How To Develop a B2B Content Marketing Plan
by Mike Khorev
June 20, 2019
B2B content marketing is a very challenging thing, especially because B2B audiences simply demand more value and information from you. On the other hand, communication is the core aspect of B2B marketing, and so content marketing is arguably even more important in a B2B setting compared to B2C.
So, in this guide, we will attempt to discuss everything about B2B content marketing: from figuring out your audience to planning your topics to creating conversion devices for your content pieces. Yet, let us first discuss the main differences of B2B and B2C content marketing tactics.
B2B VS B2C Content Marketing
Content marketing, in a nutshell, is how you use content to attract new audience, converting the audience into prospects, and ultimately, into paying customers.
With a proper content marketing, you can establish credibility, a very expensive asset in this saturated digital age. Why? Because simply, people only buys from brands they can trust. If you publish valuable, relevant content pieces regularly, you can establish your position as the expert/thought leader of your industry, which is the principle of inbound marketing.
The main difference between B2C and B2B content marketing, obviously, is the audience. With B2C content marketing, you are dealing with personal customers, while with B2B content, you are dealing with businesses, or professionals within the businesses. This main difference will further gives fruit into several important differences, namely:
- B2C audiences are mainly influenced by emotion, while B2B audiences are mainly influenced by logical information, although this is not absolute
- The purchase process of B2B businesses tend to be longer than B2C consumers, meaning, generally you will need more content pieces to nurture a B2B audience
- There can be several different decision makers in your target companies, and each of them can have different roles with different needs. Your content pieces should address each of these roles, and so B2B content marketing must be more diversified.
- B2C content marketing is more effective for brand awareness purposes, while B2B content marketing is more focused towards results (conversion)
Obviously, there are other differences, but these four we have discussed above are the most crucial ones. So, based on those differences, B2B content pieces are required to be more engaging, valuable, relevant, and developed with professional-quality.
Planning and Executing B2B Content Marketing
Now that we’ve understood the main principles of B2B content marketing, and the differences to B2C content marketing, let us further discuss how to develop a B2B content marketing plan.
1. Finding and Understanding Your Audience
It’s impossible to please everyone: our time is limited, our resources are limited, and our manpower is limited. This is why it’s very important to focus on an ideal audience.
Here are some key considerations before we delve further into this subject:
- Your core value proposition
Remember that people aren’t essentially buying your product or service, but rather the benefits tied to it. Identify the single, most important value about your product or service. If you can define the extra features and benefits, that’s fine, but don’t let these extra features dilute your judgment about the most important benefit.
- Who would benefit most from that value?
Now that you’ve defined your core value, you will need to find out who, or at least, which companies will benefit the most from this value. For example, if your product is aimed at improving productivity, you might want to target startups with fast-paced growth.
- Your unique value
What makes your business unique compared to your competitors? What should be the reason your audience will purchase from you and not from your competition? This can be a lower price tag, but remember that your competitor can always lower their price as well. Identify your unique value, and build your business (and content marketing) around it.
Based on those three considerations,here are some targeting approaches you can implement:
- Start by defining your target companies
Since you are a B2B businesses, your customers will be companies and organizations. List all possible target companies and pick 3 or 5 biggest/most relevant ones. Research these companies thoroughly, especially their ke decision makers.
Each company can have more than one decision makers, and by studying these key companies, you can have a clearer picture of ideal roles you should target.If possible, segment this audience according to the various stages of the marketing funnel.
- Using analytics and available data
If your brand (and especially site) is not totally new, you should be able to use analytics data to analyze your current visitors. You can use Google Analytics or other Analytics tools like Mixpanel or KISSmetrics to do this.
Then, you can take notes of the important metrics. You might want to check out this guide by Tech Funnel listing all the important metrics in tracking qualified audiences.
With this data, you can learn a lot about your site visitors, from basic demographics like gender and age, and more in-depth behavior and interest data from the topics they are interested in, what time they are active on your site, what device are they using (mobile/desktop/tablet), and so on.
Understanding this data will be useful not only for your content marketing strategy, but for your overall marketing and business strategies. Here are some key metrics to observe:
- Demographics: fairly obvious, for example, if your main target audience is millenial women between the age of 25-34, you can figure out how to develop content for this group.
- Behavior: there have been arguments that behavioral targeting is now more important than demographics targeting. The better you can understand your audience’s behavior, the better you can tailor your content. Check out this guide by Google on how to use Analytics to analyze behavior.
- Keywords: analyzing keywords that bring these visitors to your blog/site will be extremely beneficial to your content marketing planning. You can plan out topics to target keywords that have brought results.
- Interest: you can use Google Analytics data to track the social channels that bring visitors to your site. Then you can use the analytics feature on each social media channel to find their interests. You might want to check this guide to learn more about this aspect.
In short, with this approach, we analyze various data of our current visitors and readers to develop better content. Obviously we can’t use this approach if your site is brand new, but you can analyze your closest competitors’ data for similar effect.
- Developing reader persona
Reader persona, similar to buyer persona, is an fictional model of your ideal reader. So, as opposed to the previous approach where you use the available data to understand your current audience, here you analyze possibilities to create your most ideal future audience.
One way to do this is by analyzing your business and marketing goals, and finding the audience with the highest possibilities in helping you to achieve those goals.
Another approach is to analyze various data, similar to the previous discussion, and use this data to shape your ideal reader. Developing a reader persona can be a pretty broad subject on its own, and you might want to check out this guide by Neil Patel on developing a data-driven reader persona.
2. Planning Your Topics
One of the biggest challenges in content marketing is consistency. A proper content marketing is not about just one or two high-quality content pieces, but you will need to publish a lot of content pieces, in various forms, while maintaining consistency in quality.
The best way to tackle this issue is to plan your topics ahead, or better, develop a 6 to 12 months editorial calendar. At the very least, you should aim for two to three content pieces per month. The more the merrier, as long as you can maintain quality.
Here are key steps to consider when planning your topics:
- Keyword research
In this saturated digital marketing world, thousands of content pieces are being published every single day. No matter how good your content is, you won’t get any value from it unless it’s visible to your audience.
One of the best way to achieve content visibility is through SEO, and this is why targeting the right keywords is important. In general, you should target keywords that are:
- Valuable for your business and relevant to what you are offering.
- Have enough search volume (people are actually searching these keywords).
- Ranking for these keywords is possible (manageable competition/keyword difficulty).
Then, you can develop topics to target these keywords. You might want to check out our previous guide on keyword research here.
- Social Monitoring
Another indicator you can use in planning your topics is to see the current trends in social media channels: what topics are currently talked about, what’s being shared the most, what’s the popular hashtags, and so on.
There are various marketing tools that can do this, but the most popular one is BuzzSumo.With BuzzSumo, for example, you can collect real-time data from all major social networks according to your industry/niche, and you will be given a list of popular topics with the most traction in your niche.
Using this data, you can either aim to make a better content on the topic, or use a different approach to cover the topic. Obviously, since you are measuring trends, this approach will be limited to a time frame.
To tackle this, you can first develop a content calendar using the keyword research approach, and use social monitoring to fine-tune it. For example, if you see a topic that was planned for December is trending today in June, you can move it forward. You can also stick to your initial content calendar while developing another content to cover the trend.
- User Intent Prediction
Every activity on the internet from searching to browsing to making a transaction has an intention behind it. This is the concept of user intent, and there are three basic user intent types:
- Navigational: when you are aiming to get to a specific website
- Informational: when you are searching for information
- Transactional: when you are looking to make a purchase
In a B2B sales cycle, it is important to understand that user intent can move progressively according to their position in the sales cycle or marketing funnel. Let’s use an example to illustrate this:
Let’s say you are an marketing manager in a company, and you are currently searching for information on improving your team’s productivity. Your intent here is informational but you are not yet looking for a specific product. Here, a marketing automation tool company can target you with a content like “how marketing automation tools can improve productivity”, covering the benefits and main features of marketing automation tools.
Then, after reading the content, you are now interested in buying a marketing automation tool and decided to research your options. Notice your intent has shifted here, and in this stage, a content like “best marketing automation tools comparison” can appeal to you.
As you can see, the better you understand the various user intent, the better you can plan your topics. Here are the several principles to consider when using this approach:
- The more expensive your product is, the longer your sales cycle will be, and thus generally more people will be involved in the purchase decision
- Understand your sales process, how a typical user usually stumble upon your product and their key considerations until they finally make a the purchase
- Understand the unique values of your product compared to your competitors
- Develop content pieces according to the possible user intents.
3. Validating Your Content
Now that you’ve planned your topics and probably developed a content calendar, it’s time to validate your topics. We all know creating content can be a painful, arduous process. So, we have to make sure our efforts, time, and resources are going to the right ones.
Thankfully, with social media as well as other channels, we can validate our content by using simple social experiments. For example:
- You can create a simple infographic covering a topic, and post in on social media to see number of shares, etc.
- Develop simple, short, but valuable content and post in on social media or over email marketing.
- Use A/B testing to test various aspects of your content from headlines to forms to images and videos.
- Surveys and one-on-one interviews are always effective.
The idea is, don’t blindly produce any content and let your precious time and/or money go to waste. Make sure to focus on topics that actually matter.
4. Planning Content Promotion
Planning and actually developing the content is actually only half the job done. As we have mentioned, excellent content won’t bring value unless people (and ideally, a lot of people) are consuming it.
This is why it is very important to plan how you are going to distribute and promote the content.
As we have discussed briefly above, optimizing your content for SEO with the aim in increasing your organic reach is very effective. However, that’s not the only effective way to promote your content, and here are some tactics you might want to consider:
- Social media marketing
Social media is how many people finding out news, new products, new places, and especially, contents. So, it’s fairly obvious that social media will be a very effective channel for your content promotion.
Take notes, however, that organic social media reach has been in decline for some time now, and you will most likely need to invest on paid social advertising.
- Influencer marketing
The key here is finding the right influencers of the B2B industry you are in, that will align well with your content. Influencer marketing on the B2B environment is still less common than the B2C counterpart, but it can still be very effective when done right.
- Email marketing
You can use email marketing to promote your content, while on the other hand a valuable content can help improve the performance of your email marketing.
The idea here is to deliver the right content, to the right people, at exactly the right time, and we can do it by implementing drip marketing.
5. Planning Conversion Device
Now that your audience is consuming your content, what then? Obviously, for your content pieces to be effective, they must be able to convert your readers, either from readers to prospects or from prospects into actual, paying customers.
There are several different approaches to do this, and here are some of the most effective ones:
- Offering free but valuable, in-depth content in exchange of the user’s contact information (mainly email address), a pretty common but effective tactic
- Offering free-trial of your product, free sample,or discount within the content, using sense of urgency.
- Using a comprehensive, in-depth content about your product and its unique values to encourage them to purchase. This can be effective, but you will need to find the right balance between being informative and hard-selling.
- Use social proof like testimonies, user reviews, etc. within your content. A common approach is to develop a video highlighting these social proofs.
The most important aspect of any content marketing is finding and understanding your ideal audience: always aim to provide value by offering solutions to their problems or presenting new information to improve their businesses.
Remember that the key here is consistency: regularly publish your content pieces, yet maintain the quality. Monitor your progress, evaluate your results, and use the data to develop even better content in the future.
Mike Khorev is an SEO expert and digital marketing consultant who helps small and mid-size businesses generate more leads, sales and grow revenue online. He offers expert advice on marketing your company the right way through performance-based SEO digital marketing, web design, social media, search engine marketing and many other online practices. Find him on LinkedIn and Twitter
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