How to Develop A B2B Content Marketing Strategy That Skyrockets Your Revenue
What pops up in your head when I say B2B content marketing strategy? A blog? SEO? Not bad.
While these are the most common components of a content strategy, we’re barely scratching the surface here. Strategic content marketing is a little more complex, but pays off in a big way.
Take the example of business insurance company, Simply Business UK. Their main content hub, the Knowledge Centre, drives massive traffic to their website and helps them capture thousands of emails.
Here’s a peek at their numbers: One of their most successful content campaigns, a series on legal documents, garnered 100,000 unique visitors, captured 40,000 emails, and received over 100 external backlinks.
It’s not just about traffic and backlinks though, content marketing has helped them boost conversions too.
Reveals editorial manager Bonny Dellow, “Our data team have conducted analysis that proves a direct correlation between the number of Knowledge articles engaged with, and their propensity to convert.”
So, how does Simply Business UK, and so many other B2B companies come up with a killer content strategy?
To find out, I interviewed a number of these businesses as well as content strategists that have cracked the formula.
In this article, I lay out all the insights I’ve gained in my research as well as a ton of actionable tips you can use to come up with own content strategy from scratch.
In this post, you will learn how to:
- Create Content Your Audience Craves
- Create Content for Each Stage of the Funnel
- Develop a Unique Voice for Your Content
- Choose a Unique Angle for Your Content
- Establish a Content Distribution Strategy
- Organize Your Content Strategy
- Measure Your Content’s ROI
Create Content Your Audience Craves
Getting the pulse of your audience is the first step to building a solid B2B content marketing strategy. Just as your product exists to solve a problem for your users, your content should too.
The Zendesk blog is a great example of this. Right from team management to reducing customer churn, it is chockablock with information to help customer service representatives excel at their job.
Says Zendesk editor, Andrew Gori,
“We don’t focus too heavily on the product or company, but instead try to create content that will help customer support leaders be better at their jobs. Many people discover Zendesk through the blog. If we’re doing our jobs right, they’ll see us as trusted experts and will dig in deeper to our content.”
Your target audience should be at the core of your content efforts, or you’ll never see any results.
Where does audience research for a B2B company start?
First and foremost, you want to focus on the people at your target companies who will buy your product. In Zendesk’s case, these happen to be customer support leaders.
You want to find out what your target audience’s job role is and how senior they are in the company. Remember, high-level executives will need content different from say, mid-level management.
Next, you need to find out what their challenges and goals are, what content they would need to do their jobs better.
This sounds fairly straightforward if you’re targeting a single type of audience, such as customer service reps. But what if your audience is incredibly diverse, as is the case with most B2B businesses?
Simply Business UK insures over 1,000 different types of businesses, was faced with a similar conundrum.
Here’s how they overcome this:
“We often group audiences by common themes. Depending on individual content campaigns, that can be anything from location to how long someone’s been trading.” – Dellow
If you take a look at their Knowledge Centre, you’ll find articles in various categories such as landlord, tradesman, insurance and property maintenance.
When doing audience research don’t just focus on what your readers want to read about, but also which platforms they’re mostly likely to discover and share your content on.
Says B2B marketer Carlos Hidalgo,
“There is no sense in creating content assets and using a certain channel to distribute the content, if your customers and buyers do not use this channel.”
Ready to get to know your audience better? Here are the best ways to get you started:
1. Conduct keyword research
Commonly known as SEO, this is a sure shot way of creating content your audience is looking for. If you’re not sure where to start, this article has a good resource on keyword research.
2. Talk to customers
You’ll be surprised at how many of them are willing to discuss their challenges with you, if you simply ask. Get on a call with them if you can, and ask them what they’re struggling with.
3. Conduct surveys
You may have to offer an incentive such as a gift card for customers to take any of these, but it’s worth a shot. Time these in a way that they’ll happily agree, such as just after you’ve answered one of their complaints.
4. Tap into online communities and conversations
Sites such as Reddit and Quora, and social media groups are hotbeds for audience research. Just pay attention to the most upvoted conversations and questions, and you’ll glean a ton of useful info.
Create Content for Each Stage of the Funnel
A good B2B content strategy has so many moving pieces, other than a blog. Ultimately, you want content to drive revenue and different pieces of content help take a reader from prospect to buyer.
A blog helps prospects discover your website, who you can turn into subscribers using signup forms. This is called “top of the funnel” content, for customers in the awareness stage.
Content such as product pages, white-papers, e-books, newsletters, testimonials, informs them about your product and engages them. This is called “middle of the funnel”, where you build a relationship with prospects.
Finally, there’s the bottom of the funnel, where you’ve converted prospects into customers. Its time to send them thank you emails, onboarding materials and make sure they go on to become power users.
Let’s take a look at Simply Business UK again.
Its Knowledge Centre forms the core of its content marketing strategy and receives well over 200,000 unique visits each month. It has several product pages, depending upon type of trade and type of business.
It also includes several articles and micro-sites that cater to small businesses such as Google My Business Guide and GooglePlus for Small Businesses.
A large chunk of traffic to the Knowledge Centre comes from search, says Dellow, “Evergreen search content forms the basis of our content strategy. We’re also listed in Google news, and receive strong surges in traffic from this.”
The Knowledge Centre is the first touch point that prospects have with Simply Business, and helps them capture thousands of leads that they re-market and eventually sell to. That’s not all.
“Our Knowledge Centre makes up a huge chunk of our external backlinks, which increases our overall domain authority, and thus the performance of product landing pages in organic search.” – Dellow
Other than the Knowledge Centre articles, product pages, and micro-sites, they also have three newsletters.
“We have an incredibly engaged database of customers and prospects, and our monthly newsletter – along with planned individual campaigns – receive industry leading open and click through rates,” shares Dellow.
As you can see, a good content strategy not only drives traffic but also converts them into leads you can sell to.
How do you decide which components to include in your own strategy, though?
B2B marketer Samantha Stone suggests gaining a deep understanding of your audience first.
“Not only do you want to consider how your audience likes to consume content, but you also must take into account how and where others are covering topics similar to your themes. For example, if there are hundreds of blog articles written each month on your key topic, but only a handful of podcasts, you may want to focus your initial efforts on establishing a podcast rhythm.”
A blog, podcast, or YouTube channel will form the core of your B2B content marketing strategy. Your core supports the top of the funnel traffic, or prospects who might not necessarily buy your product, but will remember you, just in case. Core content should ideally bring thousands of visitors to your website and compel them enough to become subscribers or sign up for a trial.
Other than the core, you want to develop pieces of content that will convince customers to sign up for a trial or your email list. This could be anything from whitepapers and e-books, to webinars and courses.
Once they subscribe to your content, you can coax them further with product-related articles and offers. At times, prospects might need additional information that will compel them to buy your product. Stone explains this with an example:
“I was working with a software company that sold to system administrators. Buyer research uncovered that while their customers loved the product, the users had no budget authority. Instead of throwing lots of money and effort trying to get attention by the budget approvers, we decided to teach the user who loved the software how to make a business case. We built a “champion kit” that was a huge success.”
Here are some popular content types to consider for your own strategy:
1. Core content
Your core could be a blog, a video series, a podcast, or even a Medium blog. How do you select which one though? It depends on two factors: how your audience best likes to consume content, and if there are any gaps in the content that already exists. You can find answers to both these with audience and competitor research discussed in other sections of this post.
2. Supporting content
These can be ebooks, webinars, or white papers, that entice customers to become subscribers to your content.They are often called “lead magnets”.
3. Evaluation stage content
At the evaluation stage, customers are researching different purchase options and figuring out whether or not you’re the right fit for them. The types of content you want to create here include case studies, testimonials, how-to content, and product reviews.
4. Content for education and retention
While onboarding customers, you want to show them tutorials, demos, product descriptions and guide them to achieve more with your product. Once they’re settled in, keep them engaged with relevant blog posts, email outreach, help documentation and excellent customer support.
Develop a Unique Voice for Your Content
Buzzfeed is quirky and sensational, Lifehacker is light-hearted and insightful, while Wired is detailed and meticulous. What gives these publications such distinct characteristics?
They have each honed and developed their voice to such an extent that we know exactly what to expect from them. If you want your content to be memorable as well, you need to hone your own unique voice.
Take Wistia, for example. When they write content for their blog or social media, they start by asking themselves a few questions, says Jenny Mudarri, Content Marketing Manager at Wistia.
“How can businesses use video to be more human? How can you make your videos better, more effective, and more beautiful? Viewing our content through that lens helps us make the right decisions about what to write and also gives us the opportunity to act fast and say no to pieces that don’t fit that vision.”
It helps to have a clear vision about the purpose of your content, so each piece helps you fulfill that. Think of what your content will help a user achieve and make sure each piece lives up to that promise.
Another thing that helps is having content guidelines to adhere to.
Camille Ricketts, Head of Content at First Round Capital, suggests in an AMA, “It’s very helpful to have a central thesis/bar that guides ALL the content you produce. For us, that principle is in our Manifesto. Everything we write will include advice/actionable tactics that can be applied immediately to help a reader improve their company or career.”
Your content guidelines should include key components that each of your pieces must include. For FRR, that happens to be actionable advice. In your case, it might be that all your pieces are written in the first person, or that each piece must include an expert interview.
Finally, a key factor while developing your voice is to keep your users in mind. In fact, MailChimp is so obsessed with using the right tone and voice with customers that they have a whole website dedicated to it!
Here’s what it says:
“Before you write for MailChimp, it’s important to think about our readers. Though our voice doesn’t change much, our tone adapts to our users’ feelings. This guide will show you how that works.”
For their blog, they recommend using a casual tone with a sense of humor. Other tips include teaching users something with every post, and treating their readers like smart, tech-savvy individuals.
Its important to speak to readers in a voice they understand. Research your audience well, so you don’t end up oversimplifying or complicating your content.
Choose a Unique Angle for Your Content
There’s more content available today than ever, and users are spoiled for choice.
If there’s at least some demand for your product, chances are, it has been written about before. In that case, how do you differentiate yourself?
Customer service software Zendesk faced a similar problem. With so many customer service blogs out there, they chose not to look for unique topics, but to add a unique spin to commonly searched topics.
“The number one thing that differentiates us from other customer service blogs is our access to customer service experts; Zendesk employees, partners, and customers,” says blog editor Andrew Gori.
“A person might be looking for information about the “follow the sun” model of customer support, and find dozens and dozens of articles. But the articles that appear on Zendesk will have been written with help from professionals who have been building and maintaining follow the sun for years.” – Gori
Another way they differentiate their content is original research. Their most popular piece, What’s your type? 4 types of customer service operations is an example of this.
“It’s a totally original idea that asks support leaders to take something they do all the time, benchmarking, and look at it through an entirely different lens,” shares Gori.
Simply Business also leans heavily on data-driven content. Says Bonny Dellow,
“In 2017, we’ve made a real effort to create data-led content. With a wealth of data at our disposal, we’re able to give incredible insights on the issues that matter to our audience.”
As a B2B company, you might be privy to a number of interesting trends in your industry. What better way to leverage this data than present it to your customers as content?
Here’s how you can make your content unique and memorable:
1. Study your competitors
Before setting out to create something different, you need to know what’s out there. Take a look at your competitors’ website and note down the content formats they create (blogs, product pages, case studies, white papers, webinars, videos and the like) and their most popular pieces of content.
To find out their most shared content as well as popular content types in a particular niche, use BuzzSumo.
For a list of keywords that your competitors are ranking for, use a tool like SEMRush or Ahrefs. While the basic versions offer limited features, they do offer free and paid trials, if you’d like to try all features.
Finally, Moz’ Open Keyword Explorer allows you to find backlinks (links on external websites) to your competitor’s content.
2. Look for the unique value you can add
Once you examine a couple of competitors, you’ll find that maybe there aren’t enough white papers about your topic, or not too many e-books. Other than that, you’ll also notice content gaps in your industry. Even if the topics have been covered, maybe they lack original research, or facts and figures, or a scientific approach. This is an opportunity to create original content.
Establish a Content Distribution Strategy
Your content is only as good as the number of people that see it.
Don’t expect people to magically appear once you start publishing. To ensure your content reaches far and wide, put a content promotion strategy in place.
There are so many places to promote content, it’s easy to promote everywhere and get results from nowhere. Instead, you need to focus your efforts on developing a single channel that gets you most traction.
Almost every marketer I spoke to had a single channel of promotion that worked best for them. For Zendesk and Wistia, social media is a major promotion channel, while Simply Business leans heavily on SEO.
When you’re just kicking off your promotion efforts, it pays to follow your audience. Take a look at the platforms where they hang out most, where they’re most likely to share your content, and formats they share content in (images, infographics, videos).
In the long-term though, you want to develop your own promotional assets. The two best ways to get recurring traffic for your content are SEO and email. While algorithms and new platforms can quickly usurp whatever authority you’ve developed on social media, these two channels will ensure steady traffic for your content.
For resources on SEO and email marketing, check the additional reading section.
For building up some initial momentum, Camille Ricketts of First Round Capital, has some useful suggestions:
If your content is good enough to be featured in large publications such as Huffington Post and Business Insider, it can drive valuable traffic back to your own site.
2. Platforms with network effect
It’s easier to build a following on platforms such as LinkedIn, Medium or Quora, as they already have an audience. Once you build a sizeable following on any of these, it will be easier to drive traffic back to your own site.
If any of your investors, fans or community members have a large following, it can help to have them promote your content.
It’s important to remember that content promotion is not an activity you should leave to post-publishing. Here are the four stages of promotion that each of your pieces should go through:
Once you discover your major channels of promotion, double down your efforts on those platforms and pretty soon, you won’t need to invest as much time promoting your content. Your existing audience will do the job.
Organize Your B2B Content Marketing Strategy
If you don’t want your content marketing strategy to be one big confusing mess, you need a content planning system in place. This ensures you have enough content lined up for each stage of the funnel and for specific occasions (such as a new product launch).
While there are a number of dedicated content planners available, you need one that meets the following criteria:
- Allows collaboration. A number of people will be working on your content creation, so your content planner should make this a breeze.
- Shows progress at a glance. You want to be able to see quickly how far your team has progressed, who is working on what and when it will be completed.
- Lets you set due dates and deadlines. Some systems might allow this, while some won’t.
As far as dedicated planners go, CoSchedule is a popular one. There are others too, such as Gather Content and Kapost.
Other than these, you can also use good old Spreadsheets or even Trello if that works for your team.
For instance, take a look at how Buffer plans content for its various blogs:
No matter which tool you use, include the following details on your content planner:
- Piece of content (Blog,ebook, webinar, video, email series, etc.)
- Due date
- Purchase cycle stage (awareness, consideration, purchase)
- Graphics and media
At every content meeting, review the performance of each piece of content you create and how you can improve on it. Tweak your content calendar to create more of what works and ditch content that isn’t working.
Measure Your Content’s ROI
Most marketers are content with measuring vanity metrics such as social shares to gauge their content’s success. A viral article is great for brand awareness, but it doesn’t necessarily pay the bills.
Your content should drive revenue or it isn’t a good investment.
To that end, it is important to track content metrics that are directly related to your business goals.
For instance, Jennifer Pepper, Marketing Manager at Unbounce, shares,
“Primarily, with content focused on the top of funnel, we look at 1) the number of people who become subscribers to our content, and from there, how many we can nurture into leads (both marketing qualified and sales qualified), and 2) we look at how many new trial subscriptions of our product can be attributed to having interacted with the blog, or a content piece.”
New subscribers and trial subscriptions are a good measure of how well your content convinces your audience to take action.
Marketer Carlos Hidalgo tracks the following for his content campaigns:
“1. Overall content engagement: how many times is the specific piece of content engaged with by target buyers
2. Content Conversion: Is the content contributing to a conversion to the next stage of the process
3. Channel Performance: What is the performance of the channel we are using to promote the content
4. Content ROI Performance: How is the content performing in generating revenue as part of the larger program”
Engagement is directly related to conversion, the more your buyers engage with your content, the more likely they are to convert.
Here’s how you can start tracking your content’s performance:
1. Set specific content goals
The table below lists some common goals you can have for your content and relevant metrics to track:
|End Goal||Metrics to Track||Goal for each month||Activities for each month|
|Increase brand awareness||
|Drive traffic to website||
|Generate sales leads||
2. Set up tracking tools on your website
Google Analytics provides a wealth of information about your content. Most content metrics such as New Users, Session Duration, Bounce Rates, and Content Conversions can be found on your Google Analytics dashboard.
If you haven’t already, be sure to install Google Analytics tracking for your website so you can get access to this data. If you’re unsure how to navigate Google Analytics, CoSchedule has a great guide to get you started.
3. Track social media performance
Social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook come with native analytics where you can see the performance of your posts. You can also use dedicated tools such as Followerwonk, Cyfe and Quintly to track your social media channels.
Starting a blog or any other content channel without a well-documented content marketing strategy is a recipe for failure. Make sure you take the time to figure out what content your audience needs, how you can give that unique edge to your content, and finally, how you can get your content in front of maximum readers.
Have you tried to come up with a content strategy for your business? Do share in the comments below.