Have you ever caught yourself looking at these pieces of content marketing written by the big pros of the B2B industry, with some billions of likes, shares, and comments, and thinking “how the heck did they do it?!”. It looks so simple, and yet you never make it! How come? Well, it actually is easy – if you follow these 5 essential steps.
The first step of a good B2B content marketing campaign is a successful definition of your target audience. Although it’s the first, most basic, and for many of us even obvious step, many marketers fail already at this stage – the worst thing one can do is to say “our campaign is for everybody”. If you’re writing for everybody, or, even worse, if you’re writing for yourself – you’re probably writing for no one.
To make sure your content is appealing and successful, you first need to find out everything about your target audience. Who are they? What do they do in their daily lives and in their jobs? What businesses do they represent? What kind of content will interest them? A good audience-research will help you create well-targeted content, and this will be much more effective than general content.
Start by trying this interesting buyer-persona template by Hubspot. It will give you an idea of what you are looking for.
Although content marketing is fun, you don’t do it just for the fun. There is a goal behind it and a very good reason why you started doing content marketing for your brand. This goal needs to be well-defined and well-explained, and it needs to follow the logic of marketing.
Every product or brand has a certain marketing funnel. It starts really wide, targeting a whole bunch of people who are out there online, with the aim of increasing awareness and visibility of your brand. It then grows narrower and focuses on leads (potential customers) that got to know about your brand and are now considering to buy your product, comparing it to other products in the market, and eventually, may convert to paying customers.
The goal of your content should follow one of these stages. If you’re really small and new in the business, and you want to increase general awareness about your brand, you’re looking at more top-funnel aims (in PR language they call it ATL – above the line); if you’re already more or less recognizable online, but have trouble beating the competition, convincing your leads and turning them into paying customers, that’s another stage of the funnel. As you can imagine, for each stage of the funnel, you’re going to create slightly different content, and distribute it in different ways – so it’s important you define in advance what exactly is your goal.
After you’ve defined your audience and the goal of your content, you can start working on the content itself, first by choosing the topic for your next pieces.
There are several ways of choosing a winning topic for your content:
- Question-oriented content: one of the meta-goals of B2B content marketing is to provide your potential audience with professional knowledge and solutions for the problems they face, leading some in the industry to call it “information marketing” or “knowledge marketing”. What better way of doing it than answering the questions your audience asks? Follow your target audience and check – what bothers them the most? What kind of questions do they usually ask? What kind of help are they usually looking for? You can search for questions on particular forums and discussion groups attended by your audience, or on specially designated communities of knowledge, such as Quora or HARO. Make a list of questions, provide them with superb answers, and you can be sure that your audience will find it useful. Each question can be the topic of one piece of content.
- SEO-oriented content: another goal which content marketing helps you achieve is increasing your online visibility, by using “evergreen” content that is highly searchable and improves your search-engine positioning in the long term. To make the best use of your content for this purpose, use analytical tools (such as Google’s Keyword Planner) to find out what words and phrases your audience is searching for. Building your content around these keywords (in an insightful, knowledgeable way – not just repeating endlessly the keywords) will help your articles rank high in searches for the designated keywords, and thus make your brand more visible online.
- Competition-oriented content: a safe bet for creating content, especially if you are a relatively new and small business, is to look at what others in the industry are doing, and follow the general trend while adding your fresh perspective. Beyond the regular market research, in which you look at the content your competitors are producing, take a look at a tool like BuzzSumo, for example – it helps you see which content is most popular in your field, and understand what topics are particularly hot. This is not to say that you should only swim with the stream, but if you’re running out of topics, looking at what is most popular at the moment can give you some ideas. Plus, in every article you read you will surely find some question marks, missing points, and claims you can debate – creating content that challenges existing paradigms will help you stand out.
Not less important than choosing the topic of your content is choosing the type, or, in other words, the way in which you are going to present it. Although B2B content marketing nowadays is still associated mostly with text and on blogging, “packaging” your content in a creative way can help you take a great step towards success! Out of the same piece of content you can create a presentation for SlideShare, a webinar or a video tutorial, a podcast, and so much more. Think outside the box to achieve better results with your content!
Now that you’ve created a winning piece of content, well-planned according to your goals and target audience, and packaged nicely and creatively, it’s time to wait for all the internet to come and read it.
And wait…and wait…and…nobody’s coming?
Mmm, that may have something to do with the fact that you didn’t distribute your content properly. Creating content, as great as it may be, is only half the job – content well created but badly distributed is almost useless.
Luckily enough, the internet is the land of endless opportunities when it comes to content distribution, especially for B2B marketing. There are hundreds of tools, platforms, and places in which you can make your content more visible, and this list only increases every day. Take a look, for example, at this absolutely extensive list of content promotion strategies and tools.
One of the most frequently heard complaints against content marketing is that it is not measurable. The online marketing world, so focused on figures and results, needs something more accurate. Well, if they want accuracy, give them accuracy! Content marketing measurement can, in fact, be pretty precise:
Start from the goal of your content. Is the goal of your content to increase the online visibility of your brand? You can evaluate it by checking the mentions of your brand around the web, and, most importantly, how many people are reading these articles about your brand. A great tool that enables you to do it is Boost the News. Other tools, such as BuzzSumo, will help you see how many social shares your content is getting, and yet others, like Social Mention, will let you know how many times your brand is mentioned on social media.
If the goal of your content to simply generate more traffic on your website, a simple Google Analytics check will do the job; but if you are aiming at more bottom-of-funnel activities, like conversions, you’ll need to play a bit with the Google Analytics settings, and set specific goals to see if your content is helping to convert leads.
Whatever the measurement strategy you choose – don’t skip this important step. Only by measuring the real impact of your content will you be able to evaluate its quality and effectiveness, and consistently improve it to generate more results for your brand!