B2B content marketing is about providing useful knowledge to buyers looking for solutions – ideally, teaching them something they don’t yet know.
Content marketing is one of those marketing buzzwords that easily annoys me. It was presented as something new, when in fact it has existed for decades, maybe centuries. It’s another example of something old getting a new label.
(British Gas used a free recipe book to lure people into their retail showrooms in the 1950s, and Benjamin Franklin is credited with the use of content marketing in 1732.)
However, content marketing is effective, especially in a crowded market that uses aggressive sales techniques. It can establish your organization as a helpful expert and increase the ability to be added to a shopping list for buyers.
Here is the process that I use to create and distribute content.
Step 1: Who are you targeting?
Make your target group clear. Content isn’t about showing how smart you are, it’s about adding value to an audience. There is a Exchange of value;; They agree to provide knowledge and in return they agree to provide you with their contact details.
Decide whether your content is your customers or your customers’ customers. Here is an example. Imagine targeting HR managers. Are you writing a report based on a human resource manager survey or a report based on a candidate survey?
Ideally, you should do both (in other words, two separate reports). With the Recruitment Manager Report, managers can compare their activities and processes with the industry standard. The candidate report gives them insight into the needs and attitudes of their audience. Both reports are valuable.
Content about your customers is vertical content, content about your customer’s customers is horizontal content.
Step 2: create the original content
Simply reviewing content that is already available will always put you second – especially when citing research done by other organizations (they get the credit, not you).
Make your own surveys and ask original questions. I have three methods; Twitter surveys, Toluna Quick Surveys or SmartSurveys.
Twitter is ideal for single questions with a maximum of four answers. You can target your audience and it’s relatively inexpensive (usually £ 25 for 200-500 responses).
If you want to ask more in-depth questions, we recommend using SmartSurveys if you have your own list of names / emails, or Toluna Quick Surveys if you don’t have an audience list.
Limit the survey to 8 questions and people will lose interest and the quality / accuracy of their answers will start to decline.
Regardless of the method used, ensure that the results are valid. More on this in my blog article “How Valid Research Improves Your Content Authority”.
Not all content needs to be backed by survey results, but this will help add originality and authority to your opinion.
Step 3: plan your distribution
Before you start writing or recording videos, plan the distribution order. The most successful content I produce is made up of reports that contain original survey results.
My dissemination of this valuable information is intended to reward existing customers and prospects who have engaged in our marketing. I usually let clients know they’ll get the report 4 weeks before it’s official release and key prospects get it 2 weeks before it’s official release.
Here is the sequence I usually use:
Content marketing sales plan
- Week 1: Send a new report to existing customers
- Week 3: Send the same report to prospects who have subscribed to your newsletter
- Week 5: Send the report to prospects
- Week 6: Officially launch the report through a blog article and promote a webinar
- Week 7: Submit a press release on the key findings of the report
- Week 8: Webinar with guest to analyze the report
- Week 9: More blog articles that span a section or two of the report
- Week 10: Start video / podcast (either recording the webinar or talking head) and infographic
Now you know what to produce and when.
Step 4: be a subject matter expert
Not as easy as it sounds. I was surprised how many executives (even CEOs) are reluctant to express their opinions in writing or on camera. Either they are struggling with grammar (in which case you will be their ghostwriter) or they will be speechless at the start of the video (which either means a great edit or you will take their place)
Some organizations are reluctant to speak out because they fear that their rivals will challenge them. Well, you are either an expert in this field or you are not. If you are not a subject matter expert. hire someone who is!
Personally, I like it when competitors question views and opinions. It’s an opportunity to prove them wrong. It also shows that you’ve chosen a hot topic.
For more information on identifying topics for content marketing, see my article “A Practical Guide to Content Marketing”.
Step 5: reuse, recycle, reuse
Content marketing is not necessarily a one-time, time-limited job. I visit and update content regularly, but also think about ways to reuse, recycle, or use it for other purposes.
Reusing content usually converts it to a new format. For example, use a blog post as the basis for an infographic.
To recycle content means to promote it again. Just because a blog article was written a year ago doesn’t necessarily mean the views and opinions are less valid.
Reusing content means taking parts of it and creating a new element. This could mean that the survey results are taken from a report and used to discuss new legislation planned by the government.
Bonus: Forgotten content
Case studies are often overlooked as a form of content marketing, but they are very useful. A case study not only allows you to demonstrate the real benefits of your proposal, but also shows that the reader is interested in your solution.
I contend that a person who downloads a case study is a very heartfelt lead – they want to know how good you are and seek evidence of what you have done for others.
The results I have achieved with this strategy include:
a) High volume of C-level engagement
b) Website users increase tenfold
c) LinkedIn clicks increase by 7,700%
d) Twitter clicks from 6 to 3,500 per month
e) backlinks increased by 330%
Content marketing usually offers free knowledge to support a business goal. You don’t do it to be nice. So make sure you understand what your goal is to achieve and teach people something they don’t already know.