Your B2B tech company can go all-in on content marketing, but if you don’t know the content marketing strategies that actually drive qualified leads to your sales team, you’ll be out a whole lot of money with not much to show for it.
But how do you know which strategies work for your B2B tech brand without trying them—in other words, without spending huge amounts of time, money, and effort experimenting with content?
Luckily, while certain things will always be unique to your brand and audience, there are some tried-and-true tactics that effectively and reliably drive qualified B2B leads. Let’s take a look.
What is content marketing for B2B tech?
First, let’s define content marketing. Content marketing is a type of inbound marketing—marketing efforts designed to bring people to your brand, rather than putting your brand out in front of people, the way serving online ads does.
Here’s an example.
Outbound marketing: a Google ad that says “#1 Software Platform for Telehealth Providers”
Inbound marketing: a blog post titled “7 Elements Your Telehealth Platform Must Have to Retain Patients”
Content marketing for B2B tech companies, like content marketing for other industries, generally falls into the following categories:
- Blog posts
- Case studies
- Checklists and templates
- User-generated content
- Memes or gifs
- Testimonials and reviews
- Webinars or courses
- Influencer marketing or other paid social promotions
As you can see, there are many different types of content that B2B companies can utilize to attract customers to their brand. Some, like whitepapers, infographics, and blog posts, have been used for a long time in the B2B space—others, like B2B influencer marketing and memes, are only now becoming popular.
Regardless of whether you think a specific type of content marketing would work in your industry, it’s important to take stock of all the different types available to you and consider whether they might actually benefit your audience. Chances are, that audience has needs and interests you may not be aware of.
Why content marketing matter so much for B2B tech brands?
While content marketing is critical for brands across sectors and industries, B2B marketers, in particular, are under huge amounts of pressure to create content that actually generates sales.
For one thing, the B2B buyer journey is long, non-linear, and complex, with many stakeholders and many milestones involved along the way.
After all, a buying team that consists of six different people from six different departments will necessarily spend more time choosing a CRM for their entire organization than, say, a consumer deciding which scarf to buy.
The stakes, risks, and consequences of B2B buying decisions are simply much higher. That means more time spent on research before choosing which brand to work with—and in order to do research, they need content.
To be effective, B2B content must be created for each stage of the buying journey: for the discovery/research phase, the deliberation phase, and finally, the decision phase.
This is true for three reasons.
- B2B tech buyers today vastly prefer doing their own research, and reaching out to vendors they’re interested in, over being contacted by salespeople. Increasingly, they’re looking at peer recommendation sites, review sites, and social media, according to a report by Demand Gen.
- According to reports from sources as varied as Gartner and top business, schools have found that as much as 80% of the B2B buyer’s journey is complete by the time they reach out to a salesperson.
What this means for your brand is that if potential buyers can’t find answers to their questions easily, on their own, there’s no guarantee that they’ll seek out one of your salespeople to get those answers. In fact, it’s more likely that they’ll simply move on to one of your competitors.
- Finally, B2B buyers are getting younger, with more Millennials among them than ever before. Millennials, and even more so Gen Z, are used to being able to find the information they want online, quickly, and without needing to jump through many, if any, hoops.
They’re also extremely used to comparative shopping for technology in their personal lives, for everything from apps to smart appliances.
If you’re trying to appeal to these buyers, and you should be, then you’ve got to give them the information they expect in order to move them forward in the buying journey.
Now that you know why content marketing is so important for B2B brands, let’s take a look at the tactics that actually work.
Content marketing tactics that will drive leads for your business
Narrowly-focused content specifically created for each stage of the buying journey
According to a survey of B2B marketers by Netline, there are two major concerns for marketers who feel their content is not performing well:
- Content is not reaching the right decision-makers (43%)
- Content lacks relevance for a specific audience (44%)
The solution to this is to first hone in on whom you’re targeting. This can be done using your persona map (if you’ve never created one, here’s a guide to creating B2B personas).
So if your audience target is, for example, a COO who’s looking for CRM solutions that will help the sales and marketing teams to collaborate more closely, while also be more efficient and cut costs, you might create content like this:
- Blog post: How Effective CRMs Can Further Collaboration Between Sales and Marketing Teams
- Whitepaper: 3 Key Principles for Using a CRM to Increase Efficiency and Cut Costs
Additionally, you could seek out a review or testimonial from a client who can speak to how your product helped them do exactly what your audience is looking to do: cut costs, improve collaboration, and increase efficiency.
You can see that the key here is to keep a laser focus on the message you want to get out and to build your content around that.
One finding to keep in mind: most B2B tech content marketing is aimed at the top of the sales funnel (TOF)—generating awareness and acquiring new customers.
While there’s nothing wrong with creating content designed to get your name out there and attract brand-new visits to your website, it too often means that the rest of the funnel—content aimed at those in the consideration, purchase, and perhaps most importantly, retention stages—is neglected.
This is a problem because, according to Netline’s survey, 86% of senior B2B buying executives say that content plays a critical role in their supplemental buying decisions once they’ve signed on with a brand.
What’s more, 92% of those executives said that they seek out third-party content (which could be customer reviews, thought leadership by your brand’s executives, and guest blogs on sites other than your website) when deciding whether to stay with a brand, as well as to affirm or justify their previous investments with your brand.
The takeaway here is to make sure that your marketing team is creating content not just to get new people to your website, but to keep your current customers coming back, making new purchases, and feeling good about the money they’re spending with you.
Go all-in on neutral, objective content—thought leadership over promotional content
Promotional copy tends to be easier to produce than a measured, thoughtful article by your chief executive on an upcoming industry trend. So it’s understandable why B2B tech brands are creating so much promotional content versus the “objective, neutral” (according to Netline’s survey) content that B2B buyers overwhelmingly want.
As you can see in the above image from the survey, most marketing teams are spending most of their time creating content that doesn’t actually deliver the best leads.
Consider that your website is already full of promotional content. It has, or should have, all your tech product’s features, specs, benefits, and use cases. Potential customers already know that websites house all that information for a brand they want to learn more about.
Therefore, your content team should be focusing on the rest of the content marketing you need: thought leadership like white papers, reports, articles in industry publications, and more. You want both current customers and potential buyers to read your CEO’s thoughts on what’s next for the industry or your marketing team’s tips for creating a social campaign that works. That’s how you build trust and nurture long-term customer relationships.
If you’re not yet convinced, take a look at these stats from the Netline survey:
- “68 percent of senior B2B buyers said their content journey starts on search engines and portals whereas only 40 percent go directly to a vendor website to access the content. And the content that is most often sought out is from the industry—not the vendor. More than half of marketers (52 percent) revealed that they seek out a comprehensive industry or category surveys and studies compared to the 44 percent who most value technical details about products and solutions.”
Gate content thoughtfully and strategically
Gating B2B tech content can be an effective way to grow your email list, but it must be done with care.
There has to be enough perceived value in your content to convince people to sign up with an email address, or whatever other information you’re requesting of them. If that perceived value doesn’t match up with their perceived cost (their personal information), then you’ll be driving leads away, instead of bringing them in.
When you think about gated content, think comprehensive, educational, and high-value—reports, studies, ebooks, webinars, and whitepapers. If you have statistics you can provide, proprietary or original research you’ve done, or a step-by-step guide to a complex topic or undertaking, these are good candidates for gated content.
In our case, we’ve gated our comprehensive report on how PR can ramp up your sales pipeline, “How to 10X Your Sales Pipeline with Earned PR.” A screenshot of the “gate” is below:
As you can see, we don’t ask for much—just an email address. Often, requiring just an email or email and name is the best choice for gated content.
The exception is if you’re gating something that’s highly specialized and aimed tightly at, say, customers who are considering re-signing with you, or customers in a specific industry who have specialized tech needs. If the content you’re providing is valuable enough, those customers will be much more likely to offer additional information, like a phone number, industry or job title, etc.
B2B content marketing can drive qualified leads to your brand—it just needs to be done strategically. Need help increasing your B2B tech sales pipeline? We’d love to help!