It's a big ol' B2B marketing world out there, and getting your content to rise above everything else is no small feat. Of course, it's not just a matter of rising above but, just as importantly, engaging your audience and propelling it down the funnel brick road.
I've talked about inbound strategies in the past, how high-quality, valuable content can make your B2B messaging world go 'round. But just having great content isn't the finish line. Sure, it's a heckuva head start, but you need something more, some inside tips to really shine the spotlight on your blogs, gorgeous content offers, and every other component of your content strategy.
Well, it just so happens that I've picked up a few such tricks in my day, and continue to use them daily at our agency. And because I'd like to see you succeed, my fellow marketer-at-arms, I want to share some of my B2B content marketing strategies with you. Some we've discussed before, others will be brand new to you. I do promise, however, that all of them can be powerful weapons in your fight for content strategy supremacy.
1. Rely on Your Buyer Personas
It's tough to engage your audience if you don't know who they are to begin with. When it comes to your B2B content marketing strategy, not knowing your audience means you're basically creating content for people without understanding their goals, issues, or buying criteria.
That's why buyer personas are so important for B2B marketers. They flesh out your ideal customers, bring them out of the shadows, and allow you to focus your content on their specific needs. Otherwise, all you're doing is preaching to the masses with no idea if your message is hitting home.
But building accurate and insightful buyer personas is an acquired skill for content marketers, at least if you want to get them right. That's exactly why we developed our B2B Buyer Persona Template – so you wouldn't have to reinvent the wheel to tap into the marketing power of a detailed and reliable set of personas.
Whether you use our template or create them on your own, however, accuracy and relevance are absolutely critical in helping you create content on topics that your ideal customer profiles care about most. This is the only way to ensure that your writing from a perspective that will resonate with your target B2B customer segments.
2. Map the Buyer's Journey
Building on those well-defined personas, it's essential to map the buyer's journey – which aligns with your own sales process – for each of those personas. Start with the challenges and issues they are facing and map out your content into a set of steps that will help them address those issues.
This occurs over a sequence of content that builds on top of itself, starting with the lowest hanging fruit – the issue that brought the customer to your content in the first place – but then progressing through potential solutions. Ultimately, you want to arrive at a specific solution that you think best fits the customer's needs. Along the way, you're educating that customer at each stage of the buying process on what product or service features they should look for in their solution.
It's not a coincidence that mapping the buyer's journey is similar to the process of creating conversion paths across your content. As you educate and inform the potential buyer, you are simultaneously progressing them through the sales funnel.
3. Blog Content
I've said it before, and I'll say it again – blogging is your content awesome sauce. In fact, going back to the previous point on mapping the buyer's journey, a finely tuned series of blogs discussing a customer's specific issue is the best way to pave those conversion paths. Sure, that approach takes a good amount of research and effort, but it also gives you the best chance at educating your audience, building brand awareness, and establishing yourself as an expert on the topic.
To help you build this intertwining web of blogs, tap into the insights of your product leadership and salespeople. They can discuss the most common issues that your audience faces, therefore, giving you content ideas that you can build from. Those ideas become the building blocks for your conversion paths and buyer's journey mapping.
4. Pillars & Clusters
Like it or not, Google favors the know-it-alls, the B2B companies it perceives to have expertise in a particular industry or on a specific topic. As such, those companies will rank better than others, meaning they'll also get the lion's share of traffic. But how do you convince Google that you're one of those know-it-alls? Through pillar pages and cluster topics, that's how.
Yes, as I said, blogs alone can help on the ranking front, but think of pillar pages as superblogs, just without a cape or colorful spandex suit. Pillar pages act as a hub of content, supported by cluster topics that support the pillar. Think of the clusters as spokes to a wheel, where the pillar is the center of that wheel. When you build a pillar page – along with the supporting clusters, of course – on the topics most important to your B2B audience, Google is more apt to recognize you as a thought leader. And that's when the good stuff starts to happen.
Sticking with the Google motif, keywords are another important factor in getting your content to rank well. This particular best practice has changed quite a bit over the years, where it's now more about the quality of your keywords than the quantity. If you indiscriminately keyword stuff a blog at this point, Google is going to spot it from a digital mile away. You'll be shunned and forced to wear a dunce cap, and all the other marketers will laugh at you. Well, you get the idea. Keyword stuffing is a definite no-no.
Instead, rely on Google's uncanny ability to derive a searcher's intent from their search terms. Yes, keywords are still relevant, but it's more a matter of choosing the right topic than strictly the words themselves. I use Keywords Everywhere as a guidance tool, where the keywords serve as a gauge on search volume. SEMRush is another popular choice for this function, but both can point you in the right direction when it comes time to choose topics. From there, integrate the right keywords – or variations of them – into the natural flow of each piece, and you'll be right as rain.
6. A Data-Driven Strategy
Would you go on a road trip without checking Waze or Google Maps every once in a while to make sure you're heading in the right direction? Probably not. The same premise holds for your B2B content marketing. Tracking the results of your efforts is the only way to make decisions on optimizing your content or even creating new content.
For instance, if you look at your data and see that a ton of traffic is heading to a particular topic, doesn't it make sense to focus on that topic more? Especially if it's something you haven't devoted a significant amount of time and resources on? This data-driven strategy also works on the conversion side of things. If you're getting significant traffic but not the corresponding conversions or, at the very least, qualified leads, then something is gumming up the works.
Maybe you need more emphatic CTAs, or perhaps a gated piece of content – a webinar, white paper, case study, product demo, infographic, or something else of value – that will be enough to convince the user to provide you with their contact information. A data-driven strategy to your B2B content marketing gives you a much-needed sense of direction for better lead generation.
7. Publish & Share Your Content Elsewhere
Your brilliant content should know no boundaries. Once again, it's a big ol' world out there, one that offers many other content channels than just your own website. From social media to industry publications – and quite a few places in between – there are plenty of places for you to grab the attention of your audience. That doesn't mean, however, that you should randomly throw your content out into the wind and hope for the best. As usual, you want to use a deliberate strategy to distribute your insights as effectively as possible.
This approach obviously includes social media, but I caution you to fight instincts and avoid the carpet-bombing approach that can work for B2C content. The truth is, at least in the B2B world, there aren't a ton of ways to truly engage your customers through social media. Unless you're willing to devote an immense amount of time to Twitter and Facebook for social shares, your best bet for sharing your B2B content on social media is LinkedIn.
Granted, even LinkedIn isn't perfect, but it gives you a far better chance of getting the post views and social shares that your content deserves, primarily due to the nature of the user base. Thanks to the platform's targeting features, you can hone in on target customers, refining your delivery by personas and specific affinities. With LinkedIn, instead of casting a wide net and hoping to catch a few quality fish like other platforms, you're on a rod-and-reel, using the right kind of bait and tackle. And, yes, that's a weird analogy, but you catch my drift.
Medium & Trade Publications
Medium is another appealing outlet for your content that doesn't require much effort on your part for additional content promotion. While posting an article on LinkedIn or Medium doesn't give you the chance to embed big & bold CTAs, you can still use internal links to establish a conduit back to your website and content library.
Trade publications are also a potentially lucrative home for your content since their audiences are already very specific. If there are a few such websites out there that align well with your core customers, I suggest establishing a relationship with the editors for each. Introduce yourself, explain that you already have some content that you think their readers will benefit from, and see where it goes. With a wee bit of luck and some determination, you can often establish a publishing schedule with trade publications, where they agree to run a blog every month or quarter. Just be sure to adhere to their guidelines, always provide value to the readers, and mind your SEO.
I'm not sure if it's the perceived ill will between sales teams and marketing folk, but salespeople are an invaluable asset in a content marketing strategy that too few B2B marketers actively use. Your sales team is already speaking to the exact audience that you're creating for, so it just makes sense to piggyback on their efforts.
Of course, you’re also helping them in the process by providing types of content that they can use to reach out to the customers in a very genuine and unobtrusive way. Likewise, as I said before, your salespeople can also help you create ideas for new content. A simple monthly meeting with your sales team, preferably in-person to build camaraderie, can serve as a great brainstorming session where you discuss customer objections and content creation to address those pain points.
These meetings can also inform a monthly newsletter to send to your email list of current and potential customers. In these emails, you can discuss solutions and bring up new ideas to help the audience with any problems they might be experiencing.
9. Repurpose Your Content
Lastly, your content can also help drive your messaging across the full spectrum of the digital landscape. Have a blog that drove a lot of traffic? Well, chances are that topic will probably do well in other content types and channels as well. Grab your smartphone and film yourself – perhaps with a colleague – discussing that topic and upload it to YouTube.
You can also rip the audio off of that video stream and easily turn it into a podcast. To leverage the bite-size nature of social media, you can also slice and dice that video into a bunch of snippets that would fit in perfectly on different social media platforms. This approach allows you to blanket all of your target channels – your website, video content, podcasting, social media, and whatever else you come up with for your content marketing campaign– all from a single topic.
Just looking at these nine different B2B content marketing strategies, it's obvious that the digital marketing landscape is both dynamic and vast. Sure, each of the examples I've discussed requires quality content to start with but, once you're at that point, there are plenty of different ways to shine the spotlight on that content. But if you need help focusing that spotlight to make sure your target audience knows how fantastic you and your solutions are, your favorite team of inbound marketing ninjas is just a quick holler away.