Beginner’s Guide to B2B Content Marketing in 2021
Ask any marketer what they think is the key to organic growth and they are likely to say “great content”. But content marketing is one area of digital marketing that’s highly underrated and particularly underutilized by the B2B sector.
Why? Our suspicion is that B2B companies often believe that content marketing is for consumer-facing businesses — and that big player decision-makers simply aren’t reading “content” before they buy.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
In this guide, we’re covering what B2B content marketing is, why it’s effective, and how to establish your own powerful content marketing strategy.
What is B2B Content Marketing?
B2B content marketing is a type of B2B marketing that involves using content to generate brand awareness, boost engagement, attract web traffic, and ultimately drive leads for your B2B business. B2B businesses are brands that sell products and services to other businesses rather than directly to consumers.
What’s Included in Content Marketing?
B2B content marketing encompasses different types of content and content distribution strategies. Content marketing can include all type of online content, including:
● Web page content
● Social media content
● Email marketing
● Video marketing
● Blog articles
● Case studies
If you are creating any type of content for your B2B brand, chances are you can use it to market your business, share it across platforms, and ideally generate sales. Content marketing helps you make the most of your content so you can achieve a handsome ROI for your efforts.
How Does B2B Content Differ from Consumer-Facing Content?
B2C (business to consumer) content is primarily focused on providing information to potential customers, working to build brand awareness, generate social media engagement, and drive sales.
But the B2B sector is highly discerning and has higher standards when it comes to the type of content it consumes. B2B brands are often trying to connect with business owners, executives, marketing leads, etc. who have the power to make buying decisions on behalf of the company.
This means that while B2C content can be widely diverse in terms of generating general interest, offering how-to guides, etc., B2B content has to work extra hard to inform, compare, convince, and sell.
However, not all B2B content is about the hard sell. We’ll talk about how to create B2B content that aligns with every stage of your prospective customer’s journey so they are itching to buy before they ever hop on a sales call.
Key Considerations for B2B Content Marketing
There are a few key principles that you must know if you are to create content for other brands, businesses, and potential buyers. These principles are:
- You must thoroughly understand your target audience and what does/does not compel them to buy from you.
- You must understand your competitors’ Unique Selling Propositions (USPs) and establish your own value proposition that stands out.
- You must know what platforms your audience use the most to find, engage with, and buy from brands like yours.
- You must master your brand’s voice and story to keep your content consistent across every platform and campaign.
- You must know the end goal of your content marketing so you can measure effectiveness based on the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that actually matter for your business.
- You must establish a traffic source for your content, whether it’s organic (SEO), paid ads, social, direct, referral, etc.
There will likely be other principles you pick up along the way based on what works for your particular niche and audience.
In general, though, market research, effective content creation, and having a content distribution strategy are key to seeing success with your B2B content.
How to Create a B2B Content Marketing Plan
Many B2B brands make the mistake of creating content for content’s sake without having a strategic plan for what they should be creating, how they should market it, and what results they are trying to generate.
The result is often content that falls flat and ends up being a waste of time and marketing dollars.
Don’t let this happen to you. Instead, follow these steps to establish an effective B2B content marketing strategy for 2021 and beyond.
1. Research Audience Personas
How well do you know your target audience?
If your answer to this question is something along the lines of, “Pretty good. We work with small business owners”, I have some bad news for you. This is not specific enough, Not by a long shot.
Different types of businesses of various sizes, niches, and offerings have different needs. They have different struggles and different questions they want to be answered. Your content can’t reel in them all; in fact, it shouldn’t try to.
Take some time to dig into what your target audience wants, needs, is struggling with, and wants to achieve. Don’t know these answers? Ask them in the form of a market research survey, by running and testing paid ads, and reaching out on social media.
Beyond simply uncovering “pain points”, you want to understand where your target customers are in their buyer’s journey. What are they searching for? What questions do they have? Why might they be interested in buying from you?
Build out this profile (or profiles) before you create a word of marketing content. Otherwise, you may be missing the market by creating content for the wrong audience with the wrong message at the wrong time.
2. Cultivate a Brand Narrative
Knowing your audience’s struggles will only take you so far. Especially if they can’t even identify the struggles they have themselves. Sometimes, they think they are perfectly content until they are faced with a question that reveals that there may be a better solution to what they are already doing.
This is where having a brand narrative comes in.
A brand narrative is essentially a story that takes your prospective customers from Point A to Point Z. It relates to where your buyers are NOW and moves them along a thought process of discovering that your brand presents a solution to a problem they didn’t even know they had.
Many brands do this with a “Start Here” or “How We Work” page. This content helps build that relationship without a hard sell.
If you don’t have a strong brand narrative, you will struggle to create content that aligns with your audience and works to make them realize you are the solution to their current woes.
3. Take a Buyer-Led Approach to Content
A huge mistake we see B2B brands making is creating content that’s all about “us us us” and not about the buyer. Your content shouldn’t be a continuous sales pitch about why you are the best; it should appeal to your audience’s struggles, interests, and goals.
For example, an About page that starts off with, “Our business has been in the X industry for over Y years. We have a great reputation and fantastic customer service…” is likely to make potential customers roll their eyes.
Instead, aim for something like: “For over X years, we have been helping Y people like you accomplish Z. If you are struggling with A, we’re here to show you that you’re not alone and that you have options in [ our brand ]. Go on this journey with us…”
Don’t rattle off all the features and benefits; instead, focus on answering buyers’ questions and answer the “why” of why it’s worth working with or buying from you.
4. Research Content Topics and Keywords
Keyword research is an essential part of creating content that drives organic traffic. In fact, search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the leading drivers of traffic for B2B brands.
Keywords are the key phrases people use to search Google for brands like yours. With effective keyword research, you can get your brand to rank higher in search and attract new customers.
You can then use these keywords to inform your content ideation strategy. Beyond keywords, though, you’ll want to come up with content ideas that are of interest to your audience. These can apply to web pages, blog posts, social media posts, and beyond.
Use tools like SEMRush.com to find high-value SEO keywords and content topics. Then, roll these into your overall content marketing strategy to drive traffic, leads, and sales.
5. Build Your Content Hierarchy
Another mistake we see brands make is exclusively creating what we call “top of funnel” content. This is content that casts a broad net and has an informative focus, but most often targets a relatively cold audience.
Think topics like “What is Digital Marketing?” or “What is a CRM?”. These can be highly informative but are likely to attract businesses from a variety of industries looking for general information.
Targeting these topics are still important as part of your traffic generation strategy, but you will also need content that nurtures general users into buyers. This means creating a content hierarchy of top of funnel, middle of funnel, and bottom of funnel content.
- Top of Funnel: Informative content that targets a broad, relatively cold audience. Ex: “What is Marketing?”, “How Do Facebook Ads Work?”, or “10 Best Social Media Platforms”.
- Middle of Funnel: Descriptive content that compares, contrasts, or convinces users to consider various options. Ex: “X Best Online Marketing Tools”, “Brand A vs Brad B: Which is Best?”, “X Best Productivity Software for Businesses”, etc.
- Bottom of Funnel: Branded content, content that sells, and content that describes your offer(s). These are typically your product, service, or sales pages. Ex: “[Brand] CRM Software”, “[Brand] Productive Tool & Features”, “Where to Buy [Brand]”, “Software Packages - Costs”, “Why Buy from Us?”, etc.
As you can see, you will need various types of content to appeal to buyers at various stages of the buying process. Just remember that all of this content should be written with your target audience in mind, not for a general audience that’s unlikely to buy from you.
6. Create Linkable Assets
“Linkable assets” are types of content that attract backlinks from other websites – backlinks that can improve your own site’s SEO, organic rankings, and traffic. They can also be a source of new customers.
Some types of linkable assets include:
● Resource libraries
● Free tools
● How-to guides
● Product catalogs
You can create these and publish them across a variety of platforms. You can even run paid ads or conduct outreach to generate visibility and, ideally, backlinks.
7. Measure the Right KPIs
Chances are, the end goal for your content isn’t simply “brand awareness”. We’d bet that you’d like to make some money, right?
With this in mind, it’s important to measure the right B2B marketing KPIs so you can determine the true success (or failure) of your content marketing.
Few brands go beyond “clicks” or “leads” or “traffic”, but these metrics don’t paint a clear enough picture of whether your content marketing efforts are really working. Ultimately, you want content that generates real demand and drives sales and revenue for your business.
Here are some B2B KPIs to look into:
● Growth Rate
● Marketing Payback Period
● Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
● Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
● Natural Growth Rate
● Pipeline Velocity
● Win Rate
● Sales Cycle Length
● Average MRR
If many of these metrics are new to you, it may be time to talk to your marketing team to overhaul your process for measuring the effectiveness of your B2B marketing. At the end of the day, the metrics that translate into dollars for your business are what matter most.
8. Generate Tangible Demand and Growth
How do you determine whether your content marketing is moving the needle for your business?
You look for tangible Demand and Growth.
When B2B brands focus on conversion rates and leads, they often end up hitting a plateau because they’ve tapped out their existing “pool” of potential customers. This is where most marketers focus on tactics – like tweaking ad copy or upping PPC spend – but neglect the one thing that really matters: demand generation.
You want to CREATE new customers from brands that might have never heard of you before, don’t know they need your services or are even working with your competitors. The goal is to broaden your customer pool by expanding your reach, not running your existing pool dry.
This requires adopting a buyer-led growth mindset that runs counter to the traditional model of AARRR. What do your potential customers need NOW and how will you give it to them? This is the story you need to tell with your content.
9. Run Organic and Paid Campaigns
We’ve already touched on SEO as a source of organic traffic, but you will need both this and paid traffic generation to attract eyes to your content. That way, you have both a short-term and long-term traffic strategy.
Other distribution channels include:
● Social media
● Guest posting
● And more.
Your campaigns should aim to reach your target customers where they are through both inbound and outbound marketing methods.
Drive B2B Growth with Great Marketing Content
Content marketing can be a highly effective tool for B2B brands looking to attract more customers. The key is to have a data-driven strategy so you create the right type of content for the right audience on the right platforms.
B2B content differs from B2C content in that there is more pressure to convince a highly discernable audience that you are the right brand for their needs. You also need to create content that aligns with your brand story and is suited to every stage of your target buyer’s journey.
You have a wide variety of tools at your disposal to create valuable, enticing content. Linkable assets, blog articles, SEO content, and more can be used to drive traffic and sales for your business.
Does your brand have a content marketing strategy? If not, it’s time to stand out, get ahead, and maximize your revenue-earning potential.
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