July 21, 2011
How To

Content Marketing: Unbranded company blog boosts B2B agency's revenue 15%

SUMMARY: Creating an effective company blog can seem daunting, but it does not have to be an all-consuming task. With a few good processes and a focus on short, valuable content, you can build an audience and increase sales.

See how the owner of a PR agency singlehandedly launched a separate blog, generated an audience, and added to the agency's sales and clients. Find out how she keeps the site's content fresh without giving up her day job, and why she keeps the blog separate from the agency.
by Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter

Marina Echavarria created Build-a-Buzz in 2009 to publish content on how to improve PR and promotional skills. The site publishes free tips, techniques and media contacts to help companies capture more attention for their brands.

Build-a-Buzz looks like an independent publication, but the site is an inbound sales driver for Realm Media, a PR agency owned by Echavarria.

"It brings me business," she says. "Build-A-Buzz’s annual holiday gift campaign results in a 15% increase in revenue for Realm Media."

"[Build-a-Buzz] has been huge in terms of broadening my exposure and awareness of my expertise and my company. It has definitely impacted revenues… I have members say 'hey, I need help, would you take me on as a client?' Or they'll jump onto one of my campaigns. It has really helped to build business."

Echavarria writes most of the content for Build-a-Buzz's blog and email newsletter. She has grown the site's audience mostly through unpaid inbound marketing tactics. Below are the key tactics and principles she used to build the site into a successful sales driver for her agency.

Tactic #1. Focus on helping the audience

This point is mentioned often in articles on inbound marketing, but Echavarria takes this principle a step further. Build-a-Buzz's website avoids mentioning Realm Media and the site appears independent on its surface. Topically, Build-a-Buzz focuses on practical how-to information for companies to improve their PR practices.

"I try to give content that is extremely valuable that they can actually use. I really don't like to cover trends," Echavarria says. "They couldn't care less about what is going on in the PR industry."

Examples of the types of content Build-a-Buzz publishes:

o Contact information for members of the media
o Contact information for celebrities
o Blog post on how-to topics, such as how to build a press kit

- Leave the agency out of it

Many B2B companies have a branded blog or newsletter, but Build-a-Buzz is deliberately separated from Realm Media. The agency is not mentioned anywhere on the site's homepage (not even in the copyright). The connection is mainly made in Build-a-Buzz's "About" section and email newsletter, which mention that Echavarria created Build-a-Buzz and owns Realm.

"I have to be very careful how I offer my services, because [Build-a-Buzz's readers] really see this as a content-heavy and valuable resource for them. I don't like to tout my services too much. I like to do it in a way that my own voice, credibility, and experience bring me the business. I don't like to do it in a direct way because that can really turn some people off," Echavarria says.

Tactic #2. Plan ahead to create content

Echavarria's biggest challenge with Build-a-Buzz is maintaining the site's content on her own. The site typically publishes 10 blog posts each month, though that number drops in busy months. The site's 12-month average is seven posts per month.

Here are four ways Echavarria keeps the site's content fresh:

- Keep the content short

Most of Build-a-Buzz's posts are one to three paragraphs in length and feature an image. Echavarria typically writes them in 30 to 45 minutes, she says. Keeping the posts short helps her avoid spending too much time on the site.

Also, Build-a-Buzz has several regular features that are very short, such as "Celebrity Thursday," which typically provides contact information for a celebrity with a few sentences of commentary. Such short features provide the audience with the information it wants and in a format that is easy for Echavarria to create quickly.

- Repurpose the posts

Build-a-Buzz's blog posts are repurposed to provide the main content in the site's email newsletter and social media profiles. Links to each post are posted to Echavarria's Facebook and Twitter profiles when published. Other work is involved in maintaining these social channels, but the most demanding task -- providing consistent content -- is finished after a post is written.

- Hire a technical help

Echavarria hired a graphic designer, part of whose job is to maintain the site's appearance. This allows Echavarria to focus on the site's content and email newsletter and have fewer technical details to grapple.

- Occasionally accept contributed posts

Build-a-Buzz periodically publishes posts contributed by other PR professionals. Echavarria is careful not to feature other writers too often so they do not dilute Build-a-Buzz's voice, she says.

"The audience likes my voice. The way I speak is very unique and you can truly tell the difference [in a contributed post] because it is always more corporate."

- Gather ideas for posts

Echavarria leverages a free service called Help a Reporter Out (HARO) to solicit pitches from companies that would like to be featured on Build-a-Buzz. This is also a good way to attract attention to the site, she says. Echavarria also features stories from her clients, such as product placements they've received in catalogs, and the tactics she used to get them there.

Tactic #3. Build the list with inbound

Build-a-Buzz's email newsletter, Daily Buzz, features content from the site's blog and is the main channel through which the site maintains contact with its audience.

Here are the top tactics Echavarria used to build the newsletter's subscriber list:

- Contests

Build-a-Buzz occasionally launches a "Buzz Challenge" to encourage subscribers to ask their contacts to register for the site's email newsletter. The subscriber who refers the most registrants wins a PR-related prize, such as a free week of PR work. Such contests have increased in the site's subscriber database by about 20%, Echavarria says.

- Social media networks

Word-of-mouth is one of the main drivers of Build-a-Buzz's growth, Echavarria says. Readers use social-sharing buttons on the site and email newsletter to pass content to friends and contacts. Build-a-Buzz also maintains presences on Facebook and Twitter, where links to new blog posts are automatically published.

- Partnerships

Build-a-Buzz has partnered with related blogs to exchange display advertising as well as to link to each other's content. These ads have helped increase the site's subscribers by about 20 percent, Echavarria says.

- PR

Echavarria is a PR professional and regularly works to promote Build-a-Buzz. This includes:

o Pitching Build-a-Buzz-related stories to PR blogs

o Writing press releases and distributing them through services that specialize in online outlets such as news portals and social bookmarking sites

Tactic #4. Promote entry-level services

Build-a-Buzz periodically offers specific PR services at a discounted price.

"[The readers] love that because it's kind of 'PR a-la-carte.' They don't have to buy the whole wagon, but they can buy pieces of it," Echavarria says.

For example, each year Build-a-Buzz runs a Holiday Gift Guide campaign where for a discounted fee companies can have their products pitched to publications for inclusion in their annual shopping guides.

Although Echavarria sells her services in these campaigns, Realm Media is not mentioned in the blog posts or emails that describe the offers. The promotions are written in the first-person voice, for example: "I will personally develop pitches to my exclusive holiday gift guide media list comprised of editors directly responsible for the holiday gift guides."

This strategy helps Echavarria's team in several ways:

o Generates revenue - As mentioned above, the Holiday Gift Guide campaign typically boosts overall revenue at Real Media by 15% after launch.

o Generates content - Echavarria is able to feature examples of press she earned for customers and the tactics she used.

o Interests the audience - Build-a-Buzz's audience is interested in affordable PR services, which is exactly what these campaigns offer.

Tactic #5. Point sales leads to the site

Echavarria is reluctant to point Build-a-Buzz's audience toward Realm Media, but she frequently points attention in the opposite direction.

"A lot of people have blogs, but not many people have great blogs. So I do use that as a selling point," she says.

Build-a-Buzz helps Echavarria establish Realm Media's credibility and expertise in the PR industry, she says. Places she mentions Build-a-Buzz include:

o Presentations on behalf of Realm Media

o Realm Media business cards

o "About" section on Realm Media's website

"I have been doing PR for 20 years, but this gives you the added credibility when you have a vehicle of this kind… That in itself has brought me credibility and attention from so many companies and so many entrepreneurs that I probably never would have been able to reach out to on my own."

Useful links related to this article

1. Homepage
2. Email newsletter
3. Buzz challenge winner announcement
4. Holiday gift guide campaign

Marketing Research Chart: Top tactics for developing effective B2B marketing content

Inbound Marketing: Brand-powered content hub grabs top Google rank in two months

Members Library - Content Marketing: Inbound strategy pulls in 25% more revenue, 70% more leads

Members Library - Email Marketing: Short 'staff selection' posts become most-clicked content, increase offline sales 10%

PRunderground.com - service used to distribute press releases

Help A Reporter Out - services used to solicit post ideas

Twitter profile

Facebook profile

Realm Media


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