4 Failures of content26’s B2B Blog

On June 1, 2011, Content Ping came into existence with this tantalizing post. Today, two and a half years later, 600 posts wiser, and newly housed on our company’s business site, it’s time we share some of our scraped-knuckle wisdom by describing a few of the greater failures and successes we’ve had in our B2B blogging experiment.

I’ll start with our failures in this post. Later this week, I’ll share what successes I am able to dredge up. (With respect to “failure,” keep in mind that, as one of the many wise tweetphorisms that has come across my screens from @KevinEikenberry puts it, “Remarkable leaders view failure, properly reflected on, as a precursor to success.” In this case, ignore the “remarkable” part, but you get my drift.)

Content Ping Genesis: Unlocking the Handcuffs of Amazon.com

Before I get all vulnerable and self-flagellating, a little Content Ping history is in order.

At the time of the blog’s inception in 2011, our core business was to produce A+ pages for Amazon.com vendors. Amazon would refer vendors to us and we would produce their Amazon.com product pages. All told, we produced Amazon content for 600 companies and for more than a dozen Amazon departments, in the United States and Europe.

In some ways this was an ideal arrangement: we were introduced to many of the world’s most important brands, at no acquisition costs to us, and we could hone our skills and processes with very little risk.

But where this arrangement sucked, it really sucked: the Master Services Agreement (MSA) we had with Amazon had a no-publicity clause that prohibited us from publicizing or marketing our Amazon content services. This meant our new business and revenue potential was effectively determined by Amazon.

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To grow, we knew we would have to cut the cord with Amazon and drive our own sales process. We launched Content Ping as our first “marketing” step in that cord-cutting process.

Our Four Basic B2B Blog Failures

In the spirit of brevity and ego-saving, I’ll limit our business blogging failures for this post to four.

  1. Epic failure: Constrained by our contract with Amazon.com, we spent two years creating content that largely didn’t matter to our clients.
  2. Thinking-like-a-human failure: As a B2B entity, we couldn’t fathom how social media could help us.
  3. Cannibalizing-our-eyeballs failure: Intoxicated by fantasies of grandeur, we launched Content Ping on a separate URL from our corporate site.
  4. No-measurable-goals failure: Ultimately we would not have known if we had succeeded, because we didn’t have any measurable goals of success.

On a good day, I could come up with several more basic blogging failures, but these are the four we have actively addressed as we enter into our new existence as a provider of e-commerce content 99.9 percent free of Amazon contractual constraints.

The Epic Failure: Little Useful Content and No Eyeballs

We had (and still have) more knowledge of Amazon.com content and content processes than any other entity in the world, but our MSA kept us from publishing that knowledge. The first and only time we tried to distribute information about our work with Amazon (in a single email, to a single recipient), we immediately received a cease and desist letter from Amazon’s legal department.

Our clients were screaming for detailed, metric-driven, and fact-based information and advice on Amazon, and we could not legally deliver. As much as we wanted to, we simply could not produce relevant content for our clients. Therefore, driving our client eyeballs to the blog was like shoveling snow in Tahiti.

(Because we cancelled our Amazon MSA in early 2013, many of those constraints are now gone. However, because Amazon.com legally owns its vendors’ sales data, we still cannot publish the effects our content has on our clients’ Amazon sales or eyeballs, which makes Amazon.com case studies, for instance, virtually impossible.)

  • The c26 B2B Blog Takeaway: Make sure you have absolute freedom to create content that drives your value proposition and secures your position as a thought leader in your niche.

The Thinking-Like-a-Human-Not-a-Monkey-Failure: Twitter 4 B2B? WTF?

In the e-commerce world in which we create content for our clients, “conversion” means getting the consumer to click the “buy” button. Most of our direct clients didn’t use Twitter professionally, and they seemed to use LinkedIn as a resume, not a business tool. We could not fathom how social media could lead to our business clients to convert.

Then one day, like the dude in his kitchen whose mind was blown when he started thinking like a monkey, we realized we were trying to open the peel of the social-media banana from the stem, not the bottom.

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It’s early, but after just a few months of amplifying our blog messaging through Twitter and LinkedIn, we’ve seen a measurable uptick in eyeballs and conversations around our posts. This amplification, we now understand, will lead to an uptick in relevancy, which will lead to an uptick in eyeballs, which will lead to an uptick in … well, you get the picture.

  • The c26 B2B Blog Takeaway: Amplify, amplify, amplify with social media, or die a silent, viewless, conversionless death.

The Cannibalizing-Your-Eyeballs Failure: One URL, Not Two!

When we launched Content Ping we had what seems now to be a drug-induced fantasy of being able to create brand awareness with both content26blog.dev and content26.com, our company’s corporate site. How would we do this? By creating absolutely awesome content on both sites that the 275 people in the world who operated in our niche actually cared about, of course. And all the while investing virtually no marketing dollars into either URL.

I will simply say that we should not have eaten those brownies and should have published on www.content26blog.dev from the very beginning, as we are now doing.

The We-Can’t-Measure-What-We-Don’t-Know Failure: Success? Failure? Huh?

At the core of all our failures was the fact that we would not have known what success looked like even if it had buried us in bitcoins. We didn’t give ourselves measurable goals to pursue. Unique visitors? Time on site? Reposts? Links? Without measurable goals, how could we improve? What would we tweak to improve?

It turns out that for some time we had been exceeding the threshold of “success” when measured by unique visitors on B2B sites, but we were still clearly falling short on most every other metric that should have mattered. But how would we have known without setting the goals that mattered to us?

  • The c26 B2B Blog Takeaway: Set measurable goals, base your progress against those goals, tweak as necessary, measure again, tweak again, repeat.

In my next post, I share our successes.