If you’re feeling the pressure to deliver, you aren't the only one. Today, every business has a blog, and video content is appearing quicker than Usain Bolt hunting chicken nuggets.
Although you build every strategy with strong content, take a more considered approach if you want to stand out like a sore thumb.
If the word ‘strategy’ makes content marketing seem like a mammoth task, don’t worry. We're going to break down fifteen thought-leading principles. So, if you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and use some of these B2B content marketing ideas, read on.
1. Before You Do ANYTHING, Understand Your Audience.
If you’re used to direct marketing with a focus on product benefits, hit the reset button. Before you even think about developing a strategy or getting any business to buy-in to your product or service, you need to adopt a customer-centric mindset.
Because content marketing is all about your audience, it’s paramount that you can identify a buyer persona. The mistake a lot of companies make is trying to appeal to everyone, a buyer persona gives you the opportunity to target a certain type of person.
Cast a wide net and you'll come back with a random catch, pick the bait you know your target loves and you've got more chance of reeling them in.
Know who your audience is, what they want and how they want it delivered. Ask yourself:
- What solution do they need that will make their life easier?
- Does my company offer that solution?
- Can they access my information?
- What are their preferred communications channels?
2. Think About Strategy
If you work for someone else and want to introduce or revise your approach to content marketing, you’ll need to make a business case. Even if you’re the boss, it’s still worth producing a documented approach. It will act as a point of reference and keep you on track.
It will act as a pitch, so make it persuasive and back it up with evidence if you can. Your business case doesn’t need to be more than one page; you don't want to overwhelm company leaders with too much information. It should answer the following questions:
- Purpose – what business challenges are you trying to resolve? More conversions, improved SEO for your website, developing client trust, improving the value of your product or service?
- Business fit – how does this strategy fit with wider company goals? Link your strategy to company KPIs and demonstrate wider ROI (such as joining up departments or improving cross-division collaboration).
- Realistic goals – where do you sit in your industry and where do you want to be? Set realistic but challenging goals that provide the business with an ROI. Also, consider the speed at which content marketing delivers; while effective, it's a slow burner. Sometimes you won't see results for 12-months plus.
- Worst case scenario – what would give you nightmares and how will you manage risks to ensure this doesn’t happen?
- Resources – do you have the right skill set and enough capacity to deliver your strategy? Will you restructure existing roles, recruit, use an agency or freelance designers and writers?
- Tactics – what’s your plan to get you from start to finish? Setting out your high-level B2B content marketing strategy provides you with a framework for action. It also gives you an opportunity to show how you'll manage risks.
You can find a good example of a one-page business case for content marketing here.
3. Monitor KPIs
Measuring the right performance indicators for the project and the business is key to knowing whether you're on the right track.
Page views will tell you content reach, whereas tracking the amount of time spent on each page, the number of comments, likes and shares will tell you if people are engaging with each piece of content. Get more bang for your buck by analysing the comments you receive to improve audience insights.
Also, identify bounce rates to see where your audience is leaving the page straight away. High bounce rates can be a sign your design isn't up to scratch, or your keyword targeting isn't working.
Attracting and engaging clients lay the foundations for conversions. Track click-through rates to your website to see how effective content is at moving clients towards your products or services.
Join forces with the sales team to track where their deals are originating. You may find that clients who have engaged with your company’s content appreciate the value of your proposition and are more likely to convert.
4. Capture & Analyse Data
Once you have your KPIs, you need to make sure you can measure them. If your current technology only allows you to see when an email has been opened but doesn't offer an after action, it may be worth investing in new technology.
A CRM like HubSpot enables you to set up workflows. For example, if your prospect downloads a resource from your website, you could sign them up to a blog list or send them a specific piece of content in seven days.
You would then measure how effective the workflow is. If by the end of the workflow you want the user to set up a consultation session and you have a 0.2% conversion rate, how do you raise that?
Of course, if you are promoting blog posts on platforms with built-in analytics, you can often access this for free. Identify gaps between data capture capability and the KPIs you want to measure, and put something in place for maximum ROI.
5. Deliver Valuable Content
We’ve already touched on the importance of placing your client at the heart of your B2B content marketing strategy. The same is true when developing content ideas.
Use your client knowledge base to gather the popular questions and give answers that solve their most pressing problems. These topics will engage your audience. Smart Insight's infographic provides a great approach to planning content by type.
Source: Smart Insights
Review published content to identify any questions your audience has asked, or take client stories from colleagues in sales and client services as the basis for further content.
Content can also come from researching your competitors. Find out what content they provide and learn from it; fill in the gaps where they are failing.
Don’t follow the market blindly. Stand out with a unique take on industry news - an alternative look at something connected to your business. If you can monitor trends to understand what people are looking for early on, you can get useful content out before your competitors.
6. Develop The Right Tone Of Voice
B2B content marketing professionals focus on their audience, but the best ones know how to speak to their buyer personas in their language. Whether you’ve decided to write your content in-house or have it delivered by an outsourced writer, you need to create a consistent brand voice that's recognisable.
If you’re an engineering consultancy selling specialist knowledge and skills, you need to sound professional, knowledgeable and show knowledge of technical processes. Strike the right balance and your clients will get a sense of what it's like to do business with you.
Consider creating a style guide, showing your company writers the language you expect them to use for your brand. You could state what type of punctuation you would like to see for certain words, ('the business' or the business's is one for a hot debate!), or a list of buzzwords you wish to exclude.
7. Pick The Channels That Work
Leading B2B content marketers choose precision over proliferation. Rather than using every medium to promote their content they pick one or two that work for their clients, such as a podcast, video series, monthly email newsletter or blog. Focusing on a smaller number of channels and delivering content that's authentic will ensure your content finds the right audience and is meaningful to them.
You'll have to experiment though; you might think one channel will work for you and struggle to yield results, to find the platform you thought was a waste of time delivers fantastic results. Play around with each channel and think about how you can adapt your content to each one.
8. Optimise Your Content
Optimise your content for search engines by including the keywords your audience are looking for. How do you know what they are? Think like a customer, use your sales team or see what your competition is writing about. Think of your keywords as SEO breadcrumbs that help your audience find you.
Specific keywords or phrases might not be of interest to everyone, but they will attract people who are likely to engage with your company. Tools like Google’s keyword planner can help you with this, as well as paid tools like SEMrush and Ahrefs.
Thankfully, keyword stuffing is a thing of the past (stuffing as many repetitions of the keyword in a blog to rank on the top page of a search engine). Google recognises content on how relevant it is to the search term, so provide useful information and you'll be in with a better shot of people sticking around to hear what you have to say.
9. Promote Your Content
Let your audience lead. If you know they only visit Twitter and LinkedIn for business information, post business information on those platforms. If your audience uses multiple platforms, you'll want to focus your attention on the one that gets the best results.
There are other ways to distribute content – email lists, sales reps and clients can all share your content. Just make sure you ask people to share content that’s relevant to them or their audience, and always offer them value before you ask. There needs to be a benefit for both parties for this to enhance your relationship, but you come last!
The image below is an illustration of how we publish new content across the different social media channels.
10. Hook With Headlines
If the godfather of advertising Ogilvy is right (and who are we to doubt?), five times as many people read the headline as the body copy. Get your headline right to ensure the rest of your hard work isn't wasted. If you’re struggling, HubSpot’s blog title generator is a go-to resource.
Good headlines arouse curiosity: ask a question the reader wants to know the answer to; use statistics to generate interest; write ‘how to’ articles; spark interest with a funny or irreverent headline (if this fits your brand); or, link your article to a current news story in an unexpected way. Don’t forget that your content needs to build trust. So, only make a promise in a headline that your body delivers on.
One way to do this is to avoid click bait headlines (you know, the ones that promise you won’t believe something until you open it up only to find you do believe it - yawn). These types of headlines might get a lot of page views, but they are unlikely to deliver against your engagement KPIs and will only generate a temporary increase in traffic because people click on (get it?).
And, although we might be in a post-truth society, steer clear of ‘alternative facts’ by fact-checking all data and specifics. You don’t want to undermine your hard work and destroy the credibility you’ve built.
11. Think Beyond Stock Images
Articles with images get a much higher click rate than those without, but choosing your images wisely is the key to success. Quality, relevant imagery that gives more detail or gives an example of what you are talking about is best.
And you don’t need to provide all the images yourself. Run a client photo caption competition; overlay quotes on top of product images. Wherever your image comes from, ensure it is suitable for the content and its position in the customer journey.
Consider hiring a designer or outsourcing to an agency; they'll be able to illustrate, draw or use software packages to create unique images. Don't undervalue imagery, it's as crucial as any word that appears on your page.
If you want to see how design can help your business, read our blog on the top web design trends for 2018.
12. Size Matters!
300-word posts are so 2012. These days posts of 1,200 or even 6,000, words, have their place. Pillar pages identify gaps in content and fill them to create a single, superior, go-to article.
They tend to be longer because they pull lots of useful information together in a single place to provide a comprehensive resource. They also generate better search engine rankings. That’s not to say every written post should be long - vary the length of content in line with the breadth of the topic.
If you start writing for word counts, you've lost the meaning of why you're doing it in the first place. Write to help people, and stop when you can't help them any more!
13. Post Regular Blog Updates
Good B2B content marketing strategies have a consistent flow of content. Haphazard posting makes it difficult for your audience to know when they can expect to hear from you and undermines confidence in your ability to deliver. Plus, search engines prefer regularity.
To ensure you hit your content production targets, set up an editorial calendar. You can use this to give your team a reference. Communicate which posts are to be produced each week, the deadlines for drafts, submissions, editing, final approval and posting.
Back this up with a content execution workflow so everyone knows who should be involved in producing, editing and approving the content to ensure brand voice adherence.
Find processes that work and write them down, but don’t get lulled into a false sense of security and follow them if they aren’t working. If you can identify inefficiencies and remove them, not only will your working life be easier, but you'll improve efficiency and ROI. Your editorial calendar should be a dynamic plan that you can rearrange as priorities change.
14. Monitor, Assess & Revise Your Strategy
So, now you’ve got your content production up and running, it’s time to put your feet up right? Think again. Knowing what works and what doesn’t is key to being able to react and adapt. Compare your results to your targets for each KPI and see how you measure up.
Applying your findings to new posts is obvious, but looking back at existing posts and amending titles or tweaking content will also improve your ROI on existing posts. Plan a republishing strategy; this will give you a structured approach to content revision.
And, while looking back and amending old posts is good, looking forwards with predictive analysis is better. Once you have sufficient data, you can understand and predict customer behaviour such as purchasing trends. This will position you to plan your content creation and promotion and deliver a greater ROI.
15. Make Strategy A Continual Process
It’s easy to become outward looking with a content strategy to deliver. So, remember to communicate internally as well. Providing feedback on your strategy’s success can build engagement and continue to garner support for your scheme. Raising awareness of content marketing also means employees in other teams can contribute.
There’s no doubt great content can deliver business rewards. Get the strategy, tactics and people to start delivering. Then analyse your performance and tweak to improve your ROI.
Leading B2B content marketing ideas give you the skills to capture your clients' imagination. Capture their attention and continue to engage them with standout content, and your business will be in a strong position.
Products and services are re-labelled in the client’s mind as solutions. And, when it comes to closing the sale, you’re more likely to get the full rate. Why? Because your content strategy has illustrated value, not just price.
Editors note: This post has been revamped and updated for 2018. At Red-Fern, we love keeping our content fresh, it ensures our articles are up-to-date, relevant and accurate!