B2B means the business markets itself and its products and services to other businesses instead of individual consumers, i.e. business-to-business marketing.
If you’re new to the B2B space, especially if most of your experience is business-to-consumer (B2C), you’re about to discover how different it is. Yet… at the same time similar.
Then it’ll be crucial to dive deep on your B2B goals so you can develop a successful B2B marketing strategy, including a lights-out B2B content marketing strategy for creating, sharing, and promoting content that appeals to and resonates with a business target audience.
What Is the Purpose of B2B Marketing?
Before answering the question, “What is B2B content marketing?”, let’s be clear on the purpose of B2B marketing in general.
It’s about building brand awareness with other businesses so they become familiar with your brand, know your products and services, and ultimately, buy what you’re offering.
McDonald’s is not a B2B company. They sell to individual customers. Coca-Cola is a B2B company, as it does not sell individually to you and me. It sells to McDonald’s (or some other enterprise), who then sells (distributes) it to an individual consumer like you and me.
It can be challenging to get successful B2B marketing right. But it all starts where is does in B2C marketing: your target audience.
Thinking about Your B2B Marketing Strategy
Several steps are necessary for you to implement a successful content marketing strategy for B2B that reaches your target business audience.
Recognize and Master the B2B Buyer Journey
First of all, the B2B sales cycle is usually longer than a B2C one. Prices are typically much higher, so patience and understanding of this particular path is crucial. Nurturing prospects through marketing funnels takes a while, too.
The B2B buyer journey features three stages, each with specific tactics to propel the buyer forward toward a decision: request a demo or make a purchase. First is awareness; the prospect has experienced a problem and wants to learn how to solve it. Next is the consideration stage, where the interested party researches those potential solutions. Finally, it’s decision time: the prospect is ready to become a paying customer.
To maximize your content marketing efforts, it’s a good idea to create a customer journey map so you get a better understanding of what they go through. Too often, a business really doesn’t know what a prospect goes through. But when visualized in a customer-centric map, you’ll be able to more effectively communicate with the prospect at each stage.
Audience Research to Identify Your Target Customers
Now it’s time to begin understanding who your ideal customer is.
Taking into account yearly revenue and the number of employees of your target business, several questions come to mind immediately when it comes to your content marketing strategy:
- What the size of your target company is
- Which business or industry it’s in
- Where it does the majority of its business
Then, remembering that companies are actually people, who is the target human prospect looking for your products and services? To identify these individuals, use data analysis and market research to determine a variety of information, including age, gender, location, level of education, job title, beliefs, values, behaviors and habits (including buying), and more.
With this, you can develop target audience customer profiles to better understand how and why they purchase and which of multiple channels are using.
Decide Your 4 Ps of Marketing
Once you’ve determined who your ideal buyer is, it’s time to put the following key insights to use.
What product(s) or services are you going to sell and what’s its price? Next is deciding where to sell it: online, a brick-and-mortar place, or a combination of both. Finally, how and where are you going to promote your products and services?
Defining these 4 Ps for your business is the foundation to a more expansive B2B marketing strategy, as it pairs together what you know about potential customers with what you know about your product.
B2B Marketing Strategy vs. B2B Marketing Plan
The strategy partners the conditions of the market in general with your company’s marketing and business goals, while the plan outlines an actionable roadmap complete with the relevant channels and metrics.
Not taking time to figure out your company goals, target market, and promotional efforts can lead to inefficient operations, such as overspending in irrelevant areas at the expense of ones that could be skyrocketing your revenue.
From your target market and budget to promotional channels and technology, you have to take time to strategize all aspects of your business to keep costs in check and boost your ROI. To be effective and successful, this a must in your content marketing strategy before you get into developing tactics, such as getting SEO right or segmenting your email list. Those details won’t deliver what you want until you’ve outlined the big picture.
Which Basic Tactics of B2B Marketing Should You Decide First?
Before getting too deep into devising your content marketing strategy, you’ll want to create a checklist of the “basics” to implement for the tactical features of overall business-to-business marketing strategy so all bases are covered without getting too deep yet.
Of course, you’ll want to launch a website (including SEO and blogging plans), then create social media profiles and begin maintaining them. Putting together a regular email schedule is also important, as it’s a simple way to generate and nurture leads. You could even sign up your business for conferences and events in your industry, as these are great for networking and expanding your brand positioning and reach.
Do a Competitive Analysis
Another major feature of your content marketing strategy is to make a list of what to look for, including:
- What are your competitors doing and how
- Where they are succeeding
- Where the gaps in their marketing are
- Which social media channels are they focusing their efforts on
- Which products and product features are winning customers
In other words, you want to know the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of your competitors. Known as a SWOT analysis, this helps you understand the marketing content, sales tactics, results, and more of your competitors. This helps you define your positioning in the market so you can better compete more effectively.
For example, if you see that your competitors are mostly marketing on Instagram instead of Facebook, you’ll want to figure out why and test whether or not you should go with the current or swim against it. Data like that from Google Analytics should drive such decisions, not emotion.
What’s Your Brand Positioning?
Now it’s time to determine how you’re seen and perceived by your target customer.
- Who they think you are
- Why they think your brand exists
- How your brand conveys itself
- What your brand story is
In fact, if you haven’t already created it, you might be surprised at how important it is.
Without figuring out your position in the market, you’ll be like a ship without a rudder, or, more relevantly, a brand without direction. Once you do determine it, you’ll be better able to develop and cultivate a consistent, recognizable brand image across all marketing channels.
Many companies start by creating a brand positioning statement, which is a declaration of company goals, values, and vision that your team (especially your content marketing team) understands and takes to heart. It’s not the same as a mission statement, which also outlines your goals, values, and mission but is instead a public, customer-facing declaration).
Defining B2B Content Marketing
Creating and distributing valuable, relevant content to engage a business audience is the core essence of B2B content marketing. Content includes but isn’t limited to emails, articles, blog posts, videos, case studies, infographics, etc. The goal is to spread brand awareness, establish brand authority, and drive revenue.
B2B content is tailored to address businesses and professionals in a given industry or niche. Touching on their specific needs, goals, pain points, challenges, etc., the content should offer insights that a thoughtful, valuable, and informative. This helps businesses, your B2B customer, find solutions and make informed decisions so their business operations and revenue skyrocket.
Goals of B2B Content Marketing
You’ll want to build brand awareness, which means regularly delivering consistent high-quality content, such as a blog post or email. This can bring credibility quickly, which helps increase your visibility in your target market.
When you deliver good content regularly, this helps establish subject authority and industry expertise. This builds trust and respect throughout your industry.
As with DTC, B2B content marketing is used to generate leads. Attract your target, capturing their attention and leading them through sales funnels and converting them from leads to customers.
Content helps support sales while building customer loyalty and enhancing retention. It should educate and inform, answer questions, engage, eliminate objections for potential customers and while delivering continuous value to existing ones, cultivating loyalty, and attracting repeat business.
Any B2B content marketing strategy should strive to understand your target audience needs, do deep research, create buyer personas, start and follow a content calendar, leverage all your channels (website, email, industry publications, social media, etc.), and do performance data analysis to optimize your marketing efforts.
Why Do You Need To Use B2B Content Marketing?
Businesses are your target, and they have different requirements from consumers. Their needs and buying habits are different, so you have to market accordingly. Make sure you understand those traits before marketing to them.
Decision makers in business buy differently from individuals, so influencing them and persuading them to buy needs a different strategy. This is where building trust comes in handy. When you deliver that consistent, valuable content, you’re establishing trust with these decision-makers. They’ll begin to look at you as an industry thought leader.
High-quality content created for search engines can boost the search of rankings of your website. This includes repurposing existing content, as it all can drive traffic to your site and helps generate leads of more quality. It also helps drive engagement, as content that resonates with your audience can keep your brand in their mind. The more engaged your audience, the more likely they are to become your customers.
Ultimately, of course, the goal of B2B content marketing is to drive revenue and business growth. By creating a rock-solid content marketing strategy, followed by good leads and quality B2B content to build trust and establish expertise and industry authority, you create a loyal customer base that drives revenue and boosts your bottom line.
Putting Various Types of B2B Content Marketing to Use
You can go in many directions when it comes to figuring out which types of content marketing you want to implement.
From email to social media, and anywhere in between, much of you content ideas depends on your audience and your ideal customer. But you’ll also want to factor in your own resources and your team’s skills and experience as well as market conditions and what your competitors are doing.
B2B Email Marketing
A great way to ensure your brand is front and center with your target is email. It’s a tried and true way to build a relationship and produce engagement, which eventually turns leads into customers.
B2B customers respond more to logic, analysis, and ROI data than to emotion and entertainment. They want to know how you can help their business.
That doesn’t mean shouldn’t publish engaging content. Your email marketing must resonate with both current and potential customers on what matters most to them: money, time, growth, and resources.
When you create content, your email marketing becomes a vehicle for sharing your brand. In fact, for any B2B content marketing team, it’s crucial to their success.
Best Practices for Your B2B Email Marketing
Get the Email Opened
The most important part of any email is the subject line. So your content marketers and copywriters should spend nearly as much time, if necessary, on subject lines as on the emails themselves.
Don’t Overload the Email with CTAs (Calls-To-Action)
Some email content strategy suggests only use one per email, while others will push the limit with as many as 10 different ones. While there is no set rule, the fewer (and clearer) CTAs, the more focused your reader will be on your content and offer.
Segment Your Email Audience
Your audience is not-one-size-fits-all, so neither should your emails. Not all your readers are at the same stage of the buyer’s journey. Nor are they all seeking the same solutions. Segmenting gives your emails a more personal feel because you’ll be able to tailor content and offers to meet their more specific needs.
Make Your Emails Mobile-Friendly
Content formats matter in email, as most people access their email on their mobile phones. Make sure your images aren’t too big or the emails won’t get delivered. And try to tailor the content so it’s easier to read on mobile.
B2B Digital Marketing
Your B2B company must have a digital presence to make it nowadays. From a website and social media handles to SEO and paid ads, you must have a solid strategy so your digital presence can reach the right audience. Let’s take at a few keys that can bolster your B2B digital marketing strategy.
What’s the Right Audience?
This is where a strong B2B digital marketing strategy begins. Determining this will inform and influence most marketing activity that follows. This helps ensure your digital content engages the right prospective customers and that resources aren’t being wasted.
Create and Publish Your Website
Your digital marketing success won’t get off the ground without a website. That’s because B2B customers almost always visit a website before they make a purchase.
A B2B sales cycle typically involves a variety key players at the company (decision-makers and anyone else who has a stake in the purchase), so your website should be designed as an easy, direct way for company influencers to share information about your brand and its products or services.
Optimize Your SEO to Enhance Your Digital Presence
As much as a website needs to be easy to navigate, informative, and engaging, it also needs to be discoverable.
This is where SEO and related tactics come into play. From image meta descriptions and keyword research to alt-text, and social sharing, this is how potential buyers find your site when doing an online search.
Implement PPC Campaigns
Get your content in front of new audience with pay-per-click advertising. You can maximize your PPC by not only advertising your products or services, but also your brand personality, voice, blog, taglines or slogan, social media content, and more.
To help ensure the best ROI possible from your paid ads, use the data from your buyer persona to create content they can relate to and then boost it till it’s no longer cost-effective.
B2B Social Media Marketing
It’s a common misconception that B2B consumers, including those C-suite executives, don’t use social media for their business purchases.
Don’t make that mistake.
Because of the convenience of shopping via social media, more B2B buyers and C-Suite executives than ever are using social media to buy for their business.
Despite this, B2B companies often struggle with their social media marketing efforts. Because there’s a difference in marketing to businesses instead of individuals, it can be more difficult to connect with business customers via social media posts. This is especially true because of the typically lengthier sales cycle and longer decision-making chain, which often leads to B2B marketers bailing earlier than they should from their efforts, usually due to either inexperience or lack of patience.
In truth, you might not convert the highest number of leads via B2B social media marketing. But it does play a crucial part, particularly at or near the start of the buyer’s journey.
Despite the fact that your social media efforts may not convert as frequently or consistently as email marketing, social media is still an ultra-powerful tool for your followers.
It helps build brand awareness. Gives your brand an online presence and personality. Helps your business come across as authentic as you are.
Social media B2B marketing is also highly effective for sharing content and enhancing the expertise and trustworthiness of your brand.
When you post regularly and consistently on social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, you increase your chances to engage current customers and attracting potential ones.
Consumers these days want to engage and be engaged with the companies they follow. When you do it right, these relationships can grow into an authentic, two-way dialogue. And when people hear about your products and services firsthand, it helps foster trust in what they read and learn about your brand. This only heightens the chances that your social media marketing efforts do not just reach their target audience but help encourage customer engagement.
That’s why, for B2B content marketing, followers can be more valuable than you think, as you never know when they might become customers.
You already know that blog content is a solid strategy to use in reaching individual B2C consumers.
But don’t underestimate how important is to a B2B audience. Engaging content and blog posts on topics like making money, growing your business, trending products and services you can offer, and much more allow you to showcase your brand.
Whitepapers and Case Studies
In-depth reports like whitepaper provide your audience with valuable insights into a given topic or issue. Usually longer and more in-depth than blog posts, whitepapers are designed to educate and raise awareness in your target audience.
Case studies are a process or record of research that gives your audience a detailed story about the development of a given person, group, company, or situation over a period of time, illustrating how your product or services helped overcome a given challenge.
Both of these types of content allow you to showcase your expertise and establish trust and credibility with potential customers.
Webinars are seminars via live or pre-recorded presentations on the web.
They provide educational content that your target audience can use. In real-time, they will engage with you during a Q&A session after the presentation, while the pre-recorded versions give your audience the chance to access at their convenience.
They’re a great way to engage potential and even current customers, delivering valuable insights that they can use to help themselves solve their business challenges.
This may be one you hadn’t thought of.
Yet B2B videos, especially video tutorials, have become increasingly popular. They allow you to showcase your products or services, provide social proof via customer testimonials, or deliver educational content. They also allow your audience to engage with you as your brand reach expands.
To get the most out of your B2B content marketing strategy, leverage as many types of B2B content marketing as makes sense for your business. Taken altogether, they make up an effective, comprehensive that resonates and drives results.
The Various Aspects of Your B2B Content Marketing Strategy
There are multiple reasons to use B2B content marketing, but it’s important to keep in mind that it’s a multi-faceted approach. As you and your team plan and create content, keep the following aspects in mind. The more you incorporate into your content strategy, the faster you’ll create content and the more successful it’s likely to be.
Make Your B2B Content Chock-full of Valuable Information
It’s B2B content, so it must be different from B2C, which can be more about stories, entertainment, jokes, and emotions. Your B2B content has to offer information that’s of supreme value to your audience.
Sure, stories in B2B content marketing can work, but there’s a time and a place, as the information you’re providing still needs to shine as the main focus. Every piece of content should make a potential customer think, “I have to to read that!” when they see a subject line or title.
If you ask most business owners what they want to improve most about their marketing, it shouldn’t be a surprise that many answer it’s the quality of their content.
So make it count.
Make Your B2B Content Easy to Read
B2B folks are busy. They’re immersed in running a business, so they don’t have time to waste. They often don’t get a chance to slow down, much less stop to read.
So your content must be easy to read.
That means interesting, in a conversational tone that’s quick and to the point. Brief stories sprinkled with light humor make it pleasant to read, as opposed to dry content that’s boring and likely to be dismissed immediately at worst and quickly skimmed at best.
Either way, if it’s not memorable, that’s bad news.
B2B buyers want to discover new things or find new ways to do things they’re already doing, even within in-depth content, so keep that in mind as you develop your B2B content strategy.
Make Your B2B Content Easy to Remember
What do you think of when you think of GEICO? The Gecko. With AT&T, it’s Lily the helpful sales rep in the store.
Now what if GEICO made ads that gave you all their facts and figures in depth instead of their slogan “15 minutes could save you 15%”? Which is easier to remember?
Why are Lily and the Gecko so popular? They’re creative ways to tell their company’s stories. The gecko is a huge part of why and how GEICO has become so successful because he often tells simple stories with real people. Lily is relatable and responds in situations as we would. You trust her. Though their styles are different, they’re both memorable.
Your content should be that easy to read, digest, and remember. Although you have to be careful about humor or entertaining your B2B prospect or customer, the chances of success are much better if your content is engaging and resonates, as it helps build trust and form a connection.
In fact, there’s much more to be discovered when you consider the history of marketing through the lens of mega-companies. Even a small businesses can leverage how they’ve gotten to be where they are today, including the rivalry between Coke and Pepsi.
Get to the Point with Your B2B Content
Because busy B2B people have little to no time to waste, if your content doesn’t get to the point immediately, and then stay there, you’ll lose their interest.
Even if the content is captivating, if it’s not focused and to the point quickly, the reader can’t tell where it’s going and will move on to other content. This doesn’t necessarily mean writing short-form content or not being engaging. It means your content marketers can even write long-form content as long as it’s focused, clearly has a point, and maintains it throughout.
People Should Want to Share and Promote Your B2B Content
One way to get organic traffic to your website is to write content that business professionals promote or share with others. Not only do they not want to waste their own time, but they also don’t want to waste that of their colleagues or even clients.
So create content they’ll want to share. It should be worthwhile and closely related and relevant to their business and interests. Catch their attention, and then hold it, and they’ll be much more likely to share your valuable content.
Yet, it’s not just about being informative; also being interesting is what compels people to share.
That why you also want to put thought into what type of content formats you want to use. It can go a long way in helping make your B2B content easy to access, read, and share. Optimizing your content for SEO and social media so it can help make it easy to find and then share for your target audience.
Social media buttons or widgets on your content help make it easier to share. So, too, is clear, concise copy in an easy-on-the-eyes content format that compels your reader to want to share the content.
Do this right, and your readers become part of your content distribution network organically.
B2B Content Must Be Professional
This is where humor can be tricky, as there’s a time and place for it, which is not always easy to figure out.
If you try to use humor, make sure it’s relatable, relevant, and appropriate humor. Not everyone can get away with a green gecko as its spokesperson, but how is it relevant? (Answer: it’s not really, but GEICO and Gecko sound similar enough that they’ve been able to pull it off).
GEICO also gets away with to viral success because their stories illustrate the point of their marketing: their premiums are affordable while offering the same or better coverage than their competitors.
Avoid off-color humor or silliness. Don’t ramble with irrelevant tales. Just as in an office environment, the language should be professional and content topics to the point. Good grammar and spelling should be on point because that’s what’s expected in a professional, business environment.
If you know your audience well, then it should be easy to create content that’s appropriate for them and that they’ll want to share. If a situation arises where you’re not sure about which direction to go, be cautious and lean toward being professional rather casual. It takes away from your message.
Write Targeted B2B Content
A B2B audience is usually more focused than a B2C one. So it should be more narrowly or specifically targeted.
This helps you quickly analyze the specific pain point of your audience, which you can tailor for them in a very focused way. That will help ensure that your stories and any humor are likely relevant and subtle enough to resonate with your audience.
Keep in mind also that a B2B audience is usually made up of decision-makers and stakeholders. The content from your team must provide valuable insights and be of the utmost quality to entice them to take action. When you take time to craft a narrative that will grab and hold their attention, they’ll inevitably understand the benefits of doing business with you.
Make Your B2B Content Unique
With proper and well-devised content planning, you’ll be able to create a unique voice and content. You don’t want your reader not to know who they’re reading because they don’t recognize the tone or voice.
Make your voice unique, something that’s all yours, and you’ll soon be considered an authoritative voice in the industry. That means letting your voice come through. Your content marketers should wrap the content in your brand’s type of humor and storytelling skills.
Find the brand voice is not easy without planning and understanding your company values, and there’s no particular right way to do it.
It’s important to be authentic to yourself, though. The personality of you or your brand should be evident. Don’t shy away from showcasing a little of your flair if that’s authentic to you. This helps your reader feel like they know you and can trust you, essential in building a loyal audience.
Analytics and B2B Content
Since it can be challenging to create interesting content that’s well-received well not just by your existing customers but also by prospective ones, analytics can help B2B content marketing be relevant and focused. Even so, you can expect some trial and error before you nail down your best course of action, which is why you should experiment and test.
Yes, your content should be relevant to your reader, so don’t just write about what YOU think is interesting; focus on what your readers care about. Keywords and search engine optimization can help you deliver valuable content that’s relevant to the needs of your reader so they’ll be more likely to read and be engaged. Use your data to experiment until you hit the right style and relevance for your audience.
Connect Your B2B Content with Your Overall Marketing Strategy and Goals
Finally, your writing style should symbolize and fit your brand. The content you’re generating should have a specific purpose within your overall B2B marketing strategy.
Don’t create content just because everybody in your industry is doing so. To get the successful ROI you want, use a carefully considered B2B content marketing strategy that works well with your overall business plan.
Types of B2B Content Marketing Tools to Help Maximize Your Efforts
Obviously, you should have a B2B content marketing budget. But there should be room in those finances for leveraging invaluable marketing tools to get the most out of your hard work, so here are a few to consider as part of your overall B2B content marketing strategy.
Google Analytics or Hotjar are excellent for helping you understand how visitors use your website. You can track how they got to your website, what they do once there, and how long they stay on your site before leaving. You can then leverage these insights to improve all aspects of your content marketing strategy.
Tools that help you discover what’s hot and trendy now online include those from Google or BuzzSumo. These tools allow you to see how long it’s been trending. From here, you can create keyword lists specific to a variety of different industries.
Scheduling Your Content
Services like Hootsuite, Hubspot, and Buffer offer you the ability to schedule content across various social networks. Set up your post and then schedule sharing it when it suits you and your market best. This can be vital to your content marketing, as it makes better use of your time.