- Understand the key differences between B2C and B2B content marketing.
- Learn how B2B content marketing boosts your SEO ROI, generates brand awareness, and connects with your leads throughout the funnel.
- Find out how to identify your audience and conduct a gap analysis and keyword research.
- Get tips to turbocharge your content marketing campaigns.
How valuable is great B2B content marketing?
A few years ago, Arrow Electronics purchased more than 50 engineering sites, publications, and media properties including UBM’s entire portfolio for $23.5 million. It looked like a risky move because these companies were struggling. However, Arrow Electronics knew this because they’d been advertising with them for years.
But Arrow Electronics didn’t make these purchases because the publications had massive audiences. In fact, many of them didn’t. They made the purchase because of the niche they appealed to: electrical engineers. And Arrow believed they could help these publications better serve their current audience.
With these purchases, Arrow Electronics also ensured something else: that their market would continue to grow as their publications inspired younger generations to pursue electrical engineering.
And by purchasing these publications, their content marketers also gained access to key audience insights. For example, they would know what resonates with their readers, what questions they’re asking, what headlines and CTAs work best, etc.
The outcome? A massive B2B content marketing ecosystem that generates SERP visibility, expanded audience reach, brand awareness, and leads. In other words, they built a powerful inbound marketing flywheel.
WHAT IS B2B CONTENT MARKETING
B2B vs B2C content marketing
The biggest difference between B2C and B2B content marketing is the end user. B2C content is written for the consumer, while B2B content is written by businesses, for businesses.
So, your content must appeal to a whole conglomeration of stakeholders, each with different needs. Decision makers will be looking for the product’s value. But, they rely on feedback from the employees who use the product. That means you need to demonstrate many things simultaneously, specifically: expertise, authority, and ROI.
If B2B content marketing has the (unfounded) reputation of being stuffy, it’s because it’s designed to appeal to the no-nonsense concerns of decision makers. Yet, the most successful B2B content goes further. It demonstrates value implicitly by providing helpful, friendly, expert-level industry knowledge whenever its target audience is looking for answers.
The most direct path to accomplishing this heady task is through educational content. But don’t mistake educational for boring. B2B content marketing can be entertaining, fun, emotional, experimental, engrossing, experiential, vivid, silly, on-trend, and shareworthy.
Exceptional B2B content marketing examples
Want to know how to develop a content strategy that resonates? Here are a few examples that are anything but stuffy.
Featuring stylistically distinctive graphics and a friendly canine mascot named Taco, this project management tool’s blog never fails to impress. The productivity pros at Trello send out a weekly digest of their latest posts, and you can’t help but click on some of their titles. Take, for example, Playing Tricks: How To Prank Yourself To Be More Productive. You can read it right here.
Why It Works
The productivity and workflow-focused subject matter is in Trello’s wheelhouse, allowing them to demonstrate expertise and authority through helpful knowledge. But the company also understands that humans will be using the tool — humans who are drawn to friendliness, whimsy, relatability, colorful imagery, and occasional goofiness. The results look a lot like B2C content, and that’s by design. People who work at businesses are, after all, still consumers.
It’s no surprise Adobe has a slick-looking blog; the company is chock full of design experts, and they’re sitting on a mountain of How-To topics. They go above and beyond, though, by not resting solely on How-To and educational content. More often than not, they let passionate third parties handle the tutorials and reserve their blog for editorial content. The results look and feel like a magazine produced by and for creatives.
Why It Works
Through interviews with community players, free graphics, and general-interest articles about creative workplace dynamics and new technology, Adobe establishes themselves as a leading resource not just for people who use Adobe products, but for the entire creative community. Their authority is palpable, and that’s helpful when it’s time for designers to convince their bosses to buy the team Creative Cloud licenses.
HubSpot sells a full stack of software for marketing, sales, and customer service. If you’re in the marketing world, you’ve definitely heard of them whether or not you use their suite of tools. The site serves Resources with a capital R. They create comprehensive guides, helpful free tools, free marketing courses, research reports, a popular blog, and more.
Why It Works
HubSpot covers a comprehensive range of sales, marketing and customer support topics in a seemingly non-stop level of content output. All of the amazing quality content results in Google page one rankings for millions of marketing-related queries. Like Adobe, wielding that kind of natural exposure gives them a serious edge when it’s time for businesses to choose a marketing automation or CRM or customer service tool.
Benefits of B2B content marketing
Google wants to serve the most useful possible websites to its users, and it looks for signals of E-A-T — Authority, Expertise, and Trust — to determine the usefulness of a website. Just as our B2B marketing examples build authority and expertise on the front end by being there whenever people in their industry need a resource, they do the same on the back end.
Great content establishes search engine authority by accruing backlinks from relevant, high-authority sources; garnering brand mentions on social media; and establishing contextual relevance with related content.
Drives SEO ROI
The combination of off-site authority and keyword-rich content can skyrocket the impact of basic on-site optimizations. Link equity is like fuel for your B2B SEO strategy. Sure, you can start a fire without it, but you won’t keep it going for very long.
Complete SEO strategies that produce maximum ROI require both on-site optimization and backlinks. And a great digital marketing strategy is your ticket to the second.
Increases visibility and awareness
B2B companies have a lot of different markets to appeal to. Visibility and awareness are universal positives across audiences, from the stressed employee looking for answers to the VP deciding which services to use. Content marketing increases visibility in the SERPs, on industry websites, and through the sharing of articles and information.
Trello’s project management platform is free for individual users because they don’t sell to individual users. They sell a team-wide project management system to businesses. The majority of people who land on their content won’t be opening up a business account, but every individual user becomes a fan who can advocate for the platform at the business level.
Content marketing generates leads. And those relationships can be nurtured throughout the funnel until they convert into a sale.
B2B content marketing facilitates that process, too. B2B content such as blog posts are great at expanding awareness. Content such as white papers, case studies, and calculators are all highly effective throughout the consideration and decision phases.
Strengthens your brand
Strong brands demonstrate their values in their interactions with clients, leads, prospective customers, and casual information seekers. Through helpful, expert resources that employ your brand voice, you can boost your brand’s authority and awareness across many mediums. Content marketing provides the proof in the pudding needed for serious reach and long-term audience loyalty.
Supports lead scoring and lead nurturing
Your B2B content marketing doesn’t just capture leads; it can also provide valuable insight about the quality of the lead. You can sort your leads by the type of content they land on or consume, and your lead capture forms can include questions about company size, budget, and timeline to prioritize your leads.
This allows you to nurture the relationships that really matter without frittering away time on visitors who aren’t your target audience or who have a low probability of converting. And what better way to nurture your prospects with the highest lead scores than B2B content, and lots of it. Whether blog posts, webinars, or special reports, you can use your content to keep them engaged over the long B2B buying cycle.
BUILD YOUR B2B CONTENT MARKETING STRATEGY
Step 1. Identify your audience
Your own B2B marketing strategy starts with knowing your audience. Use your current user base to create your target buyer personas per audience segment. Leverage Google Analytics data, surveys, and conversations with sales and customer support to form a picture of the people you interact with at every touchpoint, from direct users to decision makers. While it certainly doesn’t have to do it in one fell swoop, all successful B2B content marketing strategies appeal to each persona throughout every stage of the sales cycle. Find out how to target customers with these buyer persona examples.
Step 2. Set goals and define success
B2B content marketing accomplishes many things, from brand awareness and loyalty to organic traffic. Set specific goals so you can know which parts of the strategy to lean into and which parts to adjust and optimize over time.
Define your goals for each persona and funnel stage, too. You don’t want to only create awareness blog posts when you should actually focus your content marketing efforts on decision-oriented tools, or vice versa.
Step 3. Conduct a content audit and gap analysis
Before you launch a completely new content marketing initiative, do a thorough content audit to assess your current strategy.
- What kinds of content do you have?
- Are all audience segments or personas covered?
- Which content resonates?
- Which efforts fall flat?
- Where are there gaps in the topics you currently cover — especially compared to competitors?
On the flip side, where do your competitors have content gaps that you can take advantage of? Don’t let the zeitgeist of new content overshadow the valuable insights you can pull from your current content.
Step 4. Choose your channels
Choose the channels where you’ll publish and promote your content. Then, identify the formats that are best suited for each channel.
Channels where you can publish include:
- Your blog
- Lead generation landing pages, case studies, white papers, knowledge bases, resource hubs, etc.
- Industry blogs and resources
- Media publications
- Social media platforms
- Off-site blogging platforms like Medium or LinkedIn’s blogging tool
- Video and podcast platforms
- Thought leadership articles
- Original research
- Case studies
- White papers
- Video content
- Blog posts
- Email marketing
- Interactive tools
- Downloadable ebooks
Step 5. Conduct keyword research
When your target audience wants information, what do they search for? What pain points, interests and questions do they have? What qualities do they look for in a product or service?
Conduct extensive keyword research to uncover your greatest opportunities. Here’s a few critical tools to get you started: Ahrefs, Moz Keyword Explorer, SEMRush, Google Trends, Google Search Console, Keyword.io, Answer the Public, and BuzzSumo Content Discovery. And don’t just focus on high-volume terms. Also, read our article about leveraging the power of long-tail keywords to drive massive traffic!
Finally, size up the SERPs for your selected keywords so you can produce relevant content that competes. Tools like Clearscope are useful in this area.
Perform your keyword research for each persona and funnel stage individually to develop a broad understanding of your topic coverage.
Step 6. Build a content calendar
Once you know your topics and keywords, give your system some structure by building out a content calendar. Use key dates and milestones as anchor points and work your content around those, factoring in the frequency at which you’ll be posting. Coschedule is a great option for blending your content calendar with a full-service project management system so you can quickly assign tasks and move content through an editorial workflow.
Step 7. Create your content
Create content for every stage of the sales funnel
Queries and concerns are vastly different as customers move through the sales funnel from the awareness phase, to consideration, to decision. Create content for each stage of the funnel so you’re present throughout the entire buyer’s journey.
If you sell an inventory management solution to businesses, for example, an awareness topic might be a detailed guide on evaluating your supply chain. A decision topic, on the other hand, would focus more on why automating inventory with your software is the key to success.
Read more about funnel phases in our post: What The Heck is ToFu, MoFu, BoFu?
Tell a story
Facts and figures are important for people who are in “critical evaluation” mode, but data isn’t what grips your leads in the first place. Instead, your power as a brand lies in the stories you can tell. Paint a detailed picture of the people who use your products and services and reveal the differences between life without your product and life with your product.
Your storytelling doesn’t just have to be customer success focused. Get creative! That’s what the tax software pros at Intuit did when they interpreted “Tell a story” literally and created this wonderful video.
Remember, stories change the chemical make-up of the brain. People remember information 22X more than when wrapped in a story. Tell stories!
Atomize your content
If you pour 100 hours into researching and producing a meaty piece of content, your job isn’t done until you make that time cost scalable. That means never letting a single insight or piece of research go to waste. For every piece of content you produce, brainstorm how you can repurpose the subject matter for other formats.
Turn guides into webinars and webinars into YouTube videos. Create visual, easy-to-digest cards with key insights for social media. Tailor white papers to different personas by duplicating and rewriting the information for each industry or pain point. And create blogs supporting your other content efforts. Your options are endless, so B2B content marketers should never consider a single piece of content done until it has found a home in other formats.
In fact, way before you pour 100 hours into a single piece of content, take a look at the big picture and budget your time across every key goal or milestone. One hundred (100) hours is a realistic amount of time for major content pushes, but plan accordingly so your team doesn’t spend so much time on content creation that there’s no room left for outreach or ongoing optimizations.
B2B content marketing is about more than just creating the content. Don’t let a rigorous production schedule pull you away from the other marketing tactics that are vital to your SEO strategy.
Think back to Arrow Electronics. They realized that to have maximum impact through content marketing in their industry, they would need to do more than just produce blog posts, white papers and webinars. And now they are the largest publisher in their industry.
Sometimes two seemingly unrelated things can combine to create something completely new and outside the box. Form partnerships with companies that don’t target the same niche as yours and take advantage of this effect. Create a collaborative piece of content or run a co-webinar with one of your partners and let each business’s perspective and insights influence the work. The results will be expertise-driven, audience-expanding, and inimitable.
Develop new B2B content ideas (all the time)
Never, ever consider your content calendar fixed. Habitually develop new ideas based on current events and new insights about your products, customers and industry. Add these ideas to your calendar as needed or create a backlog. Content brainstorming doesn’t just happen through a single power session once a month; it happens every day through ongoing observations and through interactive Slack channels, intranets and other collaboration spaces.
Ask your audience
Use your social media channels or head to forums to ask your audience what kind of content they want to see and what they want to learn more about. Not only will you generate engagement and show your investment in your audience’s feedback, but you’ll also be able to produce on-target content.
You can also indirectly gain insight into your audience’s needs using behavioral analytics, and by chatting with your sales and customer support teams about common issues, concerns, and roadblocks that emerge throughout the sales process.
Fix thin content
During your content audit, you probably stumbled across existing content that isn’t bringing any value to your site. Don’t leave thin, low-quality pages that don’t generate traffic sitting there. Assess each thin page and decide whether you should delete the page or improve it.
Low-quality pages needlessly waste crawl budget and siphon link equity from the pages that matter most. So it’s important to monitor your site’s SEO health by regularly executing a content audit.
Step 8. Transform your content into a lead generation engine
While awareness content isn’t the place for hard selling, it should be focused on moving visitors further along in the funnel. You pull in more new visitors during the awareness phase than any other phase, so take advantage of that to capture leads.
Optimize the content for conversions, providing clear calls to action at appropriate times. Add multiple CTAs on the page, and vary up the format. Capture emails using targeted strategies like free ebooks, free trials, and downloads. Every piece of content you produce should have a goal, and your page should be built to help visitors hit that goal.
Read more about SEO lead generation best practices.
Step 9. Create content marketing campaigns
Savvy B2B marketers wouldn’t sink 40 hours of content production into an amazing white paper without thinking about content promotion. Put a mini marketing plan together for each piece of content detailing where you’ll share it, who you’ll share it with, and what your blogger outreach efforts will look like.
As you do so, remember to include the easy wins. If everyone at your company shares articles on LinkedIn as they’re published, for example, you’ve just expanded your reach exponentially with minimal effort.
Step 10. Generate high-quality backlinks
Your plan should focus on earning high-quality backlinks from industry blogs and other influential publications. Find the hooks in your content that are appealing to your industry on a widespread level and perform scalable, personalized outreach to carefully-selected targets. Terakeet typically reaches thousands of highly targeted, credible, niche publishers, bloggers, and influencers through the use of our Chorus technology. Make sure you are not trying to gain third-party content placements one at a time, or you’ll likely never reach the scale needed to have a strong impact.
Step 11. Configure performance tracking and reporting
Set up a performance dashboard specifically for content-related KPIs and integrate the data into your core reporting tool. If you use URL parameters like /blog/my-content or guides/my-content, you can easily pull the data for your content pages only.
Useful dashboard software includes Domo, Grow, DashThis, TapClicks, and Klipfolio. Or, you could set up your dashboard in Google Data Studio.
Track their total unique traffic, organic traffic, time-on-page, goal completions, and other KPIs you’ve set for your content. Keep monthly tabs on your top-performing pages, content pieces, and keywords so you can continuously fine-tune your B2B content marketing program moving forward.
And to gauge the experience that your prospects have with your content, use behavioral intelligence software such as Decibel, Clicktale, Mouseflow, HotJar, and FullStory. Just because they find your content doesn’t necessarily mean they like it. Behavioral intelligence tools help you see and interpret the digital body language of those consuming your content so that you can optimize it for better experiences.