As we all know, content is king. Yet most B2B marketers struggle to leverage their content as an effective way to generate and convert leads. Part of the problem is that content marketing needs to align with the B2B sales cycle, which is longer than in B2C. Without a strong strategy, most B2B marketers end up using a “spray and pray” approach.
So, the best way to set yourself apart from your competitors to develop a robust B2B content strategy. Once you take the guesswork out of content marketing, you’ll find that it’s a highly efficient way to build your brand’s authority and nurture your leads. Let’s dive into how to create your ideal strategy.
Why is Content Marketing Important?
It’s no secret that consumers are increasingly skeptical of traditional sales techniques. Instead of passively accepting sales pitches, they want a feeling of ownership in the process. They want to feel a trusted connection with a brand, and it takes several touches before they’re willing to open their wallet. There is a huge emphasis on “DIY,” in which consumers are looking to solve their own problems. Their first step is to search the Internet for answers.
That’s where content marketing comes in.
B2B content can and should build consumer confidence at each stage of the sales funnel, ultimately proving your brand’s expertise and getting your prospects ready to buy. Unfortunately, many B2B marketers focus on top-of-the-funnel content, but where content really packs a punch is in lead nurturing. You want to keep your prospects engaged until they’re ready to purchase. Great content can do that.
Here are just a few benefits of good B2B content:
- It helps you illustrate your product’s or service’s benefits to your prospects and leads.
- It answers their objections and boosts their confidence in your offering.
- It enables them to imagine how their business will be better with your product or service.
- It lays the foundation for loyal customers, therefore extending their LTV and reducing churn.
- It boosts your SEO.
So, how do you craft content for each stage of the funnel? What type of content appeals to your target audience at each stage? And how do you bring it all together?
How to Build Your B2B Content Marketing Strategy
Know Your Goals
Don’t start content marketing just because someone says you should. Make no mistake: there is a lot of work involved. Without a clear vision of what you want to achieve, you’ll end up contributing to the Internet’s mass of content without capturing qualified leads.
So before you start creating content, decide what you want to achieve. It may be helpful to identify the current gaps in your marketing and sales. Are you generating lots of leads but finding that most aren’t qualified? Are you booking lots of free trials but not getting signups? Once you know where the mismatch happens, you can start creating content to attract more qualified leads, overcome objections, and drive more sales.
Know Your Audience
The number-one mistake that rookie B2B marketers make is to focus on their own accomplishments when crafting content. A close second is to create content that Your content needs to answer your prospects’ questions and curiosities. There may be overlap, but you should always prioritize their interests over yours.
Assuming that you’ve already mapped out your target personas or customer avatar, take some time to research their content interests. Find prospective customers on social media and see what pages they follow. Spend some time in groups where they hang out, and observe the questions that come up. And don’t forget to survey your existing customers! Ask what type of content they’d like to see and where they find it.
Choose Your Platforms
Once you’ve done your audience research, it should be easy to decide where to publish and promote content. Overall, LinkedIn and Twitter are the biggest two social networks for B2B content marketing. However, you can also think outside the box with SlideShare presentations, YouTube videos, and even Pinterest infographics.
Decide what types of content you will share on each platform. Will you publish original content or promote content that is published on another platform? It’s always a good idea to repurpose content across channels. For example, you can write a blog post, then design an infographic to share on Pinterest. Or you can create a video and publish it on YouTube with a CTA to download a worksheet. It depends on what your goals are for each channel and each type of content.
Which brings us to…
Map the Content to the Buyer’s Journey
Some content will appeal more to people who have never heard of your company, and some will help hot leads go from “maybe” to “sign me up!” The key to successful content marketing is to know which type of content you’ll need for each stage of the buyer’s journey, which generally moves from Awareness to Consideration to Decision.
In B2B marketing, the Consideration stage can be rather long, and some leads will stay in a liminal zone between Awareness and Consideration (e.g. they’ve heard of your company and have checked out your blog, but aren’t yet considering your services). That’s why your content needs to speak to their biggest questions and pain points at each stage of the funnel. Related content pieces can then feed into each other, mirroring their journey.
Here are the most common types of content for each stage. Remember, you also need to customize each content piece for your various target personas.
Awareness: Your leads are relatively cold. They’re likely looking for data, answers to their questions, or a general overview of your offering type (e.g. they know they want a business automation platform but aren’t sure which). They may not even know the questions to ask.
- Informational Videos (e.g. How To, DIY)
- Educational Webinars (general overview)
Consideration: Your leads are getting warmer. They’re starting to shortlist their options and have more specific questions. They may be making pros/cons lists or raising objections about your offering. You need to demonstrate your value and authority here.
- Demo Videos
- Case Studies
- Sample Materials (e.g. templates)
- Product Webinars
- Online Courses
Decision: Your leads are hot. They’re about ready to purchase, but they want to test the waters and get specific details about your offering. Content is still important here because you are laying the groundwork for a continued customer relationship.
- Worksheets – perfect for a Free Consultation
- Tips & Tricks – perfect for a Free Trial
- Explainer Videos
Note that your content in any of these stages isn’t the call-to-action. Your content should lead to the call-to-action. It ties into the overall value you offer while affirming the buyer journey. Remember, you need to make at least seven touches with your audience before they buy. Your content marketing can and should make up the initial few touches.
Of course, content also plays a role in keeping your customers. Many B2B companies offer subscription-based services or continued vendor relationships. Content can help you generate a loyal customer base. As you probably know, it is far easier to sell to established customers than to acquire new ones!
Post-Purchase / Re-engagement Content Types: Your customers are looking for places to stay engaged and continue getting valuable information to grow their business.
- LinkedIn or Facebook Groups
- Subscription-Based Content
- Membership-Only Areas
Decide How to Promote
Don’t fall for the “Field of Dreams” fallacy. If you build it, they will not necessarily come. Your B2B content marketing strategy absolutely must include a promotional plan.
You’ve already identified your platforms, so that’s a start. Now, decide how you’re going to promote each piece for content. Make it predictable and consistent. For example, if you plan to publish a weekly blog article, decide now that you’re going to create an accompanying infographic to release on Instagram. Draw a clear line from that content to the next stage of the funnel (e.g. downloading your e-book).
Look for engaging, conversational ways to connect with prospects. such as on Quora, Medium, and Reddit. Hang out where your prospects do, such as in certain Facebook and LinkedIn groups. Is there not an existing group for your target audience? Make your own!
Also, make curated content a primary part of your strategy. No one likes a business that only talks about themselves or shares their own content. Link your content to others, both in blogs and in your social strategy. Share interesting content and build relationships with affiliated businesses. By curating content, you show that you’re connected to your industry and committed to providing your prospects with value.
Identify Your Key Performance Indicators
A strategy is only as good as it can be measured, so be sure that you know how you’ll measure your success. Content marketing can be somewhat intangible: you may not be able to trace your leads’ path from awareness to decision. Some prospects may read your blog for years before deciding to sign up for a free trial.
However, you can still assess your content’s effectiveness by tracking your analytics on each platform. Decide now which metrics will compose your Key Performance Indicators. Here are just a few options:
- Conversion rate
- Overall traffic
- Lead quality
- Subscriber growth
- SEO ranking
Set benchmarks on a clear timeline. It’s okay if you don’t hit all your marks, as long as you can identify where you fell short. For example, if your webinar signup rate is lower than you’d like, you may need to add a lower-commitment content piece to nurture leads. If your post-webinar conversions don’t reach your goal, you may need to tweak the content to better overcome objections.
Tips for High-Converting B2B Content
Remember that B2B content needs to feed into your funnel. This means it can’t just be for SEO purposes (although that’s certainly a perk!). It needs to speak to your prospects’ highest pain points and demonstrate that your business is best equipped to resolve those problems.
In short, fluffy SEO blogs, think pieces, and humorous listicles usually don’t have a place in your B2B content strategy. This doesn’t mean you can’t be engaging and entertaining — you should! However, everything should be actionable, valuable to your target audience, and aligned with whatever stage of the funnel they’re in.
With that in mind, follow these tips for the most effective B2B content.
- Make it “juicy.” Anyone can throw together an article to garner search engine traffic. Make sure that your readers can see your expertise in your content. Include real, actionable advice and data that proves you know your stuff and are committed to serving your audience. In short, tease what you can do for your prospects rather than pumping out the same old fluff. Making your content “juicy” will set you apart from 99% of other B2B content.
- Share your insights. What types of information is your audience seeking? Do you have case studies, trends, or data that might be of interest to them? Most B2B are looking for evidence and tips to help them solve their business problems. So, adding valuable facts to your content is a great way to capture their attention. Bonus points if these insights come from your product or service: this helps establish you as an authority in your field.
- Inspire your readers. B2B content tends to be dreary. No one wants to read a lengthy tome about keyword research or project management methods — even if that information is valuable. Remember that your readers’ primary goal is to grow their business. Make it seem not only possible but also probable! Your content should get them excited about solving their problem and confidence in your authority. Then, you can position your offering as the key to their success.
Content marketing is an art more than a science: it will take some time to find the right mix that speaks to your target audience. But without a strategy, you’ll certainly be “painting in the dark,” uncertain which elements are going where and how the whole picture will look. Take some time to research and develop your B2B content pipeline before you dive in. Then, stay involved! Don’t set it and forget it. The more engaged you are with your audience, the more you’ll be able to refine your strategy — and the better your content will be.
This guide will be here when you need it to help you through your initial understanding of B2B content marketing. Take it slow, and you’ll be an expert in no time. Happy Advertising! ☺
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