How to Build a B2B Content Strategy That Gets Real Results
If you want a B2B content marketing program that generates significant ROI for your business, start with a B2B content strategy. As the saying goes, a failure to plan is a plan to fail.
Too many companies manage a knowledge hub, blog, or other type of content initiative without a defined strategy. What you wind up with is rudderless content that rarely produces marketing or business ROI.
According to Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs’ 13th Annual B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report, 64% of the most successful B2B content marketers have a documented content strategy. In comparison, merely 19% of the least successful B2B content marketers have one. Instituting a clear, documented strategy is an effective step for greater content ROI.
Let’s look at what is required to create and execute a powerful B2B content strategy that moves your business forward.
What is B2B Content Strategy?
B2B content strategy is the process of planning, creating, distributing, and measuring content to achieve specific marketing and business goals. B2B content strategy focuses on the creation of content that will both attract and help B2B buyers accomplish their objectives. Often, the ultimate goal is to convert a portion of those attracted into qualified leads and paying customers.
A successful B2B content strategy should be built on a foundation of understanding what your audience needs and wants. To do this, understand their:
- Pain points
Once you have a good understanding of your audience, take the time to analyze the competitive landscape. Conduct a content gap analysis. How will your content differ from the competition? How will you deliver something better or more valuable than the competition?
Both audience research and competitive analysis are key ingredients in content strategy development for B2B.
Beyond this, B2B content strategy development involves the determination of the types of content to produce, the objectives of your content, as well as the establishment of distribution paths. Finally, the strategy should include clear KPIs and success measurements.
Use Different Types of Content to Build a Content Portfolio
Just as a strong financial portfolio is made up of various types of investments (e.g., stocks, bonds, mutual funds, real estate, etc.), a robust B2B content marketing strategy should be comprised of various types of content.
Content for Different Marketing or Business Objectives
Your content portfolio may include content for varying marketing purposes or business objectives. For example:
Content for Different Audience Segments and Personas
To build a robust content portfolio that resonates with the different personas of your target audience, create content customized for each audience segment. Within each segment, further customize content for each persona you are targeting.
Content for TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU
You also want to build a strategy that maps content to each phase of the customer journey:
- Above the funnel
- Top-of-the-funnel (TOFU)
- Middle-of-the-funnel (MOFU)
- Bottom-of-the-funnel (BOFU)
At each stage of the marketing funnel, there are specific types of content that are effective.
For example, at the top of the funnel, your goal is to expand reach, attract attention, and create interest. To do this, create content that is educational, informative, and easy to consume, such as blog posts, ebooks, and infographics.
As you move further down the funnel, create content that is more in-depth and focused on your brand, such as case studies, webinars, and free trials.
Finally, at the bottom of the funnel, offer content that is designed to close the deal, such as product demos, competitive comparisons, and ROI calculators.
What is the Difference between a Content Strategy and a Content Plan?
Many marketers confuse a content strategy with a content plan. Just because you have outlined the content that you plan to produce doesn’t mean you have defined your content strategy.
Content strategy defines how your content will help you to achieve your content goals. In other words, it helps you clarify what winning looks like, how you’ll win, and on what playing field.
A content plan reflects your operational structure and content calendar. It outlines how each content piece maps to the strategy. In other words, your content plan explains how you’ll execute on the strategy.
Whereas your content strategy may dictate, for example, the topics you’ll focus on, your content plan lays out the specific titles, formats, and scheduling of the pieces covering each topic.
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How to Create a Powerful B2B Content Strategy
Let’s look at the specific steps involved in creating a robust B2B content strategy.
Define Your Content Goals
Before you do anything, define your goals. What are you trying to accomplish with your content?
- Are you looking to increase brand awareness?
- Drive traffic to your website?
- Increase lead generation?
- Convert more leads into paying customers?
- All of the above?
Use SMART goals for better results. SMART goals are:
- Time-bound (they have a deadline)
Your goals will determine the type of content you create, as well as how you measure success. This relates back to creating various types of content for different stages of the marketing funnel. At each stage of the funnel you will have different goals which require different kinds of content to achieve.
What Are Your KPIs?
Once you establish your B2B content marketing goals, define your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to measure progress. The saying that you can’t manage what you don’t measure is certainly true when it comes to B2B content strategy. If you don’t have key metrics in place, you can’t measure and optimize your content performance.
Some common KPIs for B2B content marketing include:
The specific KPIs you track will depend on your goals. If, for example, you’re focused on lead generation, then your KPIs will be different than if you’re focused on brand awareness. In this case, your content strategy will focus on creating high-quality content that leads to conversions rather than to brand awareness.
Define Your Audience Segments
Once you’ve defined your goals, delineate your audience segments. Trying to come up with content ideas that appeal to everyone is a recipe for disaster. You will end up creating content that is watered down and doesn’t resonate with anyone. Instead, clearly segment your audiences and then hit them with customized content to deliver a better experience to each group.
Take the time to segment your audience and create targeted content for each group.
Define Your Audience Personas
Once you have segmented your audience, build buyer personas for each segment. Personas are fictional characters that embody the characteristics of your buyers. Creating personas helps you to better understand your audience and the content that resonates strongest with them.
For example, let’s say you’re targeting medium-to-large businesses with your content strategy. Some of the personas you might create could be:
- The Busy Executive: This persona is short on time and is looking for quick, digestible content that gets to the point. They’re not interested in fluff or filler content. They want straight answers to their questions, along with social proof (case studies, testimonials, analyst reports, etc.).
- The C-suite Decision Maker: This persona is high-level and primarily concerned with the bottom line. They want to know how your product or service can help them save money or generate additional revenue.
- The Technical Decision Maker: This persona is concerned with the reliability and security of your solution, and wants to make sure that integration with their existing infrastructure will be seamless. They are eager to see case studies and technical specifications.
- The Tech-savvy Millennial: This persona is comfortable with technology and likes to do their own research. They’re looking for in-depth, well-researched content that will help them make informed recommendations.
These are just examples. Your audience segmentation and personas will be specific to your business, products, services, and solutions.
Run a Content Audit to Identify Gaps
Unless you are just starting out creating content, you probably already have at least some existing content. Before you start creating new content, it’s important to first audit your existing content to identify any gaps. This helps to ensure that you’re not wasting time and resources creating content that overlaps with existing content. It also helps you to identify content that needs to be improved in order to increase its value to your audience.
Start with a keyword gap analysis. You can do this using an SEO platform such as Ahrefs. Inside the application, select the “Content Gap” tool. Then, run the analysis to identify the specific keywords on which your competitors are ranking on Google page one and you’re not. This is an effective way to see where to beef up and strengthen your content.
You can also put together a spreadsheet for a more qualitative approach to content gap analysis. Your audit should follow these steps:
- Go through your content channels (blog, videos, webinars, podcasts, social media, articles on third-party websites, etc.) and log all your existing content in a spreadsheet.
- Categorize your content by topic, format, and target audience segment.
- Categorize your content by TOFU, MOFU, BOFU, and above-the-funnel designation.
- Evaluate each piece of content against your defined goals and assign a value accordingly.
- Identify any gaps in your content. This could be topics that you haven’t covered, formats that are missing, or audience segments that you’re not reaching. Or, you might find that your content is mostly focused on TOFU, while you’re mostly ignoring MOFU and BOFU content, for example.
- Based on your findings, create a content plan that will help you fill any gaps and improve your existing content portfolio.
Keep in mind that some of your content may need to be deleted altogether or combined with other content in order to improve your SEO profile. Creating a detailed content audit is a vital step in developing an effective content strategy. It helps you understand:
- What you have
- What you need, and
- How you can improve
If you want to stand out from the competition, study the content strategies used by others in your industry. The research helps you understand the competitive landscape and what kind of content is resonating with your audience. It will also give you ideas for how you can improve upon the competition’s content.
There are a few ways to research your competitor’s content strategy:
Review their website and blog. See what kind of content they’re creating and how often they’re publishing new content.
Check out their social media channels. See what kind of content they’re sharing and how much engagement they’re getting.
Set up automated alerts for your competitors using Google Alerts or a service such as Brandwatch. This will notify you any time they publish new content, so you can be sure to check it out and see what they’re up to.
Use a tool like BuzzSumo to see the most popular content published by your competitors. This will give you an idea of what’s resonating with their audience and how you can improve upon it.
If you want your content to gain traction, differentiate your content in at least one or two key ways from the competition. This could include doing original research, creating more in-depth content, applying a unique tone and brand personality, using formats or channels not used by others, or targeting a different audience segment.
Conduct Topic and Keyword Research
Based on your audience personas, content audit, and competitive analysis, you’ll have a general idea of topics your audience is interested in. But that’s not enough. Make sure that those topics are being searched for by your audience. That’s where keyword and topic research comes in.
Using a tool like Ahrefs, Semrush, or Surfer, identify keywords, phrases, and topics that your audience is querying in search engines. With a tool such as AlsoAsked, Answer Socrates, or AnswerThePublic, uncover the questions they are asking online. All of this helps you understand what they’re looking for and how you can create content that will resonate.
Make sure to also target long-tail keywords, which are specific in nature, usually longer phrases, and have fewer monthly searches. These tend to be less competitive and more likely to result in conversions. They also typically give you a better idea of the intent behind a search, which is helpful in developing your content strategy.
Identifying the search intent behind specific keywords is essential for improving search rankings and generating organic traffic. If you don’t have a clear idea of what the search intent for a keyword is, the content you create may not resonate with those searching and your rankings will correspondingly fall.
Narrow Your Focus
After doing topic and keyword research, you may be tempted to try to cover all the potential topics you’ve identified. Don’t do that. It’s better to narrow your focus and create truly excellent content on a few select topics than to try to cover everything and end up with diluted, mediocre content.
Part of narrowing your focus is identifying the most important topics for your audience. These are the topics that will have the biggest impact on your bottom line. They should be closely related to your product or service and should be of intense interest to your target audience.
The topics you choose should be closely aligned with your overall business, marketing, and content goals. For example, if your goal is to increase brand awareness, you’ll want to choose broad topics that will reach a wide audience. If you are trying to educate prospects that are in the middle of the marketing funnel, you’ll want to choose more in-depth, educational topics and drive engagement.
If you narrow your focus, you’ll have an easier time building topical authority, Google rankings, and credibility. Once you’ve achieved a substantial amount of traction in the topic, then you can move on to complementary, related topics.
The Power of Creativity
Unfortunately, a great deal of B2B content is dry and boring. But it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, it shouldn’t.
Your B2B content strategy should be imaginative and creative. Your audience is overwhelmed with thousands of marketing messages each day. Cut through the noise with bold ideas. Your content should be designed to stand out from the crowd and capture the attention of your target audience.
This is where your differentiation strategy can come into play. How can you creatively differentiate yourself from the competition? Can you deliver new, innovative ideas? How about adding humor to your content? Can you go deeper and apply science to the topics you’re addressing? Can you interview key industry experts and include their insights in your content?
But beware of going too far off the beaten path. Remember, your goal is still to create content that is highly relevant and useful to your audience. Everything still needs to be on-brand and supportive of the business.
Some other ideas for making your content more creative include:
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Select Content Formats/Types for Your B2B Content Strategy
Before you start cranking out content, select effective formats/types for your audience. The best content for your brand lies at the intersection of what you’re capable of producing and what your audience desires. Let’s look at some of the most effective types of content for B2B businesses.
Even though blogging has been around for 20+ years, B2B blogging is still an incredibly effective marketing tool. In-depth, high-quality blog posts are an excellent way to establish yourself as an authority in your industry and generate organic search traffic and leads. The more consistently you blog, the higher you will rank for relevant keywords and topics.
Download the Stratabeat’s High-Performance B2B Blogging Playbook.
Doing original research is a great way to differentiate your brand and establish thought leadership. It’s also an effective way to cut through all the noise and attract shares, mentions, and backlinks.
This type of content is usually in-depth and covers a specific topic in great detail. Because the research is original, it tends to attract a significant number of backlinks, which significantly boosts your SEO equity. It can be time-consuming and expensive to produce, but it can pay off big time if done correctly.
White Papers or Ebooks
White papers and ebooks are long-form pieces of content that are often quite technical. They are designed to be used as a resource or reference guide on a specific topic. White papers are often used to generate leads, while ebooks are often used to nurture those leads further down the funnel.
Video content has exploded in the last five years, with a huge amount of video being consumed on websites, YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. Video is a powerful way to capture attention and communicate your message. It’s also versatile and can be used at various stages of the marketing funnel. Adding video to articles and blog posts is easy. Longer videos can also be repurposed into shorter, bite-sized clips that can be posted to social media.
Like video, podcast consumption has reached all-time high levels in the past five years. Podcasts are great for building relationships with customers and prospects and are an excellent way to generate leads. Companies like Drift have used podcasting to strengthen their brand, fortify their thought leadership, and differentiate Drift from the competition in becoming the fastest-growing SaaS in the market.
Data visualizations enable you to take complex data sets and present them in an easy-to-understand way. This type of content is shareable and can help establish your brand as a thought leader in your industry. It can also lead to a significant number of backlinks depending on the value of the visualization.
Infographics are a great way to take complex data and present it in an easily digestible format. They are highly shareable and can help increase brand awareness and thought leadership. The shareable nature of infographics can lead to a significant increase in traffic and backlinks.
Webinars are a good way to generate leads and establish thought leadership. They can be used to launch new products, share expert insights, or provide valuable training and education. You can also use webinars to interview industry leaders, helping you to gain access to their audiences and expanding your reach.
Webinars tend to work best toward the middle of the funnel since they require a higher level of engagement from the viewer.
Industry reports are similar to original research in that they require a significant amount of time and effort to produce. But unlike original research, industry reports focus on curating data from a variety of sources. This type of content can be a valuable resource for your audience and can help establish your brand as a go-to source for industry insights.
Although more time-intensive and ambitious than many other forms of content, authoring a thought-leadership book can do wonders for your B2B business. A book establishes your authority in a topic area, while also acting as a differentiator and lead magnet. Beyond the sales of the book itself, a well-thought-out book helps you to close new accounts for your business.
As prospects get toward the end of your marketing funnel, they will be looking for more and more proof that your product, service, or solution can deliver results. Case studies are the perfect way to provide this type of social proof. They show how your offering has helped real customers achieve their desired outcomes. Plus, when done right, they do so in a storytelling mode, helping to engage your audience deeper.
Sales enablement content is designed to help your sales team close more deals. It can take the form of product sheets, proposal templates, email templates, scripts, testimonials, competitor comparisons, calculators, and more. This type of content is essential for any company that relies on a sales team to close complex deals and drive revenue.
Plan Your B2B Content Distribution
It doesn’t do your brand any good if you create a significant amount of content but no one sees it. In order to ensure that your content reaches your target audience, a content distribution plan is needed.
Let’s look at various distribution methods.
Email Marketing and Newsletters
Email marketing and newsletters are still one of the most effective ways to reach your target audience. In fact, email marketing has an ROI of 42:1. That’s a huge return on investment that you can’t ignore.
One particular strength of email marketing is that you can send specific types of content to different audience segments. For example, you can send brand awareness content to those at the top of your funnel. And you can send more in-depth information about your solutions to those in the middle of the funnel, etc. This ensures that each member of your audience gets content that is relevant to them.
Social media is a good way to reach a large audience with your content. It’s also an excellent way to build relationships and engage with customers and prospects. In order to make the most of social media, know which platforms to use and what types of content work best on each platform. For example, LinkedIn is a great platform for sharing thought leadership content and engaging with your audience, while Twitter is better for sharing news and updates.
PR and media outreach are an important part of any content distribution strategy. They can help you get your content in front of a larger audience and generate backlinks to your website. In order to be successful with PR, use a strong pitch and a targeted list of publications, reporters, and influencers.
Content syndication is the process of re-publishing your content on third-party websites. This is a great way to reach a larger audience and get exposure on highly trafficked websites. In order to be successful with syndication, partner with high-quality websites in your industry.
One caveat about syndication. If your goal is to improve organic search rankings and traffic, syndication should be avoided or should follow a long delay from the initial publication date. Publishing duplicate content on another website can result in the duplicate content ranking higher than the original content, which takes away organic traffic from your website.
Strategic Outreach and Influencer Marketing
Another form of content distribution is strategic outreach. This can be to partners, bloggers, publishers, influencers, etc.
Strategic outreach is the process of contacting these types of individuals and organizations to notify them about new content and request that they share the content with their audience, or to collaborate with them on content initiatives. This is a great way to reach a larger audience.
An important note about outreach: to be successful, it’s critical that you add value to their audiences. The more value you can add, the more successful you’ll be. In addition, work to establish meaningful relationships for ongoing success. This is far more effective than taking a one-off transactional approach.
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Systematize Your B2B Content Generation Process
If you want to scale your content generation, build systems that guide all of your content development. To that end, follow these steps for efficient systemization.
Setup the Team Structure
The first step is to configure the team structure. This will involve defining roles and responsibilities, as well as setting expectations for everyone on the team.
When it comes to roles, here are the main positions to be filled:
- Content strategist who will develop the overall goals, strategy, topics, and formats
- Writers who will create the actual content
- Editors who will oversee the quality of the content
- SEOs who will optimize the content
- Promotional team who will distribute and amplify the content
Each member of the team should have a clear understanding of their role and what’s expected of them. In terms of setting expectations, it’s important to establish a clear process for creating content. This process should include everything from ideation to publishing to promotion. Every step of the way should be documented so that each person on the team is held accountable.
If you don’t have the resources to create an in-house content creation team, consider building a team of quality freelancers.
Create a Content Calendar
Once you have the team in place, create a content calendar. This will help you map out what needs to be created, exactly who is responsible, and when each item needs to be published.
When creating your content calendar, remember that your content should align with your goals. Every piece of content you create should play a part in helping you achieve your business and marketing goals.
A solid B2B content calendar should include:
The calendar should specify who is responsible for each item and the due date so that everyone is one the same page.
Use Content Briefs to Ensure Alignment
Content briefs are an essential part of the B2B content generation process. A content brief is a document that outlines the parameters for each piece of content that you create. It includes information like the target audience, the desired outcome, as well as any other specific details about the piece.
Content briefs help to ensure that everyone on the content development team is on the same page from the beginning. They also help to ensure that each piece of content is aligned with your business goals.
When creating a content brief, include the following:
Refresh Old Content
Systematizing your B2B content production doesn’t mean that 100% of the content needs to be generated from scratch. Instead, look to review and refresh your existing content on a regular basis (quarterly, or at least two times a year).
When assessing the value of your existing content, identify non-performing content and:
- Update it
- Merge it with other similar pieces, or
- Delete it and apply a 301 redirect
Make the content review a standard part of your content production process. As a result, you’ll continually weed out weak content, strengthen the value of your content portfolio, and improve Google’s crawl budget.
Use Technology throughout the Process
There is a wide variety of tools on the market that help you to streamline your content production. Here are a few:
Airtable – A spreadsheet/database hybrid that is ideal for content ideation and organization. The platform is also great for laying out a content calendar and assigning specific duties.
CoSchedule – A full content marketing platform that includes a blogging calendar, social media planner, headline analyzer, and other features.
Google Docs – A versatile word-processing app that’s great for collaboration.
thruuu – A SERP analyzer and content brief generator. Helps you to understand what Google is looking for and to write higher-ranking content.
Clearscope – This is an SEO optimization tool that identifies the Google competitive landscape and provides guidance for the keywords that should be included in a content piece (and how many times each should appear).
AlsoAsked – Discover the questions your audience is asking online. Gain insight into their search intent with geo-specific PAA questions.
Ahrefs – An all-in-one SEO tool that lets you conduct competitive analysis, research keywords, assess popular content, monitor rankings, analyze backlinks, and more.
Measure Your Content Results and ROI
The final element of an effective B2B content strategy is measuring your results and calculating your ROI. This is important for two reasons.
First, it allows you to see what’s working and what’s not so that you can make necessary adjustments.
Second, it enables you to justify your content marketing budget and prove the ROI of your content strategy to executive management.
The metrics you use to measure your content marketing efforts should be the ones you identified in the early steps of building your content strategy. These metrics should be closely tied to your overall business goals. Avoid vanity metrics that don’t translate to the bottom line.
Use dashboards to keep your finger on the pulse of your content performance. Useful dashboard reporting tools include DashThis, Grow, AgencyAnalytics, and Looker Studio.
After you measure the results, look for opportunities to optimize your content strategy.
Are there topics that are resonating well with your audience? If so, double down and create more content around those topics.
Are there topics where you’re seeing performance decay? Update and strengthen the content.
Are there pieces of content that are underperforming? If so, consider rewriting or repurposing them. Or delete them and apply a 301 redirect.
By constantly measuring and optimizing your B2B content strategy, you can achieve superlative results over the long term.