The Ultimate Guide to B2B Content Marketing
People create content for a variety of reasons these days- usually all of which revolve around something that interests them. But in B2B (business-to-business) content marketing, it’s an entirely different ball game.
B2B content, regardless of content format, has little to do with interests. The ultimate purpose should be to create content that attracts a business’s ideal buyers by identifying their pains and addressing them with your solution.
As a digital marketing team, we’ve worked diligently to fine-tune this process for ourselves and our clients so that we can help them achieve strategic growth goals. After all, B2B buyers consume more than 10 pieces of branded content per month.
Today we’re sharing our complete, step-by-step process for B2B content marketing and how to get it right. This includes how to create effective content, promote it, and measure its impact on your (or your clients’) revenue growth.
We’ve got a lot to cover so let’s get started.
B2B Content Marketing Strategy: A Primer
First, let’s get super clear about what we mean when we say “content marketing.”
Wikipedia defines content marketing as a form of marketing focused on creating, publishing, and distributing content for a targeted audience online. We’ll add to that by saying, that the content is intended to get the target audience to take a pre-determined action.
And it’s quickly becoming a top priority for businesses with recent forecasts predicting that the content marketing industry will be worth $412 billion by 2021.
That’s likely because content marketing, when done correctly, is very effective at achieving strategic business goals, whether it’s building brand awareness, gaining subscribers, or generating sales leads and pipeline.
But in order for content to be successful at achieving those goals, it needs to convince the target audience, through thought leadership and persuasion, that your solution is the answer to the problems they’re having.
How to Be Effective at B2B Content Marketing
Now that we understand the basis for B2B content marketing, let’s talk about the workflow that can help you do it effectively.
Step 1: Understand your Clients’ Funnel
Before content marketers can get to work creating, they must first understand how the marketing funnel works.
These stages present the entire lifecycle for a customer who begins by not knowing a business, all the way to becoming a customer.
- Top of Funnel: Awareness (Getting to know you)
- Middle of Funnel: Consideration (Thinking about buying from you)
- Bottom of Funnel: Purchase Decision (Conversion + Customer Retention)
It’s important to create quality content that nurture’s potential buyers at each stage of the funnel and leads them to eventual purchase. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s talk about how we would determine what content to create in the first place.
Step 2: Interview Your Subject Matter Experts
When we interview stakeholders and other subject matter experts, we make sure to ask very targeted questions about the business, the offering, the customers, and the competition.
Here are a few of the questions we might ask to better understand our clients’ business and develop an effective, impactful content strategy.
- Tell us more about your product/service and what you do.
- Tell us about your ideal buyer personas.
- For B2B buyers, we want decision maker titles, industry, demographics, revenue, company size, etc.
- Why do your customers come to you? What pains are they experiencing that lead them to seek out a solution like yours?
- What are some of the objections you hear from potential customers?
- How can you combat those objections with value messaging around your offering?
- Why should a customer choose you over one of your competitors? In other words, what is your unique selling proposition or unique value proposition?
- What are some of the measurable results you’ve been able to achieve for clients?
For us to be successful at content marketing for our clients, we really need to understand their business and get in their shoes. We’ll also take a look at any existing content or resources, their analytics, and perform additional keyword research to see where we think we can be the most effective.
Step 3: Deciding How You Want Your Content Consumed
As stated previously, there are a number of different types of content you can produce. There are digital content and physical, print content. As we are a digital marketing agency, we’ll focus on the former.
Ultimately, the way you want your content consumed will depend a lot on your audience and their behaviors. In many cases, you just have to try different things until you see what form resonates with your audience the most. Here are just a few that we dabble in at Interrupt Media.
- Blog posts
- Product reviews
- White papers
- Social media posts
- Sales playbooks
- Email marketing sequences
- Buyers guides
Step 4: Conduct Keyword Research
After interviewing the client, we’ll then compile a list of base keywords based on their particular offering, perform additional keyword research, and map keywords to funnel stages. This helps us to be sure we’re properly targeting the right buyers and what those buyers are searching for.
As an example, Interrupt Media provides a variety of digital marketing services to B2B companies. So our keyword topics are pretty wide-ranging and include things like: marketing automation tool migrations, sales enablement, sales operations, marketing operations, content marketing, SEO, and more.
We then take our keywords and go to Google Keyword Planner to start searching for the corresponding queries that people are searching for that are most closely related to our offering keywords. So for instance, if we want to talk about marketing automation tool migrations, we might find that a popular query is “Marketo to HubSpot migrations.”
We’ll organize long-tail keywords based on average search volume, competitiveness, and funnel stage and then draft a content calendar to plan for all the content ideas we want to create content around.
Then we need to do the actual content creation. Seems pretty easy right? Maybe not.
With so much content already available in Google’s search engine, it’s imperative to create content that is more competitive, more valuable, and more interesting than what’s already out there.
Step 5: Create & Optimize Valuable Content
Remember that content calendar we talked about in the previous section? In addition to planning out the various topics we’ll cover and when, we also plan supplemental content that will help to cross-promote and maximize impact around that topic.
For instance, if you’re going to write a blog post about marketing automation tool migrations, you might also plan social media posts, an email nurture sequence, a webinar, and ads around the same time period. That way you can repurpose as much of your content as possible for multiple channels and get the biggest bang for your buck. Nearly 90% of B2B marketers think repurposing existing content is more cost and time effective than producing new content.
To learn more about how you can make your content the best it can be, check out this post on 15 great content optimization strategies.
Step 6: Promote Your Content
What good is your content if nobody can find it?
There are numerous ways to execute content promotion and ensure that your target audience finds it. We love to use all of these methods, but ultimately, it depends on the customer’s budget.
- Using the SEO keywords we uncovered in Step 3 is an obvious quick win, and free, organic traffic is always nice. After all, the top 10% of SaaS blogs receive 100k+ visits each month from organic search!
- BONUS: maximize SEO impact with tools like Yoast and Clearscope.
- You can create social media posts with hashtags to promote your content.
- BONUS: use paid social to boost social posts and expand your audience.
- BONUS: you can ask influencers to share your content.
- You can use Google Ads, LinkedIn, or other social media channels to promote your content.
- You can promote content to your email list through marketing automation campaigns.
The last, and arguably most important step, is the tracking and reporting you use to show the impact of your content marketing efforts.
Step 7: Tracking Content Marketing Performance
Content is a long-game. You won’t see results overnight, but it’s imperative to have reporting in place in advance so that when your efforts do start to pay off, you’ll know it and the customer will see it.
You can start by first familiarizing yourself with the primary B2B metrics you should be tracking and this beginner’s guide to building marketing funnel reports which you’ll need for Step 8. Now let’s talk about how to put tracking in place in your content.
Using the example above, you can disregard “Positive Replies” which are an email marketing term, and skip to MQLs (marketing qualified leads). These will be the folks who read the content and have indicated that they’d like to learn more about your offering.
You can track where all your MQLs are coming from by ensuring that every piece of content has a CTA (Call to Action) and that the CTA is linked to an action that the reader can take, typically filling out a form.
At Interrupt Media, we use a combination of Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, and UTMs (urchin tracking module) to track how we and our clients generate MQLs from content marketing and all the other demand generation services that we provide.
There a couple of ways we can do this:
Goal Tracking Through Google Analytics & Tag Manager
When site visitors come to a landing page and fill out a form, we use URL destination goals in Google Analytics to track the completion of the goal. Basically, each time someone visits a particular URL, the goal will be triggered. This is best when there is a specific form for a specific page, i.e. for thank you or confirmation page for a content download.
We then take it a step further by linking our Analytics account to our Google Tag Manager account to add goal conversions so that we can clearly see what specific elements on a website are generating visitor engagement.
Click Tracking Through UTMs
Another method we often use is to create UTM parameters with marketing automation tools. This adds a modifier to a URL link within our content that indicates where a lead came from. This is best when using multiple forms of content that all lead to the same goal page.
For example, if we’re trying to track registrants for a webinar, we’ll create a separate UTM for every piece of content we use to promote it (blog posts, social posts, email blasts, etc). That way, we can see which content was most effective at generating leads.
Step 8: Measure Content Marketing ROI
So now that we have our lead tracking in place, our CRM tool can properly attribute new business deals to the content that generated it and record the revenue earned from the deal.
Why is this important?
Today’s marketing budgets are getting tighter and leaders are getting more shrewd about what they allocate budget for. They want to put their money where it’s going to have the biggest impact.
Content marketing leaders know that. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 94% of top performers measure their content performance while only 60% of the least successful do.
Bottom line: If you can’t prove content marketing efforts are generating inbound leads, you may find yourself with less budget moving forward, or even out of a job.
Therefore, by knowing the deal size and how many conversions came from our content marketing, we can then complete the ROI model we shared above and show our clients exactly how much of their revenue pipeline came from the content.
We can also see which content is performing best and use that as a guidepost to create more of the content our clients’ readers want to see.
There you have it- the complete guide to B2B Content Marketing as we see it at Interrupt Media.
At the end of the day, content marketing success, for us, depends on four critical elements:
- Understanding the fundamentals of B2B content marketing and lead generation.
- Having a thorough understanding of our clients’ business and their market.
- The ability to generate demand for their business through new content that is high-value and engaging.
- Showing a clear correlation between our efforts and our clients’ growth goals.
That’s what we tried to distill here by sharing an overview of all the elements of content marketing and how we show ROI for our efforts to the client.
If you’re looking for a helping hand to implement an effective content marketing initiative, reach out today and we’ll see what that looks like for your business. At Interrupt Media, we are not a one-size-fits-all agency. We tailor our services to suit your unique business goals and budget.
Topics: B2B Marketing, Content Marketing, Demand Generation, Digital Marketing, Email Marketing, Funnels, Marketing Automation, SEO, Social Media