Customer acquisition has become web-centric, with potential leads turning to search engines, websites, and social media for answers before they look elsewhere. That’s why content marketing is still one of the most effective ways for B2B companies to drive traffic and generate leads.
But the competition is steep.
In a July 2018 study of North American businesses, 50 percent of respondents said they were planning to increase their B2B content marketing spending going forward.
Are your B2B content marketing strategies effective enough?
In this post, we’ll look at:
- What B2B content marketing is.
- How B2B content marketing differs from B2C content marketing.
- How to generate content ideas.
- Where to promote B2B content.
- Successful examples of B2B content marketing.
What is B2B Content Marketing?
B2B content marketing is the process of creating and distributing valuable content relevant to other potential business clients, rather than consumers.
As the buyer’s journey in B2B is typically longer than in B2C marketing, B2B content investment is usually much larger. Your content must answer common questions, show how you can solve prospects’ problems with practical solutions, and demonstrate that you are a credible business.
It’s all about driving sales by producing highly relevant content and using search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to improve your credibility, increase website traffic, and attract qualified leads.
The Difference Between B2B and B2C Content Marketing
B2C businesses sell products and services to customers for personal use (business-to-consumer), whereas B2B businesses sell products and services to decision-makers in other businesses (business-to-business).
B2B can include everything from a manufacturer selling goods to a wholesaler, to a cleaning company that cleans commercial buildings. Business consultants, law firms, software hosting companies, security firms, and reputation management companies all fit into the B2B bracket. The list goes on.
In terms of marketing, B2B content has several unique qualities:
- It’s more targeted. In B2B marketing, you need to appeal to a specific individual or small group of individuals within a business – the decision makers. For example, if five employees want new tablets, it’s the office manager you want to reach, as they make the buying decisions.
- It has a longer conversion process. B2B customers do more research before purchasing. They’ll read more online content and check out your competitors’ content, because there’s more pressure to make the right purchase decision.
- It’s more financially motivated. B2B customers are more concerned about improving the business’s bottom line. That doesn’t mean that B2B content can’t have emotional appeal, but the emotional power of the content needs to tie into the business benefits at the same time.
B2B Content Marketing Tactics: A Seven-Step Plan
To ensure you’re not wasting marketing resources, you need the right plan in place. Use the following guide to maximize results:
1. Set Clear Goals
Do you want to grow site traffic, build brand awareness, improve conversions, or increase your search engine rankings? It may be a combination of one or two things, but when every piece of content has a clear purpose it’s easier to achieve your objectives.
For example, if you want to build your list of email subscribers, what content do you need to publish? Do you need a clearer opt-in form on your homepage? Perhaps you need to reach out to your followers on social media to explain the benefits of subscribing.
When you know what you want to achieve, you can measure content performance and make improvements going forward.
2. Build Your Credibility
B2B customers expect you to know everything about your business and theirs. Your content needs to prove this, so consider using more data to build your credibility. For example, refer to industry studies, quote statistics, and create thought-leadership pieces that show your expertise.
When you show that you know your stuff, potential customers will see that your business is a credible solution to their needs.
3. Tell Better Stories
A good way to get potential customers to connect with your content is to use storytelling. Every business has a story to tell, and it actually makes the selling process easier. It humanizes your brand and can give you the competitive edge.
Use case studies based on customer success stories, talk about how your products are created, or share behind-the-scenes stories.
US technology company Cisco uses stories to good effect. Its website features entire pages dedicated to customer success stories, like this case study that tells the story of how Montana State University uses Cisco Software to improve efficiency and scalability. Customers can also submit their stories through their website. Can you do something similar?
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4. Use a Diverse Range of Content
Blog posts are effective, but consider other formats; you can appeal to different tastes and stand out by doing something different from your competitors. Integrate infographics, videos, webinars, and more into your content strategy to highlight your knowledge and expertise.
Again, Cisco came up with a great concept to promote its upgraded cyber security services. Instead of sending out a press release or creating a new blog post, it produced a graphic novel on the topic of internet safety.
It works because it’s so unique and more engaging than regular content. Think about how you can present information in a unique way to stand out.
Your website, emails, social media channels, paid ads, and live events all offer powerful marketing opportunities. But they work best when they’re integrated.
To strengthen customer relationships, find ways to guide your audience to your other online channels. For example, encourage email subscribers to check out your social media channels. Or use paid ads on social media to direct people to your blog.
6. Personalize Your Content
Every business has unique needs, and you need to show that you understand this.
According to a DemandGen report, 69 percent of B2B buyers say relevant content that speaks directly to their company was the most important factor when conducting vendor research.
Personalizing your content doesn’t just mean starting emails with “Hey *FNAME*”. For example, you can target people according to their:
- Job title or department.
- Age or gender.
- Geographical location.
- Stage in the buying journey.
- Website behavior.
- Social media activity.
- Purchase history.
Use this data to craft different types of content for each group. Prospects will have different questions and concerns, depending on who they are, and where they are in the buying cycle.
HubSpot, the inbound marketing and sales software company, is a master at B2B content strategy. Its blog is divided into several categories: Marketing, Sales, Service, and News and Trends. They know that each audience member has unique needs and craves different content, so they make it easier for each site visitor to find what they’re looking for. You can do the same.
Here’s another great example of a personalized and funny follow up video from FunnyBizz:
7. Track Your Metrics
Your content marketing efforts won’t work every time, but this is an opportunity, not a failure. You need to see how your target audience responds to content before you understand what works.
When you’ve monitored your traffic metrics, engagement metrics, and conversion metrics, you can see which content has the most impact. It means you can avoid future mistakes and focus on delivering content that your audience truly connects with.
B2B Content Formats
As B2B content is more focused on building trust, you should produce more high-value, long-form content in order to exchange it for prospects’ contact details.
According to a 2019 Content Marketing Institute study, 74 percent of B2B content marketers have used or developed long-form content in the past year. White papers and case studies were seen as the most effective types of content for the late stages of the buyer’s journey.
Awareness stage content typically includes blog posts, infographics, videos, and social media posts.
For the consideration stage, prospects expect guides, slide presentations, video comparisons, and webinars.
And for the decision stage, white papers, case studies, and research reports are crucial.
There’s some overlap, but this is basically the way to go. If you’re interested in reading more on this topic, we’ve written in-depth about creating content for the buyer journey.
How to Develop Fresh Ideas for B2B Content Marketing
It’s not easy to come up with new content ideas week after week. The trick is to realize that your audience doesn’t know your industry, products, and services like you do. So your goal should be to cover topics from a variety of angles so that your content is always seen as educational and never comes across as dull.
There are various ways to keep your content fresh, even if you know everything there is to know about a topic:
- Bring in different viewpoints. Use staff from different departments to write content, or hire freelance writers to bring a fresh perspective to topics.
- Use your own data. Analyze website traffic to see what search terms people are using to find your content. Find out which keywords from paid ads drive the most traffic. If you have a search option on your website, find out what people are searching for.
- Ask your existing customers what subjects they want covered. Use email and social media to conduct audience surveys.
- Search online for customer feedback. Conversations about your business, products, and services are taking place on LinkedIn Groups, Quora, Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere. What do people care about? Address it in future content.
Where to Distribute and Promote Your B2B Content
One of the final challenges is to get your content in front of prospects. While there are various ways to promote your B2B content, selecting the right channels will boost your chances of attracting the most qualified leads.
Each piece of content should be converted into around 20 or more social media updates. These can be scheduled over forthcoming months directly after publishing the original content.
Select the channels where your target market is most active. For B2B brands, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter have the most reach. However, don’t ignore Pinterest, Instagram, and Google Plus.
For example, check out how Hubspot uses Instagram to highlight their company values and facilitate customer service.
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Building an email subscriber list is perfect for B2B content promotion and lead nurturing, because you have complete control over your messaging and when your audience sees it.
According to a 2019 CMI report, 87 percent of respondents said they used email marketing successfully to nurture their audience.
Emails are the perfect platform to inform and educate, and you can use them to drive traffic to other content sources, such as your website or blog. A B2B audience likes to be kept in the loop, so whenever you have new information or news, make sure you email the latest information. It’s all about building trust and demonstrating your industry expertise.
Get opt-ins to your email newsletter via your website, blog posts, sales emails, and social media.
You could even use a piece of content in a cold email to leads.
Use PPC advertising on search engines and also social media. LinkedIn sponsored updates, promoted tweets, and Facebook sponsored posts can all be used to target specific audience segments more successfully.
An often ignored promotion tactic is to encourage your employees to share your branded content. They have their own social network and may have access to different audience segments that you normally can’t reach.
Get Active on B2B Community Sites
Websites such as Inbound and GrowthHackers already have an established audience of business professionals that you can tap into. With thousands of marketing and sales professionals from around the globe, these sites are a great opportunity to promote your content. Share your unique knowledge with others – the benefits of expanding your readership and network can last for years.
Do You Have a B2B Content Marketing Plan?
Going forward, it’s good practice to put together a document that outlines your plans for B2B content marketing success. Then, whenever you or your team need direction or inspiration, you’ll have a handy guide to refer to.
Your content may be more business-oriented, but remember that you’re still selling to people, so understanding your target audience is key.
In your content plan, add your target audience profile. List their pain points, desires, common questions, and online behaviors, because the more you know about the people you want to sell to, the better. It will lead to you creating more relevant and engaging content, which will ultimately increase leads and sales.
Need high-quality B2B articles to support your content marketing? Learn how Constant Content can help.