Creating valuable, high-quality content that gets your customers to convert is always a challenge—but for B2B companies, that challenge is often a bit more…shall we say, challenging.
That’s because B2B content marketing has to walk a very fine line.
You want to give your customers content that will be valuable to them, but you don’t want to give away all your secrets.
You want to leave some questions unanswered, so that they’ll get in touch with you—but you don’t want to frustrate them by not offering information they expect to access on their own.
And last, but certainly not least, you want to create content that is unique, exciting, and interesting enough to pull in new customers and retain your existing ones.
What’s a B2B content marketer to do?
Well, we’re answering that question with this definitive guide to B2B content marketing. Let’s go!
First, let’s understand who your customers are
You may have heard the term “connected consumer” used to describe individual customers in a B2C setting.
Connected consumers are connected not only in the sense that they use wireless devices and the Internet of Things (IoT).
That “connected” also refers to the way consumers are connected to each other and to brands through social media platforms.
But if we really want to understand the connected consumer, we have to realize that the connectivity created by social media is the setting and background against which every brand interaction and marketing initiative takes place.
In other words, social is the water in which all of us are swimming.
So how does this apply to B2B customers?
Well, brands and their internal stakeholders are connected consumers, too. Just like their B2C counterparts, B2B buyers use social media to research and influence their business-related purchases. They expect a streamlined, easy-to-navigate website and purchase process. And they want to be able to easily find the information they want, when they want it, without having to go through a sales representative.
Now that you have a sense for who the connected consumer is and how they relate to B2B selling, it’s time to start crafting your content marketing strategy.
Develop (and write down!) your B2B content marketing strategy
The reason you need a strategy is simple: it’s much harder to execute effectively if you don’t have a written strategy. You don’t want to be one of the 60% of marketers who think their content marketing is not effective.
Here’s how to start.
First, you need to identify your audience. Whom are you trying to reach?
This is where buyer personas (or audience personas) come in.
Essentially, a buyer persona is a hypothetical individual with a name, picture, job title, income, interests, and pain points who acts as a stand-in for one group that you want to reach.
That could be, for example, CEOs of mid-market companies. Or marketing managers at Fortune 500 companies.
Crafting a buyer persona for each audience type you’re going after will help you better visualize the different types of people you’re crafting content for, and what types of content they like.
The next step is to focus on the content itself. There are several things to consider when creating your B2B content marketing strategy.
- What platforms are you using?
- How often will you be posting content?
- The content itself—what topics will you cover? Which formats will you use?
- How will you measure performance?
Once you’ve answered these questions, incorporate them into your written strategy document.
Now for the hard part: how do you come up with great content on a consistent basis?
Developing B2B content ideas
Coming up with a consistent, ongoing stream of valuable content topics is where many content marketers get stuck—whether they’re B2C or B2B.
A good starting point is to see what kind of topics people in your industry are talking about on social media. One tool that Zen Media has been using for years is BuzzSumo. BuzzSumo shows you which posts on a given topic are the most shared, so you can see what topics and what types of posts are performing well.
Once you’ve come up with a list of topics you want to cover, you can test out those topics before generating an entire post or e-book or whitepaper about them.
One way to do this, according to Wordstream, is through Twitter. Send out a tweet linking to a case study, or an infographic, or simply offering a succinct piece of advice or wisdom. If the tweet does well among your followers, you might just be looking at a golden topic.
Then you can invest the time and energy into developing that topic into a full blog post or e-book, with the knowledge that your audience will actually want to read.
One important point: you’ll want to create a written editorial calendar, once you’ve generated your list of content topics.
That way, you can ensure that you’re neither overlooking nor focusing too heavily on one particular audience group.
After that, it’s just a matter of distributing your content effectively, which you should be prepared to do since you drew up your B2B content marketing strategy first.
What does B2B content marketing look like in real life? Let’s look at some case studies from Zen Media’s B2B clients.
Allegiance Capital is a premier private investment bank specializing in mergers and acquisitions for privately held middle market companies. When the Allegiance team saw an opportunity for growth through online marketing, they turned to us for help. One of their goals was to increase visibility among middle-market CEOs and executives in targeted industries, especially in the oil and gas industry. The Allegiance Capital team also wanted to build a strong digital footprint by showcasing the company’s expertise.
In order to highlight Allegiance’s ample expertise, we created and launched a social strategy that included a campaign aimed at increasing each employee’s digital footprint. We also created strategic content for blogs, white papers, and emails to help position Allegiance as a thought leader in middle-market industries. We built connections with industry influencers and media to solidify Allegiance’s role as an influencer and thought leader. Finally, to help increase visibility, we launched a full-scale SEO campaign to drive qualified traffic to the website.
So what happened? Allegiance garnered coverage in over 20 key regional and national media outlets, including full cover stories. We organically increased the number of followers on the company’s LinkedIn page by 78% and reached over 76,000 people with Allegiance’s Twitter handle. Three of the educational infographics we produced for them became the three most visited pages on the website. And, our internal campaign encouraging team members to share top content resulted in a 30% increase in organic traffic.
Those are results you can take to the bank. (Pun fully intended)
Takeaway: Create strategic content in a variety of formats to reach the greatest number of customers, and don’t forget to leverage your team members’ social networks.
Chase for Business found that small business owners who attended its conferences were clamoring for more individualized attention and customized advice. Though the keynote speakers were inspirational and informative, conference-goers were hungry for more interaction and solutions, tailored to their unique needs.
Zen MADE conceptualized an Apple-inspired “Social Media Genius Bar” to provide one-on-one digital marketing advice and insights to small business owners. Conference participants were able to sign up for 15-20 minute sessions with Zen “Geniuses” and ask about everything from how to get more traffic to their website to which social platforms were the best fit for their biz dev.
Zen’s resident Geniuses made every participant feel comfortable and empowered to engage their customers online, regardless of their experience with social media. Both novices and seasoned users learned something new and took home valuable feedback on their current strategy, as well as ideas on how to take their social game to the next level.
The Social Media Genius Bar proved to be one of the most popular and well-loved components of the Chase for Business conferences in both L.A. and Phoenix. Participants walked away with greater affinity for Chase and greater clarity on their digital marketing efforts. Participants also shared their experiences at the Genius Bar widely on social media, resulting in a wealth of user-generated content that could be repurposed and reshared.
Takeaway: Content marketing can (and should) be tied into other types of marketing campaigns, including experiential ones. Developing campaign-specific hashtags and encouraging participants to share their experiences online can result in excellent brand exposure and new user-generated content.
B2B content marketing doesn’t have to be overwhelming. But if it feels that way, get in touch! In the meantime, read “B2B Influencer Marketing: An Ultimate Guide Plus Case Studies.”