I’m not going to sit here and preach to the choir about that.
But, I am going to preach to you about the importance of strategy–something that just 37% of brands who do content marketing have in place.
A B2B content marketing strategy gives you a solid understanding of where your content is heading.
The problem with not having one? You’ve got zero plan of action, zero goals, and zero ways to reach them. It’s like going to Vegas and betting your mortgage on a big payday. Sure, you might strike it big, but your gamble might be a dud.
You don’t want that to happen when you’re ploughing blood, sweat, tears (and cash) to produce incredible content, right?
Here are nine steps you’ll need to follow to create a B2B content marketing strategy–and prevent that worst-case scenario from becoming a reality.
1. Define your objectives
To create a B2B content marketing strategy that gets results, you first need to know exactly what results you’re aiming for. To do this, ask yourself what you hope to achieve with the content you’re producing.
Your answer might be one of these:
- Increase sales
- Attract new customers
- Retain existing customers
- Build brand awareness, authority and reputation
Aim for something concrete–a result you can observe, track, and tweak through content marketing.
Bonus points if you can put a figure to your objective. For example: “Increase leads by 15%” or “get 1,000 social shares”.
But, be warned: You can’t stick your finger in the wind and run with the first answer. Your content marketing objectives need align with your company-wide goals. Otherwise, you’ll have a tough job proving the return on your investment (more on that later).
2. Know your capabilities
It’s all well and good to work towards aspirations with your content marketing, but you need to be mindful–and more importantly, realistic.
You’ll need to think about how much resource you’ve got to plough into content marketing, and assess whether your answer ties into to realistically reaching your objective.
Think about how much time and money you’re working with, first.
For example: If you’re managing a team of 10 content marketers, three articles per week might be achievable. But it might not be for a team of one, without the budget to hire a freelance content writer.
If this is your first foray into content marketing, start small–especially if your content team is new, or your team is still small.
You don’t want to bite off more than you can chew, and be disappointed when you don’t reach unrealistic goals.
3. Learn about your audience
No matter how clearly your goals are defined, your content needs to be marketed at your target audience.
There’s not much point in creating tons of content targeting small business owners if your ideal customer is a Fortune 500 CEO, right?
Just take Filevine, for example. They’re a company who case management software to lawyers–meaning they need to understand the issues lawyers deal with (the need to manage clients’ case files), and how their solution overcomes lawyers’ pain-points.
That shows in their whitepapers:
Do this for your own company by factoring buyer persona creation into your B2B content marketing strategy.
This document details every common trait that your ideal customer has, including:
- Demographics: Age, education, career
- Company: Size, industry or niche, revenue, number of employees
- Role: Job title, skills specific to it, function (do they report to senior leaders or are they in a managerial role?), key metrics that matter
- Challenges: What issues or pain points does your persona frequently encounter?
- Goals and responsibilities
- Learning habits: What kind of content do they find valuable? How do they stay informed about industry developments?
- Buying habits: Does your persona conduct research before making a purchase? How? Do they like dealing with sales reps?
Notice how much information you can use, and how detailed you can get with your content, by using buyer personas? It’s 10x better than guessing.
But before you rush off and let your imagination run wild, listen to me when I say this:
Creating buyer personas shouldn’t be guesswork. They need to be accurate, true-to-life and built on data you’ve already got about current customers.
Otherwise, it’s a total waste of time. (And if you hadn’t guessed, we don’t have time to waste.)
So, look at every bit of data you can get your paws on, including:
- Customer survey feedback
- Client onboarding forms
- Google Analytics information
Take that data to craft true-to-life buyer personas, and you’ll exactly what type of customer is drawn to what you’re offering–allowing you to focus your entire B2B content marketing strategy to them.
4. Determine the type of content to produce
If you’ve got solid buyer personas, you’ll know which type of content your target audience want.
You don’t want to create content that’s never gonna be consumed.
The best part about this step? It’s not rocket science.
Go straight to the horse’s mouth and ask your customers which type of content they prefer to consume. That could be anything from:
- Blog posts
- Original research
- eBooks or whitepapers
- Case studies
If 50% of your audience like video, 30% like blog posts and 20% like case studies, you’ve got a proportion of where your time and resource should be used.
Databox found the majority of content marketers would focus on blogging, video, and long-form guides if they were starting their strategy from scratch:
5. Decide on a publishing schedule
Next up, you’ll need to decide on a publishing schedule based on the capabilities and objectives you decided on earlier.
Why? Because you need to be consistent. Publishing on a schedule, rather than willy-nilly, lets you build a loyal army of fans. They’ll circle back to your site when a new piece of content is expected.
But I’m comin’ atcha with another warning: Don’t sacrifice quality.
More and more, your customers are facing a barrage of daily content. Over 2 million blog posts are published each day, so it’s important that your content demonstrates value—even if you’re not publishing every week.
You already understand your customers and buyer personas, so take a look at your Google Analytics data and find out:
- The time/day people are most likely to visit (using the ‘Hourly’ filter)
- How many pieces of content they view in one visit (using Behavior Flows)
Then, think about your buyer personas. Do they follow any seasonal trends, or have needs at specific times of the year? Since you already understand your audience, you know what days, times, and even seasons or holidays, matter most to them.
Put together a content calendar based on that information, which lays out your publishing plan in sync with your objectives.
Include the type of content you’re creating, the deadline, and the person who’s owning it. This will give you a clear view of content in your pipeline, helping it to get done on time (and stop it from getting lost).
Remember: It’s always better to start small and be realistic, then increase production over time.
6. Build a content team
As you implement your B2B content marketing strategy, it might become apparent to you that you need the help of a team.
After all, it does take the average company four hours and 24 minutes to write a blog post (from start to finish):
The time commitment quickly adds up.
Is that time you have to spare? And if so, can you set that time aside to write as many pieces of content as your calendar calls for?
You’ll need to build a team to answer “yes” to both.
Start by establishing the person responsible for your entire strategy. This is likely to be a CMO, but someone needs to be accountable for establishing systems–and more importantly, helping a team stick to it.
Then, build out a content production team. Hiring in-house or freelance content writers and other professionals can free up your time manage your content marketing, and focus on your area of expertise. (62% of businesses outsource their content marketing, so you’re in good company.)
7. Know how to create stellar content
Once you’ve ironed out the nitty-gritty details of your B2B content marketing strategy, it’s time to start creating stellar content. That’s the entire point of this plan, right?
All good B2B copywriting starts with a research phase. Ask yourself:
- What are your competitors doing and how are they doing it?
- What existing content have you already created that could be built upon and improved?
- What are my buyer personas searching for online?
Your answers to those will give you a long list of content ideas.
Then, work on a headline. Your headline should entice a reader to click-through (especially if your aim is to rank highly in organic search), and read. It should tell readers exactly what to expect from the content–without clickbait. Nobody likes that.
As for the content itself, aim for two things: Being genuine and valuable.
Use data and research to back up your claims and provide references for your readers. Remember the aim isn’t to sell with content; it’s to educate, teach and build authority. Those three things lead to trust, which leads to sales.
It’s a loop you need to get in.
Your content should also be written in the same tone and style your buyer persona is familiar with. It’s okay to break some of the writing rules you learned in school.
(Just take a look through this post and you’ll find I’ve broken tons of them.)
Writing in a way familiar to your readers matters more than using “sophisticated” language that erases your personality. Your content should be an extension of your–and your customers’–natural language.
Finally, write only as much as you need to. While long-form content outperforms shorter content by over 40%, not all topics lend themselves to a 5,000-word essay.
If 500 words will serve your audience better, write 500 words.
8. Create a promotion plan of action
There’d be no point to producing content if it’s not going to be seen.
The sad reality is: 91% of content gets no traffic from Google. But if you’ve worked on piecing together a solid B2B content marketing strategy, you can increase the likelihood of being the 9% that does.
Backlinks are a requirement for higher rankings. And if you’re producing useful, valuable and unique content that’s optimized for a keyword, there’s no reason why you can’t start to rake them in.
(I’ve got six email outreach templates here, if you’re brave enough to ask for them.)
Social shares are important, too. But here’s the thing: If your content is valuable, people are going to want to share it.
How many times have you been sent a link to an interesting article from a friend because they knew you’d appreciate it? 49% of readers share content to inform others of products they care about. If your content is valuable and engaging, it’s going to be shared.
That’s what you want to aim for.
Get more social shares on your content by:
- Including share buttons on your content using a tool like Social Warfare
- Sending emails to people you’ve linked-to, and asking them to consider sharing it with their network
- Getting quotes from influencers, and asking them to share when it goes live
- Submitting your content to Quuu Promote
9. Measure your content’s ROI
With your content marketing strategy in place, the final step is to measure its ROI.
Did you meet your objectives? If not, how far were you off?
That might be hard to calculate–especially since B2B buyers have long sales processes, and content marketing is a long-term game. People are unlikely to buy after consuming one piece.
So, how do you do measure the ROI of your content? The answer depends on your goals:
- Google Analytics data: for engagement, traffic, and conversions (using conversion paths)
- SEMrush: for keyword rankings
- Your email provider: for sign-ups
- Social Animal*: for social shares
If you met your goals, congratulations! Set the bar higher and start working towards those.
If you didn’t meet your goals, figure out why. Were your goals too unrealistic? Did you not stick to your content calendar? Don’t you have as much time as you expected? Create new goals based on your answers.
Handing over to you…
Are you ready to spin the wheels on your B2B content marketing strategy?
Remember to build your strategy around concrete buyer personas, create content with the best chances of performing well, and never compromise quality for quantity.
Granted, it can take a while to tweak and refine your strategy, but it’s a small price to pay for a traffic, lead and enquiry-generating machine!
NOTE: This post includes affiliate links, meaning I get commission if you purchase from links with an asterisk (*). But please remember I only recommend tools I personally use and recommend; I wouldn’t point you to a tool I don’t use.
See my full disclosure here.