Making the initial connection with prospective customers used to be the responsibility of sales reps. Today, in a digital landscape where most users are doing their brand research online, your company’s content does much of the engagement work that once fell under your sales team. That’s why a strong B2B content marketing strategy is essential for B2B business growth.
In this article, we’ll cover the steps to building a B2B content marketing strategy that:
- targets the right audience
- optimizes your internal processes
- produces high-value content
- improves lead generation and conversion rates
Let’s get started!
- Ideal customer profiles and buyer personas help B2B companies target content to the right audiences.
- Marketing and sales alignment makes B2B content marketing strategies more effective.
- For best results, companies should create multiple types of content delivered across multiple channels.
- Every B2B content marketing strategy should have a detailed execution plan behind it.
- Best practices for B2B content marketing include value-first content, shareability, strong CTAs, and the use of lead magnets.
How to build a B2B content marketing strategy that delivers
Develop your ideal customer profile
B2B companies have the unique challenge of selling to both companies and individuals. To do that, they need separate frameworks for defining each target audience. The first is the ideal customer profile (ICP), which describes the organizational attributes that describe your perfect customer — the kind of company that would benefit most from your solutions.
Ideal customer profiles take into account characteristics like company size, industry, budget, location, customer base, and current technologies. They help B2B companies better understand customer pain points and needs and build targeted strategies to address them.
ICPs also help companies shift away from the “everyone is a prospect” mindset — AKA casting the widest net possible and pursuing every single lead. Instead, they can focus on pursuing qualified leads that fit the right profile, which leads to better efficiency, higher conversion rates, and increased sales and revenue.
Define your buyer personas
Once you have your ICP completed, it’s time to move on to buyer personas. Every marketer is familiar with the term “persona” but few actually approach them the right way. Personas should focus not on arbitrary individual traits but rather what people are trying to accomplish in their roles.
In this way, buyer personas are extremely relevant for B2B companies because they focus on the decision makers within organizations that fall under your ICP.
Here’s a good visual that shows the relationship between your ICP and buyer personas:
As you can see, you’ll likely have more than one buyer persona under each of your ICPs. Every persona requires tailored messaging that aligns with the specific motivations of someone in that role for seeking your solution. B2B purchase decisions are a big deal to the people who make them — not only do they require a significant financial investment, they have larger impacts on that person’s entire organization.
When you craft content that resonates with your buyer’s unique needs and motivations, you put their minds at ease and increase the likelihood that they’ll make a purchase.
Know your buyer journey and sales process
Up next are your buyer journey and sales process, two related but different components of your B2B content marketing strategy. Your buyer journey describes the journey your buyer goes through on their way to becoming a customer. Your sales process describes how you guide them through that journey.
The buyer journey should dictate your sales process, and never the other way around. You can’t control the actions and behaviors of your prospective customers. Instead, you need to know what they are and align your sales process to them.
Here’s a good example of a sales process aligned with a buyer journey:
You might be wondering: how exactly does this relate to content? Today, B2B buyers conduct between 57-70% of their research before they ever get in touch with a brand. So how are they learning about and connecting with your brand during the early stages of the buyer journey?
You guessed it — your content.
When you align your sales process with your buyer journey, you can then create content that’s specifically valuable for each of these stages. This is more important than you might think. If you are just becoming aware of your need for a solution, for example, you need educational content, not a product demo or pricing model. If you’re in the decision stage, however, that kind of information is exactly what you do need.
In summary, an aligned sales process and buyer journey ensures that the right content gets to the right audience at the right time, delivering the highest possible value and moving people forward through their buyer journey.
Align your marketing and sales teams
Marketing and sales teams have the same high-level goals, right? They both want to attract more customers and earn more sales for their company. But for some reason, aligning marketing and sales teams is one of the most common challenges companies face as they develop their B2B content marketing strategy.
Recent research found that 58% of B2B professionals feel that their marketing and sales alignment isn’t as strong as it should be. This, even though companies that do align their teams well experience higher retention rates, higher sales, and are 67% better at closing deals.
So what gives?
Most of the time, this is due to lack of clarity around the separate (but complementary!) roles that these two functions play in acquiring new customers.
Marketing teams are responsible mainly for building awareness. They’re the creative brain behind a company’s content. They work to define the right brand voice, tone, and design. They come up with content ideas and typically have the writers, designers, and editors on staff to create it.
Sales teams, on the other hand, are not creating content — but they are using it. Sales reps are the direct liaisons between a company and their prospective and current customers. They use content to communicate effectively, convert sales, and keep customers happy after a purchase is complete. This is often called sales enablement content.
You can see here how marketing and sales roles align with a traditional sales funnel:
To optimize your B2B content marketing strategy, there should be a continuous communication loop between your marketing and sales teams. Marketing guides your sales reps through the right messaging and branding, and sales reps provide crucial feedback about how customers are receiving your content.
A good place to start is by collaborating on goal-setting activities. When teams build buy-in together, they’re more likely to stay aligned along the way. Then, foster collaboration with frequent meetings to assess progress, share feedback and ideas, and make adjustments to your strategy that benefit both teams.
Choose your content types and channels
A hallmark of a strong B2B content marketing strategy is diversity of content and distribution. Your B2B content marketing strategy should include different types of content distributed using a multichannel approach.
Let’s talk first about the content types commonly used by B2B companies:
An active blog is a must for every content marketing strategy. It serves as the primary driver of organic web traffic and houses your content library. Blogs should ideally be updated multiple times per week (between 11-16 times per month).
Video is predicted to account for 82% of all web traffic by the end of this year. It’s also the most in-demand type of content by users B2B companies can use video to provide topical content, webinars, product demos, live event streams and more.
Infographics are an extremely effective way to share a lot of information in one centralized, easily digestible format. Users love infographics and share them more than most other types of content.
Ebooks are educational documents (usually downloadable) that provide extended coverage on a topic of high interest to your audience. They’re usually somewhat casual and have a heavy design element to them.
Whitepapers share a similar purpose with ebooks, but are longer-form and a bit more academic. They deep dive into a topic and are usually positioned for audiences who are already somewhat seasoned in the topic it covers.
Case studies are the best way to demonstrate the real-world applicability of your solutions while showcasing current happy customers. They use storytelling to share how your products and services have made a positive impact on current customer organizations (you can see some MIG examples on our dedicated case studies page).
Podcasts are all the rage right now, and B2B companies are taking note. They are fairly easy to produce and can be a great way to showcase your company’s expertise on topics related to your industry and important to your customers.
What about channels? Multichannel distribution is the best way to ensure your content is reaching your target audiences in the places where they’re looking for it. Most companies use 4-6 content distribution channels, but if you’re just building your B2B content marketing strategy it’s a good idea to start with two and build it out gradually.
You can see below the many different types of channels B2B companies have to choose from:
While there are some must-include channels like your website and email, it’s up to each company to determine which other channels will be most effective at reaching your target audience.
Create your content plan
Your B2B content marketing strategy needs an execution plan behind it to keep your teams on track and accountable. There are two main components to content planning that you should use: your work plan, and your content calendar. Sometimes both of these plans can live right in the same document (at MIG, ours does).
Your work plan outlines tasks that need to be completed for content creation and publishing, including who is responsible and the deadline for each task. Your content calendar outlines the delivery and publication dates for your content.
To help you get started, you can view and download the content marketing planning template we use at MIG.
Alt-Text: MIG content marketing planning template.
Execute your plan
Now it’s time to start publishing! Here are a few best-practice tips to keep in mind as you create your content and execute your plan:
No matter how great your content is, it won’t drive results unless it appears on search engine results pages. Be sure your marketing team conducts keyword research to find the topics and search terms most relevant to your industry and audience. Then, develop content around those topics using SEO best practices. Read our guide on building and refining your SEO strategy for more resources on this.
Create value-first content
Customers care first and foremost about solving their problems. That’s why your B2B content marketing strategy should always focus on creating value-first content — in other words, content that emphasizes the value and benefits your solutions will deliver, rather than product and service features.
Certainly features have their place in the sales process, but it’s usually in the later stages when customers are making a final decision. And even then, the final purchase choice will likely go to the company best demonstrating how they can make that customer’s life better or job easier.
Here’s more on how you can create content that’s value-driven:
Use lead magnets
Lead magnets are high-value, usually downloadable assets offered in exchange for a prospective customer’s contact information. They typically aim to help prospects solve a problem they’re facing or accomplish an important task. When used effectively, lead magnets can increase opt-in rates by up to 85%. So those ebooks, whitepapers, and how-to guides you’re already creating as part of your strategy? Turn them into lead magnets for even bigger results!
Include strong calls to action
Your prospective customers won’t know what to do next unless you tell them! That’s why calls to action (CTAs) are so important to include in every single piece of content you publish. CTAs tell users what the next logical step is that they should take to continue on their buyer journey. Check out our guide to optimizing calls to action to develop CTAs that deliver.
Make your content shareable
Did you know that content can turn current and prospective customers into brand advocates? Think about it: you see content shared on social media every day. When your B2B content marketing strategy covers topics that are relevant and interesting to your audience, they are likely to share that content through their own channels.
That’s if you make it shareable. Fortunately, creating shareable content is pretty easy. Two simple steps you can take to encourage sharing are adding social sharing buttons to your blog posts and sharing your blog posts and other content on your own social pages.
Ready to build your B2B content marketing strategy?
An effective B2B content marketing strategy starts with great content. Marketing Insider Group’s team of writers and SEO experts can deliver you optimized, ready-to-publish content every week for one year or more. Check out our SEO Blog Writing Service or schedule a quick consultation to get started!