B2B marketers have always relied on traditional marketing tactics like television commercials, radio ads, and print ads. These are often referred to as ‘interrupt marketing,’ because they do just that.
But the fact is, no one wants to be ‘interrupted’ these days! Everyone’s suffering from ad fatigue because we see an excess of commercials and brand promotional content each day.
So, when an ad pops up, we tend to tune out and move to the content that can help us or add some form of value.
Secondly, ad blockers have made life easy. You can skip any paid and promotional content within seconds, regardless of what form it takes.
Finally, trade shows and conferences, the prime platforms that B2B marketers depended upon, are all being postponed or called off because of COVID-19.
All this has made it critical for B2B firms to look for innovative ways to engage their digital audience, generate leads, and close deals.
Content marketing is one such weapon in the B2B arsenal that can help a firm achieve its top-of-the-funnel goals and identify opportunities deeper in the funnel.
In this digital era, B2B content marketing is emerging as a viable and effective tool to find and pitch qualified leads.
No wonder, an increasing number of B2B marketers are leveraging content marketing as a part of their marketing strategy.
In a recent survey by ON24 of more than 100 B2B marketers, content marketing emerged as the most widely cited component of a firm’s marketing strategy.
Content marketing is a game-changer for B2B enterprises.
In this post, you’ll find everything you need to know about content marketing for B2B. Later in the post, I’ve also shared a few tried and tested B2B content marketing best practices that’ll enable you to attract, engage, educate, inform, nurture, and convert buyers into qualified leads and sales.
So, let’s get started!
What Is B2B Content Marketing?
B2B content marketing is the art of using the power of content to –
- Boost brand awareness and trust
- Attract leads while reducing the cost of acquiring them
- Expand your audience
- Strengthen brand affinity
- Drive leads deeper down the funnel
- Position yourself as a thought leader in your niche
- And much more!
It’s no surprise that a growing number of B2B marketers prefer content marketing over other tactics like search marketing, events, PR, and paid advertising.
B2B marketing content is different from run-of-the-mill consumer-facing content. Here’s why!
- In the B2B realm, buyers are driven by the value offered to them (rather than emotions!). A firm’s efficiency and expertise are what a prospect finds most valuable and these drive the decision-making process.
- For B2B businesses, ROI is the primary goal. Therefore, the B2B content focuses on the what, why, and how instead of the customer emotions (as seen in B2C).
- B2B content marketers focus on a small and specific buyer persona who values the things like data, trends, and ROI.
- The B2B decision-making process is lengthy; hence, marketers need to think of creating content that guides the buyer through each stage of the process. Also, the purchasing process involves a large number of stakeholders.
This means investing a lot of time and effort in cultivating relationships with the key decision-makers.
Further, B2B marketers need to offer multiple resources to make it easy for the buyer to decide in their favor.
Why B2B Content Marketing Matters?
B2B content marketing strategies are designed to engage and retain buyers using truly valuable content that’s delivered consistently.
Thus, the best B2B content marketing ideas help firms earn customer loyalty while providing a deep value proposition.
Let’s see why content marketing is a must for B2B firms.
1. The Length of the B2B Purchase Cycle Has Increased
The annual B2B Buyer Behavior Study 2020 by Demand Gen Report throws light on how COVID-19 has affected the B2B buying behavior.
Nearly half of the respondents shared that the pandemic has forced customers to put off purchases either due to budget freezes or lack of hands-on attention from solution providers.
In fact, 68% of the business professionals agree that the length of the B2B buying cycle has increased.
Image Inspired by – Demandgenreport.com
Also, a whopping 77% of B2B buyers report spending more time researching before making a decision.
As buyers spend more time navigating through the early stages of research, they will expect firms to come up with high-quality content that addresses their concerns and tailored to their business needs.
This means, offering relevant and tailored content to B2B buyers can make it easy for them to make a decision.
Image Inspired by – Demandgenreport.com
B2B buyers expect businesses to share relevant and vendor-focused content that helps them achieve their business goals.
Moreover, the content should demonstrate a strong knowledge of the company’s needs and the business landscape.
The best B2B content marketing strategies offer content that builds on each phase of the buyer’s journey.
This will demonstrate the firm’s knowledge and expertise while also serving practical information that B2B buyers can use.
With planned content marketing, B2B enterprises can offer easily digestible content in the form of guides, infographics, and interactive tools to reduce the research time and tip the purchase scale in their favor.
2. The B2B Buying Dynamics Has Changed
A Gartner paper reveals that the sales team doesn’t have more than 5% of a B2B customer’s time through the buying journey.
That’s because sales reps are not the only channel customers use to research a product or service.
The sea of channels available today gives B2B sales reps a limited opportunity to influence buying decisions.
Secondly, the B2B buying process isn’t linear or predictable. Check out this illustration shared by Gartner.
As you can see, a customer engages in looping across the B2B purchase process before making a decision.
All this makes it critical for B2B marketers to align their in-person and online channels with high-quality content that supports customers in the buying process.
If the customer perceives that the information they have received is helpful and relevant, they are 3 times more likely to buy a bigger deal with less regret.
3. B2B Content Marketing Is a Foolproof Lead Generation and Nurturing Tactic
Before we get to how content marketing can help generate leads, consider these interesting B2B content marketing statistics –
93% of professionals agree that the B2B buying process begins with internet research.
For 71% of B2B industry professionals, purchase decisions are influenced by the quality of content shared by the corporate blog.
Content marketing is proven to fetch three times more leads than paid advertising.
Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing campaigns and generates nearly 3 times the leads.
Image Inspired by – Demandmetric.com
70% of B2B buyers would rather learn about a business through articles than a paid advertisement.
The above statistics are enough to prove that content marketing can be effectively used to qualify leads and drive them through the sales funnel.
Unlike other marketing channels, a B2B content marketing strategy hinges on offering something useful in exchange for the interest expressed by a prospect.
The objects of value (whitepaper, video, podcast, or infographic) are created to raise interest in a product and share industry knowledge.
So, the prospects are further inclined to inquire because the content has got them thinking about their business needs.
Content marketing also helps nurture leads who may not be ready to buy as yet.
Once they have consumed the content offered to them, they are sure to realize that the business can help them or offer a solution to their most pressing needs.
4. Content Marketing Beats Paid Search for Lead Generation
Producing quality leads in a cost-effective manner is one of the topmost priorities for B2B firms.
In fact, that’s what they expect from any kind of marketing effort. But when content marketing and paid promotion are compared, B2B content marketing wins hands down!
Image inspired by – Demandgenreport.com
Content marketing allows enterprises to produce high-quality leads with an excellent ROI.
Enough research has proven that B2B content marketing strategies have a greater ability to drive leads than paid search and at a lesser cost.
Paid promotion can get you on the first page of Google if you are willing to pay for it.
To stay there, you’ll need to keep investing in it. These costs quickly add up in competitive B2B domains.
On the other hand, content marketing needs a modest initial investment, especially at the beginning of launching your campaign, and fetches long-term results.
Image inspired by – Neilpatel.com
When calculating the ROI for content marketing and paid promotion there are too many variables to be considered.
But the fact is, consistent content marketing generates compounding results, unlike PPC.
So, if you are a B2B firm on a tight budget, content marketing can help you reach the top of search engine results naturally.
Those clicks are free because you are offering high-quality, value-adding, relevant content for your customers/prospects who keep coming back to you.
B2B Content Marketing Best Practices
Now that we know what B2B content marketing is and how it can help, it’s time to discuss a few tried and tested tactics to unleash the true potential of this marketing channel.
In this section, I have also included some great B2B content marketing examples and case studies to serve as inspiration for your marketing campaigns.
1. Offer a Stunning Variety of Content
B2B content marketing doesn’t have to be boring.
Content marketing in B2B should be all about offering stellar content while uniquely engaging your audience and driving them down the funnel.
Create a compelling B2B content experience by offering a stunning variety of content to appeal to decision-makers.
How can that be achieved? Read on to know!
1.1 Know Your Buyer Persona
Take a look at your existing customers to understand their buying behavior, pain points, the shared characteristics, and underlying trends.
This can help you create a broad persona, a semi-functional representation of your ideal customer, as HubSpot would put it.
Consider interviewing your customers and understanding their pain points and business challenges.
Also, talk to your prospects. This will enable you to understand the whole purchase decision process.
You can also use buyer persona tools and templates like the Bootstrapped Customer Persona Template, Akoonu, or Make My Persona by HubSpot.
These tools can help you gain powerful insights into your audience and simplify the process of building personas.
1.2 Identify Customer Goals
Besides their pain points, you should be aware of what your customers want to achieve and how you or your product can help them.
This will help you understand their needs better and create content that serves as solutions.
1.3 Involve Your Sales Team
Your sales team interacts with customers daily.
They face questions that are frequently asked by customers/ prospects. Use their knowledge and experience to build value-adding content that appeals to your audience.
1.4 Choose an Effective Content-Type
A Content Preferences Survey Report by Demand Gen Report reveals that blogs, podcasts, and infographics are the most popular forms of content in the B2B domain.
Besides these, case studies, webinars, videos, and interactive content are also being used by most B2B firms.
Regardless of the content type, B2B buyers care a lot about the value offered to them. So, choose a content type that offers the most value for your topic.
1.5 Check Out the Competition
Research your competitors. Understand who they are targeting and what type of content they are using to engage their audience.
Besides guiding your content strategy, these insights can help sharpen your buyer persona.
General Electric serves as an excellent example of how to up your B2B content marketing game.
Besides being famous for its cutting-edge products, GE is one of the best B2B content publishers in the industry.
Their blog offers a huge variety of content that appeals to the target audience across the hundreds of product lines and thousands of physical locations they manage.
GE’s online magazine, The Txchnologist, offers the latest and the glossiest content every B2B buyer in the industry would love to consume.
2. Map Your Content to the Job Title
Most agencies that offer B2B content marketing services agree that B2B content is directed to the lower, middle, and top-level decision-makers in a firm.
If you need to target all of them, create a buyer persona for each and build content that they would look forward to consuming.
- The lower-level decision-makers prefer tactical information.
- Middle-level are looking for data that will influence those above them, thus allowing them to validate their actions.
- The top-level is looking to take their business to the next level.
Creating content that pleases people at different levels within the organizational hierarchy will help you cater to their unique needs, thus speeding up the purchase process.
3. Create a Gated Content Strategy
All B2B firms, big or small, have enough intellectual property to engage and convert their target audience.
If you are a B2B brand selling niche products or services, your team, in all probability, is smart enough to give educated opinions in your niche or publish in authoritative business journals and magazines.
Existing collateral like white papers, templates, and webinars can be promoted and leveraged for organic discovery and to strengthen customer trust.
The best way to use them to your advantage is by creating a gated content strategy around them.
Gated content is when you share high-value resources (eBook, research, whitepaper, webinar, or a particular piece of content) in exchange for customer information.
It helps businesses capture leads that can be nurtured into prospects through various marketing efforts.
Gated content also gives people a feeling that your content is high-quality and valuable, thereby improving the number of leads.
Say your agency has completed extensive research on the upcoming industry trends.
You could write a blog post (ungated content) featuring the highlights.
The post can be followed by a call to action that encourages readers to download the full report in exchange for their email address.
That way gated content can become a critical component of your B2B content marketing plan, like in the case of SuperOffice.
4. Give Them Detailed Case Studies
Case studies and client testimonials play a critical role in influencing prospective buyers in the latter phases of the buying process.
These content forms are increasingly used in the B2B realm because they educate prospects (in the customer’s words) and speak about the role of a product in solving business problems.
Check out Buffer’s B2B marketing blog. The social media management tool’s resource center shares interesting content and case studies that prove to be critical to the vendor evaluation process.
Accenture’s blog is another great example of how an enterprise can dig into a customer’s needs, challenges, and strategy.
Being an established B2B content marketing agency ourselves, Growfusely believes in sharing detailed case studies on how our strategies have helped clients achieve greater heights.
In the absence of case studies, your content strategy will not be able to give that much-needed final push to prospective buyers to make the decision.
Make sure you share several case studies that speak to a vast majority of your audience, enabling you to move leads through the funnel.
5. Leverage the Power of LinkedIn
80% of the B2B leads come from LinkedIn. This powerful social platform is known to drive more social traffic to corporate websites than any other social channel.
So, if you want to generate leads through content marketing, get active on LinkedIn.
What type of B2B content works best on LinkedIn? Consider these quick tips!
5.1 Go for Long-Form Posts
Long-form content is known to drive maximum engagement on LinkedIn. BuzzSumo confirms that a content length of 2000-3000 words performs the best on this social platform and receives the most shares.
Image inspired by – BuzzSumo.com
5.2 Share List Posts
List posts are the most commonly shared content type on LinkedIn’s Pulse network.
Image inspired by – BuzzSumo.com
Make sure you use list posts to turn your blog into a lead generator. Don’t forget to add a relevant call of action at the end of the article to boost your subscriber count, likes, shares, and tweets.
5.3 Keep Your Posts Concise
While long-form content is a huge success when shared on LinkedIn, it’s ideal to limit the post length to 248 characters (40 words).
A short and relevant post can get the required attention and prompt readers to take the necessary action.
B2B enterprises that invest in content marketing are the ones who can boost brand awareness, capture leads, and reduce the cost of leads.
Sharing informative content in your niche demonstrates your firm’s expertise, thereby attracting qualified B2B leads and giving you an edge over the competition.
So, what are you waiting for! Use the information and tips shared in this post to turbocharge your B2B content marketing strategy and take your venture to the next level.
Hazel Kamath is a Senior Content Writer and Strategist at Growfusely – a SaaS content marketing agency specializing in content and data-driven SEO. She holds a Master’s Degree in Business Management from the University of Mumbai. Hazel specializes in the research and development of stellar content in the content marketing and SEO domains. She has over 15 years of corporate experience across strategic brand management and content development. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her with paints and brushes. She’s also an avid fitness enthusiast. Get in touch with her on LinkedIn.