According to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2018 report, 91% of B2B marketers are using content marketing to reach their customers.
While it’s great that so many B2B marketers are aware of how effective content marketing is for their overall strategy, it means that a vast amount of content is being generated. As such, clients and potential clients are being bombarded with messaging from businesses every day. As a result, they have learned how to filter out irrelevant information and will only engage with content that they are extremely interested in.
In order to succeed, B2B content marketers have to stand out from the crowd and convince their audience that their content is worth taking the time to look at. This comes down to knowing exactly what you’re trying to achieve with your content marketing strategy and how it contributes to your overall marketing objectives and wider business goals. However, more than half (55%) of B2B marketers report a lack of understanding when it comes to what makes for a successful content marketing strategy.
So how do you create an effective B2B content marketing strategy? First, you have to fully understand the B2B Buyer Journey.
B2B Content Marketing and the Buyer Journey
The B2B buyer’s journey is typically longer and more complicated than that of a B2C buying decision. This is because more often than not, a B2B buyer’s investment is significantly larger in terms of volume and cost. In addition, there are likely to be more people depending on the buyer to make the right decision, as well as more decision makers involved in making the purchase.
Convincing a B2B Buyer to choose your products or services over those of your competitors comes down to trust. Building trust involves showcasing your industry expertise and offering buyers insightful information that is of value to them. This can all be effectively communicated through B2B content marketing.
Your content marketing should be created to address the different stages of the buyer journey, with the aim of moving prospects through the stages to conversion. Bear in mind that the more helpful and valuable your content is throughout the process, the more trust you build and the more leads you generate.
How to Use Content at Each Stage of the Buyer Journey
There are a lot of unique roadblocks in the B2B buying process that a well thought out and executed content strategy can solve. Here are some of the things to be aware of at each stage of the buyer journey and how to move your prospects from Awareness to Consideration to Decision and Post-Purchase.
The first step to getting new prospects into your sales funnel is to know exactly who you need to reach. This comes down to identifying your buyer personas. When creating your B2B buyer persona, you should not only identify the types of businesses that fit your ideal client, but also the exact roles and people involved in each stage of the decision.
At this stage, prospects haven’t heard of your business or its solutions, so it’s important to create public content that drives website and social media traffic, such as blog posts, static pages, landing pages and social posts. Content should be easy to find and target keywords and topics around the buyer persona’s interests, challenges and motivations.
Once you have attracted a prospect to your business, you have to convince them that they have a problem that needs to be solved and your company’s solution is the best one for them. This is not an easy process and is likely to take more than one visit to your website. On the first visit to your website, it’s important that your content includes a call to action that aims to capture an email address or phone number so that you can move the relationship forward and nurture them through the other stages of the buying process.
You can do this by creating a lead magnet. A lead magnet offers something valuable to the reader, such as a whitepaper, ebook or demo, in return for their personal information.
Once you’ve captured a prospect’s information and you are regularly contacting them, you want your content to nurture them through to the point where they qualify as sales-ready leads. This is usually done through email marketing and marketing automation.
To successfully nurture prospects through this stage, customising your content based on their buyer persona is vital. Use all the data you have to send targeted, relevant content to your leads based on how they have interacted with your website and marketing materials. By segmenting customers as specifically as possible, you can send them the most relevant content for their needs, answer their questions and send product and service information and sales offers that they will be interested in, in order to convert them to customers.
Once a prospect has moved through the sales funnel and become a client, you not only want to keep them as a return customer, but you also want to upsell them and turn them into a brand advocate. Content can help you with all of this.
Your content at this stage should engage customers. The best way to do this is to feature customers in the content and use user-generated content that they’ll want to share. To drive engagement its important to have consistent conversations with your advocates – send them new content and business updates and ask for their insight into how you could improve your business.
Content Marketing Trends to Inform Your Strategy
Once you fully understand the stages of your buyer journey and how your content strategy relates to each of these stages, it’s important to generate content that is interesting, engaging and up to date. In order to do this, you have to stay on top of the content marketing trends that are impacting your business and your audience.
CMI’s B2B Content Marketing 2019 report details the developments, benchmarks, and budgets that are likely to affect content marketing going forward. The top trends every content marketer should use, according to CMI are as follows.
Build Trust with Your Audience
96% of content marketers who are highly successful agree that their audience considers and views their company as a trusted and credible resource for information.
By providing your audience with valuable information, you are creating a strong bond with them. This means that all content that is shared by your business should work towards adding value the reader and as such, deepening the trust that you have gained from them. Put simply, you want your brand to be regarded highly by your audience, so it is essential to be consistent in sharing your value with them. Your entire content strategy should be based on the ‘audience first’ mentality, where you provide your audience with the content that they need when and where they are searching for it.
Have Conversations with Your Customers
CMI’s B2B Content Marketing Report stated that only 42% of content marketers have regular conversations with their customers, instead, they focus more on researching their audience. These ideas should not be mutually exclusive. The most effective way to create accurate personas for your business is to research real people, which means gathering information from your current customers. By going directly to your customer you can find out their needs and preferences directly, without having to rely on third party information or data from analytics. This insight can inform the content that will be most relevant to them.
Emails & Educational Content are Most Effective
58% of the surveyed content marketers claimed that they used content marketing successfully to gather leads or build their audience. The most effective methods for doing this were:
- Email campaigns: 87% say this method worked
- Educational content: 77% say this method worked
From this, we can determine that, when done correctly, educational content and email campaigns are the best way to generate leads for your business. However, since there is a lot of competition for attention in consumer inboxes today, you should consider experimenting with an integrated campaign that includes email and educational content as well as Social Media advertising or SMS messaging.
Keep Creating Content for Search
B2B marketers are finding it difficult to keep their content strategy up to date with the ever-changing search algorithms and many are concerned about the likely increase in use of voice search. In fact, 62% of businesses haven’t yet optimized for voice search.
With the digital landscape constantly changing, it’s more important than ever to keep your content strategy up to date with the search engine algorithms. This will help you to stay one step ahead of the competition and ensure your content is found when people are searching.
Incorporate Video In Your Strategy
The CMI’s content marketing statistics show 72% of B2B marketers and 76% of B2C marketers use video. According to Aberdeen Group, marketers using video get 66% more leads per year.
As more and more consumers are interacting with videos, B2B Marketers who can master video marketing have a powerful tool at their disposal to help them promote and grow their business online. Videos are perfect for increasing brand engagement and have proven results in improving click-through rates, shares and band mentions. Video marketers are also reported to achieve a 54% increase in brand awareness.