B2B content marketing comes with a host of challenges. The niche technology, long buying cycles, and lack of low-competition, high-volume keywords can make it hard to gain traction. And yet, there are plenty of B2B teams using content to build revenue and strengthen their sales cycles, showing that content marketing can pay dividends for B2B companies.
In this post, we take a deep dive into proven strategies and tactics for creating a successful B2B content marketing campaign, and we’ll cover examples of companies that have successfully applied these methods.
Content Marketing for B2B vs. B2C
When you think about content marketing, the first thing that comes to mind might be B2C content with a short sales cycle. Think about an Apple content campaign intending to sell iPhones, or a viral YouTube video by Old Spice, where the goal is to get the average person to buy deodorant.
B2C content can work quite well to generate leads or sales for products that are low-risk purchases, have a low barrier to entry, a short buying cycle, and a highly competitive market.
B2C also tends to be more focused on top-of-funnel objectives.
B2B companies also produce tons of content, but it differs from B2C content in both function and intent.
Crucially, B2B content marketing may work with a strong focus on organic traffic generation through blog posts. Organic search is the lifeblood of B2B content marketing. By providing quality content, you can establish your company as a reliable and trustworthy resource. B2B content marketing plays the long game: When your company consistently comes up in searches and provides valuable solutions, people may eventually want to work with you.
Additionally, B2B content marketing should target all stages of the marketing funnel in order to educate and convert potential users. Top-of-the-funnel content drives brand awareness and provide actionable tactics, middle-of-the-funnel content uses more targeted keyword research to showcase how your solutions solve customer pain points, and bottom-of-the-funnel content delves deeper into the specifics of your product.
The Perfect B2B Content Marketing Strategy
A good B2B content marketing strategy has to address the specific challenges of B2B marketing: niche or unknown topics, high importance placed on building authority and brand name, complex sales cycles that require multiple sales touch points across the entire purchase funnel, and multiple-stakeholder buying decisions.
The backbone of this approach is to create content that answers the questions users are searching for and provides value across the entire marketing funnel. But that doesn’t mean you should create only standard, long-form blog posts.
Here are some other approaches used by effective content marketers:
- Create help guides to introduce people to new tech or unknown topics. These boost customer retention and loyalty while also helping you nurture leads.
- Use case studies to build trust, reduce risk, and showcase your authority. If you work with great companies, let the world know.
- Create strategic email campaigns and gated content to generate leads.
Make sure that, whatever you do, you take the time to measure the impact of your B2B content marketing. That means understanding what your goals are. If you are writing mostly top-of-the-funnel content, then your most important KPI will be pageviews or sessions. On the other hand, if you are laser-focused on bottom-of-the-funnel content, you might want to measure success by new sign-ups.
By closely monitoring your marketing KPIs and ROI, you’ll be able to do more of what’s working while cutting out what’s not. As you continue to play the long game, you can hone in on only the most effective strategies for your unique business.
Finally, always remember that B2B content marketing is effective when it speaks to the person behind the purchasing decision. You are selling to real people with real problems, not made-up personas. The more you can put a human touch behind your brand—for example, be transparent and vulnerable when a mistake is made—the more the readers may connect with you.
It’s human nature to appreciate a good story. By leveraging emotion and narrative, your product will be more memorable.
Now that we’ve covered high-level strategy, let’s dive into some specific tactics that any business can use to improve their approach to B2B content marketing.
Four B2B Content Marketing Tactics to Efficiently Gain New Users
1. Write Movement-First Content to Garner Attention
One main goal of B2B content is to build credibility with key decision-makers. Movement-first content—thought-leadership—is a great way to get the attention of industry leaders.
Have fun and be creative. Movement first content is where you get to take contrarian perspectives, coin your own keywords, and define your own trends. The goal is to make it known that there is a better way to operate, and you are going to use your expertise to show others the way.
Thought-leadership content also humanizes the company. These pieces generally lean on personal experience and anecdotes, and they can be a perfect way to showcase yourself as a thoughtful and relatable person. Doing so can be a huge boon for hiring.
Nowadays, people don’t just want a paycheck; they also want to work for interesting companies that stand for something. Movement-first content can help you attract top talent and build your brand recognition.
2. Use Gated Content to Generate Leads
Gated content—ebooks, downloadable templates, white papers—feeds the B2B sales funnel by capturing leads. Some folks have even started to create gated video content, and they are seeing tremendous results.
Gated content is great a way to identify individual customers’ specific pain points and define your future relationship with them based on that information. By tracking the open rates of the gated content and reaching out to engaged users with an email drip, the sales team can identify hot leads and open a more direct sales process.
3. Partner with Industry Publications to Reach Relevant Audiences
Top B2B content marketers are always thinking of ways to reach relevant audiences without relying solely on search traffic. One way to reach interested audiences is to target established, industry-accepted channels for distribution. Find out where industry decision-makers go for their information, and then build relationships with those distributors.
B2B distribution channels could include the following:
- Industry publications per sector
- Industry platforms
- Niche forums or threads
- Relevant industry publications and partner websites found via Alexa’s Audience Overlap tool
4. Don’t Abandon Organic Traffic
While product-focused or innovation-focused keywords may be little searched, related keywords focusing on problems and pain points may still be available for your brand. Often, content marketing is about focusing on the long tail—put in the work now, and it can pay dividends down the road.
A great way to identify keyword opportunities is by analyzing your competitors’ keywords. Use the Competitor Keyword Matrix to find high-value keywords your competitors capture traffic for, but you don’t. Use those to develop an effective content campaign, and get to work writing effective, targeted content.
Here’s an example using the Competitor Keyword Matrix tool, of popular keywords a tax service site could consider targeting that two competing sites already capture traffic for.
B2B Content Marketing Examples That Really Worked
Hire By Google
Hire by Google is an applicant tracking, management, and sourcing system that is looking to rank in the recruitment software space. While the recruitment software space has matured in the past five years, there are still millions of companies looking for solutions, and they need their basic questions answered.
Hire by Google is leveraging ebooks, webinars and downloadable templates to reach users at the top and middle of the marketing funnel. By consistently producing content that teaches your audience how and why they need your product, you can position yourself as a key resource.
CB Insights is a business intelligence platform that helps companies make smarter decisions. Rather than relying solely on their tech and user interface to help them beat out the likes of well-established competitors, such as Crunchbase, they use their newsletter to gain market share.
This is the type of newsletter, from Crunchbase, that CB Insights is up against:
It’s data-rich but lacks personality.
CB Insights, on the other hand, created a newsletter that is witty and fun while still being informative. It speaks to the humans behind the B2B veil. Funny subject lines and GIFs provide humorous counterpoints to valuable original data and research, such as their thorough article on the state of 5G technology.
And nothing is more silly yet endearing than their CEO signing off each newsletter with “I love you.”
CB Insights does what others in this space fail to do—they write as if the newsletter is both written and read by a real person. In doing so, they’ve created a newsletter that is widely lauded and has almost 600,000 subscribers.
Copper, a productivity-focused CRM aimed at businesses that value a cooperative sales process, is operating in a hotly contested organic and paid search landscape. Phrases like “customer relationship management software” have a CPC of around $46. Yikes!
Instead of focusing solely on highly competitive keywords, they’ve created movement-first content around a concept of their own creation: the Relationship Era.
This may allow them to reach a specific subset of users looking for ways to sell that focus on teamwork and cooperation, and they position themselves as the most evolved of all the CRM options.
Content Marketing for B2B
High-quality B2B content marketing is all about creating the proper framework. If you can understand who you are writing for and what your goals are, you can execute a strategy that makes sense for any B2B business. With the right framework, you will help position your company as an industry expert and help your target audience figure out solutions to complex problems. The ultimate goal is to help solve customer pain points because, if you do, you may gain a loyal following.
And remember—behind every corporate entity is a real person; content can reach that person and make them resonate with your brand. So always strive to make your content as authentic as possible.
It’s not easy to create B2B content that is fun to read and also informative, but if you invest the time and pull it off, you’ll see a tremendous return on investment.