What is B2B content marketing? Providing actionable, practical, educational content (that puts your audience's needs above your desires to promote your products and solutions) is just the tip of the iceberg.
What is B2B content marketing? Even seasoned eCommerce professionals can get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of content that exists on this topic. It's easy to get lost in the acronyms alone, but it's incredibly important to have a B2B content marketing strategy. Not only does it support and strengthen your eCommerce branch, but it sets you apart in an increasingly competitive market.
B2B Content Marketing Isn't B2C Content Marketing
It may seem obvious, but B2B content marketing isn't the same as B2C. It's practically second nature for marketing professionals to create content with prospective customers in mind. But B2B content marketing efforts are specifically by businesses, for businesses.
High quality B2B content establishes your business as a thought leader. It demonstrates your expertise and value-add. When executed well, it drives leads and sales through a peer-to-peer approach. In short: it's not your standard consumer-focused content.
Goals B2B Marketers Have Achieved by Using Content Marketing Successfully in Last 12 Months
As Reported One Year Ago
Create brand awareness
Build loyalty with existing clients/customers
Drive attendance to one or more in-person event
Generate sales/ revenue
Build a subscribed audience
Support the launch of a new product
None of he above
Most importantly, B2B content has to be actionable. Your fellow business leaders want suggestions, insights, and next-steps that they can apply to their own businesses. While B2C content can focus on brand awareness, utilizing entertaining content marketing campaigns, good B2B content is primarily useful. It puts your audience's informational needs ahead of marketing your company's products or services.
However, this doesn't mean that your content can be dry or boring. B2B content needs to be just as engaging as B2C content.
Tell A Better Story
There's an easy way to create actionable content while simultaneously making it interesting: ramp up your storytelling. Every business has a story. What's yours? How does your company's narrative solve a problem for your readers? Find a way to tell that story.
Again, don't focus on selling your product or service. Simply demonstrate how your company - and the information you're sharing - can help your target audience.
Humans connect to stories. We relate to them, react to them, and become emotionally invested, especially if it's relevant to our own circumstances. Even though B2B content marketing is business-focused and not consumer-focused, at the end of the day, you're still talking to real people.
Telling a story will not only keep your content from becoming bland and boring, but it humanizes your business, giving you a competitive edge.
Diversify Your B2B Content
Now, let's talk about the type of content you're creating.
Digital marketing involves a wide variety of content creation: blog posts, video content, social media, and more. While the most common B2B content marketing method is often blog content, diversifying your content can help you stand out from the crowd.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, the world's leading authority on all things content marketing, fewer than 50% of B2B content marketers use content methods such as podcasts, online presentations, and live-streaming video. Even pre-produced video content, webinars, and infographics are underutilized (under 60%).
B2B companies and their marketing teams tend to focus on social media, blogs, and email newsletters, leaving other approaches wide open for you to create and apply content in ways different than your competitors.
In a constantly evolving space, taking a unique approach that embraces new technologies and methods of delivery can help your company's marketing strategy stay fresh. Sure, you still need blog content, but it's no longer unique. Figure out other methods that compliment the more classic forms of B2B content marketing.
Know Your Target Audience
Another mantra you've heard before, but one that bears repeating: before you can effectively communicate with your audience, you have to know who they are.
Thankfully, there's a vast amount of incredibly useful data at your fingertips. Google Analytics is a great way to learn about the people visiting your website. From basic demographic information, to more specific information like what pages are most visited and what topics are popular, you can get a sense of who's spending time - and how they're spending it - on your site. This allows you to verify if your content is resonating, and provide direction for future strategy.
Social analytics are just as useful: what kind of content is being shared? Did that quick video on digital transformation have a lot of engagement? Perhaps it's worth expanding into a full blog post or even webinar. Is Industry Twitter buzzing about how to turn browsers into buyers? Re-share that article on conversion that your VP of Digital Strategy published a few months ago.
All of this information can help you tailor your B2B content so that it's deeply relevant to your audience.
Make It Personal
Once you know who your audience is, it's time to make it personal.
One way to approach this is by creating reader personas (similar to buyer personas) and crafting content with each of those individual personas in mind.
How you speak to the VP of Marketing is going to be significantly different than how you speak to a Chief Operating Officer, because they have different goals, concerns, and expertise.
Knowing who your reader personas are allows you to create more specific, persuasive, and meaningful content. Speaking the language of each persona establishes trust, enticing your readers to keep coming back fore more and more content.
Another tactic is to create content with segmentation in mind. You can choose to segment by a variety of different identifiers: geographic location, age, job title, etc. This allows you to personalize content and send the right information to the right groups of people.
Sometimes it's easier to personalize based upon where your reader is in their journey. Are they just starting out? Are they ready to evaluate solutions? Have they implemented a new solution and are trying to get their employees and customers to adopt it?
Depending on where your reader is in their buying decision, they will have considerably different informational needs. Design your content with these stages in mind.
Have A B2B Content Promotion Strategy
So you've got educational, useful, and personalized content - but no one's seeing it. Like it or not, content promotion is critical in today's online environment. Organic reach is often no longer sufficient, but fortunately there are a multitude of cost-effective paid advertising solutions.
From targeted social ads on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, to more complex efforts, like focusing on SEO improvements and collaborating with other businesses to widen both of your reaches, take the time to develop - and invest in - a B2B content promotion strategy.
Set Measurable Goals
It's easy to get caught up in content creation and forget to measure whether or not your efforts are successful.
Your B2B content marketing strategy should always incorporate particular goals. Maybe it's to grow site traffic or increase your email list subscribers.
Set realistic but meaningful goals and measure them consistently. Keep it clear and precise to ensure that your efforts are resonating in the ways you intend. Use the results to tweak your strategy and adjust your approach as needed.
It's All About Trust
Even if you're telling compelling stories, creating content with specific personas in mind, utilizing a variety of content platforms, and ensuring that your B2B content is being seen by the right people, none of it matters if you don't establish trust.
Providing actionable, practical, educational content (that puts your audience's needs above your desires to promote your products and solutions) is just the tip of the iceberg.
Obviously, some of the goals of B2B content marketing include getting your content shared, viewed, and discussed. You want your audience to subscribe to your emails, sign up for your webinars, and tune in when you have something to share.
But ultimately, all of these goals revolve around one driving factor: building a bond of trust between your business and your audience.
In fact, per the Content Marketing Institute, 96% of the most successful content marketers agree that their audience trusts their business, and views them as a credible resource.
Establishing credibility should be the primary focus of every single piece of content marketing that you create. But how to go about building this critical bond?
Earning trust requires consistency. You have to deliver reliable content over and over again. It can quickly become challenging to create new - and useful - content consistently. Try to track what's trending in your industry and to anticipate questions your audience may have about new tools and solutions. This will help keep your content fresh.
When building trust, it's also important to focus on providing value before you ask for any information in return. Always remember to keep your content personal, and make it about your content about your audience, not about you.
Now you have a solid understanding of B2B content marketing, and an overview of some key elements that comprise a good strategy.
While there is a lot to consider, hopefully you can incorporate these takeaways into your existing marketing efforts. If your company already has a good handle on most of these elements, perhaps you just need to tighten up a few processes and refresh some of your strategy. If not, it may be time to craft a new strategy, and overhaul your content marketing approach.
Remember that a great B2B content marketing agency develops strategies that always provide value; are engaging and interesting; focus on specific, personalized audiences; take advantage of a variety of platforms and content delivery methods; utilize paid and collaborative promotions; have measurable outcomes; and ultimately build trust between your business and your audience.
And of course, let us know if you have questions or comments about anything we've addressed! What are your thoughts on these tactics? If you’ve tried any of them, let us know how they worked out.
Sarah is a nimble and creative marketing leader with 15 years of experience in a mix of agencies, B2B, and B2C enterprises. She brings a background in building and driving impactful marketing practices and processes for growing businesses. Sarah has expertise in brand, content marketing, lead generation, and marketing operations. She’s a co-author of the 2019 book on B2B eCommerce Digital Branch Secrets: eCommerce Playbook for Distributors.