Time is money. No one has enough fingers to count the number of times an admonishing adult or advising friend has uttered that nugget of wisdom. The saying holds true for B2B marketers. With long sales cycles and pervasive need for prospect education, that time-to-close is worth a lot of money.
So the question is, how do we optimize that time so that we can make more money? That’s what B2B content marketing attempts to solve.
B2B marketers need a marketing strategy that doesn’t expire. Social media is short lived, advertisements come and go, and even print media eventually goes missing or is thrown away.
So, what are we looking for? We need a marketing strategy that meets the following requirements:
offers extensive value and education
is a reuseable marketing asset
Content marketing fits the bill. If you’re a green content marketer and you’re on board with this rationale, then you’re ready to delve into four components for successful B2B content marketing.
4 Components Of B2B Content Marketing and Demand Gen
These four components are intended to take you leaps and bounds beyond where you are right now. We didn’t want to hand you ‘four easy steps’ because it’s the hard work that takes you the distance. The four components are:
Identify your niche and get to know your audience
Write using the 10 principles of successful content
Promote content to drive readers, leads, customers, and promoters
Report accurately on the success of your campaigns
Steps 1 and 2, audience identification and content development, will be covered in this article. In Part 2, we’ll cover the content promotion and reporting pieces, so be sure to come back.
COMPONENT 1: Write for a specific niche and audience
In content marketing, it’s best to define a specific niche and stick to it. The more relevant your story is to your specific buying audience, the more targeted your readers will be.
You don’t want to talk about what the greater industry at large is talking about, because you probably can't compete with the spend and distribution of the big names in the business. Instead, you want to talk about what’s most relevant to your particular audience. Identify what they care about, and write about it. Don’t worry, they’ll find you.
Speaking of - how do you identify what your niche targets really care about? The best way to do this is to build B2B buyer personas.
The 2-minute guide to building B2B buyer personas:
B2B buyer personas are quite different from B2C buyer personas, and we’ve outlined the differences below. At the basics, B2C buyer personas focus on one buyer and target them specifically.
B2B buyer personas focus on a company as the target, and then focus on the ‘buying center’ within that company.
A buying center (also known as decision making units, or DMUs) is made up of the various players in a B2B buying decision.
B2C buyer persona info: (the end-user)
interests & aspirations
B2B buyer persona info: (the company as a whole)
business brand personality
location / city culture
internal company needs
corporate pain points
buying center members
initiators of the buying process
With B2B buyer personas, you’re focused more on the company as a whole and understanding the needs and pain points that you’re solving for, as well as the influencers, decision-makers, and representatives that you’re targeting.
Questions to ask as you’re developing these profiles include:
what industry are they in?
what’s your key decision maker’s position in the company?
what’s your initial contact’s position in the company?
what’s the company size and revenue?
what obstacles do they face, or what problems are they trying to solve?
which members of their ‘buying center’ will we interface with?
what are their highest values?
how do they keep up with their industry (trends, news, etc.)?
The answers to these questions will shed light on what types of content would be most pertinent to your target B2B buyer.
COMPONENT 2: Write content that succeeds by using these 10 principles
While the majority of these principles apply to multiple types of content (articles, press releases, infographics, eBooks, whitepapers, slideshares, etc.) let’s specifically talk about written forms of content.
As you read through these points, keep this overarching theme in mind. Your content needs to be unique and memorable, because it has tons of competition.
Regardless of your industry, marketers are flooding the internet with content and social media is overflowing with industry-relevant information. So, to keep your voice in the discussion, it’s crucial to make sure that your content is worthy of the attention.
With that, keep these 10 principles in mind as you create your content marketing strategy:
1. Write what you would want to read
This is the first test of great content. If you’re writing an article and realize that you would hate reading it if you weren’t writing it, then it might be time to make a change to your topic or your writing style.
Make sure to always keep new topic ideas flowing. Remain insightful, engaging, creative, and relevant. Write robust, in-depth content that has a lot of value for your reader.
Also, keep it creative and fun to read. Your goal is for readers to keep scrolling because they’re so interested in what you’re going to say next.
2. Write with your marketing goals in mind
While you might have a great topic, each piece of content on a given topic is ‘spun’ toward the goal of the company that is writing it.
Is your goal brand awareness? Are you trying to motivate a conversion? Are you providing education for prospects or leads? Are you telling a brand-building story? Are you releasing data and information for industry leaders? What’s your goal, and are you writing with that goal in mind?
3. Write articles by synthesizing the ideas of others
It can be hard to muster excellent content ideas without excellent resources, so use the content written by others in your industry to your advantage.
Borrow their concepts and synthesize what everyone else is saying into an original compilation that will be helpful for your prospects, leads, or current clients.
4. Write the right content
The ‘right’ content is a broad definition, and that’s intentional on our part. The "right" content is unique to your company, your business needs, your customers, and your other marketing initiatives.
Sales might need some collateral, so write some articles that your sales team could use for lead education. Some types of content might have performed better than others in the past, so write more of whatever was well-received by your audience. If there are new topics cropping up in your industry, contribute to those discussions as well.
Keep content fresh, relevant, up-to-date, and engaging for your target audience. Write about what they care about, and you’re golden.
5. Write in the right voice
Just like you have buyer personas, you should also have ‘writer personas,’ that you use depending on the type of content that you’re writing?
are you a teacher, educating your audience?
are you a skeptic, articulating why a certain approach doesn’t work well?
are you a hero, defending a point of view from those in disagreement?
are you a storyteller, telling a tale of your company’s success?
Identify your various voices and hone them. They’re one of our greatest assets as writers.
6. Write based on campaigns
While all of your content will be relevant to your industry, it’s helpful to categorize and organize content based on campaigns. ‘Campaigns’ can be loosely defined as ‘topically-related content that is released over a certain pre-set span of time.’
Running content campaigns is helpful because they:
establish a preset plan of attack
organize content pushes by topic
provide consistency for readers and subscribers
serve as a basis for reporting
7. Write in coordination with other marketing initiatives
Design your content strategy around your other marketing initiatives. If there’s a particular topic that your team is focusing on, if you have a new product / service update that you’re promoting, or if you’re headed to a trade show or conference, be sure to rally your content marketing strategy around those other activities.
This will create online support for what you’re doing on the ground, or in other areas of your marketing. Don’t write on an island.
8. Write with your community in mind
Being creative and quotable with your content will increase the chances of your work being picked up by your community. Write what they will want to share because social engagement is a huge influential factor in the success of your content marketing strategy.
People follow people on social media who are like them, which means that someone within your persona demographic who shares your content will probably share it with others who are within your target market. This phenomenon can take a piece of content that was once just a blog post and turn it into a viral tool for lead generation.
Also, quote and link to other industry leaders in your content, especially blog articles. Then, shoot that person an email and ask if they might share out your piece of content. This not only associates you with other influencers, but it also ups your readership.
9. Write for both readers and scanners
Properly formatted content is as critical as creatively written content. With everyone diving into content marketing, the amount of information online has exponentially increased, which has turned into gobs of content competing for your readers’ attention.
If you don’t prove value within the first 7-11 seconds of them landing on your page, it’s unlikely that they’ll stick around.
Also, consistent internet users learn to ‘scan,’ gathering information with a quick sweep of their eyes over a page to identify the information that might be relevant to them.
If you don’t optimize your page to grab the attention of these scanners, it’s not as likely that they’ll choose to slow down and read what you have to say.
How to optimize for scanners:
headers (to entice scanners)
bullets (to summarize information)
line breaks (to break up text walls)
images (to break up text)
white space (to break up text)
quotations (set apart to draw attention)
10. Write to get subscribers
Subscribers will fuel your blog. Each time a blog post is published, it gets emailed to subscribers which dramatically increases your view rates and content shares.
This is a great way to develop fans and promoters. Protect these subscribers, write great content for them, and treat them well. If you do, they tend to give back to you ten-fold.
Be pertinent, conversational, engaging, interesting, and use your subscriber open rates (and unsubscribes) to help measure your success in these areas.
In conclusion, keep an ear to the ground
At the end of the day, our objective as content marketers is to provide value to readers, and each of these 10 principles of successful B2B content writing are 10 ways we can work toward that goal. But, the best way to stay relevant is to listen to your audience.
It’s easy to assume that your buyer personas are immutable, but the people that they represent are changing as their industry ebbs and flows around them. So, keep an ear to the ground.
Stay tuned for Part 2, where we’ll discuss content promotion strategies to increase your readership through distribution of your content. To make sure that you don’t miss it, subscribe to our blog, and you’ll receive Part 2 in your inbox when it goes live.