Content marketing is one of the best ways to grow a business to business (B2B) company. But, how does this strategy work? Is it right for your organization? This guide seeks to provide you with the answers.
Here’s everything you need to know to get started with B2B content marketing:
What Is Content Marketing?
Might as well start at the beginning! According to the Content Marketing Institute:
“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
While the term content marketing is relatively new and often linked to digital marketing, the fundamental concept has been around much longer. John Deere, for example, printed a specialized publication “The Furrow” to reach its target market: farmers who might be interested in buying farming machinery.
Through the 20th century, specialized publications like trade journals and custom publications became more popular. For example, if you wanted to spread the word about new technology to IT executives, writing about it in Fast Company or CIO was a smart way to reach that audience.
The growth of the Internet has taken content marketing to new heights, but these developments are based on a much longer history.
Why should this history matter to you? Simple. It means that you can have peace of mind that comes from knowing that content marketing is not a fad. As long as there are people who are looking for information that can help their business, content marketing has an audience.
What B2B Companies Use Content Marketing?
Content marketing is a proven strategy used by B2B companies around the world. Many small companies, like Design Pickle and HubSpot, relied on content marketing efforts to grow to their first 100 customers and beyond. For more information on how this type of growth works, check out our post: 10 Startups That Crushed Their Content Marketing.
In the world of B2B content marketing, here are a few examples that show what is possible across a couple of different sectors:
- Selling complex business software is not easy, even when you have IBM’s reputation for excellence. After all, technology is constantly advancing, and the company faces the challenge of introducing new ideas. IBM uses case studies to promote its services for retail, the health sector, and financial services.
- Microsoft’s commitment to content marketing is uniquely deep and extensive. In addition to its website materials, Microsoft also offers a variety of specialized publications through the Microsoft Press Store. To convince demanding corporate customers to use its Azure, a cloud computing platform, Microsoft used content marketing resources like white papers.
Selling professional advice requires credibility, and content marketing is one of the best ways to create that credibility. Management and consulting firms widely use content marketing to win attention from potential clients.
- McKinsey & Co, a 27,000 person strong global consulting firm, publishes the McKinsey Quarterly to share research insights with potential clients. Launched in 1964, the publication covers a variety of issues: artificial intelligence, energy, and economic trends.
- Deloitte is a global professional services firm that acts as a nearly a one-stop-shop for professional services: accounting, tax, and technology development are all available. Selling those services to large corporations is no easy feat. That’s one reason why Deloitte has committed to content marketing as a strategy. For example, Deloitte publishes thought leadership publications covering manufacturing, real estate, life sciences, and financial services.
What Is The ROI for B2B Content Marketing?
Unlike brand advertising, where results tend to be difficult to track, B2B content marketing often produces great results. According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing delivers the following benefits:
- Content marketing generates over three times as many leads as outbound marketing and costs 62% less.
- Businesses publishing 16-plus posts a month get almost 3.5 times more traffic than businesses publishing zero to four articles.
- Content marketing has lower up-front costs and provides greater and deeper long-term benefits than paid search.
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Step By Step: Getting Started in B2B Content Marketing
Now that you know B2B content marketing works and provides a great ROI, all that’s left is to get started!
For your content marketing campaign to succeed, it is important that you make a plan. Here’s a step by step content marketing guide to starting your content marketing efforts.
Set Your Goals
You can only achieve success if you define your goals in advance. With content marketing, it is recommended that you define a leads goal. By leads, we mean specific people who are interested in your company’s products and services and have asked to hear from you.
Define Your Target Customer
For B2B content marketing to work, you need to focus on appealing to a specific target customer. For example, let’s say you were using content marketing to promote a software product that helps small businesses organize their accounting records. In this instance, the target customer may be a small company with one to ten employees with a limited grasp and understanding of accounting and financial matters.
Establishing these targets will help to guide the content strategy ensuring that the campaign attracts the right people.
Research The Content Your Customer Already Consumes
Rather than staring at a blank page and hoping for the best content ideas to magically emerge, try doing a little research. Find out the kinds of content that your customers already like to consume.
If you have an email list of current and past customers, you can get answers by sending a short survey. Ask which websites, books, and magazines they find most valuable for business information. You may find out that your best customers are reading a particular publication. If that’s the case, you can model your content strategy and topical coverage after that publication.
Choose Your Content Medium
With content marketing, you can choose to create content in a variety of media. While there are some creative and elaborate ways to do this, the primary mediums are written, audio and visual content.
- Written Content: Blog posts, white papers, ebooks, and social media updates ultimately rest on written content. Written content is generally the best option to start with because it is the most flexible and easily processed by search engines like Google. Blog posts are inexpensive to produce and can lead to increased traffic.
- Audio Content: Did you know that podcasts are one of the fastest-growing forms of online media? According to Podcast Insights, 51% of the US population has listened to a podcast. At the same time, we also see an unprecedented boom in audiobooks. All of this means that audio content is alive and well. If you are a gifted public speaker, audio content may be a good choice.
- Video Content: Every minute, there are 300 hours of video uploaded to YouTube. That’s a big part of the reason why video content is quickly becoming so popular. However, creating successful video content week in and week out can be quite challenging and may tie up valuable resources.
For most B2B companies, we recommend starting with a focus on written content.
Research and Create Content
Now that you have defined your target audience and chosen the medium that makes the most sense to you, it is time to create the content.
If you have access to professional content marketers, they can handle this step (and indeed the entire process) for you. If you are working on your content marketing strategy on your own, keep it simple. Start by creating content that answers the most common questions your customers ask.
Does creating content that answers customer questions work? Yes! Just look at Marcus Sheridan’s pool company. In an interview with the New York Times, Sheridan observed:
“Here’s a statistic for you: If somebody reads 30 pages of my River Pools Web site, and we go on a sales appointment, they buy 80 percent of the time. The industry average for sales appointments is 10 percent. So, our whole marketing campaign revolves around getting people to stick around and read our stuff, because the longer they stay on our site, the greater the chance they’re going to fall in love with our company.”
The more content you create that offers value to a visitor, the more likely they are to make a purchase from you.
Publishing new content on your website is not enough. Unless you promote the content, it is unlikely people will discover and consume it. If nobody sees your content, it cannot bring you new leads.
Here are a few ways to promote your content:
- Networking: Ask people in your network to promote your new content by posting about it on social media and other places like Linkedin. If people in your network have a large following, this strategy can prove highly successful. You can also promote the content on your own personal social media channels.
- Paid Promotion: Purchasing advertising on Facebook, Twitter, and Google is a fast and simple way to bring new people to your content.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Every day, millions of people search for information on the major search engines. Using SEO techniques can increase the odds that people will find your content through Google, Bing, and other search engines.
Convert Website Visitors to Leads
When people find and consume your content, it is critical that you turn them from a visitor into a lead.
You must include a call to action. Include a button that prompts visitors to sign up for an email list. When a website visitor signs up for your email list to receive a report or resource, they are telling you that they are interested in hearing more from you.
There are several ways to make sure people convert into leads. Landing pages, free ebooks, and newsletter are all great options.
Transition Leads To Sales
It is great to amass a large number of leads but in order to make money, you need to turn those leads into sales.
If your sales process requires contact with a sales team, define a process that enables this team to reach out to your leads. Ideally, your sales and marketing teams will work in tandem on creating this process.
But remember, the online world moves quickly and interest can be scooped in a hurry. It is important to follow up on online leads before they lose interest.
Harvard Business Review research found a fast response to online leads yields better results:
“Firms that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead (which we defined as having a meaningful conversation with a key decision-maker) as those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later—and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.”
The Easy Way To Get Started As A Novice In B2B Marketing
There are two roads to success in content marketing and you need to choose which path you want to follow. If you take the journey by yourself, you can walk at your own pace. However, you will struggle to keep up with your more experienced B2B competitors.
The best way to avoid this is by hiring experienced content marketers with a track record of positive results. At okwrite, we can guide you through every step of this process. We can create a content marketing strategy that is specific to your needs and unique goals. What’s more, our team of high-level writers can write and deliver content to you that will offer value to your audience and establish you as an authority in your field or industry.