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minute read
May 4, 2021

Creating a B2B Content Marketing Strategy That Works

Written by
Mike Haberman

Digital Content Marketing Strategy

How do you create a B2B content marketing strategy that attracts qualified leads? It’s a question every company that’s ever tried content marketing has asked. Creating content on random topics won’t cut it if you expect your material to resonate with high-level B2B decision-makers. The right kind of content can work for your business: educating buyers and nurturing them towards a purchase.

In this guide, I’m going to show you how to create a B2B multi-channel content marketing strategy that drives qualified leads, increases brand awareness, and boosts your sales. Let’s dive in.

Why Most B2B Content Marketing Initiatives Fail

87% of B2B brands say they saw a significant increase in brand awareness from content marketing. But you can’t just assign random team members to write articles that you think will be interesting. Most companies end up publishing 5-10 thought-pieces that get briefly shared on LinkedIn but never generate any long-term traffic or demand for your product/service. The most common reasons B2B content marketing initiatives fail are because:

  1. There is no clear plan on who does what, when, and how
  2. There are no goals or key performance indicators
  3. There is no clear definition of who you’re creating content for and what they want to learn
  4. Resources are not created for teams to create content consistently

The solution? Careful planning, and an in-depth understanding of your customer.

What is a Content Marketing Strategy?

A content marketing plan is a road map. It guides your content marketing efforts. It details and explains the WHAT, HOW, WHO, WHEHN, and the WHY of your organization’s content marketing. Your content strategy outlines how you'll create, publish, promote, and manage your content. It also outlines how you'd measure content performance. The most important part? How it provides value to your ideal customer.

Content and the B2B Buying Journey

B2B buyers read 13 pieces of content before making a purchase decision. Your content strategy has to cater to all the questions your prospect has every step of the way. Additionally, there are usually multiple decision-makers involved in the buying process.

The CMO or Head of Procurement makes the final call on which CRM software the company will pay for. But they’re not always the person gathering the information on available CRM tools, and doing the research. That could be someone more involved in day-to-day sales or marketing activities.

In practice, that means your strategy has to both cater to the needs of the high-level decision-makers, but also convince other people in the company that your company is the best option.

Why Invest in a Content Strategy

According to Content Marketing Institute, 60% of the most successful content marketers follow a roughly defined strategy. However, only 43% say it is actually even documented and written down.

B2B content marketing benefits
Data from the Content Marketing Institute's 11th Annual Content Marketing Survey

By creating a clear, well-documented plan, you enable your team to:

  1. Prioritize content that your audience wants to read
  2. Stay consistent with your publishing schedule
  3. Prioritize content for the different stages of your buyer’s journey across multiple content distribution platforms
  4. Ensure every piece of content you create has value

A clear, documented plan ensures your organisation stays on track and your marketing team doesn't pivot to a new tactic simply because your recent articles aren’t seeing traffic yet. Now let us work on your content strategy.

How to Create a B2B Content Strategy That Drives Results

Your answers to these seven questions formulate your content strategy.

  • What are you trying to achieve with your content?
  • Who are you targeting with your content?
  • What are you going to write about?
  • Who will write what and how often?
  • What content format would you be using?
  • Where/how will you share your content?
  • How will you measure success?

Steps to Creating Your B2B Content Strategy

Step 1: Set Your Goals

What do you want to achieve with your content? Do you want to increase brand awareness, get more leads, or close sales? How are you going to measure success? ROI or alternative KPIs such as number of new MQLs, traffic, or engagement?

In most cases, you’ll want to focus on ROI, but in B2B, it’ll often be hard to attribute TOFU content to the final sale, even if it had an effect on moving a prospect into your sales process. If you’re unsure on the goals to set, here are the common metrics B2B marketers used in measuring their content marketing success:

78% of marketers say conversions are a key metric

To ensure your content contributes to business growth, set clear goals with metrics attached, for example:

  1. Increase monthly organic traffic from 10k-25k in Q1
  2. Generate 100 new leads per month from content in the Q1
  3. Rank in the first page of Google SERP for the keyword “b2b sales strategies” by the end of the Q2

Work on setting these goals with your team, and ensure they align with overall business goals.

Step 2: Define your Buyer Persona

Who are you creating content for? Your buyer persona is a fictional but research-backed general description of your ideal customer. This persona should be based on real market research and data you have on your existing customers. A detailed persona helps you understand your ideal customer’s goals, desires, challenges, and pain points. This allows you to create targeted content that helps them solve real problems and achieve their goals.

Defining your persona will help you focus your content marketing budget where it matters and get better results. It’ll also ensure you create content on the right topics, in the right format, and promoted with the right content syndication vendors. If you’re planning to invest heavily in content, I would recommend interviewing your customers to understand what topics would be useful to them. If your content strategy is based on the real pain points your customers have, they are more likely to be interested in the solutions you present.

Step 3: Map Your Customer Journey

This outlines the different stages or steps your buyer follows from knowing about you and their problem, to actually deciding to work with you. It is the various touchpoints on the path of your ideal customers to booking a call, buying your product, or asking for a demo or free trial. By knowing the steps your ideal buyers take in moving from not knowing you to becoming an advocate will help you create content that moves buyers smoothly through each stage of your customer journey.

There are three common stages in the buyer's journey:

  • Awareness
  • Consideration and
  • Decision

For every stage, outline the questions that your buyer persona will be asking. This will ensure you align your content with your buyer's expectations and pain points at each stage.

Step 4: Handling Keyword Research

What terms are your ideal customers typing in Google when they’re looking for information relating to your business? These are your keywords. They are the terms you should be creating content around so you can come up on search results when your customers are looking for information. According to Google, 51% of B2B buyers have increased their use of search.

Clearly, your ideal customers are looking for a solution to help with their problems, and they turn to search engines. When they’re searching for keywords with buyer intent, you want to be the brand they see. Your keyword research process will uncover what these keywords are and ensure you’re creating content that answers your ideal customer’s questions.

How To Do Effective Keyword Research

Keyword research is a big process in itself and we could write an entire guide on it. But, if you want to get started quickly, here’s what you can do:

Think of the topic you want to rank for, and search for it in Google. You’ll quickly generate an instant list of content ideas. For example, if we wanted to create content around “keyword research”, here are the results:

Generating content marketing ideas

From there, you could create content on topics like:

  • How to do keyword research for free
  • How to keyword research for SEO
  • How to do keyword research for YouTube

To get more detailed, you can use keyword research tools like:

  • Ahrefs
  • Semrush
  • Moz

These will give you more details on your keywords such as search volume, difficulty to rank, and more.

Step 6: Organizing Content Ideas and Prioritizing

Once you’ve started to generate content ideas, it’s time to organize and prioritize them. The fastest way to do this is in a spreadsheet.

I’d recommend organizing content by:

  1. Where it lands in the buyer journey
  2. Content format (case study, blog post, video…)
  3. Buyer intent

Depending on your business priorities the way you prioritize will change, but, in most cases, prioritizing by buyer intent is the most effective. That means the topics you focus on should be closely related to the bottom-of-the-funnel, targeting topics that you know your buyers search for when they’re preparing to make a purchase. Once you’ve covered topics with high purchase intent, you can move to topics that are designed to build awareness.

Step 7: Identify Your Content Types & Formats

The final step, although it can be combined with step #6, is choosing your content formats. This will ensure the content you create is in the format that your buyers will engage with. According to Content Marketing Institute, the top types of content B2B marketers see results with are: blog posts, virtual events, webinars, and online courses. However, there are a variety of other content types you can test:

Blog posts are still the most popular content type

Based on the different stages of your buyers’ journey, the common content types include:

  • Blog posts
  • Videos
  • Case studies
  • Whitepapers
  • Ebooks
  • Podcasts
  • Email newsletters

There is no single “best” content type. Your buyer persona will ultimately determine the ideal formats to use. However, B2B buyers usually look for case studies and testimonials when making their buying decisions, and you’ll also want to ensure you have content formats like whitepapers that build authority around your brand.

Step 8: Creating a Content Distribution Strategy

No matter how good your content is, it won’t generate results if no one sees it. That’s where your distribution strategy comes into play. There are a variety of methods and platforms you can use to distribute your content. The best methods will naturally depend on your buyer and how they engage with content.

The top 3 B2B content distribution channels are social media (91%), website blogs (89%), and email (87%). When it comes to social media platforms, LinkedIn is the number one place for B2B content distribution. Basic strategies you can use to increase the reach of your content include:

  1. Asking your team to share content across social media
  2. Promoting it with paid, targeted ads

If you want to ensure your content gets seen by decision-makers in target accounts, you’ll need to consider also investing in content syndication. Content syndication involves sharing your content directly with decision-makers using email outreach, social media outreach, and telemarketing. It’s a perfect way to ensure your content gets seen and engaged with by the people you want to see it. You won’t have to wait for SEO to kick in, and you won’t need to sit waiting, hoping they’ll see your content.

Your content can be used to start conversations, build awareness, and generate demand for your product/services. 65% of demand generation marketers say that content syndication is an effective strategy, so it’s worth trying. If you need help executing your content syndication process, Internal Results can help you promote it across social media, email, telemarketing, and paid channels. Now, while which channels you ultimately use depends on your audience, you'll want to leverage a healthy mix of different channels at the same time to expand your reach.

Executing Your Digital Content Marketing Strategy

To execute your content strategy, you have three options; an in-house content marketing team, 100% outsourced, or a hybrid of in-house and outsourcing. There are pros and cons to every option, but if you’re unsure, here’s what most companies do: 86% of B2B teams outsource their content writing tasks.

Outsourcing is still a viable option
Outsourcing content creation is common among B2B organizations

The benefits are that your in-house team won’t need to spend hours every week writing articles, and you can focus on strategy. You can build a team in-house, and it’s a great way to ensure everyone is on the same page, and your strategy aligns with your goals. However, hiring in-house does have its own costs.

Measuring Your Results

Without measuring your results, you won’t know if your content is working. There are a variety of metrics you can track to see if your strategy is working.

Traffic: Naturally, your content will be generating traffic. However, traffic alone isn’t going to bring you any revenue.

Conversions: The ultimate metric is conversions. If you can attribute real revenue to your content, you know it’s working as you hoped.

ROI: Your content should deliver ROI. This will take time, as B2B content marketing involves upfront investment. However, in the long run, you should expect positive ROI, if your strategy is aligned with your company goals.

Influence on Pipeline: If you’re running account-based marketing campaigns, your content will be a tool to educate and influence target accounts. If you can show that individual pieces of content had a positive influence on accounts in your pipeline, and ultimately, revenue, it’s validation that your strategy is working.

As you learn what works and what doesn’t, you can start to adapt and optimize your strategy based on data. Over time, every piece of content can be designed based on data you have and strategies that you know work.

Wrapping Up

B2B content marketing is a big investment, and it will take time to perfect your strategy and execution. The key is to always focus on what your customers care about, and create content that helps them learn about your product/services, and educate them on the problems related to it. Over time, your content will act as a predictable way to build awareness with your target customers, and will have a direct influence on your sales pipeline.

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