What Your B2B Content Marketing Strategy is Missing
Content marketing presents a different set of opportunities (and challenges) for B2B companies, and in the past year more & more marketing teams have decided to join the party.
A recent CMI and MarketingProfs study found that 93% of B2B marketers surveyed now use content marketing, and 73% are producing more, or significantly more content than they did 1 year ago.
With all of the new B2B content that’s flying around, I’ve noticed some pretty consistent things that a lot of strategies are lacking. So this post is focused on pointing out some of the things that seem to be missing from a lot of B2B content marketing approaches that I’ve seen out in the wild.
1. A Documented Strategy
So, 93% of B2B marketers are using content marketing? That’s awesome! With all of the time and money that goes into content marketing, I’m sure they all have fantastic and creative strategies guiding the way.
Sadly, 49% of those marketers don’t have a documented content strategy. And a befuddled 6% of them aren’t even sure whether or not they have one (seriously?!?). You wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint, or a piece of IKEA furniture without those awesome diagrams, right? Your content marketing needs some well thought out planning and structure too, so find a way to document your strategy that works for you.
If you’re guilty of this, here are some resources to help you get started:
- Developing a Content Marketing Strategy - Content Marketing Institute
- Advanced Guide to Content Marketing - Quick Sprout
- Everything Marketers Need to Create Personas - HubSpot
- Conducting a Content Audit - Content Marketing Institute
2. Content with a Purpose
Each piece of content your company creates should have a clear purpose.
Before you even ask, saying that the purpose of an individual piece of content is “To go viral” or “To produce $1 million worth of new business” is not acceptable, or even realistic. Instead, the purpose of a piece of content needs to take into consideration a few very important things, and then define a purpose or goal:
- Persona - Which one of your marketing personas is the content meant for?
- Challenge - Why should they care? In other words, what is the need or challenge that the content is addressing?
- Buying Stage - What stage(s) of their buying journey is this content supporting?
- Call to Action - What action or actions (if any) would you expect someone to take after consuming this content?
If you answer these four questions for every piece of content you produce, I can almost guarantee that the quality and success of your content will start to drastically improve.
The Distilled blog actually has a fantastic post (amazing sloth image included) that outlines 4 primary content types that are essential to any website, and in my mind essential to any content marketing strategy as a whole. Those 4 content types are:
- Content to entertain
- Content to educate
- Content to persuade
- Content to convert
The post even includes a matrix of content types that is a great resource when trying to plan out your content creation, and make sure they you are producing a good balance of content types.
3. Focus on the Client
Many B2B marketing teams are guilty of focusing their content a little too much on their own company. Most of their content is a little too “company egotistical” and focuses on topics like best practices for applying their latest product, or the top reasons why their X service can help your business.
This is especially true for marketers creating content that is expected to drive awareness or reach new customers early in their buying cycle. When awareness and and broadening your brand's reach is the goal, too much focus on your own company can turn people off before they even know anything about you.
That being said, content that focuses on your company, your products, and your value IS essential to your strategy. Product Pages, Case Studies and Demos serve a pretty specific purpose and should be created, positioned and promoted accordingly. But be realistic about their purpose, and make sure to balance them with content that focuses solely on the needs and challenges of your customers.
The other day I read a great quote in an interview with Matt Heinz on the iAcquire blog that I couldn’t agree with more. When asked to give some tips on using content marketing to find and convert prospects, Heinz simply said, “Focus on the hole, not the drill.” In other words, make sure you have content that focuses solely on the challenges of your potential customer base, without always aggressively driving the point that your company has a solution.
Use your content as a method for showing that you understand their needs at more than just a superficial, sales driven level. If you can show them that, you’ll have more than enough opportunities to tell them all about your services and products later.
4. Emotional Appeal
Depending on your industry, this is perhaps the toughest hurdle to get over. But guess what? You’re in marketing, so it’s time to get creative!
Even if you sell a product or service that might be considered “boring”, finding a way to forge an emotional connection with your prospects and clients is extremely powerful. Why? Because when it comes time to make a purchase, there is a person or a group of people making the decision of whether or not to work with you. Believe it or not, more evidence is coming out to show how powerful emotions can be to an individual making a B2B purchase decision.
Bryan Kramer has been a big advocate of the of ditching the B2B vs B2C mindset in favor of what he calls an H2H, or Human to Human approach to marketing. As Kramer points out, "Businesses do not have emotion. Products do not have emotion. Humans do". Many B2B marketers focus all of their effort on creating content that has rational appeal (like case studies, or highlighting product features and cost reduction stats) and completely forget to try and forge emotional connections with their prospects and customers. So take a step back and see if your content is doing enough (or anything at all) to solicit emotional reactions and connections with your brand.
Whether you're brand new to the content marketing game, or have been working tirelessly on perfecting your strategy there's always room for improvement. Hopefully this post inspires you to find new ways to step up your marketing game!