Long before the word blog had any currency, one man predicted the rise of the information economy and understood its commercial potential better than anyone.
Content, he wrote, was where “much of the real money will be made on the internet”.
His March 1996 “essay” explained:
“Over time, the breadth of information . . . will be enormous, which will make it compelling. Those who succeed will propel the internet forward as a marketplace of ideas, experiences and products – a marketplace of content.”
Those words were penned by none other than Bill Gates – the head of the world’s biggest corporation who had just closed a deal with a US broadcast giant to create MSNBC. The rest, as they say, is history.
Content is King
Many of Gates’ predictions in the essay he titled Content is King not only came true, they are shaping the lives of almost everyone on our connected planet every day.
Thanks to Smartphones, content can literally be in the palm of our hands wherever we are, whenever we want it.
When he wrote this prophetic piece, Gates probably had no idea that soon all businesses would be communicating with their customers in a similar way – regardless of their size and advertising budgets.
But he did forecast the rise of online advertising, the decline of traditional publishing empires, a surge in electronic subscription services, and the popularity of personalised and niche content providers who could grow large audiences to monetise their services.
So what can today’s business leaders learn from the master?
Not only does content remain king in 2015, marketing guru Seth Godin believes “content marketing is all the marketing that’s left”.
“Our job is to make change. Our job is to connect to people, to interact with them in a way that leaves them better than we found them, more able to get where they’d like to go. Every time we waste that opportunity, every page or sentence that doesn’t do enough to advance the cause is waste.”
In Seth’s world, marketing is no longer marketing. Businesses sell products by sharing their wisdom – connecting on a human level and building relationships with an audience, rather than advertising to customers.
It’s no surprise then that regular blogging and sharing website articles are two content marketing strategies most B2B businesses employ now to boost brand awareness and get more leads.
Blogging by the numbers
Hubspot – the world’s biggest inbound marketing platform – claims B2B businesses that blog get 67% more leads than B2B businesses that don’t.
According to B2B PR Sense, a whopping 80% of business decision makers trust blogs more than other online content – including ads and social media.
Other numbers are equally compelling:
- Almost 9 out of 10 B2B marketers say brand awareness is their most important goal.
- Sales generated from inbound marketing are cheaper to acquire than all the alternatives, which are becoming more competitive and costly.
- The Content Marketing Institute says 70% of B2B marketers are creating more content than a year ago.
- Nurture HQ research shows more than 4 out of 5 businesses have reported their blog as “useful” or “critical” to B2B lead generation.
Need more convincing? LinkedIn reveals 60 more compelling B2B content marketing quotes and stats that will change your mind about businesses publishing their own content to drive engagement, referrals, inquiries and sales.
Why blogging works
If these are the facts, why is it so?
Godin’s theory is both simple and enlightening.
“Human beings can’t help it: we need to belong. One of the most powerful of our survival mechanisms is to be part of a tribe, to contribute to (and take from) a group of like-minded people,” he says.
“We are drawn to leaders and to their ideas, and we can’t resist the rush of belonging and the thrill of the new. … We want to belong not to just one tribe, it turns out, but to many. And if you give us tools and make it easy, we’ll keep joining. “
But his excitement comes with a warning.
“You need editors, not brand managers. My argument is real content marketing isn’t repurposed advertising, it is making something worth talking about.” – Seth Godin.
If tribalism is the fuel, blogging is the vehicle countless young and established business leaders are driving to reach their goals.
Benefits of B2B Blogging
Writing in the Huffington Post, digital marketer Danny Wong revealed brand publishing helped build credibility, provided insights into previously hidden activities and skills of businesses, delivered valuable media attention and connected directly with people in unexpected ways.
Wong, who interviewed 12 young entrepreneurs for his article, found several motivations were driving the blogging frenzy being led by B2B businesses.
The history is written, the numbers don’t lie and we understand why blogging works for B2B businesses. So, how are compelling blogs promoted to grow large audiences of followers who can’t wait for the next instalment?
Let’s take a look at some common – and not so obvious – pathways.
The most common way to promote a blog is by adding it to an existing business website. Ways to promote a blog on a website include:
- Linking to it in the main navigation window so visitors who land on another page of the website can find it.
- Include a subscription form on the blog page.
- Encourage readers to share the blog by including social media share buttons on all blog pages.
- Improve the experience by linking blogs content to other blogs, relevant pages on the rest of a website and other authoritative websites.
Email is a critical communication channel for most B2B businesses and a great way to promote a blog. Try:
- Linking to the blog in the email signature.
- Sharing regular blog roundups with subscribers using email newsletter software like Mailchimp.
Social media sharing
Several social media channels were made for sharing website content. Posts in Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can all be linked to website content and promote a blog to a different audience. Try:
- Promoting blogs through LinkedIn publisher. HubSpot’s excellent Beginner’s Guide to Publishing on LinkedIn Pulse will show you how.
- Sharing blog content on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and more.
- Promoting blogs for inclusion on LinkedIn Pulse.
Distributing on other content platforms
Building an audience for a blog can take time. Posting blogs to a content aggregator website can put your name in front of a lot of people much faster than promoting it yourself, so long as you place it in the right areas. The most popular aggregator websites are:
- Quora blog platform
- Blog Engage
- BizSugar – specifically for businesses
- AffBuzz – affiliate marketers only
Guest blogging has been a popular SEO strategy employed by businesses to improve search engine rankings for their website. Uncertainty surrounds the effectiveness of this strategy since Google updated many of its search algorithms last year. Endless articles explain the pros and cons of guest blogging – including this one on About.com. Here is a short list of positives:
- Get links back to your website or blog by writing specific blogs for other websites with similar audiences.
- Pay for blogs to appear on high traffic websites with similar audiences.
- Pay for sponsored content to appear on high traffic websites such as newspapers, magazines and sports portals on platforms like Outbrain.
Through influencer marketing, novice bloggers can pay influential people to share content to their followers on social media, their blogs and more. Kissmetrics explains influencer marketing in its blog – The Definitive Guide to Influencer Targeting. A number of platforms have emerged for businesses to grow their brand this way, including:
Pay Per Click Advertising
Blogs are commonly promoted to new audiences via paid advertising campaigns on social media, search engines such as Google and Bing and by remarketing. Pay per click advertising is available on:
- Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest and some other social media channels.
- Google Adwords and Bing Ads.
Whether they are written in-house, outsourced to professionals, promoted organically or through paid campaigns, it’s never been more affordable to get your message in front of a new audience than through a business blog.
Is your business publishing regular blogs and news updates? If not, why not?