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B2B content marketing poses a different set of challenges from consumer-based content. Often the brands are more obscure, and the purchase process requires multiple decision makers. However, good B2B content marketing is possible; you just have to avoid these pitfalls.
Image via Flickr by micagoto
Most clients know they need a content marketing strategy, but don’t know how to measure long-term growth. When you’re budgeting for the year, identify key ways to know you’re doing well, and a timeline to hit certain benchmarks. Here are a few examples:
All these goals should have concrete steps that answer how you’re going to achieve them. After all, sitting around hoping for more site visitors won’t increase your traffic.
Content marketing strategies take time, and if your company doesn’t have a long-term view of your strategy, then you’re more likely to fail. Treat content marketing like a weight loss plan: you’re much more likely to see success if you adopt a healthy diet and exercise regularly than if you crash diet for a few days.
What is your current rate of content production? What is your ideal rate? If you only post monthly and plan to post weekly, then make sure you allocate the right amount of time and resources to maintain the quality of work.
The worst thing you can do is post several blogs over a few weeks and then go dark for two months. Your audience will leave and you will have to start back at the beginning.
Ask your content team to listen in on a few sales calls with potential clients. How does your sales team approach client questions and anticipate their needs? If your sales team is good, they’ll ignore most of their talking points and focus specifically on the customer’s problems. Does your blog do the same?
Too often, B2B content is more focused on promoting the company’s message and making the company look good. While that’s important, it’s not nearly as important as the client’s problems and frustrations. Making your content about them — and solving their problems — will take you further than any puff piece about the CEO.
Brands are producing more content than ever, which means it’s harder to be heard above the noise. If you want to stand out, you need to do more than mimic your industry peers — you need to crush them with improved, unique content.
For some of our clients, we keep RSS feeds of their competitors and track their content. This helps us see what they’re producing and look for weak links. By creating better content, we’re providing more value to the customer and reducing those frustrations we talked about earlier.
When you’re starting out, try different content formats to see what works best for engagement and lead generation. This will identify how your audience consumes your content and will let you focus on providing what they want to see.
Some companies discover that their audiences love watching videos. If they’re sitting in the airport waiting for a flight, they’ll pop in their headphones and watch a tutorial. Other companies focus on long-form text content for audiences to read on their commutes. Rather than trying to convert customers to your format, give them what they want.
B2B content marketers need to understand the sales process before they can identify their core audience. Where in the sales funnel is your audience? Who is likely to be researching your product or service?
Many blogs try to appeal to authority figures like the CEO or VP, when the actual audience is on the middle-management level. The intentions are good — the content establishes authority in the industry — but the strategy is out of line with the company’s sales plan.
The average B2B sale gets approval from 5.4 people before a decision is made. In all likelihood, a middle-manager learns about your company and reads your blog, and then opens the door to communicate with senior management. Tailoring your content marketing to the right audience will work wonders for lead generation and conversion.
The creation process is only the first part of your content marketing strategy. That content should continue to work for you from social shares, outreach, SEO, and finally through up-cycling. If you’re just posting and sharing, then you’re never going to hit your ROI goals.
Your content needs a three- to six-month plan for ROI. For the first few days it should drive social engagement and influencer shares, and in the next few months it should generate links and be used as a resource for your sales team. After the 90-day mark, be sure to evaluate the performance to see what content overperformed during that quarter and what failed to generate ROI.
Audiences can easily spot an advertisement, and they’re not going to engage with your content if it’s just a platform to promote your products. An easy way to break out of a content rut is to involve other teams. We’ve already hit on the sales team’s involvement, but what about operations? What about HR?
Involving multiple teams in content creation opens up your blog to new ideas and perspectives. Someone in HR is much more qualified to write about a new skill requirement, while the production team is better at explaining their new product. Involving the company as a whole in your content will make it more real, and more enjoyable for the audience.
It’s easy to feel like you’re rowing in circles with your B2B content marketing. If you’re avoiding all these pitfalls but still feel like you’re failing, then take a step back. It might help to have a third party review your strategy to see where you’re going wrong — and steer you back in the right direction.