How B2B Companies Can Market Themselves Online – An Interview with Dianna Huff

Dianna Huff
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How B2B companies can market themselves online – An Interview with Dianna Huff

 

Dianna Huff is a B2B marketing consultant who has been helping B2B companies market themselves since 1986. Since then she has specialized in web based marketing tactics for business to business companies. Not only does she know the proven B2B marketing tactics that work, but she also has the real world knowledge and expertise to help you grow your business.

Dianna is an in demand speaker and trainer as well as being the recipient of many prestigious industry awards. She is also the author of several popular eBook publications.

In this interview I ask Dianna how B2B companies can use the internet to get themselves out there and land more business. Dianna reveals…

  • 3 things every B2B website needs so they can tap into the emotional hot buttons of their visitors
  • The type of words and language to avoid using on your website
  • How to format your copy for maximum impact
  • Why you should have multiple "service pages" on your website
  • 6 types of "lead generation device" that you could put on your website to gather peoples contact information
  • 3 ways to help your visitors get in contact with you
  • Why you should treat every page on your website as it's own "mini landing page"
  • 4 tips for running a successful B2B blog
  • Why the saying "your website is your brochure" is totally wrong
  • How to use email and social media for B2B marketing
  • 5 steps to making sure your website is good for mobile and tablet devices
  • And lot's more. Just click the play button below to listen to the interview or read the full transcript below...

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Joseph Bushnell: Hi, welcome to the online marketing show. I’m your host, Joey Bushnell. Today I’m joined by a fantastic guest, she is a top business-to-business copywriter and marketer, her name is Dianna Huff. You can check out more about Diannahuff.com

Dianna, thank you for being with me today.

Dianna Huff: Hi, Joey, thank you for having me.

Joseph Bushnell: Dianna, how did you get into this industry?

Dianna Huff: I fell into it by accident. I got my English degree, got a Bachelor’s of Art, a BA in English and really didn’t know what to do with myself and I was working at an industrial sewing company, so we made cloth products that went into very high tech companies for their machinery and all sorts of different things.

At the same time I was getting my Master’s degree in English and I worked at the company for seven years and didn’t know what to do for myself so I went to career counseling. They make you do all those personality tests and all that stuff and at the end of it all, she said, “There’s a name for people like you, it’s called marketing communications.” She showed me a job description and I went [gasp] and “it was like the sun came out”.

So I promptly did a new resume and put together a portfolio because everywhere I had gone, I had always done the newsletter for, and this was all before the internet, so I ended up getting a job at Barion Associates and as a mar-com copywriter. That’s how I got into it.

Joseph Bushnell: So you were copywriting first and then obviously the internet came along and things are similar but they’ve changed in many ways as well?

Dianna Huff: Yes.

Joseph Bushnell: Because you specialize in B2B marketing, I was hoping we could talk about how business-to-business companies can market themselves online, what different options they have, would that be okay?

Dianna Huff: Yeah, that’s perfect.

Joseph Bushnell: So we’ll start off, Dianna, with copywriting. Do you have any tips for writing as a B2B company, do you have any tips in terms of writing & marketing to another business? What kind of things do businesses want? Are there any kind of emotional hot buttons, as it were?

Dianna Huff: Well, I focus more on writing content for websites and I really do specialize in small business websites, but the tips for writing copy for the web would apply to any business-to-business website.

The first one is, and I see this all the time, is you get to a company’s home page and it’s full of graphics or maybe there are different, especially with WordPress now, there are boxes that go to various pieces of content, but you have no clue what the company does. I go to the home page and I have to click around all over the place, what does this company do? A lot of times what they do is presented in a lot of jargon.

So if you don’t know what, well, they as a company, they know what scale means, I’m just using the word scalable for example. There are all sorts of different types of jargon words and if you don’t know what those are, if you’re the buyer and if you are looking for a solution to your problem and you’re not quite sure what that solution is, you have no clue if this company can help you. So the first thing I always say is, make sure you say what you do in plain English on your home page.

It’s that simple. You have about 10 seconds to keep people’s attention when they get to your website and you want to be able to say, “This is what we do and this is how we can help you” so people automatically can say, “Oh, good, I’m in the right place, this company knows what I need.”

Then in terms of web copy in general, I focus on what the copy says, but I also focus on what the copy looks like. How the page is formatted and I always say, if people can’t comprehend or read your copy, they’re not going to do business with you, they’re not going to buy from you, they’re not going to keep clicking around.

One of the things I see is, I call it mouse-type, copy on web pages that is grey and small and it’s so hard to read. Then of course it’s all full of jargon and mission statements and all this stuff.

So that’s the one thing, it’s make your copy easy to read, I always say use a black font, make it larger so people can see it, and then don’t reverse out your text. Like I was just reading a website where the text was white on a black background, that is so hard to read and I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Colin Wheildon, he has died, but he wrote a book, Type and Layout: Are you communicating or just making pretty shapes? And he did all this research that showed that reversed-out text lowers reader comprehension to zero!

Joseph Bushnell: Wow!

Dianna Huff: So if people aren’t comprehending what you’re writing, they’re not going to do business with you, they’re not going to buy from you.

That’s just some of the things, a couple of things, and then of course eliminate jargon, tell people that you understand their pain points or their challenges and then how your product or service is going to solve them.

Joseph Bushnell: What elements should a business-to-business website have in terms of pages on the website itself?

Dianna Huff: A really good one, is I tell companies—and again, I’m working more with smaller B2B companies, so the bigger companies usually don’t have this problem, but I always say build out your services or your capabilities pages.

I see quite frequently where a company will have maybe just one or two pages that describe their services and I say if you have five services or five products, each product or service should have its page, its own page.That way, that also gives you the ability to optimize that content for additional keywords.

You should always have more than one lead generation device. People I think tend to think of that as maybe a white paper, but you can do an e-newsletter, you can do a demo, you can do a special report, you can do, what else, white papers of course, but have more than one, webinars, because each piece works differently depending on where the person is in the sales cycle.

Joseph Bushnell: How do we encourage people to get in contact with us?

Dianna Huff: Ask them to. Include forms, include your phone number, I tell people include a phone number on—and this is for again smaller companies or mid-size companies, of course if you’re global, you can’t do this, but if you’re global or an enterprise, you always have your contact us page with your various offices and where they’re listed or mid-size companies maybe that are regional or national.

Then smaller companies, if you just have one location, I’d tell them, always put your phone number at the top of every page on your site to reduce clicks, so people don’t have to click around to figure out how to contact you.

Forms work well, having your email link everywhere. I’m surprised at how difficult it sometimes is to contact a company or that you can’t find a phone number, they just put a form on. Like, I don’t want to fill out a form, what if I want to call you and I’m always shocked when you can’t get through to a company, it used to be you could call a company and someone would answer the phone, it’s so rare now and I think that’s a great loss.

Joseph Bushnell: Yeah, absolutely. So in summary then, make it easy for people to get in contact is the first step and then put it all over the website, wherever someone may land, you want them to be able to see how to get in touch with you.

Dianna Huff: Yes. I tell people to make each page of their site, well, especially like the products and services and capabilities, but make those mini landing pages, so that all the information a person needs is right there on that page so they don’t have to click around trying to find other information.

Joseph Bushnell: Do you have any tips for writing a really good business-to-business blog?

Dianna Huff: Yes. First off, be consistent with it and that means even if you’re just writing one or two posts a month, that’s fine, but be consistent about it, don’t let the blog die, don’t go months and months and months without writing something, because nothing looks worse than to come to a website and to see a dead blog or a blog that hasn’t had any attention paid to it.

I’ve seen sites where companies have added a blog because their site is in WordPress and then they have three posts and then there’s nothing and the site’s been up since 2009, just these three posts sitting there.

Also, don’t use the blog to push out your press releases, instead create some unique content. So for example, one client I’m working with, they do ERP software and they showed how one of their clients incorporated video into the shopping cart and so they actually did a step-by-step, “Here’s how you can do this, too,” and showed people with screen shots how to do it. So helpful content, unique content.

Don’t be afraid to show your personality so you can show pictures of people at your office or corporate events or parties or pictures. We’re all so into graphics now and with Pinterest and Facebook and so having fun photographs that show the personality of your company, those go over really well. It just adds life to your website and your blog.

Joseph Bushnell: In terms of the content on the blog itself, Dianna, do other business owners really spend time reading blogs? Is it an effective method?

Dianna Huff: Yes and no. Blog posts show up in the search engines. You know, you can write a blog post and a couple hours later it’s already indexed in the search engines, so I think blogs are really good for getting content out there and then when people do searches, that content shows up. So a blog post could be the way that a buyer, a prospective buyer, gets into your site. Then of course they can start learning more about you.

However, people are so busy now, they are actually not, very few that I know are reading blogs like the way that we used to read magazines. People I think sign up for them but you have to go and check your reader. So I’m finding, at least the surveys I’ve done with my own e-newsletter list and my own blog list, the people who read my e-newsletter do not read blogs, which I found amazing.

Joseph Bushnell: Yeah, it’s great information. But it helps you get found, if they’re typing in the search engines, then they’ll find your site and then as you’ve explained earlier, if we’ve got our contact details and calls to action, then hopefully it’s going to generate some leads and some people may read it as well.

Dianna Huff: Yeah, I’m not saying no one reads blogs, of course people do. But blogs also have lots of other wonderful benefits. One is reporters, when they’re searching, your blog posts come up so all of a sudden they see that and they’re, “Oh, you’re an expert on XYZ, I’m going to call this person.” So I get calls regularly from journalists and I know, I’ve asked them and I’ve talked to other companies that blog and they get calls, too. If you’re putting out original content that’s helpful, you’re seen as an expert and then that content gets found, gets found by journalists, gets found by other bloggers, and you get lots of exposure that way, lots of press or you get asked to write an article.

It has that going for you, it helps with SEO, and there was another one that I had, that it’s really good for. You can re-purpose your content. Over time you have all this blog content so you can re-purpose it into, like I took a year’s worth of blog content and culled it all down into daily tips, which I featured on my Facebook page, 31 tips for generating website leads and I did a tip a day.

Joseph Bushnell: Some brilliant ideas there, Dianna, thank you very much. What would you say overall are the very best ways to collect business-to-business leads, using just the internet?

Dianna Huff: Well, of course reports. So if you do a special report, a white paper, any kind of informational content that helps people make buying decisions, if you do that and you can do a press release on it, you can push it out to social media, all the different social media platforms and then have a dedicated landing page for it with a form, so that right there, that’s the most easiest one and very effective.

Let’s see. Having an e-newsletter on your site and asking people to subscribe to it.

Having a demo button on your site and asking people to register for a demo. When companies call me and they say they’re not getting leads, like one company called me and said, “We’re not getting any leads.” After talking with them I said, “Well, do you give a demo for this service that you offer?” “Oh, yeah, every time a prospect calls us we sign them up for a demo, we schedule a demo with them.” I said, “How come there isn’t a ‘request a demo’ button on your site?” Just total silence. “Oh.”

Joseph Bushnell:Yeah, absolutely.

Dianna Huff: A lot of this stuff is just common sense and I think what happens is, I think we view, I know I hear this a lot, people say, “Our website is our brochure.” A website is not a brochure. A brochure is a print piece, it’s a collateral piece, it’s a leave-behind that sales people leave at sales calls. A website is very interactive and it’s designed to help you get leads so you can’t think about it as a brochure because a brochure does not get you leads, it’s what you leave after you’ve already had the, met the lead.

So your website, you can’t think about it as a brochure and I think that’s the problem and so people don’t realize you can do all these things to get people to interact with you.

Joseph Bushnell: You definitely consider a website to be a form of direct response marketing, Dianna?

Dianna Huff: Yes.

Joseph Bushnell: Yeah, absolutely. How about, if we’ve been gathering email leads, what can we do? Do you have any advice for us when email marketing in a B2B scenario?

Dianna Huff: Well, it depends on what you’re gathering the names for. If you have a newsletter subscription form on your site, then that’s what people are going to expect, is your monthly or comes out monthly or every week or every-other week, whatever you said on your subscription form, the frequency of your publication.

But you can send out that which keeps your company top of mind, or if you’ve said you can sign up for our e-newsletter and special alerts, then you can send out different promotions. If you’re in B2B, then you can do your special reports or your events, like your webinars, and then of course there’s the whole transactional element of are you trying to get people to sign up for events that maybe they pay for or events that they attend?

Joseph Bushnell: Can and should B2B companies be using social media?

Dianna Huff: Definitely. I always tell companies, go where your customers are, so even though there’s all this brew ha-ha about Facebook and the millions of people, or is it billions now? Millions of people?

Joseph Bushnell: Almost a billion, yeah.

Dianna Huff: Then you’ve got Google+ and it really depends on your audience and where they are. So for a financial services company, it may be best—or for companies who are dealing with financial services companies, LinkedIn is probably the best one because financial services is so regulated that they don’t do other social media types of things.

Joseph Bushnell: Wow, OK.

Dianna Huff: But if some of your customers are on Facebook and it makes sense to go there, go on Facebook or Google+, just go where your customers are. Industry forums are a good one.

Joseph Bushnell: OK. Just do a Google search on that kind of thing if you’re looking for an industry forum?

Dianna Huff: Yep, but I guess what I’m saying is, ignore the hype and do what’s best for your business.

Joseph Bushnell: The up-and-coming trend, of course, I mean, social media is kind of the current big thing, and I think the future is heading toward mobile marketing, Dianna. How can B2B companies take advantage of that?

Dianna Huff: Well, one, just make sure your website renders well on smaller devices, smart phones and tablets and iPads. It’s amazing to me how many companies call me and they have never looked at their site on a phone or a tablet and they don’t realize that it doesn’t work. Maybe the drop-down menus don’t work, maybe they have flash pieces in there that don’t render on the Apple devices. So that’s for starters, just make sure it works. If it doesn’t work or if it doesn’t render well, you have to get it fixed.

In terms of mobile marketing, so then make sure, if you’re doing a blog, look at your own blog posts on your phone. Can you read them? Can you leave comments? Is it easy for people to do that? One thing I like to tell people, and again, this would be for smaller companies, the bigger ones this wouldn’t work for them, but when you put your phone number on every page of your site, make sure it’s text and not an image because with a smart phone you can just touch the phone number and then the phone automatically calls it.

Joseph Bushnell: Right.

Dianna Huff: So take advantage of the different things that these devices are offering you and use them on your site. What I like to do to get lots of ideas is just really study how consumer sites are doing it because a lot of them are doing it really, really well and I say, well, if this is working here, it’s going to work over on the iPad or on the iPhone—what was, there was another one. I don’t know if you have an iPad, but when you download a PDF now, you can save it immediately to iBooks.

Joseph Bushnell: Yes.

Dianna Huff: So make sure all that works. I say buy an iPad, it’s a marketing expense and make sure when you have your reports and your eBooks and things that they can be easily saved to iBooks. I save all my PDFs now to iBooks, it’s so easy.

Joseph Bushnell: Absolutely. I don’t know this for certain because it’s been a while since I had an office job myself, but I imagine lots of people are out on the road for their companies and are using company smart phones and iPads are going to be what they’re using, rather than having people based in the office stuck to desk and a desktop computer, you can do it from anywhere now.

Dianna Huff: Yeah, I was at a conference last week and I was discussing this very topic about how to develop websites that render well on mobile devices and I said, “Please everyone here raise up your phone.” Every single person in the room had an Apple iPhone. I said, “And how many of you checked your email this morning on the phone?” They all raised their hand.

So to go back to some of your questions about, all of the questions that you’ve asked me before, all of them apply to mobile marketing. Make sure your emails look good on smart phones, so if they’re all html, they’re not going to come through very well, especially if you use Gmail and the default is images off, so make sure you have text. Look at your content on different devices, don’t assume that everyone is on their desktop.

Joseph Bushnell: Thank you so much for spending time with me today. You’ve given us some really great information. How can we get even more from you? I know you’ve got a blog. Have you got a newsletter? Where can we go to get your stuff?

Dianna Huff: You can go to my website, DiannaHuff.com, and you can sign up for my newsletter. You can download reports, I have free articles, I have a whole learning center and I also have my blog.

Joseph Bushnell: Great. That’s the end of today’s show. Thank you for tuning in. Dianna, thank you so much for coming on the show.

Dianna Huff: Well, thank you, I love when people ask me lots of questions

Joseph Bushnell: Thank you!

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