A dependable B2B content marketing strategy has become a mainstay in many businesses. But many companies are hitting a wall -- not notching all the results that they want. What should they do?
Say you notice a water spot on your ceiling. Would you demand an entire, new roof? Of course not. You would take the time to examine where it has come from and how to patch it. The same can be said of content marketing in B2B. Many businesses are noticing issues -- but these issues are easily fixed by examining your strategy and finding ways to improve it.
With that in mind, let's examine content marketing as a whole and see what common mistakes people make and how to address them.
The experts over at Marketing Profs and Content Marketing Institute have joined together in a recent study, entitled, B2B Content Marketing 2020: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends. This study dug up some interesting and surprising data about the state of content marketing for B2B and shows us some areas where we can all improve.
Among some of the fascinating data in this report: 79% of respondents rated their organization's content marketing as extremely or very successful. This is a promising statistic -- after all, just 10 years ago, content marketing was low on the priority list.
But as with most things, there's room for improvement. While the majority of the companies surveyed are committed to content marketing and find it successful, the study also revealed a few problem areas. This reflects the state of content marketing for B2B in general. We pinpoint 5 areas below and show how to fix the issues.
If you're reading this, you most likely already have some kind of B2B content marketing strategy in the works. Let's take a look at 10 important ways in which you can improve your strategy and get the results you want.
10 Ways to Boost Your B2B Content Marketing Strategy
1. Take Stock of Your Content
You most likely already have some kind of content marketing strategy in place. But as you consider how to improve it, you have to know what you already have in your archives. Take the time to do a content audit, asking these questions...
- What content formats do I have?
- What content is out of date and needs to be discarded?
- What content needs to be updated?
- What holes exist in my current collection of content?
As you move forward, you'll be able to give some of your cold content new life and re-release it to your audience. Doing this will save you time and money.
You'll also learn where you need to work. For instance, if you have an archive full of blog posts for top-of-the-funnel audiences, you might want to focus your efforts on other formats like infographics and videos for other stages of your funnel.
2. Document Your Content Strategy
While everybody seems to see the need for content, many people overlook the need to document it. As shown by the Content Marketing- MarketingProfs report, only 41% said that they have a documented content strategy.
Why is documenting your strategy important? Because it will help you to work more efficiently. It shows you the big picture -- what is planned every day, what subjects to cover, and potential holes in your content strategy
Now is the best time to put pen to paper or keys to keyboard and document your strategy. Start by outlining your goals -- what you want to create and what metrics you would like to reach.
Then identify who your target audience is. This helps you precision target your content so that it reaches the right eyeballs. Items to analyze include demographic information, keywords used and favorite networks.
Now that these pieces of the puzzle are clear, it's time to develop your actual plan. This includes what topics to cover and what content formats to use. Outline a clear, day-by-day schedule to help you visualize where your strategy is headed and keep you on track.
3. Consider the Entire Buyer's Journey
Most of the time, content is not a one-size-fits-all. Every person that comes to your business is going to have different needs. Some are doing basic research, while others are looking for a specific solution to a specific problem. We call these basic phases the buyer's journey, and it goes like this...
- Awareness stage: The buyer realizes he or she has a problem.
- Consideration stage: The buyer knows what the problem is and researches potential solutions.
- Decision stage: The buyer is ready to make a decision.
Despite the importance of this buyer's journey, only 48% of all respondents in the study have created content designed for each stage of the buyer's journey -- leaving holes where leads can fall.
The content marketing study also highlights that successful content marketers use different content formats depending on their goals. For instance, those eager to raise brand awareness create blog posts and content for social media posts. Those gung-ho for more leads create webinars, ebooks, and use in-person events. And those aiming to nurture leads use email newsletters and blog posts.
So what can you do to ensure you reach all phases of the buyer's journey? First, review your content and determine which phase it speaks to most. Next, consider areas where you need to create more content and determine what goals that content must accomplish. Finally, decide on the best content formats based on which phase of the buyer's journey you want to address.
4. Choose Your Channels
Creating content is just one step of the journey, though. You also need to get it in front of the right eyeballs. To do this, you need to choose which channels you will use. The content study found these five networks to be most beneficial for B2B companies in terms of organic results:
- LinkedIn (95%)
- Twitter (86%)
- Facebook (83%)
- YouTube (53%)
- Instagram (46%)
Most likely, you've already been on a social media network like Twitter or Facebook. Start there and do research to find out what other networks your target audience uses.
As you do this, an analytics program -- even a free one like Google Analytics -- will help. Here you can see which networks your website traffic comes from and how engaged prospects are. This data will also show you what network has the most potential in terms of paid promotions, if you decide to boost some content or create a special campaign for social media.
5. Identify the Tools You Need
Today, content marketing in B2B is made so much simpler with the use of tools. Some are free, but most come with at least a small monthly subscription fee.
The Marketing Profs-Content Marketing Institute report, laid out the top technologies in which B2B companies invest. The top five tools are...
- Analytics tools (86%)
- Email marketing software (85%)
- Social media publishing analytics (80%)
- Customer relationship management system (65%)
- Content management system (51%)
While this doesn't mean that you'll need to invest in all of these tools, it gives you a guidepost as to what other B2B marketers find useful.
Do your research to see what tools exist on the market today and what will help you to succeed in your B2B content marketing strategy.
6. Create an Email Strategy
Despite the fact that email is one of the leading B2B content marketing strategies, the content marketing study showed that only 45% use content marketing to build a subscribed audience -- which is crucial to email marketing.
Why is this so important? Another study noted that 80% of business professionals believe that email marketing increases customer retention. And another 59% noted that email marketing influences their purchase decisions. So if you do not collect emails, you are essentially forfeiting all this potential.
How can you collect email leads through your content marketing?
First, create a call to action (CTA) on your blog posts that invites people to sign up for your newsletter. This can be a static CTA at the bottom of your post or a pop-up that allows your audience to input their email information directly into a form.
Don't limit yourself to your blog. Include newsletter sign up options at the bottom of your email signature, on social media profiles, and promote it at in-person events.
Another great way to collect email addresses is to use a lead magnet, such as an ebook or white paper. Serious potential leads will view the magnet as valuable enough to exchange their information for it. Promote that valuable content and gate it with a landing page and form that people will fill out before accessing the content as a download.
These are just a few ways that you can turn your content into a lead generation machine -- always working to bring you a larger subscribed audience.
7. Prove Content Marketing ROI
According to the study, while many measured their content marketing strategy, only 43% of respondents reported specifically measuring content marketing ROI.
Why is content marketing ROI important to your business? Many content marketers find it easier to secure budgets when they can prove ROI. If executives within your brand can't directly see how much ROI they receive from their investment in content marketing, they might hesitate to invest more in the future.
To get a good picture of ROI, track the activity on your website from your content marketing efforts. Use landing pages and shortened tracking codes to understand how many people are converting into leads on your site.
As you nurture leads with such content as email marketing and webinars, track how many people eventually become customers.
Proving content marketing ROI is possible if you're willing to put in the effort. And that effort will pay off with increased confidence in your content marketing strategy.
8. Gather a Team
Only 25% of the content marketing survey respondents reported having a dedicated content marketing team.
Having a team in place to create and implement your content helps in a number of ways. For starters, it streamlines the process and makes the quality and quantity of your content more consistent. Plus, when you have a team working closely with you, the team members get to know your brand better, which improves the content they create.
Keep in mind that this doesn't have to be a large team. For a smaller business, this might mean a team of 1-2 people who can create content and steer the strategy int he direction where it needs to go.
If your brand is larger and has the goals of creating more in-depth content, you'll want to scale your team to match it.
9. Be Prepared to Outsource
Outsourcing certain areas of your content marketing strategy can help you to focus your attention on other areas of your strategy. According to the content marketing report, half of all B2B companies outsource some part of their content strategy.
This doesn't mean that you have to release the reins completely. It's still a good idea to be involved in your content strategy. When asked what areas they outsourced, 84% of organizations said content creation, 31% content distribution and another 22% content technology.
Look at areas that are the most time consuming or need more of a skilled hand in order to get the best results. Then look at various options to outsource those tasks. This might be a freelancer or a specialized agency that can work with you to get you the desired results.
10. Monitor Your Metrics
Measurement may be one of the most important parts of content marketing -- after all, if you don't know what's working and what's not, how are you going to make informed decisions?
Measuring content strategy is the gold standard in content marketing across the board. In the recent CMI-Marketing Profs study, 80% of B2B marketers use metrics to measure content performance. And 65% have established KPIs, or key performance indicators.
So what do you need to do? Ouline specific goals for your content, including social media engagement, website traffic and even number purchases. Then it's time to decide which specific metrics will show your progress.
As you go, you will see tactics that work and tactics that don't. The point of measurement is show you so that you can adjust your course to better meet those goals.Another perk to measurement is that you have proof that your content marketing is working. Of the respondents in the content marketing report, 43% specifically measure the ROI of their content marketing. This helps you to show the effectiveness of your strategy and that it is worth the investment.
3 B2B Content Marketing Examples Worthy of Imitation
LinkedIn is a veritable fountain of information -- constantly creating new guides to help its audience, as well as how-to blog posts to encourage visitors to excel on the platform. All this content has made LinkedIn a go-to authority on content marketing. Check out this example of its LinkedIn Content Marketing Tactical Plan
Hootsuite does a great job creating content that speaks to its audience, often plugging into what is on the minds of its audience.
In that same spirit, Hootsuite created a video that hopped on the Game of Thrones craze from a few years ago. It's rather simple -- no words are spoken -- but it gets the point across and sticks with audiences long after they view it.
Shutterstock has provided visual graphics for hundreds of thousands of businesses. This business goes beyond being a simple hub for image downloads and really engages its audience with helpful content. A great example is its yearly Creative Trends Report. Check out this one from 2019, complete with fun imagery, interactive segments and important statistics. It makes Shutterstock an unbeatable authority in its industry year after year.
We hope these B2B content marketing examples and recommendations help you to create a rock solid B2B strategy for your brand.
Have other content marketing recommendations? Feel free to share them in the comments below.
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