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How to Build a Content Outline for Your Next Web Project (with Free Template)

You did it. You finally convinced the the higher-ups at your company to forgo the status quo and upgrade your clunky and outdated website.

Great! So what’s next? Well, now comes the hard part where you need to figure out what content and imagery needs to go onto your website.

So how do you organize and present your entire team’s thoughts and web ideas?

 

Well, you can start with our Free Content Outline For Web Projects. Check it out below and grab your copy and then read on to learn how to use it.

 

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What is a content outline and why do I need one?

 

A content outline is a collaborative document that helps teams outline their content requirements for web projects.

 

Your team can use this document to brainstorm together and develop your primary and secondary page list, individual page sections, content ideas, and even the exact content that will go on your website.

 

When should I build a content outline?

From a high level, your website project will look something like this:

 

  1. Define Audience
  2. Define Goals and Strategy
  3. Build Sitemap
  4. Build Content Outline
  5. Build Wireframes
  6. Build Design… Develop… Deliver… Refine…

 

As you can see, before the content outline is built, you need to have the audience defined along with the goals and strategy for the website.

 

So before you build your content outline, you should ensure you understand your customer personas and what actions you are trying to have users take on your website.

 

Most companies have a good idea as to who their target market is, however, many don’t have a true understanding of their customer personas. Before you build your website make sure you clearly understand the user’s goals, pains, challenges, behaviors, and habits. You should also understand what type of messaging resonates with your personas.

 

After building your personas, make sure that you understand what the goal of your website will be. Are you trying to sign users up for a free trial? Demo? Provide information?

 

The goal of your website not only affects your call to action but also your supporting content and imagery, so make sure this is clear from the onset.

 

Once you have a firm understanding of your customer personas and the goal of the website, you’ll be ready to start your content outline!

 

There are 7 main steps to completing your outline that include:

 

  1. Building your collaborative team
  2. Building your list of primary and secondary pages
  3. Deciding the goal of each page and what sections to include
  4. Brainstorming content for each section
  5. Collaborating with your team of experts
  6. Collaborating with designers and developers
  7. Deciding on your final copy and handing it off

 

Let’s start with building your team!

 

 

Build your collaborative team

 

“None of us is as smart as all of us.” –Ken Blanchard

 

Building a website for a B2B startup is no easy task, and no single person is going to be able to tackle the project themselves. You’ll likely want multiple stakeholders from your marketing team, executive team, sales team, along with subject matter experts in your company to chime in at various times.

 

Each one of these individuals brings their own unique perspectives on the products or services being offered, which helps ensure that small details about the offering or customer persona are not forgotten.

 

Before diving into your content outline, make sure you’ve assembled a small but knowledgeable team that will assist with this project.

 

Build a list of primary and secondary pages

 

Once you’ve built your project team, take some time to build a list of primary and secondary pages that you may want to include.

 

You can think of your list of primary pages as the items that would be on your top-level menu. These will be the big buckets that your other subpages fit under.

 

When the HUSL team completed CloudCheckr’s website, their content outline included:

 

1. Home
2. Solutions
3. Product
4. Partners
5. Pricing
6. Resources
7. Customers

 

Secondary pages are great opportunities to be persona-driven and target more specific needs. For CloudCheckr, we worked closely with their team to break the solutions section down into industry-specific secondary pages, while breaking the platform section down into cost/benefit specific secondary pages.

 

When filling in your template, simply use the top section to brainstorm and jot down page ideas.

 

 

Decide the goal of each page

 

Now that you have a good idea as to the pages that you’ll have on your website, it’s time to brainstorm the content that will go on these pages.

 

Start by defining a specific goal for your page. Think about what you want your users to get from each page and what actions you want them to take. This could mean signing users up for a demo after educating them on a specific benefit or having them interact with your chat widget to get more information.

 

After deciding the goal of your page, think about what features or functionality you’d like to see on the page. This could be a video of a specific part of your tool, a certain type of CTA, a certain popup, or an important section. Once that brainstorming is complete, you can start to define each section of your web pages.

 

Brainstorm content ideas for each section

Defining the sections of your website helps give your site much-needed structure as you think through the content. These sections can be designated for things like a hero image or video, social proof, blog snippets, benefit explanation, and feature lists among many others.

 

To use your content template, start by brainstorming your ideal list of sections. Remember that you can always remove sections so get down as many good ideas as you and your team can think of. From your list of sections, start to think through the type of content that you want in each section. This could be:

 

– A Headline
– Subheadline
– Video
– CTA
– Copy ideas
– Animation
– Illustration

 

In the section notes, you should then start to piece together how you’d like the content pieces that you listed above to fit together. Do you want a product screenshot aligned to the left with a list of bullet points with a spring animation on the right? Write it in this section!

 

Finally, you can start to fill in what your actual copy may be. Remember that this is just your initial draft so it doesn’t need to be perfect or complete.

 

Discuss with your experts

 

At this point, you have a strong idea of what your website will look like and what content will be included. Now it’s time to make sure that your entire team is onboard. Bring in your subject matter experts, marketing team members, sales team members, and executive team to review and comment on the work you’ve already completed.

 

If you’re using our template as a Google Doc you can simply share the document with your team members so they can comment.

 

We recommend sharing the document, having your team comment, and then bringing everyone together to meet and discuss things more deeply. It’s important to give every stakeholder an opportunity to voice their unique opinions and concerns.

 

Once you’ve met with your entire project team you can go back and refine your template.

 

Collaborate with your designers and developers

Your content template still does not need to be 100% done before talking to your designers and developers, but having it as complete as possible will help the conversation.

 

Having a content template that you have thought through will help either an agency or your in-house designers think through what is possible and how much time and resources it will take to build your ideal website.

 

Decide on final copy and handoff

 

In reality, the copy of your website is never “Final”, however it’s great to have your baseline copy that you can test or iterate on going forward.

 

After you’ve brainstormed with your designers and developers, you can go back and refine your copy even further. Be sure to continue the project as a collaborative effort between each member of your team and give everyone a chance to comment on this round of changes.

 

Ideally, you’ll have your outline to a point where you can hand it off to the designers and developers to start their work. Remember, this does not need to be 100% finished at this point and there will likely be changes as the project progresses. Now you have a great starting point and a clear guide.

 

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How to Calculate Your Marketing Budget

We talk to dozens of startups every month about their marketing needs, and one of the first questions we ask is “What is your marketing budget?”

Most of the time, the answer that we get back is a blank stare accompanied by a shrug.

If this is you, don’t feel bad. You certainly aren’t the only one.

You’re busy doing things like:

  • Creating content
  • Building ad campaigns
  • Aligning your messaging with sales
  • Building key relationships
  • Refining your persona’s
  • Iterating the website
  • Being an all-around amazing marketer

So it’s understandable that you haven’t quite gotten around to building a marketing budget. But when you need to make large marketing investments (like building a website) and when investors need to understand marketing spend, you’ll want to have a budget.

So, how do you start?

In this post we’re going to detail:

  • Why you need a marketing budget
  • How you can align your budget with your business goals
  • Ways you can build a budget
  • How to keep your budget on track

Build Your Marketing Budget Quickly with This Template

Don’t spend time reinventing the wheel when we already have a proven marketing budget used by B2B startups. This template pack includes two marketing budgets that you can use to track your marketing budget, actual expenses, and variance.

 

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Why do you need a marketing budget

Growing marketing teams are often working on multiple growth initiatives at any given time.

You’re likely have teams that are working on paid acquisition, social media, PR, content marketing, video, and site development, and each of these initiatives will have different budgetary needs.

By creating budgets for each one of these needs you ensure that:

  1. Teams prove they are creating growth: B2B marketing comes down to finding the best ways to drive the most leads for the least amount of money. If you aren’t tracking your marketing initiatives separately and properly, you will lack insight into what is really working and what can be discontinued. A budget helps marketing teams understand the total amount spent on a given marketing initiative.
  2. Teams provide reasoning for the budget: Every startup needs to understand and plan for their “burn rate”. This means that your finance team is going to be looking at marketing to identify and justify its investment. Having an outline of your needs will help ensure your entire company (and investors) understand where the money is going.
  3. Teams are using the budget: If teams don’t have a need for the budget and can’t justify funds being allocated toward them, the funds can be used somewhere else to help the company meet its goals.

 

Building the budget

 

There are a few common ways that companies decide on what the overall marketing budget.

  1. Goal-Based Budgeting: Goal-based budgeting is a great option for companies with historical growth data and specific goals. If you know how much it will cost you as a company to obtain a customer, and you also know your growth goal, then you can back into your specific growth goal. For instance, if you know it costs your $100 for a lead, and you need 100 leads to make your 25 sale goal, then you need to budget for $10,000 ($100×100). If possible, this is ideal for startups.
  2. Percentage of Sales Based Budgeting: For companies that don’t have as much historical data to understand how marketing spend will affect growth, you can use the percentage of sales method. This budgeting method simply takes a percentage of the company’s total revenue and allocates it to marketing.
  3. Top-down budgeting: Many startups, especially early-stage startups, end up using the top down budgeting for the sake of simplicity. This method simply has an executive, usually, the CEO or CFO, decide what the company can afford to spend each month or quarter.

All of these methods can be effective in certain situations, however, high growth startups are likely going to want to budget based on their expected scale. If you can, goal-based budgeting.

 

How do you ensure your budget aligns with your company’s needs?

As a startup, you likely have limited funds to allocate to marketing or any other department at your company. So you need to prioritize what initiatives in your department get funding and how much.

To help you decide what initiatives get funding, you need to first think about your goals as a marketing organization, and as a company. You should take into account your company’s goals for growth, product development, and market development.

Once you have an understanding of these goals, prioritize the projects that most help you achieve these goals.

Use your marketing team’s performance marketing analytics to analyze each one of your initiatives to understand at a high level what is driving results.

 

Stay on track

A budget doesn’t do you much good if you don’t stay on track and keep up with it. That’s why we’ve built an easy to use marketing budget template to help you track your budget. Even with that budget, there are a few things you can do to make sure you’re on track.

Make accurate estimates

The best way to stay on track is to make sure your project estimates are accurate from the beginning. It will be difficult to achieve 100% accuracy, but there are two ways that you can create estimates that will help.

  1. Use last years actual costs to estimate what this year’s costs will be. If you’re doing a project that is nearly identical to what you have done previously, then this can be effective
  2. Have your team leaders or project managers break each project down into steps or sections. Estimate how much each one of those steps will cost and use those numbers to build a project budget.

Watch out for hidden costs

One of the biggest reasons for budget inaccuracies is hidden costs. Small things like service fees, additional redesigns, and assets, legal costs, and taxes.

To ensure nothing creeps up on you, make sure you work with your project teams and any agencies to ensure you have as accurate of an estimate as possible that includes any fringe costs. Once you have this accurate estimate, give yourself a small cushion in your budget just in case things go awry.

 

Track your spend

Once you have an idea of how much you’ll be spending on each initiative, you need to hold yourself and your team accountable for hitting their numbers.

You can use a marketing budget in something as simple as Excel to track all of your expenses. At the end of every week when you follow up with your teams on their projects, ask them about their marketing spend.

Then just update your document with your numbers. The HUSL Marketing Budget Template has an automatic variance calculator.

Using Your Budget

First, make sure you download your budget templates here.

Got it? Alright!

You’ll see that each template is broken down into monthly, quarterly, and yearly spend. In the vertical monthly column, you can see your project totals, along with your budget vs. actual project variance.

At the end of every quarterly period, you’ll see the quarterly budget, actual, and variance totals.

 

 

You can see your spend totals across all categories at the bottom of your template.

 

 

Your yearly totals will be in the very last column on the right.

 

Things to remember

  1. Columns marked in bold are hard-coded with a formula, so don’t enter data over them!
  2. You can add and remove any rows that you want. Simply right-click and add/delete rows as you need!
  3. Don’t forget the graphs at the end of the template! Use these to get a quick visual display of your budget.

There it is! Now you have all you need to create and document your marketing budget.

 

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We are recognized as a top Inbound Marketing Company on DesignRush. Reach out to us if you’re interested in learning more.

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The Anatomy of a High Performing B2B Website

Your website is never going to be perfect.

Sorry. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but your website is never going to be perfect because there are no perfect websites.

There aren’t even finished websites… They’re ALWAYS a work in progress no matter how many times you tweak the colors or slightly change a design.

Since there is no such thing as perfection or done, we’re not going to be able to show you an exact formula for building a great B2B website.

We can, however, tell what we’ve learned building more than 200 websites over the past 10 years so you can maximize your chances of building a high converting website.

In today’s blog post, let’s take a look at key elements of a high performing B2B website.

Our list will include:

  1. Customer Driven
  2. Contains Social Proof
  3. Visually Appealing
  4. Easy to navigate
  5. Content Ready
  6. SEO Ready
  7. Secure

Let’s get to it!

Customer Driven

Chances are that you don’t know your customer quite as well as you think you know them. Before you install WordPress or write a single line of code for your website, you need to gain a truly deep understanding your customer personas.

By understanding who your customers are and what their pains are, you’ll be able to create websites that speak to the specific pains of your customers.

Check out ChartBoost’s website:

By taking the time to understand their persona’s, ChartBoost was able to build a website that:

  • Has consistent messaging
  • Speaks to a pain that mobile advertisers have
  • Directs users to take a specific action (Sign Up Now)
  • Offers users a relevant content upgrade

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Social Proof

Have you ever signed up for a free trial of a product simply because a known industry expert gave a glowing testimonial?

I know I have.

That’s the power of social proof.

By showing site visitors that industry experts and giant corporations are using your tool, you send an almost subliminal signal to their brain saying “Hey Google is using this… it must be worth a shot!”

What types of social proof can I leverage?

There are a few types of social proof that we’ve found work really well.

 

Testimonials

A tried and true method of providing social proof is customer testimonials.

A simple and relevant testimonial from a known company or expert can speak volumes. Check out a testimonial for ChartBoost.

You may not know exactly who Ville is, but if the CMO of the company that brought me Angry Birds likes the tool, then I’m going to take it seriously.

 

Customer Logo’s

Sometimes referred to as Trust Icons, customer logo’s on your website can be an easy way to let people know about a few of the big brands that you work with.

The persona-driven site that the team at Grappos built show’s the names and logos of some of the biggest companies in wine.

 

Case Studies

A good case study that takes a deep and data-driven dive into how a piece of software or a service helped a customer get results is still one of the best forms of social proof.

B2B companies should leverage their biggest names and success stories to create engaging case studies.

 

Organization Logo’s

Is your company part of the Better Business Bureau? Are you PayPal certified? HubSpot certified? Maybe you were featured in TechCrunch?

You can use “Trust Icons” to help prove the legitimacy of your business

 

Killer Results

If your company has been getting killer results for your customers, you need to show off your stats.

Check out how McDonald’s has been doing this for 50 years

McDonald’s has been telling people for years how many people it has served as social proof.

Buffer does a great job of showing off their user count number similar to McDonald’s and combining it with some great logo’s

Visually appealing

The first thing people notice about a website is the look and feel. Buyers will not feel comfortable engaging with a website that doesn’t look professionally done.

So what makes a great looking website?

Relevant imagery

Images are a powerful element of any website.

They can galvanize your site visitors into following your mission, or they can turn your visitors off and make them bounce off your page in 3 seconds.

So you need to use your images wisely. Stock photography is a great and inexpensive option, but make sure they align with your brand.

Let’s take a look at how Grappos does it.

The imagery immediately gives the impression that Grappos is a high-quality, luxurious brand that happens to sell wine.

Every image transmits a subconscious message to your audience. Sometimes the result is not what’s expected. Achieving the right balance between images and copy on a website has been shown to increase conversions by 29%.

Easy Navigation

An easy to navigate website is paramount to building a high converting website. In fact, more than 75% of site visitors say that ease in finding information is the most important element in website design according to a recent HubSpot study.

There are two types of site users: browsers and seekers. Browsers will “wander” through the site, often working left to right across your top navigation. They are passively consuming information and want to be able to window-shop. Seekers are after one thing and want to get there as fast as possible. Your navigation needs to support both user styles.

Accessibility

It’s 2017.

If your website isn’t mobile optimized then you need to start to optimize your website right now. Over 58% of all browsing time is spent on a mobile phone or tablet in 2017, and your site needs to cater to these users.

Your site needs to be compatible with multiple browsers and devices, or risk losing out to forward-thinking competition.

 

Content Ready

“Content marketing is the only marketing left” – Seth Godin

Successful B2B brands are using content marketing to educate and nurture their prospects through the buyer journey.

Visitors may be coming to your website to check out your features, view use cases, or learn best practices. Engage your site visitors and feed them helpful content in the form of articles, webinars, case studies, and downloadable content upgrades.

Build a great blog design

The goal of your blog is for your visitors to digest your content. So you want to design your blog to make reading as painless as possible.

This means have clear typography with a high contrast between the color of your text and the background color.

Ensure that your responsive design also carries over to your blog. Ideally, your text will automatically resize for visibility and readability, your images will scale, and your reading experience will be smooth.

The team at AutoPilot has this down to a science:

Their mobile optimized blog is readable and easily digestible.

Don’t restrict content to blog pages

If you’re only putting your content on your blog pages then you’re missing out on thousands of opportunities for visitors to view your content.

You can include content on your persona focused solution pages, feature pages, and even your home page.

See how CloudCheckr does it:

 

SEO Ready

If you want to drive thousands of visitors to your website for free consistently, SEO is still the best long-term traffic strategy. Even with offline campaigns, paid acquisition, and social media

campaigns, a huge percentage of your new site traffic should come from organic search.

On-page SEO

This consists of optimizing critical elements of your page for the search terms and phrases you are targeting. The most common elements include headings, sub-headings, body copy, image alt-tags, links, and anchor text. Without these elements, search engines don’t know what to rank your site for, and competitors will consistently beat you to Page 1.

Technical SEO

The unseen parts of your page are some of the most critical for search optimization. Title tags, meta descriptions, mobile optimizations and page speed are site elements that you can’t see but will sink your SEO traffic in a heartbeat. Don’t know what a robots.txt file is? You will when it stops search engines from finding your site, costing you 80% of your traffic.

To ensure that your SEO strategy is sound, make sure that you think about your SEO strategy from the start of your web project.

 

Security

Not focusing on security when building your website can be a critical mistake. We’ve faced all of these attacks, helping our clients fend off issues and maintain continuity. We’ve found that the best approach to security is two-pronged.

Begin Well

To create a good result, begin with the best base. Use the most up-to-date version of WordPress and carefully chose the plugins that you need.

Carefully scrutinize your plugins to ensure you know the security impact and long-term maintainability of each of your plugins.

Secure websites will utilize a professional web hosting service to manage the OS and supporting systems like AWS.

For the best performance and security, we recommend utilizing a Web Application Firewall like CloudFlare or Incapsula in front of your web layer. This will help prevent attacks like a DDOS from ever reaching your infrastructure.

Manage Securely 

Once you get to launch, you’ll need to monitor and patch security and performance at the system and application level to maintain the highest levels of security. This means continuously updating WordPress’ core software and supporting plugins.

 

Remember to always be testing

As we said at the beginning of this post, there are no finished websites.

These best practices are great starting points that you can use to optimize your website, however, always carefully track your conversions and test your ideas. It’s up to you and your marketing team to find the winning combination for your visitors.

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The 4 Strategies this Series A startup used to grow leads by 54% in 6 months

How do you take a company fresh off a $50M series A that has been growing 25% quarter-over-quarter to the next level?

This is the question that Steve Hall, VP of Marketing at CloudCheckr faced as the company entered 2017.

CloudCheckr, which makes cloud computing easy for companies like NASDAQ, Lockheed Martin, Intel, NASA and hundreds of other enterprises and service providers by simplifying their cloud infrastructure for public users, had experienced enormous growth since its founding in 2011 and earned $50M in funding to accelerate that growth even further.

The company had been using a mix of content marketing, paid acquisition, SEO, and offline marketing to help them grow the number of leads they generated every quarter, but in order to meet the expectations that came with their latest round of funding, they needed more exponential growth.

Today, we’re going to walk you through the 4 tactics that CloudCheckr used to grow leads by 54% in just 6 months.

We’ll cover

  1. Website optimization
  2. Putting content in context
  3. Opening the top of the funnel
  4. Building microsites

Alright, let’s get started!

Strategy #1: Optimize your website for lead generation

Before CloudCheckr did anything else, they took a step back and had an honest internal conversation about their website.

What they found was a functional website that left a lot to be desired.

Navigating the site was difficult, messaging wasn’t always consistent, SEO best practices weren’t always enforced, and worst of all, it was a time-consuming pain for their marketing team to use.

It was time for a redesign.

Fortunately, they approached our team here at HUSL to help them build a persona-driven web experience.

How they did it

Our approach started with taking a deep dive into their customers. So the first thing we did was work together with CloudCheckr to build target personas.

Step 1: Extensive User Research to Define the “Who”

Every great website starts with a deep understanding of your target market so you can understand how to create value for them and provide a high-quality customer experience.

We started by looking at past customers of CloudCheckr to better understand what their behaviors, motivations, and pain points were. From there, we identified who their primary user groups were so we could conduct deeper research to better understand users needs and specific objectives.

Once we determined who the key user groups were, we set off to learn as much about them as possible so we could tailor the website’s UX to these core groups.

We did this through qualitative and quantitative research that included:

  • User Interviews to have deep qualitative discussions to understand what a user’s needs are and what they’re looking for when going to CloudCheckr’s website    
  • Stakeholder interviews with CloudCheckr’s marketing and sales teams to better understand what they are hearing directly from customers when they speak with them.
  • Analytics review of CloudCheckr’s website to understand vital demographic information like age, devices used, location, and common acquisition channels

Once completed, the CloudCheckr team had customer profiles that resembled these:

 

Step 2: Built clear and consistent messaging

After understanding CloudCheckr’s target persona’s, the CloudCheckr team went to work on building the right messaging for the website.

CloudCheckr knew that their home page should clearly state what they could help companies with, what the benefits of CloudCheckr were, and how they have helped other brands.

They created copy that consistently highlighted CloudCheckr’s benefits and showed off its slew of recognizable customers.

The result is a focused web experience:

 

Another beautiful example of a landing page that converts exceptionally well is Unbounce. They ensure every site visitor understand that Unbounce is all about building landing pages that convert quickly.

 

 

In just a glance you can clearly understand that Unbounce is a tool that helps users build landing pages that drive conversions, just like site visitors can easily understand that CloudCheckr is a cloud management tool that helps enterprises and service providers save money, reduce risk, and ensure governance at scale.

CloudCheckr repeated this messaging clarity and consistency throughout the entire website.

Step 3: Drive users to the most wanted action on each page

When building a conversion focused website, you should always keep in mind what action you want site visitors to take on your site.

The goal of CloudCheckr’s marketing website has always been to drive marketing qualified leads through inquiries. These inquiries could be demo, webinar, eBook, whitepaper, or newsletter signups that come from any point on the website.

CloudCheckr’s persona-driven website segmented the tool according to the persona, and each persona had a different buyer journey. So each page had a CTA designed specifically for that persona.

Check out how they structure one of their solution pages:

 

 

Here we see a clear call-to-action that the public sector would find the most appealing. The main CTA points to the AWS Marketplace where users can signup and directly install CloudCheckr for a free trial.

As you scroll down the page, you’ll also see offers for specific whitepapers that are compelling to the public sector.

By building a persona-driven website, CloudCheckr was able to build specific offers for specific users and give them the best experience and content possible.

 

Strategy #2: Put Content in Context

CloudCheckr has always had a robust content strategy that includes weekly blogging, webinars, white papers, and ebooks. Their content strategy proved to be effective, however, site visitors would only see this content if they were on one of CloudCheckr’s blog pages.

Instead of continuing to silo this content, the HUSL team built CloudCheckr’s pages to display the most relevant content.

For example, CloudCheckr’s cost and expense management page displays several articles that speak directly to site visitors that would be interested in expense management.

 

 

This “related resource” section gives site visitors a great opportunity to continue to engage with CloudCheckr even if they aren’t quite ready to engage in a demo.

Additionally, on many of CloudCheckr’s blog posts, they have the opportunity to opt into webinars, events, and eBooks from the blog pages.

 

 

By funneling more users into engaging content, CloudCheckr is giving itself more opportunities increase MQL’s

 

Strategy #3: Open the top of the funnel with SEO

Once CloudCheckr had a robust website that drove visitors to clear CTA’s and engaging content, they knew they could open up the top of their funnel and begin to drive more impressions.

“We traditionally had a very focused top of the funnel,” said Steve Hall, CloudCheckr’s VP of Marketing. “So we knew in order to grow at the pace that we wanted we would have to open things up.”

One of CloudCheckr’s most effective channels was SEO, so they resolved to double down on their on-site SEO techniques and create content that would help them rank for more keywords.

When HUSL rebuilt CloudCheckr’s website, our team focused on helping them improve their current on-page and technical SEO while providing them templates that enforced SEO best practices.

On-Page SEO & Technical

CloudCheck worked to improve both their on-page and technical SEO by optimizing critical elements of their web pages for the search terms and phrases they targeted. The most important elements include headings, sub-headings, body copy, image alt-tags, links, and anchor text.

From a more technical perspective, elements like meta descriptions, mobile optimizations, and page speed also needed to be maximized.

For CloudCheckr, this meant:

  • Wrapping page titles in <h1> tags
  • Wrapping subheadings in <h2> tags
  • Building a fully responsive web experience
  • Optimizing images with SEO friendly file names
  • Ensuring site speed was top notch

 

To ensure these SEO improvements would be utilized on future pages, HUSL built web templates that would make it easy for marketers to enforce SEO best practices.

These SEO improvements along with expanded paid acquisition work resulted in an 81% increase in site impressions in just 6 months.

 

Strategy #4: Build Microsites

The CloudCheckr team attends 50+ trade shows every year that provides a huge opportunity to drive leads.

To take advantage of this opportunity, CloudCheckr creates microsites that help inform visitors and event-goers on the benefits of CloudCheckr and how they relate to the message of the event.

Each event microsite gives site visitors the opportunity to register for the event, book a meeting with the CloudCheckr team, or gather information on how they can see CloudCheckr at the event.

 

 

Benefits of microsites

These microsites have several benefits including:

 

Targeted Campaigns

Deliver highly targeted content to specific audience segments.

Ex. Send a geotargeted audience Facebook ads to your event.

 

Lead Generation

CloudCheckr generates meetings by targeting conference attendees with their landing pages.

 

Virality Potential

A well designed, informative, and easily shareable microsite has the potential to create buzz around a certain event.

 

Are microsites scalable?

One disadvantage of building a microsite is the potential for high costs and long development times if you’re working with your development team. For some teams the prospect of building even just a single webpage for an event is daunting.

Fortunately, companies like CloudCheckr can setup easily shareable and editable templates that anyone of their team members can customize and have live in minutes.

 

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The 3 biggest mistakes B2B startups make with their websites

Building a great website is an iterative process.

It is never done.

So even though we increased on-site conversions for ShipHawk by 84% last year by creating an agile and persona-driven website, we still were still looking to make improvements and boost conversions.

You’re never going to have a 100% perfect website, but you can build a high converting site by avoiding some common mistakes that B2B startups often make. That is why we’ve compiled a list of the top three most common mistakes that B2B startups make with their sites.

Our list includes:

  1. Not building defined buyer personas and building your site around them
  2. Building a website with a complicated backend
  3. Using your product team to build your website

Let’s get to it!

 

Not building for your target persona

At the end of the day, what do you want your B2B website to do?

Get a ton of traffic? Nope

Tell investors about your business? Nope.

Your website needs to do one thing exceptionally well, and that’s convert.

That could mean converting visitors into free trials, demos, content upgrades, interacting with your chat widget (looking at you Drift), or whatever you set as a KPI that leads to marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and sales qualified leads (SQLs).

Conversions only happen when your well-targeted traffic meets a well crafted and relevant offer.

It’s hard to create that offer without a true understanding of your customer.

Why does knowing my target audience matter?

If you know…

  • How your audience speaks, you can use language that they would naturally use and relate to them
  • What their pain points are, you can specifically build content around their pains
  • Why they visit your site, you can build your website so it’s relevant to your most immediate needs
  • Where they hang out, you can reach them with your own content or ads

What do I need to know about my target persona?

Just like your website, building your target persona is never done. You should always be learning more and more about your prospects and customers.

You can start by understanding:

Demographics

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Location
  • Education
  • Industry

Behaviors/Habits

  • Would they consider themselves thought leaders?
  • Are they early adopters?
  • How do they make decisions?

Digital Habits

  • What blogs do they visit?
  • Are they active on social media? Which ones?
  • What type of content do they consume? Short form or long form?
  • Do they use internet research sites?
  • Do they lean on their online social network for buying decisions?

Goals

  • What KPI are they trying to hit?
  • How will their personal success be impacted by business success?
  • What projects are they working on?
  • What deadlines are they trying to meet? What events will they go to?
  • What is the overall business strategy and how will they try and meet them?

Challenges

  • What is taking their focus away from their objective?
  • What don’t they have the time/bandwidth to accomplish
  • What is slowing them down?

Check out the example customer profile that we’ve put together.

 

 

 

You can see that we’ve included detailed demographic and psychographic information along with a quote and picture to ensure that our team is visualizing our target persona.

How do I know all of this!?

If you don’t already have a deep understanding of your customer profile then you’ll need to do some work to better define them.

Customer Surveys

If available, one of the best ways to research your target persona is by surveying your paying customers.

You can easily set up a Google form with demographic, firmographic, and psychographic questions that will help you understand your customer further.

You can also add in questions about their buying experience to immediately receive ideas on how you can improve your site.

Check out the sample survey questions below:

 

Demographics

  1. What’s your title
  2. How large is your company
  3. What industry is your company in?

 

Website

  1. What problem were you trying to solve when you found {{company_name}}
  2. How did you find {{company_name}}
  3. What did you want to do on {{company_website}} when you first visited
  4. Did you complete your objective?
  5. What questions did you have that you could not find answers to?

 

Product/Pain

  1. How were you solving the problem before {{product}}
  2. What made you choose {{product}}
  3. Has {{product}} solved the problem for you?
  4. What can we do better to solve your problems?

Bonus Survey Tips:

Keep it short and sweet

The more questions you have the fewer people are going to complete your survey and once you go beyond 15 questions, your results will decline 5%-10% per additional question.

 

Make it mobile friendly

56% of all traffic will come from mobile devices in 2017 according to SimilarWeb while 54% of email opens happen on mobile devices.

Chances are that when you email your customers a survey, they’re going to open it on a mobile device. So optimize for mobile!

 

Stay away from multiple choice

It’s important that you allow your customers to say everything they would want to say in their own words.

Restricting them to preconfigured questions may lead to a few more responses but less valuable and actionable information.

 

Put a time limit and add an incentive

Only about 25% of people who receive a survey email and click through to fill it out actually complete the survey. Boost that completion rate by adding a cutoff date and an incentive to spur action.

People are much more likely to complete a survey if they will receive an Amazon gift card for doing so and they only have 48hrs.

Facebook Ads

The reason that advertisers are flocking to Facebook (and Google) is they reach billions of people and have a wealth of data that can be deployed for highly targeted marketing campaigns.

Any B2B marketer can build an audience for:

  • High income, married men, in Silicon Valley interested in Simon Sinek, healthcare services, SaaS, and Salesforce

OR

  • Single women in New York City who are interested in Apple, NASDAQ, and The Wall Street Journal

B2B marketers can test multiple audiences and obtain statistically significant results about the interests and demographics of their target market.

Already spending money on Facebook Ads?

If you’re already spending money on Facebook Ads, check out your audience insights to instantly learn a great deal about the users that follow your Page and interact with your content.

You can start by choosing the audience that you want to interact with.


Then dive in and understand demographic and lifestyle information.

 

Ask your sales team

If you want to understand who your prospects and customers are, why not ask the people that talk to them the most?

Sales development teams that are doing outbound outreach can be leveraged to test messaging and learn about your target market in the same way Facebook ads can.

For example, Square leverages their SDR team to understand and test new markets, products, or customer types.

B2B marketers can learn from their SDR teams by asking sales leaders what type of messaging has been resonating and with who.

Check Google Analytics

Much like Facebook insights, Google Analytics can give you detailed information about the users that are visiting your website.

Simply enable demographic and interest data on your Google Analytics account and you can start to build demographics reports like below:

 

 

And interest reports like these:

 

Once you’ve gathered this information you can add it to your ideal customer persona.

Conduct Interviews

If you don’t have many customers that you can leverage for surveys and don’t have the ability to gather ad spend data, then you can focus on qualitative interviews with your prospects.

You should focus on talking to customers from different backgrounds, industries, and buying situations. You’ll likely have multiple ideal customer profiles and you’ll want to make sure you gather information about all of them.

When you are conducting the interview focus on understanding the prospect’s unique pains, attributes, and buying situation. Dig deeper than the surface level and understand what’s really going on.

Use some of the survey questions that we listed above to get started, however, be sure to dive deeper. Here are a few examples of more in-depth questions

  • Tell me how X process works for you.
  • What part of this process takes the most time?
  • Is there any part of this process that costs more money than you’d like?
  • What is the most inefficient part of this process?
  • What tools do you use to help you with this process currently?
  • What part of this process provides you the most value?
  • How happy are you with the current process?
  • If you could improve one thing about this process, what would it be?
  • Do you use X tools to help you with this process? If so, do they do what you need them to do?

Mistake #2: Building a complicated backend

Building a pretty website isn’t difficult.

Anyone can go on Themeforest, find a good looking template, do a few customizations and be off to the races.

Without getting into the security and performance pitfalls that await you, simply getting a website launched is only the first part. Your website is your company’s central information location, and it’s only as valuable as it is consistently updated. What do you do when you need to make changes?

Are your Marketing Team’s needs for updates tied to your engineering team’s schedule? Does your team spend hours clicking around a confusing interface, choosing the same options repeatedly, just trying to get a new content piece online?

If your website is a pain to manage, your high-value marketing employees are going to spend their time hoping they can figure things out. Now your message is hindered by a messy process when your original goal was to have a tool that would help your team be more effective.

How does a complicated website prevent me from reaching my goals?

A complicated website will

  • Be difficult change and update, without needing to spend hours building a deep technical understanding of your website’s architecture
  • Limit your ability, so your marketing team will not be able to easily spin up unique landing pages
  • Force you to enter content repeatedly, after you create a landing page, you have to go create a block on the home page, and another banner
  • Leave you hanging without the tools you need, so you’ll have to go searching for plugins and or revisiting the development process every time a need arises
  • Not be built for SEO from the onset, so you may need to do major SEO overhauls down the road

At HUSL, we build modular websites that easily and simply adjust to your content so all your team has to do is plug in the appropriate content and launch their campaigns.

The team at CloudCheckr recently launched their modular website and are now able to build unique landing pages for every trade show their company attends in a matter of minutes.

Mistake #3: Using your product team to build your website

The mad scientists building your company’s tool are really the rockstars of any startup.

They are the innovators that build the tools that wow your investors and solve your customer’s problems… But they aren’t the best team to build your website for two main reasons.

  1. Their time is extremely valuable ($150k+ a year in the Silicon Valley!) and extremely limited
  2. They just aren’t marketers

Let your product developers do what they do best

Developers tend to build their websites with themselves in mind and not the marketing team that will be working on the site.

This means that they’ll often use code snippets to build the site which makes changing the website difficult, frustrating, and time-consuming process for any non-developer. So when your marketing team needs to make changes to the website they’ll need to ask their development team.

This time-consuming process can be eliminated by letting your development team focus on your product and allowing your marketing team to focus on the website.

 

Wrapping up – Avoid these mistakes

We’ve seen a lot of mistakes over the past 10 years and we’ve learned from them so you don’t have to go through the pain of building a bad website.

Remember to always:

  1. Understand your ideal customer profile so you can speak to them in their language
  2. Build your website so that anyone on your team can easily make changes, add pages, and edit copy
  3. Let your product team focus on your product and your marketing focus on iterating your website

 

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Marketing Metrics You Should Share With Your Boss

“I don’t know.” That’s not what you want to say when your boss asks how things are going with the company’s marketing metrics. Even so, it’s easy to clam up about when you feel put on the spot.

You spend all of your time in the details of marketing, but your boss wants you to share the big picture. Your boss is going to want a general vision of how things are going, rather than a detailed tale of everything you’ve done in the past month.

She’ll want to know what metrics are improving, how customer acquisition and retention are faring, and what you’ve been doing to make improvements. As a marketer, you should know a few marketing metrics– or at least how to retrieve them– so that you’re prepared when someone asks for the big picture.

Knowing the metrics will help show the results of your efforts. After all, 43% say that proving the ROI of marketing activities is the number one challenge for their team.

Here are some marketing metrics worth sharing with your boss:

Overall engagement on site

Believe it or not, 55% of B2B marketers say they aren’t sure what content marketing success looks like, according to Content Marketing Institute. However, overall engagement on site is one of the best ways to figure out the ROI of your efforts.

When your boss walks up to your desk and asks how things are going, there are a few metrics you should always have on hand. According to HubSpot, 65% of companies are challenged to generate traffic and leads, so this is likely to be a concern for those up top.

Many marketers create custom dashboards in Google Analytics or Excel so that these metrics are always available.

Shareable metrics include:

  • Number of site visitors (daily, weekly, monthly)
  • Growth of site visitors
  • Overall conversion rate (how many people who visit the site convert?)
  • Time on site (this shows whether people are reading your content)
  • Number of pages visited
  • Most popular pages
  • How people get to the site

You’ll also want to have a good understanding of overall website conversion rate. According to SixteenVentures, the average conversion rate for SaaS is 3%. Are you performing better or worse than the average?

Conversion rates from particular campaigns and strategies

When you create a new campaign or initiative, you also have to be sure you have taken the steps to measure success. What will success look like? Is it the number of generated leads? Is it simply brand awareness?

It’s not only a question of your goals, but also how you will measure them. When someone downloads an eBook, are you able to track how they found the eBook, and what happened after they downloaded it?

You should know:

  • How many leads were generated from particular channels
  • How many social media shares a content marketing asset received
  • Conversions from organic search vs. other mediums

Be able to share conversion rates from particular campaigns and strategies. It can help to put things in context. For example, if your manager wants to know why a new blog post isn’t gaining views compared to an older one, you can explain that only 1 in 10 blog posts are compounding, meaning organic search increases their traffic over time, according to HubSpot.

Changes over time

It’s easy to look at your marketing efforts and say that things were going better than they were in the past, but you actually need to be able to document changes over time. Then, you can share them.

For example, if you were hired to run your company’s blog, and you’ve increased time on site by a full minute, that’s a metric worth sharing with your manager. Similarly, if there are changes in how people are interacting with your site– perhaps the percentage of visitors who come through mobile– you should be able to share them.

Cost-per-acquisition based on channel

One thing your manager definitely cares about is how much it costs to acquire a customer. You should have a handle on how much it costs to acquire a customer for each marketing and advertising channel, as well as the customer lifetime values for each channel.

  • Cost-per-acquisition – How much it costs to acquire a customer
  • Customer lifetime value – Average amount that a customer spends with your company

You may find that you get a lot of conversions from Facebook ads, which are inexpensive to run. However, if everyone that signs up from a Facebook ad only hangs around for a month, are you truly getting a return on your investment? Perhaps your money is better spent on organic search efforts, where it costs slightly more to gain a customer, but the customers stay around for longer.

Wrapping up

Don’t get caught on the spot when someone asks what’s going on with your marketing efforts. Instead, be prepared. Be ready to share metrics around the overall engagement on your site, conversion rates, changes over time, as well as the relationship between your cost-per-acquisition and your customer lifetime value.

If your company has questions on marketing metrics, reach out to us! 

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5 SaaS Companies That Have Reaped Benefits From Content Marketing

If you work at a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company, you care a lot about content marketing. After all, content marketing allows you to build brand awareness, generate leads, and get prospects down the funnel.

According to Content Marketing Institute’s 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends Survey, 88% of B2B companies are using content marketing. That’s because it works.

For SaaS companies that don’t have traditional sales teams, content marketing is an essential part of the marketing mix. By providing educational resources, you can…

  • …teach prospects about your services
  • …help them do their jobs better
  • …nurture leads down the marketing funnel
  • …generally become a go-to expert in your space

Most of us know the benefits of content marketing, but what does it look like in practice? Today, we’re sharing how 5 SaaS companies are reaping benefits from content marketing to inspire your own.

1. Groove HQ

When Alex Turnbull, Founder of Groove, a help desk for small businesses and startups, started digging into his marketing, he realized that the company blog needed some love. The existing blog was full of generic tips on how to be better at customer support. Turnbull knew it wasn’t super inspiring.

So, Turnbull and his team decided to share their journey as an SaaS company, in the hopes that other SaaS companies would read along, and then get interested in the software. The resulting blog was honest, tactical, and inspiring.

The blog doesn’t function alone, either. The Groove team built email marketing into the overall experience, allowing readers to follow the journey through email.

SaaS content marketing example
Source: Groove HQ

Later on, Groove added a blog dedicated to customer support to reach prospects and customers who wanted advice on how to get better at providing a great customer experience.

2. CoSchedule

CoSchedule offers an editorial calendar to content marketers. The software is great, but they’re competing in a cluttered space. After all, there is so much content out there about content marketing.

At first glance, it seems like there’s no room to succeed. But CoSchedule was able to differentiate themselves from the competition with content that was beyond valuable.

Not only do they provide insanely well-researched posts on how to write the perfect blog headline and how to improve content with “the skyscraper technique,” but they also provide a variety of templates that can be printed out and used by any content marketing manager.

Additionally, CoSchedule went all in with content, evident from the images in each post, which are well-designed and on-brand. The team doesn’t rely on silly GIFs or bizarre stock photos. Everything is branded and beautiful.

CoSchedule example of content marketing for SaaS
Source: CoSchedule.com

3. Shopify

Shopify provides an easy to use website builder for those selling goods online, and they’ve long boasted some of the best small business content on the internet.

It’s not just that the content itself is informative and valuable– the Shopify has done significant work in organizing their content to make sure that visitors can find what they need. For example, Shopify has the following categories on the right of its blog:

Shopify example of content marketing for SaaS
Source: Shopify.com/blog

This design allows visitors to navigate towards the topics that interest them, rather than forcing them to read the latest blog post.

4. Wistia

Unlike most SaaS companies, Wistia does much of its content marketing using video, rather than words. Of course this makes a lot of sense for a company that sells video embedding software to businesses.

Wistia provides quirky, educational resources on how to create professional videos through an all-inclusive hub. A lot of their tips explain how to do more with less. Like CoSchedule, Wistia creates many custom images to complement blog posts and videos.

Wistia SaaS content marketing example
Source: Wistia.com/blog/understand-your-audience

Bonus: Wistia publishes their videos using their own software, which makes it obvious how good the videos are when a prospect watches. They feel much like watching the best possible how-to video on YouTube.

5. Grammarly

Grammarly is a best friend to any writer, marketer, or editor. After all, the software helps ensure there are no grammatical or spelling errors in a piece of writing.

When it comes to content marketing, Grammarly is extremely charming. They’ve developed a brand voice that feels like a cool, hip librarian who’s dishing all they know about the written word.

A lot of Grammarly’s posts are positively useful, but it’s clear the team has done a lot of work to consider SEO. For example, how many times have you googled something like “lay vs lie”?

Grammarly SaaS content marketing
Source: Grammarly.com/blog

Caring about content

All the Saas companies we’ve explored have different approaches to content marketing, but they have one thing in common. They all believe that content marketing is important, and have dedicated substantial resources to making sure that the assets they publish are up to snuff.

If your company has questions on marketing your SaaS product, reach out to us! 

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Customer Onboarding Strategies That Do Wonders for SaaS

You’ve optimized your website to increase conversions, figured out a content marketing strategy that works, and new customers are signing on. Yahoo! But before you take a trip to Vegas to celebrate your company’s growth, you have to consider whether these new customers will stick around. Are you doing everything you can for effective customer onboarding?

It’s been proven time and time again that it’s more expensive to acquire new customers than to retain existing ones. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies, in particular, depend on customers spending money each and every month.

When a new customer signs on, you want to do everything you can to keep them around. You want them to benefit from all that your software has to offer. You need your customers to see how valuable your product is.

How to do it? With good customer onboarding, of course.

Outline each and every touchpoint

Customer onboarding begins before someone signs up. When someone chooses to pay for a subscription or try a free trial, they already have some information about your company. They already believe something about what your product can offer them.

In order to develop an onboarding journey, you have to figure out how much prospects already know when they decide to convert into paying customers. This will help you assess how much education they need, and where you should get started with the onboarding process.

You should think of the onboarding journey holistically, from the moment someone learns about your product to when they become a loyal customer. What are all the moments and interactions they experience? Write all of them down, and be ready to improve on each one.

Assess your onboarding funnel

Once you’ve plotted out the customer touch points, it’s time to assess your onboarding funnel. Basically, you want to figure out where and when prospects and customers drop-off. Do they stop using your software one week into a free trial, or do they never start using it at all?

In order to figure out where customers drop off, you need to know how customers are interacting with your software. If you’re struggling to get the data, you can read KISSmetrics Conversion Funnels Survival Guide.

Additionally, you want to know where customers get stuck. By using tools like Usertesting.com and YouEye, you can learn how prospects interact with your website and software. This will help you assess whether all the things you intended are clear to your users.  

Usertesting.com can help you analyze customer behavior on your site for better onboarding
Usertesting.com can help you analyze customer behavior on your site for better onboarding.

Reach out for the info

If customers aren’t having a good onboarding experience, you want to hear about it from them. That’s why we recommend reaching out to customers during or after the onboarding experience.

You should reach out to three groups of customers:

  • Loyal customers who went through your onboarding
  • Customers who partially completed the onboarding experience
  • Prospects who canceled their accounts

There are a few ways of gathering information. First, you can automate Net Promoter Score (NPS)® emails that go out throughout the onboarding process to get a pulse on how things are going. This will help you assess how customers are feeling throughout the process.

Net Promoter Score®, or NPS®, measures customer experience and predicts business growth.
NPS® measures customer experience and predicts business growth.

You can also send out surveys to find out why customers canceled, as well as conduct customer interviews to find out where customers get stuck. By collecting this information, you’ll be able to determine where customers are getting stuck, and then develop solutions.

Determine the path that loyal customers take… and make more customers take it

Loyal customers who do not churn are the lifeblood of any SaaS business. When you’re assessing your onboarding, ask yourself what separates these loyal customers from those who don’t stick around.

Are these loyal customers…

  • …more likely to complete your onboarding process?
  • …more likely to open your email messages within the first day of joining?
  • …from companies that are a certain size or in a particular industry?
  • …using coupons, discounts, or referral promotions to get into your company?

You’ll be able to create a better onboarding experience if you understand what makes loyal customers stick around. For example, if you notice that your loyal customers set up their account within the first three days of joining, you can take steps to make sure new customers set up their accounts as quickly as possible.

Wrapping up

Changing your customer onboarding process is a worthwhile endeavor, and SaaS companies are catching on. For example, Magoosh, an SaaS company that specialized in test prep resources, found that users who got their welcome message converted 17% better than those who did not, proving that onboarding can make a big difference.

Great customer onboarding will help reduce churn, which will increase revenue for your SaaS company. By improving your messaging, changing up your email flow, and studying prospects and customer, you’ll be able to create an onboarding journey that hooks customers for life.

If your company needs help putting an onboarding process in place or analyzing your existing one, reach out to us! 

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The 9 B2B Website ‘Must Haves’ For Driving Traffic & Leads

You know having a great-looking website is important, but what’s the point of the site if it doesn’t help you win more business? Yep– your website needs to sell. A sharp B2B website not only looks great, but also drives traffic and leads.

Whether you’re building a new site or want to optimize an existing one, there’s much you can do to create a winning site. You need inbound links, on-page SEO, and an emphasis on design that converts.

It isn’t always straightforward. That’s why we’ve put together 9 B2B website ‘must haves’ for driving traffic and leads. When you’re done with this guide, you’ll…

  • Understand the 9 ‘must haves’ for driving traffic & leads
  • Have a sense of what needs to be done to improve your site
  • Know how CTAs impact conversions
  • See how SEO impacts a B2B website
  • And more!

Get Your Guide Here

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5 B2B Content Marketing Trends That Will Take Over 2017

At the start of the new year, you’re probably considering what you can do in the coming months to drive traffic, revenue, and more sales. But marketing is an ever-changing landscape. Will the tactics that worked last year continue to work in 2017? Are people still downloading eBooks? Has the social media sphere changed? Enter content marketing. 

You need to be on top of the latest trends if you want to propel business forward. One thing is for sure– B2B businesses continue to see content marketing as an integral part of their customer acquisition and retention strategies.

Content marketing is here to stay, and B2B companies that want to generate more business need to pay attention. That’s why we’re sharing 5 B2B content marketing trends that you should focus on in 2017.

1. Email takes a front seat over social

In the past few years, the social media landscape has changed. It used to be that B2B companies could gain substantial organic traffic from sites like Facebook and Twitter by promoting their content. Today, it’s become much more pay-to-play, and many companies feel jerked around by ever-changing algorithms and ad prices.

Because of this, many companies are focusing their efforts on email marketing. Although email marketing is a more traditional tactic, B2B businesses are finding clever ways to use email to nurture leads and convert them to prospects. Enhanced features such as personalization, segmentation, and automation have made email one of the best channels for ROI.

Content marketing provides the fuel for every successful email marketing program. When you email your base, you need great content that inspires them to engage with your brand. According to a study by CMI and MarketingProfs, email was rated as as the top success metric for measuring content marketing.

HubSpot b2b email marketing
HubSpot targets business professionals with this email campaign promoting their webinar.

2. Shifted focus on influencers

In 2016, we saw many B2B brands going after influencers for content marketing assets, with a flurry of blog posts with insights from the experts. Many brands created round-up posts featuring industry experts from around the web, in turn finding ways to get links and mentions.

This tactic proved successful, but it has become overplayed. Influencers are more careful about what the say, where they get quoted, and how they share the content. Influencer content was a hot trend of 2016, but we expect the focus on it to shift in 2017 as B2B brands get savvier about how to use influencers.

A McKinsey study found that influencer marketing earned, on average, $9.60 for every $1 spent in 2015, compared to 2014 where $6.85 was generated per $1 spent. If you want to see substantial ROI from influencer marketing in 2017, you need to be deliberate in your strategy and approach.

Joanna Gaines of HGTV's Fixer Upper promotes Darling Magazine.
Joanna Gaines of HGTV’s Fixer Upper promotes Darling Magazine.

3. Higher quality content for niche audiences

As the content marketing space gets more competitive, it won’t be enough to just have content. In fact, B2B businesses are not only going all in with content marketing, but they’re getting much better at producing better content.

According to Content Marketing Institute, 72% of B2B marketers cited creating engaging content as a top priority in 2016. This coming year, we expect that companies will create even better content at a more efficient rate.

Additionally, brands will get better at narrowing their focus and speaking directly to their audiences. Rand Fishkin, Founder of Moz, tweeted that marketers should “get more niche—serve smaller and smaller interest groups.”

4. Organizations get real about what it takes to do content

In the past, marketing leaders saw content marketing as something they could throw at an inexperienced intern, reasoning that writing blog posts wasn’t that time consuming or difficult. Many in-house content marketers complained that they didn’t have the budget or human resources to create the big, bold content that gets attention in the B2B space.

In 2016, that changed. According to CMI, 85% of B2B organizations are now investing in content. These organizations are realizing that in order to do content marketing well, they needed to hire experts in the field, people who have experience building and running content marketing strategies.

5. Rise of native advertising

Ads are everywhere. According to a study by HubSpot, 85% of people notice the ads in their Facebook NewsFeed. Because ads have taken over, people are beginning to opt out. This makes traditional digital advertising less effective.

Enter native advertising. B2B brands are increasingly turning to native advertising strategies as a way to promote content. This allows them to get the message out about their brand while providing value to the audience. It’s a win-win for B2B, and we expect to see more of it in 2017.

LinkedIn Sponsored Updates
LinkedIn sponsored updates captures the attention of engaged people on LinkedIn and drives qualified traffic back to your business page.

Wrapping up

Content marketing will take centerstage in 2017, as marketers focus on new ways to get audience attention. They’ll double down on email, get real about investing in content, and experiment with native advertising. Do you have any additional insights on B2B marketing trends for content creators? We’d love to hear them and continue the conversation!