When it comes to content marketing, B2B is a completely different ballgame.
While it might be obvious to many, many others seem to miss out on the finer nuances when crafting content strategies. And that hurts.
Juggling between creative demands, budget limits, channel decisions, and targeting the precise buyer persona – there’s a lot that a marketer needs to take care of in both B2B and B2C context.
But despite these similarities, there are certain differences, too, that should be kept in mind. These include:
|B2B content marketing||B2C content marketing|
|Focused on a small, organized target audience||Focused on a large, mostly scattered target audience|
|Requires patience, as buying cycles are long||Buying cycles aren’t that long in the case of B2C|
|Focuses on generating leads||Focuses on building the brand voice|
|Is mainly for audiences seeking expertise and efficiency||Is mainly for audiences seeking entertainment and quick purchases.|
Above everything else, B2B content has to be useful and actionable. If the reader cannot make use of the content, it is missing the mark. This doesn’t mean you can’t publish the odd off-topic piece every now and then, but as a B2B content marketer, being seen and renowned as a leading resource for professionals in your industry should be your top priority.
Of course, that’s not meant to undermine the usefulness of B2C content, but the difference is that for B2C, usefulness is not the primary consideration.
Think about branded content, for example, what Red Bull publishes:
All of this content is primarily entertaining, and works to strengthen the brand. It features remarkable things and tips happening across various media channels and creates an exciting, media-rich experience. This is excellent for brand awareness, but perhaps less so for directly driving leads or sales.
Think of it in the same way that marketers approach the Google Search and Display networks; the Search network (or B2B content marketing, in this slightly awkward metaphor) is more metric- or results-driven, whereas the Display network (or B2C content) is more effective for driving brand awareness.
However, this doesn’t mean that your B2B content can get away with being bland, boring, or forgettable. If anything, B2B content marketers have to balance all three elements of the Holy Trifecta of Content Marketing – useful, engaging, and of high quality – even more perfectly than B2C content professionals.
With the difference between B2B and B2B clear, here’s everything else that we’ll be discussing throughout this guide:
B2B content, growth, and beyond: A comprehensive guide to effective B2B content.
- Doing it the right way
- What constitutes B2B content?
- Creating a powerful B2B content marketing strategy
- The content production process
- Collaborative tools
Doing it the right way
Let’s look at some organizations that have done B2B content correctly.
LeadPages help design landing page templates and testing services.
The B2B content strategy:
They focused on the following activities to compete with major competitors such as HubSpot:
- A marketing blog focused on lead generation and A/B testing with a novel approach to generating content, from cross-promotions on social media to stopping lead leaks.
- Producing what has become one of the most popular marketing podcasts, “ConversionCast,” featuring Tim Paige.
- Launching weekly webinars to build upon their educational marketing.
- Expanding their content and including free educational marketing resources, like courses, eBooks, infographics, and case studies.
According to Founder and CEO, Clay Collins, the company acquired 35,000 customers in less than three years and hit over $16 million in revenue in 2015.
HubSpot is a marketing company credited for coining the phrase “inbound marketing.”
The B2B content strategy:
They created two types of content to address different stages of the funnel:
- The blog guides small businesses about inbound marketing to attract readers to the top of the funnel.
- Other resources include an impressive library of eBooks, case studies, webinars, a quiz, and a marketing kit targeting mid to bottom of the funnel visitors.
Their content marketing is a major driver of traffic, allowing them to transform in just ten years from being funded to a public company worth over a billion dollars.
Salesforce is the world’s largest vendor of CRM.
The B2B content strategy:
They had to increase their search and paid traffic sources using a number of tactics that included:
- Entertaining videos about sales and marketing.
- The first stop-motion SlideShare in the world.
In three months, their strategy saw an 80% year-over-year increase in traffic. They also saw a staggering increase in traffic generated from their social pages by 2500%. Their eBook downloads reached 10,000, and their newsletter gained 6,500 sign-ups.
SAP is one of the largest enterprise software vendors in the world for more than a dozen industries.
The B2B content strategy:
With such a diverse target, SAP focused on segmentation that included:
- Customized content marketing for 19 customer segments.
- Tailored messaging covering topics relevant to each industry.
- Solution-based content for each segment by demonstrating the industry-specific benefits of their product
- Using the right content for each target, including email, Tweets, LinkedIn updates, blog pots, their own SAP Community Network, virtual and live events, outbound and responder follow-up calls, and account-based marketing.
SAP saw Marketing Generated Ops to the tune of $3,675,000, and marketing touched pipeline growth equal to $50,037,709.
The above-mentioned examples are best of the best, and they do clarify one thing — that B2B content is indeed suited to longer sales cycles, where the customer can take time and research for options.
Having said that, here are some B2B content statistics that you’d not want to miss:
- The most effective B2B content marketers allocate a larger portion of their budget to content marketing: 42% of their total budget, compared to 28% for less-effective marketers. (Source)
- B2B marketers report sales lead quality as their #1 most important metric for measuring content marketing success; even more important than sales and conversions. (Source)
- Year-over-year growth in unique site traffic is 7.8x higher for content marketing leaders compared to followers (19.7% vs 2.5%). (Source)
- The 5 most important marketing tactics for B2B businesses are (in order): in-person events, webinars/webcasts, case studies, white papers, and videos. (Source)
- Only 30% of B2B marketers say their organizations are effective at content marketing, down from 38% last year. Effectiveness levels are greater among respondents with documentation, clarity around success, good communication, and experience.
- 44% of B2B marketers say their organization is clear on what content marketing success or effectiveness looks like; 55% are unclear or unsure.
All of these statistics point in one direction — that content marketing has exploded because it works!
The problem, however, is that a large section of marketers are quite clueless when it comes to implement B2B content marketing. They tend to spin their wheels and waste their time with content that never gains exposure or lead-generating traction.
So, to set the tone of the rest of this guide, we’ll be analyzing various elements that go into the entire B2B content marketing lifecycle. There’ll be checklists throughout the guide so that you know exactly where you are.
Let’s start from the beginning…
What constitutes B2B content?
In all honesty, while we’ve established differences between B2B and B2C, at the core, both of these types need to speak to the audience. So, for that, the most important thing in B2B is understanding which stage of the funnel is your customer in, what types of content you’ll use for each stage of the buyer’s journey, and how to apply them in the B2B marketing arena.
Let’s make this easy by giving you a few examples for each stage —
Awareness — TOFU (Top Of FUnnel)
At the top of the funnel, the target is to introduce the brand and build a relationship with the audience. Here, typically shorter content types are targeted, including:
- Blog posts
- Quora answers
- Social media posts
Consideration — MOFU (Middle Of FUnnel)
MOFU content strategies are targeted to the stage at which buyers already know and trust a brand, but are researching competitors to evaluate which aligns best with their needs. This stage, which can be quite lengthy in a B2B scenario, usually features longer-form content like:
- Website content
Decision — BOFU (Bottom Of FUnnel)
The bottom of the funnel represents the point at which the buyer has decided that they need to move ahead with a purchase. Here, they are figuring out whether they should make that purchase with your brand or with a competitor. As a result, BOFU content should ideally feature a compelling call to action (CTA) or a special trial offer.This is the stage at which marketers may need to give buyers a little nudge to move them across the finish line. It can be done using:
- Website content
- Case studies
- Customer stories
- Research reports
- Video content
Knowing the stage of the funnel at which your customer lies is extremely important, but there’s more that goes into formulating an effective B2B content strategy. You need to introspect deeper about your existing content efforts, where and how you want to exercise content marketing, and the gap in between your activities.
With all that said, let’s look at a few important points of consideration for you, before you start targeting the different stages of the funnel!
Analyze your current positioning
To understand the changes you’ll need to make, it’s important to take a moment and reflect on where you are currently. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you have the buyer persona?
- Do you know how to reach that persona?
- What is the kind of content that you’ve already created? How much of it has worked and how much has bombed?
- Does the content tone that you’ve been following speak to your target audience?
- What channels are you leveraging to push out content?
- How do you compare with everyone else in the industry?
Walk towards your destination
With the above questions answered, you now know where you stand. So, the next obvious move should be to take the first steps towards your destination – which is, using content for your benefit. For that, you need to:
- Get utmost clarity on the target audience (buyer personas) you’re targeting.
- Understand the different stages of the funnel (as discussed earlier).
- Figure out the best ways to target customers during their entire funnel-journey.
- Explore various channels, understand where your audience lies, and pick the one that helps your cause.
- Optimize your already existing content, and re-publish it.
- Analyze the market and understand what your competition is doing.
All of this is obviously easier said than done. Efficiently pulling this off requires a thorough understanding of:
- Search Engine Optimization
- Writing for the web
- Workflow analysis
- Creating content calendars
We’re gonna discuss each of these points in the later sections, so be sure to look out for this.
Other than the above-mentioned items, you’ll also want to understand the keywords you’ll be targeting with your content strategy.
Short- vs. long-tail keywords
OK, it’s definition time.
Short-tail keywords are 1-2 words long, whereas long-tail keywords are 4-6 words in length.
The extra few words have a huge impact on the SEO results, which we’ll get to shortly.
But before that, consider that you’re a manufacturer of custom packaging equipment. Naturally, you’d want to target the obvious keyword “packaging equipment”. Now, there is usually a big fish with a massive marketing budget that’s been in the game for far longer sitting at the top of the search results for single keyword phrases. Or even if that’s not the case, you are definitely not the only company in the “packaging equipment” industry”. As a result, this short-tail keyword is more competitive (read: difficult) to rank highly organically.
Now, let’s step into the shoes of your ideal buyers – a manufacturer of doors. They require your solution, so they search for “packaging solutions for doors”, “custom packaging solutions for doors”, “doors custom packaging equipment”, and more.
Compared to the short-tail keyword, these long-tail keywords are more descriptive. Yes, they receive fewer monthly searches, but they’re easier to rank for, and, best of all, they invariably result in the right type of traffic to your website. These are the folks who know just what they want, and as a result are more deeper into the funnel.
Best practices for choosing and using long-tail keywords
Long-tail keywords should always sound natural. If they sound awkward or forced, you may be trying too hard. That’s why 4- or 5-word is generally a good starting point. Though 6- or 7-word may work, too, depending on your creativity.
The intended use of the long-tail keywords — in the title of a blog article title, webpage, or video — should also influence how you write your phrase (and how you pair it with additional words).
Here’s are some ways you could use long-tail keywords mentioned above in different ways:
- Blog Article Title – Most Efficient Custom Packaging Solutions for Doors
- Web Page Title – Custom Packaging Solutions for Door Manufacturers
- Video Title – How [Company Name] Engineers Custom Packaging Solutions for Doors
Each one keeps the long-tail keyword phrase intact while utilizing additional keywords to further support its use. And it feels natural to the end-user.
The benefits of using long-tail keywords in B2B
OK, so far so good. Till now, we know that:
- Short-tail keywords are highly competitive.
- Long-tail keywords receive fewer searches. However, if we target them (and their numerous variations), the results for those search phrases will eventually find you at the top (or near the top, depending on your industry).
Despite this, in today’s SEO landscape, using outstanding long-tail keywords alone may not be enough. You also need to implement a cluster approach to your entire strategy. Here, the idea is to target your ideal prospects’ pain points as you prove your authority on the topic.
Let’s look at one example, straight out of Hubspot.
Don’t mind the shapes too much. They just represent different content assets — blog, video, infographic, etc.
Just focus on the center. You’ll see the primary short-tail keyword. Surrounding that are eight long-tail keyword phrases, ranging from 4- to 6-word each.
Compare this approach to targeting competitive short-tail keywords, and you’ll find that you’re saving efforts, time, and money. For targeting short-tail keywords, you’ll have to use paid tactics like AdWords. Further, depending on the broadness of the keyword, you are at a risk of attracting a lot of the wrong search traffic.
Keeping that in mind, a better approach would be to target long-tail keywords with topic clusters in mind, and find creative ways of using these phrases in various online content formats. You could even include these variations in your company and employee social media profiles. This will make you hard to ignore when your ideal buyer begins a search for the solution you’re offering.
With the basics settled, let’s look at the next important aspect.
Creating a powerful B2B content marketing strategy
Feel free to use this as a checklist while working on your next content marketing strategy. Here’s what you need to do:
Analyze your industry competition
It is important to understand what is and isn’t working for other people in your industry. That way, you get to skip some of the pains they have. endured. You also get to learn from them, as to what they’re doing right.
That said, just because they can’t get it right doesn’t mean you can’t either. Take this opportunity to learn from their mistakes and identify areas that could use improvement.
You guessed it!
Do it better.
Determine what you’ll be creating
Now you need to determine the kind of content you’ll be producing. What is it that your target audience wants to consume?
For this, you’ll need content for each stage of the buyer’s journey. What type will it be?
How many blog posts, power posts, ebooks, case studies, etc. do you need to answer your target’s questions and nurture them during each stage of the buyer’s journey?
Answer all of these questions to determine the types of content you want to create for each stage!
Create a content calendar
A content calendar is precisely what it sounds like — a calendar that you can use for creating and posting content.
If you plan on creating 3 blog posts each week, and publishing them on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, put it on your calendar.
If you want to send out monthly newsletters or offer mailers, note the time when you’ll create it and the date you’ll push it, on your calendar.
Get the picture?
The single most effective indicator of your content marketing efforts is an editorial calendar based on buyer-focused keyword research. Winging content creation and promotion efforts is not only naive, but dangerous in the long run. A campaign/content calendar is a fundamental part of an effective digital marketing campaign.
Follow an iterative process
It’s crucial that you discuss the outcomes of any content strategy that you implemented. Without analyzing and discussing the outcomes, there’s no way you’ll improve with future strategies. And without that, you won’t see any improvement in your results. So, always follow a process that has room for improvements and iterations, and is not too rigid.
According to the content marketing institute, “44% of B2B marketers discuss daily or weekly—either in person or virtually— the progress of their content marketing program; however, the more effective the organization is at content marketing, the more often they meet (61% of the most effective meet daily or weekly).”
With a checklist in place, let’s move ahead with the most important part of any content marketing initiative.
The content production process
Many things go into effective content production. In fact, there are some steps that you’ll definitely need to understand before you begin producing.
Understand your target buyer persona
It all starts with a clear understanding of your buyer persona. The most important part of your content strategy is knowing who you’re selling to.
You’ll go nowhere fast by trying to target everyone. Instead, be sure you’ve created a very specific buyer persona and build your content around them.
- What type of customer makes up the majority of your clientele?
- What are their defining characteristics?
- What kind of content are they likely to consume the most?
Answer as specifically as possible!
You can always create new personas and expand your target in the future, but the importance of starting with a defined buyer persona is paramount to your success.
Understanding keyword research
Keyword research is utmost important. Beginning content creation without knowing what keywords you’re targeting is an all-too-common strategy and will probably get you nowhere,
Think about topic ideas that your target buyer would be searching for by asking these questions:
- Who is the content for?
- What problems will they face in their buyer’s journey?
- What are they most likely to search for?
- What is stopping them from buying from you?
Answering these questions will help you jot down a list of ideas for blogs and other content activities. Then, using the keyword research tools outlined in the next section, determine how you can optimize your content ideas. Combining keyword research and user-friendly content ideas, you’ll definitely see yourself rank higher!
Outlining content pieces
Collate the ideas you’ve come up in the previous step, find the relevant keywords, and plug them into a keyword analysis tool (see the section below). This will give you an idea of the search volume for those keywords.
For instance, if you want to write about “How to optimize your ecommerce store?”, the best keyword, based on search volume and competition, might be ‘ecommerce marketing’. If you don’t believe us, try one of the tools mentioned in the next section and check for yourself!
You’ll also get an idea of the level of competition you’re up against. If the competition is too high, you can always look at different variations of the same keywords, as well as some secondary but related keywords that will help boost the overall search volume.
Once all of this is in place, you can start with creating outlines for your posts. It can be longer and informative, with reference links sprinkled throughout. It must establish the flow of the piece and should include enough subtopics to narrate the whole story..
Finish the outline with links to the articles you want to emulate, and those you need to be better than.
Search engine optimized writing
The writing process is always more about being a marketer than a great writer (though that definitely helps). In fact, most great marketers you see aren’t that great writers. Here’s, however, what they’re good at:
Creating standalone resources
One of the best ways to rank higher than the competition is by creating something that’s better than what is available on the internet. For that, just Google your keywords, understand which posts rank high for that, and craft a piece that is more informative and actionable than them.
Tell the whole story. Aim to create a stand-alone resource that you don’t need to link out to other sites or posts to make it feel complete.
Optimizing with keywords
It’s recommended to include necessary keywords in the first hundred words, and about one time for every 100 words in between. Try to maintain an average ratio of less than 2%. (Use this tool.)
Hooking readers with the intro
The intro is extremely important. You want your content read, so you need to hook your reader right off the bat.
Use the trusty APP approach to get your reader on the line:
- Agree: I think you’ll agree…
- Promise: Well, it’s possible to do it like this…
- Preview: Here’s a preview of what’s to come…
Then fill in the rest of the post with cliff-hanging sentences called “bucket brigades.”
- As if that’s not enough
- Best of all
- But wait there’s more
- By now
- By the way
- Even better
- Good news!
- Here’s why
Benefit heavy headings and subheadings
With everything else sorted, you’ll want to make sure that your content is easily skimmable.
Sorry for bearing the bad news, but not many people will actually read the post line-by-line.
Most people are going to scan it for the information they’re after and move on with their lives. It’s just the way of the world.
That is the reason why you need to make sure they find what they need, even on a cursory glance.
Instead of being quirky with the headlines, be clear about what the section is about and how it will benefit the reader.
You should also format your content with plenty of headings, subheadings, bullets, and more, that help to break up long blocks of boring-looking content. The easier your post is to scan and read, the better!
The more you use these techniques, the better your chances are that you’ll have your posts read, and that’s important.
On-page time is an important ranking factor for Google, so you want to show the search engine that people are finding your post relevant to the keywords you’re targeting by keeping them reading.
Use visual elements (images/GIFs/videos)
Include relevant images, videos, or GIFs throughout your post that fit with the narration and help you tell the story. A picture is indeed worth a thousand words, and it even helps break-up long pieces of boring-looking text!
Too much content, no matter how amazing, can look daunting at first glance. Instead, you can illustrate that content with visual elements for better clarity.
For this, you can either use stock images and videos (tools in the next section), or hire a professional to design graphics and visual aids to support your post. A professional designer can take your copy and photos and make the best out of it!
Now that you’re done writing, it’s time to publish it!
Nope, not yet.
It’s important to have all of your content edited. Have a second (and even a third) party review your content for spelling, grammar, sentence structure, readability, scannability, SEO, the likes!
A fresh pair of eyes and an outside point of view can help you identify weak points and catch mistakes. Content that is perfect on every front makes Google and your readers like you more!
With the perfect post ready, now you’re ready to publish it. This process isn’t too complex for most of the publishing platforms available. More on these platforms later.
Social sharing and email distribution
This is also the time to share your post on social media and with your email list. Broadcast your valuable content to the world and keep an eye out for feedback.
Typically, each piece of content should be converted to a minimum of 25 social media posts. These posts should then be scheduled over the coming months. The wider audience you reach, the better for you. Social posts are easily shared and emails are easily forwarded — if you leverage both of these mediums, you’ll start seeing more traffic, without fail!
There you have it, the perfect content production process all wrapped up into a neat little package.
Now let’s take a look at the tools we use to make content marketing more powerful!
Collaborative tools like Google docs — and the entire GSuite, for that matter — will make your life much easier when creating content. They allow you to access content from anywhere, share it with anyone, and collaborate with your entire team without any hassle.
Keyword research tools
Without any tool, you may think that your target audience is searching for “cheap fabric bolts” while the higher volume / lower competition keyword actually might be “wholesale fabric bolts”. While both of these mean pretty much the same, if you optimized around the former keyword, you’d be missing out on a much brighter traffic opportunity.
Publishing platforms – lead captures – email automation
WordPress and Hubspot are two of the most popular platforms that make it easier for you to publish your content and even track its performance.
These platforms offer features that allow you to capture email IDs to build your contact list, develop landing and thank you pages, and respond to people accordingly. All of these features can be automated so that you can follow up with your list of contacts frequently. You can also take your inbound marketing to the next level with tools like Hubspot’s Smart CTAs.
If you’ve followed us till the end, you’ll agree that B2B content marketing is a tough nut to crack. There are many things to consider and take care of — why not let the experts do it?