The Content Marketing Institute recently released the results of a B2B content marketing survey that revealed more and more midsize B2B companies are jumping into the world of content marketing. But it also revealed that many of these same companies aren’t sure they are approaching content in the right way. That could very well be a product of the internet marketing landscape. Most people probably consider “content marketing” a tactic for the B2C market. But because of longer sales cycles and more consideration before purchase, savvy B2B marketers can tap into this underutilized resource to attract more customers and close more sales.
Basic Principles of B2B Content Marketing
The biggest challenge in the B2B copywriting world is sales cycle. When you’re dealing with complex, highly valuable products and services, your customers' journey from research to vendor selection can take a while. When decisions are made by committee, it can take even longer. So your content marketing plan will have to support your sales cycle and help move your leads along the funnel toward closing.
Creating great content isn’t hard but creating content for content’s sake will get you nowhere. You have to know your customer and know your audience. Create blog posts, downloadable e-books, white papers, videos, and graphics that are interesting and valuable to your audience, and make sure you build content for each step in the purchase cycle.
Planning an Effective B2B Content Marketing Plan
In order to create an effective B2B content marketing strategy, you have to know your product, your customers, and your sales cycle inside and out. What sells your products and services? What is your unique value proposition? Is your product or service the only one that solves a particular problem? Is it your price point? Is it your commitment to customer satisfaction? Name recognition? Understanding what motivates your customers to buy will help you map out your content plan.
Other crucial questions to answer when planning an effective content marketing strategy:
- What are the biggest problems your customers face? Why are they seeking out your product or service? To find out the answers to these questions, have your sales team and customer service team keep track of all of the problems and questions that your customers are asking. The most common problems can give you insight into what questions to answer with your content.
- What type of content do your potential customers want to consume? Perhaps seeing your product in action causes purchasing managers to to take notice, so create awesome demo videos where pictures and words won't suffice. If your target audience is extremely busy and reads on mobile devices, create content to consume on mobile devices.
- Where are your customers hanging out online? Knowing where your customers are can help you choose the type of content you’ll create. If your customers love in-depth articles, you’ll want to create content as if you were running your own trade journal. If they hang out in Q&A forums, shorter bits of content, or even a Q&A section of your own might be helpful.
- What is the sales process like for our products and services? What types of content can you develop that will help your sales team push customers through the funnel? At what point do we lost the most prospects? What are their most common objections? Create content that can help grease the wheels in these sticky points of your funnel.
Taking the time to answer tough questions can save you a lot of time in the sales process and build credibility.
Choosing Content To Suit Your Products, Services, and Goals
Once you’ve figured out what helps your customers make purchase decisions and which parts of your sales funnel need a little "grease" to speed along the sales process, it’s time to drill down the type of content you will create. Let's look at just a few content types that B2B companies might develop.
Blogs are the most traditional form of content marketing online. Your blog should be housed on your website in order to get the most benefit from it. Write and post new articles as often as you can – shoot for once a week at a minimum. These posts allow you to get new content up very quickly, create content around important keywords, and keeps your website fresh for search engines. Additionally, blogs help reinforce your company’s voice and brand, all while establishing authority in your industry. You don't have to give away any proprietary information in your blog, but be as useful and valuable as you possibly can, so that prospects will remember you, return, and eventually ask for more information.
Blogs are a great way to introduce yourself to new customers, maintain relationships with existing customers, and develop content to answer objections of those still stuck in the sales funnel.
Guest blogging is an excellent way to gain exposure for your company and should be part of your content marketing plan. When your name, products, and expertise show up on blogs outside of your own, you get your company in front of more potential customers. Guest blogging is a lot like getting published in a trade journal. You want to choose blogs wisely, taking care to associate your organization with thought leaders and influencers in your industry. The great thing about guest blogs is that you can have them ghostwritten, just like trade journal articles.
Guest blogging should be about demonstrating expertise, not selling your products. Blog owners won’t like hard-sell articles, and they will turn off potential customers. In your guest posts, give readers just enough that they will seek you out for more information.
White papers have been a staple of the B2B community for many years, but it's important to note that you need to focus your white paper content around questions that customers are asking, and showing potential customers how you solved problems like theirs. A white paper takes a problem that your customer or potential customer is having, and works through the solution, highlighting your particular products and services. When creating white papers for your website, require prospects to enter their contact information before they can download it, so that your sales team can follow up.
White papers can be used at various stages of the sales cycle. They can be an introductory piece for new prospects, or they can be used to answer objections of prospects in the funnel. They can also be used to up-sell current customers on new products or services.
Many companies include testimonials on their website, but fewer take the time to develop actual in-depth case studies. A well-planned, well-written case study can overcome just about any objection a customer may have. When a purchasing manager sees you’ve helped another company of their size with the same challenges they face, they are more likely to trust your claims.
I'll be the first to say that video isn't for every company. Video can be tricky and time consuming, but when it’s done correctly, video can be a great way to sell in the B2B space. There are two resources I'll recommend if you want to learn about video 101 for business. First, there's Moz's blog/video called The Kind of Video You Should Create for Your Business. Second is Wistia's Learning Center where you can learn a lot about strategy and execution of video.
As your consider all these forms of content, understand that it’s ok, and even encouraged to mix and match content types. If you have a great video series that you released via email, go back in a few weeks and post them on your blog. If you’ve got a white paper on your website that's wildly popular, summarize it and link to it from your blog.
The Opportunities are Endless
There are a million other ways to approach content marketing – emails, newsletters, podcasts, checklists, e-books, etc. But the key to unlocking success is to knowing your products, your customers, and your sales funnel. If you take the time to really understand those aspects of your business and apply a content plan to them, you’ll generate sales-ready leads.
For more information on planning a content marketing blueprint for your business, contact us today.