According to a recent survey by the Content Marketing Institute, only 30% of B2B marketers said they were effective at content marketing.
Well what happened with the other 70%? Where were they going wrong?
If you’re in B2B you can’t just pump out some blog posts, schedule a bunch of tweets, and hope for the best. Unlike B2C buyers, B2B buyers do not buy on impulse. Instead, B2B buyers are hungry for information and knowledge to help them come to a decision.
For potential B2B buyers to pick you, you need a B2B marketing strategy. First you attract and engage them. Next you nurture a relationship with them, building trust and credibility. Finally, you persuade them of the benefits of your products and services, and close the sale.
The most effective way to do this is through producing content which is targeted, valuable and high-quality. This can include educational resources, case studies and industry insights. To enhance your reach, you can employ a range of distribution channels, from blogging to social media to alternative platforms.
So what are the B2B marketing strategies that you need to master?
1. Buyer personas
To effectively attract potential customers to your website, you must know the answer to the following questions:
- Who are your buyers?
- Where can they be found?
- What are they searching for?
Creating buyer personas is a major trend in content marketing. Buyer personas provide you with a thorough understanding your buyers based on market research. Through this understanding, you can tailor your content to match your audience and their needs. You can offer them a personalised experience that will lead them to engage with your brand.
Who are your buyers?
The most efficient strategies focus on the areas that give the most return. This is especially true in content marketing. If you try to appeal to everyone you may end up appealing to no one at all. Identify who your products and services will help the most. These are the people you should be targeting.
In the words of Alex Aspinall, head of content at B2B Marketing, “Finely tuned messages always deliver better results than mass-market comms.”
Where can they be found?
Find out where your audience hangs out, both in real life and online.
Real life spaces include conferences and trade shows.
Online spaces include forums, blogs, and social media networks.
What are they searching for?
To market effectively to your audience, you need to know what their needs and pains are. Equally important, you need to know what language they use to help you communicate with them.
Don’t fall into the trap of assuming you know what they want. You are not your audience. Be aware of what economists Colin Camerer, George Loewenstein and Martin Weber coined the curse of knowledge:
Better-informed people find it extremely difficult to think about problems from the perspective of lesser-informed people.
If you have the opportunity ask your audience, do so.
Surveys, polls and questionnaires are very helpful as they allow you to gather a large amount of data about your audience. You can ask your audience to participate via your email list, your website, or your social media profiles.
Lastly, you can gather information on your buyers by listening to their conversations on industry forums, comment sections of relevant blogs, and social media.
2. Brand persona
To succeed in a competitive marketplace, you need a clearly defined brand persona. You should do this in a way that sets you apart from the crowd. This is known as your unique value proposition.
Your brand persona is best defined from the perspective of your customer.
In the words of old school marketing guru Theodore Levitt:
“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.”
Make sure your marketing addresses what your buyer persona is interested in (holes), not what you’re interested in (drills).
In defining your brand persona, consider the following
- The culture of your company
- The language you use
- The visual branding you choose
- The products and services you offer
3. Marketing goals
The goal of marketing is not merely to provide interesting content for your audience. The goal is to drive conversions. To accomplish this, you must encourage your audience to take action. Many marketing campaigns fail simply because they neglect to do this.
Every piece of content you produce should convert your reader via a call to action.
What that action is depends on where your reader is in the buyer journey. There are different conversion goals for each stage of the marketing journey. Each conversion goal will need a different call to action:
- Looking for information? Sign up to the email list in return for a free report.
- Thinking of buying? Sign up for a free trial.
- Ready to buy? Place an order.
4. Content Strategy
Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
— Sun Tzu
Tactical campaigns can produce short-term results, but without an overarching strategy, long-term success cannot be assured.
To maximise your return on your content marketing, you must be strategic with every piece of content you produce. You must ensure your content:
- Is easy to find
- Is relevant and useful to your audience
- Is written in a way your audience can relate to
- Is consistent with your brand values
- Engages your readers
- Drives engagement
To ensure your content strategy is a success, you should do the following:
Document your strategy
According to Joe Pulizzi at the Content Marketing Institute, the most effective B2B marketers are more likely to document their content marketing strategy than less effective marketers. However, Joe reports that only 32% of B2B marketers have a documented strategy.
Drawing up a formal strategy for your brand may require a small investment in time and effort. But in return, you get a content programme where all elements work towards the same goal, where all participants work as a team, and where inefficiencies are eliminated.
Create content for each stage of the sales cycle
Your customers need to move through the various stages of the sales cycle before they’re ready to buy. Firstly, you need to map out the different stages your customers pass through. Then, you identify what your customer needs to know for each stage. Lastly, you produce content to address your customer’s needs.
- Understanding the problem. Your customer feels that they have a problem. They have no idea what the solution might be or even if there is a solution. They’re inputting keywords into search engines. Create content that gives them detailed information that answers their questions and introduces your brand to them.
- Looking for a solution. Your customer has an idea of the solutions available. They’re in the process of researching available options and possible alternatives. Create content that helps them compare your product with that of others.
- Thinking of buying. Your customer is ready to buy. They want specific details about what you’re offering before they make their purchase. Create content that thoroughly explains how your product can help your customer.
Choose the right form of content
In a recent report by Regalix B2B marketers were asked what forms of content were the most effective for the accomplishment of their marketing goals. The top 5 responses were:
- Website content — 70%
- Webinars/Webcasts — 58%
- Case Studies — 51%
- Whitepapers — 48%
- Online videos — 46%
As helpful as this data is, you need to discover for yourself which content forms work best for your brand. The only way is to test and analyse your results.
Go for high-quality content
The days of keyword-stuffed low-quality posts designed to manipulate search engines are well and truly over. With every new search algorithm, Google is getting better and better at identifying and rewarding high-quality content.
High-quality content means content which is well written, relevant, and useful. With more and more content being churned out every year, your content needs to be a cut above the rest. Get this right and Google will reward you with search engine traffic.
Invest in longer forms of content
By producing long-form content you can provide more value to your audience, thus increasing the authority of your brand.
Long blog posts are an extremely effective form of long-form content.
- Google loves to rank long content. This study by serqIQ found that top-ranking posts in search queries were usually over 2,000 words.
- Long form content gets more social shares. A study by OkDork found that posts over 2000 words generated the most shares.
- Long form content leads to more time on site. Content marketer Emma Siemasko found that people who read one of her longer content pieces ended up looking at 25% more pages that the average visitor.
Other forms of long-form content can include ebooks, video courses and email sequences. Companies like Unbounce, Hubspot and KISSmetrics have a variety of courses and eBooks available to their readers. These are used as lead magnets generating hundreds of emails a week from potential prospects.
Publish regularly and consistently
A common failing of content marketing strategies lies in not publishing on a consistent basis. A blog post might be written one week, but nothing will follow for the next three weeks.
To sustain your audience’s interest and attention you need a to stick to a regular content schedule. Don’t worry if you can’t publish three blog posts a week. Find a pace that suits you and your capacity. You can increase your frequency over time.
Regular content is expected in many industries, for example in marketing. Now, if you’re in an industry where this is not the norm, you can really stand out with regular informative blog posts. An excellent example is Oliver Valves, an industrial equipment supplier, who successfully use their frequently updated blog to drive search engine traffic to their website.
Mobile marketing is hardly news, but in B2B some marketers have been slow to adapt. Mobiles are not just for posting photos to facebook. Increasingly, executives are using mobile devices to browse the web and perform research.
It’s essential therefore that your website has a design that’s mobile responsive to ensure an optimal experience on hand-held devices.
Furthermore, some forms of content such as detailed infographics may not be as effective when viewed on mobile. You should consider adjusting the content you share in relation to the platforms they’ll be viewed on.
Ensuring that your emails are mobile-friendly is also important.
5. Content promotion
Even if you’re producing the best content in your industry, you still need to promote it to get the word out. There are many possible avenues for content promotion. To decide which are the most appropriate for your brand, you must consider who your audience are and where they like to hang out.
Having said that, there are a number of tactics that will work for almost any niche:
If you’re an up and coming brand, your audience may be growing but still relatively small. The leading blogs in your niche could have audiences hundreds or thousands the size of yours. By submitting a guest post to one of these blogs you can leverage their audience to your advantage. If you can pique their interest, some of their audience will follow you back to your website, where you have the chance to engage them with your brand.
When approaching major blogs, you can pitch them cold with an idea for a guest post. However, your chances are increased if you can establish a relationship first. By commenting on their blogs and sharing their content on social media you can get on their radar. So when you make your pitch, they’ll be more likely to listen.
When creating content for major blogs, make sure you tailor it to their audience. Try and come up with a topic or point of view which hasn’t already been covered by them.
Social media posting
Social media is an essential part of any content marketer’s arsenal. Used well, social media can draw traffic to your website where it can be converted into leads. In Uberflip’s annual report on content marketing trends, they found that 92% of content marketers said they use social media content.
In the same report, Uberflip asked B2B marketers which platform they used. The results were:
- LinkedIn — 94%
- Twitter — 88%
- Facebook — 84%
- Youtube — 72%
- Google+ — 64%
You should experiment to find which social media platforms work best for your brand.
Another option is to pay for sponsored social posts to extend your reach. Networks including LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter offer this option. To see if this is for you, start on a small scale first. If it works, scale up.
Publishing on LinkedIn
As we’ve seen, LinkedIn is the premier social network for B2B marketers. LinkedIn’s publishing platform offers great opportunities for expanding your distribution. Posts published on this platform can be seen by an audience that is not limited to your LinkedIn connections.
It’s a great way of establishing thought leadership to professionals in your industry. The potential is huge. Andy Yeo, a manager at Hootsuite, wrote a LinkedIn post called, “When Your GPA Doesn’t Matter” which received over 86,000 views. As Andy discovered, publishing to such a targeted audience can lead to your post going viral.
6. Tracking metrics
The key to sustained success in content marketing lies in tracking your metrics. Record what you’re doing: the type of content you’re producing, the length of your posts, your posting frequency, your page views, your conversion rates. Analyse your results. Try to work out what is working and what isn’t.
For the stuff that’s working, do more of the same. For the stuff that’s not working, tweak it and try again.
Tracking is not easy. According to Marketing Tech Blog, only 21% of content marketers say they’re successful at tracking their return on investment.
As B2B Marketing reports , predictive analytics is a rising trend in B2B marketing. Through innovative analysis of data, predictive analytics enables smart marketers to identify buying intent and close more leads.
7. Scaling content
According to the Content Marketing Institute, one of the biggest challenges faced by content marketers is producing enough content to satisfy their audience. Regular production of original, high quality, long form content can be very demanding.
The answer is to scale your content production.
Repurpose, repackage and recycle
A good way to scale your content is to repurpose, repackage and recycle. This makes your content work harder and longer for you. Try this:
- Repurpose the big stuff. Long-form content like eBooks, white papers and reports can be repurposed into shorter content like articles and blog posts.
- Repackage the small stuff. Conversely, short-form content like blog posts can be compiled to form long-form content like eBooks.
- Recycle the evergreen stuff. Evergreen content that covers timeless topics can be regularly updated and republished.
Marketing automation is another way of scaling:
- Email marketing services like AWeber allow you to automate complex email campaigns.
- Landing page builders like Unbounce allow you to build landing pages with integrated A/B testing.
- Social media tools like Buffer allow you to automate your social media campaigns.
- Software platforms like Hubspot and Marketo allow you to manage complex marketing campaigns.
The key to smart B2B marketing
No one said that B2B marketing was easy. However, with a planned content strategy and smart use of automated tools you can run a campaign that places you well ahead of your competition.
The key to smart B2B marketing is this: create content that’s relevant and valuable, promote it to your target audience, and focus on the opportunities that yield the highest return.
Extra bonus: We’ve covered a lot of material in this article. To help you, I’ve created a handy “B2B Marketing Strategies Checklist” that summarises all the key points on one page. To download it now, click here.
Main Image Credit: alphaspirit