April 1, 2009
Today's guest article comes to us from Dianna Huff, Principal of DH Communications, Inc. Dianna specializes in B2B marketing communications consulting and copywriting, and is an all-around nice person. I had the pleasure of doing a podcast with her recently, which you can listen to here:
Dianna Huff Interview With Jill Whalen
So without further ado, take it away, Dianna! – Jill
++Why Content Is (Still) King When It Comes to B2B Websites++
By Dianna Huff
Have you heard that term "spider bait"? People use it to refer to content that’s developed specifically for achieving high rankings for targeted keywords and/or for attracting inbound links.
In other words, spider bait refers to content developed for search engines, not for people who make buying decisions. For business-to-business (B2B), this is the completely wrong approach.
The B2B sales cycle can be complex and often extends over weeks, months, and even years – especially for high-end products and services.
While a corporate purchasing department may issue the final PO, the decision to purchase a product is often made by committees composed of influencers, end users of the product, and the person who has the ultimate say in whether money is budgeted.
In addition, the Internet has completely changed the sales process itself. Instead of vendors qualifying buyers, buyers now qualify vendors – via vendor websites.
Buyers search for companies that provide the product or service they're looking for and will make a short list of companies to whom they will then send an RFQ (request for quote).
What gets a vendor on the buyer's short list?
One word: Content.
That is, content that educates buyers about the company and its products and services, and helps them decide whether or not to move forward.
This is why developing "spider bait" is a complete waste of time and money, and why developing high-value content – or marketing collateral – is key.
In addition, having high-quality content also makes it incredibly easy to optimize for search engines. Riverace Corporation, for example, developed a whitepaper
about C++ sockets programming errors two years ago. The whitepaper landing page still ranks high for the search phrases "winsock programming errors" and "sockets programming errors."
So what kinds of content are purchasers looking for?
In surveys by these industry experts:
Whitepapers and Reports
You can find great topics for whitepapers and reports by searching your own web analytic data. With one of my clients, Ferrante & Associates, I noticed that a relatively high number of people were finding her site via search engines using terms that involved "green marketing."
Based on this data, we then developed a lead generation campaign that included a green marketing report, "Green Marketing 101: A Step-by-Step Guide for Businesses" a landing page, emails, and a press release.
Also known as expanded "testimonials," case studies are very influential when it comes to purchasing decisions because they explain how a company helps other companies solve specific challenges.
AchieveGlobal, for example, developed a case study that explained how it reduced call center turnover for one of its clients by 89% via its WorkSkills training program.
The wonderful thing about case studies is that they can be repurposed for other media. Cabot Corporation used the case study format in its customer newsletter to explain how its drilling muds helped two oil companies decrease drilling costs.
Smart Products pitched its case study (about a miniature valve used in a prosthetic device) to a major medical design trade journal. The journal ran it in both its U.S. and European publications.
The Cisco marketing team recently developed a very cool viral product launch for a new router using clever videos, which ran on the company's TechEdge Weekly Blog as well as YouTube.
According to Brian Ellefritz, Cisco's Director of Social Media Marketing, the viral campaign was a huge success – with dozens of bloggers writing about the videos and thousands of people registering their email addresses to receive additional information about the new product.
In addition to the marketing collateral listed above, your B2B website can also include content such as webinars, podcasts, brochures, online demos, e-books, articles, e-newsletters, forums, CAD drawings, shipping and support information, and free tools, such as calculators, checklists, and tip sheets.
High-Value Content = More Inbound Links
All of this content not only helps the sales process, but due to its viral nature it also helps generate inbound links from bloggers, journalists, and other industry websites.
Case in point: A few bloggers wrote about the e-book I published last summer, "Five B2B MarCom Strategies to Increase Sales Now" – with one of them making it their featured "Book of the Month" for their online book club. Downloads soared (and continue to this day).
High-value content positions your company as the expert in the field. Think about it: If you came upon a website chock-a-block full of educational, take-away content, wouldn't you automatically think this company knew what it was talking about – versus a company that had pages of automatically generated spider bait that basically said nothing?
When developing content for your company or client websites, consider the types of information that people need to make a buying decision – and then develop content that includes some type of action – viewing, downloading, registering, etc.
You'll enjoy high rankings, increase conversions, and generate more leads and sales.
[Thanks, Dianna! I also wanted to let you all know that Dianna is offering a free e-course on content marketing, which you can download at her website here when you sign up for her newsletter. – Jill]