This article will help you navigate the complexities of B2B content marketing. If you’re wanting to learn the basics of B2B content marketing, starting with what it is, the strategies involved, current market trends and some stellar examples, this lets-start-with-the-basics article will tell you all you need to know to get started with your own successful B2B content marketing campaigns!
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The future of effective content marketing is not in solutions that enable marketing teams to do the same activities with just more volume and efficiency
Table of Contents
What is B2B Content Marketing?
Content marketing is defined as a type of marketing that leverages content as the core tactic to engage with prospects and customers.
It entails creating and sharing content that would be of interest to the prospect and engage them by providing information and knowledge that would help make meaningful progress along their buying journey. The content, typically in digital formats such as, blogs, videos, articles, Buyers Guides, white papers, research reports or even social media posts, is framed intelligently so as to not indulge in blatant promotion of a company but to entice it’s target audience with thoughtful, focused content around topics of their interest.
In the B2B marketing context, content marketing has emerged as a critical element in the marketing plan. Since the B2B purchase cycle is typically more complex in nature than the B2C purchase cycle, members of the buying panel tend to do more ‘research’ around the product they wish to buy, as well as the vendors they wish to consider for the purchase. It is this need for ‘research’ that B2B marketers try to fulfill with informative, non-promotional content that helps buyers make informed choices. Of course, great B2B marketing content – while helping inform prospects – also helps establish the Brand as a thought leader in the mind of the prospect.
Components of B2B Content Marketing
There are three parts of B2B Content Marketing. These include B2B content creation, B2B content distribution and B2B content analysis, as follows:
B2B Content Creation
Creating content for B2B marketing requires offering real, actionable value additions to other businesses. This means that the content-focus of B2B content marketing needs to make sure that it is useful and practical for other businesses.
Being perceived as a popular industry resource, which is respected and often referred to by industry professionals, is a great example of B2B content marketing gone right!
This is in contrast with B2C content marketing, where the primary objectives may differ, ranging from being entertaining, delighting the audience to even just grabbing user clicks and momentary attention. Having said that, B2B content marketing has to equally strive to be engaging and, compelling over a sustained period of time, ensuring it is able to keep pace with the evolution of the prospect over the buying journey and beyond.
So, the key points about content creation for B2B marketing are:
The content needs to be around the themes and subjects that their prospects wish to learn and know about
The content needs to subtly establish the marketer as an expert and thought leader in those subjects and themes
The content should essentially be non-promotional, seeking to add value to the reader rather than acting like an unsolicited advertisement
The content needs to be consistent and engage the prospect over a period of time
The content is never a ‘stand-alone’ piece but a set of logically connected content pieces in different formats and on different platforms, that not only address the subject(s) comprehensively, but also keep pace with the prospect’s evolution along the buying journey deeper into the funnel
When it comes to B2B content marketing, quality and relevance beat quantity and generalizations in most cases
Now that we have discussed the essential characteristics of creating B2B content, let’s dive into the concrete steps that you can take to nail your B2B marketing content plan:
1. Identify your ideal audience
It is very important for us to know as much as we can about our target audience before framing content that caters directly to them. This means that an in-depth understanding and analysis of your target audience is essential before you can start creating content that will entice and attract your readers.
Given that most target audiences are in large numbers, you may be tempted to segment this audience as per the stage of the buyer’s funnel that they may belong to at that point. This is where the concept of reader personas becomes significant.
2. Create reader personas of your target audience
Reader personas are similar to buyer personas, wherein you have certain important details of your target audience. You can access these key details from tools, such as, Google Analytics data. This analytics tool gives you information on the people that are visiting your website, who are your direct target audience.
You can find out their basic demographic details, such as, age, gender, location, even company names, as well as recurring themes of interest. This can also be supplemented by additional data from tools such as, SEMRush that indicate what themes or keywords are of interest to your target audiences.
3. Link your content to your reader’s interests
Getting this individualized information, ultimately, helps you to frame insightful, reader-focused content, directly linking your reader’s subjects of interest to your content. It also allows you to broaden your content framework and make that crucial connection between your company’s products or services and your reader’s needs.
How to create a B2B content Plan
Coming up with new content ideas can often be one of the greatest challenges for content marketers. With the quality of content being a top priority in this domain, content marketers may face difficulty in coming up with content ideas that seem authentic and cater to their reader’s personas. In the following list, we give you the different digital content formats that should be a part of your overall content marketing plan.
1. Evergreen Content
Evergreen content is content around classic, fundamental or foundational themes, which are always useful to your B2B audiences. It excludes trending, topical or newsy content, interest in which usually spikes for a few days and then dies out.
Typically, for evergreen content, the content itself should be very in-depth and should explain the subject or theme in detail. It should be elaborate, covering the entire gamut of the topic so that your readers can stay on your content page to get all the relevant information that they need to know about this topic.
Further, since it is centered around a topic which will be relevant not only now but for years to come, this content will tend to generate traffic to your website for years to come. Just keep in mind that for this content to become evergreen, it needs to rank higher and higher on Google bringing in increased online traffic in the long term. The better the quality of your evergreen content, the higher it will rank on SERPS. This ranking is important as the higher the ranking, the more consistent traffic will be driven to your website, where you have published this content.
Ensuring that your content ranks high on Google means using the keywords in your content that most readers are searching on the search engine. A great tool that can help you with this is the Google Keyword Planner. This tool allows you to look for keywords and analyze their performance. There are two key applications that this tool provides you:
If you’re looking for relevant keywords to add to your marketing content or wanting to add additional relevant keywords to already existing content, you can find both through this tool by simply researching on the keywords and aligning them to your company’s marketing campaigns.
Getting traffic forecasts and historical data
You can also access information such as, the search volume for your keywords, which ultimately helps compare which keywords have the maximum traction and which ones you would like to use for your content without compromising on relevance and context to the audience. You can also get a forecast or prediction of how a keyword might perform to help decide on which keywords you want to take forward for your evergreen content for the highest possible Google ranking.
So, these are some ways in which you can position your evergreen content to rank high on Google and consequently, generate traffic to your website.
2. Trending Content
This type of content rides the wave of current trending topics online or topics that are garnering maximum online interest or traction currently. In contrast to evergreen content, this type of content may be on high demand only on a short-term basis.
Finding trending keywords and topics to write about
To ride the wave of traffic that want to consume content about a trending topic, first, you need to identify the themes or keywords that are trending. In this section, we give you a few quick steps to get started on framing content that will generate maximum engagement online, using the right tools to identify online trending topics.
Leveraging social media insights with BuzzSumo
To be relevant in terms of your content, you need to resonate with your target audience. And what better way to gauge what’s a hot topic for your particular niche or domain than social media! Analyzing what people are talking about or sharing on their social media can be a good indication of what they are interested in at the moment, and can help you cater your content to these areas of topical or time-bound interests.
Tools such as, BuzzSumo help B2B marketers mine the conversations on social media and identify what themes and topics are trending across social media at a given time.
With BuzzSumo, you can get access to real-time data across all social media platforms and analyze which are the themes or subjects that are receiving the greatest traction in your industry or domain.
This can then steer you to frame content that either offers an entirely new perspective to the popular topics identified or you can even present counter arguments or opinions on the same. In this way, you can leverage the social media wave to take your content forward, while still bringing a unique perspective to the conversation!
Testing topical themes with content snippets on social media
A simple way of assessing which content topics or discussions will receive a good response is to literally test it out on social media. Twitter is a great tool that serves this purpose. Using twitter to put out a few content snippets and gauge which ones are engaging your target audience by way of reads, social shares, comments, mentions and responses is a great metric and will immediately give you an idea as to which content is the most popular and which one you should focus on building on.
Your content snippet that you would be testing out could be something as simple as an infographic, a diagram or even a commentary that makes a point. You may want to expand on these engaging content snippets with a longer content format, such as, a blog post or a whitepaper that discusses your content snippet in detail.
Finding topic popularity trends with Google Trends tool
Google trends tool helps you see how popular or how searched certain keywords or topics have been over a selected time frame. So, a sample of Google searches are selected and the preferred keywords are analyzed for their search volume in this selected sample and this is compared with the total number of searches done on Google around the same time frame. Using this tool, you can analyze what are the trending topics in your domain and can then, leverage these in your content to drive traffic to your content and website.
B2B Content Distribution
Distributing, promoting and amplifying your B2B marketing content is an important step of your B2B content marketing plan.
This is crucial because the online space is today crowded with content, and this crowding makes it harder for your audience to find your content. Standing apart amidst the widely populated content space requires you to think strategically to see how you can create a niche space for yourself and be easily found by your readers!
There are primarily three ways to distribute, amplify and promote your B2B content to your audiences.
1. Organic promotion: This involves distributing and promoting your content without paying for it.
a. Owned media: When organic promotion happens on what is called ‘owned media’: your own website, your social media handles and walls, your blog page, etc. Such platforms are under your control, and you can decide what to place, where to place it and when to place it. As a general rule though, promoting content organically on social media platforms is an important part of content promotion, that cannot be skipped. Putting your content online and inviting conversations with target audiences consistently on major social media networks helps you to connect with our target audiences, develop followers and amplify your voice. So, think strategically about the social media networks where your target audience is most active and then, include these platforms purposefully in your content distribution strategy.
b. Earned media: Often, your content is so good that others want to share it on their own blog pages or publications. You may get social mentions, your content may be cited in somebody else’s content and hyperlinked back to your page, your news may get published on industry news publications, etc. All of this is essentially free, but is published on platforms that do not belong to you. This is why they are referred to as earned media. While you cannot force anyone to share or cite or backlink to your content for free, you can certainly appeal to relevant publications and sites to consider placing your content on their sites, thus building your own domain authority while reaching fresh audiences. Posting content or links to content on discussion forums such as Reddit and Quora can also lead to a lot of high-quality engagement with prospects who are actively looking for information on certain topics, and the best part is that it costs nothing, except ensuring your responses or posts are highly relevant to the audience needs.
2. Paid promotion: Paid promotion of content means having your content amplified on and distributed across platforms for a fee. There are two major ways to do this:
a. Paid promotion on social media: One cannot rely only on organic, earned or owned media to amplify and distribute content. Statistics show that there has been a gradual decline in organic reach and this is especially true of social media platforms such as, Facebook or LinkedIn. Most social platforms now expect Brands and businesses trying to promote their own content on these platforms to pay for it. Since they control the algorithms that actually amplify content on their own platforms, if you want optimal reach and results, you are going to have to pay for it. The positive is that these paid promotions come at a minimal cost, even with fairly detailed targeting filters. In fact, the detailed targeting filters is another reason for the popularity of paid promotions on social media platforms, where you can choose whom your content is shown to, from age, geography, and gender to job titles and even organizations.Finally, the fact that the content, when displayed, looks like ‘native content’ on the wall or feed of the social media platform helps with the general principle of content marketing – subtle brand associations that focus on offering the reader relevant content rather than promotional messaging.
b. Paid promotions via native content distribution platforms: Native content distribution platforms such as, Taboola, RevContent and Disqus help brands spread content across the internet via programmatic placement of their content across a wide network of sites that are tied up with the platform.While brands cannot control where their content gets served up across the millions of sites that are a part of the network, B2B marketers need to consider this option when they want to reach a large audience across what one may call the ‘long tail’ of publisher sites that may otherwise have been inaccessible. Content distribution in this way is different from programmatic adtech where your display ads are served up across a network of sites, known and unknown. In content distribution, your content looks ‘native’ – like the rest of the content on that site – and when loyal readers of that site log on to consume content, they also consume your content without ever feeling like a paid placement. These services are also often called as ‘content discovery’ platforms.
c. Performance marketing via affiliates: This is another option wherein editorial content assets such as, white papers and reports are mentioned and hyperlinked to by a network of ‘affiliates’ on their own sites or blogs. They are paid only when someone actually clicks on the hyperlink or mention.
B2B Content Analysis
No one gets their B2B content marketing strategy right on the first try! You need to keep learning, experimenting, measuring and fine tuning all aspects of your content plan – from content creation to distribution – to improve it. Before publishing any new content, you must audit all the content that is already present on your website and all other owned, earned and paid channels to see which content formats and platforms are gaining the most traction online or are resonating with your readers. This type of analysis could give you key insights as to which content formats, themes and platforms to invest more purposefully in.
Continuous improvement of your B2B content marketing plan needs what we call the ‘Analyze, Update, Repeat’ approach. It is important to analyze your content after it has been published to see what engagement levels are being created with the audience. Poor engagement levels require you to take corrective measures, but let us begin with identifying the metrics that can tell us if engagement is healthy or not.
Analyze, Update, Repeat:
1. Content Analysis:
Building your optimal B2B content marketing plan needs a constant cycle of performance analysis on various parameters.
The key metrics on which to measure organic content performance include:
Traffic to the page
Organic search ranking
Number of reads, downloads, etc.
Scroll depth (shows how engaging your content was for the reader – how deep into the article they scrolled and how long they stayed on your page)
Level of social engagement (shares, comments, retweeting, etc.)
Google search engine result page (SERP) ranking of your content
2. Content Refresh/Update:
After publishing your content, you will most likely want to refine it further over a period of time to make it more in-depth, relevant to cater to specific reader interests that you discover after publishing the content or to simply keep the content updated with the latest developments. Content updates can include:
Content Refresh: You may want to give an older piece of content a contemporary facelift, or update the content to reflect recent happenings or changes in context.
Content Repurpose: You may find that a long form piece of content can be repurposed into more short pieces of content or vice versa. Either way, the thumb rule of B2B content marketing, as we mentioned earlier in this piece, is quality not quantity. Creating content is expensive and time consuming, so you want to make sure you are investing your resources as smartly as possible. An intelligent approach to reuse, refresh, recycle and repurpose your content will give each piece as long a shelf life as possible and make the best use of the dollars spent on creating the content.
Best Practices in B2B Content Marketing
Now that we’ve prepped you with all that you need to know about B2B content marketing from creation to distribution and measurement, it’s time to introduce you to some of the most important best practices and trends to keep in mind as you chart your B2B content journey in 2019 and beyond.
B2B content marketing best practices:
1. Documented content marketing strategy: As per a recent study, only 39% of B2B content marketers have a documented content marketing strategy. This is a shocking revelation, given that B2B content marketing is a huge part of a successful B2B marketing strategy. Documented content marketing strategy as well as a documented editorial plan to execute the strategy helps better align towards goals, makes the team accountable for what needs to be achieved and brings about a tonne of clarity on who the target audience is and how should they go about framing content for them on an ongoing, time-bound schedule.
2. Sales team alignment and involvement in content marketing: Studies show that B2B content marketers are relying heavily on feedback from their sales team. Sales teams are directly in touch with their customers and are a great resource for feedback on what’s working or not working in terms of content. Using the subject matter expertise as well as customer insights, sales helps build more compelling content marketing plans.
3. Focusing on target audience: Making your content focused on the needs of your target audience and meeting their informational needs is a trend that has paid off for several B2B content marketers. Storytelling is also an essential part of this content creation process.
4. Building content for the device or the platform: Marketers need to ensure that whatever content they create is easy to view on any device – be it a laptop or a mobile device, while also ensuring it’s the right content format for the platform it is on. A text heavy PDF may render poorly on a mobile screen, just as a long article of 2000 words may not be the best fit for a social media post.
5. Keeping abreast of search algorithms: One of the top issues that B2B content marketers have faced worldwide especially in the past few years has been search engine algorithm changes. Content marketers need to worry about these algorithm changes because it affects their site’s SERP rankings. One significant algorithm change that recently affected the entire content marketing domain was the elimination of the keyword data from the Google Analytics report. With this change, SEO specialists no longer had access to the most searched keywords by their users and were compelled to frame quality content that would use the keywords sparingly in context to the content.
Trends in B2B Content Marketing
Now, we come to the content marketing trends that you should be watching out for in 2019 and ahead:
1. Creating content experiences:
While content marketing has always been about getting prospects to read the content and measuring the performance of each individual piece of content, the focus is now shifting towards creating a strategy that delivers a holistic ‘content experience’. Content experiences include creating a set of connected content that keep pace with the prospect’s journey and offering something useful at each stage of the buying journey. Each of these content pieces should serve a purpose for the buyer at that stage and should transition them deeper into the buyer’s funnel and meet their informational needs intelligently stage-by-stage. Typically, as a buyer moves deeper into the funnel, their need for indepth information increases and they prefer longer educational content formats such as, eBooks or podcasts to gain in-depth knowledge.
2. Dynamic personalization:
Marketers today can leverage technology to deliver dynamic personalization – each visitor to your website can actually see different content and landing pages based on their IP address or other details. Dynamic personalization software uses algorithms to tailor every individual interaction that the customer has with your website as per their needs and interests. You can send personalized recommendations to these customers on your site, send personalized emails that keep their customized interests in mind, give intelligent pop-ups or even use page reordering to customize your webpage based on what they are looking for.
3. Interactive content:
A majority of B2B content marketers, surveyed in a recent study, shared that they are increasing their audio/video content. This includes webinars, live streaming, quizzes, contests and videos. These are rising in demand due to their easily digestible content formats while increasing engagement levels with your audience.
4. Educational content:
Members especially in the B2B marketing space are increasingly craving for educational, longer content formats such as eBooks or podcasts. Shorter content formats such as, GIFs on facebook are actually dropping in popularity and the preference for longer format is rising this year.
5. Voice search:
Adjusting your search engine optimization (SEO) to include voice search is significant especially today, where voice assistants like Siri and Google Home are rising in popularity. Even though their popularity has only begun and is slated to rise in the next 5 years, it would be good to get an early start on this and should be considered as a rising trend for this year.
This form of content is engaging, informative and even convenient. They are high quality yet cost-effective content formats, and increase your company’s credibility and reputation in your industry. These formats also allow you to engage further with guests, who can add valuable insights, positioning your company as a thought leader in the space and building a bond with your audience.
7. Intent Data:
This data allows you to predict the type of content that your buyers are interested in and create your campaigns accordingly. First-party intent data means tracking your site and cookie engagement levels and third-party intent data is all the data from searches on external websites. Incorporating these data insights into your content means having greater content relevance and being more visible in your buyer’s online searches.
8. Paid distribution channels:
It has now become common practice for most B2B content marketers to use paid distribution channels across social media to promote their content. This is especially the case due to the receding organic reach of most social media networks over time.
Examples of B2B Content Marketing
We have covered some major ground on what B2B content marketing is and how you can go about developing it. Now, let’s take a sneakpeak at some of the best B2B content marketers out there to spark your imagination and serve as inspiration for your B2B content marketing needs!
1. General Electric
We begin with the famous GE enterprise—a major multinational company with several product lines and verticals spread across the world. Despite the vast scale, GE has come up with it’s online magazine, known as The Txchnologist. The magazine could rival any glossy B2C magazine with its brilliantly-framed content, which highlights the best of GE’s innovative technologies, showing decision-makers all over the world why technology is shaping our world and our future, apart from strategically highlighting the best that GE has to offer!
This goes all the way back to our previously discussed point of how B2B content should serve a need or practical use towards its audience. In this case, GE’s online magazine has become a great resource for all technology-enthusiasts worldwide and enabled GE to create a community of loyal readers that would include prospects.
2. American Express
Famously known as AmEx, this financial giant has gone out of its way to truly connect with its target audience. Putting out content that addresses the challenges faced by entrepreneurs or SMEs has helped them to showcase that they are a financial institution that truly cares for its readers. What has further augmented their case is their guest articles wherein financial experts, often from big media houses, contribute on their platform to further cater to this readership. The way that this content has been organized on their online platform is another factor as to why it’s so effective. And this is how AmEx nailed it’s B2B content marketing—by providing useful, top quality content and organizing it in intuitive segments, which the reader can find easily!
Conclusion: Now, walk your own journey!
So, there you go, now you have a bird’s eye view of what’s essential to keep in mind to ace your B2B marketing campaign! While there’s a lot out there and can be quite overwhelming for all you B2B content marketers, you can definitely kickstart by keeping the basics in mind—creating content that is reader-focused, providing top quality content to your readers by understanding what they care about and addressing their concerns.
So, go ahead and begin your B2B content experience and we look forward to hearing from you on your experiences, tips and views on this topic!