In content marketing, there may be no more desirable medium than the blog. Blogs are timely, informative, and interactive. They're the kingpin of customer communication, and the cornerstone of B2B campaigns.
In their B2B Content Marketing: 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report, the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs found that 76% of B2B marketers still make blogs a part of their content marketing strategy. In fact, "best in class" marketers ranked blogs as being "most effective" compared with other tactics like case studies, videos, and webinars.
In the spirit of celebrating the B2B blogs out there, here are 10 brands that have mastered the art of blogging, and a look at the unique features and strategies that set them apart. This isn't an exhaustive list by any means -- but maybe it'll be a small source of inspiration for you to start your own B2B blog for your company (or kick your existing blog up a notch).
And please, hop down to the comments to share other B2B blogs out there that serve as inspiration to you -- maybe we can do a part two to this post!
Cisco doesn't just have one blog -- it has over a dozen, boasting an entire network of industry- and tech-specific sites geared toward its various customer segments. It's a smorgasbord of content produced by Cisco employees that covers everything from new division hires to marketing tips and insight into trade news. With this amount of material, many blogs would be at risk of overwhelming their users, but Cisco's unadorned, utilitarian design gives its customers everything they want and nothing they don't. Sometimes, the best blogs are those that don't let bells and whistles detract from good content.
GE also offers a number of blogs, but it takes a very different approach when it comes to delivering content. For this company, blogging is about telling a visual story. Its data visualization blog is my favorite, providing infographics of its turbines, medical imaging equipment, surveys, and stats. By leveraging visual media, the brand highlights innovation and showcases its products in a memorable, meaningful way.
Automotive dealers come to DealerRefresh to learn about best practices, tools, car shopping data, and general advice. It's the chatter, however, that keeps them coming back. This blog comes part and parcel with an active forum, and bloggers do a good job of seeding conversations to drive engagement on both sides of the site. Relying on active moderation to encourage interaction, they ask questions related to their posts and invite feedback. "Hot" discussions on the forum side are promoted on the blog, while blog articles are highlighted on the forum in story-specific threads. In this way users get useful content along with a sense of fraternity.
With its technology blogs, dubbed Blogs@Intel, Intel sets itself apart by providing expert perspectives and making them easily discoverable online. Much of Intel's blog content is related to conferences and events, so it's particularly important to ensure customers find its posts when they first go up -- while they're still timely. The company encourages readers to use its blog feed to ensure they get new content the minute it goes live.
As one might imagine, market research company Forrester Research excels at gathering and delivering data. What's really special about its blogs, however, is the caliber of the writing. Its analysts have their finger on the pulse of their industry segment and consistently deliver valuable insight in a compelling way. They manage to put a unique twist on virtually any subject, and make the writing feel accessible to every kind of reader.
Take a look at file hosting service Dropbox (admittedly both B2B and B2C), which uses its informational business blog to announce new products and hires, update customers on changes to its Terms of Service, and offer a preview of its plans for growth. The company publishes these kinds of posts so consistently that users have come to associate the blog with useful information. Knowing that Dropbox is always candid and willing to share is likely to increase its customers' affinity with the brand.
In the brainy-and-beautiful blog category, Copyblogger gets top marks. With its modern look and oversized images the site puts content front and center without an overwhelming volume of copy or the dense text found on some B2B blogs. Posts feature advice on content, social media, and even blogging itself. Many include a handy content box at the bottom of the page that points readers to related stories, bonus material, and contests -- a tactic that ups the blog's value and stickiness factor.
When is a blog more than a blog? When it becomes a community. The American Express OPEN Forum aims to help grow and sustain small businesses, but it's also a social forum and a hub for shared knowledge. The site reads as an online magazine, with posts split into content sections like marketing, leadership, customers, and money. Readers are encouraged to join the community and share their thoughts on stories. Video supports social sharing functionality in making the blog feel highly engaging for its readers.
Like GE, Danish container ship and supply vessel operator Maersk knows how to tell good story online. On its Maersk Stories blog, the company uses it as a publishing platform to share stories about retrofitting ships to reduce CO2 emissions, and how its employees work to help important causes. Through superior copywriting, Maersk connects stakeholders with its corporate culture, mission, and people. Users can search content by category (Maersk Oil, Technology, Sustainability, and so on), and all posts are easy to read and share.
Square's brand site boasts one of the cleanest designs you'll find, and its blog is no different. The company that facilitates small business sales with its credit card payment systems is very much focused on technology, so it stands to reason that its blog should focus on engineering. Dubbed "The Corner," Square's blog offers tips to optimize usage as well as information on new and improved features. Its simple design seems to suggest that -- in spite of their progressive nature -- its products will be simple to use, too.
The best B2B blogs are those that are informative and vibrant at the same time, producing and delivering content that appeals to their unique audience. Find the special formula that resonates with readers, and your blog will become your pipeline to content marketing success.