B2B Content marketing: why, how and what exactly?
Content marketing for B2B is clearly on the rise. Companies are increasingly applying it, but why? How do you apply it in your company? And which content is really relevant and valuable?
BONUS: Download the practical B2B content plan & Checklist which you can immediately start with B2B content marketing
What is content marketing?
Bee content marketing (or content marketing, with space) you focus on the information needs of your target group and you respond to this with valuable content to bind new relationships and existing customers. It means saying goodbye to screaming ads and being positively distinguished as a company by really helping. That sounds great, but does it work?
Why B2B content marketing
As a new marketing form, content marketing is unfortunately plagued by general promises and 'We from toilet duck' surveys. Without concrete substantiation, management quickly wipes out a content marketing plan with the first the best critical article about content marketing. Use the following facts to convince your organization internally:
Content marketing is search engine optimization (SEO)
Customers want valuable information. According to Think with Google 57 percent of the buying process is completed before contacting the sales department. Forrester underlines this with her Buyer Behavior Helps B2B Marketers Guide. The average B2B buyer starts the buying process with a search. (DemandGen Report). That means that being well found in Google (SEO) is important in B2B marketing. Content marketing responds excellently with the focus on qualitative content for the target group. Exactly the way Google likes it.
Content marketing supports thought leadership
With thought leadership you profile your company as a knowledge specialist by sharing valuable knowledge and insights for free. In other words: education. When your company is seen as an authority in your field, it has a positive effect on your image and turnover. The position as a knowledge specialist is especially valuable in the B2B market with complex and composed products and services. Forrester sees thought leadership as main means of discrimination in B2B marketing.
Growing interest in content marketing
According to Google Trends, more is sought in the Netherlands for "content marketing" (to a lesser extent for "content marketing", how it should actually be written); at least there is clearly growing interest from the market.
Content marketing is used more often
Research from 2013 by Multiscope under 357 Dutch marketing professionals commissioned by Lewis PR shows that:
- 18 percent of the marketing budget is spent on content marketing.
- The most important means that are used are: reference stories (35 percent), blogging (21 percent) and the results of market research (21 percent).
- A quarter of the marketers (27 percent) expects to spend more on content marketing and 8 percent expect a decrease.
There is no more recent research from The Netherlands. A number of interesting content marketing applications in the Netherlands:
- Wehkamp want it largest content platform from the Netherlands;
- Content marketing at IBM: quality over quantity;
- A practical case from law firm Kennedy van der Laan;
- Why lease company Athlon opted for content marketing;
- KPN focuses on content marketing with her talk show KPN Network Café TV.
For numerical support, I give a look at investigations from abroad.
Content marketing worldwide
Most research on content marketing comes from the Content Marketing Institute. A figure like 86 percent of all B2B marketers worldwide who use content marketing (2015 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends for North America) soon seems like a cigar from its own box. (as Hubspot researches and markets inbound marketing). Therefore a broader foundation:
Gartner presented on her Digital Marketing Conference 2015 content marketing as a new emerging trend and states that:Marketers need to build a content marketing supply chain and determine how to create, curate and cultivate content. ”According to the hype cycle, content marketing is growing to the top of inflated expectations and will reach the level of productivity within five years.
The Economist Group provides research in its 2014 How to hit the mark with B2B buyers that there is a clear interest in content from companies. Reasons for companies to search for business content are:
- To investigate a business idea (75 percent);
- To gain insight into the marketplace (34 percent);
- To understand a complicated problem on both sides (24 percent);
- To gain more insight into an area of their own business (24 percent);
Good content has an impact on the perception of a company:
- 60 percent of the companies interviewed said that content "that helped understand a complex issue in simple terms" gave a positive perception.
- For 67 percent, this applies to usable content or the right content at the right time.
Content marketing works, it says Ascend2 in her Content Marketing Trends Survey. Nine out of ten companies interviewed who use content marketing indicated that this is 'successful' or 'somewhat successful'. In addition, Kapost a nice numerical foundation made of Content Marketing Facts and made Curata this overview of Content Marketing Impact.
Is B2B content marketing mature enough?
The necessary critical reports can also be found, such as Forresters'How Mature Is Your Content Marketing 2014 ', and Rand Fishkin's'Why Content Marketing Fails". Both argue that content marketing works, but is often not used well enough. Exactly the reason why Gartner indicates that the use of content marketing is yet to mature. Forresters research indicates that 62 percent of B2B marketers only create content for campaigns and 47 percent said they are mainly busy creating content for their channels. Why focus on the customer? So the question is mainly: how do you apply content marketing now?
How do you use content marketing for B2B? Best principles
You are convinced of the reason why B2B content marketing: then the question is now how you tackle that. Content marketing has a number of principles and methods, so-called best principles that can be applied to a certain extent to most companies:
From a first look at an advertisement, web page or newspaper article to the purchase, service request and recommendation, the customer journey describes the route that a customer follows. This route is extremely short for the purchase of a pack of coffee, and the customer journey is complex for the purchase of a complete ERP solution. (For comparison: on average, the booking of a holiday only takes place after 72 searches) The customer goes through different phases through different channels. With content marketing, in every phase of the customer journey exactly the information is offered that is valuable and relevant at that time:
- Attention phase: becoming aware of a business need. Give your target group handles to determine your own needs. Help with mapping out real pain points. In the IT sector, problems are often first identified at operational level, but can only be addressed at strategic level.
- Research phase: the search for solutions. Provide practical information that supports the recognition of possible solutions. Which directions are possible? What are important criteria to consider?
- Purchase: choosing a supplier. Help with the selection with criteria, comparisons, demo and trials and the total cost of ownership. What does your target group need to make the best choice?
- Service: the user experience. See how you can help get more out of the product or service. Provide (self) service options and ensure an optimal experience.
The most important application of the customer journey is to focus on the information needs of your target group at a specific moment.
A buyer persona is a customer profile of a typical customer, often in a certain segment. Here you record what awakens your customer, the way of buying and looking up information, demographic and psychographic characteristics, career and role in the organization ... et cetera. Not everyone is a fan of applying a buyer persona, because correct determination and subsequent correct application can go quite wrong. The main question is: who are your customers and what can you do for them? What do they find interesting together? Only then can you also create and offer content that is really relevant.
Not every company wants to use a full buyer persona investigation. So what's practical? Talk to your senior salesmen who really know the customer, or even better: talk to your customers! See what you as an organization can actually do something with, before you set up a whole bunch of buyer personas with countless data that you then never use. Research the behavior of your customers: which pages do they visit? Which tweets and Facebook messages have more interaction? Which white papers are downloaded a lot?
Search engine friendly
Google also likes to put the customer first, with its focus on an optimal experience of Google users. Google wants to offer the most relevant information. Do not look (only) how you get as high as possible in Google, but how you can help your customer as well as possible. Then Google will follow.
Make your content easy to find by applying keywords and context, so that your target group finds your content quickly and practically. Google applies 200 different factors in determining the search results. Brian Dean from Backlinko.com has them all listed.
I place the link above to Backlinko.com because it is exceptionally good content that is relevant in this story. This does not always happen. Good content is not automatically shared on social media and placed as links on relevant sites. A number of things play a role in this: the reach of your own channels, the image of your company, the total experience of your target group. Is your content something they would share on their own? Can you encourage that? Or do you also need to actively promote your content?
I found the list of Google's 200 factors via Google. And Backlinko.com has had to work hard for that: exceptional quality (the only complete list on the internet of something that many marketers are interested in), interaction with the target group, the creation of relevant backlinks so that Google placed this site high in its search results . An alternative is outsource link building: an external party builds valuable links for you in relevant places so that your content is found better in Google. Pay attention to a varied link profile: also links on nofollow, company name, “click here”, local sites and company guides. These are links that Google also expects.
Paying for posting content is called native advertising. The budget for this is increasing, according to Marketers. It is important to keep in mind that you do not put away your content just like an advertisement. The point is that you tailor your content to your target group, to the right phase in the customer journey and that it is valuable content. Only then can you accelerate your promotion.
Choose your channels
The channels through which you distribute your content naturally differ per company. However, a number of generalities apply to most companies:
- Responsive website: about 35 to 50 percent of all it internet traffic comes from mobile and tablet. Give your target group an optimal experience regardless of the device and make your website responsive. Google has also been looking at the mobile experience since 21 April 2015. You have complete control over your website and are therefore central to all marketing.
- Social media: B2B is also growing use of social media, in particular LinkedIn and Twitter. Facebook is possible, provided that passion plays a clear role in your target group. Do not only use social media as sales channels for your content, but use social media for interaction. Ultimately, you do not want likes or retweets, but a bond with your target group.
- Email Marketing: remains the most successful for many companies marketing tool. Newsletter readers want quality, otherwise they unsubscribe. E-mails are (in principle) always assessed (by sender and subject) and are therefore better at generating reach.
Don't just start creating content, but plan it with a content calendar. With this you determine when you create which type of content, for which target group, which phase in the customer journey and for which channel. A content calendar is the practical translation of strategy and tactics into practice. It also ensures that you consistently and regularly publish content to your target audience, because you know exactly internally Who what should deliver when.
Analyze your goals
What makes content marketing successful? Recording your activities, measuring the results, drawing conclusions and adjusting your activities. This applies to all types of marketing of course, the question is actually: what objectives are achievable with B2B content marketing? An ideal moment to have a look at it above why of B2B content marketing. There are roughly two types of metrics:
- Soft metrics: likes, shares, retweets, comments and views. It gives a indication the success of your content. But a like is by no means a purchase.
- Hard metrics: the link with the business. What does a white paper ultimately mean for a company? For example, look at your organic traffic on your blogs, the percentage of website visitors downloading a white paper and signing up for a newsletter, the number of leads and the number of contact requests. Insight into the customer journey of your customers is nice for this, so that you can allocate a conversion in the right way.
There is also a third way to look: the relationship on the long-term (customer lifetime cycle). This allows you to look past the first sale and take the entire customer relationship into account. You can do that in terms of sales, but also in the form of relationship and bonding. Regardless of how you set your goals and how you measure your results: the marketing budget is usually finite and that is why you want to use that optimally. Choose fixed moments to measure your results.
Content marketing and storytelling are often mentioned in the same breath. But they are not the same. I see storytelling on the one hand as part of content marketing, and on the other as the overarching method of marketing:
- Storytelling as part of content marketing: stories fascinate our audience. Storytelling brings your story in a way that matches the experience of your target group. Just as with content marketing, the interest of the target group is central. You can see the customer journey as one story.
- Storytelling as an umbrella form of marketing: storytelling goes beyond the form in which you bring written and visual content (the what). It asks questions about it why of a company: what is the story of the company? Why do you exist? To what extent do you connect with the values and experience of your target group? These are questions that you do not answer as quickly as you enter a company blog.
Learning to apply storytelling is a valuable application of content marketing and helps you better align your added value as a company with the target group.
Go for quality
The saying "garbage in, garbage out" fully applies to content marketing. Go for quality or else do not start with content marketing, because bad content will scare your target audience rather than help you further. Quality means a number of things:
- Make it exceptional. Don't just create content. Create the best content ever! Content of which your target group Wow says. Content that your customers would pay for. Because that is content that is appreciated and that is shared.
- Avoid hard sales. Nobody listens to a sales story with love. Your target group wants to be helped. Talk about their problems, their experience and their experiences. Translate your product or service into solutions. You translate your sales channels into availability and price into added value.
- Don't talk about yourself. Nobody is usually interested in that. For example, a good letter (including content) has the words 'we' and 'our company' as little as possible.
- Sellers sell, writers write. Have content made by the right specialist. A marketer today must already meet a growing list of talents and skills. Is writing not your thing? Have it done by a specialist, internal or external. Go for the writer, the photographer and the filmmaker.
- Use hard data. Are you going for the real transfer of knowledge? Provide real numbers and research that will solidify your story. Especially in B2B there is a quick chance for opinions that are presented as facts.
- Help your client. Consider your content marketing as a part of your product or service. So make it easy for your customer and help save time and money. Respond to the information needs. For each content you ask yourself: how does this help my customer? What other information could I help with? How can my target group continue? What's the next step?
What do you use for B2B content marketing?
Only when you have a clear vision of how you will use B2B content marketing, you can ask the question what to fill in. What exactly are you going to do?
Content marketing is not a new cold way of marketing companies where you look at the "what's in it for me". That puts the focus exclusively on the added value of the company, while content marketing puts the information needs of your customers at the center. You will not bother your customers with your products, but rather help them with their needs.
Let me put it another way: why do you go to work in the morning? Do you do what you like? How bad would it be if your company ceased to exist? If your motivation goes beyond just making money, you will soon come across passion. A drive, a feeling, something you just like to do even if you did it for free. Passion can be shared and is therefore a great basis for content marketing content. If you are not passionate about a subject, then your reader will just notice it. With passion you really make a connection with your audience. Emotion also plays a role in the B2B market; B2B does not stand for boring to businesspeople.
What can you tell about yourself? Which products do you push forward? So those are the wrong questions. The main question is: what does your target group need? That depends not only on the phase in the customer journey that they are in, but also the market. A commonly used slogan in content marketing is therefore: think like a journalist. Ask yourself the following stimulating questions to get inspiration for valuable content:
- What are the biggest trends and developments in the market at the moment?
- Which trend is going to have a major impact on your market?
- When should your target group respond to this?
- What major transformation is currently taking place in your market?
- What problems does your target group face?
- Can you divide your target group into smaller groups (niches)?
- Which trends and developments are at play with your customers' customers?
- What are the different ways to respond to this?
- Which trade magazines and literature do your customers read? What are popular articles? Which topics and links get a lot of interaction on (LinkedIn) forums?
- What topics do your competitors write about? Are they successful with that?
- Who is seen as an expert or authority in your market? What does that person talk about a lot? Can you engage that person?
- For which subject would it be interesting for your customers to let several experts speak about it?
- What kind of news would a journalist write about your company? What is interesting for readers of a newspaper?
- What content have you produced in the past that was successful? Who was that for? How can you reuse that?
- What do your customers ask a lot of questions about?
- Which pages on the website were visited frequently? Can you expand the information on those pages?
- In what is your company seen as an absolute expert? What could you tell from that role?
- Which competitor do you often encounter? What do you score better on? What are the criteria that your target group must therefore take with them?
- Which questions do your customers have to answer before they can purchase your product or service? What should they know?
- Which industry can be compared with your market? What can you take over from that market?
- What is current in your market? How can you respond positively and constructively to this?
- Which stands have been visited a lot at a trade show? What exactly do people get there?
Ask your customers
The (information) requirement is central to all the above questions. That is why direct customer contact is so important. Kennedy van der Laan law firm therefore simply asked its customers the question: what makes you awake at night? Other ideas:
- #DTV or # durability questions. Add your product group and see on Twitter what there are questions about. That resulted in Bloeise in Facebook Friday.
- Immediately ask the question: what do you want to know more about? This is possible via social media, forums and email marketing.
- Start a conversation at an event. Ensure real interaction at an event and ask your customers what is going on with them.
Ask your colleagues
Every company has relevant content! Your colleagues from the sales and customer service departments are in daily contact with your customers. They know which questions are important to them, what they find important and what their considerations are. Involving sellers is an important step, especially since companies are increasingly researching themselves (via Google) before contacting them. Now, sellers are mainly talkers and not writers. So how do you do that?
Simple: talk to your sellers. Interview them, hold a conference call regularly and drink a cup of coffee together. In short: ensure an oral transfer of knowledge. This requires an investment that not every manager or seller will support. As a marketing department you will have to explain and defend your working method.
Many types of content are possible. A small list from small to large:
|Article or blogs
Column or opinion piece
Demo / trial
Presentation and slideshow
|Community or forum
You can publish a good subject in several forms. In fact: why limit yourself? Your target group consists of different people who take in information in different ways. A point of attention is to accompany visual content of text so that Google can see where it goes. In addition, each channel has its own limitations: Twitter with 140 characters, Facebook with the focus on popular and visual content, LinkedIn for its business character, texts must be rollable etc. A separate part is branded content: a form of content in which the sender (the brand) is strongly connected to the content. Such as a cool video of Red Bull for example, which brings entertainment and brand together well.
Do you want to get started with whitepapers? Read this article about whitepaper marketing.
content marketing works just as well offline.
Do you want to continue with B2B content marketing? Click below to sign up for the monthly Bloeise newsletter and receive the practical content plan & checklist.
Outsource Content Marketing
Convinced of the power of content marketing but not sure about the content? Bloeise supports companies with setting up a content strategy, creating quality content (ranging from SEO texts to interviews) and sponsored content. Take Contact to discuss the options for you or book a session directly below.
Get started right away with B2B content marketing? Book an introductory meeting
Telephone 1-on-1 on the day and the time that suits you. I am curious about your goals and your results so far. We can fully support you with content strategy, lead generation and of course content creation. Book the introductory meeting to see what we can do for you.