B2B Content Marketing: How To Get More Leads and Conversions With Your Content
by Mike Khorev
Content marketing in a B2B environment can have its unique challenge due to the common misconceptions and perceived limitations compared to the B2C counterpart.
For example, the common perception is that B2B content should always be technical and informative, limiting the creativity. However, that isn’t always the case, as we will discuss in this guide.
Here, we will discuss all the ins and outs of B2B content marketing strategy, and how to generate more leads with it. First, however, let us discuss the differences between B2B and B2C content marketing strategies.
B2B VS B2C Content Marketing
Why does content marketing differ between the B2B and B2C? Because the audiences, and especially how they make the purchase decisions are also different.
We all have been a B2C consumer in one way or another. When, for example, we are considering to purchase a new smartphone, what is the typical buyer’s journey? Most of the time, it’s something like this:
- A company launched a new smartphone model, and we saw the trailer or read the announcement article (we consumed content that piqued our interest)
- If we do have the budget, we then consider purchasing the phone. If not, we are going to wait and see.
- Depending on your interest level, you might check different reviews about the phone, as well as competing products. Sometimes during this “research” period, we ends up picking another phone.
- The decision is made, and we make the purchase.
Both B2C and B2B purchase decisions are made to fulfill a (perceived) need. However, the main difference is that in a B2B purchase, the buyer will also consider tangible profitability. So, although both B2B and B2C purchases will use logic and emotion, in general B2C purchases are more emotional, while B2B purchases are more logical.
Although B2B purchase processes will vary depending on the business types (both the seller and buyer), size, and many other factors, in general it will look something like this:
- B2B purchases typically began when a business (the buyer) encountered some problems. An employee will then look for possible solutions for this problem (they might directly search for products to solve this issue, or just look for information).
- During this “research”, this employee stumbled upon a product, which they consider as a possible solution. They might check the features of the product, online reviews, or even contact the sales representative for further inquiry.
- This employee will then discuss the prospect of buying this product with their higher ups. Probably they will also research other alternatives for the product.
- When all the higher ups agree, the purchase finally happens.
As you can see, another clear difference between B2C and B2B purchases is the number of people involved in the decision. In a B2B purchase, multiple people with different roles can be involved, which might require different marketing approaches. For example, a marketing executive might be interested in the benefits of the product, while an IT executive might prefer a breakdown of technical features.
So, what will this mean to our approach in B2B marketing? Here are some important consideration:
- B2B marketing must target all the possible buyer personas, each with their role and behavior.
- The core of B2B marketing is communicating our product/service’s abilities to provide solution(s) for specific problems.
- We must be prepared in discussing profitability, and communicate how our product/service can provide tangible value.
- Depending on your product/service, communicating the technical aspect of your product might be necessary.
B2B Content Marketing, Step-By-Step
Based on the principles discussed above, we can design the proper B2B content marketing strategy to accommodate our audience. Here are the key steps we can do in achieving this:
1. Knowing and Understanding Your Audiences
In B2B businesses, we are targeting other companies, and within these target companies we can have several roles involved in the purchase decision. So, when identifying our audience, there are at least three different layers of considerations:
- Your ideal target companies. Different organizations will have different goals. The idea here is to find the right companies where your product/service can help in achieving their goals.
- Key decision makers within the company. Again, this can include different roles with different needs and preferences.
- Key prospects—for lack of better words—, which is, the person/role who are most likely to find out about your product/service first. For example, if you are selling a tech product, the IT manager might be your most ideal prospect. On the other hand, if you are selling a marketing tool, you should be targeting marketing managers and officers.
Carefully consider these three layers, and develop the proper buyer personas accordingly. The better you understand your audience and their needs, the better you can plan your content.
2. Having The Right Mindset
Without defining proper and realistic goals, we can’t have a proper content marketing plan in place. Be as specific as possible. For the most of us, the goal is to get as many people consuming the content as possible, which in turn can be converted as paying customers.
But how can we achieve this? There are several facts we should consider:
- The market is getting really saturated. There are a lot of businesses promoting their products and services every single day through various channels. Getting our voice heard amidst all these noises will be more and more difficult.
- People will only purchase from brands they trust. This is even more true in the B2B environment where—again— profitability is the main consideration.
- Tell a compelling story. Even the most technical and complex content can be engaging. It’s no use being informative when people fell asleep when reading your content.
In short, yes, our ultimate goal is to get more people to buy our products or services, but we can only do it by building credibility and trust. So, avoid hard-selling, but be informative and deliver value to your audience. This way, slowly but surely, we can establish our position as the thought leader/expert of our industry.
3. Keyword Research
Based on the target audience you’ve figured out above, the next step is to find the target keywords that are searched by these audience groups. While keyword research can be complicated at first glance, here are the key principles to consider:
- First and foremost, the keyword(s) should align with your brand value and benefit your business goal in the long-run. While you can target keywords that will guarantee lead generation, it won’t be sustainable if the keywords don’t align well with your brand.
- In general, you should look for keywords that are relevant for both your business and your audience, with high enough search volume, yet manageable competition. Aiming for overly popular keywords with excessive competition be very difficult (and expensive), so the key here is finding the right balance
- Consider different layers of audiences discussed above when looking for different keywords. Remember that each of these groups can have different needs and will search for different queries.
- Your aim in content marketing shouldn’t always be about selling your product and service, but to build trust and credibility.
4. Expand Your Keywords Into Topics
We can expand a single keyword into virtually an endless amount of possible topics.
On one hand, this can be an advantage since we can develop a lot of content targeting the same keyword. However, too many options can often lead to confusion, so we’ll have to be careful here.
So, when planning your topics, here are some key principles you can consider:
- Remember that properly understanding your audience is key. This way, you can plan topics that they are interested in, and content that will ultimately provide value.
- Nowadays, there are various tools that can help you in this aspect like BuzzSumo, Link Bait generator and Hubspot’s blog ideas generator, to name a few. Use these tools to your advantage.
- Consider topic clustering, which is, creating a big content covering one big idea, and smaller content pieces covering the details. For example, you can have a pillar content covering “digital marketing” in general, and then cluster content pieces covering “SEO”, “content marketing”, and “social media marketing” which are linked to the pillar content. This will help increase your relevance in the eyes of Google, as well as your human readers.
5. Editorial Calendar
If you are serious about your content marketing, it is wise to develop a content calendar. Your content calendar should describe what (the topics you’ll cover), why (why it’s relevant for which audience), when (when this content will be published), where (the channel where you’ll publish your content), and how (how you will promote the content).
Content marketing by itself is a long-term game, so ideally you should plan an editorial calendar for at least six months to one year. We haven’t covered the where and how mentioned above, and so we will discuss in on the next steps.
6. Content Development
Now that we’ve figured out the target keywords and expanded them into topics, it’s time to actually develop the content according to the content calendar.
Nowadays, it’s important to consider that there are various forms of content we can use, four being the major ones:
- Text, pretty self-explanatory, ranging from blog posts to ebook to whitepaper among other forms
- Images, from shareable images and photos to infographics
- Audio, mainly podcast, which is increasingly popular as a medium nowadays
- Video, from the popular YouTube videos to live streaming to webinar
You can cover the different topics with various forms of content, and you can also integrate different forms in just one piece of content.
There are two main benefits in doing this:
- Even in B2B environment, fewer people are huge readers. With this layered content, you can attract those that prefer infographics, videos, and podcasts
- A textual content can be monotone and boring even for the most avid readers. Using images or even videos can help break this.
While content creation can have many different approaches and involve many different techniques, here are the main principles to focus on in a B2B content creation:
- Remember that as discussed above, B2B marketing is about providing our audience with facts that our product/service can provide a tangible benefit. Let this concept translate into your content marketing: make sure your content is factual and informative.
- Your goal is not only for someone to click the content (through an interesting title or click-baiting), but for them to consume your content as much as possible, get value, and trust your business. Make sure your content is engaging throughout the whole piece.
- Remember the different groups of audiences, and always make sure that the content will provide value for the respective audience.
There is no one surefire way to develop perfect content, and you’ll have to experiment with different approaches that will fit your brand. Remember, however, that your goal is to establish trust, so develop your content with that purpose in mind.
7. Optimizing Conversion
It is important to realize that website visitors that came to consume your content are not necessarily equal to leads or prospects. We have to convert these visitors into actual prospects by capturing their contact information.
There are several different approaches we can use here:
- Using lead magnet, which is essentially, offering something valuable for free in exchange for the audience’s email address. A common approach in content marketing is to offer a more in-depth content (ebook, whitepaper, etc.) regarding the topic covered in the article.
- Directly offer CTAs within the content, for example, by saying “don’t forget to subscribe to our email newsletter” within the closing section of the article.
- You can use other elements within the page (which are essentially outside the content) to capture leads. For example, by using a CTA button beside the content.
Lead generation can be tricky and difficult, and without it your content marketing won’t bring any value. You might want to check out this guide by Neil Patel on how to generate leads through content.
8. Content Promotion
No matter how good your content is, it won’t bring value unless your audience actually consumes the content.
A common misconception is thinking that content marketing is only about publishing great content pieces. However, promoting your content is just as, if not even more important.
Here, we are dealing with how and where. There are various ways to promote your content, and there are various promotional channels in achieving this feat.
In general, however, the best way to promote your content is through B2B SEO. By letting this piece of content climb higher on the search engine results page, more people will be aware of the content.
While SEO is a pretty broad subject on its own, in general, there are only three key elements of SEO strategy:
- The quality of your content, and how relevant it is to the target keyword.
- Inbound links (or backlinks), especially from quality sources.
- Technical aspects from page load speed to mobile-responsiveness to structured data markup, among others. You can check this technical SEO checklist for this aspect.
Backlinks are especially important here, because when we are promoting our content in other channels, we can also get more backlinks in the process, for example:
- By using influencer marketing to promote our content, we can get backlinks from the influencer
- Guest posting, another common content marketing approach where we can also get backlinks
- Social media marketing, where any shares for our content can count as social signal
- Even through various forms of online advertising, the more people consume our content, the higher the chance we’ll get more backlinks from them
In short, treat each piece of content as a landing page, promote them individually and aim to get more backlinks in the process. The backlinks—especially quality backlinks— will in turn improve your ranking on the search engine results, which will also translate to more traffic.
As we can see, content promotion is not a singular effort, but rather a continuous effort where multiple channels work together.
9. Monitoring and Re-Optimization
Our business, the market, and the industry are always evolving, and so must our content also evolve.
So, here we must monitor the performance(s) of our content pieces, and make adjustments when necessary.
Just because content is not performing well at the moment, doesn’t mean we should just ditch it or leave it as it is. There are various approaches where we can use this content in further achieving our goals:
- Update the content. We can update the information with newer ones, while we can also re-optimize the technical aspects.
- Leverage in other forms. Sometimes, a content that’s not working in its current form can be re-made in others. For example, if a blog post is not performing well, maybe creating a video of the same content will generate better results.
- Adding other forms. For example, you can add images and videos to textual content to enhance its performance.
Depending on the situation, you might also need to adjust other factors like targeting new keywords or adding more internal links. The idea is, monitor your progress and adjust when necessary.
In implementing B2B content marketing strategy, remember that the end goal is not simply more website traffic or even a higher SEO ranking, but rather, more customers. You can download my SEO Growth Program on B2B SEO service page to learn more about my approach to content marketing strategy. So, make sure your content fulfills the purpose of establishing your credibility and encouraging conversions.
Another thing to remember here is that content marketing is a long-term game, so the key here is consistency both in quality and quantity. Regularly monitor your progress, and adjust your strategy whenever necessary.
February 17, 2020