Being honest, I write blogs because we’re supposed to. Being brutally honest, I very rarely read blogs at all.
You know the drill. You sit in the office, dreaming up new ways to market your product or service. You hit on a good idea. You open up a new Google Doc, rattle off a few hundred words, drag it into your CMS and you’re done. Your idea is out there.
But is it really? Could your great idea have made it further out into the world? Was a 500-word blog all it deserved?
What about that target reader? Are they actually going to consume the fruits of your labour?
Blogs from a B2B buyer’s perspective
The blog as a marketing and communication medium isn’t dead, not by a long shot.
But, take me as an example, I’m a B2B buyer and I rarely read blogs. I hardly ever use them as part of my buying process. And at a guess, I’m not the only one.
If you’re trying to reach me and you’re using blogs, even if you have something that will solve my challenges, your message is unlikely going to get in front of me in any meaningful way.
Think of the characteristics of a B2B buyer. They’re busier than average, they have a lot of information to review, there are normally a lot of people competing for their attention; they need ways to make informed decisions on what’s important and what fits, accurately and quickly.
Blogs offer neither of those things. They’re often poorly written (thanks SEOs) or recycled and they take time to read, digest and assess for accuracy.
If you’re a marketer and you want to get to me, it’s time to think a little deeper than just writing that blog.
The most influential way is through my peers. I listen to people I know and respect. If you can get through to them, you can get to me.
That might sound hard but it just means broadening your scope from blogging to mediums and tactics that reach me or those I listen to.
I commute for about an hour a day and I love podcasts. That means I can get through 1-2 podcasts a day, sometimes more if the Manchester traffic is particularly shitty that week.
If someone I trust or respect talks about something that sounds good on a podcast I like then, hey, that’s something I’m going to take a look at. That’s how we initially found 15Five, one of the longest standing pieces of the Six & Flow tech stack.
The message here isn’t: ‘start podcasting immediately!’, it’s that reaching your audience now means doing different things.
Videos and events - again, featuring people I respect - also tend to get my attention. It also has the benefit of allowing you to tap into the feelings of connection being in proximity to them gives you.
This is just using me as an example. I’m just painting a picture. Your audience will have their own approach to consuming content.
Blogs from a marketer’s perspective
And yet… here I am… writing a blog. Oh… the irony.
And, I’m guessing, you will probably also write a blog, when the next marketing idea hits. Why?
It’s partly because blogs are relatively easy. Writing is the default. It’s quick, we know how to measure the results and we’ve all seen blogging work enough times now to know that those results can deliver what we need.
Blogging is our comfort blanket as marketers, our happy medium. We cling on to it and, frankly, we don’t ask enough questions about its suitability, or strive for what we perceive to be the minor improvements of a different medium. It’s very easy to craft an argument that blogging is actually the way to go in any given scenario.
Is the blog dead then? Should we all just move on?
You really don’t need to go far to find a lot of people who read blogs. I asked the question on LinkedIn and here’s a touch of social proof for you...
The point is absolutely not: ‘stop blogging’. The point is: stop just blogging. Stop blogging as a default and hoping you get better results than the last time you ‘just blogged’.
The problem is that whilst we are in said comfort blanket, reading comments like the above from people who read blogs and blogging away like some crazed keyboard-happy automaton, we convince ourselves we’ve done all that we need to. We assume that the vast percentage of our audience have read our perfectly-written 500-words, despite all evidence to the contrary. We settle for an OK result from ‘just blogging’, when we should be aiming for amazing results. We should be thinking about how our prospects WANT to consume our message.
What should you be doing instead of just blogging?
If you’re going to blog, blog well. It needs to have thought leadership, cover an interest, solve a challenge or provide entertainment.
What value is the reader going to take from your blog? You need to answer that honestly.
I don’t read blogs anymore and neither do a lot of my peers. The way to hook us back in is to produce something that we can’t ignore. Here's some of the things we suggest after our conversation on LinkedIn:
- Content should be visually consumable. Make it look great and make it easily digestible. Break it up, reposition it. Make it appealing
- In the same vein, content should always lead design - think about messaging before you think about the design
- Content needs to excite and engage the reader through both content and structure
- It needs to have a new or unique angle; rewriting something you’ve read isn’t enough unless you’re bringing something new to the party - add some value with everything you do
- It needs to show a depth of understanding; my time is precious to me. Don’t waste it showing me that you only know as much about a topic as I already know.
One message does not equal one medium
This whole process started with me thinking out loud on LinkedIn. It led to me sitting down and writing out this blog post. Depending on when you're reading this... it’s also now an audio clip and a short video.
If you're one of the very, very few Six & Flow super fans, or my mother, then you might read, watch and listen to all of that. In all likelihood though you’ll have seen some of the material we’ve produced on this topic and ignored other bits. We’re all busy. We can’t read or watch everything. And that’s perfectly fine.
Blog, by all means, but don’t then move on, especially if you’re convinced that your message and chosen topic is one that’s worth something to your audience. I am convinced this topic is important to the success of your marketing in 2020, so I’ve covered it here in different ways, through different channels, mediums and structures. Widen your scope. Make sure your message appears in front of more people.
Use the above approach to break out of your ‘blog first’ routine
The blog didn’t come first; the message did.
You’re going to be covering what you have to say in different ways, so why not produce the message in one of those ‘different ways’ first, rather than heading straight for the keyboard?
Record a short video of you discussing the idea with a colleague. Go on a podcast and discuss the idea as a guest. Post your half-baked idea onto social media and get some feedback. Not only will this force the process along, getting you to break out of blogging, it will also help you to refine your idea and test it out in multiple media. Get it to a point where you’re happy and put the time in to writing an excellent blog.
Get over your hangups
Not having a technology budget is not a reason to not do podcasts or videos. It just isn’t, and the amount of times I’ve heard technology used as a reason to not do something means only one thing: it’s a personal hangup.
We all have smartphones that are capable of audio and video recording. It really doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that to begin with. It’s inevitable that someone, somewhere will be turned off by your video, no matter the production values.
We all have our little ‘ticks’ when it comes to watching video of people, but then we all have things that will make us turn off the latest multi-million dollar Hollywood blockbuster too. You’ll never please everyone, no matter how much you spend on the production values. What you will do, in getting over your hangups, is give people who prefer audio and visual media the chance to engage with your message. By just writing a blog and hiding behind not having professional level technology you are guaranteeing that these individuals won’t see what you have to say.
Alter your medium to suit your purpose
This is a really easy way to make sure you’re delivering your message through multiple channels.
Some time ago, sales people realised that they could help the sales process by using the blogs the marketing department had produced. Every sales pitch had a short explanation of what was being proposed and then a line that read something like:
“You can read about the research behind the product in this blog post by our CEO.”
I can honestly say, I’ve never read any of the blog posts suggested to me like this, again, because I don’t read blogs. But... it does give the perception of the salesperson being willing to add value.
Now, if the salesperson had spent the time to produce a short video in the sales process they could have said something like:
“You can read about the full research behind the product in this blog post by our CEO or, if you’re short on time, I’ve picked out three important bits of the research in this video.”
I might well have been more engaged. And I probably would have clicked on the video. And the company in question would have just broadened the number of channels they were using to take their message to their audience. Doubling their chance of success.
We started to take this exact approach in our sales sequences. The number of meetings we booked went up by 400%. Imagine if we had stuck to just sharing blogs.
Talk to your audience
Sometimes it really is just that simple.
You can never do enough research or testing. Ask your audience about a topic you’re considering blogging about. Ask them how they prefer to consume media, how they want to receive things from you. Are they readers or video watchers? What do they use in their buying process? Are they more likely to turn to in-depth analysis, or get a feel of what they’re getting into by watching a video? You’ll be surprised at how willing people are to part with a few moments of their time because someone is bothering to ask.. Use the feedback to broaden the content you produce into relevant mediums and channels.
Take a fresh look at your results and adapt accordingly
Maybe your blogs are read by, on average, 1,000 people in their first week of publication. This might seem like a good figure that everyone is happy with. The problem is that that’s also when everyone starts to enter the comfort zone and the ‘warm hug’ of blogging settles in. Start asking yourselves some more probing questions.
- Are the blogs read by the same 1,000 people? If you think they are then is this a good thing? Or are you actually in search of greater reach?
- Is anything happening after your blogs are read? What’s the end goal here?
- If you’re searching for direct influence then think about whether other mediums can provide this.
Don’t stop blogging. That’s still not what I’m saying. Especially if you decide those 1,000 people are a worthwhile exchange for your efforts. But do think about how you could get 2,000 people exposed to your same message.
Look, blogs are great…
Just because I don’t read blogs anymore doesn’t mean that your audience doesn’t. If only the message were as simple as: ‘stop blogging, start doing this’. But that’s not it. Your audience is everywhere.
Maybe they’ve given up on podcasts or been conditioned never to download another white-paper. Maybe they were turned off by a blog you once produced, but would happily read your writing if you guest published elsewhere. I’m one example: I don’t read blogs and I’m certain that there are many like me. But maybe the B2B buyer down the street is an avid blog reader.
So look, blogs are great. They just need to stop being your go to delivery channel and marketing medium. They need to stop being a comfort blanket. Widen your scope and get your message going further.