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With the competition in the B2B space getting tougher and marketing costs going through the roof, generating leads has always been one of the biggest challenges marketers face.
That’s where content marketing comes in.
B2B content marketing is the practice of creating and distributing valuable content for the purpose of, among others:
- Attracting leads
- Raising brand awareness
- Establishing yourself as an authority.
- Moving leads through each stage of your sales funnel
But with many other brands pushing out content of their own, how can you make sure yours stands out?
That’s why you need to build an effective B2B content marketing strategy.
With an effective content strategy, you can better position yourself, find content opportunities the competition isn’t leveraging, and bolster your credibility in the market. As a result, your content will outperform that of your competitors, resulting in you getting more business.
What Is B2B Content Marketing?
B2B content marketing is the practice of strategically creating and distributing content targeted at B2B buyers. Its purpose is to:
- Increase brand awareness
- Influence how your market thinks about a topic
- Drive traffic to your website and other properties
- Generate leads with high buying intent
- Boost sales
Common types of content used in B2B content marketing include blog posts, LinkedIn articles, podcasts, newsletters, infographics, and video content.
Why Is Having A Content Strategy Important?
One mistake some brands make with content marketing is expecting results after publishing a couple of random posts a month.
To grow your business using content marketing, you must start with an effective content strategy before you begin producing anything, and that strategy must include a distribution plan for the content, so that it actually gets consumed.
Why is a content strategy important?
Makes Content Creation Easier
Your content strategy answers one of your most important content marketing questions — why you create content. Knowing why you are creating content for your brand makes it easier to create said content. Because you know what you want to achieve with your content, you’ll be in a better position to brainstorm relevant content ideas that will help you achieve your goals.
Besides helping you know what kind of content to create, a content strategy is also important as it leads to consistency in content volume and quality.
Improves Your Targeting
An essential aspect of developing a content strategy is researching your target audience. You’ll have to dig into your audience’s:
- Demographic data.
- Psychographic data.
- Firmographic data.
Gathering this data will help you create two essential profiles critical to successfully running a B2B content marketing strategy. The first is a buyer persona profile, which is the makeup of the individuals responsible for buying decisions in an organization. The second is the ideal customer profile (ICP) of brands you’re targeting. This is a detailed outline of the attributes that make up the accounts that are most likely to become your most valuable customers.
With accurate targeting, you’re more likely to get better results and grow your business faster and more effectively.
The Best Content Types For B2B Brands
One of the most important elements of B2B content marketing is determining the types of content you’ll use to promote your business. Some of the best content types for B2B brands include:
Blog posts are a centerpiece of content marketing. These are informative articles created to provide readers with information on topics they’re interested in. Blog posts are versatile and can be used to achieve different marketing goals such as:
- Raising brand awareness
- Boosting SEO
- Lead generation
You can create blog posts for different stages of your sales funnel to help ensure you meet prospects’ search intent at each stage.
White papers are a type of long-form content used to persuade B2B buyers about the effectiveness of a particular workflow, strategy, or methodology – oftentimes, this is the methodology underlying your own product. They contain a mix of facts, research, and storytelling and offer more depth than blog posts. Because of this, you can gate them and offer full access to readers in exchange for their contact information. This makes them an excellent lead generation tool.
Tools, Templates, & Cheat Sheets
One important purpose of B2B content marketing is lead generation. And some of the best types of content to help you do that are downloadable assets like tools, templates, and cheat sheets. Because these make life easier for your target audience, they’ll readily sign up to receive them.
Successful B2B content marketing is all about educating your audience enough to help them:
- Fully appreciate their problem
- Trust you as the solution provider
One type of content that can help you achieve this is webinars. Webinars have two main advantages. The first is that they’re interactive, resulting in higher engagement rates. The second is that they make it easy to break down complex topics and express yourself clearly. This is especially important if tacit knowledge is involved.
Podcasts are a great way of humanizing your brand. Done well, they’re also a great way to boost your brand awareness as you can leverage your guests’ audiences if you host your own podcast. You can also tap into your hosts’ audiences as a podcast guest. Besides boosting brand awareness, podcasting is also a great way to showcase your expertise. It’s also a really easy way to involve people from other organizations, or even your clients.
A case study is a type of testimonial of how your product helped a particular customer solve their problem. Because people love stories, case studies are a powerful way of selling your product while connecting with your audience at the same time. However, as a B2B brand, case studies are a valuable content marketing asset as they are excellent for building trust.
Original Research & reports
B2B buyers rely on facts to justify their decisions. That’s why you must publish original research and reports as much as possible – it helps an executive sell their purchase decision internally, to help streamline the buying process. Besides providing insights into your industry and how your tool helps players, original research and reports are excellent tools for building credibility. They’re also great backlink magnets.
Email marketing is one marketing channel every B2B brand should leverage. With email, you can nurture your leads, promote your products, and keep your customers engaged so you’re always top of mind when they need a solution you provide. While the ROI of $36 for every $1 spent statistic is misleading in that it ignores the cost of building up an email list in the first place, it’s also an ideal channel since it’s owned land – you’ll never have to be at the mercy of a social media platform messing with your strategy.
Landing Pages (solutions pages)
Landing pages are an excellent B2B content marketing tool. They help turn casual readers into leads.
Create valuable content that you can use to point readers somewhere else — to a landing page with an irresistible offer. Make sure your landing page copy is expertly written and compelling enough to convince readers to take you up on your offer.
Video is one of the most popular B2B content marketing formats for one simple reason — it’s easy to consume. Video content is also engaging and interactive. For B2B marketers, the most significant advantage of video is that it’s versatile. You can use video format fo, among other things:
- Customer and expert interviews
- Case studies
- Product explainers
- How-to guides
- Customer onboarding
Thanks to modern SaaS tools, creating high-quality videos is no longer time-consuming or expensive. Leveraging this content format can help you establish yourself as an authority and expert in your field.
Product demos are an excellent way to nudge prospects to move from the decision stage of your sales funnel to the action stage. They are a great way to turn marketing qualified leads (MQLs) into sales qualified leads (SQLs).
Getting the right mix of content types is essential to the success of your content strategy. This is why conducting audience research is critical — it helps you know your target audience’s content preferences.
How To Create Your Own B2B Content Marketing Strategy
Ready to create your own B2B content marketing strategy?
Here are a few tips to help you ensure you succeed:
1. Create Specific Campaign Goals
The first step to creating an effective B2B content marketing strategy is to create specific goals and KPIs for your campaign. For example, do you want to:
- Rank on the first page of search engine results pages for your top 10 target keywords?
- Increase organic traffic to your site by 20%?
- Raise brand awareness on LinkedIn?
- Improve sales win rates by 5%?
- Earn backlinks and improve domain rating by 3 next quarter?
- Increase inbound leads by 10% this year?
Defining your goals from the start is essential as it will inform the type of content you’ll focus on and the campaigns you’ll run.
2. Define Your Ideal Client (User) Profile
To create an effective B2B content marketing strategy, you need to know and understand your target audience.
That’s why defining your ideal client profile is crucial.
An ideal client profile is a representation of who your perfect client is. It is built on research, data, and understanding the problems your target audience are struggling with.
Defining your ideal client helps you:
- Craft relevant and personalized messaging.
- Target them on the right platforms.
- Create content in their preferred formats.
Effective content marketing, especially for B2B brands, relies on data. That’s why research must play a central role in developing your content strategy. Essential aspects you must research include keywords and user intent. This will help you ideate topics and create a content calendar to guide your content production.
Another important aspect of research you must carry out is to conduct a content audit on your website. A content audit involves analyzing the content on your website and taking note of:
- Content gaps
- Content performance
This will help ensure you create relevant content for each stage of your funnel.
4. Analyze Competitors
Another critical stage in creating an impactful B2B content marketing strategy is competitor analysis. Despite being the competition, your competitors can provide you with a wealth of knowledge you can use to create a winning B2B content marketing strategy. Examples of the insights you can get from your competitors include:
- The type of content and content formats your target audience enjoys.
- Effective content distribution channels.
- Competitors’ strengths and weaknesses.
- Possible backlink partners.
These insights (and more) will help you develop a content strategy that will help better position you and outperform your competitors.
5. Decide Buying Journey Stage & Content Type
The ultimate purpose of a B2B content marketing strategy is to help you drive sales.
That’s why you must fully understand your buyer journey and align your content to it.
A buyer’s journey is simply the stages your customers go through from being aware they have a problem through finally paying for your solution. Aligning your content strategy to your buyer journey will help you create content that meets your customers intent at each stage. It will also help ensure that your content successfully moves your customers seamlessly through the stages. The buyer’s journey in B2B is never linear, but it’s your job as the seller to reduce friction as much as possible.
6. Align With SEO Strategy
Your content must be seen by the right people if it is to produce results.
For that to happen, you need a robust B2B SEO strategy. Marrying your B2B content marketing strategy with an SEO strategy will ensure that you not only produce relevant and helpful content. But it will also help your content rank for relevant keywords.
If you lack a cohesive strategy for both production and optimization, your content marketing efforts will go to waste. A few critical SEO factors you must consider as you develop your content strategy include:
- Keeping your technical SEO on point. Publishing great content on a website that has technical issues is a waste of time. Your content either won’t rank or you’ll have high bounce rates.
- How to build backlinks to each piece of content. Building backlinks to your content is critical as it helps boost page authority and rankings.
- Optimize for page experience. Google recently announced that user experience is a major ranking factor moving forward. Make sure your pages and content are designed to offer a positive experience.
So, as you make plans for content development, make sure to plan for optimization as well.
7. Find the Right CMS & Management Tools
An essential part of your content strategy is content publishing and management.
That’s why you must carefully choose the right content management system (CMS) and other content production and management tools. An easy-to-use yet feature-rich CMS (WordPress, Webflow, and Hubspot, are some of the fan favorites) will make publishing, revising, and managing your content much easier.
- Schedule & Create
With all the bases covered, you can now move to the more exciting parts of your B2B content marketing strategy — content production.
For you to effectively and consistently produce quality content, you must schedule it in advance. This requires that you create a content calendar. Use insights from your research to inform your content calendar and ideate timely and relevant topics to fill your calendar. Once this is done, go ahead and create your content.
8. Promote & Distribute
One of the biggest mistakes many brands make is to sit on their laurels once they hit the publish button.
Hitting publish isn’t the end of content marketing — it’s actually the beginning.
Once a piece of content is live on your website, you must proactively promote and distribute it for it to reach your target audience. The first step to doing this is to determine where and how you’ll distribute and promote your content. To answer that question, you must know where your audience hangs out online. This includes social media, industry forums, your email list, and paid ads among others.
9. Analyze Results and Iterate Based on Performance
An essential step that mustn’t be left out of any B2B content marketing strategy is to track performance. This is essential as it will help you know which parts of your strategy are performing well and which aren’t. This enables you to create better iterations of your strategy and campaigns.
Digging deep into the analytics of your campaigns will also help you with attribution. You’ll be able to track specific actions to your campaigns and thus help with revenue attribution.
5 Examples Of B2B Content Marketing For Your Inspiration
Does content marketing really work for B2B brands?
Yes. It does. Let’s look at five brands that have used content marketing to grow their audience, business, and revenue.
Hubspot is one of the biggest CRM and marketing automation providers in the world. From the brands early days, they heavily relied on content marketing to raise brand awareness and generate leads. Part of their content strategy included creating a massive resource library that included, among others:
- Original research
- Case studies
- Industry reports
One of Hubspot’s biggest strengths is it created hyper-targeted and personalized content for their buyer personas and for each stage of the sales funnel. Hubspot’s content strategy paid off handsomely as the company went from being a small startup to being worth billions in about 10 years.
2. CB Insights
CB Insights is a brand that provides a business analytics platform and marketing intelligence. One of their most effective content marketing avenues is email — particularly their newsletter. Despite being in a “boring” industry (I mean, where’s the fun in data and analytics!?) they manage to create lighthearted content for their newsletter. And all the while, they’re able to educate their audience, provide relevant information, and establish themselves as an authority in the industry.
A well-known name in landing page circles, LeadPages is one of the fastest-growing website and landing page builders.
How did they manage to grow so fast?
LeadPages designed a content marketing strategy that includes:
- A blog focused on conversion optimization.
- Hosting weekly webinars to educate users.
- Running a marketing podcast.
Their content marketing strategy resulted in the brand cornering a good chunk of the market, boasting over 40,000 users and $18 million ARR.
For a brand that sells video content production solutions, Vidyard can be expected to be on top of its content marketing game. They don’t disappoint.
Vidyard’s target audience is made up of marketing and sales professionals. To attract and convert them, they create content revolving around those topics. Of course, being a video marketing platform, it can only be expected that they’d have a whole section of their blog dedicated to video guides. This helps kill two birds with one stone — educate their audience and prove the power of their product. As a result, Vidyard’s inbound lead generation helped the brand grow to over 160,000 users.
Yes, we’re talking about the greatest maker of construction equipment.
Take a cue from Caterpillar and infuse some fun in your content. Being a big player in the construction and mining equipment industry, Caterpillar decided to showcase what their equipment can do. They designed a video content marketing campaign in which they had some of their equipment play giant Jenga.
Not only did the campaign generate a lot of buzz and brand awareness, but it also acted as a type of product demo. The campaign helped boost the brand’s authority while still being entertaining.
3 Content Strategy Goals To Learn From
”Goal” is a broad term. There’s a plethora of different metrics and targets you can strive for within the marketing realm.
On a more granular, day-to-day level, marketers usually think about goals in terms of page views, time on site, bounce rates, conversion rates, etc. While important, those types of KPIs are too narrow to produce an overarching strategic vision.
Instead, your content marketing strategy needs to be based on overall business goals. Does your organization need more qualified leads for the sales team? Is brand awareness a major priority? Maybe you’re striving to be an authoritative thought leader in your vertical? These are the types of goals that should form the core of your content strategy — and each one will require a different approach.
Content Goal #1 – Inbound Lead Generation
When thinking about content marketing, lead generation is often the first thing that comes to mind. If generating a sustainable source of inbound leads is an important priority for your overall sales and growth goals, then content will play a vital role.
To keep your sales pipeline full from inbound leads, your content strategy should be focused on the following areas:
This will often take the form of blog posts targeting specific keywords for organic search traffic. You’ll need to be methodical in your approach, tailoring topics and keywords so that you can start to rank for high value keywords, while also providing educational value to readers.
Likewise, you’ll want to produce content for prospects at every stage of the buyer’s journey, from people who are just exploring topics in your field of expertise to people who are actively searching for a solution like yours.
Suppose you’re selling sales automation software and your target customers are VPs of Sales. To attract early-stage prospects, you’ll want to produce content that addresses questions a VP of Sales might have before they begin looking for a solution. For example, you could publish blog posts related to sales strategy, automating outbound email sequences, or building pipeline.
Here’s a good piece of educational content by Salesloft is clearly designed for people in sales who are writing cold emails (their target audience). Not everyone who visits this page will be ready to talk with their sales team but that’s okay. The more people get value from their content, the more likely they will be to contact them when they are in buying mode.
At the same time, you may also want to attract prospects who are further along in the buyer’s journey (i.e. more sales qualified). Your content can still be SEO-focused, but your keyword selection should shift to product comparisons and direct search terms for your product/service. This might include keywords like, “sales tools,” “tools to automate outbound email,” and “best sales automation tools 2019.”
Searching “cold email outreach tool,” the first result is Mailshake.
How did they get there? They have incredibly detailed content around cold email related keywords. This puts them in a position to rank for highly coveted search results that will lead to much more sales qualified lead generation opportunities. Just look at the table of contents for one section of their “Cold Email Masterclass” page.
Depending on how early stage your company is and your domain authority, you may need to focus on more specific keywords that have lower monthly traffic, but are also slightly easier to rank for.
If you can produce high quality content for keywords that your competition has overlooked, you’ll find yourself quietly generating inbound organic leads in places they never thought to look (very important if you want to win against larger, bigger budget incumbents in your space).
This is exactly what we did early on at RevenueZen to rank #1 for “linkedin post examples” — above LinkedIn themselves.
This ranking alone, generates over 6,500 users every month and is a common resource consumed in our new business conversion paths.
Lead Magnets and Calls-To-Action
In order to convert your visitors into subscribers and inbound leads, you’ll need to utilize calls-to-action (CTAs) and signup forms. For example, you can include a form field within your blog posts to capture email subscribers. This would be coupled with a CTA that highlights the value of joining your email list.
Downloadable resources (lead magnets) are a powerful content format for generating new inbound leads. By gating your e-books and whitepapers with a signup form, you can collect valuable contact info for your marketing funnel, letting you convert leads into SQLs, demos, and pipeline in the future.
If you don’t have any lead magnets, then you are relying on a strategy of hoping your site visitors just happen to be in a buying cycle when they visit your site. In the B2B world, timing is everything. Most prospects who visit your site will not be ready to talk to a sales rep. If you don’t have a way to establish some sort of ongoing relationship with those prospects, then you’re losing sales pipeline from people who visit your site once and forget about you when they start looking at solutions.
If you’re huge, you can afford to rely on your brand awareness. When you’re small, you need to take advantage of every opportunity you get. You may only get one opportunity to connect with a prospect, so you need to make it count.
Here’s a great lead magnet example from Intercom, which requires a name and business email to download.
In fact, this lead magnet is so effective that I actually signed up for it when I was researching this post. THAT is the kind of content that you want. Something so hard to resist, that prospects know exactly what you’re doing (capturing their email address so you can sell/market to them) and they still want to give you their info.
A big mistake I see people make in the SaaS world is only including lead capture forms for people who are far along in their buyer’s journey. If the only place where someone can establish a relationship with your company is a demo signup form, then focus on building out content with a lower barrier to entry. This will let people connect with you long before they’re ready to buy, making it easier to stay top of mind with your prospects.
Content Goal #2 – Increasing Sales Win Rates
Many B2B content marketing strategies make increasing win rates and supporting their sales team a core part of their content market goals. The key here is to create influential content that your sales reps can and will use to close deals more effectively.
This goal is especially applicable to teams that already have a robust lead generation process in place. If your top of the funnel is already fairly full, your content priority should shift to increasing sales win rates. A surplus of leads isn’t worth much if you aren’t converting those leads into revenue.
Examples of content to increase win rates:
- Case studies
- Customer highlights
- Objection-handling collateral
- Infographics and easily shareable content
Typically, this kind of content needs to incorporate your sales team and customer voice much more than others. Have conversations with your sales reps to uncover common objections they’re hearing on the front lines. If you’re creating a case study, get the client involved to get their results and feedback.
Using Content to Nurture Leads
If you want to increase win rates, qualified leads, and generate more SQLs for your sales team, then you’ll need to shift your focus away from SEO and capturing contact info through lead magnets, instead favoring engagement and progressing leads through the buying process.
Lead nurturing, in this case, refers to using content to engage people who have already connected with your company in some way. Maybe you already have a large email list. Or, perhaps you have prospects that didn’t close, so your sales team put them back into the marketing funnel.
You can use middle and bottom-of-funnel content to engage those leads in order to move them forward in the sales process.
When creating middle and bottom-of-funnel content, you’ll want to keep both prospects and existing customers in mind. Content can be used to move prospects down the funnel, but it can also be used to cultivate stronger relationships with your current customers. This, in turn, will help increase the lifetime value of your client base.
The primary goal of your middle and bottom-of-funnel content should be to inform and educate. Use your content channels to help your audience overcome pain points and discover solutions. Doing so will keep your brand in the spotlight and position you as a trusted authority. Then, when it’s time to buy, your prospects will already know you well and regard you as a leading option.
Moz’s video series, Whiteboard Friday, is a fantastic example of educational middle-of-funnel content.
This content does an incredible job of establishing Moz’s expertise in the world of SEO. With this kind of content, prospects will continue to engage with their company (beyond simply finding them via a Google search). If your content is so educational that your ideal prospects keep coming back to your site week after week, then you can be sure you’ll be on the shortlist of companies to buy from when the timing is right.
Objection Handling Content
Another aim for middle and bottom-of-funnel content can be to handle objections and business concerns that prospects often bring up to your sales team faces.
Talk to your sales team to determine the main objections they’re hearing from prospects. Then, create content that addresses those concerns. This will help you get in front of issues, resolving them before they even arise.
Objection-handling for our own sales process was part of the reason we created an article on the most common mistakes founders make with their B2B blog strategy. We see enough founders at startups make these common B2B content marketing mistakes, that we decided to address it in a blog post, giving us ample space to clarify the mistakes and solutions.
Your sales team only has a limited amount of time to address concerns that are brought up by prospects. In some cases, especially in more complex selling environments, your sales team may not even be around when objections are brought internally. With good content, you can fully take the time to address concerns that come up during the buying process in a format that is easily shareable and can be as long-form as you need.
This kind of content then becomes ammo that your sales team can use to increase win rates and close more deals.
Using Content to Align Sales and Marketing
To create content that matches the sales team’s challenges, you’ll need strong alignment between the sales and marketing departments.
Far too often, we see siloed marketing teams producing content based on what they think will work, without enough input from sales reps. This leads to dissonant collateral which is out of sync with the actual dialogues happening on the sales side.
Marketing teams wasting their valuable time and energy creating content that sales reps never end up using because it isn’t relevant enough to their sales process, or worse, because sales reps believe the content actually goes against the main selling points that they win deals on.
Sales/marketing alignment is rooted in communication. Fostering a collaborative culture with regular meetings will help ensure both teams are on the same page. And, when sales and marketing are aligned, the synergy will be reflected in your content.
“The new reality is that marketing needs to know more about sales, sales needs to know more about marketing, and we all need to know more about our customers.” – Jill Rowley
Content Goal #3 – Building Brand Authority
Building brand authority ties into several other business goals, including lead generation and increasing win rates.
The more people know and trust your company, the more leads you’ll generate through word-of-mouth. The more that prospects and customers view your company as a trusted expert in your space, the more happy they are to dedicate their budget towards your solutions. Likewise, you’ll have knock-on effects as your overall brand reputation rises, increasing your valuation and standing with investor (if you’re going that route).
To become an authority in your vertical, you’ll need to produce thought leadership content that’s both educational and insightful. The reason this goal is separate from lead nurturing is that it’s not necessarily about moving prospects through the funnel; it’s about showing off your expertise. Being perceived as an expert facilitates trust. Building trust always helps your sales process.
HubSpot is one of the best examples of brand authority via content. You can’t look up anything related to inbound marketing without running into HubSpot. And being such a prolific source of information on the topic earns them massive credibility (alongside the benefits they get from inbound lead generation).
Startups, SMBs, and agencies in smaller niches have a similar opportunity.
If you have an innovative product or you’re doing something differently, use that to your advantage by positioning yourself as an authority on that topic/approach. Even if your strategy isn’t as SEO-focused as Hubspot, you still need to highlight your expertise in your field.
Building Trust in Your Brand Is Absolutely Critical
When you start getting into the more complex or enterprise B2B solutions/services world, trust becomes absolutely key to your growth strategy. If buyers don’t trust you, your company, your brand, and your team, they won’t work with you.
Most branding experts talk about brand as if it’s some pie-in-the-sky idea that will help your company … somehow … just trust them.
The reality is, brand authority, when done right, amplifies efforts at every stage of the funnel, from lead generation to win rates.
The more people trust you, the more likely they are to refer you to a friend, champion you to internal decision-makers during the sales process, and stick with you if your team ever makes a mistake.
THAT is brand authority … when you and your team are legitimate authorities in your space and everyone know it.
Sales Hacker spent years building its reputation and authority within the sales community, leading up to their acquisition by Outreach.io. How? Premier content written by experts and practitioners in the space.
Brand Authority, Referrals, and Technical Products
Are referrals an important source of new leads for your company?
If so, those referrals are going to be researching your brand. You’ll want to ensure they don’t just find a homepage explaining why they should buy from you. Instead, they should see thoughtful content that demonstrates a masterful knowledge of your industry. This will promote confidence in your product/service.
Likewise, if you sell a technical product, you should publish in-depth content written by talented engineers. Then, when a member of the prospect’s tech team checks out your company, your content will command respect. Or, even better, they might already be familiar with your brand because the tech community holds your content in high regard.
Aside from referrals and technical products, in most B2B sales processes, someone involved in the buying process will go to your website. When buyers go to research your company, what will they see?
If they find a ghost town of a website, even if it looks nice, it can be tough for them to recommend your products or services internally to their team. But if they visit your site and they see well-researched articles that clearly show that you know what you’re talking about, then you’re more likely to gain their trust, or at least get a stamp of approval.
3 Final Tips For Exceptional Content
Make Your Marketing Content Useful
To be useful, your marketing content must be backed by relevant data. In this day and age, no matter what your subject matter, there is data to support it. Make sure your marketing team is on top of research in your field.
Pay attention to the academics, journalists, and innovators who are ahead of the curve. When they publish, make sure you know about it. Subscribe to the right journals and newsletters.
Build repositories of useful data complete with compelling graphs and illustrations that help you drive home ideas. If you’re a SaaS company, you probably have plenty of extremely-useful first-party data from your own product. Ask your Product or Engineering team to give your marketers access to those repositories.
In essence, your marketing content should equip your buyers with what they need – knowledge that accurately and thoroughly informs their purchase decisions. This might mean you provide authentic reviews of how your products and services compare to those of competitors (without naming the competitors directly.)
Help your clients demonstrate due diligence and justify their choices. Focus on your differentiator. In what area does your brand truly shine?
(Example: Client Heartbeat – focuses on how their product saves their B2B customers’ time. They’ve learned that B2B buyers/users want products that do their heavy lifting for them, so they focus on features of their product that do just that – reduce the manual processes for client feedback surveys and data analysis.)
On that note, don’t ignore your own data. This is perhaps the most essential aspect of what is known as “inbound” marketing, marketing that targets people where they are at, focusing on their present state of mind and reaching them with solutions to problems you already know they have.
Google Analytics tells you who is visiting your content pages, their gender, age, organization, and many other useful demographics. With the help of your digital marketing service provider, follow these trends and develop greater awareness of your target audience and particularly how they evolve over time.
Make Your Marketing Content Unforgettable
A list of features will be forgotten as soon as a buyer has reviewed it. A story about how those features provided a superior user experience to someone they can relate to, however, won’t be.
For all humans, stories are the sturdiest framework for relevant information, which is why storytelling skills are essential to effective content marketing, including B2B content marketing.
Stories provide context and meaning. The setting and characters put the B2B buyer in the shoes of someone already using your products and services. This is where their emotions become more decisive because it is here that they get to test, experience, and discover how your products and services feel.
The plight of the characters provokes the emotions of the buyer. He or she begins to pay closer attention. They become invested in the character’s choices, particularly those involving your products and services. Because they relate to them on an emotional level, they remember the character’s problems and how the products and services alleviated them.
Later when they must consider purchases, those stories provide the needed framework for recalling the relevant features. They remember how they felt, not what they read.
To tell compelling stories, use email, video, buyer testimonials, humor, user-generated content, use-case videos, and employee testimonials. Don’t be afraid to illuminate problems – without a problem, a story has no purpose, and your products and services have no way to prove their value.
Make it entertaining: this means it can be inspirational, funny, or even nail-biting, that is, of course, until your brand is introduced as the solution to the problem, and everything is okay.
Make Your Marketing Content Drive Business
Sow the seeds of new business in many places. In other words, don’t rely solely on organic distribution through social media to generate leads. Advertise online through Google AdWords and other search engines.
Optimize your rankings thereby enlisting a reputable SEO agency that can produce robust results strictly through white hat SEO. Publish your content in online magazines.
Invite students, business writers, and researchers to write case studies about what your brand has accomplished. Explore multiple media across sectors and industries and make use of them.
Above all, make lead generation and purchasing easy and painless. Steps (or clicks) on your website from content to closing should be few and effortless from start to finish.
Make certain that when a potential client reviews content, it’s obvious to him or her how to obtain further information, and most importantly, make a personal connection. They should be able to click once to your site and once more to chat with your online service representatives or at least send a query email to an account manager.
With off-site media, consider publishing abbreviated articles or clips from longer storytelling videos. These can be linked to their full versions on your site, which will draw traffic there. This provides an excellent way to track a client’s interest and convert leads because they are going from off-site media to your site, where the back-door data is completely accessible to you. Track this activity and use that data to inform how you publish content in the future. Rely on your digital marketing service provider to analyze that data and help set a strategic direction for your B2B content marketing.
In House Or Outsource?
If you’re anywhere near the tech or startup space you’re probably aware by now that you need to have a good B2B content marketing strategy, even if you’re unsure where to start. Don’t worry, you’re not alone: Only 37% of companies have a documented content marketing strategy.
Producing quality content takes time and, more importantly, a team. You’re busy though, and your team doesn’t have the know-how or bandwidth to commit to a full-bore content marketing push, even if you think it would be worth your time and money to invest in one.
So how do you get started with your B2B content marketing strategy? Here are a few low-impact ways to get your feet wet while still figuring it out.
B2B Content Marketing In-House
Believe it or not, this is still one of the best ways to start building a content marketing strategy. This is true even if your team doesn’t consist of professional writers. Consumers and potential business partners alike are searching for authenticity, and everything you create is going to ring more true if it comes from the actual experts at your company, even if it needs to be worked on by an editor before it goes to any public space.
That’s how we do it at RevenueZen, in fact: sure, there are marketers and professional writers on our team, but we tap people from other departments to put out content on their areas of expertise because they know what they’re talking about.
The problem here, of course, is that your team probably has other work to do, and writing even a short article can be a significant time-sink that might take away from other important tasks. Plus, even if they’re a good writer, you probably want someone with a marketing background and an editor’s eye to make sure that their content looks good and performs well in terms of organic search and SEO, and that adds another step to the process.
Ideally, if you want to go this route, you’re going to need someone to handle SEO, keyword research, writing, editing, CMS management, etc. This could be a single content manager or a VP of marketing, or a whole marketing team consisting of writers, search experts, copyeditors, and more.
Realistically, you’ll need at least two different people working on different parts of the content production process. If you’re just starting your B2B content marketing strategy, these are a lot of new hires to invest in, especially if you’re only doing a couple of pieces a week.
Outsourcing Your B2B Content Marketing Strategy
Another approach is outsourcing these tasks to a good B2B content marketing agency (like RevenueZen—wink, wink).
A good B2B content marketing agency will take your ideas and your passion and translate them into solid content with a minimal amount of effort from you. It’s going to cost you, of course, but building good content is surprisingly time-consuming, and while returns are worth it when those B2B inbound leads start rolling in, you simply might not be able to take the time away from mission-critical tasks to do it yourself.
A good agency will synthesize your areas of expertise, work with experts to craft the content, and turn it around with minimal input from you. For lean startups and small businesses, this is often way more practical than bringing these tasks in-house.
The advantage of outsourcing this type of work to a quality partner is that they can often create content that celebrates your strengths and highlights your accomplishments in ways you might never have thought of yourself.
Getting a fresh set of eyes on the work that you do can be a huge asset to your business, too — you’re often too close to the process to see a lot of what’s worth talking about.
You usually don’t have enough work for an in-house team when you’re just launching your B2B content marketing strategy. A quality partner can help give you the best mix of talented content experts for far less than the cost of one or two new full-time hires.
The Hybrid Approach
In most scenarios, you’ll actually do some combination of the above. You might even want to throw in some paid advertising, as well, using your team or an agency.
If you’re trying to feed your funnel and want to have a comprehensive content offering to show to potential clients, a full-court press like this is the best option. It is also the most expensive and the most time-consuming. You’ll need people on your team to manage it — and the resources for creators — both internally and externally.
Chances are good that if you’re just starting out and trying to stay lean, this isn’t going to be the most practical approach. It is something to aim for. You can adopt elements of a hybrid approach as you experiment with your content strategy — running paid ads temporarily, tapping someone internally to write a guest post, moving some marketing tasks onto one of your high-performers plate, etc.
You can also lean into the areas where you’re strongest — handling SEO or writing yourself, for example, while outsourcing other areas. Or maybe you’re a better strategist but don’t want to do all the busywork. Some of our clients with very little time still have fantastic ideas and unique insights on their industry to share. Our client tells our writers their stories and perspectives, then we do all the nitty-gritty writing and editing work. This is a big part of the LinkedIn selling strategy we run for founders.
The ROI on content marketing is solid and consistent. It’s something that your company is going to want to invest in as it grows, but it can take a while to see results and it often lacks the tactile returns of more traditional methods (at first, anyway).
It’s not something that you want to ignore though, and the sooner you start building out a content marketing strategy, the better off you’re going to be. The best time to start content marketing is 6 months ago.
Start exploring options internally. Reach out to potential partners.
Do your research now, and decide how you want to approach this critical part of your marketing efforts today.
NEW: 16 Expert B2B Content Marketing Tips to Help You Grow
We asked 16 industry experts their biggest advice when it comes to increasing the effectiveness of a B2B content marketing strategy. Here’s what they say to focus on:
- Look for Co-Branding Opportunities
- Research SEO Topic Clusters
- Revamp Old Content to Optimize SEO
- Prove to Google You’re the Expert
- Publish Content in Trade Publications
- Collaborate With Your Sales Team
- Be Passionate About Your Work
- Do Your Keyword Research
- Make Sure Your Content Leads Readers Toward a Solution
- Spend as Much on Distribution as on Content Creation
- Integrate Case Studies and Third-Party Reviews
- Focus On Revenue Metrics
- Create Social Proof and Use It in Your Content
- Rely on a People-First Content Strategy
- Review Your Competitors’ Strategies
- Find Unique Perspectives to Tell an Interesting Story
Let’s break these down a bit further and see exactly what the experts think.
Look for Co-Branding Opportunities
No matter how impressive your product or service is, the reality is customers need an entire suite of solutions beyond just yours, and this is why exploring co-branded marketing opportunities with complementary brands can extend your reach and boost B2B content.
Simply looking at your offerings in a vacuum can limit your reach and decrease your marketing strategy effectiveness.
However, by identifying other solutions that your customer typically needs and partnering with the brands that provide them as co-branded sponsorships, blog posts, and webinars, you ensure your brand is top of mind for the right customers so that when they need your particular offering, your brand stays top of mind.
In looking beyond your solutions and searching for co-branding opportunities, you can effectively boost your B2B marketing strategy.
Research SEO Topic Clusters
It’s one of the biggest factors in the content strategies I create for my clients: SEO topic clusters. It means you do keyword research, cluster the keywords that fit together, and form a category aka cluster. Per keyword, you decide which of your pages is most important.
Let’s say you sell fruit trees. Your page with your apple trees is just as important as the page with your lemon trees, but they need different keywords. So “apple tree” is a topic cluster and the keywords “buy apple tree”, “what apple tree in dry climate”, and “apple tree in city garden” are keywords that belong to this cluster.
For these, create high-quality blog articles that link to each other AND to your important “apple tree” page. They do NOT link to anything Lemon Tree related.
With this method, you make it clear to the search engine crawlers what your pages are about and which page is most important for that topic. Do this and you will receive much more organic traffic on this page!
Revamp Old Content to Optimize SEO
You’ve spent a lot of time working on content for your B2B strategy and not all of it has performed well in organic search results. The good news is, you can increase the effectiveness of that content by revamping it.
Take some time (in Google Search Console) to see what words it IS ranking for or where it’s showing up in the SERPs. Then adjust some headers, add in a few more paragraphs based on what you found, and let Google crawl again. As you revamp content, it’s likely your placement will increase and drive more traffic!
Prove to Google You’re the Expert
One of the key ingredients to ranking in Google’s Organic search results is to prove your in-depth knowledge on a particular topic to rank. Your one page of content to ‘hit’ your keyword is not enough. Google knows semantically related keywords/topics so we have to ensure we cover many facets and appropriate interlink between these pages.
My big tip is to use a tool like answerthepublic.com (for free) which when you put in a phrase/term gives you an array of questions (who, what, where, when, why how,) besides prepositions and comparison questions/statements.
Your dream would be to incorporate most of this into content on your website. You will see the 100+ questions and then decide how to break these subject matters up and distribute them across multiple pages of content on your website.
Remember Google’s job is to deliver the best answers to people’s questions (even if the user writes a statement) so be comprehensive with your answers.
Publish Content in Trade Publications
I’ve had significant results amplifying the effectiveness of B2B content marketing by publishing articles in niche trade publications on behalf of my clients.
For example, I have an energy-related client. In the digital publicity work that I do, my team and I reach out to many online publications. Many of these are industry blogs.
While the traffic isn’t huge, the audience is well-targeted. Decision-makers who might buy their product read these publications, and that translates into substantial leads.In their case, we target energy-related, supply chain, and other publications that are relevant to their product.
Of course, you need to produce great content or pitch a story to a writer that’s relevant and engaging. Then, we give them an interesting reason to link back to the company website, which raises its authority. Try this tactic to amp up your B2B content marketing strategy.
Collaborate With Your Sales Team
While direct contact with customers is very important, I’ve also learned that your sales team is a great source of customer insights. These are the people who spend the most time with customers. They hear first-hand what problems customers are trying to solve with your product or service and how they communicate those problems. They can tell you the lingo customers are using.
A sales team can also give you insights into how customers perceive your product or service. There may be certain objections that your sales team addresses regularly or, conversely, a specific feature that always resonates with customers. Salespeople can also tell you what content will engage customers and what will fall flat.
Be Passionate About Your Work
I’ve been in the business world for a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of different content marketing strategies. But the one tip that I always tell people is to be passionate about their content.
If you’re not passionate about what you’re writing, then it’s going to show. And that will not help your business. People want to see that you’re excited about what you’re doing. They want to see that you’re engaged with your work.
When you’re passionate about your work, it shows in your content. You’ll be more likely to put more thought into it. And that thoughtfulness will come across to your readers.
Passionate content is also more unique. When you’re enthusiastic about your topic, you’re more likely to find new and interesting ways to write about it. And that can make your content stand out from the rest.
So, if you want to be more effective in your content marketing, be passionate about your work. It’ll show in your writing, and it’ll make your content more memorable and unique.
Do Your Keyword Research
Regardless of your industry or the size of your business, keyword research is essential to increasing your B2B Content Marketing Strategy.
Keywords are everywhere, whether directly in the content or searching social platforms, if your keyword strategy isn’t on point, your content marketing strategy will not be effective.
You should aim for keywords with a high search rate but with low difficulty. Pull together silos for particular subjects, build your content out from there and market it using the same keywords.
Make Sure Your Content Leads Readers Toward a Solution
Too many companies get excited about content marketing and write about all things in their industry, thinking they’re covering the “top of the funnel”.
However, if your content doesn’t lead customers into a journey where your product or service is at the bottom of that funnel, you could be in trouble—or attracting the wrong types of buyers.
It starts with the problem you’re solving, who has that problem and then building out the full buyer persona to know what people are asking when they’re problem-aware, solution-aware, and product-aware. If you do this right, you’ll see conversion in your efforts!
Spend as Much on Distribution as on Content Creation
The biggest tip I have to increase the effectiveness of B2B content marketing is to ensure that you match the dollars you spend on content creation with content distribution. The biggest mistake I see made, repeatedly (even at Fortune 500 companies) is not spending to get the content out.
At one major company, for example, we took our best piece of content (in terms of organic success) and tested a huge spend on it—versus spending behind other good content. There was a 6x return on this investment in terms of overall reach. More importantly, we saw an uptick in traffic back to the website.
Too often, the work is spent on creating brilliant content, with the “Field of Dreams” thinking—if you make it, they will come. In the content world, that’s not always the case. So planning a full-scale distribution strategy will maximize your spending on content.
Integrate Case Studies and Third-Party Reviews
Our biggest tip is to integrate the use of case studies and third-party verified reviews—such as the ones from Clutch—into all stages of your content marketing plan. Use these sprinkled into your content itself on blogs and articles targeting top, middle, and bottom-of-funnel topics.
We also like to use case studies or review excerpts in our advertising campaigns here at our eCommerce agency, especially those retargeting website visitors who have been checkout out our service or blog pages.
These strategies mean that whenever a prospect eventually speaks with your team on a call, they’ve already got a baseline level of trust and a belief that you can deliver excellent results in your market.
Focus On Revenue Metrics
Metrics like page views, search rankings, and sessions only matter where they translate to revenue wins.
To make your content marketing as effective as possible, start by measuring which content performs best in closed-won deals, and then work backward up the funnel from there.
For example, did one ebook show up again and again in closed-won deals for the last quarter? You know it’s an effective down-funnel, so optimize it for higher-funnel metrics—increase the number of people who are seeing it and filling out the form.
Create Social Proof and Use It in Your Content
Social proof is a very effective tool for content marketing. Use testimonials and reviews from satisfied customers to incorporate your audience’s voices into your marketing materials.
This helps build trust with potential buyers and makes them more likely to purchase your products or services.
Rely on a People-First Content Strategy
Avoid a search engine-first approach—while SEO is a helpful strategy, content created solely for search engines tends to strongly correlate with content that viewers find unsatisfying.
Be mindful of whether you’re developing content for search engines or human readers, or are simply summarizing what others have said instead of sharing fresh insights.
These questions will help you differentiate and create better, more relevant content for your audiences.
Research Your Competitors’ Strategies
Of course, there are several competitors in your B2B content marketing—some even use the same strategy to make their content more useful.
So, I recommend you audit your competitors and find out what type of strategies they’re using, their keywords, their audience, and which channels they’re using to promote their content.
Researching your competitors may give you a clear image of the content. Besides that, you can find what part of the information you’re lacking—later you can fill these gaps.
Find Unique Perspectives to Tell an Interesting Story
My biggest tip for boosting a B2B content marketing strategy is to find unique perspectives. Everyone talks about “storytelling” in marketing, but few do it because it’s hard!
Not only do you need to know your prospect’s motivations, where they are in the sales cycle, and what they want to achieve, but the B2B content that makes an impact is interesting and brings fresh perspectives, whether that’s via data, anecdotes from SMEs, or tactical “how to’s.” This requires planning and creating a solid brief for every piece of content.
Whether you’re a fledgling business or an established one, you need to build an effective content marketing strategy. It’s a critical component of your digital marketing that will help you put your business right in front of your target audience. This will help:
- Establish yourself as an expert and authority in your industry.
- Drive your inbound marketing results.
- Boost signups, sales, and any other marketing and sales goals you may have.
Content marketing is one of the most impactful yet cost-effective ways of reaching your target audience. But for it to work, you must build an effective B2B content marketing strategy.