When it comes to content marketing, it can seem like B2C companies are the only ones who have the flexibility and scope to dig into the concept.
For some reason, content marketing comes across as a dialogue that can only happen between businesses and consumers. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Just because other companies may be more in tune with the inner workings of content marketing, does not mean that they don’t want value-added content that convinces them why a B2B product or service is the best option.
If you are on a B2B marketing team, content can be a critical tool for attracting leads and generating conversions.
However, it all starts with a thoughtful content marketing strategy.
How to build a B2B content marketing strategy
How will you know how to truly hone your message and reach your target audience without a comprehensive blueprint?
Why a B2B content marketing strategy is essential
Think of the last time you were driving through an area you had never been to before.
It's very likely that after you passed by the last familiar place to you, you pulled out a device that guided you the rest of the way.
A B2B content marketing strategy does the same thing.
It helps you decide on an approach, identifies familiar landmarks along the way, and helps you develop a route that will help you reach your goals.
According to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2019 B2B Content Marketing report, the, “Two biggest benefits of a documented content marketing strategy are that it aligns a team around a common mission and goals (81 percent) and makes it easier to determine which type of content to develop (81 percent).”
A B2B content marketing strategy is your blueprint for B2B content marketing success.
Determining your audience
In 2014, the average person saw 5,000 ads a day.
Today, this number is likely higher. Alongside that, this data brings about the realization that everyone is being pulled in multiple directions when it comes to brand messaging.
You have a limited amount of time, resources, and money to reach the B2B buyer that will resonate with your message the most. So, a carefully crafted B2B content marketing strategy can help you figure out who these individuals are and help you focus your efforts.
Recently, CMI stated in its B2B Content Marketing Research that teams that create well-researched personas were successful, but only 42 percent of B2B companies were actually talking to their customers.
The only way you are going to find your target audience is by going right to the source. Ask about the types of content they engage with, the answer may surprise you.
Find what piques interest (and why)
The key to knowing the type of content that is going to really attract your target audience of B2B buyers rests on two things:
- Knowing what information and content they are searching for, and
- Understanding the “why” behind their search patterns.
For example, you may find that a large subset of your target audience likes to watch webinars and video tutorials regarding a widely-used software tool in your industry. This information is great, you now know "what," but are still in the dark as to “why.”
A bit more investigation may reveal that many people in your industry are having a hard time with user-experience regarding the specific technology. Now, you have your in. You can create blog or video content that gets to the heart of this issue.
Knowing "why" helps to empower you to develop content that delivers what your client base is really looking for.
Keep an eye on your competitors
One of the best ways to know which content is performing well or content marketing approaches to avoid is to look no further than your competitors.
You and your competitors are serving the same market, which puts you all in the proximity to reach the same audience. This fact makes your competitors some of the most valuable resources for knowing the topics, approaches, and strategies to use (or avoid) in your content marketing strategy.
Are they uniquely covering an event? Have they tapped a group of influencers you should look into? Did they already try something you were thinking of? Use them as a benchmark to see what is working in your industry and what isn’t.
Get a little personal
You didn’t create well-researched personas, send surveys to B2B buyers, and check out the competitors for nothing. The goal is to build brand messaging that resonates with your audience in some way.
According to a 2017 Consumer Trends Report developed by Kibo Commerce, 85 percent of consumers said personalized promotions on a homepage influenced their purchasing decision. Not only that, but 44 percent of individuals from the same study also said targeted recommendations on the product page influenced them.
Use your B2B content marketing strategy to get personal. Position product recommendations, testimonials, blog content, and even email messaging to target specific elements of your customers' consumer buying behaviors.
Social media is an excellent medium for getting more personal with B2B buyers. Sharing photos, online reviews, and industry-specific knowledge can reveal that you have your ear to the ground and directly relate to what your consumers need.
Embrace user-generated content
User-generated content can be a gold mine for those who know how to strategically and successfully incorporate it into a comprehensive strategy. Content that is generated by consumers is heavily relied on by other consumers.
About 92 percent of consumers turn to people they know for referrals above any other source. Also, word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing yields twice the amount of sales that paid marketing does. WOM, referral, and customer review statistics are staggering overall.
B2B buyers want to know how others have used your product or service and if they recommend it (or not). Make a point to include reviews, recommendations, and other media that gives insight into what consumers can expect.
Take time to research what your audience is already saying about your product, and see how you can incorporate it (with their permission) into your content marketing strategy. The reviews of peers and others in their position will likely outweigh anything you could ever say.
Research and establish goals
Now that you've seen insight into tactics you can utilize for your content marketing strategy, it's time to decide on the goals you want to achieve with your content.
This process involves some relevant research, as well as a plan for involving your stakeholders. Work with them to decide what your company can improve on and how your content marketing strategy can help you reach these goals.
For example, your team may want to increase the amount of B2B buyers that meet with customer representatives to view webinars because you have identified that this is a significant part of your acquisition strategy.
You would research what your current progress is with this tactic and the methods you have at your disposal to improve upon the current metric. You may decide to begin scheduling webinar appointment times and including links to sign up for a slot of time in your newsletter, or you might publicize this service with a short Instagram video.
You can attach a goal of how many webinars you want to do and connect this with your overall business and sales goals.
Start with a larger goal, see how your B2B content marketing strategy can support it, and develop benchmarks for addressing it along the way.
Determine how to measure success
This entry goes right along with the previous tip. To know if you are meeting goals, you have to determine KPIs, monitor relevant analytics, and keep track of the most important metrics that truly matter to your overall goals.
Going back to the webinar example: While you may be monitoring web analytics, email marketing metrics, and conversion metrics, there are only a few that will matter to you. For instance, webinar link click-throughs, email opens, and the conversion path from email open to purchasing the service will be the most significant information to you.
While all information will seem significant, it is crucial only to conduct analytics and monitor metrics that are truly vital to your chosen goal.
Invest in a tool that allows you to dig deeper into data insights. Various content creation tools can help you to go beyond data and page views to truly understand how your content is performing and how to improve it.
Understand your customer’s path
Other than creating personas, this is a great way to get into the mind of a B2B buyer. To create a B2B content marketing strategy that's appealing to your consumers, it makes sense to map out their journey from initial interaction with your brand to purchasing that final item or service.
Wondering how are customers getting from seeing an ad on social media to navigating to your e-commerce site or communicating with a customer representative? Well, a customer journey map can help.
Digital analytics software, such as Google Analytics, HubSpot, and many others, can help you attribute values to various milestones in the buyer process, as well as help you begin to monitor their entire buyer journey.
You can then see how long it is taking B2B buyers to become familiar with your brand and what it offers. You can also see if specific sources are more influential than others.
Are email newsletters paying off? Or, are reviews and testimonials the deciding factor for your target audience? Mapping the customer journey will help you answer these questions.
Creating a relationship is key
Think about the last time you made a significant purpose.
It is highly likely that the brand resonated with you in some personal way. Whether a customer service representative or cashier participated in small talk with you or a blog post got to the heart of your needs as a buyer, the brand in some way cultivated a relationship with you.
This is your mission as a B2B marketer. Wants and needs are not the only factors in buying decisions; the closeness a buyer feels to your brand also plays a huge part.
A stat from the Content Marketing Institute reveals that small businesses with blogs receive 126 percent more lead growth than businesses without. Also, DemandGen found that 95 percent of B2B buyers consider content as trustworthy when evaluating a company and its offerings.
It is no secret as to why varying forms of content are crucial to B2B buyers, as they enable you to develop an effective brand voice that allows you to build a relationship with your target audience.
This idea goes back to personalizing your messaging when appropriate, making a point to add value to your content, and doing what you can to go the extra mile.
This could look like interactions with your clients on social media, finding creative ways to let them know you appreciate their feedback, or hyper-personalizing your email messaging to relate to them directly.
Always look for the next best thing
The world of content marketing is always changing, as well as the tastes of your audiences.
Never forget how crucial it is to keep on the lookout for new trends and content marketing approaches in your industry. Create a spreadsheet or repository to keep track of what’s new. An example of this would be ephemeral content marketing in the form of Snapchat or Instagram Stories.
Find the best blogs in your industry, locate and follow thought leaders on social media, and invest in a tool that allows you to stay up-to-date on relevant industry content and B2B marketing best practices.
The closer you are to new trends, the more likely that you can produce timely information that sets you apart as an expert while helping you appeal to your audience.
Make promotion front and center
You developed this awesomely compelling content. Great! How is your audience going to see it? Where are they going for their content? How can you ensure your material is front and center?
Find out where your audience is, and do what you can to get it in front of them.
For example, do you have a size-able B2B buyer audience on LinkedIn? Then, it makes sense to take advantage of LinkedIn’s blog functionality that allows you to post articles.
You can also create an industry group, encourage your staff to share insights, and make a point to connect with and follow thought leaders on the platform.
You may also want to look at a mix of content promotion that may include organic and paid media strategies.
Maybe your audience is on Instagram instead. In that case, researching the best hashtags is going to be vital to getting your content in front of your target B2B buyer audience.
Find out where your audience is, and research best practices for utilizing the platform to the fullest. Make a point to put as much effort into promoting your content as you do creating it.
Content marketing may seem like an elusive concept that is only for B2C marketers to master. This notion is false.
Your B2B buyers want to interact with authentic brands that provide value-added content, just like their B2C counterparts.
A surefire way to deliver content that increases trust ,engages your target audience, and leads to conversions is with a well-established B2B content marketing strategy. This will be your foundation for crafting a plan that helps you realize your goals and create B2B buyer connections that last.
If your company is struggling to find where it fits into the B2B marketing landmark, begin the first step by working on a comprehensive and effective strategy. It could be just what you need to jumpstart your B2B content marketing efforts.