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As growing numbers of people express an overwhelming distaste toward online advertising, a business may find itself struggling to retain market share or to reach new customers. The good news is that for companies with longer sales cycles, content marketing is proving to be a solid strategy.
B2B (business-to-business) organizations are discovering that content marketing done right is highly effective and offers an impressive ROI. A typical B2B sale involving multiple decision makers and higher priced purchases requires more nurturing in comparisons to a B2C (business-to-consumer) sales cycle. On average, for B2B sales conversion occurs 3-6 months after first contact.
Content marketing, with its dependence on answering a buyer’s questions, gaining a customer’s trust, and providing solutions to a client’s problem before asking for the sale, is a perfect marketing strategy for a lengthy B2B sales journey.
Subjects covered in this article:
- What is content marketing?
- How effective is content marketing done right?
- What causes B2B organizations to fail at content marketing?
- How to get started with your B2B content marketing strategy
If you are new to the concept of content marketing, the first thing that should be understood is that simply creating content is not enough. This means that the random blog post, social media update, or one-off white paper may serve a temporary purpose, but they alone don’t constitute a full content marketing strategy.
Another point worth noting is that a marketer must recognize the role of effective B2B content marketing: to meet the desires of the customer, not the company.
On the surface this may sound like a self defeating axiom since the primary desire of most organizations is to acquire a conversion, and to do so as quickly as possible.
However, in a world where customers have become weary of self-serving brands disrupting the online experience, companies that focus on what customers actually need and desire are seeing increasing success.
Lastly, effective content marketing involves planning and purposeful execution. This means:
- Well thought out content containing calls-to-action
- Content released on a consistent, planned schedule
- Content optimized to be attractive to search engines while also remaining “readable” and valuable to humans
- Multichannel redistribution of content across social media
- Natural back link building with high authority, relevant websites
The most effective content marketing doesn’t force an engagement with your target client. Instead, it provides your prospective customer with information that they are actively seeking to solve a particular pain point.
Also depending on the type of content produced, it works on autopilot to attract and entice prospective leads into your funnel long after a piece of content has been published.
Here are some compelling stats courtesy of the Content Marketing Institute:
- Nearly all of the most successful B2B content marketers (90%) prioritize the audience’s informational needs over their sales/promotional message.
- In an annual poll conducted by the Content Marketing Institute, 93% of the most successful organizations reported that they are very or extremely committed to content marketing.
- B2B content marketers primarily use email (87%) and educational content (77%) to nurture their audience.
- Content creation is the area of content marketing where there has been the most reported increase in spending over the last 12 months.
- As an organization’s content marketing strategy matures, they are likely to experience compounding growth in conversions.
Content marketing is a very effective strategy with a higher rate of return than other marketing methods. However, it’s also a slower process for gaining conversions. On average a 6-12 month minimal commitment is needed to fully realize success.
A good analogy is to think of content marketing like building a house using bricks and mortar versus more temporary substrates like sticks and straw. A stick and straw house will make for a faster launch; however the temporal nature of the stick house will require you to rebuild it often, which increases expense.
On the other hand, the brick and mortar structure will last longer and be more attractive to your target customers, which means after it’s established, less upkeep is required and growth and increased conversions can be achieved with less work.
Despite the obvious benefits of content marketing, the length of time required to see a return can be off-putting to an impatient company. Organizations who desire the advantages of content marketing, but who aren’t fully committed to the length of time required to see a result are most likely see their efforts fail.
Usually what happens is a senior executive will charge the marketing department with creating content – any content – to get it onto the company website, and perhaps even posted to social media. The assumption is that with a few hashtags and social media shares, this material will be enough to draw new customers.
However, without a strategy this content fails to make any impact and the organization will usually default to what it’s always done – build stick-house marketing campaigns.
For a company willing to approach content marketing with an actual strategy and a realistic time frame, the returns compound over time.
The time required to realize the full benefit from content marketing presents you and your business with a great opportunity. For an organization with the patience and resource, building a solid content-based marketing campaign offers a distinct advantage over your competitors who ignore this strategy or simply don’t know how to utilize it.
If you’ve come to this point in the article it’s likely that you now understand the value of building a trusted relationship with your ideal customer using content, and how doing so can lead to greater sales and higher conversions. So how do you begin?
Know your audience
Knowing who you are creating content for is paramount to any other step you will take to build your content marketing strategy. Most every business has a “buyer persona” – the avatar that represents your idea client or customer. The more effort that’s invested in compiling this avatar, the greater the chances your content will resonate with your target audience.
Important questions that should be answered include: What is this customer’s pain, and how does your business solve it? Where is this person most likely to socialize online? What type of job is she likely to hold? What is his average age? Is this person more likely to watch a video or read a blog?
Know your goal
Why are you creating your content? To raise brand awareness? Attract organic traffic? Increase conversion rates? What call-to-action would you like your target audience to take once you’ve answered their questions and gained their trust? Make a purchase? Schedule a call? Opt into your mailing list?
Know your competitors
Conducting a thorough analysis of what content your competitors are creating allows you to see what’s resonating with your audience. It also allows you to see if your competition is failing to maximize the opportunity presented by a solid content marketing strategy.
Some example questions you should ask include: What type of content is your competitor publishing? Is this content showing up on page one of search engines? Are they using high-value keywords? How frequently are they creating content and who’s reposting and sharing it? What websites are linking to it?
Decide on the time frame
As mentioned earlier in this article, content marketing requires commitment. Decide if you plan to build out your strategy over 6 months, 12 months, or even to employ the strategy indefinitely as a regular segment of your marketing budget.
Decide on the type of content
Content types can range from blog posts, landing pages, videos and infographics to social media posts, case studies, white papers and email campaigns. A content strategy can rely on one or a blend of these various media.
Which you decide to publish will be determined by the research you conduct on “know your audience” and “know your goal”. Some types of content have an almost magical ability to boost conversion rates, like video, but others are absolutely invaluable for attracting long-term organic traffic, such as long-form blog posts.
Determine the frequency of publication and where to distribute it
Consistency is vitally important when it comes to content publishing. Part of gaining your target audience’s trust is proving that you are reliable.
There are various recommendations for the number of posts or emails an organization should deploy. At the minimum, releasing a piece of content at least twice a month will provide some benefit. The amount of return you receive generally increases with the more content you can produce. However if budget and resources limit how frequently you can create content, make sure that content is high-value. Always opt for quality over quantity.
Know what success “looks like” i.e. track traffic and conversions
At the very least, make certain to install Google Analytics or Matomo tracking code on your website so that you are able to see which of your content is attracting organic traffic, how that traffic is growing month to month, and what other websites are linking to what you are publishing. You can also set up conversion goals that report how many people opted into a mailing list or made a purchase as a result of engaging your content.
Contract professional assistance
At Funnel Amp we specialize in creating conversion-focused content, funnels and content strategies to help your business increases organic traffic and conversions. If you don’t have a dedicated content marketing expert on your team we can work with you as an outsourced member of your marketing department.
Use the button below to tell us what goal you want to achieve using content, and we’ll set up a call with you!
About the Author
Head Project Manager / Developer
Sequoia is the founder and Head Project Manager at Funnel Amp. She launched the agency to provide clients with access to full-stack content marketing services that focus on high-quality and conversion optimization.