The Definitive Guide to Using Content Marketing for B2B

Have you ever considered your brand too boring for content and social media marketing? Have you ever wanted to adopt content marketing tactics but instead convinced yourself that content marketing is for B2C brands, not for B2B companies?

Well, you may have thought wrong.

Content marketing may have become a mainstream tactic for B2C businesses but it’s proving to be a crucial marketing strategy for B2B companies as well. In this guide we look at why content marketing works for B2B companies and how you can include it in your marketing strategy.

Why Content Marketing?

Bottom line, when consumers are contemplating making a purchase, they want to read and hear about solutions to their problems, not a marketing spiel about your brand.

And when they research brands they don’t want to hear about your brand from you—they want third party recommendations from online peers. This is where content marketing comes into play and makes your brand successful (while also helping consumers).

Here are some ways in which content marketing can help your brand:

  • Search engine rankings: Optimized content which links to your brand and references your product or service as a solution for a pain point will rank high in search engine results.
  • Brand awareness: Modern consumers research purchase decisions and look for recommendations from their online peers. You want them to come across your content on their own and find organic mentions from people who recommend your brand online.
  • Conversions: Quality content in the form of e-books, white papers, and case studies can convert interested consumers into paying customers. Good content can remove the hesitation of fence-sitters and turn their decision in your favor.
  • Leads: Working with online influencers can bring in a lot of new leads.
  • Thought leadership and authority: Even if someone isn’t ready to buy yet, you still want them to look at your brand as an authority in your niche. You want to be their go-to resource for information. If you manage to do that you may feature high in the list of brand names they think of when they do get around to making a purchase.
  • Customer retention: Creating content specifically for your customers makes them think highly of your brand and is likely to make them stay on with you.
  • Outbound marketing: When you do outbound marketing, link to good quality content. Your customers want to hear about a topic, a solution or something new—they don’t want to hear about your brand.

Content Marketing Trends for B2B

Content Marketing Institute paired with MarketingProfs to research the state of B2B content marketing and came up with some interesting findings.

  • The most intriguing finding was that while 93% of marketers use content marketing, only 42% consider themselves good at it. So almost everyone is doing it but less than half the marketers feel they are doing it well.
  • The study also found that 69% of B2B marketers feel challenged by a lack of time to produce enough content. Those facing a similar problem might want to consider hiring a full-time content producer.
  • Research proves that B2B marketers with proper strategies display a deeper understanding of content marketing and produce better results. So map out your strategy before you start creating content!
  • The average B2B marketer uses 13 content marketing channels. Number one being social media, followed by articles on their websites, e-newsletters, and blogs. Case studies, white papers, webinars, and infographics also rank high and are used by over half the marketers surveyed. (We will be focusing on these seven most important tactics through the rest of this guide.)
  • The average B2B marketer uses 6 social media platforms. LinkedIn and Twitter are rated the highest in effectiveness among these. Other channels are also used but B2B marketers don’t seem as confident in using them.

Set Your Goal

Before you do anything, set clear goals for your content marketing program to achieve. Not only will your goals keep you organized and focused, they will also help you measure your progress. Common goals for content marketing include:

  • Creating brand awareness
  • Generating leads
  • Moving potential customers through sales funnel
  • Building sales

Producing the Right Content

Once you’ve set your goals think about the type of content that will cater to these goals most effectively and how you’d optimize your content to achieve these goals. For example, if lead generation is your aim, create landing pages for your content to link back to with a lead generation form.

Here are a few places to get content creation ideas from:

Know what your customers are saying: Monitor social media and engage with your customers to learn about the content they want. Document their questions and write posts or e-books addressing these questions.

Produce content for all stages of the buyer’s journey: Team up with someone from the sales department and learn about the buying cycle and process in your company. Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes and think about the kind of content you would seek out when making a purchase decision. Here’s something for you to consider:

  • What questions would a buyer ask? Write these questions down and create a series of blog posts addressing them.
  • What would help the buyers make a decision?
  • Can you provide them with any information that might help them along the journey? Present any detailed research in an easy-to-understand manner in the form of a white paper or an infographic.
  • Can you provide video tutorials that could be of use to your target demographic?
  • What types of blogs would they follow? Collaborate with bloggers in this niche.
  • Buyers want to hear from other consumers. Can you create case studies?

Quora: Check out Quora to find out the most-discussed topics and the most frequently asked questions in the niche pertaining to your brand. Create content that answers these questions.

Don’t partake in random acts of content: The most important thing to remember is that you don’t want to create content for the sake of it. Your content should always have a purpose. It should answer a question. It should offer a solution to a pain point you know your target buyers experience. It should express thought leadership or opinion on a topic. If you aren’t exactly sure why you’re writing a post or who is going to read it—stop right there and write about something else.

So You’ve Built a Database of Excellent Topics. What Now?

Once you know which topics are going to help propel your business forward, create a timeline. Develop an editorial schedule and decide whether you’re going to appoint an in-house writer or hire outside help to create the content for you.

Once you do, make sure that you create a variety of content and cover all the topics that you’ve come up with.

Next, choose a tone for your content. Which tone do you think would best capture the personality of your brand — educational, formal, friendly, funny, or sarcastic? Whichever tone you choose, you need to be consistent with it.

Company Blog: Maintaining a company blog is the most effective way of generating traffic and converting leads. Don’t neglect your blog; make sure it’s optimized, contains quality content, and demonstrates thought leadership.

Request forward thinkers in your niche to write for your blog. This will bring new advice to your audience, and as the guest bloggers share their own work they will expose your blog to their audience as well.

E-newsletters: Don’t neglect content creation for your current customers. A weekly or monthly newsletter keeps that door for communication and engagement open. Some things to consider regarding your newsletter:

  • Curate content from others sources that points to a trend or provides important news/ information.
  • Include your own content, maybe a post that answers a question that you often get from your customers.
  • Include something fun, something that shows your brand’s personality. Held a party recently? Include a photo and a short anecdote from the event. A human element works wonders!
  • Provide them with exclusive information about your brand. They’ll feel special and possibly even feel compelled to share it within their networks.

Guest blogging: Guest blogging in your niche is a great way to build authority and to drive traffic back to your site.

Reach out to bloggers whose audience you know would love your content. Keep your emails short, sweet and personal. Tell the bloggers you’d like to offer an exclusive write-up. Suggest the topics you want to write about and offer to do a guest post swap.

White papers: White papers are used to deal with topics that are too heavy for traditional blog posts. A white paper is a downloadable document that presents research or explains a topic in depth. White papers can be great for lead generation if someone has to fill out a form to download your content.

E-books: E-books are fantastic for lead generation. Tackle an in-depth topic in digestible and visually appealing pieces.

Videos: With attention spans waning, videos have become a popular form of content. Create something entertaining and educational for your current and potential customers. Give them a demo of your software. Record a tutorial. Explain something complicated in a simple way.

Online presentations: Online presentations, usually made via SlideShare, are a popular way to convey big ideas in a simple manner. Use colors, images, charts, and graphs to make your presentation visually appealing. Keep the writing short and concise.

Repurpose all this juicy content: When you come across a good topic to write about, think of various types of content you can use to drive your point home. For example, say I am a content marketer for Mail Tree, a fictitious email marketing platform. I have come across some new research pertaining to subject lines that get the most opens and I want to share this information with my readers. Instead of creating one blog post about it, I can:

  • Create a two-part blog post. The first part will present my research and the second will impart actionable advice on how to incorporate this research into an email marketing strategy.
  • I would reach out to bloggers who write about marketing and have written about email marketing in the past. I’d write about what this research means for email marketing and how marketers can use this research to improve their strategy.
  • I could present the research in the form of a fun infographic.
  • I’d create a SlideShare presentation based on my research. I’d give my readers tips and examples regarding how to implement this research in their email marketing efforts.
  • I’d write an e-book about crafting the perfect marketing email, complete with examples and research weaved in.
  • I’d create a white paper that is a slightly more formal presentation of my research.
  • And of course I would create an email for my consumers encapsulating the research and presenting best practices for email marketing based on this research.

Look at all these forms of content—way more effective than just one post, right?

Social Media Platforms

Having an active presence on social media is a must. It helps you not just promote your content but also engage with current and potential customers.

Everyone knows what to do on Twitter and Facebook and how important they are so I’m not going to spend time on them; instead let’s look at other less-used channels that B2B marketers ought to focus on.

  • LinkedIn: Create a professional-looking LinkedIn page for your company and post your best content on it.

Join LinkedIn groups that your target consumers are likely to be a part of, or start your own group. The goal here is to engage with new people and to provide tips and useful advice to hook their interest. Share your own content of course, but also share other people’s content. Ask questions and invite discussion. Keep the community feel going.

  • Google Plus: Join G+ groups that align with your niche. Read other people’s content and questions and provide legitimate feedback. Ask questions and invite opinions. It’s all about engagement.
  • Consider a presence on Pinterest, Instagram or Vine to convey your company culture. Post company happy hour photos or a list of things to do in your city. The idea is not to let your brand come across as too dry or dull; a creative social media outlet will help you with this!

Don’t get too ambitious and start creating a presence on each and every social media platform though. The trick is to only be present on the ones you have enough time for and those which are doing the best job propelling your brand forward. A mediocre attempt at social media is worse than no attempt.

Dominate Your Niche

Focus on your company’s niche as opposed to creating content for an entire industry. Casting too wide a net for content creation can lead to not ranking well in search results and facing too much competition. Having a niche-based strategy means you’re only appealing to your target consumers and filtering out a lot of “extra noise.”

Back to my email marketing example, my content would tackle topics that pertain to email marketing, not marketing in general. I would optimize my content to be found by people searching specifically for e-mail marketing.

Content Promotion

Promoting your awesome content is as important as creating it. After all the hard work producing and publishing great content, you want it to be found and seen by thousands of people, right? Here are some ways to promote your content:

  • Share your content on all the social media platforms you have a presence on.
  • Start discussions on G+ and LinkedIn on topics pertaining to your content. Get members engaged and link them to your content.
  • Email your best work, such as e-books and infographics, to influencers you have a relationship with and to anyone who already loves you and your brand. Ask them to share it within their networks.
  • Send out an email to your consumer base linking to your content. Make them feel special and tell them they are the first to know about it; they’ll be more likely to share it.
  • Outreach to bloggers in the same space as your brand and offer them your best content to share with those in their networks. Reference posts related to topics they often write about to show them that your content is a good fit for their blogs.
  • Link to your blog from your Twitter bio and email signature.
  • Consider paid-for placement such as sponsored tweets, LinkedIn ads and third-party email blasts for your premium content that you just know is fantastic.
  • Display it on your homepage.

Measurement

Measuring your content marketing efforts is crucial so that you can report back to your boss with the amount of traffic, leads, and new customers you are bringing to the business.

You’ll probably want to measure both hard as well as soft metrics. Soft metrics are things that show positive sentiment, like social media shares, and hard metrics are things that display measurable progress towards your goal.

Content marketing metrics range from e-book downloads to site traffic to online purchases. The important thing is to define a measurable goal before starting a campaign so that you know where you are headed.

Next-Level Tactics

  • Creative story telling: Don’t just produce content; tell a story. Whether it be the story of your brand, of a customer or a coworker, creative story telling gains and holds readers’ attention.
  • Integration with PR and social media: PR and digital marketing are starting to blend together. Use your PR knowledge, or hire the expertise of a PR professional, to help your content marketing efforts. From content promotion to relationship building, a PR strategy will take your content marketing to the next level.
  • Marketers as publishers: With content creation being such an effective marketing tactic, marketers are now also publishers and are required to produce a lot of great content. In fact, more and more companies are now hiring those with journalism or literature backgrounds for their marketing teams to produce quality content.
  • Collaborate with other experts: Whether it’s through guest post swapping, interview pieces or content sharing, collaboration with other experts in your niche will bring your content more followers.

If you’re ready to implement content marketing or take your content marketing efforts to the next level, let me know if you have any questions!

Do you use content marketing for your B2B brand? What type of content do you consider to be the most beneficial? Share in the comments below and cheers to a good discussion!

(Image Credit – CMI)