You’ll get the most from this article if you’re:
- The marketing manager at a B2B startup and you’re in charge of your company’s blog or;
- A content manager/marketer handling the content marketing (specifically blogging) at a fast-growing B2B startup
…and most importantly, your blog should receive at least 1,000 visitors per month.
Here’s the summary of what I’m going to show you:
- Put a system in place to tap into topic ideas from your target audience, be it a survey tool or a list of responses from email subscribers. The goal is to never rely on assumptions.
- Help key influencers/players in your industry by providing them with the type of content they can use and they will be happy to share it.
- Narrow your list of influencers to the right ones. Get this right: not every influencer in your niche is a perfect fit.
That is the crux of this article. If you want to stop here, I don’t blame you. But before you go, check out this statistic: 94% of blog posts have zero links and social shares.
Backlinko’s analysis of nearly a billion blog posts reveals an appalling fact: companies spend a lot of time producing top-notch content that no one ever sees.
- 63% of companies don’t know how to properly use content marketing
- 32% of marketers report that their content sucks
- 60% businesses said that producing better content consistently is extremely hard
The simple fact is that you (and many other companies) are struggling to effectively use content marketing because you’re outclassed. Check this tweet from Jimmy Daly:
So, what can you do to stand out?
In this post, I’ll share everything I did to go from a blog that sucked to building one that is widely viewed as a leading content marketing blog in the middle east, so that you can walk way with proven strategies to apply to your own B2B content strategy.
Table of Contents
To Stand Out, Aim For An Audience-fit Approach
Let me ask you this quick question:
What would it mean for you to bring in over 4,000 highly targeted visitors to your latest blog post in 96 hours?
And what would it mean to you to get almost 500 new email subscribers off the same post?
I lied: there were two questions. But it doesn’t matter: in today’s content marketing world, the real question is how to stand out.
To achieve those traffic figures, you need to stand out. To get hundreds of subscribers, you need to stand out.
That’s what you’re aiming for. That’s when fellow marketers, agency owners and your competitors start to notice your content and congratulate you on your work:
Standing out doesn’t happen by accident. It took 3 years of trial and error to make it happen for me.
Content Marketing Is About Using Your Resources Properly
The biggest problem with content marketing is that too many marketers are obsessed with the latest tricks and shortcuts.
John Bonini, head of marketing at DataBox, puts it well:
Back in 2016, I blogged quite often and the only distribution strategy I had – like the majority of B2B companies even now – was posting links on social media. My traffic sucked.
It was really shameless because I was trying to sell content marketing to B2B companies and I hadn’t made it work for myself. I felt like a liar and a cheat.
Fast-forward to the summer of 2017. I revamped my blog, deleted all the posts and started researching and learning. I even hired consultants to help me figure out what was wrong.
Can I be completely honest with you? I discovered that I was doing content marketing the wrong way (yeah, I admit it).
I wasn’t targeting a clear audience and I wasn’t promoting my content enough. I just didn’t like it when people told me to niche down and serve one audience. I wanted every blog post to appeal to everyone. I was spinning my wheels.
I finally realised that if I wanted to make this thing work, I had to bite the bullet and start over. Again.
In November 2017, I wrote a detailed article targeting one clear audience: marketing managers in B2B SaaS startups who make over $1M in ARR in the Middle East. The article did well… better than the entire content of my blog in 2016.
I also learned not to focus on the quantity of content. Instead, I made every new piece count. I published one article every two to four months and I spent the rest of my time promoting the content I had.
In March 2018, I published the second article. This one was a beast and did very well. Suddenly, I had dozens of companies contacted me, asking if I could help them with their content marketing. I worked with some awesome clients, learned a lot and things got smoother.
That’s the power of understanding your audience, writing customer-fit content and putting that content in front of the right audience.
In October 2018, I posted the third article, which outranked the other two combined. It’s the one that inspired the article you’re reading right now:
- Over 4,000 visitors in the first 4 days after hitting publish
- Almost 500 new email subscribers
- About to hit the first page of Google on a highly competitive term that gets 23k monthly searches
After all, that’s the end goal of doing content marketing.
How Did I Do It?
You won’t expect the answer.
I pre-promoted the article a month before even putting pen to paper.
I had an idea in mind about the problem I was trying to solve with this article, of course, but I wanted to test a new approach.
Here’s what I did:
- Chose an audience-fit idea
- Narrowed down my influencers to 25 who’d be interested in the topic and may tweet it
Nothing too fancy, but focusing on the right things can make a huge impact.
The theory was that if my target influencers were interested in reading the article, I’d write it.
Step 1: Choose An Audience-fit Idea
You’re serving your market, not your brain.
I wish someone had slapped me (hard) and told me this earlier. Never assume that the ideas popping up in your brain are mind-blowing without verifying them first.
Brian Clark said in his Book, The “5 P” Approach to Copy that Crushes It: “Put me against the best writer in the world, and if I know the audience better, I’ll kick her or his ass, every time.”
Brian sums it all up. I’ve never seen a successful content marketing operation that uses assumptions.
“I think our audience will love this piece,” you say. “This blog is going to generate craploads of leads.”
Why? Why will your audience benefit from it? Why will it be popular? Why will influencers share it?
For example, I can assume that writing about how to promote affiliate offers in your company’s blog is a good idea. Why? Because it gives you another way to make money.
That’s great in an ideal world. But in the real world, my target audience already knows that they can promote affiliate offers. That’s not why they started their blog.
They want to build awareness around their product. They want to drive qualified leads. They want to build a community. They’re not interested in my amazing article idea.
So, to find topics that you can write about, use one or more of these approaches:
- Create a survey where you ask your audience about their struggles, their frustrations and their problems. The goal is to start with your audience’s pain points and then see if there are some keywords related to these problems. Put a link to your survey in your subscriber welcome email and publish the link on social media.
- Go through your customer support data, sort out of the most commonly asked questions that are related to your core service/product and turn them into topics.
- Analyze your competitors’ content. What topics do they cover? And what keywords are they ranking for? It doesn’t hurt to spy on your peers and see what’s working for them.
For example, my audience was made up almost entirely of e-commerce store owners. When I analyzed what topics they wanted me to cover, the majority had the budget but were struggling to market their business:
So, I sat down and wrote an article that offered four marketing strategies they could use to promote their business.
And I discovered that, when you provide immense value, people will thank you for it. Some will apply the strategies by themselves and others will hire you to do it.
Bloggingwizard.com uses this strategy very well:
And here’s a sneak peek at their questions:
Also, I love how Animalz uses these two straightforward questions on their blog posts:
Go ahead and install a survey tool and start researching your audience. Hotjar is a good tool for this and they have a free plan.
To give you more variations on how to come up with a topic idea that converts, I reached out to some of the best content marketers whose work I respect and asked how they come up with ideas.
Here you go:
“Picking the right topics can range from stupidly simple to wildly complex. On the simpler end, it’s just a matter of taking your customer profile and asking, “What questions is this person asking?”. On the more complex end, there’s a lot to consider. How much overlap is there between this question and buyer intent? How much search volume comes along with this question? Can I offer a more comprehensive answer to this question than my competitors? Can my answer to this question be re-purposed past the initial blog post?
Good topics don’t have to check every box, but if all your topics are checking off quite a few of these boxes, your content marketing efforts are likely headed in the right direction.”
Jacob McMillen, Content Strategist and SEO expert.
“For the most part, when it comes to content on my blog I’m always looking for high purchase intent keyword phrases to go after. And what I mean by that, is keyword phrases that give me the idea that someone who is searching for that specific term will be ready to make a buying decision, or is learning about a topic that will eventually lead to a purchase.
There are a lot of different ways to pinpoint high purchase intent keyword phrases, but my approach is to look at how to style the word phrases. For example, how to start a blog, how to start a business, how to launch a podcast, how to make money blogging. Each of those keyword phrases attracts a readership that is searching for ways to get something business-related started. For a certain percentage of those readers, they will be ready to make decisions as they’re learning. And those purchase decisions can be things like registering a domain name, setting up a business entity, signing up for tax software, purchasing recording equipment on Amazon. And these are the ways that I’m able to monetize those readers most easily. Other ways would include selling an educational course, consulting, coaching, and otherwise.”
Ryan Robinson, Renowned Content Marketer.
“One method I use is to stalk people in Facebook groups to see what posts get the most engagement. When I find a post with lots of likes/comments/shares I take the topic and turn it into a post. Here’s a FB post I saw in a group with 34 comments:
To get traffic to it, I do what I teach in the blog post.
To convert the traffic to email subscribers I use a content upgrade directly related to the piece of content (in the example above it’s a content distribution checklist based on everything taught inside the content distribution topic I wrote about).
Chris Von Wilpert, Chief Content at Sumo.com
“ So, here’s a TL;DR version of how we find content ideas:
- Top podcasts on iTunes: Search with a broad keyword that’s relevant to your business (e.g. startup), take a look at each podcast episode or channel (note: each one is a potential topic idea).
- Amazon search suggestions: Search your broad keyword in Books section/category. Most of these book headlines are topics that you could use and modify straight away. Look at the book’s table-of-contents (each is its own topic idea). Look at customer reviews and find out what’s missing in the book.
- Quora questions: Type in your broad keyword in the search bar. Click “Questions”. Look for questions that have a lot of “follows”
Edward Dennis, Digital Marketing Manager at Core dna.
Great content doesn’t mean an impressive vocabulary and a captivating writing style. They both help, but the point is to write for your audience.
Benji Hyam, an expert content marketer, agrees: “If you want your content to make you and your brand look amazing in the eyes of your target customer, you need to produce content ‘at their level.’ By this we mean that your content is advanced enough to not seem like beginner nonsense to them, yet not so advanced that they don’t understand it.”
Your content is supposed to help your audience solve a problem. So ask that audience what they’re struggling with and only then prioritize their problems to the keywords and their relation to your core product or service.
Or As Nathan Collier, B2B Content Marketer, says:
“To find ideas that convert directly to leads, you have to go beyond just writing content that’s ‘helpful.’ You have to deeply know the problems faced every day by your ideal customers. To do this, get on the phone or a conference call with someone from your target audience and ask them to talk about their biggest frustrations. If you do one, one-hour call a month with someone like this, I predict you’ll never run out of content ideas that speak directly to your customer’s main pain points.”
Yes, this takes time – but it’s worth it. What’s the point of writing content about your own assumptions? Unless you’ve been dealing with your customers day in and day out, you should work backwards.
Step 2: Narrow Your Influencers To A Handful Of The Right Ones
A content marketer is aware of the benefits Facebook ads offer but may not be interested in them for now. Maybe someone in his team handles it.
A sales rep knows the importance of SEO but has more important things to do.
The point is: don’t reach out to an SEO guy thinking that he’s interested in your piece about marketing because SEO is related. Check his Twitter bio and the content he publishes. Spend just three minutes on research and you’ll know if he’s a good fit or not.
Never just go out there and assume. Always research and analyze and only then make your decision.
This is really easy stuff. You don’t need software or anything to narrow down your influencer list. And I always prefer to do the important things manually, anyway, for better results.
Influencer Outreach is still one of the best ways to promote your content. According to a recent study by Orbit Media, 43% of bloggers report “strong results” from it:
When I thought about the influencers on my list, I had over 85 names. I checked each influencer’s Twitter profile and found the 25 that were a perfect fit.
I was pretty sure that some of the 25 would not even reply to my email. But they were a good fit, which was better than emailing 88 influencers out of laziness.
Now that my list was set, how could I rope them in?
The “ask for a quote” strategy has been beaten to death and most influencers are sufficiently aware of it that they’ll probably ignore you.
I used a different approach.
I knew that the topic I told you about above – how to promote my ecommerce store – is a question these influencers hear every day. So, instead of asking for a quote, I adjusted the angle and make it about them, not me.
I told them that I was sure they get this question asked all the time, so instead of responding to everyone individually they could reference my article.
See, I’d help them save lots of time answering emails and they wouldn’t even have to write the article. Now they won’t mind giving a quote and tweeting a link.
Once again, I didn’t assume that they got the question frequently. When you spend enough time in your industry, you start to notice what people ask your influencers without having to ask them about it.
This is the email pitch I used:
And when I sent it, people were ready to participate in the article.
The head of global marketing at SEMrush:
Mazen AlDarrab, an expert e-commerce marketer:
And many more.
When I published the article, all the influencers tweeted it and people loved it.
For example, Mazen AlDarrab tweeted it and it got over 2k likes:
That’s the power of creating epic content and putting it in front of the right audience.
A bonus tip. Here’s how Core dna promote their content according to their digital marketing manager, Edward Dennis:
“We used the tactics below to grow our traffic by 230% in just eight weeks. These tactics are replicable in pretty much any industry. Plus, no budget is needed. Just some time, hustle, and a little bit of elbow grease.
- Pitching your content for round-up link building
- Getting listed as a ‘Best-of’ in your niche
- Emailing your sources to help amplify content promotion
Also you can build a relationship with other key bloggers in your industry to share each other’s content. As Stefan Debois, founder and CEO of Survey Anyplace says:
“The best content promotion is developing a group of micro-influencers who genuinely promote each other’s content. Look for other marketers who:
- Market to the same audience
- Aren’t a competitor
- Use the same channels”
That’s it for today. But understand this: don’t go out there and follow my exact steps. Your business is different and so is your situation. Apply my approach, adjust it to your circumstances and you’ll make it.
“B2B content strategist & writer for hire. As featured on Entrepreneur and Forbes. Writing world-class content that generates leads is what I do best.”