In the B2B world, we throw a lot of terminology around, and sometimes forget that people can need clarification on what things mean. I know I personally spent a good few months working for a B2B marketing department before I had a full grasp of what everything meant and where everything goes! So let’s lose the assumptions, and strip it all back to basics. What is content, how do you make it and how do you use it in B2B marketing?
For more information on using content marketing for a B2B marketing strategy, check out our latest eBook!
What is content marketing?
We’ll start with the overarching definition, then delve deeper so it all makes a bit more sense. In essence content marketing is when you give something of value to your audience in exchange for their interest in your product. It goes much further than this, which I’ll explain shortly- but on a basic level, it’s a softer marketing approach. Your audience feel they gain something from you before they even discover what they can gain from your offering; they don’t feel harassed by loads of calls or emails and are left to come to you when they’re ready. You give them a free piece of content, full of information they can use to better their approaches, and they say “ok, tell me about your product!”. This is a very basic overview, but it covers the essentials- let’s look deeper and understand firstly- what content is.
The “content” part of content marketing, covers a vast array of resources. We’ll run through the most popular, how they differ and where they’re used. Different pieces of content work for different industries, so bear your buyers in mind whilst reading, and think what resources they’d most enjoy engaging with.
- Blogs– Often posted on a B2B organization’s website, a blog can be anywhere from 500-2000 words, and acts as an informative, educational and fun piece of copy discussing a specific topic relevant to your industry and your audience. What you’re reading right now-is a blog! Blogs can easily differ to cater for their audience, some prefer bullet points and sub-headed sections, others prefer fluent copy- the possibilities really are endless. See blogging as a stream of information, a regular burst of insight with some organizations sharing a new blog daily, and others weekly. Blogging remains a very popular content choice for B2B marketers everywhere, with 46% of B2B decision makers reading at least one blog every day. This means there’s a huge audience out there, waiting for your blogs! They’re quick to find, easy to read, and allow you to broaden your audience enormously. It’s no wonder 79% of companies publishing blogs weekly see regular ROI gained. Check out our B2B blog here!
- Whitepapers/Assets– Also referred to as “guides” and “e-books”, these pieces are longer, more extensive resources. An in-depth piece, thoroughly researched lasting around 20 pages, with a mixture of informative copy and relevant graphics. These pieces of content tend to be released far less often than blogs- perhaps once a month. They take a lot more time and care to create, and organizations often ask for contact details in return for a larger asset like this (whereas blogs remain free-for-all!). 65% of B2B marketers currently share this form of content and say is it highly critical to their content marketing success; often, these resources set the scene for a content strategy’s month or quarter, with all other pieces feeding into it’s key themes. Here’s a great example of a whitepaper/asset!
- News Articles– Similar to blogs, many B2B organizations offer a “News and current events” page on their website, and update their audience with the industry’s latest on-topic debates. These tend to be shorter than blogs, a few hundred quick fire words grabbing an audience’s attention that serve to show an organization keeps up with modern industry needs and is also able to adapt their offering to what’s required for a current market. Check out our “News” page and see what we’re getting at…
- Info-graphics– An info-graphic is graphic heavy (as you’d guessed from the name!); an image based way of communicating information (usually statistics or facts). Imagine seeing a report of results, but along a beautiful timeline, with graphics pulling out the best bits in a way that’s exciting and colorful. These are a great way share information with an audience as it’s not only a little different, but fun, fast and factual- what more do business decision makers want! Here’s an info-graphic, so you can see what we mean…
- Top Tips/checklists/templates– They do what it says on the tin really! Offering an organization tip tips on a certain topic, a checklist they can follow to achieve a difficult task or a template to get them started on a new initiative. These are a little more interactive and are often designed for printing and using practically. Here’s an example…
- Videos/Podcasts– As the technological world advances, so do our interests, and so does content! Modern B2B organizations are starting to tap into how lucrative videos and podcasts can be in sharing useful information and spreading a message. Whether in the form of interviews, or informative animations, these are starting to take off. With almost 50% of B2B searches happening on a mobile device, these mediums for content will only get more popular. See what you think of this one…
How is content made?
This is entirely dependent on the resources available. Two fundamental skills are needed to produce a high-quality stream of content, one is copy writing, and the other is graphic design. These skills combine to create most content, specifically the whitepapers and info-graphics. Other pieces, such as blogs and news articles are mostly reliant on just copy.
Some organizations source these from an agency, commissioning a few pieces to begin with, then going full steam ahead later. Others write copy in house and outsource the graphics, and others employ a team to produce all content in house. If you’re keen to start producing content, look to your budget available, then work from there. Remember- you need to create a constant flow of content- don’t produce loads in one go, then have nothing left to publish!
How to use content for B2B marketing
The most important bit- how to use all this lovely content to create a content marketing strategy that generates results…
1) Lead generation- This is of course, B2B marketing’s key goal. More business leads=more sales opportunities. Now you have the content created, you need to make it available! Publishing it on your website is a great start, then look to paid channels. Can you invest in other companies to share your content? You can often pay a price per lead, supply a piece of content and ask it to shared, until you have gained 20 business leads for example. Then look to email and social media, using these channels to constantly share the assets you’ve created and pushing them out to a wider audience. Gather email addresses from your CRM, and encourage newsletter sign ups at events and on your website, so you can notify people when new content is published. Remember to ALWAYS include a strong call to action- you want them to consume and enjoy the content of course, but you needs to use a little salesmanship to bring the inquiries in – so you can tell them all about how great your product is too!
2) Lead nurture- Content marketing is great, because it helps you nurture warm leads as well as generate hot leads. Hot leads are ready to talk about a purchase with your sales team, whereas warm leads are interested, but not ready to commit to a call just yet. This is where content comes in! Send these warm leads regular resources to keep them engaged and warm them up to your product and your expertise; soon they’ll feel ready to inquire officially, and when they do, they’ll spend 47% more with your company thanks to that lovely content nurture! You may need to give them the odd poke, to remind them who you are and why they should inquire about your product, so you can get as many warm leads through to hots as possible. Gather email addresses for warm leads at events, on social media or via your website through Lead Forensics (read more on that here!)
3) Brand awareness and credibility-Whilst content marketing is great for generating interest and producing sales opportunities, it always plays a hugely important role on a wider spectrum. Content marketing can do wonders for brand awareness. Having regular blogs and news articles published on your website and shared on social media means you’re more likely to be found by people who don’t directly search for your specific offering. For example, if you’re an HR advisory company, and share a blog about interview techniques, or recruitment dos and don’ts, then people searching for those things will come across your brand, even though they didn’t directly search for “HR advice”.
You’ll also gain credibility. Producing content helps you become a thought leader- telling your audience you’re experts. You’ve done the research and you’re keen to share the findings with the community to better their business; you become a trustworthy source providing valuable information, instead of just trying to close a sale. You’ll find your audience will automatically trust you and see your advice as beneficial (and your product as something worth investing in!)
So there it is in a (slightly large) nutshell. Content marketing doesn’t have to be confusing, it’s a simple ideal, and when executed well, it can do wonders for any B2B organization. In many ways, you may already be doing some form of content marketing, you just didn’t know it! We hope this blog has been insightful, and helped you understand content marketing, how it works and how useful it can be to your company.
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