As B2B marketers, we are afforded a whole world of digital opportunities to enable us to reach our goals. In today’s multi-channel world, combining channels and techniques can bring great rewards for B2B businesses, whether they’re selling a product online, generating new business leads or simply raising brand awareness.
Content marketing is a growing trend amongst B2B marketers.
And rightly so!
When done well, B2B content marketing can reap great rewards by enabling businesses to better communicate their value and engage with their end user.
This week, we’ve been at the B2B Marketing Expo – an event designed to arm B2B marketers with the knowledge and support they need to grow online. Content marketing has been a key focus area among the event’s speakers. Here, I’ll explore content marketing for B2B businesses and how to make the most of it as a marketing manager.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is still something of a buzz term in many ways. It’s a widespread discipline which encompasses many different formats of content generation; in general, content marketing refers to any campaigns which rely primarily on the production of content – in any form.
Usually, this means investing in content which goes beyond the norm – so while blogging is, technically, content marketing, we are more likely talking about interactive graphics, microsites, quizzes, videos, whitepapers, etc.
For savvy B2B marketers, all content marketing campaigns come from an SEO requirement, such as to improve rankings for a specific term, or from a user requirement, such as to answer a common question. In a Whiteboard Friday video blog, Rand Fishkin from Moz explained how we can use what he terms “10x content” to push our content beyond what’s been done before. It’s well worth checking out if you haven’t already.
Investing in content marketing as a B2B business
The main difference between B2B and B2C is the lead time to conversion. Typically, a B2C product can be bought quite quickly. A B2B product requires more time and thought before the purchase is made.
This means we need to understand what journeys our audience take on the path to conversion. It means we need to map out user journeys.
Here’s an example:
- User A sees a post on LinkedIn in which their friend, user B, shares a report about the prevalence of customers still using the telephone to enquire about B2B services. The report has been produced by a company which provides telephone call tracking.
- User A finds the report interesting so looks at the website of the company offering this service
- They watch a video which gives them a short overview of how it works
- They browse the site but are too busy to give it much thought, but they sign up for the newsletter anyway
- They receive an email welcoming them to the newsletter list, including a link to some case studies of how the call tracking service is used
- Three days later, they receive another email which offers them a free demonstration via webinar
- They have their demonstration and like what they see
- They later see an advert for the service while browsing Facebook, which encourages them to sign up
- Finally, they return to the website to register for an account
This is quite a long conversion process. You can see how the website plays and important role in providing the user information. But look also at how content comes into play in various parts of this journey; from the original report, to the video on the website, to the case studies, to the emails, to the Facebook ads – it all works together to help this user along that conversion journey.
Of course, not all journeys look like this. They can be much shorter – i.e. the user Google’s a service, finds the website and buys there and then. But with B2B offerings typically being more complex than this, we can expect longer journeys and therefore get value from an investment in content.
Knowing what content to produce
Any investment in content marketing should be made with a clear purpose in mind. As I already eluded to in this post, the purpose of content marketing, broadly speaking, can be split into two areas:
- A search marketing requirement
- To answer a user need
Let’s look first at point 1 – a search marketing requirement.
SEO, done well, is all about letting Google know the value of a page on your website and to convince it that your page is the best possible search result for its target query.
Content marketing can support this in two main ways. Firstly, by producing really high quality, 10x content, we can make our page better than any other like it, and therefore encourage Google to serve our page above our competitors in the search results.
Secondly, content marketing can support link building efforts. Produce high quality content that’s better than anything else out there, and by promoting it outside of your website, you can encourage other websites to link to yours – which is an important factor in the value Google gives to your site, and therefore your rankings.
Now let’s look at point 2 – to answer a user need.
This comes back to really knowing your audience and the journey they take. One example of content that answers a user need would be to speak to your sales team and find out the most common questions people ask about your product/service. You can then produce a whitepaper which answers this question or explores a common challenge that your prospects face.
Also consider the rebuttals prospects have along the conversion journey. Using the example of the call tracking software, it’s likely that potential customers are thinking about:
- ROI and the value of investing
- What other businesses use it
- How it works
Consider the concerns your prospects may have, and how you can create content to alleviate those concerns – such as reports, case studies, testimonials, webinars, infographics and so on.
Measuring the value of your content
Content marketing is an investment for your business. It takes time and money to produce great content.
It’s essential you track the value of your content campaigns. Doing so requires an acknowledgement that not all content leads to conversion straight away.
Attribution modelling is therefore important.
If you’re using Google Analytics (which we’d highly recommend), the default attribution model used is ‘last click’. This means that conversions are attributed to the last channel the user touched before converting.
Since seeing a piece of content doesn’t always lead to a conversion straight away, this model can be unrepresentative of the value of your content campaigns.
Other attribution models can give you a much better view of the value of your content. “First click”, for example, will show you conversions attributed to the first channel the user came through. “Time decay” will apply value to channels which decays over time. “Linear” modelling will apply equal value to every channel in the journey.
Your choice of attribution model will come down to your business need. But by identifying the right one for you, you can get a much clearer view on the impact of your content marketing efforts.
This has been a very brief overview of content marketing for B2B businesses. If you’d like to learn more, get in touch, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get our free, downloadable guide to digital marketing for B2B businesses.