Monday, October 18, 2010

5 Corporate B2B Blogs That You Should Copy

The importance of blogs in your B2B marketing mix can't be overlooked. Blogs are too important in keeping customers and future customers informed about your industry, your products and your company, driving people to your website, and generating leads. A recent study by Hubspot found that those companies that use blogs generate 67% more leads than those that don't. However, anyone that can open a web browser can start a blog. In fact there are more than two blogs are created each second with about 1.6 Million postings per day which works out to 18.6 posts per second. Let's just say that along with the great blogs out there, you also have a bunch of crap.

If you're a B2B company that is considering starting up a corporate blog or sprucing up your current blog, I have five examples that should provide you with some guidelines and tips on what your blog should include. I used the following criteria to help create this list:
  • Was it easy to find your blog on the corporate website? Blogs should be easily available on your website or within a resources section. Of all the criteria, this was lower on the list as most web visitors will find you via search. However, your blog content changes often and it may be something to consider featuring on you home page.

  • The appearance of the blog. The blog should look professional. It should include a real URL (unlike myself but I'm not a B2B company!), and have an enticing design. At times, blogs are seen as an afterthought and look very unprofessional when you compare it to the corporate website. Some blogs have different fonts for each post while others use large images of the authors. I really don't care to see a massive picture of the author for each post. I would much rather see a relevant picture that coincides with the content so I can better visualize what is attempting to be conveyed. Pictures can add a little fun to your blog and it's this type of personality that can keep a steady flow of followers. Make sure you get rid of the flashing images, the useless widgets and Google Adwords if you want people to take you seriously.

  • Is the content appealing? For the blogs I looked at, I wasn't basing my judgement on whether or not I liked the content. I was rather looking for content that would appeal to the target audience. Therefore, the content should not be solely about your products or services. Here is a quick gut check. Look at your last five blog posts. If the name of your company is in the title in three out of the five posts, then you may have an issue. Blogs shouldn't solely be another PR engine. They should educate your readers on topics outside of your company. That said, updating readers on the culture of your company via the blog is a good idea as it gives people a different view of your company that can't be done via the regular corporate website.

  • Is it engaging? Are the blogs engaging? Do people comment on the posts? Are people tweeting or "liking" (I'm referring to Facebook here) the posts? This provides a good indication if your creating blog posts that are designed for two way conversation. Now, I would expect the odd post to be a little bland depending on the purpose but this can't be an ongoing trend. And oh yeah, comments from your co-workers don't count.
PS - posting regularly is a given for me to even consider looking at the blog. If you're not able to post regularly on your corporate blog, it's time to review your blogging strategy. Based on this criteria here are a few blogs that I think you should check out:
Webtrends: Dear Report Monke
  • Webtrends: I really liked this blog. It has personality, informative content, a great design and loyal followers. I liked that it contained educational content as well as including some fun posts such as a regular feature that allows readers to ask "Report Monkey" questions. Webtrends also uses interesting headlines such as "It's All About the Visitor Stupid!"

    I liked that it included webstats in the top right hand corner which blends the theme of the company with the blog. By focusing on its readers, Webtrends is able to get some great participation from its audience including one post that had 54 comments and counting.

  • InsideView: InsideView does a great job culling together appealing content. They do this by reusing a lot of content that is already out there. For example, in the post "15 Sales Productivity Posts You Should Read Today" InsideView has pulled together some very useful content that is relevant to its readers. This post also generated five comments and a number of retweets. Here is another tip - when you post about other blogs, they tend to comment on your blog and thank you for it (hint, hint, nudge, nudge).

    What I really like about this blog is its simplicity. The design is a simple Wordpress design that InsideView has customized for its purposes but it's clean and functional.

  • CEB Views: The Corporate Executive Board has taken things to the next level by creating an informational portal. The design is very functional as it splits up posts based on different categories as well as different types of channels (video and podcasts). This site also makes it easy to find the popular posts based on page views and comments. While needing to keep the content more on the serious side due to the target audience, CEB does add some fun content pieces such as the "Daily Lift" category. For example one such post was on the The World’s Most Boring Article (let's hope we don't see this blog there!).

  • Rally Software: Rally has been able to generate a loyal following by maintaining a consistent tone and providing useful content that starts a conversation. For example, Rally uses an excellent blogging technique in which they interview an industry expert (Five Reasons Why CIOs Should Consider Agile Development). I also liked that Rally gave its readers a glimpse into the life of Rally workers with posts such as Rally’s week of culture and space “hackathons”. It's these types of posts that can help you feel closer to a company and understand how it ticks.
  • Ariba: This blog takes a bit of a different spin by not mentioning the company at all in the blog title and calling itself "Supply Excellence Blog". It includes different types of content such as videos and uses enticing headlines such as "Sourcing ‘Sexy’ Categories (Like Coffee)". This keeps the blog interesting for its readers and provides opportunities to weigh in on certain topics.
I hope that you have found these blogs useful. Remember that blogs take a lot of hard work. For example, Ariba has been working on their blog since 2006. Don't expect to have your web traffic triple in a few weeks after you've launched your blog. It takes effort, time and patience to achieve a successful blog. Create a plan and keep working at it and the rewards will pay off.

I would love to hear about any other corporate blogs that target B2B companies that you are aware of. What is it that makes these blogs appealing?

Chad H
@chadhorenfeldt

7 comments:

Jeff Ogden said...

Thanks for sharing. Good blogs there, but we also recommend:
http://www.fearlesscompetitor.net

Koka Sexton said...

Thanks for including us Chad. We are glad our blog is getting more attention.

Tim said...

Thanks for including CEB Views in your line-up Chad, we're very pleased you like it.

Tim Stafford, Editor, CEB Views

Justin Fogarty said...

Thanks for including us - Ariba and Supply Excellence. We're honored to be on the list!

Justin

Ron Davis said...

Absolutely love your blog, Chad!

Honestly, I don't know how you find the time to write such informative, thoughtful posts. I think that's the biggest reason we haven't started one for our business - we don't want to start one if we can't provide consistent insight to our clients and prospective clients. And running the business itself just always takes priority - but you've inspired us (me)...we'll see if we can get the ball rolling :)

Ron Davis
www.virtualappoint.com

Chad H said...

@Jeff - Thx for your comment but I think you can do better next time than just recommending your own blog with no supporting comments. You have a blog but it's great when you can provide a bit more then just a self-promotion. These types of comments typically get deleted but I let it go this time.

@Koka (InsideView) - No problem and thanks for dropping by. I see you got the hint. :) You just justified my post and the power of social media. Not only did you comment on my blog but I see that you promoted my blog on Facebook, Twitter as well as on Business Exchange (I didn't know about this site) http://bx.businessweek.com/sales-20/view. Many thanks!

@Tim - My pleasure. Thanks for promoting my blog on Twitter and for dropping by

@Justin - Glad I could promote your blog. Keep it up and thanks for promoting this post on Twitter

@Ron - Thanks for your comments, they are very much appreciated. Keeping up a blog isn't easy and if you'll notice, the number of posts has dropped over the years. I focus on quality over quantity. Even with competing priorities I really like to write and by writing I learn so I make the time. In order to write I need to read up on what's going on so these feed off each other. There are many posts on how to keep a blog running - check out problogger for suggestions. Feel free to ping me if you need assistance.

Chad

DennnZ said...

From my point of view, the concepts of marketing and growing your business are really simple. The difficult part of marketing is in the creative thinking that it takes to develop a strategy and a plan, and the discipline it takes to follow through and execute it. For example, business owners often rely solely on their intuition to make business decisions. While this informal knowledge is important in the decision making process, it may not provide you with all the facts you need to achieve marketing results. A marketing strategy will help you in defining business goals and develop activities to achieve them.

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