Grow your business with TopRank Online Marketing tips, articles, & expert information on social media, content marketing & search engine marketing. Our mission is to help companies become "the best answer" for their customers wherever they're looking online.
Marketers are engaged in a continuous battle to gain an edge when it comes to SEO, seeking those crucial advantages provided by top visibility where customers are looking. Multiple disciplines from technical SEO to creative content can be leveraged to win the search marketing game. At TopRank Marketing, we believe the best answer to this quandary is… well, to be the Best Answer.
To simplify and clarify, it might be helpful to take a step back.
In October of 2000, Larry Page laid out his ambitious vision for Google, a company he’d founded along with Sergey Brin just two years earlier.
Page foresaw his creation as “the ultimate search engine that would understand everything on the Web. It would understand exactly what you wanted, and it would give you the right thing.”
“We’re nowhere near doing that now,” he admitted. “However, we can get incrementally closer to that, and that is basically what we work on.”
At the time, here’s what the Google homepage looked liked (prepare for nostalgia shock in 3… 2… 1…):
Fast-forward almost 20 years. Google’s interface looks decidedly more modern and its functionality is now much closer to what Page envisioned. Through artificial intelligence, machine learning, and sophisticated algorithms, the search engine is amazingly adept at understanding a searcher’s intent and motives.
And digital marketers are just out here trying to keep pace.
The Answer Machine
Back in the day, we had these wacky contraptions called “answering machines,” which hooked up to “landline phones” (!) and recorded messages on little cassette tapes (!!) when calls were missed. This precursor to the voicemail now seems prehistoric — a sign of the speed at which technology is advancing.
In 2019, answering machines are mostly gone, but the digital “answer machine” is a staple of everyday life for many of us. In fact, Google’s brand name itself is now used as a verb, describing the act of asking the internet a question. Input query and receive answers, in order of relevance. Bleep, bloop.
Our hunger for knowledge is insatiable: Google processes 35,000 searches per second, and 3.5 billion each day.
With this kind of volume, the high end of a search engine results page (SERP) is critical real estate; one study found that the top position gets one-third of all search traffic on average. So it’s easy to see why SEO has become a cornerstone of marketing strategies everywhere.
At TopRank Marketing, we talk often about gaining this coveted visibility by being the best answer for customers, and how to achieve it through deep, comprehensive, high-quality content. But before a brand can go about creating best answers, it must determine which crucial curiosities it wants to satisfy.
Herein lies the key to developing a search marketing approach that integrates with a customer-centric strategy.
Hearing Your Customer’s Voice
In many ways, the advent of voice search really crystallizes Google’s function as an answer machine (or “answer engine” as our CEO Lee Odden has put it). ComScore predicted a while back that by 2020, more than 50% of searches would be conducted by voice, and suddenly that’s less than a year away.
This fast-rising trend strengthens the wisdom of a “best answer” strategy for two primary reasons:
Featured snippets (aka “answer boxes”) are gaining more prominence as the default result delivered by a voice search. These excerpts are deemed by Google to be the “best answer” for a particular query, based on various factors.
We’re moving toward a more literal question/answer format with search, because while people might type a string of keywords to research a particular topic (“best answer seo strategy digital marketing”), they tend to be more colloquial when speaking to a voice-search device (“What does a best answer SEO strategy mean for digital marketers?”).
Google has been encouraging this type of behavior for years, especially with the Hummingbird update back in 2013. People communicate with conversations, not just keywords. Associating the right keywords with concepts helps the overall content quality as opposed to targeting only one or a couple keywords per page.
In other words, you want to address not just a specific keyword with your content, but rather the breadth of what someone is trying to learn when they search for that keyword.
And so, search marketing today is less about building traditional keyword lists, and more about using those lists – along with other resources – to make deductions about which questions your customers (and potential customers) are asking. Your findings should become the foundational basis for both organic and paid strategy.
Unfortunately, no machine will serve up a quick-and-easy answer in this case. It’ll take meticulous research and deep insight about your audience. Let’s walk through that process a little to set you on the right path.
How to Identify Best Answer Opportunities
Here are a few tactics for making confident determinations about the burning questions you want to answer for your customers
Reverse-Engineer Keyword Data
Marketers have a wealth of SEO data at their fingertips, and can use this information as breadcrumbs tracing back to a user’s starting point. Dig into Google Search Console to learn which queries are bringing people to your site and how many people are clicking through from particular searches. Instead of simply parsing out keywords, seek patterns and greater meaning in this data. What is it telling you about the mindset of searchers who end up on your page?
By connecting search terms to pages on your site, you can get a better idea of the intent behind them (e.g., searches that are bringing people to solutions pages likely represent a more advanced stage of research).
Use the “People Also Asked” Feature in Google
I love this little feature. When you run a search, Google will often serve up a list of related questions, and these can be extremely helpful when it comes to building out your best answer content. If you want to create an authoritative resource on the topic you’re targeting, chances are you’ll want to account for each of these tangential queries in some way.
Leverage Schema MarkupSchema structured data helps search engines (and their users) understand the purpose of a page, and the questions it is trying to answer. Adding these tags to your source code enables a SERP to display rich snippets that are directly relevant to a searcher’s query.
Why is this so powerful and relevant? Last summer Google confirmed that it had been testing a new featured snippets in the form of FAQs, Q&A, and How-tos. And as it turns out, Schema.org has a lot of this markup readily available.
Rely on the Right Tools
There are three in particular that I like to use for this type of research:
BuzzSumo: A great site for finding trends around any topic or keyword. In particular, I recommend using its Question Analyzer function, which is perfectly suited for the purpose at hand. This enables you to identify questions being asked on Q&A sites or forums, clustered by topics.
AnswerThePublic: The “auto suggest” feature in Google is similar in function to “People Also Asked,” but can provide more extensive insight. AnswerThePublic helpfully takes these snippets and turns them into conversational keywords, delivering a “question wheel” of longtail inquiries stemming from that term.
Example of an AnswerThePublic “question wheel”Go In-Depth with Marketing Attribution ModelsMulti-touch attribution is not easy to master, but those marketers who gain proficiency are able to tap into key buyer signals. When you follow the string backward on a purchase someone made, identifying touch points along the way, you can learn a great deal about the questions they asked and the content they consumed to reach that decision.
As you start to gain a better grasp of the searches that carry clear commercial intent, you can begin to situate your PPC strategy around them. Those are usually the clicks worth paying for.
Search for Whitespace in SERPs
Not every priority question for your audience will be worth attacking. Make honest assessments about the existing search results for certain terms. If another company (or, in many cases, Wikipedia) is already owning the answer box with a stellar page, you may want to turn your attention elsewhere or at least push it to the back burner.
The sweet spot is when you can find popular questions among your audience that aren’t already being definitively covered. This also applies to paid keywords with lower competition. Those are the gaps you want to fill with your best answer strategy. As your site gains authority and backlinks, you may find it easier to topple some of the entrenched leaders for other high-volume queries and higher-cost keywords.
Break Down Questions and Build Up Best Answers
The late businessman Arnold Glasow once said, “It’s easier to see both sides of a question than the answer.” Very true. When marketers make the effort to see every side of the questions their customers are asking, we can see the bigger picture and craft content to fully satisfy the extent of a searcher’s interest. At TopRank Marketing, we’ve built our search marketing philosophies around this belief.
Google has come a long way since its early days, and our approach to working with it must evolve in kind. In the age of RankBrain, you’re not going to game this ultimate search engine through keyword-stuffing or other gimmicks. Google is continually getting better at understanding exactly what a searcher wants and giving them the right thing.
If we want to be that “right thing,” we also need to understand exactly what our customers want, and we need to deliver it.
To paraphrase the great Ricky Bobby: If you’re not best, you’re last.
via GIPHYWant to learn more about TopRank Marketing’s take on modern search marketing? Go ahead and peruse our SEO service page.
If you’re not convinced that interactive content in the B2B space can work: Well, first check out these interactive content stats.
If you’re still on the fence, here’s an object lesson from a master of audience engagement:
Queen Live Aid 1985 - EEEEEOOOOOO - YouTube
Freddie plays that 100,000-person crowd like an instrument. You can feel the energy, even through a tiny YouTube window.
When you invite your audience to be part of the show, the results can be magical.
Now, odds are your brand can’t match the raw charisma of Freddie Mercury in tight jeans. But you can still get your audience cheering with interactive B2B content.
Here are a few great examples to light your creative fires and open your B2B minds to the possibilities of interactive.
7 Great Examples of B2B Interactive Content
What do we mean by interactive content? Generally speaking, it’s any content that requires more input from the user than simply scrolling or clicking links. In practice, there are a few broad categories:
Interactive infographics use animation, navigational elements, and customizable data sets.
Interactive eBooks can incorporate audio, video, and animation.
Quizzes ask users a series of questions and display results.
Calculators allow users to input and manipulate data to view potential outcomes.
Interactive video lets users make choices that affect the plot of a short film.
#1: IBM Takes Storytelling to the Next Level
We often talk about storytelling in B2B content. But it’s usually in the context of helping customers see what life with our solution could be like, or highlighting success stories. IBM takes the concept more literally in this interactive video.
It’s a fully-realized work of fiction, presenting an original story of a power plant operator struggling to bring power back on during an outage. The user has to help the protagonist make decisions (and learn about IBM’s app suite along the way).
The true mark of greatness for this piece is it’s compelling even if you know nothing about mobile apps for power plant management. It actually stands on its own while still being relevant to IBM’s target customer.
#2: NASDAQ Spices Up Case Studies
Customer success stories are some of the most valuable marketing material you have. When a buyer is doing research, though, they get repetitive fast: Customer had problem, tried our solution, got great results.
NASDAQ livens up their case studies in this animated eBook. Client testimonials zoom in; pages are easy-to-browse with extra detail hidden behind tabs. The layout helps NASDAQ highlight the most important parts of the case study, while still offering depth for interested customers.
#3: DivvyHQ Takes Us Back to the Future
TopRank Marketing helped create this interactive eBook for DivvyHQ. The challenge for this piece was to present a metric ton of content in an easy-to-browse and compelling format. We chose a lively pop-culture theme to unify the content. Then we focused on strong navigational elements that guide the reader while still allowing them to choose their own path.
The result? An instantly engaging piece that encourages readers to explore. As a bonus, we were able to use the theme for spin-off pieces like blog posts and promotions.
#4: HubSpot’s Website Assessment Makes the Grade
Automated tools are the next evolution of assessment-style interactivity. If your solution is web-based, you may be able to show customers specifically what you can do for them. HubSpot offers this web performance evaluation site that has proven to be a powerful lead-generation tool.
There’s minimal interaction required — the user puts in a URL and an email address— but the in-depth results are more than compelling. It’s a great example of how to win customers by providing value up-front.
#5: VenturePact Elegantly Answers a Common Customer Question
Calculators are an often-overlooked type of interactive content. In this case, a calculator helped VenturePact fix a leak in their marketing funnel.
VenturePact discovered that price was their potential customers’ number one source of hesitation. Many of VenturePact’s prospects balked at requesting an estimate before they had a general idea of how much the agency’s services might cost.
VenturePact’s mobile app price calculator asks detailed questions about a potential product to generate a rough estimate of cost, then invites the user to fill in a form for a more detailed estimate.
#6: Prophix Showcases Actual Intelligence
Audio is an under-explored component for interactive content. It’s easy to assume our audience is going to have us on mute. But audio can make content more compelling, especially influencer content. It’s easier than ever to capture audio, with tools like Zencastr. It makes sense to add that component wherever you can.
This interactive eBook for our client Prophix uses influencer audio and a computer-generated “virtual assistant” to make the material more compelling. We saw an unprecedented level of interaction with this piece; our analytics showed people were spending a great deal of time and clicking deep into the asset.
Read the full case study to learn more about our approach to this interactive content campaign.
#6: SnapApp Gamifies Lead Collection
Lead capture is a balancing act: If we ask for too little data, we could be capturing underqualified leads. If we ask for too much data, people will run away screaming. This Candyland-themed piece from SnapApp—which happens to fall into the interactive content tool category—solves the problem in an elegant fashion.
On every stage of the game, you get two to three pieces of marketing advice and one question to answer. The questions are all stuff that’s useful to SnapApp: How big your team is, what your role is, etc. It’s a lot to ask, but the useful info and whimsical experience make it a fair trade for the customer.
Bonus Example: TopRank Marketing Breaks Free of Boring B2B
TopRank Marketing wants to make 2019 the year that boring B2B finally goes extinct. To help things along, we created Break Free of Boring B2B. It has advice from folks like Ardath Albee, David Meerman Scott, Brian Fanzo and more… and laser-powered grizzly bears, sharks, and pugs in sports cars.
Click Here to see the Break Free from Boring B2B Guide in Full Screen Mode
Ready, Freddie? Let Boring B2B Content Bite the Dust
These examples prove that interactivity boosts content effectiveness no matter what your goals might be. Whether it’s creating awareness, educating customers, driving leads, or attracting talent, content is more engaging when it invites the reader to play along.
Speaking of interactive content for B2B brands, our own Lee Odden will be digging into this topic at the upcoming B2B Marketing Exchange conference in Scottsdale, AZ during his presentation: Break Free of Boring B2B with Interactive Influencer Content, which is set for Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019.
Show of hands: How many of us brush our teeth at least twice a day? All of us? Great.
Now, a follow up question: Why?
The reasons are numerous, right? We care about maintaining our hygiene on a daily basis. We want to keep our smiles bright. We need to defend against offensive bad breath. We want to ensure the long-term health of our teeth, gums, and mouths. And, mostly, we want to successfully avoid pricey and painful dental work now and in the future.
The moral here? With consistency and commitment we reap both short- and long-term benefits—and avoid a whole lot of pain. And the same is true when it comes to B2B influencer marketing.
As we like to say of consistency and commitment in marketing: “Always-on is always better.” However, most B2B marketers aren’t brushing as often as they should when it comes to influencer marketing. In fact, roughly 11% of B2B influencer marketing programs are ongoing. To put this into perspective, 48% of B2C influencer marketing programs are ongoing.
From building lasting relationships to enabling marketing scalability, an always-on approach to working with influencers is always, always, always better in our experience for several reasons. Today, we explore three of those reasons with the help of seasoned influencer marketing leaders at B2B brands.
#1 - Strong relationships are at the root of influencer marketing success—and relationships aren’t built in a day.
At its core, influencer marketing is all about brands engaging and developing relationships with individuals—individuals who have relevant topical expertise, reach, and resonance that aligns with the goals of the brand.
“It’s really about building a relationship that brings value to both parties,” Amisha Gandhi, Vice President of Influencer Marketing for SAP Ariba*, told us not long ago. “Companies should approach influencers as partners, not just as people that they can use for their marketing efforts and launches.”
[bctt tweet="Companies should approach influencers as partners, not just as people that they can use for their marketing efforts and launches. - @AmishaGandhi #B2BInfluencerMarketing" username="toprank"]
However, strong, long-lasting relationships aren’t built overnight, rather they’re sewed over time.
“Success with influencer content is so much more than including a few famous people in a listicle post or quote roundup,” our own CEO Lee Odden says. “Competition for influencers is growing fast and there are only so many top influencers in each industry. It’s essential to create relationships now, long before you need to activate them.”
[bctt tweet="It’s essential to create influencer relationships now, long before you need to activate them. - @leeodden #B2BInfluencerMarketing" username="toprank"]
And as that demand for working with influencers increases, it will become more and more difficult to capture and hold their attention. By committing now to always-on relationship building and collaboration, every party can “come out ahead,” as Rani Mani, Head of Influencer Social Enablement at Adobe*, told us in a recent interview.
“We at Adobe pride ourselves on cultivating and nurturing long-term relationships with our influencers,” she shares. “We look at it as dating with an eye towards long-term commitment, which means we are always looking to establish a ‘give-to-get’ exchange where all parties come out ahead.”
[bctt tweet="We look at influencer relationships as dating with an eye towards long-term commitment, which means we are always looking to establish a ‘give-to-get’ exchange where all parties come out ahead. - @ranimani0707 #B2BInfluencerMarketing" username="toprank"]
And before your start to feel overwhelmed by the prospect of ongoing influencer nurturing and relationship building, don’t worry. Yes. It takes work. But by making it part of your integrated marketing strategy, you’ll have an opportunity to hone in on the specific characteristics and people who are the best matches for your brand.
“We used to think quantity was the key to everything,” Angela Lipscomb, Influencer Relations Manager for SAS, told us. “Now it is much more about quality over quantity. So, we’ve scaled back the scope of our engagement activities to focus on developing collaborative relationships with fewer individuals. That means that sometimes we focus on influencers who may not have the largest reach, but have greater engagement and subject-matter authority and the ability to inspire.”
[bctt tweet="We used to think quantity was the key to everything. Now it is much more about quality over quantity. - @AngelaLipscomb #B2BInfluencerMarketing" username="toprank"]
#2 - Influencers can be an extension of your content marketing team.
Content is the strategic foundation of marketing. Period. But marketers frequently cite that consistently creating strategic, quality, engaging content is a top marketing challenge.
However, with an army of influential voices—an army that you’ve carefully cultivated and nurtured over time—you have a band of partners who can be an extension of your in-house content marketing team.
In addition, by co-creating content with influencers on a regular basis, you give influential experts with a steady medium to share valuable expertise and perspectives, as well as provide your audience a drumbeat of influential, insightful, on-brand content.
“Partnering with an influencer allows you to highlight your brand’s own existing narrative in a new way, so that you can reinforce the proof points you really want your customers to know,” Whitney Magnuson, Global Head of Social Media and Influencer Programs for IBM, told us not long ago.
[bctt tweet="Partnering with an influencer allows you to highlight your brand’s own existing narrative in a new way. - @whitneymagnuson #B2BInfluencerMarketing" username="toprank"]
Oh, and you can fill your editorial calendar, add flavor to your content campaigns, extend your audience reach—and the list goes on. And as Lee has said:
“For any kind of content a business creates and publishes to the world, there is an opportunity for collaboration with credible voices that have active networks interested in what those voices have to say.”
#3 - An always-on commitment to influencer marketing helps you refine, evolve, and scale your marketing efforts.
Marketers are in the business of driving results, which means we’re constantly reviewing our tactical mix and strategic priorities. This constant vigilance helps us grow in marketing sophistication so we can drive success at scale.
Simply put, we don’t set and forget—we optimize and evolve our approach to achieve success. But with just one-tenth of B2B influencer programs falling in the “ongoing” bucket … there’s immense opportunity for improvement and alignment. As Dr. Konnie Alex, Head of Corporate Influencer Relations for Dell*, shared with us:
“A sophisticated influencer program doesn’t rely on a single identification method or one-time vetting process to start and maintain a relationship with an influencer, but rather develops a scorecard that gets constantly reviewed and, most importantly, evolves as this emerging field matures. At this point, we review strategy, methods, tactics, and measurement on an ongoing basis.”
Konnie also said: “We have a number of strategic partners who never stop evolving or expanding their expertise. We value them highly and feel that they represent a reflection of our brand’s values and long-term vision.”
[bctt tweet="A sophisticated influencer program doesn’t rely on a single identification method or one-time vetting process to start and maintain a relationship with an influencer. It develops and evolves. - @konstanze #B2BInfluencerMarketing" username="toprank"]
Speaking of long-term, an always-on approach to influencer marketing can help you strengthen all your other marketing efforts. How?
For one, you can keep a pulse on your evolving audience.
“Strategic partnerships with influencers provide for an outside-in view when creating content for our customers,” Konnie said. “We need to constantly ensure that, as a brand, we don’t start talking to ourselves, but keep a keen focus on the evolving challenges our customers have and on the language they use to express these challenges.”
And secondly, you can create better experiences that lead to real results.
“With influencer marketing, you’re looking to offer a better experience to your customers and deliver knowledge-based educational content with a third-party voice,” Amisha shared. “These experiences can be achieved through content, influencers speaking directly to customers, nurturing them through digital and high value assets. This approach with influencers will help you to drive sales journey and demonstrate pipeline touch.”
Smile for Always-On B2B Influencer Marketing
While many B2B brands are still cutting their teeth on influencer marketing, success and sophistication are rooted in giving the practice constant attention and care.
This commitment will not only help you grow lasting relationships with influential leaders in your industry, but also enable consistent, quality content creation and make a scalable impact on your overall marketing strategy.
Looking for more inspiration? Check out these five examples of B2B influencer marketing in action.*Disclaimer: SAP, Adobe, and Dell are TopRank Marketing clients.
Once upon a time, in a land of rainbows, butterflies, and evil content overload, a gripping love story is unfolding.
But this love affair isn’t what you’d expect — it’s no “Romeo and Juliet” or “Sleepless in Seattle.”
Rather, it’s an unlikely courtship with a bond sealed by three little words: Business-to-Business.
That’s right. We’ve said. The secret’s out. For the last decade, we’ve been head-over-heels in love with B2B content marketing.
We know what you’re thinking. B2B can’t hold a candle to B2C. B2B is boring. B2B lacks sex appeal. But you don’t know B2B like we do—she’s a knockout and a showstopper.
What’s so darn attractive about B2B content marketing? Let us remind you of all there is to fall in love with.
We’ve Fallen in Love With B2B Content Marketing Because ...
… It Forms Genuine (Love) Connections
Audiences are made up of people with specific needs and interests. Part of the challenge — and the thrill — is creating a B2B content marketing strategy that addresses those needs and interests to make our audience fall in love.
“I love the ever-present challenge of speaking to our audience on topics they genuinely care about and in a way that really connects with them. Seeing big results really pays off all of the audience research and thought behind the content,” Elizabeth Williams, a longtime account managers, says.
And speaking of the real people we’re trying to woo with our content, those people are why Influencer Marketing Strategist Jack Fitzpatrick is enamored B2B content marketing.
“I love B2B content marketing because it is a constant reminder that businesses are made up of actual people,” he says. “When crafting an influencer marketing or social media campaign, we are creating content for people. Small businesses, large corporations, and every business in between, started with people having a vision and striving to reach it. That’s a powerful concept to me.”
[bctt tweet="I love B2B content marketing because it is a constant reminder that businesses are made up of actual people. - @fitzJackrick" username="toprank"]
… It Nurtures Buyers
Nothing is more rewarding than hearing those three little words from prospects and turning them into loyal companions thanks to our data-informed content strategies. Just take it from our Associate Director of Search & Analytics Tiffani Allen.
“What I love most about B2B content marketing is the journey,” she says. “It’s rarely transactional, but instead focuses on providing the right information at the right time. It’s almost like solving a puzzle. You have to analyze the prospect’s journey – not only through your own properties but in the digital sphere at large.”
[bctt tweet="What I love most about #B2B #contentmarketing is the journey ... It's like solving a puzzle. - @Tiffani_Allen" username="toprank"]
… It Combines Analysis With Creativity
Fresh out of graduating high school, I was confronted with the same question most graduates face: “What do you want to do with your life?” After courting professions like biology, psychology, economics, and several others, I struggled to find exactly what I was looking for. No occupation seemed to fulfill my need for a creative outlet and exercise my analytical mind. Until I found marketing.
B2B content marketing allows you to be both analytical and creative. Through analysis, you can uncover powerful content opportunities that produce desired results. And through creativity, you can make sure those content opportunities are executed in a way that excites and entertains audiences.
This targeted, thoughtful approach is what helps keep the job interesting and drive such substantial results. Debbie Friez, Influencer Marketing Strategist, agrees.
“B2B marketing is targeted, so you can really look at how to move specific audiences to awareness of our client and buy from our client,” she says. “With my job specifically, I am able to work with influencers who may not have millions of followers, but are highly-regarded in their industry.”
[bctt tweet="#B2Bmarketing is targeted, so you can really look at how to move specific audiences to awareness of our client and buy from our client. - @dfriez" username="toprank"]
… It Presents Constant Learning Opportunities
Some of the best dates are where you and your partner experience new things together. And in B2B content marketing, every day can be a new experience, writing about fresh, emerging topics with varying levels of complexity. That is especially true for those of us that do content marketing for large enterprises or a content marketing agency
Our own creative content genius and Senior Content Marketing Manager Joshua Nite says: “I love the opportunity to learn new things. We have clients in finance, cloud-based software, IoT, healthcare... when we work on content with them, I get to learn about it all. It's endlessly fascinating.”
[bctt tweet="We have clients in finance, cloud-based software, IoT, healthcare... when we work on content with them, I get to learn about it all. It's endlessly fascinating. - @NiteWrites on what he loves about B2B #contentmarketing." username="toprank"]
… It Solves Problems
(Great) B2B content marketing isn’t just putting a message out there for the sake of it. It’s about solving a real, tangible problem for your ideal customers. That’s why Account Manager Jane Bartel is so enchanted.
“One of my favorite things about (good) B2B content marketing is that it's so focused on adding value for the audience,” she says. “More than in the B2C space, B2B content marketers are asking themselves, ‘is the content I'm producing going to help the person consuming it solve a problem?’”
3 B2B Content Marketing Programs We Fell In Love With
TopRank and B2B content marketing is a match made in heaven, and the evidence of our love is in the work we create. The below campaigns gave our team plenty of reasons to fall madly in love with B2B content marketing and we believe they’ll provide plenty of inspiration for you as well.
Prophix: AI in Finance
Interactive. Multimedia. Triple-digit increases. What’s not to love?
Several of our team members, including Josh and Elizabeth, are quite fond of our recent content campaigns for Prophix (including our AI in Finance interactive eBook) the most for the reasons listed above and more.
“We created something absolutely unique, with the audio plus the interactive interface plus our computer personality, Penny. I love that it's so original and, quite frankly, cool, and I'm proud of the results it's getting, too!” Josh said.
Elizabeth adds, “I have just LOVED working on our last few campaigns with Prophix. I love the partnership we have developed where we can bounce ideas off each other, get super creative with our concepts, and test multimedia formats and interactive content.”
Read the full case study to get a look behind the scenes at how our interactive content drove triple-digit results for Prophix.SAP Purpose: Helping the World Run Better
Today, business is more about doing “good” than being “good.” In fact, purpose-driven businesses that strive to leave the world in a better state than they found it in have more loyal customers and also feel a stronger emotional connection to the brand.
Our team fell in love with sharing inspirational stories from purpose-driven businesses, NGO’s, nonprofits, and thought leaders for SAP this year through their SAP Purpose campaign.
“Sharing the stories of these Forward Thinkers making a difference in our world inspired our team along with the members of SAP’s audience. Seeing these leaders converge on one project sharing their passions and pursuits was so powerful!” says Jack.
Hyper-Targeted Content Strategies
With continued opportunities to refine and make improvements, Jane Bartel loves our ongoing B2B content strategy programs for clients like DivvyHQ, LinkedIn, and more.
“The project I'm most in love with at the moment: Planning and building a collection of resources for one particular segment of a client's audience. It's targeted, valuable, and makes great use of new and existing content,” Jane points out.
A specific favorite among the team is the seo-driven B2B content program we’ve been working on in partnership with Antea Group USA, a leading EHS and sustainability consulting firm, for the past three years. We’ve made a consistent commitment to each other, and results we love are in the air. From 2017 to 2018, total blog traffic has grown a whopping 149%, and organic blog traffic has grown 183%.
One of the pieces we're absolutely gaga over is this piece featuring hot EHS tips from a Demogorgon.
Plenty of Love to Go Around
B2B content marketing is the perfect partner. Our relationship has a solid foundation and we continue to grow together, instead of apart. It affords us the opportunity to learn. It nurtures our buyers. It helps us connect with target audiences. It solves important problems. What’s not to love?
We aren’t the only ones who love everything B2B marketing. For more inspiration, make sure to follow these B2B marketing influencers.
As a content marketer, I’m always looking for more effective and efficient ways to communicate. I love the way communication is evolving online (with the exception of, say, YouTube comments).
Think about it: A hundred years ago, it was much harder to convey a mood in text.
You could trail off (…)
You could ask questions (?)
You could shout (!!)
And that’s about it.
Emoticons opened up the possibilities a bit, with “slight smile :),” “big smile :D,” and “guy wearing sunglasses sticking his tongue out 8P.” Emojis added even more nuance.
Now, though, we have the ability to embed images and GIFs in our blog posts, emails, and messages. We can convey extremely specific moods, thoughts, and insights with a single image. Like, for example, the feeling when you’re wearing socks and step in something wet:
These images are emotional shorthand: They connect on a primal level without having to filter through words.
As every marketer knows, there are some work-related feelings that words just can’t quite describe. Every day in this challenging and rewarding profession has its ups and downs—and diagonals, too. Here are a few very specific moods I’ve encountered, and perhaps you have too, on this wild ride.
10 Marketing Moods We Can All Relate To
Mood #1: When “SEO content” and “good content” are referred to as different things.
Whether you're pitching a new idea to an internal group of brand stakeholders or you're agency side like me, the assumption that "SEO content" can't possibly be "good content" has been made by internal and external contacts.
These poor souls were scarred by the shallow, redundant “SEO content” of the late 1990's and early 2000's. Of course, we artfully explain that SEO today means making stuff that actual human beings want to read. Our keyword research is in the service of making great content.
Mood #2: When you get the go-ahead on an out-there, creative idea… and then you have to actually do it.
For example, let's say you pitch an interactive eBook with a computer-generated voice to tie together audio recordings of influencers. That means coming up with a process to record influencers, finding a computer voice that fits just right, the design team learning new tools… but once it’s done, it’s worth the initial panic.
Mood #3: When the third round of edits brings you back to your original copy.
Enterprise-level companies have a lot of stakeholders, which means a lot of scrutiny on every piece of content—from blog post to tweet. And you know what? It totally makes sense. At the end of the day, they just want to protect the brand and ensure that messaging is on point. But, for any marketer fielding editing requests, it’s so deeply satisfying when the back-and-forth comes full-circle.
Mood #4: When a "content outsider" critiques your content...and they're right.
You have to believe in what you’re doing as a content writer. There’s a minimum level of self-confidence required to keep from just staring at a blank screen, paralyzed in terror. I tend to operate right at that minimum level.
But I'll admit it—it’s easy to get defensive when someone suggests changes, and it’s hard to admit that they’re right. Everyone needs reminding every now and then that we’re all on the same team, and it’s not about winning.
Mood #5: When someone’s in a noisy place on a conference call.
At the best of times, 40% of a conference call is saying, “Who joined?” and “Can you see my screen NOW?” and “I think you’re still on mute.” At the worst, there’s that one person who is dialing in from a convertible doing 85 miles an hour past a series of marching bands. Everyone can hear it. No one can talk. The culprit doesn’t realize it’s them. Ugh.
Mood #6: When you’re having technical difficulties.
The client can’t open their Zoom link. A bad phone connection has you missing every other word. You can’t get your slideshow to show up on the screenshare. Your cool video demo that worked great for the internal presentation is playing backwards with no audio. And all you can do is keep smiling and fill the time until it gets fixed.
Mood #7: When your co-worker microwaves broccoli (or fish, or spinach).
Even if your colleagues are brilliant, accomplished marketers, eventually someone’s going to wage war on your olfactory senses. And they’ll do it at least once a week.
You may never catch the culprit, and eventually the pursuit will simply drive you mad. So, best to just keep some Vick’s VapoRub handy to rub under your nostrils. It works for sanitation workers!
Mood #8: When your mentor retweets you.
Marketers are such a generous bunch! I've learned so much from the thought leaders in the industry (and in my office). It’s amazing to have one of them share something they learned from me. It makes me even more determined to keep learning, and to share what I know.
Mood #9: When a marketing thought leader shreds conventional wisdom.
It’s equal parts delightful and scandalizing to watch someone take aim at the sacred cows in our profession. Especially when they’re absolutely, 100% right. Think Jay Acunzo sounding off on best practices, or Doug Kessler’s profane and hilarious rant about swearing in marketing (which is too spicy to link here, but it’s on his blog).
Not only are these hot takes hilarious, they’re a crucial part of pushing the industry forward.
Mood #10: When that huge, complex content asset finally launches.
After influencer interviews, outlining, content creation, design, internal and/or client edits, it’s finally time to show the world what you’ve been working on. For a few minutes, all is well. You take a moment, pat yourself on the back, and imagine relaxing in the shade with a frosty beverage.
Stay in the Mood for Marketing
Working in marketing is an emotional roller coaster. It can be fun; it can be scary; it can even make you sick to your stomach. But working with brilliant colleagues, learning from amazing peers, and helping fascinating clients makes it worth the ride. That much is constant, regardless of how the mood swings.
For more alliterative content marketing advice, check out 5 B2B Content Marketing Lessons from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
“Step up on the railing. Hold on, hold on. Keep your eyes closed.”
Jack is holding Rose around her waist, cautiously lifting her up to the Titanic’s bow.
“Do you trust me?”
He was a stranger up until days earlier, but still, her response is almost instantaneous.
“I trust you.”
Moments later, Rose opens her eyes and she’s flying, arms outstretched as the mighty liner propels her forward. She and Jack hold hands; they kiss. Celine Dion’s music wafts in the background. Teenage boys in the theater start gagging, while romantic types swoon.
There’s a good chance you lived through this very experience. James Cameron’s 1997 cinematic landmark Titanic was an unprecedented hit, holding the title as highest-grossing film of all time for 14 years. The scene described above is perhaps its most famous — the linchpin in a love story sparked by deep, genuine trust that materialized almost out nowhere.
When I say, “Everyone and their mom saw this movie,” I mean it a bit too literally because I actually saw it with my mom, as a 12-year-old, and it was… awkward.
With that embarrassing story out of the way (I swear there’s a reason I mentioned it, and we’ll get back to it later), let’s move on to one you might actually care about: The state of trust in marketing.
Strap on your lifejacket and prepare for a journey through these choppy waters...
By the Numbers: The State of Trust in Marketing
At the outset of 2016, trust toward all four institutions measured by Edelman Trust Barometer reached their highest levels since the Great Recession, with businesses seeing the largest spike.
Things looked good. Confidence was high. We were all cruising merrily along. Then, we hit the iceberg that was 2016. You might remember that year not-so-fondly, for any number of reasons.
The following year, Edelman declared that “trust is in crisis around the world,” citing an unprecedented drop across all four institutions. The 2018 research revealed “a world of seemingly stagnant distrust,” with no rebound to be seen. Things weren’t merely stagnating everywhere, though...
In 2018, only 48% of people in the United States said they trust businesses, down from 58% in 2017. (Edelman)
This was a point where people were frantically piling into lifeboats. I think I just saw Billy Zane kick a little kid off one. What a jerk.
Anyway, this is a problem.
[Side note: If you’re noticing a lot of Edelman citations thus far, it’s because their Trust Barometer is such a valuable resource for the topic, and offers a consistent baseline to show the progression of trust. But there are plenty of other sources to come.]63% of people agree with this statement: “A good reputation may get me to try a product—but unless I come to trust the company behind the product I will soon stop buying it, regardless of its reputation.”(Edelman)
68% of adults in the U.S. say that trust in a brand has "a great deal" or "a lot" of influence on their decision when making a big purchase. (SurveyMonkey)
I’m not exactly sure what the difference is between “a great deal” and “a lot,” but alas...
We've reached an era where people at large are digitally adept and savvy. They know they have a world of options at their literal fingertips, and can thusly hold brands to the highest of standards. Trust strikes a deep emotional chord.
“The digital era has fundamentally shifted assumptions for how individuals will do business and engage with companies," Kevin Cochrane, Chief Marketing Officer at SAP, wrote at Harvard Business Review last year. "Once trust has been lost, it’s nearly impossible for brands to rebuild sustainable, honest relationships with their customers."
In other words: once the ship has sunk, it ain't coming back up.
[bctt tweet="Once #trust has been lost, it’s nearly impossible for brands to rebuild sustainable, honest relationships with their customers. - @kevinc2003 #ContentMarketing" username="toprank"]
Some of the damage has already been done. A few months ago, Accenture released its Bottom Line on Trust report, which uses an "Accenture Strategy Competitive Agility Index” to “quantify the impact of trust on a company’s bottom line." Scoring more than 7,000 companies, this system found that...
54% have experienced a material drop in trust at some point during the past two and a half years, "conservatively" losing out on $104 billion in revenue. (Bottom Line on Trust)
"In today’s world, it is no longer a question of if a company will experience a trust incident, but when," the report asserted.
This is getting grim, I know. But we're not underwater yet. There is time yet to turn this troubling tide, and as the primary conduits between customers and brands, marketers can and must be at the forefront.
Marketing executives at B2B and B2C service firms rank “trusting relationships” ahead of “low price” and “superior innovation” among their customers' priorities. (The CMO Survey)
As we build relationships, we build trust. Edelman's 2018 report found that company content is twice as trusted after a customer-brand relationship has been formed. Marketing has a lot of functions (even a great deal of functions?) but this one will be most vital in the months ahead. All of our efforts are doomed without this crucial piece of the puzzle.
So, how do we stay on course and prevent relationships from sinking? Well...
65% of business buyers say they’re likely to switch brands if vendors don’t make an effort to personalize communications to their company. 52% of consumers say the same.(State of the Connected Customer)
This seems to be the the sweet spot. Personalization is the surest way to build a rapport in the digital space. When we fail to connect, it sets off immediate alarms.
Personalization comes in many forms. It can be as sophisticated as using adaptive AI, or as simple as narrowing the scope and voice of your content to resonate with very specific audiences. Whatever the approach, customers clearly want it. And the potential revenue benefits are undeniable.
[bctt tweet="#Personalization is the surest way to build a rapport in the digital space. When we fail to connect, it sets off immediate alarms. @NickNelsonMN #ContentMarketing" username="toprank"]
Personalization can deliver 5-8 times the ROI on marketing spend, and can lift sales by 10% or more.(McKinsey & Company)
Now that sounds like smooth sailing.
Research makes clear that marketers are wise to chart a course for more personalized waters. Granted, that’ll mean different things to different organizations and strategies, but it simply must be a central focus if we are to stay afloat.
Personalized marketing is the byproduct of turning customer data into useful insights. It’s the industry’s prime directive as we speak. I’m excited to see what we can accomplish on this front in 2019 and beyond.
I will leave you with one final word (statistic) of caution, however.
79% of consumers will leave a brand if their personal data is used without their knowledge. (SAP Hybris Consumer Insights Report)
By following the principles of responsible personalization, we as marketers can right the ship and play our part in building sturdy relationships that ensure customers...
Moral of the Story: Steer Toward Trustful Shores
A bit of good news: in the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer results, released a couple of weeks ago, trust toward business increased in 21 of 26 markets, including the U.S. where 54% of respondents voiced confidence — one of the biggest jumps. Now, we need to stay that course.
At a high level, personalization should be the true-north on every marketer's strategic compass. But on a day-to-day tactical basis, I believe there are three focal areas for continually building trust. As it happens, I've attempted to incorporate each into this blog post you're reading.
Storytelling. My goal here was to take a set of statistics and craft them into a coherent narrative. For added effect, I juxtaposed it against another extremely recognizable story. Your mileage may vary on the wisdom and effectiveness of this particular approach.
Authenticity. For better or worse, this is who I am. I’m the kind of guy who intertwines 20-year-old movies with blog posts about marketing. (More seriously, I have a genuine passion for the subject of trust in marketing, which is why I write about it so frequently here.)
Transparency. Even — no, especially — when it’s information you’re not entirely jazzed to be sharing. I didn’t love telling you all about sitting uncomfortably next to my mom during the infamous “Draw me like one of your French girls” scene at age 12, but I did so with the hopes it’d signal an openness and candor in the writing to come. Recently I highlighted a company called Lemonade that runs a “Transparency Chronicles” series, in which they speak very frankly about their experiences as a growing business — including their failures and shortcomings. Customers are tired of hearing how great and perfect brands are. They want realness.
Content marketing strategies founded on personalization, with storytelling, authenticity, and transparency as cornerstones, will be primed to stand the test of time in an age of digital disorientation.
Maybe, one day, we can finally restore the fundamental trust that’s been shattered ever since some genius marketing mind came up with the “Unsinkable Ship” slogan.
Did you like this post? Want to read more from me on trust and transparency in marketing? Check out these past articles: