What are your content goals? If you feel like a deer in the headlights, don’t worry. You’re not alone. Everybody experiences that at one point or another. That’s why we’ve created this ultimate checklist to get your B2B content marketing on track.
This checklist has been designed to help you prioritize your content creation, come up with content ideas, and grow your audience over time.
The No-Fail, 20-Step Guide to Success in B2B Content Marketing
1. Define the Needs of Your Audience
Step one is to find out as much as you can about your audience. This isn’t a concept you create from your office rolly chair. You need to hear from your audience, learn from them. If you can create content that speaks to your audience, it won’t simply be scrolled past and forgotten.
Get feedback directly from your audience with surveys. When done properly, these can tell you a lot about your audience, their favorite content formats, what they like to read about -- all valuable ammunition when you begin to create content.
Check out your competitors. Know what you’re up against. Find out what keywords they use, and where their traffic comes from. You can use tools like BuzzSumo and Google Keyword Tool to find this.
Visit forums in your niche. See what people are talking about -- or questions that people are asking. Join niche-specific groups on LinkedIn and learn what's on people's minds. Another easy option is Quora -- it’s free to sign up, and you'll receive topic-related questions that are being asked in your industry.
2. Create a B2B Content Strategy
I cannot emphasize this enough: You need a strategy. Without it, you’ll just be spinning your wheels -- getting nowhere!
To develop a sound strategy, answer the following questions:
- What are the needs of your audience?
- Who are your competitors? What content do they create?
- What social networks does your audience use?
- What content does your audience like and share on social media?
- How can you improve on what your competitors are doing?
- Where are there content gaps that you can fill in?
Questions like these can give you an idea of what content formats to create, what subjects to write about, where to share your content, and what your competition is doing.
Do a simple gap analysis diagramming your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. Any weaknesses are opportunities for you.
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3. Create a Content Map
A visual map of your ideas can help as you create content -- it's a visual representation of your content strategy. This incorporates your buyer personas and content themes. It shows what you've done and what you still need to do.
Questions to ask as you create this content map include:
- How do I make this appealing to my target audience?
- Where do I need to create media (images, infographics, videos), and what kinds of media do I need?
- What resources do I need in order to create the right content?
- How can repurpose content?
4. Plan Ahead
Good preparation is one of the keys to success in content marketing. It helps you to build a consistent and compelling story, Plan out your content and campaigns weeks or months in advance. This provides the big picture of your content, pinpointing areas where you can be more consistent in your messaging. It also help you create the best post ideas and smooths out the process.
Create responsibilities and deadlines for each member of your team -- spread the weight evenly across everyone. The more organized your content plan and team are, the more effective your campaigns will be.
5. Use Customer FAQs
Would you like to create content that your audience actually wants to read? Then get to the heart of the matter. What are your customer’s questions? What questions do your customer service team field most frequently? What questions do you repeatedly hear on sales calls? Create content campaigns around these questions.
Don’t hesitate to ask customers what type of content they want. A simple one question survey asking customers to rate topics is one easy way to gauge interest.
Go beyond what your customers actually ask, and get into questions that you wish they would ask. What questions can you answer that would give your audience a better perspective into your business or products?
This crucial step creates evergreen content that your audience will always come back to because it fills one of their needs.
6. Make Your Site Readable
We’ve all had that bad website experience -- where as soon as we enter the site, we are confronted with an onslaught of material. It’s so busy and hard to find what we were looking for, that we leave (some would even say bolt).Give your readers a pleasant experience as soon as they enter your site. Here are a few pointers to get you going:
- Choose a font that is easy to read, but also sets the right tone for your company’s personality.
- Use headings to highlight titles and subtopics.
- Use bold and italic to make key points stand out (but don’t overuse it)
- Don’t forget to use white space to make it look cleaner and more readable.
Some basic text sizing and arranging can appeal to newcomers and set the tone for future interactions.
7. Choose Trending Topics
Make sure that your content is what your audience wants! Stay on top of what’s happening in your industry and on the content scene in general, and create your own content ideas from this.
Set up Google Alerts to inform you whenever a specific topic appears. You can also use a site like Alltop to search any subject for trending content. That way, you can keep your content fresh and on-point at all times. Google Trends will show you what content is popular in your niche. You can also take advantage of industry hashtags on Twitter to search what content is popular in your industry.
Once you know what is trending in the news, locally, or in your niche, you can leverage that in your content. Whether it’s a major political development, a national crisis, or a big industry product launch, you can reference it to make your content more relatable.
If there’s a particular subject within your industry that is blowing up on social media, you can address it with your personal experience and unique point of view. Make yourself an authority that is on top of industry trends.
9. Include Attention-Grabbing Images
Written and visual content create a perfect partnership. Content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without. Adding a visual component to your content completes the reader’s experience.
When appropriate, turn your data into easy-to-read charts or infographics that make a clear, strong point. Make them appealing and in tune with your brand and audience.
Don’t be afraid to venture into new territory where visuals are concerned. Have you created any infographics? How about videos? In a 2016 Hubspot survey, 43% of consumers wanted to see more video content. Tap into these and other emerging visual trends and you'll see your engagement spike.
A number of free online tools make visual content creation a breeze. Use Canva to create stunning images and infographics that draw people to your content. Online tools like Wideo and Stupeflix allow you to create great videos that tell your story and involve your audience. Visual content creation has come a long way in recent years, and makes it a virtual snap to stand out on any platform.
9. Give Your Pieces a Viral Headline
It all starts with your headline -- the first thing people see, and the deciding factor in whether to read on. So how do you make your headline clickable, possible viral?
Here's a process to use:
Once you’ve landed on a subject that is trending in your niche, you need to decide on a format. The following are elements that have proven success in viral headlines:
- Numbers (5 Unbeatable Ways to…, The 8 Secrets to a... )
- How-to (How to Boost Your Sales with…, How to Impact Your Audience…)
- Address the Reader Specifically (You Need...You Will Love…)
Thousands of pieces of content are floating around on the web -- so how do you make yours stand out? Tug on people’s emotions -- ignite curiosity by asking a question, or seek to surprise (even shock) your audience. Numbers and facts can add crediblity.
Use a free tool like CoSchedule to discover what words and phrases get you the best, most viral headline. It will score each headline, showing ways to improve it.
Want more headline tips? Check out:
10. Write a Killer Opening Paragraph
Now that your headline is done, it’s time to move on to your opening paragraph, This needs to pull the reader in -- it should scream “Read me!”
Make it stand out from all the other zillions of content that is published on a daily basis. You could start out with something personal -- an experience you had, or a juicy confession -- that gets the reader’s emotions involved. You could pull the reader in with the promise of life-changing information. The idea is to attract attention.
11. Leverage Data in Your Content
Bring your content to life with supporting data. People don’t realize how good or bad something is until they see a number or a hard, cold fact put to it. Leverage statistics that prove your point.
Underneath all that data is a story waiting to be told. So go out and collect all the data you can. You can conduct a short survey, or search on Google for relative data. Keep on top of useful content using Google Alerts or AllTop.
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12. Include a Call-to-Action
Do you want to turn your readers into solid B2B leads? Calls to action are the next step -- without it, you audience will simply move on. Strike while the iron is hot, engagin them with a colorful CTA.
Consider using use a gated piece of content, such as an ebook, white paper, or video, to capture attention and contact information.Offer a free consultation or demo to someone far down the marketing funnel.
What some inspiration? Take this killer example from Evernote. It's simple and clean, yet the image clearly shows the advantages of signing up for its product. Plus, it's short and to-the-point message, "Remember Everything," makes a clear connection with the audience.
Or this example from Aquaspresso, a company that provides businesses with corporate level coffee and vending machines. The CTA is simple and colorful. It convinces you to take the next step. After all, who can resist something special?
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13. Optimize for SEO
What’s the use of creating amazing, must-read content, if no one can find it? If you have any hope of showing up in search results, you must use SEO best practices in your content.
Do your research, and use a keyword planning tool (like Google's Keyword Planner). Find long-tail keywords that you can easily rank for. Then make sure that your title, post body, images, and meta description are all optimized with your keyword.
Then build up your off-page SEO with high quality links back to your site. You can get these by guest blogging, reaching out on social media, or mentioning experts in your blog post. For the latter, notify them that they were included and provide a subtle nudge to link to the post.
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13. Syndicate Your Content
Have an incredible piece of content that puts your best foot forward? Use it. Reach out to other publications, especially trade publications or ones that fit your niche, and see if they will publish it. This gets your content and your company in front of more eyeballs, and builds your credibility within your community.
You can also publish your content on LinkedIn or Medium, with a link back to the original post to avoid a duplicate content issue.
15. Promote Content on Local Channels
This step is crucial, especially if you do any business on a local level. Get in contact with your local newspaper, radio station, or TV station to get the promotion you need. Encourage your local audience to check out your blog for answers to questions.
An excellent way to promote your B2B business in your local community is to get on Google Local. In order to do this, register your business on Google Local Business Center, and your website in local directories. Make sure all of your details are up to date across the board.
16. Go Social
Social media is a place where your content can truly thrive -- more content gets shared on social media than any other method! And social networks strive to make it easy for anyone to engage on their platforms.
Find out which social networks your prospects are primarily using, and stick to those. Create an attractive and professional company page.
Once you’re all ready to go, be consistent. Post your content at least several times a week. If this is too much, you can use automated tools to schedule your posts in advance (just be careful that this doesn’t take the human side out of your interaction). Engage with people -- participate in discussions, and answer questions or complaints. Social is all about being human, so don’t be shy about posting about your employees, your office, or yourself.
17. Make Content Sharable
Facilitate sharing across all of your content. People will trust content shared from a friend more than a brand -- so use that to your advantage. Encourage people to share your content with a simple, “If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends.”
Also, make it easy to share. Include sharing buttons throughout your content -- written and visual. Make sure that each blog post has a visual graphic to make it easier to share as well.
18. Get Influencers Onboard
At first you may feel like a small fish in an overwhelmingly big pond. It won’t happen overnight, but with time, you can interact with and even work alongside influencers in your industry.
Start by following them on social media, and continue with regular comments on their posts. As they get familiar with your name or face, you can be a little more forward -- offer to guest post on their blog, work with them for free, or even feature them on your blog. These steps get you closer.
Not sure who to approach in your industry? Find out with tools like Traackr or Klout. These tools help you find influencers, and connect with them.
19. Plan an Editorial Calendar
Content marketing is inherently a big juggling act -- you’re organizing B2B content, campaigns, social media, paid content opportunities, influencer marketing, and the list goes on. You need to stay organized through all of this. Keep track of every part of your B2B content strategy with an editorial calendar.
Make your editorial calendar available to your entire team, so that everyone is on the same page. Once your information is all on one page, it will be easier to see what works and what flops, as well as what holes you need to fill in your strategy. Visualization will help your entire strategy run smoothly.
20. Choose Which Metrics to Track
Metrics help you see what works and what doesn’t, and where you can improve on in the future. Whether it’s on your blog or social media account, metrics can tell you a lot. There are a number of measurement tools available -- we like to recommend Google Analytics. It’s easy to use and free.
For example, your conversion rate is useful to see how site visitors are converting to prospects -- did they sign up for your mailing list or ebook? Your bounce rate tells you how long people stay on your site. If these are low it shows you areas where you can improve. Maybe your site layout is too busy, or your content isn’t meeting the needs of your audience.
The better metrics you have, the more you can narrow in on what the problem is, and fix it.
Points to Keep In Mind...
- Stay organized with an editorial calendar.
- Focus on creating a viral headline.
- Craft eye-catching images that will grab your audience's attention.
- Choose and keep track of your metrics to see where you can improve your strategy.
Whatever your B2B content marketing goals are, we hope this checklist helps you to meet them.
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