Content marketing is a term that most, if not all, B2B brands will have heard. So what is content marketing and what can it do for a B2B brand?
Brands in the B2B space need to use every tool at their disposal to reach, grow and engage their target audience. While earned media - coverage in relevant third-party publications that your audience consumes - and paid media such as advertising can get you so far, these are only part of the puzzle.
Increasingly brands are becoming aware of the fact that they need to be creating and filling up their own channels - or ‘owned media’ - in order to get the most best out of the momentum they have built up from other channels.
However, while it is easy to write a few blogs and stick them on your company website, to really get the most out of content requires a lot of hard work and dedication.
Here are the questions you should be asking yourself before taking the plunge with content marketing.
What’s my strategy?
Coming up with a cohesive strategy that is actually going to get results involves a bit more thought than brainstorming ideas for articles, infographics, videos and so on. You need to come up with an honest plan, with a clear rationale behind every element and to have an idea how you are going to measure the effect of each piece of content you produce.
You’ll have to consider how much resource you can realistically dedicate to these efforts and whether you will need outside help from content creators. Your company website and social channels have to be in a fit state to host the new material you are planning to create, and you need to think about how else you’re going to amplify this content.
What are my business objectives?
Usually, content marketing campaigns are focused on driving new business, but there may be other boxes you need to tick as well. Existing customers could require support and education, and there may also be internal messages that you wish to communicate within your business too. Coming up with the right blend of content - as well as the right types - to support these objectives is key.
When thinking about your customers, it is important to understand where exactly they are in the sales funnel. Break these down into different types and think about the profile of each. Then you can consider what kinds of content to use to reach each segment of the audience.
What kinds of content will work best for me?
For B2B brands, conveying a sense of industry awareness - that you are in touch with who your customers are and their biggest concerns - is a must, and this is something that can be achieved through thought leadership. While longer-form articles are good for these ends, you could look to come up with a larger whitepaper or even experiment with talking head videos. This kind of content will show that you can be a trusted guide to your audience.
To demonstrate your knowledge and experience, it also helps to be able to make incisive, regular comment on the big industry trends as they happen. This is best done with a blog, while explaining complex subjects - or your product range - is better done in a visual way, by using infographics or animated videos. These kinds of content help your audience make decisions and overcome the problems they currently face.
Above all, though, the content has to be useful to its readers, and stand out from content produced by your competitors.
How can I position myself as a thought leader?
While it is easy to recognise trends within your industry, and to have an opinion about these trends, communicating these opinions to a wider audience in a timely way is key to being a thought leader. If you can demonstrate to your audience that you know what it is that keeps them awake at night, and can provide them with additional insight into how these challenges can be overcome, then you are doing a good job.
However, if you are saying the same thing as your competitor then you’re just adding to the noise and won’t get the cut-through you desire. With each piece of content you produce, think about whether you are offering useful contextual information, enlightening and educating the reader, provoking interesting thoughts or conversation points, and offering actionable advice. Talking too much about yourself and using anecdotes that don’t resonate with your audience will be a massive turn-off.
It’s often useful to be able to champion a cause, such as a call for change within your industry - perhaps to regulations, or to embrace a new technology in order to overcome a bottleneck that your customers will be familiar with.
Will content help my business get into the press?
It can do, but it will require a great deal of time and effort to achieve this. One way of getting the attention of the press would be to put resource into digging out interesting data points from within your industry, provide incisive analysis of this and to do this on a regular basis. If the data and commentary is good enough, media will begin to mark the date of your report releases into their diaries.
There are also some publications that will accept third-party thought leadership articles - often called op-eds. To meet editorial standards, you will need to ensure that these don’t talk explicitly about your company - as this is considered too self-serving - and to follow any other guidelines that the publication provides.
However, content marketing campaigns generally don’t lead to ‘earned’ media coverage - this is best achieved through a traditional media relations campaign.
What’s the best way to drive lead generation?
Any content that you produce must have a clear call to action, for starters. Larger pieces of work such as whitepapers could be downloadable from your website, requiring an email address in order to activate the download - this email address then can then be used for following up with your lead.
Certain pieces of content can do more than others for driving leads - for example, case studies. You can write all you want about how great your product or services is, but it won’t chime with your audience in the same way that a real-life example, with data points highlighting ROI, will.
How can I make sure my audience sees this content?
Producing content that is optimised for search engines is a must, as this will dictate whether a lot of it can actually be found organically or not. You’ll need to think about effective keywords, the kind of search terms that people use, using images and the like - but ultimately, you need to produce content that is of a high quality.
You should also be pushing content through your social media channels. LinkedIn and Twitter typically work best for B2B brands, but you could also use channels like Medium too. Think about the number of tweets/posts you make for each piece of content, making sure they are well timed and differentiated so your audience don’t come to think of you as repetitive. Effort also needs to be put into building an audience on these networks too, if you don’t already have one - this requires a blend of influencer engagement, curating third-party content effectively, and consistency.
Networks such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook also enable you to pay to promote your content, so be prepared to dedicate budget for this purpose if you want to achieve this additional reach. Content amplification networks such as Outbrain and Taboola will also help here.
And, of course, if you continually produce very good content, people will come looking for it.
How can I measure the value that content brings to my business?
There are a number of metrics you can use - new business leads should be fairly easy to track, and be sure to note down your follower numbers for each social network at the end of each month so you can see how much they grow. Monitoring your web traffic will show you which bits of content work best, as will the number of shares they get on social media.
From this information you can easily make decisions about what is working and what doesn’t work so well. Be prepared to be flexible and adapt to your audience. Throughout your content marketing campaign, all decisions should be based on data.
To find out more about what content can do for your brand, get in touch.
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