B2B content marketing has undergone a series of transitions which has seen it evolve from its former traditional format into something far more digital and dynamic.
The main driving force behind these changes is undoubtedly the evolution of the internet itself — content marketing today revolves around digital distribution. For example, Think With Google estimates that some 89% of B2B researchers use the internet in their research process, and 55% search for business information on social media.
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In broad terms, though, the fundamentals of B2B content marketing remain the same as ever — it’s all about crafting well-positioned content to improve the discovery and awareness of a business, the ultimate aim being to acquire leads and drive sales.
Of course, the field is still evolving and will continue to do so, placing the onus on businesses to stay up to date with the latest and greatest to ensure that their content marketing budget is well-spent.
This guide provides tips, tricks and strategies to help you stay up to date with B2B content marketing best practices as we look to 2022 and beyond. Let’s go!
1. Clearly define goals and objectives
As the old adage suggests, if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. Creating long-term goals prior to implementing a content marketing strategy allows you to measure the successes and shortcomings of your efforts.
SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound) are a simple way to clearly define your aims and objectives:
- The ‘Specific’ element should define what exactly you’re trying to improve. Specific goals include building brand awareness and product discovery, boosting traffic to the business website, increasing leads gained through subscriptions or gated content, increasing sales of specific products, downloads, demo sign-ups, etc.
- The ‘Measurable’ element emphasises that these specific actions need to be measurable. If your content marketing is for awareness and discovery, then social media metrics (as well as Google ranking revealed through Google Search Console) are some of the most useful to track. Web traffic and sign-ups are measurable via Google Analytics.
- The ‘Attainable’ element is self-explanatory. Content marketing goals need to be reasonably possible, and will likely have to evolve over months and years rather than days and weeks.
- The ‘Realistic’ element is similar to the above, and asks businesses to moderate thei expectations to something that is ambitious and challenging yet realistic in a given timeframe.
- The ‘Time-bound’ element ensures that there is a defined ‘start’ and ‘end’ to the measurement period. Goals can be reassessed and tweaked each month, for example.
2. Developing personas
Creating a buyer persona is more important than ever, largely because business demographics today are incredibly diverse.
Customer segmentation was previously only thought necessary in B2C spaces with millions of potential customers, but there are now some 5.5 million small businesses in the UK alone, with more appearing every year.
Business personas have diversified, and proper segmentation is crucial — it’s no longer sufficient to assume that a business is marketing to startup founders, SME owners, C-Level executives, etc, without drilling down a bit further.
There are a few ways to develop customer personas:
- If you already possess customer data, e.g. through sign-ups, sales or other business interactions, then look for common patterns and mutual features in that data first. Use surveys and customer feedback to enrich the data you already have.
- Google Analytics provides useful information on your web users in the ‘Audience’ tab.
- Assessing social media user data can provide clues as to who engages and interacts with your business.
- Think about influencers and decision-makers. It’s not always possible to get the attention of people at the top, but their closest advisors provide a way in. Just make sure to consider ways in which the priorities of these different personas differ.
One of the most important aspects of a B2B customer persona are their pain points — what problems do they have? How can you position a piece of content to create value and generate inbound marketing leads?
Some generic examples of B2B personas with pain points include:
- A SaaS services provider that is looking to enhance its lead generation strategies. They have a well-developed product but struggle to find leads to demo the product.
- An inventor that is looking to bring their product to market. They have a great product but lack experience in sales and marketing.
- A startup that is tight on time and resources and is struggling to scale efforts without internal teams. They are looking to outsource remote services to help them scale.
- A design agency with a large following of social media users but are struggling to monetise their work and become more commercially viable.
3. Conduct a content audit
Content audits provide information on what topics your brand covers already and with what degree of success. Numerous SEO tools help businesses perform content audits, and some, like SEMRush, even have purpose-built tools for discovering keyword gaps.
With that said, the most reliable way to do this when it comes to your own website is to cross-reference an identified list of important keywords with what Google Search Console tells you about your current impressions, clicks and ranking.
There are many benefits to conducting a content audit:
- Discover your highest performing content and build additional content around that topic to provide extra value to your users.
- Find new keywords to add to your ongoing content strategy.
- It’s also possible to audit competitors’ websites to discover what keywords they’re covering and you aren’t.
4. Keyword targeting and intent analysis
The success of your content marketing efforts hinges on how well your content is optimised for maximum search engine visibility. In order to do this, you need to devise and execute a keyword targeting strategy. But how do you do this?
1. Seed terms:
First you need to come up with a list of seed terms that you want to rank for. For example, if you are a company selling eCommerce promotion software, you may want to rank for: ‘eCommerce promotion trends’, ‘retail promotion marketing’ or ‘eCommerce promotion journey’. Once you’ve done this, its vital to cross check their search performance against real world search results, to do this you need access to a research tool (i.e. SEMrush).
2. Identify optimum key terms:
Take your list of desirable keyword ideas from the section above and cross-reference them with a tool like SEMrush, this will allow you to pull real-time search data to identify your keywords…
- Even rank as popular search terms
- Have high or low search volumes (i.e. are people even using them to search with?)
- Are difficult to rank for (That is, if you target them, what’s the likelihood that your content will rank for the chosen terms?)
This process will help you to streamline your desirable key term ideas and build out a long list of terms that are appropriate for your target audience and industry.
3. Conduct intent analysis:
Next, you need to check that the terms comprising your target long list from the bullet above are actually appropriate for your purposes. In other words, you need to conduct intent analysis. This is looking at the key terms ‘SERP’ (Search engine results page). To do this, you need to…
- Open a private search window.
- Search for the target key term/phrase.
- Identify if the search results are relevant to your use case.
- If relevant, you need to identify if the search results are content, product-focused or both.
4. Group your terms:
The final stage is grouping your long list of relevant key terms/phrases into topics… So, for example, a customer service SaaS business may have the following key term groups:
- Outsourced customer service
- Customer service strategy
- Customer experience
Each topic should have a list of related terms that relate to the topic either semantically or thematically.
Now you have your extensive key term groups and related key terms you need to use them! By this, we mean, identify desirable key terms in your list (ideally from a range of topics so you can target different audiences over a period of time, instead of going topic by topic) and build content titles that target the identified keyword. That is, the key word ‘ eCommerce customer service’ could turn into the blog ‘X Steps to Effective eCommerce Customer Service’.
5. Align content to a purpose
This is about ensuring that your content is created to achieve a particular goal. That is, although your content will be targeted to a specific audience, there are stages within decision making that make certain kinds of content relevant to different audiences at different stages of the decision cycle. TO your right you’ll see a breakdown of the three kinds of content attainable along the decision cycle.
Depending on your content strategy, if you’re creating just written content, or audio and video also (for example) you can separate the stages by content type. So, TOFU content for you could be podcasts, while video is MOFU and comparative blogs/eBooks are BOFU. However, you could also use a range of content types to deliver the different stages of the funnel.
6. Use numerous formats and channels
We live in an omnichannel marketing world — businesses should play all the content marketing cards available to them.
Businesses are no longer confined to web, email and LinkedIn when it comes to digital content distribution. For example, 90% of Instagram users follow businesses, and some 36% of B2B decision-makers use it in their B2B research and decision-making process.
Different channels cater to different content formats:
- The blog is the home of the long-form post.
- Instagram is primarily image and video-driven, as is TikTok.
- LinkedIn remains a more formalised and traditional B2B arena.
- Brands often use Facebook and Twitter to humanise their brand and interact with followers in a personable and often humorous way.
- YouTube is excellent for webinars, how-tos, instructionals, Q&As and other long-form video content.
7. Repurpose content
Repurposing content involves two main processes:
- Creating new and derivative content from existing content.
- Revamping and rejuvenating old content.
Many businesses likely have a back catalogue of content from a bygone era where the business simply wasn’t as au-fait with content marketing as they are now. Old, unoptimised, and perhaps poorly written posts can be quickly refined and brought back up to date, often at a fraction of the cost of producing new ones.
A basic rule is to repurpose important blog posts for social media. Key points can be displayed in an infographic and a CTA asking people to click through to the main post. Content can be broken down and explained in discussion videos or presentations postable to LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, etc.
8. Consider paid promotion
There will usually come a time where paid promotion is at least worth dabbling in. It’s tempting to assume that paid B2B content marketing is hard to implement, expensive and risky, but this isn’t necessarily the case.
The main benefit of paid promo is that it’s laser-targeted when done properly, and provides assurance that your content will be viewed and consumed by your target audience.
- PPC via Google Ads is probably best reserved for queries with high buying intent, with some exceptions, so it’s best to look at social media for paid content promotion.
- LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook all have excellent internal ad targeting options to get your very best content in front of its ideal audience. Still, Facebook is best-in-class for its ad targeting, and this is when your customer personas come back into play.
- Instagram is inexpensive for driving business discovery and awareness.
The most important thing is getting your audience right, as this is where the money will be spent. So long as the audience is right, then paid promo is usually money well spent.
9. Utilise productive partnerships
B2B content marketing is fast-evolving, and the pressure is on to stay up to date with the latest techniques and strategies.
The assistance of a professional marketing team is also indispensable. More pairs of eyes and extra pairs of hands can significantly enhance a business’s content marketing efforts, ensuring that effective, well-placed content is distributed to the right channels at the right time.
Another aspect to consider is the time-consuming nature of content marketing, which is why professional partnerships are often utilised in order to alleviate the strain. With a bulletproof strategy and due care and attention, B2B content marketing has the potential to deliver a significant return on investment.
Gripped is a modern B2B marketing agency, and our expert team has a genuine passion for content marketing. We’re here to help you implement and execute content marketing best practices that will turbocharge your content marketing strategy with well-placed high-converting content that targets users and potential customers across the sales funnel.
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