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B2C Linkbuilding for B2B Industries

John Doherty —  September 18, 2012
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Recently I read an article called Content Marketing – Johnson & Johnson style. This article does an amazing job of dissecting some companies that are engaging in non-branded content marketing that supports their core business (mostly through internal advertising), namely Johnson & Johnson, American Express, AOL, the USPS, and GE.

This article flies in the face of people who say “My industry/niche is boring; how can I create linkworthy content?” To this I often think:

Boring content is only created by boring people. No industry is boring – only people are boring.

To combat this, I use a practice that I like to call B2C Linkbuilding for B2B Verticals. (By the way, I also just taught the course on this over on MarketingProfs (affiliate link, use code DISTILLEDVIP to get $200 off)). The premise behind it is simple, but not directly obvious.

In practice, it’s just good marketing, and it all starts from selling the benefits, not the features, of your product by shutting up about yourself in your marketing. We go through the process of:

* Who is your customer?
* What does your customer DO with your product?
* What areas of life does your product touch?
* Can you create resources or products around that so that they appeal to a broader audience?
* Where’s the hook? Free is always a hook, but hooks can be emotional, altruistic, and more

Who’s Your Customer?

As we all know, everything in marketing starts here. Who is going to buy what you are producing/selling, and where are they online? What are they doing, talking about, how old are they, what gender, etc?

Luckily we have a few ways to find this. In order to create the correct personas of your customer, here are the tools that I have used to start figuring them out:

Keyword Level Demographics

Last fall, I took Mike King’s Keyword Level Demographics and implemented it on a client site, a startup that had a relatively small number of organic visitors at the time. Over time though, we have collected data on them that shows the age ranges:

Gender:

And more.

Facebook Insights

Then I take this data and mash it against the Facebook Insights data (if you’re a business, you should be using Facebook not only for the user engagement, but also for this valuable data), which can corroborate your findings through GA (or can stand alone if needed):

It is important to note that these professionals (the purchasers of your B2B clients) are not going to be the ones linking to you. But what are they trying to solve? What are they using your product for? And what would an average consumer care about? If you’re selling mass quantities of paint, your buyers are paint stores, but who are their clients? Home owners. Business owners. Artists.

Now we go figure out what these people are doing in relation to your product, and where your product touches life.

What does your product DO, and what do your customers do with it?

Now we get away from the features, and think about the benefits of the product. What areas of life does your product TOUCH?

Products exist to solve a problem. Deodorant exists to solve smelly armpits, glasses exist to solve clumsy problems because of bad eyesight, bicycles exist to solve the problem of getting from A to B faster than walking, screwdrivers exist so that your house doesn’t fall down. What problem is your product solving, and why do people buy it/care about it?

For example, if I was 3M and needed to sell more adhesive, I’d go out and get the MythBusters to test the limits of 3m adhesive. Is it strong enough to let a helicopter pick up a semi? That’s shock and awe (and would be cool), but what about holding a priceless family photo on a wall? I’ll leave you to think creatively, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t make any of these videos.

I’d do something like Old Spice’s commercials. Hilarious. Practical. Edgy.

Old Spice Muscle Music from Terry Crews on Vimeo.

Where’s the hook?

This is another obvious step, but since we’re potentially building out a new product here, we need to think about WHY people are going to care. The typical hooks are:

* Emotional;
* Funny;
* Shocking;
* Practical (the hardest)

If you can make people care about the why (it’ll keep your bike safe, your children will call you more, etc), then you’re onto a hook. FREE is always a hook, and if done right you are (and appear) altruistic, but it isn’t always the best hook.

Take, for example, Mophie, who sell battery packs for smartphones. Battery life is of the essence in places like New York City, but this is their landing page for their product:

If they are primarily selling B2B, such as to cell phone stores, this might work. But if they want to get links to this page, are those companies going to link to them? No. What would they link to? Maybe a video showing how it keeps you charged up when on the go. This is what Duracell did in collaboration with JayZ (coolness hook + practical):

The Goal: Links and Branding

The goal of all of this, of course, is links and branding. Where is your product living on your site, and who are you letting know about it? The key always comes with outreach.

Recently I read this article about launchbait over on Linkbuildr. It is talking about launching a new product or line, which is exactly what we’re doing here. We’re launching a new product, using the consumer-centric (not necessarily customer-centric) angle, and possibly leveraging viral marketing product launch strategies to get the word out and attract new links.

The Main Advantage of B2C Linkbuilding

There are many advantages of this approach to linkbuilding, the largest being that linkbuilding becomes a heck of a lot easier. Linkbuilding is hard when you have a very commercial product, and it’s near impossible to get bloggers, let alone non-profits, government sites, and .edu sites, to link to your commercial product.

A client of mine, who had been buying a ton of links in the past, recently did this and they now have links from Bicycle.com, Ospreypacks.com (the backpack makers), numerous police stations and non-profits (like MADD and the Red Cross), and to a very commercial site! They’ve done outreach and the links have come rolling in. Win!

Conclusion

B2B linkbuilding is hard. So why are you going to grind it out and buy links that will get you hit hard, when you can instead create cool new products that may even turn into new revenue streams? Free products don’t have to stay free. B2B companies don’t have to stay just B2B companies.

Anything less is lacking vision. Get out there.

John Doherty

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I'm the new (as of October 2013) Online Marketing Manager of Hotpads.com, soon to be based in San Francisco. Previous to Hotpads I worked at Distilled for 2 years as an online marketing consultant. In my spare time I shoot lifestyle photography, explore new and interesting food in New York, ski, rock climb, and update my Twitter and Google+ accounts.

6 responses to B2C Linkbuilding for B2B Industries

  1. As always, an absolute pleasure reading your post. I love the approach where you target the B2C to get the B2B uptake, it’s an approach that so few companies get right.

    One concern for me is that in MANY cases when it comes to this sort of link building and innovation, startups who are selling commercial projects don’t have budgets to get Jay Z or the likes to buy in on the idea and to add insult to injury, their products often aren’t “cool” enough to really do an edgy campaign. Not all cases of course, but a great deal of them.

    Take Serperture for example, it’s a bootstrapped project with limited budget post development. The audience is small to medium business owners who want more search engine visibility for their website. Now, I realise this doesn’t fit the B2C > B2B model you’ve identified above, but it’s not too far off in the sense of identifying audiences and effectively building links to drive up brand recognition and visibility.

    Anyway, let me move on, just wanted to show some comment love :)

  2. Love the approach and ideas in this post John. The “what does your product do and what do your customers do with it” relate to the chunky middle stuff that Rand’s talking about. If you’re thinking about the interests and related pursuits that your users have, it opens up a world of content ideas and certainly (possibly) less competitive keywords.

    Thanks for the post.

  3. Ahh… the “create linkworthy content” in boring industries dilemma. One of my former clients has a business financing company (not an exciting industry, I know); nevertheless, I have managed to put up a few articles that were presenting a history of the U.S. money, a report with the top 10 games that were teaching kids about money, and so on. These articles / reports were drawing hundreds of visitors to my client’s website and have gained him hundreds of inbound links.

    On the other hand, while I agree that you can come up with creative ideas for any industry, it helps if you have a good budget for that; without it, you’ll have to produce lower quality content.

  4. I have always believed that a good product can be a good site

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