In 2018, 37% of B2B companies did not have a documented B2B content marketing strategy. While in recent years that number jumped to 65% in 2019, that still leaves a big portion of businesses that don’t think about their content that hard.
I don’t need to explain the value of good content for your marketing strategy — if you’ve been on the internet long enough (since circa 1996 when Bill Gates published “Content is King”), you already know it’s important.
Then why are the actual numbers so low?
The top two reasons B2B marketers don’t plan to develop a content marketing strategy are a small team (67%) and lack of time (44%) (source). This means that while they understand the value of it, they just aren’t prepared to dedicate resources to an area they understand little about.
But most importantly, they aren’t really sure how to start.
The UMG has compiled a list of questions (and answers!) that you need to ask yourself before starting out on your content marketing journey.
Essentially, a content marketing strategy for B2B is a plan of written and performed content (articles, e-books, white papers, case studies, podcasts) that engage potential customers across the buyer journey and can serve many different purposes — from brand awareness to lead generation.
In the past companies used to be reluctant to invest into good content for B2B — it was (and still is by some) generally thought to belong in the realm of B2C. It is a lot more common to refer to content as something published for each individual consumer for entertainment.
However, that is perhaps the biggest difference between B2B and B2C content. Generally B2C aims to entertain and feature big, exciting things, primarily aimed to engage audiences or contribute to brand awareness.
B2B content serves a slightly different purpose — first and foremost it provides value. People choose to engage with B2B content because they are looking for solutions. This makes B2B content a great vehicle for promoting services or starting a relationship with potential customers — because they are engaged consciously, as opposed to mindless scrolling on social media.
Of course this doesn’t mean that your content can get away with being bland or boring. If anything, B2B content has to nail the Holy Trifecta of Content Marketing — useful, engaging, and of high quality. If your blog article or case study isn’t relevant to them, they are clicking away; if it’s boring to read, they click away; if it’s not professionally done, they click away.
As you can see, it is indeed a fine line to walk on — and that is why you need a B2B content marketing strategy.
Think of it as your plan of attack — who are you engaging, how and why? 89% of marketers who swear by content marketing effectiveness have a documented and clear strategy.
Because of the sheer amount of content on the internet, it’s important to understand what you are doing and why, as aimless pieces will just get lost in the sea of Internet ideas.
Now you might be wondering — is all this effort I am putting into content ever going to pay off?
In short, yes, but this depends — what are you actually hoping to get out of it?
As Neil Patel once said, without marketing goals you don’t have a strategy. So, your first step would be to identify your content goals.
Like I said, content can be used for a variety of purposes, but it actually has to have a purpose. Not every piece has to inspire action, but any piece can. It’s not enough to just have content that is easily consumed — make it align with your business goals.
A blog article explaining in detail a complex topic in your niche might be very valuable to your audience and can be a great start of a trusting relationship. But if your original goal was to generate more contact information for potential leads, then it’s failed its purpose.
Remember that your aim should be to influence your audience’s behaviour in a specific way, and then build your strategy around that.
Different types of content will lead to different results, but every piece should be written with a goal in mind.
Looking for more brand awareness? Create valuable thought leadership articles, blogs, comments, research reports and videos — things are easily distributed.
Engaging with your existing audience? Create campaigns, webinars, newsletters — things that inspire people to take action with your brand.
Generating more leads and sales? Gate your most valuable content, include a strong push to leave contact details or download the next piece.
Re-evaluate your goals every couple of months and measure your main metrics to see how far you are succeeding.
This is one the first questions we ask of our clients as we create an Account-Based Marketing strategy — who are we targeting? This is true for any account-based campaign — determine your target and base your efforts around them.
However, a lot of people do not think of content strategy as account-based and don’t even give a second thought to who they should create content for.
If you are curious about how to segment your market and create perfect target audiences, read our guide.
Your audience is the backbone of your strategy that will determine every single aspect of your approach — from brand voice, to content types, to promotion channels.
How do you identify your audience? Start with creating a buyer persona (or Ideal Customer Persona).
The buyer persona should cover all the relevant information about the ideal person you want to be doing business with. Generally it includes:
Other questions can include identifiers like:
…the list goes on.
HubSpot has a very useful practical persona template here.
This is one of the main, most painful questions marketers and content planners ask themselves — what should content actually be about?
Our suggestion would be to have a great brainstorming session with the rest of your marketing team. Try and limit participants to 10 people (more than that and you are risking session productivity) and don’t disregard any ideas — all suggestions are equal!
Questions to ask during a brainstorm:
The last point invites you to do some research. Figure out the gaps in what your competitors are addressing — and fill in those gaps.
Alternatively, you can do a poll among your existing audience — find out what they would like to see on your blog and socials.
Last but not least — perform a Google Keyword search to find out the most pressing topics in your niche and cover those. Truly, the possibilities are endless!
One thing to keep in mind — the content should NOT be about you. It’s very tempting to advertise your latest new features, and there’s definitely a time and place for that sort of subject, but it’s best to focus on the needs of your customer first.
Every major company has a distinct recognisable brand voice. Think of HubSpot, Google or Buffer — you can probably already recall what they sound like.
Their voice signifies their approach to solving problems in the niche. It will help your audience connect with you and your message, and create a personal experience for the whole customer journey.
Your brand voice should never be an accident, but something you work out and stick to — consistency is key here.
Let’s first define your voice and tone.
Voice — usually described in adjectives — how do you customers would describe your brand? Funny? Witty? Somber? Confident? Warm?
Tone — unlike voice, your tone may change depending on the register. This is something that will be defined by your target audience.
Questions to ask when determining brand voice:
Our suggestion would be to find examples of distinct voices of other B2B companies and compare them in a company-wide meeting to determine the adjectives you want to use.
Yet another article on a common topic is dime a dozen. Millions of pieces of content get published every day — how do you stand out?
Give your content a unique perspective. Just like your voice, a unique perspective on industry issues is something that defines a brand. Do you have distinctive industry experience? Or a new approach to a common problem? Or perhaps a really remarkable team of professionals? Utilise that!
Many common topics usually get dominated by the giants in any industry — to beat that SEO algorithm and climb high through the ranks, find niche topics that don’t get much attention.
This brings us to the next question.
It’s pointless to create content nobody would search for. So, once you have a list of ideas for your strategy, it’s time to do a keyword search.
Tools like SEMrush and BuzzSumo will help you identify what’s on your audience’s mind and what is the need your content could satisfy. We’d recommend going after keywords with low or medium competition and good search volumes (more than 50 searches a month).
One really great way you can use to climb Google rankings fast is topic clusters.
The topic cluster method involves creating a “pillar” page — a long page that provides a broad overview of a specific topic. Then you create smaller pieces that fill out the missing information on the pillar page and go into more depth on specific issues — so you create a cluster of a topic.
Why is this important? Well because search engines have gotten a lot smarter in the last few years. They are no longer simply looking at keywords, but also consider intent and context.
Having a few articles covering the same topic, supported by a pillar page with all the links will tell Google crawlers that you are knowledgeable about a certain area and can provide more value to users than a one-off piece.
HubSpot has a great explanation for topic clusters.
This will depend on what your audience wants to see, your industry and, of course, your own capabilities.
Blogs are usually the standard content in the B2B sector. They are (relatively) easy to write, get loads of engagement and allow you to cover the topic fully.
Video content is becoming increasingly popular — and not just playthroughs and make-up tutorials. People are busy — they have no time to read articles, so a short, engaging and beautifully made video fulfils all criteria of great content. But of course videos require more investment.
Webinars provide a great opportunity to not only add value to potential customers, but also engage them directly.
Each type has its strengths and weaknesses, and the one thing to consider when planning your content strategy is your buyer’s stage in their journey. This circles back nicely to the beginning — define your goals. Depending on whether you are trying to create more brand awareness, fuel engagement or generate sales, your content will be different.
Take a look at this table that summarises research LinkedIn has done in terms of where you should concentrate your efforts.
Do you have a content management system (CMS) yet? If not, you need to get one.
Depending on your needs and budget, you can find a great CMS that lets you have full control of your website and pages.
Just like with SEO, there’s no point writing perfect articles or creating engaging videos, if nobody is going to read/watch them. And while people will probably be able to find it through keyword search (eventually), you need to be actively promoting what you publish with your own channels or social media.
According to Content Marketing Institute, 81% of B2B marketers choose email newsletters as the main content marketing promotion channel.
This is a great way to reconnect with your existing subscriber database and those already in the funnel. Engage your subscribers by delivering useful content directly into their inbox, and strengthen customer relations by providing additional value.
LinkedIn is a rightful leader when it comes to business communications and B2B content marketing. Unlike other social media, people come to LinkedIn to invest time, instead of wasting it. This means that generally audiences are more engaged when presented with content and are more present during decision-making.
LinkedIn should be your primary platform for content marketing. Having a strong company page that’s updated regularly with useful insights and tidbits will do wonders for your marketing funnel.
Learn how to create a full marketing funnel on LinkedIn in our blog post.
Twitter is a tricky platform to get right for B2B communications. It is not as easy to build a following on Twitter, but it works great for brand awareness or increasing engagement. It’s a place people come to interact (less so than passively consume), so being active on Twitter, speaking with your customers will support your brand image and reinforce brand personalisation (which is all the hype in 2021).
Now we are onto the interesting stuff. You’ve created your strategy and invested in content marketing. How do you measure if it’s been successful?
This again, depends on what you’d like to achieve.
Here’s a useful table to help you get started.
So, we’ve talked loads about how to create a B2B content strategy, what to look out for, what to create and how. This has been a long article — these steps might seem overwhelming.
With so many variables to juggle all at once, how can you actually begin planning your strategy?
Start with performing a content audit. What pieces do you already have? Who are they written for? What purpose do they serve?
Once you have a good grasp of what’s already in stock, you can start planning the first steps and utilise your existing content.
That’s right — you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time. Repurpose your old stuff — articles can become videos, case studies turned into infographics, reports into gated presentations of eBooks.
This is good advice even when you’ve already got some content behind you. Every piece, however great, has an expiry date — so make sure to keep it updated with the current trends, and most importantly — your goals.
If you are just starting out on your content marketing journey and looking for help, our lovely team at the UMG would be happy to help! Book a meeting with us to take the first step in the right direction.