- What is B2B content marketing?
- Why is B2B content marketing important?
- Why do you need a B2B content marketing strategy?
- How to begin a B2B content marketing strategy (& the important elements you need)
- Who is it for? Identifying the target persona
- Creating the right content at the right time (with a audience journey map)
If you’re ready to grow your online organic traffic and get more eyeballs on your content, a strong B2B content marketing strategy is the way to go. It’s not painful; rather, you should think of it as a strategic process to create better and more valuable content for your audience that will help them reach their goals and help you reach the target numbers you want.
As a seasoned content creator, it comes to no surprise that I love content creation. I love it so much that I started a content marketing agency to support and educate small business on the value and how to use content marketing.
I’ve been in the content field for almost eight years, either as a travel blogger, working as a content marketer with a company, freelancing content projects, or conducting one-on-one consulting. After thinking about these collective experiences, I have one phrase that comes to mind.
Content is king.
Oh, yes it is. This little phrase packs a big punch for three words and a short sentence, but I agree with it. The online world is changing. Content is catching on, and it’s growing exponentially. It’s more difficult now than it has ever been before to rank your content, get it noticed, and have more eyeballs seeing it. It’s hard, but it’s not unrealistic.
This is why you need a strategy.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a startup, a family-run business, or an online travel blogger creating content. I believe every human online that is putting the blood, sweat, and tears into creating quality content needs a strategy to back it up.
If you don’t you risk falling into the dark reaches of the internet and your content will never reach the number of humans that you ask of it to attract.
Let’s not allow that to happen.
In this blog post, a series of different sections are presented on how to begin your B2B content marketing strategy. This is your beginner’s guide with actionable steps and informative instruction to get the ‘brain gears’ going and your content moving in the right direction. To begin, I’m jumping all the way back to the basics, and I’m starting with a common question that many readers have.
What is B2B content marketing?
Content marketing is a collection of content pieces (i.e. blog posts, downloads, Instagram pieces, and more) that are created to educate your customer about your products, services, or topics by the means of quality, relevant, and helpful information.
Your strategy helps you decide what content to produce. It all starts with strategy (and planning) — and approaching your ideal reader with the right information, in the right format, and at the right time to attract a well-defined target market and retain them.
Content marketing is a broad term, and it encompasses a variety of different approaches to content creation. For example, content marketing can be developing a webinar series, or it can involve creating valuable content on Instagram. It’s two different content mediums, but both have to do with content marketing. At MTC, we specialize organic content like blog posts, white papers, and social content for LinkedIn. Because we’ve worked with many B2B clients, we know what specific content assets are important to create to convert B2B customers.
Just right here, I stated a few keywords that will come up in later paragraphs. It’s words like relevant, helpful, target market and right format that plays a huge role in creating a strong foundation for your B2B content marketing strategy.
Why is B2B content marketing important?
Now that you understand what content marketing is, then the next logical question is why [in the heck] is it important and why should I even care. Let’s go back to our first argument. Content is king. Here is a brief painting of the current buyer’s landscape. Readers are more educated and engaged in the buying process than ever before, and they demand relevant and useful information to inform their buying decisions.
Content is the element that helps individuals make informed decisions, and they’re demanding for it. The amount of content consumed before reaching a buying decision depends on the industry, but here’s a statistic that gives us insight into the value of using content as a pre sale education tool in the B2B field.
47% of B2B buyers read 3-5 blog posts or content pieces prior to talking with a salesperson (Source: DemandGenReport)
Content is popular, but here are a few more supporting reasons on why B2B content marketing is important.
- Content builds trust with your audience.
- Content builds authority online.
- SEO loves content.
- Content supports your paid marketing.
- Content nurtures your audience and advances the sales cycle.
Do you agree? We should strive to produce quality content because it boosts your authentic online presence. Content is important, because it’s a major player in the online world today. And it builds relationships with your audience, and it’s a strong framework for generating online traffic. For example, this is another statistic that sums up the importance of valuable online content.
60% of consumers feel engaged/positive with a brand or company after reading custom content on their blog (Source: ContentPlus)
Read more on this subject by visiting the blog post: 5 Reasons You Need Content Marketing.
Why do you need a B2B content marketing strategy?
Okay, Megan, I get it. Content is king, and I see why I need it. But why do I need a strategy? Can’t I just start creating content? Won’t that in itself attract quality readers?
No, because it’s like trying to find a ‘needle in a haystack.’ Your content might be the best in the industry, but if it’s not structured correctly, distributed correctly, and consistent, it’ll go nowhere. You need a content marketing strategy to keep your content writing focused, purposeful, and scalable.
Content creators will sometimes begin creating content with no content marketing strategy. The content is okay, but I always end up asking these important questions.
- What is the purpose of your content?
- How will your content be helpful to your audience for the relevant topic?
- What types of content formats are best for your audience?
- What is your main goal of your content creation?
A strategy gives the content creator the right focus to achieving goals, the right tools to create content rooted to their customer, and a written framework for content creation success. And this is where a content marketing strategy begins.
How to begin a B2B content marketing strategy
At this point, you might be overwhelmed as to how you’re going to put a strategy to paper. I’m here to reassure you that it isn’t hard, and it will help greatly in arranging your thoughts and adding purpose to your content creation.
Creating a content marketing strategy is a series of important elements and steps. I can’t possibly give you all the bits and pieces in this article, or it’ll turn into a rather large content piece that you’ll be reading for hours. This informative guide should be rather viewed as a beginner’s framework for creating a content marketing strategy. You can find additional resources on strategy creation at Optinmonster.
The first approach to content strategy creation is understanding the mission and goal for content creation. As I discussed in the ‘why do you need a content marketing strategy’ section, the very beginning piece of the strategy is to answer those four questions.
This is the why you’re creating content and the purpose for doing so.
At this point, I’m going to assume that you’ve taken around fifteen minutes to answer these questions and write them down on a piece of paper. Now, I wish to discuss the beginning elements of a content marketing strategy.
To clarify, the elements that I will be referring to here have everything to do with strategy. At this point, we’re not to the content marketing planning yet, and this is a topic best saved for another article. Content marketing strategy and content planning are two different entities that are closely linked together. Content marketing strategy is only discussed here.
The content marketing strategy is a collection of important elements to answer the why you’re going to do it, who is it for, and the what content & in what order.
[P.S: I’ve decided not to add the very last portion of the content marketing strategy here, which is distribution. This article is already long as it is. A content distribution strategy can be treated as a separate entity and strategy, and it will be the means of how your content sees the light of day. Start with this great article.]
Who is it for? Identifying the target persona
Know your audience. In order to create quality and purposeful content, you need to understand your target persona (or audience) as a best friend.
If you think towards your best friend, you’ll know what keeps them up at night, what their everyday struggles & challenges are, and how they think and search out answers. This is the state of mind that must be developed for your audience. It begins with crafting a target persona. Draw your target persona as a human being—given them a name, an age, location, educational background, and a generic story. This big-picture approach to identifying your target persona will help you create better and more valuable content.
How do you paint a picture of your ideal audience? How can you really understand them and know them better? It’s done by asking. In order to complete this exercise and define the target persona, you will need to do a thorough intelligence gathering.
You’ll start by gathering demographic information on the target persona by looking at analytical tools like Google Analytics. Start with these questions to create a framework.
- What is their gender?
- What is their education background?
- What is their location?
- How do they get their news?
- What social media platforms are they on?
- What are their values?
- What challenges do they face in their career or personal life?
- What are their pain points (i.e. what keeps them up at night worrying)?
Once you’ve gathered what you can from Google Analytics, I suggest sending out an audience survey using a tool like Typeform. The key here is making sure your online survey is short, concise, and easy to navigate. It’s most successful when the survey questions are shorter, fewer, and written in the language of the target persona. Read: what a buyer persona is and why you need one.
Once you’ve gathered intelligence from Google Analytics and the survey, the next step is meeting this person live. Take your ideal audience persona out for coffee and ask them a few of these questions. Make the meeting relaxed and meaningful with open-ended questions that allow your audience persona to just talk away.
Creating the right content at the right time (audience journey map)
You’ve completed your intelligence gathering portion, and it’s now time to make that even more visual with an audience journey map. A customer journey map (or audience journey map) is a visual representation of their journey and the different layers of thought, pains, and challenges they approach until they make a service/product purchase. It takes understanding their needs, challenges, pains and motivations in order for you to provide them with the best and relevant content to helping them achieve that goal. Read: What is an audience journey?
An audience journey map at this point might not be entirely clear without laying it out in context and that is what I’ll try to do for you now. Usually this map is applied to a product or a solution offered by a company. By mapping a journey, a company can better identify the needs and challenges of the customer at each stage of the buying journey.
The stages of the audience journey are awareness, consideration, purchase, and advocate.
But…it’s always easier to define audience journey and show it visually through an example. That’s what I’ll do now.
Let’s say…you’re a travel blogger, and you’ve identified the target audience to be a woman, between the ages of 18-28 years old and a full-time employed person. A ‘need’ or ‘challenge’ was identified as… they only have one week of holiday a year. They still enjoy traveling, and they want to maximize their time on a travel trip. Challenge: one week of holiday, or time constraints. Now, let’s say you want to monetize the blog and sell customized travel plans to your content readers. Would the target audience that doesn’t have time to plan a trip be interested in this product?…well….yes!
Now that you’ve identified the target persona and the need. You can create a custom audience journey map to fit their buying process from ‘I’m looking for short holiday destinations that is easy to plan’ to ‘how can I plan this quickly’ and ‘I’ll pay for a customized travel itinerary to tell me where to go’. So, a rough audience journey map with content topics would be something like this.
- Awareness stage: 5 Easy Vacations for the Busy Professional
- Consideration stage: 5 Reasons You Need to Hire A Vacation Planner (to save you time)
- Purchase stage: Email pitch as a vacation planner
This is a rough sketch of a possible audience journey, and it paints a picture of how a potential reader can move from ‘they’re generally interested’ to ‘I’m ready to buy a solution’ through content that is correctly mapped to the audience journey map.
Create your B2B content marketing strategy
If done correctly, content tailored to the audience journey can influence and motivate a blog reader into a buying customer. In order to do this, it takes having a content marketing strategy with all the fundamental steps.
- Answering the ‘mission’ and reasoning behind creating a content marketing strategy
- Identifying the target persona and audience journey
- Creating the right content at the right time (and mapping out that content)
Once you’ve sketched these fundamentals out for the content marketing strategy, you’re better suited to moving on wards to the content plan and distribution strategy.