In B2B digital marketing, effective content creation and distribution is the backbone of lead-generation. This guide will show you how to develop content for your B2B marketing, distribute it to connect with new leads, then use it to nurture them through the buying cycle.
Content marketing is one of the most hyped marketing tactics of the last decade, and as a result what defines its execution is blurred. Technically, everything a business publishes online, from white papers to a single tweet, is content. So does that mean content marketing is simply another name for digital marketing itself?
This issue goes totally gray in B2C marketing where the lines between information, entertainment, news, social interaction and advertising are all but dissolved. Brands act like friends, ads are entertainment (and vice/versa), and user-generated content is more influential than carefully crafted marketing.
However, with B2B marketing, the strategy behind using informational content remains solid. Many B2B solutions are, in fact, a better fit for what the original idea of content marketing was, which is providing informational and educational resources to leads over the course of the buying cycle. This not only builds brand awareness and trust but provides the content leads require to make an informed decision.
Content marketing has its tangents, but this guide will stick to the essentials. We’ll assume your prospects benefit from information that details the value of your solution, and that your buying cycle requires nurturing.
What we are mainly concerned with here is the sales cycle. How do you use information to make initial contact with leads? How do you develop drip campaigns to build their interest? How do you move from being an information resource to a vendor?
In other words, how do you get ROI on B2B content marketing?
Let’s get some answers.
The White Paper Strategy
Most B2B marketers are familiar with the white paper, which is a type of marketing document that precedes digital marketing.
While tactics and execution have altered, strategically the white paper lives on in today’s digital content marketing.
Essentially, your content marketing is a white paper that gives an overview of the value your offer delivers. You may, in fact, use a white paper or full report as a linchpin for your marketing, or break up the distribution of this content into shorter formats (or you may do both).
You can blog, send email newsletters, post on social media, or create YouTube videos. All are useful tactics. But the theme that runs through your content is similar to what you’d do for a white paper.
You need to answer burning questions, fill information gaps, provide data, make insights, and finalize the case for why your solution is the best choice.
Think of your B2B content marketing like a white paper that you modify and add to overtime. This will provide you with both individual topics and an underlying theme that will keep your content consistent.
Your website design and content are more than just digital business card or brochure. Rather, your website is a focual point of your B2B content marketing.
A business website is the place to distill your solution into a concise value proposition. It’s essential that your website make a postive impression that communicates how you solve your client’s problem.
Remember that your website is a sales tool. Don’t go overboard trying to explain the features of your offer. Likewise, don’t feel you have to detail every event in the history of your business or its staff.
Instead, focus on the benefits you deliver. Website visitors want to know what’s in it for them, and they won’t give you much time to convey that message.
Your value propostion is the theme of your content marketing, and your website is the place you outline it with precision. Much of your other marketing collateral will funnel people to your website, so you want it to be persuasive, concise, and action-oriented.
On your website, funnel people towards a call-to-action. When it’s delivering strong lead-generation, it’s serving as the linchpin of your content marketing.
A key to online B2B lead generation is using gated content, which requires that leads provide some contact information to access prime materials.
For example, you might have a white paper or industry report with vital information that relates to your solution. When you get a website visitor, one of your prime calls to action is to have them provide contact info so you can send them the report. You may request just an email or more information.
In practice, it often works best to sequence your gated content.
For example, on your website you have a newsletter sign up like this:
This newsletter sign-up is effective because it requires very little commitment – just an email.
But with this, you can start a sequence where you provide further reports, white papers, or webinars that ask for more contact information.
The logic behind this is that as you provide value, leads are willing to make a commitment by providing you with more information. This is an automated process which also qualifies your leads. Once they’ve consumed the information that explains the value you offer, you contact them and make your pitch.
Use CRM and email marketing software to automate much of this work, which helps you qualify and nurture leads.
Gated content can also be used effectively in retargeting ads, particularly on social media. You target these ads to people who initially visited your website but didn’t act then. For example, I visited a website on usability testing and soon got this ad showing up in my Facebook news feed:
The download is gated content, so I’ll become a legit lead if I choose to read the report.
Gated content is one of the main lead-generation tactics for B2B online marketing. Other tactics we’ll discuss often involve offering content and value up front for free, but at some point, you’ll need to turn the person into a lead, which requires that you capture contact info. Start with that goal in mind as you develop your content strategy.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Let’s backtrack a bit. Before you can present any content options, leads have to find out about you. One of the main ways this is accomplished is through organic search marketing, aka SEO.
In other words, you need prospects who are searching for your solution to be able to find you on Google and Bing.
Because of the role content plays in SEO, there is considerable overlap with your content marketing strategy. In fact, the keyword phrases you target will directly relate to informational needs of your target audience.
Start with your blog posts. Think of each post as an individual question your prospects ask – because they will ask it on Google. Then create a post that answers that question.
The more authoritative content you have on your site, the more you’ll rank for these individual queries.
At Marketing 360®, we create monster pages, which is our term for an SEO landing page. Detailed content and quality design helps these pages rank.
Again, each of these blogs is like a part of a white paper. The idea is to draw people into your site and provide some initial value. It’s a good idea to have a call to action for your gated content on the blog so you can convert them into a lead.
However, even the brand exposure is a start. Get them to like you on Facebook or LinkedIn.
Also, once someone visits your website you can retarget, getting them into your funnel for further content exposure.
Because research is often the first step in the B2B buying cycle, SEO is vital for top of funnel lead-generation.
You can apply this same strategy to YouTube if you create video content. YouTube is the second most used search engine and is an important place to rank for informational searches. Short videos, screen-casts, and webinar recordings work well with YouTube content marketing.
Connect your organic search efforts to free content that’s not gated. Make the initial effort to provide value without expecting anything in return. That helpful effort is the best way to make a first impression on leads and get them in the top of your conversion funnel.
Say you want to target people with MBAs, make more than 100k a year, and hold a C-level position at companies with over 200 employees.
On an increasing number of online platforms, including Google, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, you can.
A huge jump in just the last couple of years for B2B marketing is how much easier it is to target people based on occupation, job title, seniority, and company size. You can take these demographics and create ads that directly connect to concerns they have at work.
For example, as a marketing professional, I get these types of ads in my Facebook news feed all the time:
This ad appears in my news feed because they’ve targeted my profession. I’ve never visited their site. The call to action leads to a gated content landing page where there is an overview of the value the report delivers and a form.
These types of ads are the most effective tactic you can use on social media for B2B. They can be demographically targeted or run as retargeting. You can direct them to a web page or blog, but it’s usually best for lead generation to use gated content.
The better you can match your content to the needs of your audience, the more engagement you’ll get.
With B2B marketing, LinkedIn deserves special notice because it is, for all intents and purposes, the B2B social media channel.
Think of LinkedIn as big, digital business after hours events. Your business can have a page where you share and publish all your informational content. Each employee should use their personal pages to make connections and further distribute content. In general, people are more receptive to business materials on LinkedIn, so you’ll get more reactions.
In 2019, two important facts must be acknowledged in B2B digital marketing.
The first is that more content consumption is taking place on mobile devices. This is true of the internet in general and holds true for B2B marketing as well.
- 80% of millennial,
- 76% of Gen-X, and
- 60% of Baby Boomer
see mobile content as indispensable to their B2B research. Yet only 50% of business websites are mobile responsive.
Also, an increasing number of B2B researchers and even decision makers are millennials.
You can no longer afford to believe that your B2B target audience is the elder C-level who still thinks email is a modern contrivance. It’s important to connect with today’s digital natives, and particularly vital to make sure your content is consumable on mobile.
In some cases, this may mean branching out to platforms like Instagram or even Snapchat. At times you may get information on who the researcher is at a business then see if you can make a personal connection with them via social media.
Email marketing alone and a static website isolates you from an increasing number of B2B researchers and decision makers. Be prepared to go where your audience is.
According to Google, 90% of B2B researchers who are online use search specifically to research business purchases. They average 12 searches prior to engaging on a specific brand’s site. 70% of B2B buyers and researchers are watching videos throughout their path to purchase.
Today, assume B2B influencers are researching online. They need to be educated on how to solve their problem, get information on what solutions are available, and find brands they trust.
Many of these researchers – and more of the decision makers – are younger. These are people who’ve grown up using the internet and won’t trust a company that doesn’t know how to present itself across the main online platforms.
You need to understand how your prospects use the internet to research information and explore their options, inserting yourself into the conversation as soon as possible. Be aware of their decision-making process and use content to win their trust as they move closer to purchase.
For B2B, content marketing basically is online marketing. It’s the core of what you offer and the essence of your messaging. The more complex your solution, the more you need to educate and nurture leads with useful content.
The great thing about B2B content marketing is that when you do it effectively, by the time you present your sales pitch the lead is largely pre-sold. They understand the value you offer and they trust your professionalism. You just need to put the last pieces of the puzzle in place to win the business.
Publish your white paper and use its main points broadly online. In B2B online marketing, information is the pathway to strong business development.