure it gets shared, liked, +1’d and commented on.

Google also loves your expertise

And now for the really good news. Google is increasingly concerned with interpreting what people are really looking for when they type a search query and with providing relevant answers from sources with high authority. Ultimately, this ‘semantic search’ process will matter much more than matching exact strings of keywords in determining what shows up in an individual search engine results page (SERP).

Content focused on delivering meaningful answers, based on your expertise is not only sound marketing practice, it’s also going to be increasingly good for getting found in searches. If you want to understand semantic search and where Google is heading a bit better have a look at this short video from David Amerland.

Businesses that have relied on old-style SEO practices of all colours are finding that they no longer guarantee a high ranking. Without a robust content plan they’re seeing their rankings slide and SEO businesses are focusing increasingly on content and PR alongside the technical aspects of SEO.

So if you want to give your on-line marketing a bit of direction think about these points:

  • Who are the most likely customers for what you sell?
  • What are their biggest challenges?
  • How can your expertise help them survive and grow?
  • What sort of content could you create to help them access (and appreciate) your expertise?
  • How are you going to make sure they notice that content?

Richard Hussey, Copywriter and B2B Content Marketer

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How Will your Customers find you in the (near) Future?

Posted on Jan 14, 2014 in content strategy, search marketing | 0 comments

I’m starting to lose count of the number of times I’ve had the same conversation with businesses who’ve seen long-standing page one Google rankings disappear overnight. These business  are now painstakingly rebuilding their ranking positions by publishing content.

semantic search

Remember these?

In all cases these businesses understood how searches worked and had invested in SEO services and activity to maintain their ranking, and yet all of a sudden the process failed. Here’s a brief and highly simplified history of search-based digital marketing to explain why this happened. It’s important to understand all of this because it points the way towards how your business will get found on line in the future as we move to a world of ‘semantic search.’

Above all, it explains why publishing the right kinds of content will become even more important and why the bar, in terms of quality and relevance, will keep on rising. Relying on existing techniques could turn out to be as relevant to your business as the Yellow Pages.

Internet search – a brief history

When businesses first started using internet marketing it was largely an exercise in putting your corporate brochures on line. When there weren’t very many sites to choose from and when search engines were pretty basic in how they operated, there was less importance attached to getting found in searches. In fact, many websites were an on-line marketing resource that we pointed people towards  when we contacted them through trade shows, direct mail and cold calling.

Gradually it became more competitive as people started to research products, services and other queries rather than company names. Appearing in relevant searches was recognised as being valuable. Search engines then had the task of not just finding relevant sites but also ranking them in some way to decide which results to display first.

The ascendancy of Google

Google proved to be better at indexing and ranking sites and delivering better quality search results than its competitors and began to dominate the world of internet search. Appearing at the top of page one on Google became the Holy Grail once studies showed that this would result in over 50% of the click-throughs for any given search. And so the madness began.

What ensued was what David Amerland in his excellent book ‘Google Semantic Search’ describes as a game of cat and mouse. Clever SEO specialists kept coming up with ways of gaming Google’s increasingly sophisticated ranking algorithms.

Google has had enough of the game

Algorithm updates have become increasingly aggressive. The most recent targets have been thin and duplicate content and low quality back-links, typically from ‘news’ aggregation services that pay little attention to the links they are creating.

And Google is going further by fundamentally changing the ways that it indexes and ranks websites. It is becoming less concerned with matching strings of keywords. It is much more concerned with determining what somebody is trying to discover and then delivering search results that give the most relevant and trustworthy answers for the individual making the search. Welcome to the world of semantic search. Or, put another way, search based on real meaning and intent rather than keywords.

There’s no going back

Experts in the industry predict a creeping process whereby keywords and our traditional concepts of search ranking will disappear. These are already starting to be replaced by a process where Google attempts to interpret what question we are trying to answer and then delivers the best answer to that question.

Try typing ‘Albert Einstein’ into the Google search window. The first thing that happens is that Google offers you variations of your search before you’ve finished typing. Google also trawls its database for facts about Albert and displays these in a panel on your screen – you may find what you need without having to click to another site. There are also links to information about the people and places associated with Albert Einstein which Google ‘creates’ from its knowledge repository.

Another influence of semantic search that we will see increasingly is that the top results listed will not necessarily match the exact words or sequence of words that we used in the search. We are becoming content and meaning focused rather than keyword focused.

Why this matters to your business

And now the big question: If keywords and links are not the way forward, what is? The answer is conceptually simple and much more difficult in practical terms. There will be no more quick fixes or magic bullets to make your business more visible in Google searches. The way forward involves hard work and a return to fundamental good marketing practice.

Here’s what you will need:

  • The clearest possible understanding of the answers and solutions your customers will be using the internet to research
  • A comprehensive plan to publish rich, informative content that provides the answers people want and which reflects the values of your organisation and the value you offer
  • An integrated on-line presence that builds and recognises your reputation and authority
  • Authoritative on-line publications and PR channels that will actually value the content you produce
  • Active and valued on-line networks for sharing and amplifying your content

Straight away you’ll see that this means much more than cobbling together a few blog posts and pushing them out on social media. Success in the future will be based on a deeper understanding of who you need to speak to, what they need to hear and how you’re going to make sure they notice.

For purchasers, this is great news. In the future they can be more confident that the results they see represent high quality, trusted answers, rather than sites that did the best job of gaming Google’s rules. Hear hear to that!

Want to know more?

Content masterclasses are designed to help marketing practitioners establish a sound internet marketing strategy based around high quality content. Our next event is in Exeter on July 1.

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Content MarketingRichard Hussey, RSH Copywriting

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