Why B2B Blog Posts Must Have Sapience to Generate Leads

Most B2B blogs aren’t read by decision makers and don’t drive business. This was brought home to me last week when a friend at a law firm told me they don’t do social media marketing because the blogosphere is an ocean of bad content and “even the name blog suggests a fat, unwieldy, ugly thing that demands to be fed—regardless of what it is fed. Think Jabba the Hut!”

JabbaBut some B2B blogs—the minority—are read by decision-makers, and do generate leads. The Canadian consulting firm Kinaxis has a blog which—as you can read on Fast Company here—has done the firm a world of good, driving blog traffic, web traffic and conversions. Their blog has a great mix of real expertise-driven content (around supply chain) and humor—the latest post revolves around a contest for 6-word job descriptions. I doubt it hurts that they also have a fabulous series of funny videos about supply chain.

But the blogs my friend refers to, and which are in the majority, aren’t like this. They are often just opinion, unsubstantiated by data or examples. Or worse, and perhaps more often, they are old news, or other people’s blog posts, recycled. Also without substantiation or attribution.

We know from years of writing for business executives and understanding their reading habits that these won’t be read by decision-makers. The amount of spare time a senior executive can spend on extra-curricular reading is inversely proportional to his budget—anyone with a budget you’d be interested in won’t waste time on anything that doesn’t say something new and isn’t substantiated with data and/or real examples.

You could easily be fooled into believing otherwise if you simply looked at how many comments, tweets and traffic some weaker posts get. One that was posted on hbr.com a couple of weeks ago played out the well-worn device of “How to become Such And Such in n Steps” and was entirely a replay of old news with flawed logic (you can read a critique here). But it garnered 130 comments, leading the writer to suggest that perhaps HBR should award her a book contract!

But not much of this activity involves decision-makers. A little forensic work on the identities of commenters on this and other posts quickly leads to students, Facebook friends and, I am sorry to say, a lot of other consultants and independent marketers.

There is lots of encouragement in the blogosphere to regurgitate old news. Many “experts” advise bloggers to use other people’s content as sources for their own, which is presumably why that post has itself become the source for innumerable (superficial) posts on other sites e.g. here.

So on the one hand, my friend is right. There is a lot of poor material in the blogosphere which doesn’t do its publishers any good. On the other hand, the market always has, and always will, value good content, and a blog is a great way to publish it. So original material has the potential—as Kinaxis demonstrates—to create a following and generate leads. But it must be based on real experience and expertise—sapient, if you like.

(image courtesy championbc on photobucket)

Comments

Tim,

A very insightful post!  I agree that some B2B blogs return real benefits to the firm, as you suggest  --  particularly if the content provides the reader with a meaningful ROI on the time spent reading the blog.  Just as in creating and maintaining a good website, a blog owner should abide by the same set of rules to check sources, substantiate claims, make the content and experience rewarding, etc.  After all, the net result should be to provide a positive reader experience.   Indeed, a proliferation of poor blogs makes it that much tougher for good blogs to build a following -- because, as reader's fear, here comes another: Jabba the Hut.  I like your example of Kinaxis, a blog with original, meaningful content, which may just represent a pretty good benchmark.

Cheryl Burgess
@ckburgess

Submitted by Tim Parker on

 

Cheryl, thanks for the comment.

I don't think blog posts need the same level of infallible logic and evidence that say an HBR article does. After all, they can link to more substantive material. They are also supposed to have more personality, so I think the standards for rigor can be a bit lower. But they still should say something original with at least an example or two, or some data, to give the positive reader experience you mention.

As for the poor blogs making it harder to get a following - I'm not sure yet. I think in the end the good ones prevail. It might be harder for them to cut through the clutter in the beginning, but they are the ones that retain followers e.g. Chris Brogan, David Meerman Scott, or Seth Godin in the marketing space. Maybe the volume will go down as the poor ones fail to deliver any benefit to the writer, Or maybe like spam has just done now, there will be lulls but then new people pile back into the fray. I suspect the latter because the barriers to entry for blogging are zero. But the market will sort out which are worth following.

Tim

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