Make the Business Case for a B2B Content Marketing Strategy
What do blog posts, case studies, white papers, podcasts, infographics, and video content all have in common?
They’re all examples of content, of course. Yet, one blog post or one video doesn’t make it strategic.
What makes it strategic is mapping it to your goals (and buyer).
Some businesses take a “leap first and figure it out later” approach to content. They’d rather start publishing than dig into the mind of their customer and create a content plan that fits their buyer.
Usually, that’s a mistake. It can result in goals not being met (even though there were no stated goals to begin with).
The way around that is to take a strategic approach rather than a tactical one.
Lexico defines strategy as “A plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.”
When it comes to content marketing, two common goals are attracting more leads and building brand authority. Done well, these will turn into sales.
With that in mind, it helps to know the answers to a few important questions.
- Who’s your buyer? What do they need and want to know?
- What do they care about?
- What type of content do you have already?
- Where do you put this content?
- How will you gauge its success?
When you start asking important questions, then you create opportunities to have useful conversations about the potential customer and their concerns.
This “customer-first” approach is more strategic. And it helps the business be successful at creating the right type of content for their customer base, giving them a better chance of achieving their business goals.
As an example, let’s take a complex sale scenario.
No one wakes up on a Wednesday and decides to order a $50,000 software package for their university. Rather, there’s a lot of buy-in that needs to happen from IT and from the various departments/users of the software.
There will likely to be months of discussion about their needs.
Maybe no one is even interested in changing software except for the IT team. After all, people often tend to stick with the familiar rather than make a change.
The IT team can continue muttering quietly among themselves or they can start asking questions of their colleagues in other departments and asking if they’re frustrated with the current software. They can find out what’s on the wish list of the users and then go find a few software options to present.
This process could take weeks or months depending on their level of motivation, but you can see where I’m going with this.
Once the conversation turns to the possibility of choosing new software, some colleagues are going to review those initial recommendations. They’re going to read blog posts and case studies, maybe watch a webinar.
Finally, there will be a demonstration which might be online or in a physical office.
However, before the demonstration, maybe 10-25 people will have interacted with different types of content from the software company. After all, this decision will be with them for a while, so they want to make sure they choose the right product.
The Elements of a Successful Content Strategy
Develop an Ideal Client Profile(s)
Many B2B sales are complex because there are likely multiple decision makers. Each with a different perspective. For example, if you’re selling software to a university to track donors, for example, then you’re appealing to the fundraising officers, the IT department, and maybe even the records office.
Different stakeholders have different concerns based on their day-to-day roles.
Set S.M.A.R.T. goals so you know you’ve achieved what you set out to do. S.M.A.R.T. goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound.
This helps guide the “what to create” part of the content plan. For example, many B2B businesses want to shorten their sales cycle. That means, they need persuasive and educational content geared for different audience segments. Depending on the type of content they already have, they may do well to create more case studies or targeted email segments.
Once they’ve defined the type of content needed, then it’s a matter of choosing who will create it, where it will go, how it will be promoted, and how “success” will be determined.
Choose Your Channels
Some companies make the mistake of spreading themselves too thin. Rather than focus on quality blog posts, for example, they choose to blog, host webinars and a podcast, and oh yes, email marketing and social media.
While it’s possible to do all of these eventually, it’s better to start with one or two and build out. For example, a business may choose to focus on blogging and LinkedIn for six months or until they develop their core content.
What does your audience want and need to know? B2B Writing Success has many articles that go into the nuts and bolts of identifying topics because it’s a big topic. However, one of my go-to tactics has always been twofold.
- Do keyword research to discover trends and search volume.
- Find out the biggest concerns for buyers (ideally by talking to customers and/or people in the company).
You can also scan the schedules of industry conferences for topic ideas. They’re a good source of topical content.
Analyze the Results
You can’t know if you’re making progress towards your goal unless you review your results.
As you can see, content strategy is more than choosing to publish a few pieces of content. Start with understanding the audience and it’s much easier to create relevant content that will also meet business goals.
What would you add?
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