Brand or Sell?
“Branding” has become one of the murkiest marketing terms on the Internet. It can basically mean anything. Branded content can mean a dozen different things. Branding can easily become inbred company rhetoric that only increases customer boredom. But branding can also lead to a direct approach to blogging that helps users get what they need. For our purposes, we’ll refer to branding as any written emphasis that speaks directly about a business or its services.
In today’s blog-driven world, the opportunity is endless for bloggers who define themselves with distinct branding and topical intelligence.
Getting Back To Reality
From 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., most of us are thrust into a storm of frenzied work – managed, goal-driven pressures that accompany our jobs. We’re working. Our companies have ambitious goals, deadlines and financial constraints. Our job is to be productive under the pressure of accomplishing the company’s goal.
We attend daily meetings. And with all the creative, and managerial genius and force they can muster, our executives, leaders, and managers slowly impose their branded will on us. We must follow the brand. We must stay on message. Our customers must know what we have to say.
Often times, this creates boring content. Company bloggers are commonly constrained within one set path, determined and enforced by a heavily brand-minded company police. They avoid hot topics (and potentially brilliant topics), opting instead to focus on the nuts and bolts of their services. Inevitably, these rhetoric-swelled blogs fall short. Visitors are turned away. Rather than presenting relevant information where they need it, they’re bored by even more company rhetoric.
How can businesses be more relevant as blog publishers?
Research Keyword Topics In Your Industry
Data is more easily available than ever before. With some simple keyword research, within 15 minutes businesses can write out a dozen or more topics related to their business that are ripe for engagement. If you sell paint, a simple Google search will reveal how people are using search for paint projects. For example, painting mason jars. Who knew that would be the #1 suggestion from Google when searching “how to paint”? That came as a surprise to us. (If I’m a blogger for Sherwin Williams, I’m writing a piece about mason jar paint projects. Just saying.)
Now, rather than starting from brand-inspired company talking points from company talking heads, your blogging team is starting with an emphatic advantage, knowing which topics are popular right now.
The Intelligence of the Visitor
Now that you have some topics, it’s time to write. Visitors, particularly those in younger markets, can sense stock-like, overly-branded rhetoric from a mile away. The human eye perceives when pictures are taken, video recorded, copy written that isn’t original. They aren’t interested. It comes off as lazy, and of poor quality. Visitors are looking for intelligent solutions for their consumer habits. They want less steps, more progress – one less click to a purchase.
Avoid stock-photos and other stock practices that many businesses use. Invest in quality blog writing. Hire a blogger, photographer, or videographer and have them interview your sales team, engineering department, etc. If you invest well, you’ll have the distinct advantage of being authentic – a real competitive advantage.
Don’t stuff your content with keywords, or well-known clickbait. Be creative, original and aimed at intriguing customers. Forget everything you’ve heard about cheap, easy SEO optimizations, like adding links to your site, or keyword stuffing. Be wary. Any quick fix for SEO is nearly always poor practice, and may even earn penalties from Google. SEO is all about creating great content. Taking these steps will bring you closer to that end.
Buy In From The Top Down
One of the biggest downfalls for any business blog is a lack of support from executives and leaders at the top. If bloggers are left without in-house interviewees, research, sales department support, etc,. they’re destined to fall back on generalized stock content and a lack of follow-up. They’re left with little momentum building tools, like building on successful blogs from the past. Particularly for B2B businesses who are using blogging content to lure large-scale clientele, visitors crave emphatically convincing case studies, research, white papers, analyses, expert insights, and truly exceptional value propositions.
Your customers don’t need to hear your business has “great customer service”. Sorry, they don’t. Every business in the world has made that claim. They need unique and original analysis, and value from your blog.
Broaden your blogging content strategy. Challenge each layer of your staff to get involved with content marketing teams who are undertaking the blogging process for your business. This will align the most intelligent areas of your business with your bloggers, enhancing content, rather than relegating copy to exaggerated wordiness.
Businesses Should Act Like Businesses
Cats, weddings and babies get clicks, yes, but those clicks won’t help your business sell products and services. There is an important point here. Rather than flinging content strategies into the buzz and hum of trending topics (clickbait), businesses should remain pointedly business-like online, albeit creative and defining.
Don’t ever forget who you are, and why you are important for customers. Zoom out and do some self-examination. Remind yourself why customers have chosen your business in the past. What’s important to them? Who were your earliest adopters and what was their attraction to your business in the first place? Why did they choose you over competitors?
In short, what makes your business, your business? What makes you, you?
Diving deep into the customer mind opens up new roads of content marketing topics. Having hopped away out from the path of branded rhetoric, you’ll find your blog springing forward with a new and creative business tone. Be bold.
Write about topics that matter. Create some controversy if necessary. Speak directly to the problems of your industry, and resolve them with call to actions to your business’ advantage. Encourage CEOs and other executives to share their corporate vision as a blog. Use your blog for press releases, as well as general feature content.
Have some more ideas for us? Comment below.