Content marketing is a vital part of any B2B marketing strategy. Not only is it effective for generating new leads – it is also useful for nurturing warm leads into sales-readiness. It also contributes to the entire sales and marketing pipeline. The stats back this up. The average B2B customer consumes between three and five pieces of content before they engage with a sales rep. 96% of those buyers choose to do business with organisations who have provided them with relevant content throughout the buyer’s journey. So it’s clear that an effective content marketing strategy can have a dramatic impact on both lead generation and lead quality.
There are two parts to creating an effective content marketing strategy – the content and the distribution. Whether your content is created in-house, or it’s outsourced, you need to be tactical about your content marketing strategy. Leads nurtured by content spend up to 47% more, so you want to make sure your content marketing is done right.
First Things First
Content marketing differs in outlook from other B2B marketing strategies, because it hinges on giving something back to your prospects. Channels like email marketing and digital marketing push adverts and messages out, asking people who have an interest to express it. In the short run, they may gain a free demonstration or trial, and in the long run, they’ll gain a product or solution.
With content marketing, however, you’re offering something of value in exchange for the expression of interest. These objects of value come in the form of an insightful or informative medium; most commonly, this is a blog or downloadable asset like an eBook or whitepaper. It could also be something a little more varied, such as a video, podcast or infographic. This content is created with a double intention: to raise interest in your product or solution, but also to share knowledge and entice discussion in your field.
This means prospects are further inclined to inquire, as they’re thankful for the content and now thinking about their business needs, but it also works to nurture those who may not be ready to buy just yet. After reading a few blogs and watching a couple of videos, the prospect may then realize you can help them, and come to you for a solution.
So how is this done? How can you create an effective content marketing strategy that generates both hot and warm business leads, doesn’t repeat itself and is consistent in its results?
How to Create an Effective Content Marketing Strategy
Perfect your Buyer Personas
If you’re not already using buyer personas, you should be. And if you are, make sure they’re perfect.
In a nutshell, a buyer persona is a representation of your ideal buyer. The more information you can attribute to it, the better. Make sure you’re covering both bigger picture factors and more detailed, micro preferences. For example:
- What industry are they in?
- What facilities do they need for your product/solution to work?
- Who is their clientele?
- What’s their annual turnover?
- What’s their business size?
- Where are they based? These are often similar to the questions used in turning a normal business lead into a qualified lead. Then look to more specific detail:
- What’s their job title?
- What’s their seniority?
- Can they make a decision alone?
- What’s their time scale for purchasing?
- What’s their budget?
- What are their needs?
- Which hours of the day are they in the office?
- What are they already aware of and what do they need to know?
Pad your buyer persona out with these details. Some organizations have two or three different personas, where they have several use cases and market to varying industries. So why are buyer personas important? Once you’re in the head of your ideal buyer, you’ll know what language will get them excited and intrigued, you’ll know what they’re looking for in research, you’ll have insight into the movements and advancements of their industry. This all feeds into making the most successful content for your specific audience that meets the business needs of your desired buyers. Last year, 71% of the organizations who exceeded revenue and lead generation goals were actively using buyer personas. This is because a buyer persona allows you to appear less “sales-y” in your B2B marketing; 81% of those using buyer personas were able to improve their business proposition and product value within their content marketing, so they saw more leads generated! Don’t forget – buyer personas change, just like every aspect of marketing, so ensure you update them at least every six months. Even if there is little or no change, this will help ensure all your marketing channels are tapping into the correct buyer mind-sets.
Make an Informed Decisions About Mediums and Platforms
Now you’ve got those buyer personas nailed, let’s use them to make informed decisions and create an effective content marketing strategy.
Start by asking, what information do our ideal buyers want to know/consume? Think of broad topics that apply to your product/solution, like “B2B sales” and then delve deeper into niche topics and subjects, such as “sales analytics”, “sales call techniques” or “sales pipeline”. Pick two or three of these broad, big starting points, and draw five-to-ten detailed areas from each one. Relate these back to the needs attached to your buyer persona, also to their industry, job title and clientele.
Then you need to ask, how do our ideal buyers want to receive this information? Do they want to read it, or watch it, or listen to it? It’s good to offer a variety, as we all have different preferences, but here you can rule things out you know won’t appeal. If you’re marketing to a persona that enjoys detail and information, then a 60-second video is unlikely to spark their interest more than a blog, asset or 15-minute podcast. Draw up a list of mediums you’ll definitely use, a list of ones you’ll test and try, and a list of those you don’t think will work with your buyer persona.
Now the final question- where would our ideal buyers like to find/interact with our content? This is where the strategy deepens and you look to the practical use of the content you’ll make. Of course uploading content to your website is a must, to grow a community and boost SEO, but think about how you’ll announce and share that content, via email, social media, direct mail even? Look at all the options through the eyes of your ideal buyer. Also, contemplate how often they would want to receive content- B2B organizations who publish 11+ blogs per month generate an average of 4x as many business leads!
Answer all these questions in detail, and you’ll be ready for the next step.
Create a Content Calendar
A content calendar takes time to create but is the key to implementing and maintaining an effective content marketing strategy. You should be planning out every week: what content you’ll publish, when and where.
Start on a large scale; apply a broad topic to a month or choose a campaign to run the length of a quarter, then go deeper. Spread those niche, more detailed topics across the assets, blog posts, infographics and podcasts for that month, so you’ll cohesively cover that topic on both a surface level detail and a more in-depth, adept level of detail in the mediums you deem preferable to your ideal buyer.
Plot titles for each piece on the calendar in the week you want them published, and describe where they’ll be published, promoted and shared. Then you need to expand the calendar from a practicality perspective- when do you need to start constructing the content to publish on a certain day? What input will you need from your internal or external copywriter and/or graphic designer to complete the content? How many checks and amendment processes will you undergo?
This content calendar will be what gives your content marketing that ability to nurture leads through a journey, along with the ability to run a content market strategy with the power to bring constant results and reliable lead quality.
Be a Thought Leader
96% of B2B buyers want more input from thought leaders in the content they read. To become one! Conduct the appropriate research and position yourself as a thought leader in your field. Whether you choose to relate closely to modern influencers in your ideal buyer’s industry, or you aim to carve your own path of learning and expertise, make sure you’re working with reliable resources. Find statistics from surveys or academic studies, and look to different schools of thought within your industry, to create content with superior knowledge. Set up your own surveys and use the results to make benchmark reports. Aim to be teachers- your prospects should come to you to learn about their industry and find research for their own strategies.
This does wonders for many factors outside of lead generation. Namely, credibility. The name of your brand, when positioned as a thought leader, becomes associated with expertise, knowledge and trust. This helps all of your B2B marketing channels by legitimizing their message and increasing their standing in the market. This also helps your sales team; when leads come their way, they already believe you’re a brilliant organization and the best in your field, so closing that sale comes far quicker and easier.
Track the Right KPIs
With any marketing strategy, the reporting and analysis are as crucial as the build-up in its success. This is especially true of content marketing, where you’re running a constant campaign and nurturing journey. So make sure you not only have a good reporting system in place, but you’re recording the best metrics to improve your strategy.
There are no right or wrong key performance indicators to measure; as every content marketing strategy will differ due to its buyer persona. Its KPIs will of course, also vary. We would recommend, however, ensuring you have a good website analytics software, that will enable you to see the number of views or downloads your content has achieved. This is a great starting place to track the reception of your content and its conversion rate.
Remember, content takes time to work. It’s not as instant as some channels as it focuses more on the nurture of a lead. When you launch a new content marketing strategy, make sure you allow a few weeks for it to take effect.
Content marketing offers that softer approach that many buyers not only appreciate but also feel a benefit from. So it balances out your B2B marketing department where other channels focus on getting that instant “yes!”. Though it seems there’s loads to do to get started, the contribution of an effective content marketing strategy to sales and retention is as valuable as its B2B lead generation capabilities, so you’ll not only obtain more customers, you’ll keep them too.