One of the biggest buzzwords often repeated in the online business world is B2B content marketing. But what is b2b content marketing? It is crucial for business owners everywhere to understand how this simple, yet powerful concept can drive the success of one’s commercial enterprise. In order to thrive, every business needs tobe able to create and deliver engaging and effective marketing. Such campaigns attract paying customers, raise a company’s profile and help gain a significant advantage over those competitors who fail to utilise the power of this indispensable tool.
Understanding content marketing:
Giving a little to gain a lot
Essentially, content marketing involves implementing a set of well-thought out strategies that seek to provide substantial value to potential customers in order to eventually gain something of even more value from them in return, i.e. greater sales.
Content marketing differs from traditional advertising by doing more than just drawing the attention of the consumer to one’s business or products. Content marketing offers something of value for free with the aim of generating interest, fostering a relationship, building brand recognition and respect whilst engaging potential customers in ways that make them more likely to reciprocate their appreciation with purchases, future referrals and testimonials.
A Tried and True Formula
An early example of content marketing dates back to 1895, when the farm equipment manufacturer, John Deere, famously created a free magazine called ‘The Furrow’, which was given away to farmers to teach them how to become more profitable.
While the farmers received helpful information relevant to their work and interests, John Deere was able to continually present their own products and innovations in a positive light to highly targeted individuals that were likely to purchase farming equipment. The farmers were grateful for the tips and practical information the magazine contained and were also far more likely to purchase John Deere’s equipment because of the pre-established relationship and goodwill the magazine had conferred.
B2C and B2B Content Marketing Examples:
Decoding the Difference
While the nature of one’s business may be extremely varied, the type of customer or clientele served will generally fall into two categories; either business selling to consumers or business selling to other businesses.
Although business-to-business content marketing does share common elements with the business to consumer approach, it is often uniquely different. The main distinction is that B2C generally targets individuals for spontaneous, small to medium priced purchases. Think soft drinks, breakfast cereals, smartphones, lipstick or nail polish.
B2B content marketing strategies are mainly directed towards businesses which by their nature are comprised of groups, teams, organisations and multiple employees. Purchases tend to be larger or perhaps potentially massive, depending on the size of the business customer.
Key Characteristics of B2B vs B2C
The following key words help highlight the different approaches typically seen between B2B and B2C marketing campaigns.
Of course, there may be some crossover between these two marketing approaches but the above descriptions generally apply.
High Quality Lead Generation
business-to-business content marketing lends itself well towards generating high quality leads because of the nature of the target audience (i.e. considered, researched, educated, fiscally responsible, etc.). Sales generally come after time has been spent building relationships, establishing trust and successfully demonstrating inherent strengths and benefits. Therefore, effective campaign strategies must be designed accordingly to elicit the desired response.
Adding Value by Offering Substance
B2B marketing places greater emphasis on building networks and nurturing relationships that endure for the long term in order to facilitate repeat business. One of the ways it does this is by educating, informing and establishing oneself as the respected, authoritative voice of experience that stands out in a crowded marketplace. B2B content marketers are more interested in playing the long game rather than racking up short term successes that are not aligned with a broader strategy.
When selling B2B, the main difference is that instead of engaging just one prospect or customer who ultimately makes the buying decision, there will generally be a team of decision makers that must be convinced that the product or service offered meets a need better than a competitor’s alternatives. While all customers want the most bang for their buck, businesses will often be purchasing at larger volumes again and again and again and the lowest price is not always the highest priority. Business purchases tend to be less impulse driven and more deeply weighed and considered.
Easing Fears by Demonstrating Authority
Depending on the scale of the businesses that one services or sells to, the payoff can be massive. Businesses that make large purchases tend to be cautious; they do their homework by researching their options well. They rely on feedback, testimonials, case studies and other tangible means of proving that what they are about to buy is of impeccable credibility and has a sterling reputation. A large purchase of an inferior product can be devastating to the bottom line of any business. With so much at stake it becomes clear that B2B marketing requires careful thought and strategic positioning in order to have broad appeal to business customers.
Addressing all these concerns and gaining the buyers’ confidence is always a genuine challenge, but there are many creative approaches that can be implemented regardless of one’s marketing budget or expertise.
Why Content is Still King
The defining distinction with business-to-business content marketing is that of helpful information. The old adage that ‘content is king’ still applies but the content must be useful, informative and persuasive.
When companies decide it’s time to make a significant purchase, the next logical step is to begin to research the alternative options and accumulate the necessary evidence that proves one’s shortlist for the buying decision to be wise and prudent.
Without informative, educational content to guide them, customers may never know that the perfect solution to their problem exists and it is nearly impossible to insert one’s own products or services into the equation as the superior choice. Therefore, the best time to have unique content available to influence such decision makers is YESTERDAY!
Common B2B content marketing elements
It is the role of the B2B content marketing agency to make dynamic content available in a wide range of formats such as Product Guides, Case Studies, Infographics, Podcasts, How-To Guides, e-books, Videos and White Papers. The content marketer’s function is to find creative ways to deliver these helpful resources into the hands of potential customers.
What Exactly Constitutes an ‘Effective’ B2B Marketing Campaign?
So how exactly does one define a successful and effective B2B marketing campaign? For some it means increased brand recognition, greater public education regarding the scope of one’s business and rapidly growing sales. It could also be more orders, extra email subscribers and phone enquiries or broader industry acknowledgement and accolades. For others, it’s a specific target such as 50,000 Facebook likes or 10,000 retweets of the campaign ad on Twitter or perhaps a video that goes viral on YouTube. It could just as easily be quantified as additional PDF downloads, more user registrations, extra page hits, a higher Google ranking, or a significant increase in video views.
Definitions of Success are Relative
Ultimately, in order to create an effective campaign of any type, there needs to be clearly defined and measurable outcomes; although this should still leave room for unexpected and natural responses to one’s marketing efforts. To truly quantify success it’s crucial to know exactly what the desired result of the campaign is and to work backwards from there to design the strategies that will best achieve those aims.
The Proof is in the Numbers
In most cases, the desired objective is to create high quality, qualified sales leads that result in increased conversion rates. There is no denying that it can be marvellous for morale or the marketing team’s confidence to have created a campaign that gets attention and creates an industry buzz, yet at the end of the day B2B marketing strategies should be about finding prospects and effectively converting them into actual sales.
Real World Examples
The following examples demonstrate how different business-to-business content marketing agencies approaches achieve awesome results through a variety of means.
MOZ: Whiteboard Friday
Moz is a business that sells marketing tools in the digital space and their primary customers are SEO specialists. They have developed an ongoing campaign called Whiteboard Friday which teaches specialist subjects via 10 minute videos. New releases are delivered weekly by their employees or other industry partners and cover a variety of topics relevant to the SEO marketplace.
Recent videos have included:
- Long-Tail SEO: When and How to Target Low-Volume Keywords
- 8 Rules for How to Choose a Domain Name
- How to Research the Path to Customer Purchase
This helpful information sees industry specialists such as digital marketing experts and content managers continually returning to Moz for the latest updates. Moz has positioned themselves as industry leaders and influencers that are the first port of call when such services require purchasing. This commitment to developing content means these handy resources will continue to rank Moz in Google searches and draw future customers to their website.
Hipmonk: Traveler’s Guide to Tipping Internationally
Hipmonk is a travel booking site that hosts large amounts of content relevant to commonly asked traveling questions. Through the clever use of FAQs, guidelines and blog posts, Hipmonk offers their customers more than a way to book hotels, rental cars and flights. They take real world concerns and freely provide helpful answers to their site visitors.
Hipmonk’s blog post titled Traveler’s Guide to Tipping Internationally eases the concerns of new travellers by advising them of the appropriate tipping behaviour in a variety of countries and circumstance all around the world.
The fact that Hipmonk understands their demographic well appeals to businesses wanting to promote their unique services by partnering with Hipmonk. The end user receives relevant information and business owners have their hotels, services and travel attractions more keenly highlighted.
Xerox: Get Optimistic
Xerox knew they were in trouble after realising many of their potential customers could not distinguish the benefits Xerox could offer them in comparison to other similarly placed competitors.
Their solution was to partner with Forbes magazine to create a publication called Get Optimistic that was sent to key industry executives and decision makers. Xerox also developed a microsite with generous amounts of content to complement the magazine.
Both the magazine and the site served to present case studies demonstrating how various companies resolved difficult common business issues through creative and optimistic methods.
The magazine was able to bypass admin gatekeepers and deliver industry specific content to highly targeted prospects and drive them to the microsite.
Ultimately, this campaign delivered Xerox more than 1500 unique sales appointments and profits of a staggering $1 billion over an 18 month period.
Imagination Knows No Limits
When it comes to content marketing, the power of a creative campaign will always have a greater impact upon customers regardless of the size of one’s business or marketing budget. All businesses hold massive amounts of expertise and experience that simply need to be shared with qualified prospects in a way that will engage, inform and serve to convince them that doing business together will increase profits for everyone concerned.
All it takes is to engage the services of a passionate and creative business-to-business content marketing agency experienced in turning information into inspiring campaigns that will boost sales to a whole new level. Creativity and the possibility of increased profits literally have no upper limit.