B2B Content Marketing
Content marketing is a term which encompasses all marketing formats involved in the creation, curation and distribution of content for the purpose of engaging current and potential consumer bases, as well as combining this with the science of measuring its impact on awareness, lead generation and customer acquisition.
Content marketing is business-relevant communications without the selling. Instead of pitching products or services a content marketer provides buyers with the knowledge to make better informed decisions.
Content marketing supports the belief that if businesses deliver consistent, helpful information to buyers at the right time, then prospects will ultimately reward the company with their loyalty.
Why You Need To Understand Content Marketing
Research shows that 26% of marketing budgets are spent on content marketing, and the average person is said to be exposed to about 5,000 adverts and offers every day, and so businesses must now reach prospects in new ways, such as content marketing.
By developing relevant, non-promotional content, businesses succeed in reaching potential buyers through exceptional content. Content marketing not only prompts conversations but also stimulates sharing, and therefore brand awareness. Research has shown that word of mouth is one of the single most influential factors in driving business, and therefore underwrites the need to create content that would spur on conversation.
The belief behind content marketing is that educating the customer results in the brand’s recognition as a though leader and industry expert.
Companies that develop compelling content through all stages of the buying cycle are more effective at:
- Nurturing leads
- Acquiring customers
- Reducing churn
The content marketing industry is maturing and becoming more widely used and more interesting, and beginning to become the lead in the marketing industry.
Content Marketing Fundamentals
The fundamentals of content marketing involve the requirement for the practitioner to shift their thinking from marketer to publisher, involving four new emphases:
1.The definition of a critical group of buyers.
2.Determination of what information these prospects need and how they want to receive it.
3.Delivery of that information in a way that maximizes impact on the companies goals.
4.Measurement of results and recalibration for future.
Content marketing is most effective when it is written with a specific reader in mind, a pre-determined business persona, an already active lead that meets a certain sales criteria or a sales prospect who has a specific challenge. By identifying the audience, their challenges and specific solutions, the marketer can create an asset that will educate, assist and inspire the right prospect.
Content marketing doesn’t only involve creation – thoughtful distribution is also a top tip for success. There are some key ways to distribute your content marketing, here’s how:
A company blog is their flagship publication, where all new content goes, gets distributed, new brands are born, conversations can be started and news is provided to the consumer. A blog should be one of the most important factors in your content marketing strategy, and has the power to help even small companies rocket to the top of search rankings through sophisticated optimisation strategies.
Your blog should encourage conversations consistently – even negative comments can create opportunities for developing good customer relationships. You should also spend time being social – spend time on other blogs which are in your ecosystem, and loosen up with your wording. Sounding like an authentic person outplays perfection when trying to connect with readers and customers.
eNewsletters are permission-based marketing tools. They create recurring communication with current and prospective customers, and should always be delivered at regular times. Mid-week and mornings are known as good times to send, providing good response rates. eNewsletters should be available electronically in both text and HTML formats, and can include either complete articles, or brief descriptions with links to full articles hosted on an organisations website and/or blog.
When sending eNewsletters make sure you don’t spam. Always use permission based marketing, and provide opt-out links for subscribers. Use it as a way to show them all of your recent content package them all up together into an eNewsletter and showcase your work. Most importantly segment your database, pre-plan lead generation and lead nurturing campaigns and match the prospects’ interests to the content you are sending them.
White Papers are generally authoritative reports, around 8-12 pages long, which help solve a technical problem or subject that requires in depth explanations. In commercial use, white papers have come to refer to documents used by business as a marketing or sales tool, for companies who make sophisticated products.
White Papers need to contain information and knowledge which will be ideal for a prospect that is in the ‘consideration’ stage, you can then use this as a lead generation tool and utilise a lead capture form for the customer to request the white paper. Due to white papers providing a lot of value, readers recognise this and will be less reluctant to fill out their details. The white papers should also be in a format which is printable for the consumer, PDF format or digital magazine formats are the best for these.
An electronic book (eBook) can be seen as a longer, and less in depth technical white paper. eBooks can be an electronic version of a printed book, but can also exist without any printed equivalent, and they can help introduce a potential customer to an unfamiliar subject. eBooks tend to present complex information in a reader friendly and more visually attractive way than white papers.
The content for eBook’s should be informative but retain an entertaining tone, with chunky rather than linear format. This facilitates skimming and scanning for the reader.
Social sharing and distribution strategies for eBook’s should be developed early, think about how your readers will get hold of your eBook, and whether you have provided them with the ability to share it with other people. Use artworks, graphics and visually appealing objects to make your eBook more appealing and enjoyable for your reader.
Finally at the end of your eBook ensure you conclude with a solid call to action, prompting the reader’s next move – you could also include this call to action via a link on every page if possible.
Creating, publishing and sharing videos today is easier than it ever has been. With inexpensive video cameras available (like the smart phone in your pocket), larger bandwidth and websites like YouTube and Vimeo, video marketing should no longer been seen as a challenge. These tools now mean that you can share, embed and add rich video media to any content you create and social networks and blogs you use.
Think outside the box. No-one is greatly interested in a video of someone talking about a product, use today’s editing tools like iMovie and Final Cut Pro and make easy to assemble yet professional videos. Avoid them being stuffy. Take a look at Blentec’s YouTube Channel and note of their informative yet memorable video idea that has taken the world by storm. They have built a video series that builds interest over time, which is important when using video marketing, as well as transcript that provides call to action and aids SEO.
Content Marketing and the B2B world
Content Marketing should be a part of every businesses marketing strategy, no matter what business you are in. Although B2B and B2C marketing are very different from one another, at the end of the day both types of organisations are still trying to sell something to someone else, and so content must be part of that. There are four things to remember in content marketing:
Get to know your customers:
Overtime in both B2C and B2B companies you will develop a detailed customer profile and will therefore be able to create content that you know will engage, and educate your target buyer. This is a great advantage when it comes to creating content for your audience. With such a clearly defined audience, everything that you can create should be done with specific focus on what the potential customer needs and wants to know. Using the top 10 questions that your sales team gets asked start answering them with detailed blog posts, eBooks, white papers or videos, these can then be used as tools the next time these questions get asked, and making you look like an industry leader.
Sales cycles give you permission to engage with your customers on a regular basis. If you have new content that is relevant to your customers during the sales cycle, then tell them, and share it with them. You can even tell your customers when they can expect editorials from you throughout the sales cycle using an editorial calendar; this stops you worrying about how to create new content all the time and when you will share it. There is also of course nothing wrong with sharing old content as long as it is new content to that specific reader, and by outlining and planning in advance you will be able to identify where you have missing content and develop appropriate pieces to fill those gaps.
It should be a part of your content marketing plan to curate content from other online sources to add variety, thought leadership and useful content into your marketing mix, when there is new content being created and shared by millions of other people online everyday there is no reason you shouldn’t also share that with your customers. Add into your strategy that once a month you should choose the top 5 pieces you have found online, add some thoughts about each one and share them to your community. Not only will this keep your customers up to date on the industry but you will also begin serving as a gatekeeper to the best information for them. But always remember to link to and give credit to the original content creators.
Creating content is one thing, but while you are doing so you should also be thinking about how you want the person receiving it to share it internally. By them sharing your content, awareness will be raised of what you have to offer and momentum will be built behind you.
You may have one specific contact within an organisation, you can be sure that they are influenced by other internal constituents, and as long as your content is engaging enough it will be shared. You want to build relationships with your customers, as much as price, functionality and other factors play into the final decision making process, it is equally if not more important to remember that buyers like to do business with those who they know and trust. Creating content which shows a human side reminds buyers that they are doing business with your personally as well as your organisation.
Best Practices for Content Marketing
Rather than discuss more ways in which content marketing can work for you, here are 10 reasons why a content marketing program may not be working and the solutions for them:
Create some structure: Being so broadly defined, content marketing sometimes lacks structure and goals. Sometimes companies latch onto the latest buzzword without a clear understanding of objectives. Only create content about things you understand and can provide insight and advice to, don’t try and create content on things out of your remit, you will fail.
Identify personas before creating content: It is a good idea to not only create content for your buyers, but also for the people who influence them, however, there is a line between the two. You need to identify your customer personas and then create and/or share content accordingly.
Create content of what you know: Your customers care more about your knowledge than they do about your products. Self-referential content is marketing collateral with a new name – remember, ‘me’ is the enemy of ‘we’.
Invest in your content: When it comes to content you aren’t just competing against similar vendors and competitors, but more so with every publisher, blogger, trade journal, social media influencer and even daily newspapers. Make sure you invest time in your content, create a unique viewpoint and don’t forget to market your content.
Creation of an editorial calendar: The content you create should be planned, but able to adapt to inspiration. It is vital to use a single asset in multiple ways, and break the fixed, serial campaign mentality.
Identify employees who are active content creators: Make content marketing a team effort. Colleagues are vital to the creation, distribution and socialising of your content, if you can identify individuals who are actively creating content then you should inspire them to join in your effort.
Get active across the social web: All content, even the best needs work after it has been created, and needs a push to be discovered by a large audience, and the right audience. Finding this audience requires time, patience an effort. Find out where your customers/audience is on the social web and become active in those communities.
Chief Editor: Having a chief editor who owns and is accountable for all of the content. Other people may contribute but one person needs to be accountable for it, and own the content mission.
Hire a professional: Most organisations aren’t publishers, nor do they have a publisher. As it is a new strand of marketing it is important to get it right. Hire a journalist or work with a speciality agency to help you get a head-start.
Get some senior support: It is proven that companies that have no senior support for content marketing are almost 4 trillion times more likely to fail at it. Make sure you follow all the steps in this guide, and track what you are doing, but report it less. Tracking does not mean it needs to be reported, simply that you should watch what is happening with your content.