Planning a B2B blog: 4 questions to stop it being shit
David McGuire of B2B copywriters Radix Communications shares four essential questions to ask when you’re planning your next blog post.
The humble blog post has become the cornerstone of B2B content marketing. And with good reason – done right, they’re versatile, shareable, Google-friendly and (relatively) cheap to publish.
But as a result, there’s a load of them. So yours has to work extra hard to stand out.
The good news (at least, it’s good news for you) is that most of those B2B blog posts are self-indulgent, boring rubbish. That means you don’t need to do anything wild and crazy to get your work read – unless you count actually caring about your reader as wild and crazy, anyway.
All you really have to do is follow a pretty formula. And yes, I’m going to tell you what it is.
Urban Cookie Collective,
I've got the key, I've got the secret
I've got the key to another way
How do I know? Well, so far this year, the Radix copywriting team has worked on… [counts]… 157 client blog posts. (That’s up 40% on the same period last year. Told you they were popular.) And most of those have been during our 15-point content quality checklist pilot.
That all gives us a pretty clear view of which blog briefs work, and exactly why some of them don’t.
Looking at the data, there are four important questions you need to ask yourself when you’re planning your next blog post.
1. Who’s going to read this (and do they even care)?
Too many B2B blog post briefs start with a list of things to talk about, or products to promote… and scant regard for the reader, and what’s on their mind. The result is a whole bunch of blogs that are written to satisfy some stakeholder, not the customer.
Start with a really clear view of who your reader will be. It’ll keep you honest when it comes to deciding what information is genuinely interesting, and what’s just self-indulgent boasting.
Pick a persona. Better still, pick a person – a real customer or ideal prospect, to act as an avatar. Then work out what they want and need to know about the subject. That’s a blog idea that’ll actually work.
2. What does your reader get in return for their time?
Let me guess: that ideal customer you have in mind, they have loads of spare time, right? They spend all day reading B2B blog posts and wishing they had innovative new ways to spend their budget.
Didn’t think so. They’re stressed and time-poor, aren’t they? Just like every other B2B decision-maker under the sun. So what makes you think they have time to spend learning about your portfolio of products and services in their area?
But the truth is, the most common fault with B2B content is that it has no objective value for the reader. Isn’t that weird?
If you respect your reader (or even if you just want to stand out), give them something valuable in return for their time. Like, some advice that’ll help them do their job. Or some new primary research that’s actually useful. Or a list of four questions that’ll make their blog posts better.
Whatever it is, make sure your reader doesn’t leave your blog post empty-handed.
We only get what we give
3. What real-world question are you answering?
Sure, you could spread some random information or thought leadership into the world, and hope people who are idly browsing social media happen to bump into and share it, or that your email newsletter arrives just as they’re taking their tea break with nothing better to do.
Or you could write something aimed at the way people actually use the internet – to find the answer to a question or problem.
If you base your blog post idea around a real-life question, you’ll benefit in two ways. First, you’ll speak directly to your reader’s needs – a certain number will hit it at just the right time, and feel compelled to click. And second, it’s perfect Google long-tail fodder.
So be clear about the question (and make it a real question, not one you wish a customer would ask). If you can’t think of any, answerthepublic.com is your friend. And check whether the question has already been answered before – if it has, make sure your answer will be different or better (or better search-optimised), or you may as well not bother.
4. Is all that information in the first 20 words?
You could have a clear idea of your audience, and answer a burning question in the most valuable and well-structured way possible. But your reader is only going to give you a couple of seconds of their time.
If your title and the first 20 words of your content don’t make it clear who should read, and why, readers will wander off… and that’s if they made it to your site at all, because those are the parts which will usually turn up on social previews and search results pages too.
(Massive hint: if your blog post starts with faff like “In today’s fast-paced, digital business landscape…” you’ve wasted more than a third of your 20 words before you’ve even tried to say something worthwhile. Delete that shit.)
That doesn’t mean you need to start by saying explicitly who the audience is, and what they’ll get by reading (though there are definitely worse ways to start). But you do need to get to the point pretty damned quickly, and keep checking in to remind your audience that this is about them, not you.
I had no choice but to hear you
You stated your case time and again
For example, if you’re mostly writing for decision-makers in their 30s and 40s, you could pique their interest by illustrating your points with relevant 90s pop lyrics. Make sure nobody else has done it first, though.
Surprisingly, it isn’t rocket surgery
These four questions add up to one thing: it’s not about you. And judging by most B2B blogs, you’d think that’s an incredibly difficult lesson to learn.
Start with your customer, give them something of value, and make it obvious that’s what you’re doing. Simple, right?