If you’re in the B2B space, you no doubt wonder if content marketing is for you. Maybe you think content marketing is a lunch table where the B2C kids sit.
But the truth is, you CAN sit there. Not only can you sit there, you might also become the popular kid in school.
What is content marketing for B2B?
To start, let’s make sure we’re all working off the same definition of what content marketing is.
Content marketing can be defined as:
… a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience—and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.Content Marketing Institute
Arguably, that’s what all marketing is, right? Not exactly.
There is a clear distinction between marketing and content marketing. Instead of overtly pitching your products and services, you are providing truly relevant and useful content to your prospects and customers to help solve their issues.
In a practical sense, it means creating a piece of content that provides advice or resources to customers instead of talking about why your product or service is so amazing.
It’s tough though. We get it. Your products and services are amazing, and your potential customers need to know that.
But content marketing is all about building trust, authority, and relationships that ultimately lead to sales. That means the pressure is off when it comes to pushing your product. All you need to do is offer help and be there when audiences need you.
You may think that’s easier said than done. But following these steps can simplify the process.
How to build a content strategy
An effective content strategy is built around your audience. They are the ones you’re creating content for, and they are the ones you hope will consume it.
1. Know your audience
To succeed in content marketing efforts, you must go beyond general audience demographics. That’s not to say demographics aren’t important. Elements such as age, job title, industry, and location are critical, but we invite you to take it a step further.
Actually talk to your buyers!
Your buyers or potential buyers are in fact your target audience. Get to know them. Get to really know them.
Solicit their thoughts in person, by phone, via video conferencing, over email, or using a survey. Ask them questions about their goals, pain points, challenges, preferred types of content, and preferred channels.
Speaking to your buyers or potential buyers directly means you don’t have to guess at their preferences. Why guess when they can tell you exactly what they want?
From here, you can use the information you’ve gathered from interviews and conversations to build buyer personas. Personas are documented, detailed narratives about your buyers. You’ll use them alongside your buyer’s journey.
2. Understand your buyer’s journey
A buyer’s journey takes into account your persona and how that individual moves through the marketing funnel stages: awareness, research, evaluation, activation, and maintenance.
Learn more about what a buyer's journey is and why you should have one.
When you understand what your buyer needs to move from one stage to the next, you can create and distribute content to support it.
Remember, content marketing is all about your audience—their needs, wants, and preferences.
For each stage, write down what your audience is looking for, their struggles, and what they want in a potential solution.
Identify content channels
From here, list the channels your buyer uses to conduct research, gather information, and evaluate potential solutions.
This is where having that first-hand feedback from buyers comes in handy. If your buyers tell you they rarely visit vendors’ websites until the evaluation stage, then you’ll need to be present in other channels for awareness and research.
If your buyers tell you they only follow social media accounts for hired vendors, then your social channels should be used in the activation and maintenance phase.
A note about social media, while we’re on the topic: social media is a great distribution channel for content, but social media should not be your only distribution channel.
For B2B organizations especially, organic social media—and even paid social media to a certain extent—cannot support all content marketing goals. And your buyer’s journey will reveal this.
Your audience is likely consuming content on other channels like trade publications, review sites, and at industry events. This signals that distribution efforts outside of your owned channels are just as important.
List content types
Imagine that during the course of your buyer’s journey interviews, you discover case studies help drive buyers from research to evaluation. Document that in your buyer’s journey.
Or maybe your buyer gravitates toward white papers and industry reports when they are in the awareness stage. Make note of that.
Each stage should have a content type or multiple content types associated with it and some examples include:
- Blog articles
- Research reports
- Interactive tools
- Case studies
3. Identify content marketing goals + key performance indicators
With your personas and buyer’s journey in hand, it’s time to determine the goals of your content marketing strategy and the KPIs you’ll use to measure success toward those goals.
It’s important to note that you can select multiple goals for your content marketing strategy:
- Brand awareness
- Lead generation
- Organic search traffic growth
- Audience education
- Thought leadership promotion
Measuring success toward goals depends on the channels and content types detailed in your buyer’s journey. If your goal is brand awareness, you might measure digital ad impressions and reach, unique website visits, and social media followers.
To measure lead generation, you might reference email newsletter subscribers, webinar attendees, contact form submissions, and gated content downloads.
Each content marketing goal must have a specific, measurable, attainable, and timely KPI associated with it.
4. Create brand guidelines for content
The good news is, if you already have documented brand guidelines, the hard work is already done. Those brand guidelines will guide the content you create.
If you haven’t built brand guidelines for your organization, there are several high-level elements you should document:
- Brand colors (primary and secondary)
- Brand font(s)
- Voice and tone
- Editorial style
Each piece of content you create should align with your brand guidelines to ensure consistency across all channels.
This is not to say that you won’t adapt your company’s guidelines for specific pieces of content or channels. You might speak more conversationally on social media than you would in an industry report. You may have a more authoritative tone in a white paper than you do in your blog articles.
Slight adaptations are okay. Make sure to note these differences in your content strategy.
5. Build an editorial calendar
Now, it’s time to put your knowledge, insights, and guidelines into practice.
An editorial calendar lends clarity, transparency, and coordination to your content marketing efforts. Adobe's Definitive Guide to Engaging Content Marketing notes an editorial calendar can benefit your organization in three main ways:
- Visibility and alignment
Your editorial calendar can be as simple or complex as you like. It can take the form of a shared Excel document or outlined list and can be managed manually or through specific software.
At ddm, our editorial calendar begins with quarterly themes broken down into monthly topics and weekly social media posts. Additionally, we have a set frequency for content like white papers, reports, case studies, and webinars.
Continually measure, optimize + elevate
Once you start executing your editorial calendar by creating and distributing content, your work isn’t done.
Make sure you measure the success of your content marketing efforts. Go back to those goals and KPIs you set earlier and track your progress toward those.
Ensure each piece of content you create leads audiences to a call to action (CTA) or a next step in their journey.
Use A/B testing on different content types and messaging to determine what resonates most with your audience. Get creative and elevate your content with dynamic and engaging elements.
Resist the urge to throw out your entire plan if you don’t see immediate results. Content marketing is about the long game.
You’re building a sustainable system that takes time but will produce exponential results in the long run. The content you create will continue to work for you long after it’s created.
Keep an eye on the metrics and work toward your goals—but give it time. And don’t forget to talk to your buyers along the way to ensure you’re still meeting their needs and providing content they need when and where they need it.
Create a solid content marketing strategy and you’ll definitely be a cool kid at the lunch table.
Interested in learning more?
We can help build a content strategy that drives toward your business goals, engages your target audience, and generates compelling content.