When you’re evaluating your B2B content strategy, you must have the fundamentals down. This requires doing the upfront work to effectively create content that moves the needle. There’s too much at stake to just throw things at the wall and see what sticks.
Let’s start by asking a few questions. Does your business:
- Have a documented content marketing strategy?
- Use a sophisticated and organized content marketing effort?
- Employ an editorial or content calendar?
- Measure content performance against goals?
- Nurture prospects through the customer journey?
- Consistently generate sales qualified leads from content marketing?
The most successful B2B marketers answer yes to each one of the questions. According to a study done by the Content Marketing Institute, the top performers scored nearly 50% better on each one of these attributes than less effective companies.
B2B Content Strategy
When developing your B2B content strategy, here are the fundamentals you need to master to optimize your efforts.
Customer Journey Mapping
Customer journey maps trace the path buyers take en route to making purchase decisions. Customer journey mapping will follow this journey and illustrate the touchpoints where potential B2B buyers come in contact with your brand.
Think about the various scenarios where a potential customer might be exposed to your brand (or your competitors). What do they look for and where they go when they want to:
- Research a problem they are facing?
- Discover potential solutions to their problem?
- Identify the right solution and provider?
- Make a purchase decision?
This customer journey map can help you identify the type of content you need to create and how you need to nurture B2B buyers through this journey. At each stage, you’ll want to identify the pain points, what prospects are trying to achieve, and your goal. For example, if you’re selling an automated system to remind patients of their appointments, you would develop different content at every phase but all of it would demonstrate you understand their problem (patients not showing up for appointments), what they’re trying to achieve (no shows), and your goal (drive them through the buying journey).
When you develop a buyer persona, you’re trying to amalgamate your customers into a prototypical ideal B2B buyer. These include demographics such as age, gender, education levels, and levels within an organization. You’ll also want to include the type of attributes you used when qualifying sales leads. For example, prospects need to have:
- The need for your product or service
- Play a significant role in the buying process
- The ability to purchase
Since so much of effective B2B content marketing strategy will revolve around demonstrating how you can solve problems for customers, it’s helpful to paint the picture of what motivates buyers to act. Your buyer persona(s) should emphasize current business challenges, pain points, fears, and risks.
Developing a buyer persona will help you frame B2B content strategy.
You’ll need to do a comprehensive analysis of the industry, the marketplace, and your competitors’ marketing efforts. What’s resonating and what’s falling short?
- Identify the top-performing campaigns of your competitors
- Identify the key marketing channels for our industry
- Identify the content mediums that are engaging our buyer persona(s)
- Identify a common narrative and mutual language that resonates with your target audience within your competitor’s marketing assets
- Validate market research & other industry knowledge through active investigation of competitor campaigns
You’ll also want to do a deep dive into what’s generating leads from your current marketing efforts and what’s better to leave behind.
Your B2B content strategy is to create content that generates leads – and sales qualified leads – for your business. While the end goal is converting B2B prospects to customers, they are interim steps along the way. Rarely will B2B buyers go from their first attempts to research something to buying for any significant purchase unless it’s at a crisis stage.
With your customer journey mapping, buyer persona(s), and market analysis, identify the areas where you need to create content to match buyer intent. You must be able to match the right content to the right person at the right time in their journey.
Here are the 10 steps to maximize content creation.
- Take inventory of what you already have and analyze its performance
- List what you need to create
- Decide what type of content to create
- Build your editorial calendar
- Identify and allocate resources (in-house and outsourced)
- Create your content workflow
- Create the content
- Distribute and market your content
- Measure your results
- Explore what performs the best and do more of it
It’s also important to decide how to optimize your content. For example, a blog post might also spawn a video, infographic, or guest post on an industry site. It might be part of a downloadable eBook or Whitepaper that expands on the topic. This can help maximize exposure and create multiple customer touchpoints while maximizing your efforts.
If you’re looking for more ways to improve your B2B sales funnel with content, we’ve put together a list of 50 ideas to entice and engage prospects along the customer journey.
One of the fundamental things you’re trying to do with content marketing is generating leads for your sales and marketing teams. This means getting the right piece in front of them at the right stage of the customer journey.
More than two-thirds of companies are using some form of marketing automation. Optimizing your lead nurturing is essential to create an effective pipeline from your content marketing to your sales and marketing teams.
Content marketing can play a significant role in building trust in your brand and the confidence for B2B buyers to invest in your products or solutions. Done effectively, it will weave your brand messaging and brand story into the content.
Content marketing can strengthen a brand. For example, B2B prospects that view your brand as the place to turn to for expert guidance, tutorials, or thought leadership will be much easier to convert to customers.
Your brand messaging should be incorporated into everything you create – whether it’s content marketing, paid advertising, sales brochures, or face-to-face communication. It’s one of the most important messages you’ll convey.
Not everything you do is going to work. It’s important to set up Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for your overall B2B content strategy and individual pieces. When you find what works, do more of it. Evaluate the things that aren’t working. Determine if adjustments will make a difference or whether you would be better letting go of the things that aren’t performing and redirect your resources.
This is especially true for any of your paid promotional efforts, such as social media advertising or PPC campaigns. You should constantly be testing, tweaking, and optimizing your efforts.
That’s why it’s so important to establish these goals when you are developing the content.
Promotion and Content Syndication
As your content is created, it should be optimized for the right high-performing keywords that will appeal to your buyer persona(s).
It’s great to post it on your blog but you’ll also need a promotional strategy to drive people to your content. It can be a challenge to figure out the best channels to promote your products or services.
Take advantage of free promotional resources, such as optimizing social media, email marketing to your current customer base, newsletters, and other marketing strategies. At the same time, consider the right amount to spend in support of your content marketing to draw your target customers to it.
70% of marketers today are actively invested in content marketing. 78% of companies have teams of content marketing specialists on staff. Many of your competitors are well-armed and well-financed. When you’re trying to compete effectively, you may need some help – even if you have a strong in-house marketing team.
How to Choose the Right B2B Content Marketing Agency
The right B2B marketing agency for you will take the time to understand your challenges, your competitors, and the dynamics in your industry. They can create a customized plan to work as an extension of your marketing team to achieve your goals.
They’ll understand the importance of metrics, but also that it’s ultimately not about click-through rates, Whitepaper downloads, or collecting email addresses. These are just steps on the way to generating qualified leads and closing business.
B2B Content Marketing Strategy: Master the Fundamentals
Creating effective B2B content marketing means mastering the fundamentals. Done right, it can expand your brand exposure to your target customers, strengthen and develop brand affinity and trust, and drive qualified leads and sales.
According to a recent survey of some of the industry’s most successful B2B content marketers, here are the 10 things that content marketing can do for your business:
- Create brand awareness
- Educate your audience
- Build credibility and trust
- Generate demand and leads
- Build loyalty with existing customers
- Nurture leads
- Drive engagement
- Generate sales and revenue
- Build a subscriber base
- Support product launches
It all starts with mastering the fundamentals.
At Riverbed Marketing, we understand what it takes for effective B2B content marketing. If we can help your business grow, get in touch, and let’s talk.