It can be easy to get the impression that content marketing is only for those who sell to consumers. But if you think it’s limited to the consumer market, you’re overlooking a powerful tool with great potential for companies that sell to other businesses.
B2B content marketing is when a company provides content to the businesses that it sells to or wants to sell to that those businesses are interested in. It’s content that grabs and holds their attention, and it can come in all kinds of formats.
It’s information that is helpful and valuable to the businesses that make up your target market, and it’s not the same as traditional advertising. There’s no hard sell or focus on your business’s services or products, but instead B2B content marketing provides info like ideas, answers and solutions for common questions and problems within your target market’s industry.
B2B content marketing is surging in use and paying off for businesses that implement it the right way, driving leads and conversions, establishing their expertise and growing brand awareness. Businesses with both short and long sales cycles, from a variety of industries and of all sizes use B2B content marketing. Everyone from tech and software companies like Lenovo and Salesforce to small businesses and giant shipping companies like the UPS Store and Maersk Line uses B2B content marketing.
When it comes to B2B content marketing 2019 trends can help steer you to success. You can create a foolproof B2B content marketing strategy based on some of the top 2019 trends. Here are the best ways to get you there:
Top 5 Trends that B2B Content Marketers Can Follow
Establish and Track Goals
As you’re creating your content marketing strategy, establish goals for key metrics like traffic, lead generation, engagement and conversions so you can measure your progress and make changes when necessary. Goals are also essential, because when everyone knows what they’re working toward, there’s less room for confusion, and performance is measurable.
Use Analytics Along with Feedback from Your Sales Team to Define Reader Personas
Analytics can give you the data that tells you how your content marketing is doing. Feedback from your sales team can tell you what potential customers want from your product or services and the kind of information they want from your content and why.
It’s crucial to educate yourself about your audience before you educate your audience with your content. Develop reader personas as you tease out the data to help identity your different types of customers. Reader personas are in-depth profiles of your ideal customers that include important elements like their roles in the buying process, their goals, the challenges they face and their preferences for getting information. Make sure that members of different departments, like content creators and sales teams, are on the same page when it comes to defining reader personas.
Talk to Your Customers
Instead of guessing what kind of content your customers need, ask them. If you get out of the office and go with your sales reps on their calls, you can get an even better understanding of what works and what objections they have.You can also get a handle on the different types of customers they’re dealing with to help develop your reader personas.
Complement your face-to-face meetings with customers by talking directly to them through social media, email surveys and phone calls. These research methods will increase your reach in a low-cost way when travel is cost-prohibitive.
Create Content That’s Valuable, Attractive and Engaging for Customers
Once you have customer feedback, use it to create content that is of high quality, relevant and valuable to them and that will build trust and loyalty with them. Remember to put the story and the needs of the market before the product. Be consistent with content and build on it as you go along so that it engages customers and drives high-quality leads on an ongoing basis. Be patient with your strategy—just like sales, effective B2B content marketing is about building relationships, and that can take time.
There’s a common misconception in marketing that B2B content has to be dry and all business, but nothing could be further from the truth. Although B2B content should be created within appropriate professional parameters, entertainment, creativity and high production values aren’t dirty words in B2B content marketing—far from it.
For example, the telecommunications company Cisco created an eight-page graphic novel that featured a superhero named SuperSmart to promote its cyber security services. Instead of using a hard sell that unimaginatively listed the benefits of the services, Cisco engaged customers in a story with a character that they could identify with as she tackled the challenges of shoring up her company’s cyber security.
The Danish container-shipping company Maersk Line created a short Hollywood-quality video that showed its ships plying the wide-open seas, complemented by a gorgeous soundtrack. Storytelling is front-and-center in the video as Maersk employees describe what they find most rewarding about their work at Maersk.
Use a Variety of Platforms for Your Content
Customers respond differently to different content platforms. Tailor your content for a range of platforms based on your message, customer research and feedback. A study by the Content Marketing Institute/Marketing Profs revealed that LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, SlideShare, Google+ and YouTube are among the most popular platforms for B2B content marketing.
LinkedIn is arguably the most important social media platform, especially when it comes to product launches and establishing your expertise, with more than 500 million members. According to Marketing Insider Group, sixty-three percent of B2B marketers ranked LinkedIn as the best social media platform.
But social media platforms traditionally associated with reaching consumers instead of businesses can be the right choice for B2B content marketing too. The UPS Store used Instagram to spotlight the products of small businesses and makers in the U.S., giving recognition to its market in the form of attractive photos of some of their more fragile creations, like chandeliers, and emphasizing the care it takes in shipping them.
User-generated content, including customer reviews, and collaborations with other experts in your industry can boost your content’s authenticity, value and reach.
Social media and blogs aren’t the only platforms businesses can use for content marketing. When the proposal software company Proposify wanted to target their content to their agency market, they created a podcast series called Agencies Drinking Beers.
The series was available on Proposify’s website and on iTunes and showcased valuable information for their market, featuring interviews with industry leaders. The interviews tackled subjects like whether agencies should specialize in vertical markets and whether agency owners should do their own marketing and sales.
Regardless of the platform, make sure your B2B content is easy to access, navigate and share. Most customers don’t have the time or patience to jump through hoops to get to content. Don’t forget SEO either—make sure your content is easy for your customers to find by researching and using the right keywords too.