During a recent interview with a potential content hire, I delivered the following writing test:

Write a 500-600 word blog post on any productivity tool of your choice, including targeted SEO Keywords, H2 headings, etc.

Having never been on the interviewing end of this process, I’m not sure what I expected; I think that, in fact, I’d been desensitized to what “blogging for business” must mean to those who either a) have never done it or b) don’t like to do it.

And what I received back—despite being extremely well written, showing formidable research chops, and a very real ability to quickly adapt to the CircleBack brand voice—had one thing written all over it: MARKETER.

We all know there’s a need to blog for business, that inbound search and content discovery drive huge engagement to businesses and facilitate real customer interactions. And the people most likely to fill those seats, to join inbound marketing teams, and to throw themselves wildly into the seas of SEO, SEM, and targeted niche content communities? Marketers.

Unfortunately, the transition from outbound to inbound, however “over” some sources may say that transition is, hasn’t gone smoothly in terms of content. Blogs still abound as thinly-veiled sales pitches, and content calendars are often little more than the sum of various audience segment schedules, hoping to offer the “right tool” to whomever needs it, right before a deadline (the end of the quarter, for example).

And while, on the surface, this isn’t the worst way in the world to approach content, it certainly isn’t the best.

How Inbound Actually Works

The big misunderstanding, I think, comes from a misguided belief about inbound: that it’s great because consumers come to you [which itself suggests that the way to sell has changed.] The assumption, it seems, is that the selling environment has simply shifted, that traffic lands on your blog because people want to buy.

Unfortunately, that isn’t true at all.

In fact, according to a survey conducted by the CMO Council, only about 9% of B2B buyers are converted by vendor-produced content. The rest? They don’t trust it.

Instead, blog visitors most often come for one of four reasons:

  • To identify new approaches to old problems
  • To introduce fresh thought leadership into existing concerns
  • To validate the value of third-party products and solutions
  • To highlight companies who understand consumer values.
    (CMO Council)

The Danger of Blogging Like a Marketer, Explained

If, then, we extrapolate this insight back to the task at hand, of creating a blog, writing blog posts, etc., it’s pretty clear that marketing messages embedded in content poison the well.

There’s a reason Tivo exists, that emails have an opt-out function, and that there’s a national “No Call” list. People hate marketing messaging. Add to that the fact that only 9% of buyers will even consider purchasing as a result of marketing messaging within a blog, and you have a pretty compelling case as to why it’s probably best to avoid treating your blog (or your posts) like billboards, touting your successes and offering clever sales pitches.

Because engagement-only blog strategy offers provably better results, it’s best to lean in, to discover what you—as a writer, as a marketer, as a company—have to contribute to the industries you touch, what you can offer.

It’s also good to change the voice you write in.

The “Marketer” Voice is a Giant Turnoff in Blogging

The voice that you write with, the tone you use… all of these will have an effect on your audience. They can say things like “I’m very trustworthy” or “I’m a bit of a loose cannon but funny”, but, if you get it wrong, they’ll say “I’m trying to sell you something, but I’m not willing to admit I am.”

The last thing in the world that says “trust me, engage with me, we’re on a fun content journey together” is the mention that “oh, by the way, there’s this thing I wanted to talk to you about.” Don’t be the person at the party who offers a sales pitch.

Instead, write like a human being; write to communicate and share information with your peers. There’s a 100% chance that your business has something in place to convert inbound readers to potential leads, so stop shooting yourself (and your business) in the foot by trying to make your blog do something that it absolutely won’t.