“I want to make sure people read this article. I spent so long on it; I can’t write another post that only five people read.”
Is this your inner monologue?
The first few lines of an article are the most important. Since the average blog post takes as long as 3.5 hours to write, it’s worth your time to ensure that you start strong from out of the gate. Why waste all that time and energy to create a post that doesn’t hook a reader?
Order of operations isn’t necessarily our strong suit here at the HIPBlog, which is why this article about beginning a blog post comes after the one we wrote a couple of weeks prior that reveals how 6 major B2B brands concluded their posts.
We’ll take you back to the beginning, breaking apart these 6 B2B brands and how they start their latest blog posts. You can use our observations to create a strong start for content of your own.
Hubspot is the inbound marketing, content marketing king. Its entire strategy is to create compelling content that is both interesting and informative, in a marketing space where both are challenging.
As we looked through the introductions of HubSpot’s post, here are some observations:
- Problem-oriented dialogue – Hubspot starts some of its posts using familiar-sounding dialogue that you might hear in the typical marketer’s office. It’s relatable and highlights a before-state that the content promises to turn into an after.
- News-worthy opening – This style of opening reads a lot like a newspaper article. It teases some of the most important information, using the inverted pyramid style opening.
- Questions – This can be a risky move, but asking an open-ended question at the beginning of the blog post is a great way to add a subtle interactive element.
- Intrigue – Hubspot will drop a very interesting line at the beginning that promises just a little bit more information if you read on.
HubSpot’s opening lines are tantalizing. They ask you questions, tease you with bits of news or information, address a problem you may be having, and more.
The writers at Hubspot have mastered the art of catching readers at the first line so they at least continue towards the value contained in the following paragraphs. This tactic uses the promise of value and the content itself always delivers. That’s the key. Without content that delivers, it doesn’t matter how catchy your opening line is.
This UK-based company uses classic techniques to draw in and keep its audience coming back to its blog. It takes a more technical and less journalist approach to its blogs and the openings to them. Here’s what we observed:
- Definitions – B2B Marketing creates highly specific content for its niche, which often covers late funnel topics that need some explaining. For that reason, it will start its posts with a definition where needed.
- Large blurb text – B2B Marketing opens many of its posts with a blurb that is composed of larger text than the body text. This is great for around 50% of readers who scan blog posts as opposed to reading them.
- Problem-oriented – Many of B2B Marketing’s introductions pose a need or problem. This classic technique works, posing a familiar problem. Then the content itself poses the solution.
- True statement – This type of beginning is rather bland. It simply states something true. It’s a common tactic, but often less effective than the rest.
B2B Marketing uses less trendy language and lead styles than a place like HubSpot. That reflects its more traditional tactics and branding, which are purely value and less emotional or human-oriented.
ClickZ has a very interesting and direct way of opening its content. It uses a format that is consistent, and contains the following elements:
- Single sentence value statement – The first part of each ClickZ article is a single sentence that tells you the exact content and value that’s contained within each post. It’s simple and effective, telling the reader what exactly they’re getting into.
- 30-second summary – This is my personal favorite introductory element. The 30-second summary caters to scanners in telling the short version of a longer, in-depth article. It reveals whether the major points are worth reading more about. The 30-second summary is also an attention grabber, drawing the readers eye down the page and into the article.
- Classic openers – After those more unique elements, ClickZ’s writers will ask questions, make true statements, and generally use more common introductory tactics to keep readers reading.
The UX on ClickZ’s website is optimized and it shows. You can also see how ClickZ caters to the idea that maybe readers won’t spend longer than the average 15 seconds on their page, but it attempts to at minimum double the amount of time spent on a page by summarizing the value of a post, so even scanners will get worth.
Those reading Salesforce’s blog know what they want. Salesforce knows this and creates a blog experience that caters to that. Here are some of the characteristics of the openings to some of Salesforce’s most recent blog posts:
- Time to read – This is a great feature that is becoming more and more common as time passes. There’s nothing worse than starting an article, then realizing it’s longer than you realize or have time for. That’s why the time-to-read feature is so great. It reveals the length of commitment, which makes it that much easier to commit.
- Statistics – The introductory paragraphs of Salesforce blogs often include a statistic. This is a good move, proving whatever statement the company makes with cold, hard numbers.
- Social/Partner Proof – Salesforces know that words coming from the company that is attempting to sell its audience something carry less weight than words from its customers or partners. So they team up with other well-known brands to increase credibility.
- Bold blurbs – Like B2B Marketing, Salesforce also uses bolded blurb to start scanners on the right path. These blurbs grab the eye and entice readers to move down to the body text.
- Newsjacking – Some of Salesforce’s posts are geared towards the generic businesspeople, so some of the introductions are written about newsworthy topics. They appeal to the human side of things, not just the salespeople or marketing minds.
Salesforce uses a similar approach to B2B Marketing, but the content is a little less dry. Hubspot is the most emotive, but Salesforce employs writers that straddle the line between feelings and logic.
IBM is synonymous with B2B and has been creating B2B content arguably longer than just about any organization on this list. Let’s look at how this company opens its blog posts:
- Business blurb – Like most of the others on this list, IBM has a quick blurb just under the title, which reveals the value of the post.
- Dense body introductions – IBM knows its audience and that audience expects content that is both specific and smart. Unlike many blog posts, IBM writes to a primarily college-educated audience.
- Real-world examples – Much of IBM’s content is case study oriented and its introductions reflect that. The introductions include real-world situations and examples that the target audience of the post will relate with.
- History – History as an introduction is the antithesis of the classic journalistic inverted pyramid, but when your company is pushing the cutting edge of technology, this background context is key for creating understanding and setting the stage.
IBM has been creating content longer than arguably any other brand on this list. This shows in the way its writers create content introductions. They know the audience they’re creating for is intelligent, aware, and knows exactly what it is looking for. That’s why these more specific introductions are effective.
Boeing represents a different style of B2B company. While it does serve other businesses, it doesn’t sell software or services in the digital space like the others on this list. Because of this, its content strategy is less expansive than many of the others on this list. Here is how that manifests in the way the company’s writers begins its releases:
- Beginning blurb – Just about all the companies on this list use a beginning blurb to summarize the articles. This is a great way to make even a lead that is less exciting pop.
- Cutting edge tech – Modern times require modern solutions, especially during the first pandemic that’s occurred on such a scale since the inception of the internet. Boeing loads its content program with breaking releases on new tech. It shows the company is conscious and aware of what its customer base cares about.
Boeing uses the more classic press release/write story strategy with its content. It knows that its audience doesn’t necessarily sit online all day and wait to read the latest blog post about the industries it works in. That comes through clearly in its no-nonsense content strategy.
What do you think of all the different approaches to the introductions and opening lines from these companies? You’ll notice that each specifically tailors its introductions to both the company branding and the audience it serves. HubSpot uses a lighter approach, one that reminds me of a company like Buzzfeed (but B2B marketing style). ClickZ clearly experiments pretty heavily with optimizing its content so that if all a reader looks at is the introduction, they will still receive value. Then the others on the list all use more traditional approaches to introductions, with slightly different tactics to match target audiences.
Let us know what you think:
- What kind of introduction makes you keep reading?
- How much value do you want in the first few lines of a post?
- Are any introductions you’ve read recently memorable? What made them that way?