Content marketing is a strategy of planning, creating, publishing and sharing digital content tailored to the needs of the target audience, with the aim of attracting new prospects to the site.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, 70% of the b2b companies surveyed in a recent survey claim to be planning to create much more content than last year. In this article we will explain why b2b companies need a content marketing plan.
Why is B2B content marketing important?
A content marketing strategy can help companies increase qualified user traffic to their website and improve lead generation, with a low investment and an easily calculable positive ROI. In the following paragraphs we will go through the 7 steps that make-up the strategy:
Definition of the objectives
Choice of CMS
Choice of the format
Publication and optimization
Creating, distributing and sharing content means responding to the needs, questions and concerns of prospects and customers, aligning your strategy with new buying habits. While before the advent of the internet, buyers depended entirely on salespeople to keep them informed of the latest industry news, today they do their own research online and can choose to avoid unwanted advertising, block phone calls and block emails. In this context, therefore, content personalisation is crucial: you need to offer your target audience what they are looking for, what they really need.
One of the most effective content marketing tools is undoubtedly the blog (link), the section of the company's website (link) through which you can convey your content, which also has an SEO optimisation function. Search engines such as Google reward sites that are updated more often and prove to be genuinely useful to those who browse them, showing them to their users before others.
However, SEO techniques such as keywords, alt-text and meta-tags alone are not enough, as Google's algorithms are moving more and more in the direction of user experience, so content providers must also take this new search engine preference into account.
1. Definition of the objectives
Any digital marketing strategy for B2B business development must start with defining objectives.
Within the inbound marketing methodology, objectives are defined as SMART - specific, measurable, accessible, realistic and timely.
In this article we will look at 5 of them, the most important for finding new business opportunities.
Social media interactions
LinkedIn & social selling
Digital word of mouth
Site visits and lead generation
The expression business development can mean different things to different companies and different people.
We will quote an article from Forbes that contains perhaps the most complete and comprehensive definition: business development is the creation of long-term value for a company, consisting of customers, markets and relationships.
In this short sentence you understand how marketing, sales, branding and authority in your industry work together to create "long-term value" for a company. It is therefore the sum of all the efforts made within your company to increase turnover and improve reputation by establishing yourself as a leader in your industry.
At this point all that remains is to define the objectives which, as anticipated earlier, are summarised in the acronym S.M.A.R.T.
Specific: website visits, leads and clients;
Measurable: choose a number;
Accessible: understand the market
Realistic: base your choices on the company's turnover targets
Timely: deadline and mid-term plans
Here are the 5 SMART objectives of an inbound marketing campaign for business development:
Social media interactions
Social media interactions will help you understand how useful and interesting your content is in the eyes of your readers and whether you are achieving the goal of establishing yourself as an authoritative news source in your industry. Likes, shares, retweets and comments are the result of good content marketing, but not only that, they will help you spread the message beyond your network of contacts and followers thanks to the viral power of social media news: on Facebook and LinkedIn walls, for example, it will appear that contact X likes the link posted by your company.
This data is not directly linked to sales, of course, but it is still measurable and you can set targets. The tools for analysis vary in complexity and cost: Hootsuite has a totally free version, while Hubspot integrates all inbound management into a single platform.
LinkedIn as a source of traffic and leads
Here's another way to measure your social media marketing efforts. For business development, a strong presence on social networks requires a well-structured LinkedIn profile. Don't be fooled by the widespread misconception that social networks are just a futile pastime, in the digital age they can support the growth of not only brand awareness but also sales. Let's take the case of LinkedIn, the professional social network par excellence: although it doesn't involve direct sales, active participation in groups, listening to the community, offering solutions to their business problems and sharing promotional content can help stimulate curiosity and interest in users and create a bond of trust with the brand. This is what is known as social selling, which, if done correctly, does NOT involve salespeople sending proposals or presentations by email to unknown users, but will bring qualified traffic to the company's website where, through inviting call-to-actions, visitors can become leads and so on... Of course it is not an immediate procedure like sending an offer to all contacts, it takes more time, but it pays off in terms of results.
Site visits and lead generation
We have repeatedly highlighted the importance of an inbound strategy to support B2B business development because it is the methodology that for the last ten years has been helping more and more companies to compete in the intricate world of business in the digital age. The reason for its success is simple: it involves aligning sales techniques with the new buying habits of buyers who are informed on the internet, and look for news about potential suppliers, including via social media.
A Corporate Executive Board survey confirmed that on average B2B buyers complete 57% of the buying cycle before contacting a vendor.
Inbound marketing is based on creating articles that are useful to the prospect at different stages of the process, shared on the company blog and promoted via social media. In this way, the user is on the site, optimised for lead generation, and can decide to share his contact information with the company in order to download a free premium content such as an eBook or a practical guide or participate in an exclusive seminar.
The very first data to measure the achievement of the objectives, in this case, are the number of visits to the site and the conversion rate into leads.
According to data released by Bain & Company, the cost of acquiring a new customer for a company is equivalent to the cost of keeping 7 existing ones. So customer management and retention cannot be excluded or neglected when it comes to business development.
A satisfied customer, as well as becoming an excellent reference, may choose to buy a different product from you for which they had a contract with another supplier or decide to switch to a service of greater value than their initial purchase choice.
Obviously, the most obvious SMART objective when it comes to B2B business development can only be to increase revenue in a given time frame. For this reason, once you have defined your objectives, you need to move on to designing the strategy that will help you achieve them, and to make sure it is the right one, you will need to analyse regular reports and review what is not working.
2. Buyer persona
To ensure the development of a successful strategy, after the objectives it is time to identify the target audience for your content: your buyer persona.. In a 360° marketing strategy the most crucial step is to understand who we are addressing in order to tailor the messages to be sent and the actions to be taken. There is a key tool for this: the buyer persona. The buyer persona is a representation of the ideal customer of a company or a particular online marketing campaign. We could define it like this: In marketing, buyer personas are semi ... www.xplore.marketing
This is particularly important if you don't have a lot of experience in digital marketing, because by knowing your target audience you will be able to create useful, interesting and genuinely valuable content that prospects will want to read and learn more about, with the potential to convert into valuable leads for your business.
If you are a seasoned marketer, your target audience may have changed, perhaps because you need to target a new niche audience or expand your current market share.
Reviewing your targeting parameters through annual market research is vital to the business development of a B2B company.
3. Corporate content audit
If you are starting your content marketing strategy now, the first thing you will want to do is an audit of the materials that are already in your company archives. This includes brochures, catalogues, presentations and website texts that will form the basic backbone of the business.
The starting point is to build the blog section on the site and write articles, remembering to always have the prospect at the centre of attention. If you want to venture into producing formats other than blog posts, you are spoilt for choice (and we will discuss this in point 6. on this page). In some cases, this will be premium content to encourage the visitor to fill in a form with their details, turning them into a lead. You can also consider turning an article into a video or infographic, taking advantage of what you already have but proposing it to a different audience that prefers to consume visual information.
If you have been following a content marketing plan for some time, don't forget to always analyse the performance of everything online. Optimisation is a key component of inbound because it allows you to understand in real time what is working and what is not working for the buyer persona and correct where necessary. Following the analysis, you can set new monthly and annual targets to be achieved with the new campaign.
4. Choice of Content Management System (CMS)
A Content Management System is software developed for the collection, management and distribution of content. Over the years, CMSs have evolved to include advanced functions for organising the structure, graphics, creation of new pages and site analytics.
There are CMSs for all tastes and needs. Make sure you choose the one that suits you only after you have decided what objectives you want to achieve with your project, as this will greatly influence the selection criteria.
As mentioned, the choice of the right CMS depends partly on your needs, but also on the objectives you want to achieve with your project.
A showcase site, for example, should be attractive from a graphical point of view; an e-commerce site, on the other hand, should focus on ease of navigation and the agility of the purchasing process.
In general, we can say that a good Content Management System should:
1. Being easy to use
Similar software is designed to make life easier for those with basic computer skills. An unintuitive and complex CMS would serve little purpose; don't you think? In fact, it would only complicate your life.
The solution? A Web Content Management system that is easy to understand and use, allowing you to create and edit content with just a few clicks. There is no point in choosing a CMS that allows you to insert advertising banners, implement complex comment management systems or the like if you have no need for them.
2. Be SEO friendly and responsive
Do you know what the most challenging mission is that any business faces sooner or later? Getting found on the web. Emerging from the SERPs is becoming more and more complicated, partly because of the increasing saturation of the market and partly because of the restrictions imposed by Google's algorithm.
In such a context, choosing a CMS that allows us to easily intervene on the SEO of our content becomes essential. Inserting meta tags, descriptions and keywords of interest should be quick and easy, as should creating a sitemap to help Google index our site.
3. Allow multiple user management
Many companies prefer to delegate content management to third-party / external contributors. If this is the case, make sure you choose a CMS that allows the creation of multiple users with different access privileges. WordPress, for example, allows you to create multiple profiles with different roles: contributor, editor, author, administrator, etc. This way you will protect your content. In this way, you will protect your content (and the site as a whole) from potential errors that could compromise its operation.
4. Large gallery of graphics to choose from
Choose a CMS that allows you to change the design of your site in all its parts - and that has a large gallery of themes to choose from. Make sure you can change the background and text colours, customise the pages as much as possible, embed videos from YouTube or content from your social networks.
Being able to change all aspects of the design is an advantage that should not be underestimated, as it will allow you to make your site more like you and different from all the others.
5. Multi-site support
A CMS supporting multi-site functionality allows you to create a network of different web pages within the same installation. The main advantage is that you can control everything from a single dashboard, without having to jump from one tool to another. In addition, all the plugins and customisations you install on the main site will also be replicated on the rest of the network - with a single click.
WordPress, for example, is one of the CMSs with this feature. Just activate it during the first installation to start creating your own network of websites.
6. Security level
This is another rather important aspect to take into account when choosing a CMS. Often, security problems related to the Content Management System result from the installation of third-party plugins, which are not always created properly.
Unfortunately, it is also possible to run into problems resulting from not updating the CMS itself, which makes it susceptible to vulnerabilities. I recommend that you check the security level of the tool before you start working with it, so that you can protect yourself from possible problems.
It's time to start brainstorming some ideas for your first (or next) B2B content marketing project.
Here are some online tools to help speed up the creative process:
HubSpot Website Grader: A great tool to analyse your site and get performance improvement tips to use when you want to get a good idea of where you are with your marketing. From blogging to social media marketing, Website Grader evaluates your digital channels and gives you a detailed report to help you optimise them. You will find out how to make your site pages more SEO-friendly and find ideas for new content.
Google alerts are certainly the most straightforward way to keep up to date with the news you are interested in and look for writing inspiration.
Feedly is more than just an RSS feed because it integrates Google alert functions for keyword monitoring, the possibility to receive updates from the most authoritative blogs or competitors or to see in the same place the videos of the channels you follow on Youtube. It also offers the function of sharing and, thanks to an integration with Hootsuite, programming on social networks.
Content Forest offers free tools such as KeywordKiwi and ContentIdeator that support the phase of identifying keywords to target, monitoring those that generate traffic on the sites of competing companies and the creation of content.
Google Trends is another free Google tool that provides an overview of online searches, which can be used for market analysis and to understand trends, also at international level. It allows you to find out the search volume of a keyword both by geographic area and by precise time periods, and to compare different keywords to assess their popularity.
6. Identifying the most suitable format
The variety of forms you can give your content is almost limitless. The following are just some of the most popular formats used for content marketing in B2B.
Blog articles such as the one you are reading right now live on the company website and in turn feed it with fresh, up-to-date content. Regularity and frequency of publication are vital to attracting new traffic of qualified visitors to the site.
Each post should contain valuable information for the buyer persona that will encourage them to share the read on social networks or other sites. New SEO trends recommend writing between 1000 and 2000 words, but you can also experiment with different lengths if your audience has other preferences.
The eBook is the best example of premium content that supports lead generation: potential customers can download it after filling in a form with their data on the landing page. These texts are much longer, more detailed and in-depth than blog articles and represent the next step in the inbound conversion process. After reading a post (just like the one you are currently reading), visitors who want to know more about the topic leave their contact details to access the eBook and get more information of their interest. In return, the company offering the premium content has a new lead to nurture and subsequently pass on to salespeople.
With an infographic you can give a visual perspective to your content and make sure that the data can be assimilated by the visitor with a quick glance. Images and graphs attract attention and keep it alive much better and longer than text, especially if you have a lot of statistics or numbers to share.
Exploiting the potential of video is a growing trend in B2B digital marketing. Not only does the use of this multimedia content exponentially increase the level of communication, it also removes the barriers that technology often creates between companies and prospects.
These tools exponentially amplify interaction with the target audience and stimulate sharing on social networks; however, they require a rather large investment of time and resources, especially when compared to the text for an article, but given the popularity of visual marketing, it is worth giving it a try.
Within the video category we can include interviews with satisfied customers, long-standing suppliers and strategic partners to give a face to those who were once in the same situation as the prospects. Real-life testimonials can also be offered in the form of audio interviews (podcasts) or quotes with photographs, perhaps linked to downloadable case histories.
After you have started with the regular publication of content on the pages of your website through the blog, it is good to think about how you can give it a greater echo on other external sites.
sharing articles on company social media, such as LinkedIn
rework the texts by creating new formats and publish them again on the blog or social media sites
creating new material specifically for external sites, including do-follow links back to your pages and give them search engine authority
Publication and optimisation
The content marketing (link) plan should go beyond just writing or creating material and include organisation. Prepare an editorial calendar to help you follow the strategy and maintain a balance between the different types of formats offered to the reader. A social calendar for automatic or scheduled sharing of content on these channels will also be useful.
We've tried to give you all the information you need to create a B2B content marketing plan, we hope we haven't bored you!
But the work has only just begun, it requires time, organisation and creativity, from building the foundations of the strategy to integrating the tools to manage it. If you think you don't have enough resources to execute it, you can contact our team at Xplore Digital (link) we will be glad to help!