Trade or B2B blogs have gotten a bad rap for being boring. In many cases, they deserve this reputation. But it’s also become a self-fulfilling prophecy. B2B bloggers think that they can’t be interesting.
I know for a fact that B2B blogs can be very interesting -- brilliant, powerful, gripping, compelling, explosive and even viral.
I’ll take it a step further: B2B blogs are required to be interesting! If you want a solid return on your content-marketing investment, then you are forbidden from being boring. The word “marketing” in “content marketing” demands that they be interesting. In order to be a successful marketing asset, a B2B blog has to hold some level of appeal.
I’ve spent several years doing B2B blogging. This list is just the start. I could discuss other features of a B2B blog, such as the need for pictures, the diversity of content, the use of memes, the use of humor, etc. But these 21 principles I’ve discovered can help you to become a more interesting B2B blogger.
Let’s make sure, first off, that the writing is really good. Readers crave readable content, regardless of the industry. I encourage you to either find your company’s best writer or become your company’s best writer.
Here’s the job description, in five bullet points:
- Loves to write.
- Possesses patience at the keyboard.
- Has the ability to research anything online.
- Recognizes the peril of the comma splice, and other such scary things.
- Has time.
From that skillset, you can grow, improve, develop, and produce brilliant and interesting content. I’ve written this point first, because everything that follows depends on it.
At the risk of sounding generic, I’m going to say it: You’ve got to know what’s going on in your industry. What’s more, you’ve got to actually have experience in the industry in order to write authoritatively.
B2B blog readers are familiar with jargon, buzzwords, and industry best practices. In order to deliver something of quality, you must possess industry knowledge.
Whether you’re blogging in-house or outsourcing a professional writer, B2B bloggers should know both the industry and the audience. Here are the five most important things to be informed about.
- What your audience does on a day-to-day basis and how they do it. What tasks will they perform when they walk into the office each day? What kind of projects will they work on? How are their minds working?
- The greatest needs of your audience. What does your audience want? More to the point, how can you give it to them? Can you help them solve their problems by delivering helpful content?
- The biggest challenges in the industry. Are there current obstacles in the industry? Threats to success? Painful conundrums?
- Largest players in the industry and what they’re up to. Who are the existing thought leaders, big businesses, or authoritative writers?
- Latest trends in the industry. Are there current events that have an impact on the industry? Government regulations? Lawsuits? Algorithm updates?
Writing from the first person means that you use the words “I” and “me.”
It’s totally fine to do so. You’re not breaking any grammatical rules or unwritten codes of blogging. First-person content is interesting content.
I’ve observed two related mistakes in B2B blogs:
- The first mistake is nosism -- using the word “we” instead of “I.” It’s clumsy for a business to write a blog. Individuals do the writing, not a corporation. Refer to yourself as yourself, not as a corporate entity.
- The second mistake is third-person detachment. This is when a B2B blog refers to their business in the third person. For example, “Leaders at Awesome Biz have decided to write a blog. Awesome Biz has been in the widget industry for 14 years. The goal of Awesome Biz has been to…” You see what’s going on there? Third-person writing gets old, not to mention boring.
Try this style of writing:
- “I want to tell you about an experience I had this week.”
- “My co-workers and I recently faced a challenge.”
- “I’m going to do something a little different in this article.”
- “It took me four hours to write this article, but I think it’s worth it.”
Those types of opening lines are much more interesting, more engaging, and ultimately, more successful.
Part of the power of the first person voice is that it’s personal. You need to use your personality to communicate.
Often, people mistakenly believe that B2B is interaction between businesses. But the real interaction is between people within those businesses. When you write your B2B blog, you’re writing for an audience of other people, not businesses.
Yes, you can be professional, but don’t be stiff, formal, or rigid. Be a person. Your best communication moments will come as you drop awkward formality and express yourself as a person.
If there’s something that brings industry colleagues together, it’s geeking out over shared inside information.
If I see that someone has decided to share a case study or example from their business, I’m all ears. Topics like, “How One Article Gained 492 Percent More Facebook Shares” -- that grabs me.
I try to do the same thing when I write. My most popular Quicksprout article of all time, “The Science of Instagram” has tons of detailed data about my Instagram experience. I wrote things like, “For every one hundred likes I did on random photos of other users (whom I didn’t follow), I generated 21.7 likes on my photos and 6.1 more followers.”
People love that. Stats. Graphs. Data. Inside information. Yes.
One subject matter which causes instant boredom is “updates!” or “improvements!” No, the exclamation points don’t help, either.
A blog that is all about the specific product or service that you provide will turn people off. I know that such things are important. It’s especially important if your readers are all customers of your product or service. But the goal of content marketing isn’t to provide a user guide for your customers. It is, rather, to provide helpful, usable information to customers and non-customers alike.
Non users aren’t necessarily concerned about the new submenu, more proxy codes, or version 1.9.4 being released on Tuesday. That’s great stuff, but it’s not interesting content marketing stuff.
Another turnoff is the promotion blog. A blog is not an open channel to coerce people to buy your stuff. You can try that, but no one is going to really read and engage with it.
When you are constantly pushing your products, new versions, updates, improvements, the awesomeness of a cool new feature, or five reasons to get the platinum plan, you are boring.
It’s important to realize that the very presence of an interesting blog is a form of promotion -- a much more appealing one. Sure, incorporate a call to action in each post, but don’t be shoving your products constantly before your audience.
You’re dealing with professionals. They know the industry. They don’t want surface pablum. They want in-depth information.
I’ve worked hard to produce things like “ The Advanced Guide To SEO,” “ The Advanced Guide to Content Marketing,” “ The Advanced Guide to Link Building ” and other advanced levels of information. I try to cover abstruse topics like cocitation and coocurence, and detailed how-tos on infinite scrolling pages.
This, as I’ve discovered, is the kind of content that gets shared, linked to, read, downloaded, and devoured.
Storytelling is not just for kids or summer evening campfires. Storytelling is a tool that can make your blog move from boring to brilliant.
The “once upon a time” opener probably isn’t necessary. Little stories -- a failed product launch, a midnight system reboot, a two-year slump -- can be fascinating.
If you are skilled at being clear, you are automatically interesting. I’m not talking about the kind of clarity required when you’re writing an operational guide or technical manual. I’m talking about the ability to make a clear and unmissable point.
Take the point above -- No. 10 -- as an example. It’s three words, but the point is obvious. Then, in just a few sentences below, I’m driving it home. Clarity is taking a point, communicating that point, and making it incredibly apparent what you’re trying to say.
When it comes to jargon, every industry has its acronyms, terms, and insider expressions. You can use them in your writing, just be sure to explain yourself if there’s a risk that your readers might not understand an acronym.
In a point above, I suggested that you tell stories. An entire blog post can be a great story opportunity.
But every blog post can have real-life examples within it. These are mini stories. Already in this post, I’ve shared a few examples with you to prove my point.
Hopefully, these illustrations have made this article more interesting. When you write “let me illustrate this,” or “here’s an example,” you’re creating points of interest that your readers will love.
If everyone in your industry is affected by something, you need to be talking about it. People will read content that is relevant to their life and work.
- If the entire industry is reeling from a huge algorithm change, write about it.
- If the entire industry is at a conference, blog about it.
- If the entire industry is faced with a new set of governmental regulations, talk about it.
It’s all about relevance, and relevance is interest.
As you publish content, you must stay in your niche. Don’t stray.
Let’s say you’re a B2B blogger for an industrial lighting design company. You’re trying to be personal, transparent, and write from the first person. So, you open up WordPress and start typing…
So, we were at the beach last week, and I saw some jellyfish. They were incredible! I told my kids to stay back, because, seriously, those jellyfish can sting! I did some research on their stingers, and wanted to share some fun facts with you…”
That’s not going to work.
A marine biologist hobbyist or an elementary schooler writing a research paper might find this interesting. But not your audience of industrial lighting designers.
You’re not a generalist. You’re a specialist. Your audience is comprised of specialists. Keep your articles specialized.
Although you must stay within your niche (see above), you can work to synthesize related topics.
Quicksprout is designed to help a specific audience. I know my audience, their interests, and their challenges. That’s why I’ll synthesize a broad topic (like marketing) with a niche treatment of a topic (like title generation in content marketing). Bringing together relevant fields is a way of adding interest to my everyday articles.
Although you want to go deep and dominate your niche, you can improve your interest level by tying in other related fields.
Want to be really, really interesting? Even viral? Talk about the stuff that no one else will talk about.
There are few things more magnetic than a controversy. Most public fights have spectators. Most public arguments have listeners. Most controversial blogs have readers and commenters.
If you want to be interesting, open the worm cans and discuss the uncomfortable topic. Tasteful restraint is always recommended, but you can still broach the subject.
If Thomas Edison was into content marketing in 2014, his blog would be really interesting.
The Edison Blog, October 22, 1879
How I Invented the Light Bulb
Last night, I managed to keep my carbon filament burning for more than thirteen hours…
Even though Edison didn’t exactly invent the light bulb, my point remains: If you discuss difficult topics, people will be interested.
Every industry has its tough problems. When you successfully solve such problems, write about it. As you successfully solve complicated issues, you will generate intense interest.
Become the ultimate Jedi -- the single person on the planet with nearly supernatural levels of intelligence on a single topic.
It doesn’t matter if that field is as narrow as a human hair, as long as it’s yours. If someone is interested in that hair-breadth niche, then guess what? They’re going to come crawling to you, oh great Jedi, for the answers.
Smart people are interesting. Smart people who can share that smartness are even more interesting. If you are able to attain a high level of knowledge on a narrow topic, your blog will become absolutely entrancing.
You are free to express any level of emotion in your blog. Remember that bit about humans interacting with humans that I mentioned?
When you say “It was hilarious” or “that was a frustrating experience,” you are creating a level of relatability that translates into interest.
On a related note, your attitude should come through in a blog. As you explain a topic, unravel a problem, or provide clarity on an issue, you should put your whole person into it.
Google’s Matt Cutts, whose blog is interesting to those of us in online marketing, did this when he wrote about guest blogging :
Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.
His attitude came through, and it elicited response. Your attitude doesn’t have to be negative, sour, or unpleasant in order to be interesting. It just needs to be apparent.
Don’t let the moniker “B2B blogger” trap you in a vortex of boredom. There’s a real person behind that mask. Be real in your writing and open about what you’re experiencing.
A successful B2B blog is one that is authoritative. But that doesn’t mean that you’re infallible. It’s OK to be open about the challenges you’re facing in your industry. I’m not talking about personal challenges -- like your dating life, or your personal budget. I’m talking about the professional issues that your readers can relate to.
Empathy is the ability to understand and relate to someone else’s experiences or feelings. Empathy sounds a bit soft or emotional, and surely not part of a B2B blog, right?
Wrong. Empathy is an important ingredient of any successful blog. If you truly want to connect with your audience on a level of interest and engagement, you must be able to relate to them.
For example, you can sprinkle an empathetic line or two just about anywhere:
- “I know what it’s like to stare at spreadsheets for eight hours on end.”
- “Like almost everyone else in the industry, we had a devastating third quarter.”
- “Remember when ABC Corp. unleashed that new product? I was amazed, and I think everyone else was, too.”
Statements like that -- expressions of empathy -- will really improve your relatability and amp up your interest level.
For the next blog post you write, I challenge you to make it as enthralling and as exceptionally interesting as you possibly can. If you do it consistently, you’re going to get awesome results.
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