New to B2B Internet Marketing? Start with Content.

There’s a reason marketers are literally pouring their budgets into new internet marketing programs.

They work.

Marketers spent $16.9 billion on search, display and rich media in 2006, and that number could be $31.3 billion by 2011 according to ClickZ and IDC Internet. Internet advertising is growing three times as fast as the overall ad spend, they explain.

B2B companies are still relatively new to internet marketing. But even an entrenched, traditional firm can successfully implement an internet marketing strategy with dramatic results.

But where do you start? Optimize your website? Launch a paid search campaign? Try your hand at blogging, article writing, social media? The choices are overwhelming.

Here’s a great springboard: Add valuable content to your website. Don’t just slice & dice your sales literature — I’m talking about high quality pages, white papers, tools and other content that’s meaningful and relevant for your prospects and customers.

Enquiro has published a number of terrific studies about the role of search engines in the B2B buying process. In their 2007 search study, 65.3% of business buyers said they would start their research with a search engine.

“We found a heavy reliance on online research in all aspects of the purchase cycle,” they say. “Online resources are critical in the business purchasing process and a few of them stand head and shoulders above the rest, notably websites and search engines.”

Quality website content can help you take advantage of this trend and deliver three big benefits:

1. Lure visitors and prospects

2. Qualify & engage your audience

3. Build your brand

1. Lure visitors and prospects

Many B2B companies think of their website as a static brochure — home page, product page, services page, about us, and maybe a news center. And if people are searching specifically for your company or product name, they should find you.

But what about the prospects who have never heard of you? What will they search for? They’ll use a keyword or phrase that describes their problem, their pain or a general category of solution.

When your site is inwardly-focused, it’s virtually impossible to rank highly in search engine results for broad terms unless you pay for it. Why? Because you need GOOD content that’s relevant for those general descriptions people are using.

Search engine spiders need content

Search engine spiders scour the entire web about once a month. They “read” as much of your site as they can and then decide 1. what it’s about and 2.whether it’s important.

Search engine spiders need content

When you give the spiders more rich, relevant content about your area of expertise, you’re improving the likelihood that they’ll say yes, this is important and deserves to be ranked highly in search results.

Spiders also prefer content that’s updated regularly. In fact, when you update regularly they’ll visit you more frequently. That gives you a chance to get your new content in the search engine results more quickly and can help your Google PageRank.

Generate more inbound links

When you offer more quality content on your site, you’re creating more reasons for other sites to link to you. This activity delivers two benefits:

  • People will click through from other sites.
  • Search engines will reward you. Spiders say, hey, this content must be valuable or other quality sites wouldn’t link to it. And when they’re deciding what sites are the most valuable, these “votes” are a critical variable.

2. Qualify and engage your audience

You’re probably painfully familiar with this vicious cycle: Marketing generates leads but sales doesn’t follow up; salespeople complain that leads aren’t qualified and not worth followup.

This morning I wasted 45 minutes of a sales rep’s time (and my own) because I misunderstood his service. I had done a Google search, looked at a bunch of websites, and contacted a few that I thought were the best fit. However, I wasn’t the ideal client for his company.

He could have shortened that call to 10 minutes if he had asked more qualifying questions. Better yet, his website could have done it.

You can cover much of the early sales process with strategic website content. Spend more time educating your prospects and your leads will be more qualified.

3. Build your brand

Your website is often the first interaction your prospects have with you. What does it say about you? Does it create trust? Does it make prospects want to do business with you?

If your site is a standard brochure-type site with an inward focus, you’re missing an opportunity to build your brand (and B2B brands are important just like onsumer brands).

Instead, create more content that communicates your brand promise. Speak directly to your audience and their pain. Build value and make them want to work with you.

Conclusion

It isn’t easy to write good content for the web, but a great copywriter can help you develop the strategy and create these valuable assets that can help you drive traffic, leads and revenue. And consider creating content for different market segments or buyer personas, too.

Once you have solid content on your site, you can start adding social networking tools and campaigns to leverage that content. But you have to start somewhere … and that means creating content first.

This is a really long post and I want to share some specific content ideas and examples. Look for them soon!

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