Tablet Computing

Keys to Effective B2B Content Marketing

The other day a friend of mine posted to Facebook a picture of the loaner car he was given when he brought in his Dodge SUV for service. It was an Audi S4 sedan that goes from 0-60 in about 5 seconds. I’m not sure where he takes his car for service, but talk about being handed the keys to high performance!

As a B2B content marketer, we all wish we could be handed the keys to high-performance that easily. In reality, B2B content marketing isn’t easy and requires significant planning, focus and effort. However, the pay-off for B2B content marketing can be huge as most B2B companies have complex products that require a longer sales cycle and more information than your normal retail purchase. In the digital marketing world of Tweets and PPC ads, B2B content is the perfect place to provide crucial information to potential customers and really shape your brand.

Whether you’re just getting started with content marketing or looking to reboot, here are five keys to help you become a more effective B2B content marketer.

Start Big Then Get Small

Start with the big picture first. What do you need your content to accomplish? I use the word “need” as opposed to “want” because most often we want our marketing efforts to drive revenue. With B2B content, be it a blog, PR, or a resources section, it is very easy to lose focus of what you need your content to accomplish because it is highly visible and open to the wants of other stakeholders. Start by prioritizing what your content needs to do such as:

  • Educating potential customers
  • Developing an industry point-of-view for the brand
  • Serving existing customers
  • Building brand and product awareness
  • Generating new leads

It is important to make this a true prioritization. Content marketing requires significant commitments of time both during the creation process and promotion of your content once it is live.

Don’t Forget the Who

No, not the band. I’m referring to your audience for each of your prioritized content needs. For example, someone reading the technical details of how your SaaS product integrates with their existing customer database is very different than someone reading your brand piece on future industry trends to look for. Ideally, you have marketing personas already built to address these different individuals. If not, you can create data-driven, high-level content groupings fairly quickly from your organic search, paid search and site search data to help focus your content creation. What you’re looking to do is identify 3-5 content groups that you can then use to create content that meets your marketing needs and addresses potential customer needs. For example, if your company sells office furniture, you might see keywords that look like this:

  • Office chairs
  • How much leather reclining desk chair cost
  • Energy efficient desk lamps
  • Wooden office desk
  • Accounting file cabinets

Analyzing your data, you want to start creating buckets. For example, both office chairs and wooden office desk are very broad, high-level phrases most likely used by someone in the beginning research phase. They’re looking for very general information like “Top 10 Things to Look For In an Office Desk.” Individuals searching for energy efficiency would be more inclined to read content titled “How To Make Your Office Lighting More Green.”

Get In The Zone

You’ve identified your content needs; you’ve built content themes to target; now it’s time to get into your content zone. This is the area in which, competitively speaking, you have the greatest expertise or differentiation.

This is important for several reasons. First, it should define your unique value to both a potential customer and existing customers. Second, it will help establish your content voice. Have you been in the industry for a long time and are tried and true? Or are you instead quirky and innovative? Whatever your core brand value is should be reflected in how you write. Lastly, and most importantly, it will help define where you ultimately focus your content creation.

Often with content creation, there is a tendency to try to cover too many topics, especially if you’re just getting off the ground. This leads to a thin content catalog. Make sure you’re focusing in on your strengths and use your analytics to uncover exactly which content customers are either coming to the site to read or navigating to on your site on their own.

Take Stock

Most companies start with some level of content, be it product resources, an About Us section, or even a blog. Before you start creating new content, it’s important to take stock of what you currently have, particularly now that you’ve defined your content needs.

This doesn’t mean you need to start deleting older resource pages or re-writing that blog post from 2012. You just want to understand what you have and the performance of the different types of content so you can better create what you need moving forward. That means even ebooks, sales presentations online, online videos, etc. All of these are content assets that can help inform what to create next.

If you have a sales video on YouTube that has over 3,000 views, what is the topic it addresses? Have prospects or current clients told you what they liked about the video? Have other pieces of content on similar topics performed similarly? Have the views translated into the buyer behavior you were looking to achieve? All of that information can be turned into written form to help create blog posts, expand product specific content and even create new videos.

As you audit your content you should match it up to both the themes you want to tackle and note how it does/doesn’t address the content personas you’ve created. You should also note its timeliness. Was it a press release about a change in the industry or a blog post from 2013 about how to get started with your product that keeps getting traffic? Defining content by whether it is timely news or an evergreen topic can also help you create new pieces of content, some that are for the now and some that you know will be informative continuously to customers.

Create a Calendar

The content development and marketing process takes time, so be realistic with your content calendar. We all start with the best intentions (“I’m going to blog everyday!”), but in reality content takes time to develop, perfect and promote, so you need to give yourself sufficient time in your calendar as you get started.

You should plan your content topics for the next three months with a set number of scheduled topics per week as well as a free day that either allows you to shift topics if something opportunistic immediate arises or can be a lighter, free-form blog post in tune with your readers’ interests.

Quarterly planning not only gives you time to strategically plan out your topics for important sales periods but can also help inspire a unique angle on a topic that can relate to the mindset your customer is in personally. Seasonality can help add personality to your topic and is something that is probably already on the mind of your customers to begin with.

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Although B2B content marketing is not a realistic way to take your business from 0-60 in 5 seconds like an Audi S4 sedan, it is an effective platform for you to shape your brand, raise awareness and drive leads over the long-term. Following the keys to B2B content marketing as outlined above, you’re sure to reach the winner’s circle.