You’ve got cutting-edge technology and an amazing team who can solve a myriad of problems for your clients or customers.
The challenge? Educating more prospects about what you do and how you can help them.
Content marketing is, more than ever, a crucial tactic for B2B companies to engage with prospects: 86% of B2B organizations now use content marketing as a key strategy for building a pipeline of leads and engaging with their prospects, according to a recent Content Marketing Institute report. But many marketers are struggling: 54% said that producing engaging content was a challenge, and half said that it was tough to publish content on a consistent basis.
That’s probably something you’ve found in your own organization: Even though your team knows the technology backwards and forwards, they don’t always have the time or inclination to explain their work in clear, concise terms that new prospects can relate to. They became software engineers, or architects, or attorneys, or whatever they are, because that’s what they’re best at—not writing content.
You know content marketing is an important strategy for developing a pipeline of new leads, and when you’re closing deals worth tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, it’s important to get it right. Sloppy or inaccurate work could cost you valuable leads, or worse, destroy your credibility within your industry. It’s important to have a strong team of content marketing experts behind you, whether they’re in-house or at an outside agency.
So how can you get your subject matter experts on the same page as your content marketing team or agency? This guide will help you build a collaborative process to transform complex B2B topics into clear content marketing assets.
Step 1: Figure out where you want to go
When it comes to developing a B2B content marketing strategy, the first step is to look at what you’ve already got before deciding where to go next. In internal meetings with key stakeholders, focus on finding the answers to these questions:
What are your brand values?Do you have a clear sense of the value proposition you offer and the points that you want to get across?
How mature is your content strategy?Have you mapped out detailed buyer personas who you can target with customized content offerings? Have you developed an editorial style guide that showcases your brand’s voice (fun and irreverent, or strictly serious)? If not, you’ll need to either work on building out your strategy plan internally or with an outside consultant before you begin developing content.
Focus your messaging around the value that you can offer your prospects, with tailored messaging for each type of buyer persona and each stage of the marketing funnel, from people who are just starting to explore options to those who are ready to make a purchase.
What are your marketing goals?Before going any further with content marketing, it’s important to internally decide on your objectives (are we looking to raise awareness of our solution, explain our value more clearly to existing prospects, or focus on driving leads?), and to ensure that you have a solid understanding of what your solution offers that’s unique to your market. Focus your messaging around the value that you can offer your prospects, with tailored messaging for each type of buyer persona and each stage of the marketing funnel, from people who are just starting to explore options to those who are ready to make a purchase.
Step 2: Decide who’s on your content marketing team
Evaluate your content capabilities.Next, look at what content marketing resources you have, both internally and externally. Don’t overestimate your internal capacity, or nothing will ever get done: As CEO, you may be a good writer and have a great understanding of the product—but between internal meetings and VC pitches, do you have the time to allocate to crafting blog and thought leadership content? The same goes for your internal subject-matter experts: They may have incredible insights to share, but they’re often too busy solving problems for customers to clearly explain their process for solving those problems.
Plan your budget and resources.If you realize you don’t have the time to do this all yourself, it’s important to allocate a budget towards content marketing, and decide what resources you’ll need to make everything happen. It may make sense to have an internal stakeholder coordinate efforts and approve all content, while leaving the writing and editing to an external agency; if you want to make a long-term commitment, you can even consider hiring an in-house content marketing manager to play a leading role in the content marketing process, while commissioning an agency or a group of freelance writers to assist with the content development.
Your subject-matter experts may have incredible insights to share, but they’re often too busy solving problems for customers to clearly explain their process for solving those problems.
Vet your talent carefully.When selecting your content creation team, it’s essential to find a person or organization with experience focused around B2B technology topics, but it’s not always crucial to make sure they’ve worked within your exact space: Typically, writers who have been able to quickly grasp B2B terminology in the past will be able to translate these abilities to new industries. When working with an agency, make sure you know who’ll actually be working on your account, however: Some agencies will bring on new and untested writers for complex projects, while others rely only on an established group of staff and freelance writers, so you’ll be in better hands with an agency in the latter category.Consider what resources you have or will need for additional services including graphic design or video production, as well. In many cases, you can use a mix of in-house and external resources to put together a comprehensive content marketing plan.
Step 3: Focus your content marketing strategy
Build a game plan.Once you’ve honed in on your messaging and goals, and know what resources you have to work with, it’s time to focus on developing a clear strategy. Your plan may involve a mix of internal and external resources for keeping things on track—it takes a village to craft a winning content marketing strategy. Evaluate which key performance indicators (KPIs) you’re most interested in tracking to evaluate the success of your content marketing efforts. Do you want to see specific keyword phrases gain more traction in search engines? Do you want to build traffic to your website? Are you focusing on building up the subscribers to your email list, or are you more interested in offering product demos or free trials?
Once you’ve honed in on your messaging and goals, and know what resources you have to work with, it’s time to focus on developing a clear strategy.
Create your goal funnels.As you determine the types of content you’ll create, come up with a clear objective for each (i.e., drive social traffic, email signups, free trials, etc.), and incorporate CTAs into the content to help them meet your goals. For instance, if you develop a series of blog posts around the topic of launching a gift card program, each article could then include a CTA to download a white paper about evaluating gift card vendors. It’s important to plan out sequences for your content so that prospects can easily learn about your company without pressure to buy, but will be prompted to continually move deeper into your marketing funnel.
Step 4: Build your editorial calendar
Now it’s time to work with your content marketing team to put together an editorial calendar, which can involve a mix of content assets including:
Blog content, which can boost traffic through organic SEO and social media (as well as paid promotion)
Video content, such as animated films and customer videos
Customer success stories (i.e., case studies)
Ebooks, white papers, and infographics, which should be “gated” behind a contact form
Solution briefs, showcasing how your product or services can benefit specific industry verticals
There’s no one formula that works: A successful editorial calendar will be based around your content goals, your target audiences, and your promotional strategy. If you have a heavily visual brand that’s engaged in social media, video content and infographics should be a high priority for your content marketing initiatives. On the other hand, if you have a B2B brand that uses targeted ads to reach prospects, focus on lead-generating pieces such as white papers and solution briefs.
No matter what the breakdown, it’s important to include some content geared towards new visitors, which can provide more of an industry overview to a broad audience; and other assets focused towards high-level executives who are preparing to make a buying decision, with content focused on strategic advice and examples of how your solution can demonstrate ROI.
There’s no one formula that works: A successful editorial calendar will be based around your content goals, your target audiences, and your promotional strategy.
Make sure to tie your upcoming editorial calendar to specific events or important industry themes: For instance, if you’re a point of sale solution that targets retail businesses, you’ll want to focus November and December’s content calendar around topics such as seasonal shopping trends, gift cards, and how to handle the holiday rush. If you’re spotlighting your technology platform at a trade show for university marketers, make sure that you’ve developed case studies and white papers that showcase best practices in gathering leads from prospective students, incorporating your solution as part of a comprehensive strategy.
Step 5: Create awesome content
Brief your content team.Once you’ve developed a rough guide on which topics you want to touch on at each time, you’ll need to make sure that your content creators have the subject-matter knowledge they need to develop the content. First, ensure that they have an in-depth tutorial on what your company actually does, including a product demo if possible, so that they can easily weave your value proposition into the content organically.
Appoint an owner.For each content topic, they may also need additional insights from people on your team, so appoint one of your subject-matter experts as the “owner” of each piece of content. The content creator can coordinate with this individual, including phone interviews or written notes to go over key messaging and technical information to include in each piece.
Repurpose existing assets.To help your content creators with research, give them access to any existing content assets that may be helpful to them, including slide deks, webinar recordings, VC pitches, and presentation notes. Nearly everything you’ve already done, so long as it’s still relevant to what you’re doing now, can be repurposed towards your content marketing efforts.
Define a content approval process.Build a clear collaboration process to ensure that your internal stakeholders have the opportunity to easily review and approve each piece. At Eucalypt Media, we use Google Docs as a simple way to share content with our clients and incorporate their feedback to develop a final version that everyone is happy with (without the hassle of keeping track of 17 different file versions).
Step 6: Share your work
While readers are more inclined to share high-quality content, you can’t expect a niche B2B post to go viral. (Yes, semiconductor nanowires may be fascinating to you, but to your average Facebook friend? Not so much.) In order to reach the right people, you’ll need to put more effort into promoting your content after it’s been published. Here are a few strategies:
Promote your content on social mediaOrganic social media promotion on platforms including Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn can be valuable—if you already have a decent audience or are willing to invest the time into creating one. While access to the platforms is free, it can often be difficult to get attention when so many other brands and individuals are competing for your audience. While we recommend investing some time into establishing an organic social media presence in order to increase engagement with existing customers, there are often better ways for B2B brands to bring in new prospects.
Invest in targeted social media adsIn order to make sure your content reaches its target audiences, it’s often wise to invest in targeted social ads through platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. (Disclosure: LinkedIn is a Eucalypt Media client.) These ads can be highly targeted to reach specific industries, job titles, and even companies, ensuring that your content will be seen by people who fit your exact client wishlist characteristics.To boost your chances of generating leads, it can sometimes be wise to advertise directly to a white paper or ebook landing page, but in order to raise awareness and build your audience, it can also be helpful to boost individual blog posts (ensuring that you have a clear CTA to capture that prospect’s info if she’s inclined to learn more). A solid content marketing strategy doesn’t begin and end with content creation; it’s essential to make sure that your content marketing materials are reaching the right people.
Guest post on popular sites in your niche.It’s also smart to invest some time into looking for opportunities for content placement on niche sites that reach people in your industry. Alongside your on-site editorial calendar, designate several posts for exclusive guest blog placements on sites that target people in your industry, and involve your marketing team or agency in outreach efforts for placement. Guest blogging can help expose you to a larger audience, provide excellent backlinks to boost your site’s organic SEO value, and drive new visitors to your site.
A solid content marketing strategy doesn’t begin and end with content creation; it’s essential to make sure that your content marketing materials are reaching the right people.
Syndicate your content on larger platforms.Content syndication is also a good option: We recommend that our clients syndicate many of their blog posts through LinkedIn’s publishing platform, which can help them reach a huge and highly targeted network of peers and influencers in their own industry. Other large sites like Huffington Post or Medium can also serve as great outlets to spotlight your thought leadership.
Send a regular newsletter to your mailing list.Your content can help you generate leads to build a mailing list, and it can also help you keep your list engaged and active. Use your newsletter to send your prospects links to the topical advice that you’re sharing on your website, and send it out on a regular schedule—whether weekly, monthly, or somewhere in between. Make sure to assess the performance of each mailing to see what types of content and which subject lines get the best open and click through rates.
Step 7: Track and optimize your efforts
Remember those KPIs you put together earlier? Once you’ve spent a few months actively executing your content marketing plan, it’s time to revisit those and see where things are. It can take a while to build traction, so don’t be discouraged if results aren’t as great as you’d hoped, especially if you’ve only been publishing a moderate amount of content and haven’t built up a solid cadence yet. And when it comes to leads, remember that quality is far more important than quantity, so even a few well qualified leads can make a content marketing program well worth the investment.
Take the time to look at your stats with your marketing team or agency, and regroup on strategies that could be improved or changed. A good internal team or agency can be agile in collaborating with you in the way that makes the most sense for your business, and can often offer valuable recommendations for future initiatives. Keep honing in on who your target audience is, what content they’re most interested in, and focus on delivering genuine value through clear, compelling content. Become a trusted resource, and prospects will turn into customers effortlessly.
Kathryn Hawkins is principal and chief content strategist of Eucalypt Media. She has worked as a freelance journalist for media publications and managed inbound marketing and content strategy for corporate and nonprofit clients for more than a decade.