Turn Your Company Blog Into A Lead Generating Powerhouse
Blogging has taken over the internet.
Virtually every topic in the world is now covered on an internet blog. Years ago, business owners didn’t care about blogging. They probably didn’t even know what it was. After all, why would they need to, blogs are pretty much glorified online journals, right?
The way we consume information online is changing rapidly. That means the ways we connect with our customers, and the ways in which we attract new customers is also changing.
“Nowadays, people simply ask Google for whatever they need. It’s become our Magic 8-ball of sorts with answers supplied by blog and website owners all around the world. This creates immense opportunity within the marketplace.”
If people are searching for information about something, can’t we simply write about it on our website and have it pop up in Google’s results? While it’s not quite that simple, we definitely can.
The goal of blogging is to create and distribute valuable content for your readers. That means blogging is useful for pretty much any type of business you can imagine. Even if the niche you’re in seems like blogging won’t work, you can make it work.
Just take a look at how major airlines and credit card companies market their brand. They have to use creative storytelling in order to attract people to their brand.
We’ll use WestJet as an example.
WestJet is a Canadian airline that offers low-cost flights compared to similar airlines. In 2013, they carried out a campaign for Christmas that was quite spectacular. They set up a digital kiosk by the departure gates with a Santa Claus on the screen.
Santa asked travelers what they wanted most for Christmas. While passengers were flying, the WestJet team purchased gifts for everyone who used the digital kiosk (they even wrapped all of them).
They created a video for the campaign which now has over 46 million views! The video shows the WestJet team running from store to store grabbing gifts for all of the passengers. We get to see the amazing reactions as they give the gifts out to everyone.
This was an excellent campaign for building brand loyalty and awareness. Passengers who received gifts are likely to become advocates for WestJet as well. They managed to reach a massive audience across YouTube and Facebook, the campaign was a huge success.
Looking at creative campaigns such as this really help when trying to come up with unique content strategies of our own. For even more inspiration, take a look at these 28 amazing marketing campaigns and experiments from 2016.
1. You Have To Start Somewhere
The early stages of blogging can be quite difficult. That’s because creating exceptional content takes plenty of trial and error, no one becomes a top-tier blogger overnight.
Here are some tips to help with your journey.
Define Your Unique Audience
No matter who you are, you have a specific audience that’ll be consuming your content.
If you’re a marketer, you may be writing for other marketers or people looking to make some extra money online. If you’re a business owner, you’re writing for the people who are consuming your product or service.
Whoever you’re writing for, make sure you define and document it first.
Here’s a list of characteristics I use when creating audience personas:
- Geographic area
- Income level
- Marital status
- Sexual orientation
- Special interests
Compared to traditional advertising in the real world, reaching a specific demographic online is actually quite easy. After you determine who will be consuming your content, it’s time to start thinking about how and why they are consuming it.
It doesn’t matter what types of content your team loves, what you think is the next big trend, or what new technologies you want people to know about.
What matters is delivering content that your target audience wants to consume, on the medium they prefer to consume it, at the right stage of their buyer journey.
If we base our content creation around the needs of our audience, it’s much easier to produce content people actually want to read (and actually convert into sales!). Successful blogging has nothing to do with your writing skills, how many employees you have, how exciting your industry is, or how many keywords you stuff into each piece.
“Success is more dependent upon producing thoughtful, informative and engaging content for readers that solve their most relevant problems.”
In order to do this, we need to investigate top performers in our niche.
We’ll need a tool to help us research our competitors and their content. I like to use BuzzSumo. BuzzSumo allows you to enter any topic and immediately see the top shared content on that topic. The same goes for domain names, simply enter your competitor’s URL into the box and press go.
You’ll notice that the more competitive the industry, the more time and effort that goes into producing each piece. Our goal is to create content that is significantly better than the most shared content on any given topic.
“There’s no point in writing about something that already exists unless we’re going to make it better.”
This is where we can think about different ways to present the content, different content types, mediums where we’ll distribute our content and ways to bring forth new information about the topic.
Developing Ideas For Your Content
Ever heard of a swipe file? A swipe file is a file (or folder on your computer) where you save ideas, images and anything that can be used as inspiration for future content.
This swipe file becomes immensely valuable as you create more and more content. It can be difficult to think of good ideas on the fly, so the larger you grow the swipe file, the quicker you can find inspiration for new content ideas.
Let’s not forget that content ideation goes hand in hand with keyword research. With so many tools out there, you can get lost quite easily.
I like to use the following stack:
Don’t use just one, I’ve found hidden gems from each and every one of these tools. We should be utilizing everything that is available to us in order to gain an edge in the marketplace.
Tools help us to work faster and find keywords that would otherwise slip our mind. Apart from keyword research, we can also use various tools for content ideation.
I use the following tools to help discover and organize new content ideas:
- Evernote — I use Evernote to store all sorts of images and photos. The search functionality allows you to find what you need quickly, so I’m never fumbling around when looking for inspiration. Evernote is great for to-do lists and meetings as well.
- Alltop — A collection of new blog posts from authoritative online news and media outlets. I use this for headline ideas, as well as keeping up to date on specific industries.
- Quora — This question and answer site can help you better understand your audience’s most pressing issues. Search for a topic you’re interested in and Quora will display relevant popular questions.
- Delicious — This one is often underutilized. It’s a huge repository full of interesting links. You can find some great content ideas here, as well as new ways to present your content.
- Trello — My team uses Trello to share content ideas and create editorial calendars for our clients. It’s easy to use and helps keep things organized.
These tools can really help while brainstorming. Without Evernote, it would take me 3x as long to look through my notes and images, not to mention I wouldn’t have remembered half of those notes in the first place.
Try to set up brainstorming sessions with small teams of 2–3 people. This really gets the creative juices flowing. It’s crucial that people don’t question ideas or dwell on practicality in this stage, it can really suck all creativity out of the session.
Having one person in the brainstorming session who is not familiar with the project or topic is always ideal. This person will come in fresh with no preconceived notions about the task at hand.
Mix up your groups with different types of people who are all experts at different things. Moz put together a great selection of tips for running a successful brainstorming session.
These brainstorming sessions will help take your content to the next level.
2. Building The Brand Behind The Blog
How do you define the success of your blog? A successful brand is defined by 2 parts, recognition and feelings. Consistently repeated interactions build recognition, as long as each exposure offers a positive payoff.
Too many people think branding is all about logos and fonts. It’s a lot more than that. Everything works together in harmony to create a unique experience. The design, materials, product and advertising all come together to form a brand.
“A poor user experience can’t be fixed with a simple logo adjustment. When people think about your brand it should make them smile, think about this when you’re creating brand assets.”
In 2017 and beyond, it’s critical that you pinpoint the unique characteristics of your brand. The internet is becoming more and more crowded, each industry filled with brands that all look like one another.
When people are choosing between you and a competitor, the unique differences in brand characteristics will determine who gets chosen. These characteristics should be memorable.
It’s okay to take inspiration from other brands, in fact, it’s encouraged. That being said, taking inspiration is far different than copying something due to laziness or lack of creativity.
I recommend asking everyone in your professional network, as well as relatives and family members, “what do you think makes our brand different”?
It’s great to get free input from people that have a completely different perspective. Surveying loyal customers with a similar question is also a great idea. You’ll get valuable intel and opinions about your brand that you may not discover otherwise.
Chris Garrett made a list of great questions to help us brainstorm:
- How would you describe yourself in three words?
- What are your values?
- What are your virtues?
- How would you describe your competitors?
- What’s your story?
- How is your story different to others?
- Is there anything that could never be said about you?
- Do you have a philosophy? Beliefs? Sayings?
- Have you unique achievements to your name?
- Are you the first, best, newest …?
- Which attributes are supportable by facts?
- Can you turn your “features” into “benefits“?
- What can you say about yourself that you could not say about anyone else?
Learning and understanding your unique selling points will help shape future branding decisions.
Not only that, it will help us with:
- Writing copy for the brand
- Designing images and assets
- Creating branded tools
- Running paid ad campaigns
- Outreach for link acquisition
- Social media positioning
Be as honest as possible with your messaging and branding. People hate being deceived, they would much rather hear something they don’t like than find out they were lied to.
3. Getting The Whole Company Involved
Often times people don’t like getting involved with things they don’t really understand. Content marketing is one of these things. What people don’t realize, is that this negatively affects the business in a lot of ways.
Everyone on the team can offer a fresh perspective that is unique to the individual. On top of that, employees can become brand advocates and help grow the brand using their own social media channels.
When company culture is strong, employees work together to create unique storytelling campaigns for the brand. Customers love it when employees are advocates for the company they work for.
Here are some tips for getting everyone involved:
Talk to company leaders
Go straight to the top. Tell executives within your company that you’d like to involve more employees in the content marketing process. Talk to the leader of each department separately so you can determine how many resources each one wants to allocate each month to content marketing.
Explain how it will bring about fresh ideas for the brands marketing strategy. Certain departments may not understand the benefits of a collaborative effort at first, or they may simply be scared of doing something new.
Take it upon yourself to educate them on the benefits of working together to create content. This can help to improve each and every department within the company. Collaboration creates a positive work atmosphere which helps employees stay happy and focused throughout the day.
Did you see the Watch The Stove campaign from Hamburger Helper?
General Mills created a hip-hop mixtape for their Hamburger Helper brand. This was no low-budget play either. General Mills used famous rappers on the album and people were really impressed with the quality, and that’s exactly what made it so successful.
People can easily spot whether or not something required a lot of effort to create. If you simply throw something together as a cheap tactic, people will see right through it.
It would be extremely difficult to pull off a campaign like this without getting multiple departments involved. Ideas like this come about more often when everyone at the company is involved in the content marketing process.
Invite employees to collaborate
Talk to employees in different departments, such as sales or HR, and give them the opportunity to share their creative marketing ideas. Not everyone will have amazing ideas to contribute, but that’s okay. It’ll get people thinking about company growth and ways that they can help.
If you make people feel comfortable when sharing their ideas, they’re more likely to share them again in the future.
Ask each employee if they’d be interested in creating something for the brand. One might want to write an article for the blog, others may want to upload something to the company Instagram, and some may even prefer to create a video or start a Facebook live stream.
If we can get people working together to create branded content for the company, everyone stands to benefit.
Include a message in the company newsletter (if you don’t have the authority to do this, ask someone above you, they should be more than happy to give you the go ahead). In the message, ask employees to get involved in corporate content creation and give them a short survey to fill out.
In the survey, ask about their hobbies, interests, and talents.
Here’s a great article by Fast Company that details how to create effective internal communications with your team.
Encourage social sharing
Most of your employees probably use social media already. Make sure you encourage them to share the brand story on their personal accounts. That can be as simple as uploading a few Instagram stories documenting their work throughout the day.
One statistic from the Edelman Trust Barometer tells us that content shared by employees receives 8x the engagement of content shared on brand channels.
In another report, we can see that brand messages extend 561% further when shared by employees versus the same messages shared via official brand social channels.
People like engaging with other people, not brands. Just make sure to implement a framework for employees so they know what they can talk about on social media and how much time should be spent there.
This doesn’t need to be fancy, it should just contain a few policies and guidelines for employees to follow. I recommend holding training sessions every so often to go over basic things like tagging, hashtags, and live streaming.
From there you can set up more advanced sessions to go over ideas and further develop the strategy.
When you have training sessions, a framework in place, and consistent encouragement to share content, take a guess what happens. Employees begin creating and sharing company content!
The helps the company increase its reach and receive more engagement on social media.
Another great tactic is to curate employee content. Besides getting employees to share company content, we can also curate the best content from employees and feature it in a blog post.
This is great for multiple reasons.
- Employees will share more
- Shows brand personality
- Customers get an inside look at your team
- Attract new talent for the company
You can also ask employees to use a custom hashtag on Instagram. From there, we can choose the best images to feature in a blog post, or even upload to the company Instagram account.
4. Promoting Your Content
Creating content is only half the battle. If you decide to get lazy at this point, everything you’ve done so far was for nothing. What good is a 3,000-word blog post that nobody can find?
Even the best content in the world needs amplification to get it in front of some eyeballs. Once people have seen it, the quality of the content is what determines just how far its reach will go.
If we look at Content Marketing Institute’s survey on content marketing usage and trends found, we see that 76% of B2C organizations and 88% of B2B organizations are using content as a part of their marketing strategy.
What does that tell us?
It tells us that we’re on competitive grounds here. Standing out isn’t easy, and if you’re not thinking outside of the box with your content you’ll lose the game before it even starts. We need to focus more time and effort into each piece, versus trying to put out large quantities of content.
If you think your content has what it takes, it’s time to promote it.
Ever heard of an outreach list? It’s essentially a list of highly qualified websites that we want to reach out to in order to promote our content. Learn as much as you can about each website contact. The more you know about them, the more personalized your emails will be.
Okay, so you’re probably wondering how to find these sites to reach out to? BuzzSumo is one of my favorite tools for finding blogs to reach out to.
Let’s say we’re running an SEO agency. We want to find blogs related to SEO and marketing to link out to our content. A simple search for “2017 seo guide” in BuzzSumo gives us dozens of results.
Sort it by “total shares” to see the most shared content at the top. This allows us to easily see the number of links and shares on each piece. You’ll need to create your own definition of what makes a blog worth reaching out to.
As a general rule of thumb, make sure their content regularly receives engagement and shares. Audit their backlinks and see if other reputable sources are linking to their content. If they are, it’s a keeper.
As you can see, it becomes easy to find the best niche-specific content online for anything and everything. This makes competitive research, ideation, and outreach far easier.
Aside from using tools, don’t forget how valuable a simple Google search can be. Let’s say we want to find technology blogs to reach out to. First, we do a simple search for “technology blog”.
From here, we’d like to get a bit more granular with our search. Google uses something called advanced search operators to help us narrow down search results.
Let’s looks for technology blogs that have a resources page, these are great sites to go after for valuable backlinks.
By adding “inurl:resources” to the end of our search query, Google only shows us results that have “resources” in the URL.
While these won’t all contain a resource page, it may simply have the word resource in a post title for example, it’s the best way for us to find these pages.
We can also look for websites that have a specific page for posting useful links.
Try out the following:
If you want to learn more about advanced search operators, check out this article.
Often times, you will come across posts such as “Our Top 77 Technology Blogs of 2017” when searching. It’s great to establish a relationship with blog owners who are putting out content like this.
Either you can purchase link placements on the blog, secure a guest post, trade link placements on each other’s websites, or collaborate on a piece of content.
Another great way to find sites for outreach is through competitive research.
Look at the top dogs who are getting the most traffic and have top ranking secured in your niche. This is where we bring out a heavy duty tool like Ahrefs or Majestic. These tools allow us to discover which sites are linking out to our competitors.
It’s important to manually go through all of their links.
If you’re in a competitive industry, those links are probably a mix of earned links, and links secured monetarily. It’s quite common for blog owners to accept money for link placements.
Pick out the websites that have influence and seem like they’re worth contacting. If you have something to offer or trade, especially good content, you’d be surprised how easy it is to get mentioned in a large publication.
If you’re wondering which sites to qualify for outreach, we should look at their Domain Authority. The MozBar is a real time saver, it makes it easy to quickly find the Domain Authority of a website. Domain Authority has come somewhat of an industry standard for determining the online authority and reputation of a website.
We also need to look at the social reach of each website. How many followers do they have? Are people engaging with their posts? While it’s unlikely they’ll share your post on one of their channels, someone who visits their blog easily could.
Make sure to check whether or not they exclusively post their own content, or if they allow guest posting as well. If the website is consistently bringing in outsiders to post content, you have a much better shot of weaseling your way in.
As you repeat the process of doing research, filtering out a list of contacts, and actually reaching out to all of the contacts, you’ll get better and better at qualifying websites based on your gut feeling.
Find the decision maker
For larger companies, I often use LinkedIn to secure the very best contact from that company. If I don’t get a response after following up a few times, I’ll typically contact another employee instead.
While we’re on the subject, make sure you’re following up 1–2 times for each contact. People miss emails or forget to email back at times. It’s all about finding the perfect balance between ‘too pushy’ and ‘too hesitant’.
Here are some outreach email templates for you to use. Templates are great for learning and thinking of new ideas. If you decide to use a template, make sure to revise it and personalize it for each contact you’re emailing.
Blogging Wizard did a great post on writing outreach emails that don’t suck.
If you’re struggling to write emails, or if the responses simply aren’t coming in, these resources will definitely help. Maybe your emails don’t suck and your prospects are just too busy. This actually happens quite often.
Some people are receiving hundreds if not thousands of emails per day. There are assistant positions that exist solely for sorting through emails. Gregory Ciotti did a great piece on emailing people are are just too busy.
Choosing a great subject line should be a top priority. It’s the first thing people see when they open their inbox. The content within the email is extremely important, however, if nobody is opening them in the first place, it’s time to evaluate your subject line first and foremost.
Keep the content of your emails short and sweet.
It should be easy to digest within just a few seconds, whether or not the person is on their iPhone, their iPad, or a home computer. Most of the time they’ll be using their phone, so make sure it looks damn good on mobile!
There it is, some general guidelines and useful techniques you can use to be successful with your company blog.
You won’t strike gold with every piece of content you create, every blog owner will not give you a glowing response, and the market will only become more competitive. That’s why you need to get out there as soon as possible and begin implementing what you just learned.
Have some tips of your own? Maybe you’re just looking to share your company blogging experience?
Comment below! We absolutely love hearing from our readers.
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Originally published at gurus.nyc on March 27, 2017.