And they’re not wrong - content marketing really is a great way for B2B companies, both large and small, to grow their business. As any marketing manager working in B2B will be able to tell you, the customer journey is significantly longer compared to B2C businesses, with more time and effort required to close a deal. This is where content marketing comes in as it can help B2B marketers successfully nurture prospects at each step of the journey.
We find that a lot of online advice lacks a thorough explanation of how content marketing can help you generate leads and close deals.
That’s why we’ve gone ahead and created the below explainer for B2B firms that are keen to use content as a growth tool.
What is B2B content marketing?
Excellent question. We think our partners over at HubSpot define it really well so let’s start off with that: “content marketing is the process of planning, creating, distributing, sharing and publishing content to reach your target audience.”
Simply put, it involves creating content that is valuable, educational and relevant to prospective customers in order to attract, acquire or engage them. If done correctly, content marketing will help you become a trusted source of information on the topic you’re most knowledgeable about, which, of course, should be related to the products or services you offer.
For example, if you’re an SaaS company specialising in time management and productivity tools, your content creation strategy could focus on why professionals have trouble staying focused and managing their time well. Essentially, you’ll want to tackle the main problems (or needs) of your audience and provide them with valuable solutions.
Content marketing goes hand-in-hand with SEO (search engine optimisation) as Google is always on the lookout for great, unique content that satisfies people’s search queries. And the more relevant and better optimised your content is, the more traffic you can expect to receive from search engines in return.
As such, it’s important we point out that content marketing is a long-term strategy. While certain marketing channels (such as PPC) start driving results the minute you turn them on (for a cost, of course), content marketing takes some time to build up traffic.
But in the long-run, it can become one of your most profitable marketing channels as a B2B company. As your rank higher and higher on Google, your target audience will find your content (and business) themselves when researching their initial problem (such as a lack of time management in above’s example.)
We think SEMRush’s graph below is a great way to show how content and SEO work together in the long-run and how they compare to other marketing channels.
Why is content marketing important for B2B companies?
The Content Marketing Institute has done some excellent research on the effectiveness of content marketing. For example, when it comes to bringing in customers, content marketing costs, on average, 62% less than traditional marketing. What’s more, per US$ spent, it generates three times as many leads as traditional marketing.
If the above statistics are any indicator, content marketing is very important for helping B2B companies increase:
- Brand awareness
You already know that your target audience is doing their own research online. By creating relevant content that satisfies their search queries, your business will start showing up more and more as being the one with the go-to answers. As such, prospects will start to remember you as a trusted source that gives them the information they are looking for. So much so that with time, instead of googling a question related to time management, they’ll come directly to your website (we’re still sticking with the same example for ease).
- Number of leads
Leading on nicely from the above, once people start seeing your business as a thought leader in the industry, they’ll want to hear more about what you’ve got to say. A natural next step for them would be to sign up to your email newsletter in order to receive your newest content directly in their inbox.
And once you’ve passed this stage in the client journey, you’ve essentially won yourself a lead. Of course, some subscribers will be warmer leads than others, so it’s important to segment your email database regularly. But essentially a lead is a lead - and you now have the permission to nurture them with the content they want to see until they are ready to become a client.
- Repeat business
Once you’ve won over a lead, it doesn’t mean that they fall out of your ‘to-target-with-content’ list. They should just go into the ‘to-reengage-with-content’ list instead. By sending them relevant post-purchase content (perhaps a best practice guide for the time management tool) will help build trust in you as a company, encouraging repeat business when they have another need for your service.
The B2B content marketing buyer journey
We mentioned earlier that content marketing helps B2B businesses nurture their prospects at every step of the customer, or buyer, journey. This is because you can create different types of content for each stage of the buyer’s journey to encourage them to move through the sales funnel (or flywheel, or whichever customer journey model you work with).
If your prospect is at the beginning of the customer journey (or top of the sales funnel), they’ll be aware of your product or service but unlikely to make a purchase just yet. To get their attention, create educational content that shows thought leadership, but don’t mix in content with too much business-related information just yet - this is not the stage to be salesy.
Prospects in the middle of the customer journey are generally displaying buying behaviour and are engaged with your content. Here, a more in-depth white paper or a ‘how-to’ product guide will help them make a decision.
Finally, if your prospect is located at the end of the customer journey, they’re likely very close to becoming a customer. The content you create can be very specific to your product or service. Promotional and ROI proving content that shows the competitiveness and value of what you sell will go a long way.
In the table below, we’ve gone ahead and listed the different types of content, as well as the best marketing channels to promote them on, for each stage.
|Customer Journey Stage||Best Types of Content||Best Promotional Channels|
Three steps to get started on your B2B content marketing strategy
Before you start creating content, it’s important to put together a content marketing strategy. This will essentially outline who you’re creating content for, why you’re creating content and what that content will look like. Here are three steps to help you get started:
- Research your audience
You want the content you create to be the relevant content your prospects are looking for. Thus, knowing your target audience inside out is crucial. Start by creating buyer personas, noting down the struggles and needs of each. You’ll also want to do keyword research in order to understand the type of queries your prospects are searching for online.
If you need some help getting started, we went into detail on how to put together a buyer persona in our recent blog on digital marketing strategy.
- Set content goals
Each piece of content you create should be working towards a goal - that way you’ll be able to measure its success down the line. This can be either a qualitative goal (such as brand recognition, social media engagement and customer relationship building) or a quantitative goal (such as the number of social shares, downloads or leads).
- Have a style guide
A style guide is a document that outlines a set standard of writing, formatting and designing your content. It will determine your tone of voice (e.g. friendly, direct, honest), the brand language you use (such as simple, wordy or complex) and any other writing styles you want your content to adhere to (such as specific grammar guidelines). A visual style guide (colours, fonts, image type etc) will need to be created as well if you work with designers.
Make sure your content marketing efforts pay off
Content marketing is a great way for B2B businesses to grow, but it also requires a lot of time, effort and skill. There’s nothing more disappointing than spending weeks creating a long piece of content, only to find it’s not driving enough traffic or leads.
If you need a little helping hand - either with content creation or content promotion (or both!) - don’t be afraid to reach out. We’re specialists in helping B2B businesses like yours drive brand awareness, leads and sales through both content and digital marketing.
Have a look at our inbound marketing services to find out more.