Quality Content and Your eCommerce Website
High-quality content ranks as the single most important factor in convincing B2B customers to buy products over the Internet. When purchasing online, buyers can't thump the products, smell them, feel them, taste them, use them or throw them against the wall to see what sticks--there's no tactile experience. It takes exceptional persuasive power and powerful content to sell online vs. brick-and-mortar sales. Customers base their decisions on content in its many forms--written descriptions, photos, videos, white papers, reviews, spec sheets and product demos. That's why content is so important for any eCommerce site, and it's especially critical for B2B sales where buyers often invest thousands of dollars in large orders for products they've never handled or used. Unlike traditional advertising, organizations should provide their customers with content to research products independently instead of falling back on the old staple of asking customers to "call for further information." That's the beauty of 24/7 Internet access from mobile devices--buyers can get answers to their questions when they arise. Companies need to supply this information through a thoughtful content strategy that answers questions proactively and offers special features like product demos and price-quoting software. About 88 percent of business-to-business marketers use content marketing, but only 32 percent develop a documented strategy that connects content to different areas of their websites and personalizes content and marketing based on customer profiles.
Best Practices for Creating B2B Content
Content should always accomplish one of three things: entertain, generate interest or provide useful information. The format can be product descriptions, website copy, research papers, blog posts, how-to guides, photographs, product demos, infographics, drawings, and other forms that encourage purchasing online. Content applications that help to convince buyers include the following initiatives:
The Internet hosts a vast selection of every type of goods, services, sellers, honest merchants, cut-rate companies and con artists, but high-quality content distinguishes legitimate companies from the nickel-and-dime imitators and fast-buck hustlers. Blogs offer a powerful way to establish legitimacy, strengthen SEO and build a B2B brand. Users who find an active and current blog that's well-written and educational immediately develop trust in the company that hosts it. Strategic internal links, product reviews and human interest stories about a company and its staff give people something to talk about and share with friends. Once customers engage with educational or entertaining blog posts, it's easier to convince them to buy, share the posts socially and generate word-of-mouth referrals, which are the most powerful form of advertising. The process of building a blog is greatly enhanced by posting high-quality content in other blogs, social sites, industry journals and other related media. Blogs give companies a tremendous opportunity to write the kind of content that people enjoy reading while delicately implying that the company shares their views, solves their problems or sells quality products that relate to the subject. A post might talk about eco-friendly manufacturing techniques and their positive effects on the environment and sustainability and include a link to company products that use environmentally responsible materials and low-carbon manufacturing techniques. The ideas for blog posts that tie into company products are almost endless.
Providing Support Materials
Content marketing doesn't just involve advertising but consists of creating, editing and delivering different content to nurture a company's customers and targeted prospects. Support materials include content that's been fine-tuned based on customer profiles, white papers, detailed product descriptions, information about the company, brand and supply chain, product demos, reviews, testimonials, endorsements and integrations with third-party manufacturers to answer any further questions or concerns that buyers may have.
Engaging Prospects Through Social Media
Posting on social media can attract a large audience but only if there's a solid content marketing strategy behind the posts. Companies that post hundreds of tweets on Twitter won't succeed unless there's relevant content available that relates to the social issues being discussed or stories, photos or videos that are entertaining, interesting or useful.
Online vs. Brick-and-Mortar Sales: Quality over Quantity Is Key
In the early days of the Internet, marketers often repeated keywords dozens of times to convince the fledgling search engines that their sites were relevant. The content was often terribly written and full of grammar and spelling errors. Google and other search engines responded by downgrading websites with poor content, and Google's Penguin and Panda updates made it necessary not only to deliver high-quality content and high-resolution images but also to avoid duplicate content such as using the same material in multiple areas of the website or inserting manufacturer product descriptions in catalogs verbatim. The days of the hard-selling and pushy advertising are over, and buyers want informative content that engages them, educates them and doesn't insult their intelligence. This is especially true of social media where members routinely ignore blatant advertising in favor of a subtle touch--content that's interesting, funny and shareable. Content marketing has replaced traditional advertising across most marketing channels, and marketers are replacing keyword-stuffed content, short and meaningless posts and SEO-driven filler material with unique content that actually informs and engages people in ways that build trust and generate online conversions.
Ranking for Organic Searches
Content and keywords are critical in ranking highly in organic searches. High-quality website content and promotional materials should be written for customers and not search engines will. That means limiting keyword optimization use. Companies can get higher rankings by researching long-tail keywords, analyzing competitors, segregating customer profiles, researching marketing trends and producing targeted content based on these factors. Developing a powerful content marketing strategy has become critical, and Curata predicts that by 2017, 51 percent of companies will designate a Chief Content Officer or similarly titled executive to bear responsibility for overseeing all content curation and strategy.
Connecting with Customers on Social Channels
The Content Marketing Institute gained some useful insights from numerous studies. These statistics show that marketing with content generates both challenges and opportunities for B2B companies that include:
- 49 percent of marketers have trouble measuring content effectiveness.
- 55 percent of B2B companies struggle to produce engaging content.
- Attracting quality backlinks is the fourth-ranked concern of the top-ranking B2B companies.
- 80 percent of inbound marketers are working to engage customers through social media content.
- About 34 percent of Twitter users follow companies that post interesting content.
- Companies that post 15 or more blog posts monthly receive about 1,200 leads per month.
Engaging customers on social media offers expanded opportunities for profiling customers, learning more about their preferences, attracting high-quality backlinks and engaging prospects and existing customers with two-way conversations. Of course, keeping track of all this information, analyzing results and measuring content effectiveness depends on having a fully integrated B2B platform, which can handle many of these tasks automatically with advanced CRM and ERP integration.
Finding Your Audience and Catering to Their Needs
It's important to fine-tune your content to each customer if you want more online conversions. Targeting content and marketing messages to customers is one of the most effective methods of increasing sales and generating leads. However, you can't do this effectively unless your sales platform integrates fully with operating software like CRM and ERP so that you can segregate your audience and personalize content based on customer profiles and real-time browsing and buying behaviors. It's worth the time it takes to redesign your platform to make it more user-friendly and to implement a content strategy that fills the gaps of ordering online without being able to see, feel, touch and use products. A strong platform can automatically track user behavior, provide the right content at the right time during the research and sales processes and make purchasing online convenient and trouble-free.
 Forbes.com: 35 Content Marketing Statistics You Need To Know In 2016 www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2015/12/10/35-content-marketing-statistics-you-need-to-know-in-2016/#187dc8594363
 Curata.com: Content Marketing Statistics: The Ultimate List www.curata.com/blog/content-marketing-statistics-the-ultimate-list/
 Siegemedia.com: Content Marketing Statistics That Actually Drive Action www.siegemedia.com/strategy/content-marketing-statistics-that-actually-drive-action