There is a growing interest in content marketing in the B2B industry, but it is still challenging to find the strategy that takes you from interest to actual results.
88% of B2B marketers are using content marketing this year, up from 86% in 2015, while 65% of them want to know what makes a content effective.
Despite the intention to create more content (76% of them are planning to do so this year), only 30% of them rate their efforts as effective.
That’s when a structured content marketing strategy is needed and it can be divided in eight steps.
How to create an effective B2B content marketing strategy
1. Create a strategy
A documented content strategy is the first step towards an effective content marketing plan, as it serves as the guide for every stage.
It’s the guide that will take you from awareness to engagement, defining the goals for each stage and how to reach them.
According to Content Marketing Institute, only 32% of B2B marketers have a documented content marketing strategy, despite its benefits in helping them:
- Analyse the effectiveness of content marketing
- Plan every stage in advance
- Boost their confidence with every channel plan
- Justify the business decisions and the marketing budget
However, this doesn’t mean that there should be a template for a content marketing strategy, but it’s still important to document your goals and your expectations from them.
A documented content marketing strategy should include:
- Bigger plans: What are the expectations from content marketing?
- Defining success: What are you monitoring at each stage of the plan?
- Focusing on the audience: What does your audience expect from you? How can you deliver the best content for them?
- Picking the channels: How can you decide on the best channels for your strategy? How does each channel serve your goals and your target audience? Do you need to experiment with new platforms?
- Associating the brand: Is your brand linked on every stage of your marketing efforts? Is the company’s message aligned with your documented strategy?
2. Set the goals and the metrics for each stage
Every piece of content should serve a specific goal and this may differ depending on the stage of the buying cycle.
It has to justify the reasons that you are creating it, and how it can be aligned with the strategy and the target audience.
According to CMI’s yearly report, B2B content marketers are mostly interested in sales lead quality (87%), sales (84%), and higher conversion rates (82%).
Every goal has different metrics to track, but they should all be specific and measurable to facilitate both the creation and the measurement of the content.
For example, if the initial goal is to increase the brand awareness and the general perception of the brand, then the focus is on the traffic, the views, the social discussion, or the referral links.
The metrics are changing though when you are seeking for engagement, as the focus is now placed on the participation of the audience, whether it’s on the blog, or in social media.
When the goal is to increase the leads, the metrics are analysing the conversion rate, the email and blog subscriptions, or the form completions and the downloads.
3. Analyse your buyers
An effective content marketing strategy should carefully consider the target audience, answering the following questions before creating content:
- Do you know your target audience?
- How do they behave online?
- What do they expect from your content?
- What are the best channels to reach them?
- How can you reach your goals?
It may be a good idea to create buyer personas to divide every distinct group you are hoping to reach.
Building personas should not be complicated, but it is still important to understand your audience in a way that the content will be more effective.
How does each buyer proceed from one stage to the next? Is there a way to facilitate the buying process?
4. Identify topics
The analysis of the audience leads to better planning of the content and the right ideas that will suit for each stage.
Every piece of content should be relevant, appealing, valuable to your audience and there are many ways to discover what buyers want from you.
It may be a good start to communicate with the sales department, or the customer service to get a better understanding of the users’ questions, concerns, or even suggestions. What’s more, it may also be helpful to interview existing customers to hear directly from them what type of content they prefer.
When it comes to coming up with new ideas, a combination of keyword research, Google Analytics and Buzzsumo could lead to very useful results.
- Keyword research: it will be a great start to find the right keywords that work better for your industry and even go beyond the most popular ones to find the right fit.
- Google Analytics: take a closer look on your existing content’s performance to understand what the audience likes and how to expand it with new content ideas. Is there an opportunity to re-purpose an older topic? Can you expand on an existing one to add more value?
- Buzzsumo: search tools like Buzzsumo help you analyse the social performance of topics and keywords and it works both for existing content and potential one. This provides a first impression on which stories are already popular and how you could be part of them.
5. Create content
Content creation relies again on the audience and the goals, while every piece of content should:
- solve a problem
- facilitate the purchase decision
- add value
- offer a new perspective to an existing topic
- benefit SEO
There are many types of content and every one of them serves a different role in the sales funnel.
Video and infographics may be useful about raising awareness, while webinars and case studies are moving towards a higher stage of the buying cycle, with loyalty and sales being the ultimate goals.
It should be noted that not every type of content has a clear place in the buying cycle, as social media or email content for example may be part of the first, but also the last stage, depending on the relationship with the customer.
Source: Our Social Times
Consistency is also important when creating new content, and its significance depends on the type of content. Customers are expecting a higher level of consistency for blogs, or podcasts, while they are becoming less demanding with guest posts, ebooks, or research reports.
This can be useful when learning more about the audience and deciding about the frequency of content to ensure a maximised efficiency.
6. Amplify your content
Great content needs to reach the right audience to combine quality and effectiveness. Not every strategy has the same method of amplification, but the most popular ways to promote your content are:
- Social Media
- Email marketing
- Influencer marketing
- Paid advertising
- Targeted content
- Employee promotion
Promotion should align with the documented strategy and a channel plan may be helpful when trying to decide on the best methods of distribution.
- Which method will help you reach your goals?
- Where is your audience?
- Is the content relevant to each platform?
Social media is a popular method of distribution and the large number of available platforms makes the average B2B marketer use 6 social networks for content marketing.
94% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn, and it seems to be the most effective social platform, being followed by Twitter, Youtube, and Slideshare. Facebook came fifth in terms of effectiveness, although it’s third in popularity of usage.
What we can learn is that there’s no need to create a social presence in every platform if it doesn’t fit the content marketing strategy. As with content creation, distribution should be tailored to the specific needs of the strategy and the targeted audience.
When it comes to paid advertising, search engine marketing is the most popular tactic, but it’s also the most effective one, according to B2B marketers. It’s about understanding how search engines analyse the content and what you can do to increase your ranking position.
Promoted posts seem to be more effective than social and native advertising and it serves as a great reminder on why a company should experiment with more methods until it finds the best ones that works for its strategy.
7. Analyse performance
It’s crucial for a content marketing strategy to be measured for its effectiveness, depending on the initial goals for each stage and the KPIs that were set throughout the process.
The metrics may include:
- sales lead quality
- high conversion rates
- sales lead quantity
- website traffic
- brand lift
- SEO ranking
- customer renewal rates
- purchase intent
- subscriber growth
All of them can tell whether a content strategy has been effective, but it’s the sales lead quality and the actual sales that make the most important measured goals for B2B marketers.
High conversion is also important, while SEO ranking and the subscribers’ growths don’t seem to be equally popular in B2B marketing.
B2B marketing is more about sales, lead generation and conversion as it tends to be more goal-oriented in content marketing. This may be cost-effective, provided that success is measured with the right KPIs.
It’s easy to forget the set goals and their KPIs when an unexpected success occurs, which may lead in misleading results.
For example, if you create an ebook to gain subscribers and generate leads, but notice that it ultimately brings a great number of social mentions, without gaining the desired leads, then your efforts cannot be considered successful, at least not in the stage that you were hoping them to be.
This may be due to:
- wrong set goals
- wrong distribution
- wrong audience
This may be the indication that it’s time to re-evaluate your strategy to align your expectations with the results of your content marketing efforts.
8. Seek for new content opportunities
Content marketing is a long term investment and it should not stop at the measurement of its effectiveness. Its success indicates further opportunities for your content and it gives you the right guidance on what to create next.
Which was the most successful format in your strategy?
How can you turn your content evergreen or repurpose it?
Can you expand an existing topic for further success?
All the above questions combine an analysis of the results and the desire to be creative and come up with new ideas that will maintain the success of a content marketing strategy.
There’s no need to abandon a successful piece of content if you can find new opportunities to use it, whether it’s a new format, a new channel, or even a new audience.
There are many steps involved in a successful content marketing strategy, but they shouldn’t be complicated, or time-consuming. One step at a time may lead to surprising results, provided that:
- the strategy is documented
- the audience is properly understood
- the goals are set
- the content is relevant to the audience and the goals
- the metrics indicate the right measurement for the set goals