About 89% of the B2B marketers employ content marketing according to the Content Marketing Institute. Of the remaining 11% who don’t currently use content marketing, 52% say that they plan to do so within a year.
Moreover, 72% of marketers applaud content marketing for increasing leads and engagement. such as that of Salesforce show that content marketing helped the CRM application increase their web traffic by 80% and gain roughly 6,500 email newsletter signups.
Despite the sweet fruit, it can yield, 55% of B2B marketers report that they are not sure of what makes a content marketing strategy successful. It’s possible that a lack of a documented strategy is the culprit here.
Surprisingly, only 32% of marketers had a documented strategy as of 2016.
The founder of the Content Marketing Institute, Joe Pulizzi, however, shares that a documented strategy is crucial. Pulizzi outlined, “Our B2B content marketing research revealed that successful B2B content marketers have two critical habits. First, they document their content marketing strategy. They get the strategy out of their head and into action.”
So, for today, let’s dive into how to make a successful B2B content marketing strategy. We’ll cover a lot of ground including:
- What is a B2B content marketing strategy?
- The beginning steps that you need to take to
- How well do you need to know your audience?
- What type of content will you need to create?
Let’s get started:
What is a B2B content marketing strategy?
Content marketing entails creating and distributing valuable content that solves your audience’s problems.
At the outset, this may seem like a simple process involving content creation and distribution. However, there is a lot more to it than what catches the eye in the first impression.
For instance, digging into what pain points plague your audience’s life, which content format catches their attention best, and where they read content are some questions that you’ll need to answer.
Considering the amount of work that goes into the process, effective content marketing delivers significantly. Here is how:
- Custom content influences 61% of the customers (Dragon Search Marketing)
- Content marketing adopters see about 6x higher conversion rates than non-adopters (Aberdeen)
- 82% of customers feel positive about a business after reading custom content (Demand Metric)
But what makes a B2B content marketing strategy different from a B2C strategy, you ask? The answer lies in the audience. For a B2B content strategy, the content aims to target your audience of businesses rather than customers as observed in a B2C strategy.
In contrast with consumers, businesses have a longer buyer’s journey, and there are lots of people depending on the buyer to make the right decision. This is what sets the need for engaging content that solves the buyer’s problems.
Put simply, people come to you with a list of problems, needs, and preconceptions. Unlike, the B2C target audience, this audience does not easily fall for a flash sale. So, an effective B2B content marketing strategy gains trust and convinces by solving problems.
Hence, every time your audience runs into a problem, your content solves it. And, the better your content solves their issue, the more trust you will gain. The more the trust, the more leads you’ll generate and so on.
Therefore, it all boils down to mapping out your audience’s pain points, questions, and where they are in their buyer’s journey so that you can create content to address all their issues.
Set your content marketing goals to get things started
Defining your goals is crucial. Diving into content marketing without setting your goals is like driving without direction. You’ve no idea where your ride would take you or if it would even reach a destination.
Therefore, make sure that your marketing goals align with your business goals. To give you an idea of the possible goals you can work around, here’s a chart from the Content Marketing Institute:
Thus, everything you produce should be backed with a goal and tied to a call to action.
One more thing to keep in mind here – make sure your content plan aligns with the buyer’s journey. In short, the buyer’s journey can be divided into three stages namely:
It makes sense to understand that a customer who is still in the awareness stage wouldn’t be interested in content that convinces him to buy as in the decision-making stage. Instead, he will need at least seven interactions (hint: the rule of seven) with your brand before he is introduced to your paid services or products.
Similarly, a buyer who is considering your product will need content that explains the benefits of your product rather than only introducing your business.
Prospects and customers in different stages of the buyer’s journey need different types of content. This is why you need to ensure that the goal of each piece of content that you and your team create syncs with where the reader is in his customer’s journey.
In simple words, you will need content for each stage.
Create your mission statement to add direction to your work
Once your goals are in place, you will need to prepare a mission statement too. Ideally, it will address only three main areas as CMI outlines. These are:
- Audience: The type of people you can help most with your content are your target audience.
- Product: The information that you will offer through your content
- Outcome: The action(s) that your audience will take once it has consumed your content
Research your audience to give your B2B content marketing strategy a base
Now that your goals and mission statement are ready, let’s get you to poke and prod at your audience pool to map out a buyer’s persona.
Remember, everyone is a very broad, out of shape definition for an audience. Instead, go for a selected, highly targeted audience.
For example, a public accounting and consulting firm, Crowe Horwath, did not aim its content strategy toward a varied customer base although such a firm could easily do so. Instead, they narrowed their focus to C-level prospects in financial institutions.
To figure out your audience, you need to dive into specific characteristics of your audience to prepare a buyer’s persona, the kind of people who will consume your content and take action.
Here’s an example:
A good way to get a picture of what your audience looks like is heading over to your Google Analytics data.
This source will give you a complete picture of who is visiting your site. You can get basic demographic information here including gender, location, and age alongside interest data that will tell you what interests your audience.
The data available here is gold because it gives you an idea of what arrests your audience’s attention. Use this information to develop content around it.
A case in point here is WordStream that shared its data from Google Analytics:
The chart above shows that WordStream’s readers mainly comprise of men in the age bracket of 25-34. Knowing their audience is what has helped the company decide on adopting a chatty tone with lots of memes and emojis in their content.
Similarly, their interest data unveils that their audience is a mix of technology enthusiasts, movie lovers, and more. Here’s a look:
Fortunately, knowing your audience this closely allows you to pick a tone for your content and add some personality to it as well. Plus, as Dan Shewan, writing for WordStream, points out, “you can “speak” to them [your audience] more clearly and in a way that is more likely to resonate with them based on their demographic and interest profiles.”
Here are more ideas of what B2B marketers are doing to learn more about their audience:
In a nutshell, preparing such a buyer’s persona will add the fire to your content marketing strategy that it needs. In sum, it will help you:
- Create content that syncs with your readers’ interests
- Plan content that adequately addresses their problem
- Prepare content in the voice and tone that will engage them
What’s more, researching on this matter will also tell you the type of content that they prefer to share how, where, and which format of content your audience consumes.
Let’s take a page from Kapost’s book here. Their team directly asked their audience about:
- The time they spend on consuming content
- Sources they trust for their content supply
- The content format they prefer to consume
This straightforward approach helped Kapost get right into the heart of the matter they were examining. They learned that their audience trusted the following sources for their content news:
Similarly, Kapost asked their audience about the way they share their content and drafted the followed results:
And the type of content that they prefer to share:
These results showed that 67% of Kapost’s audience shared content with a playful tone, whereas, 63% shared factual content.
The close stat may confuse you, but a closer look will clear the picture here. Only 20% of the respondents strongly agreed that they shared data-enriched material, whereas, 31% strongly agreed to share playful content.
So, the winner is clear for Kapost – playful content. And your takeaway? Prepare your buyer’s persona to learn about your audience’s preferred content type, format, personality, and more.
Moving forward – find your audience’s pain points
Now that the buyer’s persona is crossed off your checklist, let’s dive deeper into your audience’s pain points. Why? Because, every pain point, every problem, and every question that customers have is an opportunity for you. Create content around it to solve your customers’ problem and earn their trust.
With the ‘why’ addressed, let’s work our way into the ‘how-to’ part. So, how do you learn about your audience’s pain points? You’d probably have come across several pain points during your market research while preparing your buyer’s persona.
Besides, there are more ways that can help you such as:
- Talk to your audience: Ask your current customers about what issues hinder their progress and what could help them. For example, put up a survey in Google forms to collect answers from your audience.
Remember that the key here is to ask the right questions.
- Use social media: While social listening is mainly understood as keeping your ears open about what others are saying about your brand, you can also use social to listen to what problems take the central stage in your target audience’s life.
You can also connect with international audiences through an experimental event agency.
For example, an SEO agency that targets landscape businesses can tap into online social communities or track relevant hashtags to see what their audience talks about.
Or, go to platforms such as Quora and Reddit to see what questions your audience is asking or reading.
Let’s pick Quora here and type in ‘SEO’ as an example. The results here show what questions individuals have regarding the subject:
- Run through feedbacks and reviews
Typically, unhappy customers share their negative experiences with 9-15 people. Some even go on to tell 20 or more folks. You can take these as well as positive reviews to learn about what problems customers face and what they appreciate, respectively.
Here’s what we picked up by walking through reviews on an accounting application:
Next step, dig into search intent
With a list of pain points on the ready, you’re one step closer to preparing your content strategy based on the topics that will catch your audience’s attention. But first, search intent.
This search intent is the reason why users are searching for something. For instance, the intent could be informational or navigational. Or, it could be a purchase intent (transactional), whereby, a user searches and compares a product he wants or needs.
Here’s a breakdown:
Think of it like this, what do you do when you’re looking for, let’s say, the best ice cream parlor in your town? You’ll either ask your friends or you will take to Google and type in something along the lines of, ‘best ice cream parlor near me.’
So, your search intent is clear, you want to go in and get yourself a scoop or two. Now, magnify this example to an audience of business buyers, and you’ll understand what we’re talking about when we say search intent.
In this regard, your goal is to find out why people are searching for a certain topic. What makes some topics so valuable for a business? As you answer these questions, you will not only learn more about your customers but you will get an idea of what topics to cover (we’ll be discussing this in detail below).
Monitor what your competitors are doing
While this step in chalking out your B2B content marketing strategy is self-explanatory, a key thing here is to observe balance.
You don’t want to over-do searching what your competitors are doing so much that you lose your business’s voice and message. At the same time, you don’t want to be completely alien to what is happening in your industry.
Rest assured, it is important that you keep an eye open on what your competitors are doing and what is helping them without overdoing it. Some areas to research about your competitors are:
- What type of content are they preparing?
- Where are they sharing their content?
- How do they promote their content?
- How does the audience react to the content (reactions, engagement, and follower sentiment)?
- What is their frequency of publishing content?
Three tools that can help you here are ContentStudio, SEMrush, and Screaming Frog.
ContentStudio gives you a curated list of topics in your industry along with the sentiment analysis of each piece, which helps you estimate the audience’s response to each topic:
On the other hand, SEMrush helps gather ranking data:
There’s also a tool called Screaming Frog, which allows you to steal your competitors’ keywords from their URLs, letting you employ the skyscraper technique for creating content.
Work out the primary topics to cover as part of your content marketing strategy
To quickly recap, by now we’ve talked about defining your goals and preparing a mission statement. Next, we dived into preparing your reader’s persona and learning about your audience. Then, we got to discovering pain points a.k.a opportunities for creating content to solve problems.
Now that all this work is out of the way, we’re going to get down to the content strategy part. So far, it’s clear that you will be preparing content that addresses your reader’s problems.
Here, it is best to take out the list of pain points and treat them as potential topics to cover. Also, take out a list of what keywords your competitors are targeting.
Let’s now walk you through other ways of planning content topics:
1. Research trends to prepare topics that you’d cover
Google trends is a good place to start looking for which topic is trending and how well it has done over time. Here’s what it pulls up for the keyword, content strategy:
Or, simply conduct a Google search:
- Conduct a Google search for magazines in your field. Type in magazine + your industry
- Conduct a Google search for blogs in the same way as above. Enter blogs + your industry
- Look through all findings including the news section and video corner
Here’s one example for the productivity industry:
2. Consult with the search engine as well
Now comes the part where you refer to keyword research to find out what your audience is searching for. At ContentStudio.io, we do the same. Our market research shows that our audience is interested in the following three key areas:
Consequently, our team has researched keywords related to these topics, and our content strategy covers topics based on those keywords.
3. Socially validate your topics
There’s also another useful trick that you can add to your content arsenal – use social media to gauge how well your audience responds to a topic.
Simply share something related to the topic and note how well your audience responds. Get as creative as you can here, for example, try polls to learn what your readers have to say.
A case in point is Larry Kim, CEO of MobileMonkey, who tweeted an infographic about an entrepreneur’s mind. The tweet quickly gained traction and Larry ended up writing a blog post based on the topic.
Prepare a channel plan to promote your content
Before you proceed any further, you also need to take into account how you would distribute your content. Without a plan over here, the content that you work so hard to produce stays backstage, having never made it to the spotlight.
A proper distribution channel can help you get eyeballs on your content. So, start by selecting social media channels where your audience is actively present and prepare a plan to promote the epic content you create.
Some questions to ask yourself as you plan to promote content on a social network as per CMI are:
- What is the right tone for this platform?
- What sort of content does the audience enjoy this network?
- What is the ideal content posting frequency?
- What are the set goals and desired actions for this social network?
MarketingProfs and CMI make the selection process easier for you as they share that LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube are the most effective platforms for B2B companies.
Don’t forget to finalize the content format you’ll work on
Now that you have your content topics and promotion strategy in place, the last piece in the puzzle goes to content formats. Again, you will need to check what suits your audience’s appetite over here like Kapost did in the example above.
The top 3 content types in the B2B marketing zone are long-form content (guides, articles, blog posts), video snippets, and social media.
OkDork further confirms that blog posts are one of the most widely shared content formats on social.
While you’re at it, make sure that you prepare a content calendar so that you are consistent with creating, publishing, and sharing content. Such a schedule will lift your B2B content marketing strategy off the runway.
Once your content marketing strategy is finalized, it’s time to hand things over to your content creators. These could be in-house content writers already on your team, or talented freelance writers you hire to bring your vision to life.
Wrapping it up
Content marketing can be slow in delivering results. However, it yields long-term benefits and lower up-front costs as compared to paid search. When pitted against traditional marketing, content marketing gives three times the leads at 62% less cost.
So, what are you waiting for? You have the blueprint of an effective B2B content marketing strategy. Now you are all set to go.
Masooma Memon is a pizza-loving freelance writer by day and a novel nerd by night. She crafts research-backed blog posts and articles for small businesses and app companies who aim to employ quality content to educate and engage with their audience.