B2B influencer marketing (creating a buzz through others)

I’m thrilled to be announcing a new webinar in conjunction with B2B Marketing Magazine, which will be taking place on 20th November as part of their all-new tailored B2B training programme.

I see influencer marketing becoming a core staple of the evolving B2B marketing mix as referral, recommendation and advocacy become ever more critical to the success or failure of brands.

I think marketers who see influencer marketing as a PR tactic are missing a golden opportunity to position their business and its products and services in a way to add value by solving real world customer problems. Tapping into trusted voices and channels is a powerful way of serving credible communications to the right people at the right time.

I’m finalising a very practical session laced with real-world examples and practical application and will be exploring the nature of importance and why it is important in B2B sales cycles, what influencer marketing is, what it involves, who it should target, how to go about it and to evaluate the success of it.

Some specifics include:

– Understanding what influencer marketing is and how B2B brands can benefit

– Identifying and ranking influencers

– Communicating with influencers

– Measuring the effectiveness of influencer marketing programmes

Falling at a perfect time for many marketers’ planning cycles, I hope you (and your team) can join us on 20th November 14:00 GMT. More information can be found at www.b2bmarketing.net

PS: I’m looking for 1-2 companies to profile. Are you active in influencer marketing or have seen some brands doing some cool things in this area?

Keywords in practice: SEO for b2b marketing

So, anyone dabbling in the area of SEO knows that selecting the right keywords is an important, but first step in designing a kick-ass b2b search engine marketing strategy, right? (If not, here’s a useful primer)

There is a lot of duff SEO advice online. Get back to basics and use the right keywords optimally around your site. This is a digital fundamental. Here are some quick steps to making sure they help your site rise to the top in search engine results.

Using keywords in practice

It is widely acknowledged that the first 200 words on any web page (especially the home page) are generally the most important on your website. Make sure the keywords for your page are placed in the first few sentences and also in the first heading (h1) tag on the page.

Much of this is covered in the SEO chapter of ‘Brilliant B2B Digital Marketing’ , where I use global compressor manufacturer Atlas Copco and compressed gases supplier BOC to illustrate this technique to promote keyword positioning on compressors, mining and construction.

 

Headings and subheadings

Place your primary keywords in your headings and sub-headings as these areas of content are perceived to carry greater weight in search engine ranking algorithms.

Use key phrases not just keywords

Sometimes if there are words with more than one meaning, it makes sense to use additional words to clarify the intended meaning. To help the search engine bot establish the meaning, use a ~keyword search in Google’s search bar. The results will have the words in bold that the search engine believes are most related to that word. This turns keywords into key phrases or ‘long tail’ to use the common name.

Think about about your own search experience. To navigate an increasingly irrelevant landscape, Internet users are using three words to refine their search so your SEO should follow suit.

Keyword density and distribution

You don’t want to use keywords too much in your displayed ‘on-page’ content, but you do want to make sure they are used at least twice in the body copy as an absolute minimum. Reference needs to be natural and within context. A keyword in every sentence looks forced. Ask your copywriters to use synonyms.

Optimising your meta data

1. Keep meta descriptions short.

If your meta description is longer than 150 characters, search engines may omit some of it. Keep the summary brief and loaded with your most relevant and important keywords to give readers a sense of what they’ll find on the page. To save you counting, the BOC example below is 58 words long.

2. Develop unique meta descriptions.

Keep in mind that the purpose of the meta description is to set the visitor’s expectations about what can be found on that page. This makes meta descriptions for every page a requirement.

 

 

3. Page in a sentance

Write a sentence that encapsulates what the page is about and what it will offer the visitor rather than providing a list of arbitrary keywords. The messaging in the search results are often the first experience of the brand.

4. Reuse elements

Reuse elements throughout the page in links, anchor text and other titles and tags. This increases relevance in the eyes of human and search engine visitors.

5. Order meta data in priority to suit search engines.

Although it is widely held that Google places a low rank on certain elements of meta data, it is good practice to order data in the meta of a web page in the order Title > Description > Keywords.

Applying a diligent approach to your on page SEO gives you a firm foundation to kick on with your online marketing promotion before you spend on link building, pay per click and other forms of advertising.

 

How to ensure you use the most relevant SEO keywords in your B2B marketing

Rightly or wrongly, the Internet is still built on text based code. So making sure your site is optimised with the right text customers are using to inform their search is a critical part of your digital marketing strategy.

Keyword based SEO is critical as it drives your messaging, content and success in search marketing. It’s important that there is a relationship between how your site is written and what browsers are looking for but it is very common for businesses to either do too little or too much which leads to keyword stuffing.

Keyword research isn’t a dark art. Do your homework.

 

Keyword research involves mapping what your customers and prospects are looking for and what you can offer them. There is an abundance of data available within the Google suite of webmaster tools even before you need to access more sophisticated software. You can still access the Adwords Keyword Planner tool which offers insight into which words and phrases are used more frequently than others as well as the relative competition in trying to rank top on them.

As a result, keyword research can be an involved and complicated process especially if you are promoting a number of elements simultaneously. In b2b terms, think about focusing on the following:

1. Focus of the page. Are you providing information or overtly selling? This plays on the position and mindset of the visitor in relation to the buying cycle. The words, language and tone change markedly from informational pages to product selling pages.

2. Pick a primary keyword for each page. Consider using a small number of keywords across your website to start. Using too many on a page will dilute the impact of individual words and mean the page has little authority when assessed by search engines.

3. Assess the competition. What are the competition doing with keywords and are some more prevalent than others? A simple right click and View Source will display the company’s keywords included in their meta data. Consider, though, that they may have the mood very wrong and also competitors vying for rankings for the same keyword phrase.

4. Use a keyword analysis tool. Free tools like the Google Adwords Keyword Planner tool are perfect for initial research and help to establish the relative relevance and value of keywords, giving an indication of searches over time and regionally (global vs local). Make sure you use ‘exact’ matching to give you better, more refined results.

 

Q: How do you ensure you are using the right SEO keywords? Share your tips and tricks below.

Image: Crystal ball image 

Ten ways to breathe new life into your B2B marketing blog

An infinitely credible approach to driving customer engagement with your brand is through repackaging your expertise as helpful advice. This blog post looks at ways to re-energise your blogging and content marketing.

For me, the intricacies of the B2B decision making process coupled with the often long gestation period demand an integrated approach.

Carefully crafting a blog that regular provides useful insight and advice sits at the heart of the modern B2B marketing agenda. Great blog content provides for social and CRM rocket fuel and can be packaged at the end of the month and delivered to opted in subscribers as a newsletter and used for press release purposes.

Sometimes we can’t get started. Sometimes we can’t maintain momentum. Sometimes we need a jump start. Whatever the reason, it’s useful to have an agreed number of topics or styles to pull off the shelf in order to avoid writers block and to continue to deliver.

Here are ten things you could plan to do over the next week or so to give your blog fresh impetus. Do let me know how you progress – keep in mind the twin aims of delivering help and advice in a way that keeps visiting audiences interested.

1. Repurpose a piece of existing content into a new format – press release to blog, upload a presentation, create a manual/data sheet download.

2. Comment on a news story affecting your industry – even better if you can find an industry watering hole in which to do it.

3. Comment on a current piece of research or data.

4. Write a round up and publish at the end of the week.

5. Provide an industry resource list – this could in fact be a great evergreen piece of content that with incoming links could return traffic to your site for years.

6. Report on an event, conference, trade show or seminar.

7. Write up a customer case study.

8. Diagnose and solve an industry problem.

9. Offer a distinguished industry voice a guest post opportunity (and reciprocate).

10. If all else fails, take a provocative stance on something that needs to change.

Image: http://www.nothingtoblogabout.net/

Help – I’m a content marketer!

It may well have passed you by, but there are two revolutions taking place that will have a devastating effect on your ability to effectively market your business.

The first is the rise of citizen journalism. The era of 24-7 real time news has meant that everyone now sees themselves as a journalist and commentator on the news as it happens. How often do we see news stories break with a whirlwind of comment, hyperbole and analysis before the facts of the story come through confining all previous activity around the story to the bin?

The second is the reality that everyone (and every business) can and should become a publisher. Adopting a publisher mindset in how you being to redefine your relationships with customers and prospects brings enlightenment as you focus more specifically on their needs than your own. Media owners, by definition, have to provide their audiences with what they want or they go elsewhere – and the title into terminal decline.

Content marketing, as I taked about at length at the recent On the Edge digital marketing conference in Birmingham, is the method by which we repackage our expertise and counsel in a way to make what we do truly helpful to the people we want to serve.

It’s a hot topic as everyone is reading, writing, talking and thinking about it. But examples of people doing it well across a wide variety of sectors are few and far between.

If you’re a content marketer and don’t know where to start, my slides [and video] should help.

I’ll be posting a lot more on content marketing over the coming weeks, but for now consider these five steps to getting an effective content led inbound marketing campaign off the ground.

1. Assign a managing editor to own and determine tone, messaging, platforms, topics, calendar. Impossible for the new graduate arrival to have the gravitas to do this and engage the necessary stakeholders.

2. Research what customers want/need by visiting industry watering holes – trade media, Linkedin groups, trade press and events.

3. Review what assets you have in the business and repackage them. Go back twelve months if you need to. Press releases, presentations, news, brochures, video can all be repackaged to power a blog, email outreach and social media accounts.

4. Curate industry news, information, insights, research and use it to drive your content programme.

5. Above all, focus on customer problems and helping them. Does your content add value by informing, educating, inspiring, entertaining?

How do you go about structuring, informing and implementing your content marketing efforts?

Putting your expertise to best use for your business

If this summer is anything to go by, I’m convinced UK PLC is powering gingerly back into life. At my agency, we’ve had a crazy busy period with an unrivalled number of tenders, pitches and proposals for new client prospects as well as clients entering early stage planning for new campaign periods.

What has been clear is that the wheels of business in a range of sectors that have struggled for several years, have finally started turning. Marketing, as we know, is often one of the first casualties of recession, so an increase in tenders, pitches and proposals is a real barometer of confidence.

But marketing is getting ever more challenging as a discipline. Buyers have greater choice than at any time previous and are much more aware of those choices.

Standing out has never been more important or more urgent. But how you do it determines how successful you’ll be. Tapping into the search mentality of the modern buyer and their quest for problem solving information is one of the most credible and engaging ways to do this.

Check out my current article for Smart Insights on how to make the case for inbound content marketing here.

Book your place at my next conference presentation for On the Edge on 19th September in Birmingham on “Help! I’m a content marketer – 15 easy to implement content tips you can start using tomorrow!”

B2B SEO – the ferrari parked in the garage

The number of consultancy discussions I have about b2b websites not designed with search engine optimisation in mind leaves me hopping mad.

It seems inconceivable to me that SEO isn’t a fundamental element of the website design process. Yet, there are still scores of company sites that have been designed,  built and launched without due consideration for their online visibility.

Why on earth invest time, money and effort in something and then not let it flourish? To me, it’s tantamount to buying a ferrari and keeping it in the garage – not driving it, showing it off, enjoying it.

As commercially-minded marketers, we need to remember how important search engines are in reaching prospects and customers. In previous posts, I’ve discussed how professional buyers are using the Internet to search for suppliers at all stages of the buying process.

It is no longer desirable, it is essential, not least because of competition from global inter-connectedness. Your business doesn’t compete in your city or county any more – your competition is coming from savvy businesses much further afield.

It’s a word game.

Content remains king in SEO. But whilst the amount of content grows exponentially, the quality deteriorates. Browsers now have unparalleled and unlimited choice and no time to waste. The trick to getting and staying found lies in relevance and frequency.

So, in preview, to a series of upcoming posts on the SEO and B2B websites, here is a primer on some of the big picture thinking around why thinking and investing in SEO is imperative.

Think:

1. Relevance. Picking the right words is key. Not what you think customers are using but what they are using. Use the Adwords tool and interrogate it. Visit competitor websites and View>Source to check their meta data. (Future posts will explain some of this). It’s also important to consider combinations and longer tail search to avoid competition and get to the heart of what they want.

 

2. Timeliness. Website content ages quickly. It might be that your company has entered new sectors and markets or left some behind. You may have new products or services to promote, or legislative changes to share. Or there may be a requirement to communicate with other stakeholder groups such as distributors, agents and investors, as well as customers and prospects. All these opportunities give rise to the concept of ‘content in context’ and an opportunity to review how you promote and optimise this content.

3. Consistency / accuracy. Uniform use of keywords on page and in code is critical to success in SEO and returning in search results. Simple things like spelling and grammar can have a big impact too.

4. Engaging. Good performance in SEO can also be achieved by use of more interactive or ‘sticky’ content. Video, for example, not only offers a powerful way to demonstrate product features and benefits, and bring a corporate entity to life, if hosted on YouTube or Vimeo and on your website it can dramatically improve site visibility, ranking and inbound traffic.

5. Connected. It’s important that all links within your site are checked regularly, particularly as the site grows. Updating or removing content leaves the site at risk of being littered with errors and broken links.

Ready, to take that Ferrari of yours for a drive?

 

Image: http://hdwallpapers4desktop.com

Your invite to an exclusive “7 steps to brilliant digital B2B marketing” webinar with Silverpop

The lovely people at Silverpop have asked me to be the second speaker in their Silverpop Book Club initiative. On Thursday 11th April (14:00 GMT), join me as I discuss some of the concepts and thinking contained in my book Brilliant B2B Digital Marketing – which is available for Kindle Readers and any device with the free Kindle app from the Amazon store.

The webinar on Thursday, hosted on the BrightTalk platform offers lots of tips and pointers – as well as an unusual array of B2B digital case studies – in areas including digital strategy, websites, search, inbound marketing, social media, CRM and analytics and evaluation.

Register for the webinar here. I understand Silverpop are planning to gift 20 attendees the book for free. At 330 pages and costing less than a large Domino’s Create Your Own pizza, it remains a snip even if you elect to buy a copy.

I do hope you can find the time to join us and learn more about the book…especially if you haven’t already ‘Looked Inside‘.

 

Delivering a brilliant B2B website user experience

A positive and consistent user experience can make or break your business online. Does your website keep customers coming back for more?

Delivering a brilliant and compelling user experience means combining creative and functional design with speed, usability, accessibility, content architecture and contingency design.

It is important to recognise that user experience is a key part of branding. This can be simple and effective signposting like that exemplified by the Dell UK site which gets visitors to the content they want quickly. This, in turn, increases conversion rates by generating trust and encourages both loyalty from existing users and new traffic from viral referrals.

Feel the need for speed

Design with speed in mind. Slow loading pages, graphics and rich media can have a hugely negative impact on your bounce rate as visitors refuse to wait for content to load. Employ a three-click journey rule to any page within your website. Factor in simple navigation, using accepted terms and structure to make it as easy as possible for people to find what they’re looking for.

Accessibility

Web accessibility is about reaching the broadest group of people irrespective of disabilities including sight, hearing and speech; physical, cognitive and some neurological disorders.

And as technology continues to innovate at a pace, websites and other web-based applications can draw on advances in areas such as screen readers, Braille displays, magnification and voice- recognition to facilitate access to digital content. Consider them if you are specifically targeting specific groups. International standards such as W3C help set benchmarks that good web designers should abide by.

Content architecture

On large websites it can be worthwhile considering how information is grouped and collated for customer benefit. Conducting exercises offline can help identify trends in browsing behaviour and provide a useful psychological insight into how different individuals search, collate and interact with content. This can play into how the site’s navigation is designed and displayed.

The website for Swedish construction and project management company Skanska, adopts a number of simple but effective navigation techniques that help to manage the presentation of content to site users. It uses top and bottom navigation effectively deployed, as well as ‘breadcrumbs’ throughout the home page. These are additional carefully selected navigation devices that help signpost effectively to interesting content deeper in the site – namely company information, press activity, publications and upcoming events. The site also makes use of a carousel to convey key messages.

Above ‘home’ page, below ‘about us’ page.

The reality in information architecture and navigation is that people will give up quickly if they can’t find what they want, so make sure you are using industry standard definitions and not your own unique vocabulary. Use colour and tabs to help people identify where they are (side navigation bars on inner pages work well for this) and keep the clickable drill down into deeper content to no more than three levels.

Contingency design

There will always be situations where a user makes a request that the system is unable to answer or performs an action that goes against how the system was designed to work.

Leaving form fields blank, requesting a page that doesn’t exist, making a spelling mistake when performing a search or trying to buy a product that is out of stock are all examples of how users could challenge a system.

By predicting these challenges and proposing solutions to either prevent or deal with the problem – by answering the ‘what if…?’ questions – it is possible to find solutions that add value to failure and maintain a positive user experience.

Creative use of the 404 error message that typically displays when a link is broken or a page is removed from a website is a great example of predicting potential short-comings but dealing with them in a way that doesn’t unduly affect the user experience.

What other ways can you deliver brilliant user experience on your website?

Get more on B2B websites, SEO, social media and more with my new ebook Brilliant B2B Digital Marketing.

How to ensure your B2B website is “fit for function”

It is without question that websites are the most important part of your B2B digital marketing toolkit. But with much attention given over to the creative look and feel, how do you ensure the website does what is supposed to do – deliver visitors to the right content and right actions?

It is critical to consider function from the outset as this helps to prioritise elements and ensure they have the relevant profile and position within the design but not too much profile that it confuses the design. Functionality ultimately comes down to user experience – and in simple terms covers all the individual elements that need to come together to deliver that great customer experience.

There are two ways to build in function from the start of a website project.

Use wireframes to define the visual priority of main page elements

Wireframes are the best and most common way of quickly establishing which elements are required, where they should be placed and the emphasis they take on the home page. Wireframes help to build the skeleton of a website and provide a blueprint for the content and calls to action which come later. Tools like Cacoo can help to create quick wireframes for home page or landing page layouts and also support the development of full website sitemaps too.

A simple example wireframe for a business site is shown below. More expansive wireframes might include more significant calls to action such as ‘search’, email subscription, content downloads, video and social media links. And as you move deeper into the site, it is important to consider how pages may change, but retain some of the key content in top, side and bottom navigation bars.

Some marketers and designers go straight to design. Don’t. Wireframes will help provide structure to what needs to go where within a page layout for the main page types on a site.

For more on free wireframe tools, try this Mashable post.

Define primary site customer journeys

Building out your site to ensure it helps the visitors you prize the most means better understanding the primary customer journeys to your site and how they might move around it. Most likely, as a B2B website, visitors are looking for one or more of the following:

1. Find more information about a product or service.

2. Buy a product or service.

3. Find out the credibility of the supplier.

4. Check out the latest non-product information – news or offers.

5. Find contact information to make an enquiry or find a location.

6. Get customer service.

7. Register with site for alerts.

8. Connect with the brand or share information through a social network.

Developing landing pages for key campaigns and audiences is going to be critical, as is having single, compelling call to actions on each page. This is especially important when you are investing significant amounts in driving visitors to your site, for example, through pay per click or banner advertising. You’ll want to track your lead generation and ROI .

Next up: Delivering a brilliant user experience through your B2B website. Subscribe by email to make sure you don’t miss it!