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Developing a B2B Content Marketing Strategy

Your potential customers are searching the internet for solutions that your business offers. A solid content marketing strategy can help your business to business company give you a chance to be found by them and turn them into customers.

Last Updated:December 3, 2018

Digital Marketing

Reading Time:31 minutes

Because of the internet, the landscape as we see things today is radically different than it was 20 and even 10 years ago.

It used to be the case that if you realized you had a need for something (say a new TV because your current one was showing a distorted display), you would go to the nearest Best Buy (or even Circuit City) and speak to the experts about your options.

They would guide you through the different options and the techs that would be necessary to produce the best sound and picture in your living room.

Times have changed.

Today, the buyer is the expert. The buyer acts as their own guide - their own in-store expert - by proactively performing the research, weighing the options and contacting the businesses they've determined are the most likely to be able to provide what they need.

Consider these statistics:

  • Today's buyer is anywhere from two-thirds to 90% of the way through their customer journey before they reach out to a vendor (source)
  • 82% of customers consult their phones on purchases they are about to make in-store and 45% read reviews before making a purchase (source)
  • 89% of customers begin their buying process with a search engine (source)

Now, before you assume that these statistics don't carry over to the business to business world, consider this research by Forrester.

Regarding B2B purchase decisions:68% of B2B customers prefer to research independently online

And calling up a sales representative for help:60% of buyers would rather not communicate with sales reps as their primary information source

There's a reason why we - customers - feel this way. We've been empowered by content and content marketing.

According to the Content Marketing Institute:Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

At this very moment, consumers and business managers are actively searching the web for answers that your that your brand is already uniquely positioned to offer.

That's right - your target market is already looking for you and now it's your turn to develop a content marketing strategy that provides the answers your potential customers are looking for before someone else does.

Before you run off to create your world-dominating content marketing strategy, I think it's helpful to know what you're aiming for. A good content marketing strategy delivers 3 very helpful benefits to your business:

  1. Increased brand awareness: As potential prospects and clients perform their research online, they'll continue to come across the content that you're creating and, therefore, your brand
  2. Increased brand preference: High-quality content helps to establish you and your brand as a thought-leader and the go-to expert in your industry which strengthens relationships with buyers
  3. Greater customer reach at a reduced cost: Content marketing isn't a short-term strategy, however, a growing library of great content will continue to reach more qualified leads and interest buyers for months and years to come

As stated by Marketo:Content marketing is the savvy marketer's response to the new, relationship-based, buyer-driven, digital marketplace.

Determining your content marketing objectives

When contemplating the objectives of your content marketing strategy - the raw results that you're hoping to achieve through the time and money spent on the tasks - it's important that you define your key business and customer needs as well as how your content efforts will address them.

For example, your strategy needs to include:

  • Your purpose and goals: the reason why your content exists, the actions that you want your audience to perform after digesting your content, and the value you expect to receive from those actions
  • Your audience personasA buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. (HubSpot) and buyer's journey: the characteristics of the people who will benefit from your content and how their situations may transition closer to being buyer-ready as they read your content
  • Your unique editorial mission - your brand's one-of-a-kind and distinguishing perspectives and approach to creating content

Your content marketing purpose and goals

Setting goals is so important. According to Jeff Boss of Forbes:Goal setting helps you align focus with behavior because you get feedback on your progress.

Ultimately, the best goals are going to be the ones that affect the top and bottom lines of your business. Don't segment digital marketing into a separate category - its purpose is to help grow your business after all.

In order to determine the best overall purpose for your content marketing activities, think about where your business could use a positive push.

Brand awareness

Are you struggling to make a name for yourself - in general or in a new market? Are potential customers conscious of you and your products? Would they recognize your brand image and how would it compare to a competitor's brand image in your industry?

Brand awareness is important to the long-term health of a business:With the vast amount of products options, having a differentiated message and an audience that can distinguish a company’s brand from its competitors is crucial. (TrackMaven)

Do you want more traffic?

Audience engagement

Are you developing a core group of faithful followers? People that trust your content, know that they can depend on you for up-to-date and accurate information, return to your website often, and even, possibly, have signed up for your newsletter?

Don't forget the most important result - that these individuals have converted to paying customers, the ultimate goal.

Website traffic

Is your website failing to bring in new traffic? Is the content on your website hard to navigate causing visitors to quickly bounceA "bounce" occurs when someone visits your website and leaves without interacting further with your site. Your bounce rate shows you the percentage of your visitors who bounce off of your site. (Neil Patel) from your web pages? Is your existing content not fulfilling the reader's needs or establishing your authority and ability to solve the reader's problem?

Lead generation / lead nurturing

Is your sales team having trouble finding or qualifying new leads? Are they getting push back in one area when trying to move existing leads down the sales funnelThe definition of a sales funnel refers to the buying process that companies lead customers through when purchasing products. (RingDNA)?

A lead is a person who has expressed interest in the product or service that a company offers. If a business doesn't have a system in place that develops consistent leads and then grows them into customers it's backing itself into a corner in regards to increasing its top-line sales.

Increasing your marketing ROI

Do you feel like you're spending too much on marketing costs and it's been mostly unjustified? Are you looking for ways to reduce your marketing costs or at least better manage them and measure their return on investmentMarketing ROI is a way of measuring the return on investment from the amount a company spends on marketing. (HBR)?

Digital marketing makes measuring return on investment easier than ever before regardless of whether the asset used is your website, social media or digital advertising.

Customer retention and loyalty

Is your customer support team receiving high volumes of calls and/or emails? Are you failing to secure repeat business from customers or upsell them on additional products or services?

Retaining existing customers can actually be more profitable than acquiring new customers. According to Bain & Company:Increasing customer retention rate by just 5% can increase profits by 25-95%.

Once you've determined your primary purpose for creating content, identify the goals you will look to accomplish in that area.

According to Robert Rose and Content Marketing Institute's Content Marketing Framework, common goals typically fall into 1 of 3 categories:

  • Sales: this would be content that promotes certain products or services and looks to convert readers into customers.
  • Cost-reduction: content that supports your business or other marketing activities or maybe even replaces them. An example of this could be a well-written piece of helpful, customer-friendly content created to reduce the number of calls coming in to the customer service team.
  • Business growth: content that looks to build the business in a new or innovative way or spread the existing reach of marketing activities.

Although each category will be measured in different ways, they are all built on the idea of subscribed audiencesBlog subscribers are people who have opted-in to receive your content or alerts about your newly-posted content and how they can receive it.. The greater the level of connectedness and commitment from the reader the greater the opportunity for potential sales and upselling and perhaps even brand loyalty and evangelism.

Audience personas and buyer's journey

There are 2 things that most businesses do wrong:

  1. They try to market their products to everyone. First of all, they think their products have universal appeal. Secondly, they don't want to lose any potential customers by not including them in their messaging.
  2. Their marketing speaks more about what they do rather than what the customer needs. The problem here is that this is not how people make purchasing decisions. When choosing a product or service, people naturally gravitate toward businesses they know and trust and the best way to build trust is to show genuine understanding and concern for the other person - your customers.

Since we want to focus on what our customer wants we need to determine whom our customer is.

Narrow your focus to a single niche audience

To determine your primary, niche audienceThis specific audience is a selective group of people who have specific wants, needs and interests. (Issuu) that you're going to target, you need to look for the one type of customer you can help the most with your content.

To determine your niche, start with these questions:

  • Are there relevant yet underserved audience who aren't getting the information they need from other sources?
  • What customer group is our business struggling the most to gain traction with? Can content help us bridge this gap?
  • If we don't provide content for this audience, would they care or notice? Can we become the leading information resource for this customer base?

Keep in mind that this niche audience should be relevant to your overall business objectives. You could build a successful content marketing strategy while doing little for your actual business growth if not.

Create your content marketing personas

Once you've identified from a general viewpoint who your core audience is, you'll need to develop a clear picture of who they are for the clarity of everyone involved in your content marketing strategy. This could even involve creating a fictional character that you prepare for like you would a real customer.

It's tempting for B2B marketers to ignore this data - after all, we're selling to businesses, right? However, at the end of the day, people are the ones who make the decisions. While some business to business relationships stay true despite turnover in key management positions, many don't and even those that do run the risk of depleting without an understanding of the people involved and building their trust.

To help us create the persona of a person and business in our niche audience, let's ask ourselves a few questions. First, we're going to say that our fictional character is a man named Spencer.

  1. What are Spencer's personal demographics? What's his education level? Where does he live? What is his personality like, his demeanor? What methods of communication does he prefer and what style of content does he usually consume?
  2. What type of business does Spencer work for? What industry is it located in? Is it business to business, business to consumer, or both? How many employees does his business have and what's their annual revenue?
  3. What is Spencer's job? What's his job title and daily responsibilities? Who does he report to? Does he ultimately have the purchasing power to finalize a deal with us? Who reports to Spencer?
  4. What are his goals, motivations and challenges? What are Spencer's and his teams goals? How does he measure those goals? What's the hardest part of his job? What problems is he trying to solve?
  5. What sources of information does Spencer prefer? What blogs does he read? How does he perform research for a particular problem? Does he attend any specific conferences or industry events? Does he utilize research or analyst firms?

You should also consider how your audience's needs and behaviors may shift as your content does its job. Creating a map of your buyer's journeyThe buyer’s journey is a framework that acknowledges a buyer’s progression through a research and decision process ultimately culminating in a purchase. (Conductor) helps you to better anticipate and adapt to your persona's content needs as they evolve.

Unique editorial mission

Once you know your audience, purpose and goals, you have the information needed to build your content marketing mission statement. This statement would capture the essence of your content strategy in 1 or 2 sentences which you'll be able to use and refer back to to make sure your activities are consistent with your overall mission.

An example of a content marketing mission statement is this one from Econsultancy:To curate a definitive guide to digital transformation that helps time-poor senior executives understand how it could add value to their business.

A dissection of that mission statement is provided by Econsultancy:

  • They should curate content - it doesn't have to be new
  • They should provide a variety of information for a variety of viewpoints, to create a definitive guide
  • Targeting time-poor senior executives means the content has to be engaging from the get-go
  • The end goal is showing the possible value in digital transformation, and hence in their content

A few other examples of some content marketing mission statements: Inc. Magazine:Welcome to Inc.com, the place where entrepreneurs and business owners can find useful information, advice, insights, resources and inspiration for running and growing their business.

ConAgra's ForkFul:Here you’ll find recipes suited for both the everyday and special occasions.

The Hartford's BIZ AHEAD:Visit Biz Ahead, powered by The Hartford, for the latest insights and advice to help you manage and grow your small business more effectively.

Q by Equinox:Q is Equinox’s editorial site that was created to change the conversation on fitness and wellness by presenting it in an elevated way. To us, the body is the ultimate investment. We believe it takes equal parts inspiration and information to get you to commit—and that’s what Q provides.

To make it simple to construct your own mission statement, refer to this template:

Your mission statement should help your entire content marketing team better understand what distinguishes your brand's content experience from everyone else competing for your audience's attention.

Constructing this mission statement is not only an important step in your content strategy but should be done prior to any other content marketing activities.

What sets your business apart?

What will you create in your content marketing program that sets you apart? There is a vast amount of content online - how can your content stand out from the crowd and connect with a niche of individuals?

What's your one thing?

The best way to start is by infusing your content marketing with your brand imageYour brand image is a mix of the associations consumers make based on every interaction they have with your business.. Your brand image will have a huge effect on the personality of how your content is read and understood.

We can identify popular brands and their brand images often portrayed clearly in advertisements.

Coca-Cola: happiness

Starbucks: inspire and nurture

Professionally marketed brands will also do a good job of portraying their brand image in their content marketing.

Mailchimp: humor and tech demystification

Huffington Post: authentic and accessible

Here are some ways that you can improve your content by peeling back the layers and letting your brand's personality shine through:

Get visual

Visuals connect with readers in ways that sometimes text cannot and can actually help to improve reader comprehension and memory.

According to a study performed by Georgia State University in which people were asked to recall items from a list:Creating images improved participants' memories and helped them commit fewer errors.

Not only can visuals have a more memorable, lasting effect on your audience, but they tend to have a bigger impact as well.

For example, consider Instagram versus Facebook. Instagram is fully visual with images and videos being the main content while text is merely used as a caption. Facebook, on the other hand, has its roots based in more text-based posting.

Instagram's engagement per followerEngagement rate is a metric that is used heavily in analyzing social media measuring likes, shares, and comments. is 58 times higher than that of Facebook.

Perhaps the best way to infuse your content with your brand image is to include images. Here are some ways that you can do so:

  • Infographics: graphs, charts or diagrams used to represent information or data
  • b2b infographic content
  • Original photos: unique photos from your point of view
  • original photo b2b content
  • Screenshots: for instructional, "how-to" content
  • b2b screenshot content
  • Videos: for the next section of content, try explaining it in a video instead of typing it out in text

Tell stories

Stories explain why a human has the capability (and many times desire) to stare at walls of text for hours and hours.

Stories are ingrained in the human brain and because of this using content to tell your stories will humanize and allow for an emotional connection to form with your reader.

In business to business, a great way to tell a story in and with your content is by implementing case studiesA case study is a research method involving an up-close, in-depth, and detailed examination of a subject of study (the case), as well as its related contextual conditions. (Wikipedia).

Here's an example of a case study involving Albatern, a clean energy company located in Scotland:Albatern is developing wave energy devices to produce electricity for customers who are working off-grid in fish farms and similar sites.
ETP has helped the company with two projects.
In the first, expert advice was provided to carry out structural analysis for novel fibre reinforced plastic components used in their devices.
In the second, ETP supported access to the ground breaking new Flowave Test Tank facility at University of Edinburgh. This was important to understand mooring loadings and the behaviour of Albatern’s WaveNET coupled array device in waves from different directions, where the new tank was able to provide answers which are difficult to get elsewhere.

Do you have any examples that you could use in your content? Could you talk about how your products have helped other companies or how your business works on complex solutions on a day-to-day basis?

Case studies don't need to be earth-shattering to matter. Don't be afraid to speak even about ways in which your company has failed as long as you follow that up by stating how you learned and became better because of the failure.

Ask questions

Asking your audience questions throughout your content can be one of the simplest ways to connect on a deeper level. Questions can help your audience:

  • Connect personally: even if a piece of content has been read by over 1 thousand people prior, it's difficult to come across a question in the content and not immediately think about how you would answer the question and, therefore, think that the question was asked directly to you
  • Catch up: just as commas encourage you to take a breath when reading aloud, a question reads differently than a sentence which allows your brain a second to catch up with what you've taken in
  • Feel understood: good questions can make the reader feel that their needs are being understood especially if the reader has already asked that question before
  • Have confidence in you: feeling understood will make the reader think that you care about listening and understanding their needs which will instill confidence that that's how you operate in business as well

Write like you speak

Content marketing isn't a one-way street - it's a conversation. With every piece of content you post you're hoping to start a conversation with a potential buyer.

That's an easy concept to understand, but not writing every piece of content like a boring press releaseA press release is a written communication that reports specific but brief information about an event, circumstance, or other happening. (the balance) is very hard for B2B companies. I'm not saying that press releases don't have their place, but its place is not in your blog.

So, what are some tricks to get you over the hump?

  • Imagine yourself having a chat with a trusted friend: since good writing is a conversation between the writer and the reader anyway, why not pretend you're having one?
  • Record yourself talking about a topic: hearing a recording of you speaking will help with objectivity
  • Use the same words that you do in your everyday life: no one will ever complain that your writing is too easy to understand
  • Toss out the rule book and just start writing: just type out what's inside your head and then come back later and check for any obvious errors

I can struggle with this.

I'll get myself all set up with my laptop, coffee, research notes, etc. to be organized and perfect when in actuality the best way to be real is to just sit down and start working the keyboard!

Unveil the people behind the scenes

Perhaps the best way to express your brand image and personality is by bringing in members of your business to talk about it!

There are different ways to do this, however, I wouldn't do it just to do it.

What I mean is in the business to business world I wouldn't suggest bringing in an employee just to tell a joke, or tell you about his dog. There might be a time and a place for that, but I'm not sure that's the best way to handle this.

I recommend bringing in other personalities to talk about your business from their perspective.

Here's a video that Sony uses as part of their employee interview process:

What I'd like to see is more businesses spinning off of this idea by interviewing their employees about projects their working on, clients they've been able to help, successes, failures, and so on. What a way to add personality to your content while showcasing your business AND your team!

Create a content execution plan

After determining your objects, understanding your audience in the form of detailed personas, and learning how to leverage your brand image to make your content interesting, you're ready to start writing.

Well, almost. First, we need to come up with a plan.

You see, anyone can sit down and quickly knock out a blog or 2 - and then maybe do that again in a couple of days.

But you're different. You want to make content marketing part of your long-term digital marketing plan.

In order to separate yourself from the 99% of blogs that fail nearly every year you need a content calendarA content calendar is a shareable resource that marketing teams can use to plan all content marketing activity. (C&C).

Having a plan, a system, a process in place is very beneficial in every aspect of your business and your content marketing strategy is no different.

Here's how a content calendar can help:

It keeps you organized

Do you keep to-do lists? Do you jot down items for your to-do list on your notebook, sticky pad, back of your hand, and in your phone? It's easy to do this with topic ideas for your blog.

I think it's great to write stuff down (I do it all the time!) but it's pointless if you lose your notes and come back to them too late for them to matter.

Having a content calendar can help you to keep all of your topic ideas organized and in one place.

And it's not just topics that need organization.

  • Posting schedule: when the next content should be posted to the website
  • Graphics: images and other visuals you've come across in your day-to-day activities that could provide value
  • Links: links to other sites and helpful resources for producing content

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It shows what you'll be writing about at a glance

Preplanning a few week's worth of content for your website is a big accomplishment. It will also be extremely helpful in keeping your content marketing strategy consistent.

Knowing the upcoming content that you'll be producing will help your marketing to make sense to your audience.

When we look back to the previous section of this guide covering content marketing objectives, how well would you do increasing your marketing return-on-investment or generating new leads if your content doesn't do a good job of guiding your prospects down the sales funnel?

Additionally, viewing your topics on a calendar will allow you to identify any holes in your content - maybe items that might need additional time to explain.

It helps you stay consistent

Plotting future posts and content activities on a calendar is like writing down your goals. And, according Michael Hyatt:42% of people achieve their goals when they write them down first.

Planning out your posts and assigning due dates is a powerful thing. Not only does it encourage action but also positive feedback as you see the accomplishments as the weeks go by.

What should a B2B content calendar include?

Having an all-in-one place to chart your content execution plan will help you stay organized, consistent and on track to helping attract your target audience.

Regardless of your industry, your content calendar will look pretty much the same. It should include:

  • Idea: generally, what this blog post will be about
  • Headline: the title as it will appear on the web page
  • Category: different products or services most relevant to the content
  • Buyer Stage: the levelThe different levels in the buyer's journey are some form of awareness, consideration and decision in the buyer's journey that this content is focused on
  • Idea development: subheadings and topics that will be discussed
  • Keywords: search-friendly words that will be included throughout (more on this to come)
  • Call-to-action: what will you want your audience to do after reading the content?
  • Publish date: when this post should be published on your website

B2B Content Calendar [Download]

I created a business to business content calendar Excel file based on the above content. Feel free to download the file to get a head start on your content marketing execution plan!

Download

Launch a content amplification plan

So far you've taken the time to develop your content marketing plan based on set goals objectives.

You've understood who your target audience is and have even created audience personas in order to visualize who your reader is.

You took a look inside to understand your brand's image and how it can be applied to your content to make it unique.

Then, you created your content! Your well on your way to a very successful content marketing strategy.

But your content marketing strategy isn't complete yet.

You need 2 more very important things, and one of them is a content amplification plan. A way to market your content marketing.

Do you know what happens after you post a new blog to your website?

Nothing.

Sure, Google and other search engines will index the page and eventually people will find it, but you're not looking for eventually traffic. You need to grow your business today.

Let's look at some ways to market your business to business-focused content.

Influencer marketing

InfluencerAn influencer is an individual who has the power to affect purchase decisions of others because of his/her authority, knowledge, position or relationship with his/her audience. (IMH) marketing allows you to leverage the power created by industry-leading experts and businesses.

A couple examples of influencers in the B2B marketplace are Martha Shadan of Rotation Medical and Tim Wiora of Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

b2b influencers

Influencers are the ones everyone you're trying to reach is already listening to. (MOZ)

When you think of it that way, you can't get in with these influencers fast enough! Developing relationships with them is another valuable way to build your audience - especially if you don't have a large audience to start with.

How do you find and leverage influencers in the business to business industry?

There are actually quite a few tools that you can try and sign up for that may be helpful such as Klear, Discover.ly and Pixlee, however, the free versions of these tools don't provide a lot of dependable value and the pay versions are sort of hit-or-miss, too.

I'd recommend that you look for B2B influencers by:

  • Starting in your industry: who are the huge players in your industry? Is there a trustworthy expert that works for a company that maybe you don't directly compete with?
  • Studying what you're studying: who produces the training manuals and other materials that your company uses to develop talent?
  • Looking on LinkedIn: this might be my favorite way to find influencers. You can filter by industry, keyword, title, and region. LinkedIn will also show you if you have any connections in common which you could leverage!
  • business to business how to find influencers
  • Searching for industry blogs: another great way - see who's writing about things happening in your industry. Now, you want to look for the most popular blogs possible. An easy way that I like to investigate this is by taking the domain name of the blog and typing it into siteprice.org. Scroll down to the estimated traffic section and compare the numbers next to "Daily Unique Visitors" and "Daily Pageviews" to other similar blogs. (Note: I don't know how accurate these numbers are but I do find them pretty accurate when comparing websites).
  • search for blog traffic of b2b influencers

Once you find an influencer, you'll want to establish a connection.

Follow them on social media and read their blog articles. Reply to their content with encouraging feedback.

After a couple of weeks, you might be ready to reach out to them directly with your pitch. Hopefully you've had a chance to locate their email address or connect with them on LinkedIn.

A few pitch guidelines that you should follow as recommended by David Zheng of CrazyEgg are:

  1. Keep your subject line vague enough to peak interest, but try to address the person by name right off the bat so that it still comes off as personal.
  2. Greet them to show you are friendly, but keep it short and sweet.
  3. Introduce yourself at the beginning of your email, or simply sign off at the end with your name and company.
  4. Research the person you are outreaching to and make your pitch personal. Don’t just copy and paste a generic email template to everyone. These are experts after all and can definitely tell when you’re taking the easy way out.
  5. Your pitch or ask should only be a couple of sentences at the most. Don’t go on and on about your company’s philosophy, history or any of that extra information. Get to the point and get out!
  6. Finally, offer this person something you know they want. Chances are any marketer or entrepreneur you outreach to understands the value of being featured in a well-researched and promoted piece of content.
influencer email example

One problem, what is your pitch? How can you leverage an influencer?

A few ways that you can benefit are by:

  • Featuring the influencer on your site: maybe conduct an interview or ask for the influencer's input on something happening in your industry. Post this content to your site, let the influencer know about it and see if they'll be willing to share the content with their audience as well.
  • Posting your content on the influencer's site: might be a little more difficult, but if you can produce a great piece of content that would benefit the influencer it'd be a great way to introduce yourself to the industry and that enormous amount of followers.
  • Getting an endorsement from the influencer: if your company or product is relevant to the influencer's audience and something that the they'd be proud to sponsor for a price they might be willing to post an endorsement on their website and/or social media accounts.

Paid search

Paid searchPaid search marketing means you advertise within the sponsored listings of a search engine or a partner site by paying either each time your ad is clicked (pay-per-click – PPC) or less commonly, when your ad is displayed (cost-per-impression – CPM). (EConsultancy), also called "Search Engine Marketing" (SEM) and "Pay-per-click" (PPC), is a way to get content in front of customers when they are looking to make a purchasing decision.

Your first thought is probably Google, however, Bing is another large platform that presents opportunities as well. Regardless, here is what paid search would typically look like in Google:

What you're doing is paying Google for the right to be one of the first results that displays for a keyword or group of keywords of your choosing.

The reason why the market for paid search ads is rated as being ready and actively looking to make a purchasing decision is because the person performing the search has already identified their need (someone searching for a used car likely is in need of a used car) and is active in taking the next step towards purchase.

In my experience working with clients who have managed paid search marketing campaigns in the past, the majority of companies point their paid ads simply to the home page of the website.

If your home page is set up like mine where it's more like a destination - where I want visitors to end up - rather than simply a hub or jumping-off point to the rest of a site's content, then pointing a paid ad to your home page might not be a terrible idea.

But for our content marketing strategy, you should consider setting up paid ads for your high-quality, lead-generating content.

Why is paying for ads back to my content a good idea?

When we discussed setting our objectives and the goals of our content, we made sure to link each of our goals back to the goals of our business. We didn't set frivolous goals like getting traffic for the sake of traffic or producing viral content, we determined that our business would benefit by goals such as lead generation and improving our marketing return on investment.

Because of these sound marketing goals, we want our audience to find the web pages containing our traffic because we have a determined system to to transform that audience into leads and eventually paying customers.

One final note on this, I would recommend not setting up a paid search ad for a new blog post right away. Wait until you've had the chance to see good conversion ratesYour conversion rate is the percentage of visitors to your website that complete a desired goal (a conversion) out of the total number of visitors. A high conversion rate is indicative of successful marketing and web design: It means people want what you're offering, and they're easily able to get it! (WordStream) first, and then pounce!

Email marketing

This form of amplification for your content is geared towards getting return-visits to your website. This is because to include someone as a recipient to our email marketing activities we, of course, need an email address.

It's important that you completely ignore the option of buying an email list. Why?

  • It's illegal: it's illegal to both sell and buy an email list according to the CAN SPAM Act
  • You can get fined: up to $41,484 per infraction as a matter of fact
  • It's a waste of time: who are the owners of these email addresses? Where do they belong in the buying cycle? We don't know anything about them.

What you need to do instead is entice visitors of your website to opt inOpting in simply means that a person gives permission for a company to receive emails from them, so a company can legally start sending emails to this contact. (EM) to your newsletter where you explicitly state what the visitor can expect by opting in.

Here are a few great examples:

You've likely seen similar newsletter opt-in designs. There are a number of resources available dedicated toward helping you write the most enticing copy possible to encourage sign ups.

Once you have a database of email addresses and an email platformAn email platform is a place to build your email lists and create and send emails to your recipients. I recommend Mailchimp. set up to send the emails, you'll be able to send out messages each time a new piece of content is posted that include direct links back to your site and substantially increase the traffic that each post is receiving!

Social media

Yes, even business to business companies can use social media to amplify the reach of their content.

Social media helps you to get your content in front of your audience - meeting your audience where they are - because, like we said before, nothing happens when you post a new web page to your website.

Don't overlook social media being used as a search engine. In fact, many digital marketers forecast Facebook to be the next big player in search.

In fact, Facebook currently handles about 1.5 billion searches per day (compared to Google's 3.5 billion). Their searches can be sorted into 4 different categories: top, latest, people, and photos and there are currently about 200 different ranking factors that could improve the ability for your post to show up in search results.

In addition to tapping into the potential of Facebook as a search engine, here are a few ways that you can share your content on social media:

  • Share the post link with a preview: this is the most common. Simply copy and paste the URL of the content in Facebook, include a couple of lines hinting at the content of the post, and click share.
  • Share the post and feature a resource: Does your post reference another great piece of content or information shared by another individual? Share the URL with a shout out and possibly a quotation from the individual. Done well, this could result in the person sharing your content with their audience as well.
  • Share an expanded preview: sometimes it's more valuable to your audience to receiver a little more information rather than just a link back to your website. Simply posting links to your website could come across as "salesy" to your audience which could turn them off to you and your content. Sometimes its best to post your article on Facebook for easy consumption by your followers.

Depending on your goals as a business, I might not recommend using social media if this would equal your only activity on your social platforms, but more on this to come.

Search engine optimization

A content amplification strategy that I would, in fact, recommend to every content producing website regardless of industry is search engine optimizationSEO stands for “search engine optimization.” It is the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial” or “natural” search results on search engines. (SEL).

While SEO is listed here as an "amplification strategy", the activities of SEO would likely (and most efficiently) occur in the content execution plan phase.

This is because good SEOWhen I say "good SEO", I mean SEO that returns results such as helping your piece of content to rank highly in search engine result pages (SERPs). is primarily achieved through well-written, and well-targeted content. Content that fully and accurately answers a question.

For example, let's say that my business is preparing for a trade show at the beginning of next year and we need to prepare. I perform a quick search on google for "how to prepare for a trade show", see a result that looks like it might answer my question, and give it a click.

google search example

While I start reading the content, my desire to learn more about the topic is encouraged by the possibility for good results at our trade show coming up, and my trust in this article answering my questions and fulfilling my needs is improved.

on page seo introduction text

Then, I go on to read 10 steps that supports the title of the article and the opening paragraph and gives me valuable and actionable feedback that I can use to get started in my trade show preparations.

on page seo body text

I'm satisfied with the content, I feel smarter and I'm ready to get going. From the point of the view of the website containing the content, I stayed on the page for a few minutes and read the entire article. Maybe I didn't click on the "Contact Us" link on the bottom of the content, but they'll still benefit in terms of SEO given that I fully consumed their article and didn't leave or "bounce" too soon.

Now, you can see how preparing this content for SEO purposes would be done during the execution of the post (and even before writing). A few other things that you would want to optimize for search before writing and as you go along include:

  • Keywords: don't just write to write, make sure there's an audience for the content first - that is, people searching for the content that you're writing. That audience will find your content by searching for specific keywordsYour SEO keywords are the key words and phrases in your web content that make it possible for people to find your site via search engines. in a search engine like I did above with "how to prepare for a trade show". The keywords that you want to rank well for should be used within the content.
  • Headers: these are the large font titles and section headers found usually at the top of an article and throughout the content breaking up the text. Headers should, first of all, be included as well as clearly define the content that's to come and include your important keywords if possible.
  • seo page headers
  • Images: just like search engines crawl and make a note of the text on each web page, they do the same with images. They should not only be included because they can be indexed and shown in image searches, but also because including visuals breaks up the content for the reader making it easier to consume. SEO is as much about the reader's (user's) experienceUser experience refers to a person’s emotions and attitudes about using a particular product, system or service. It includes the practical, experiential, affective, meaningful and valuable aspects of human–computer interaction and product ownership. (Prototypr) as it is the technical components of the page.

Those are a few good things to keep in mind while you're preparing and writing your content.

Once you're done with creating the content for the post, there are still a few other things that you shouldn't forget to do for your SEO:

  • Page title and meta description: the web page title and description are what search engines take and use when featuring your result in SERPs. It's very important that they clearly preview what the content is about while trying to entice clicks from potential visitors since this might be your only chance to land them on your website.
  • seo serp result
  • Sitemap: many website CMS platforms will automatically add any new page to your sitemap.xmlAn XML sitemap lists a website’s important pages, making sure Google can find and crawl them all, and helping it understand your website structure. (Yoast) file which search engines use to index your website. If not, you'll want to make sure to add your new URL right away to reduce the time it will take for the new page to be included in SERPs.
  • Schema: schema metadata is a way to add context to your web pages. A more advanced SEO method, schema helps web crawlers assign meaning to web pages. For example, you can identify if the web page is featuring a certain product for sale or a product review. Schema will also improve the chances of your result in search engine's being boosted with rich snippets.
  • serp google rich snippet example

These few factors were only the tip of the iceberg in terms of things that you can do to optimize your website for search engines. They'll still give you a head start but we'll spend more time on search engine optimization later in our digital marketing guide for B2B companies.

Measure your content marketing ROI

To measure the return on investment of our content marketing activities, we need to understand the cost of our content, the performance of our content, and the utilization of our content.

Cost of content

There are 2 different types of content marketing, content marketing done well and content marketing done for the sake of it.

To do content marketing just for the heck of you - you just need to sit down at a computer, throw a few paragraphs together on a screen, and hit "publish".

There, done.

You might feel good about it but it likely won't move the needle - then you'll become disappointed, give up, and swear that content marketing just doesn't work in your industry.

I know - this is rather gloomy but an actually very common way that companies (especially B2B companies) do content marketing).

But we're committed to doing content marketing well.

And since that's the case, we need to be aware of all possible associated costs.

Content marketing costs can fall within a few separate categories:

  • Framework: the design of the website or blog where the content is consumed. The value of a great piece of content can easily be diminished by a less than ideal, sometimes very poorly designed website. To make sure the design of your content framework supports your content, you may need to create or upgrade your website.
  • Research: most well-written pieces of content will require research, whether it's to support your stance regarding a certain topic or to detail a new process. Research costs could be in the form of time to you or members of your content team or money paid to research companies.
  • Visuals: photography, infographics and other text-supporting visuals. These costs could be in the form of software and time including members of your team, however, it's usually a good idea to pay for professionally-designed visuals from an outside (or internal) graphic designer.
  • Production: putting pen to paper - or fingers to the keyboard. This is where you compile the research and visuals into an outline and, finally, a piece of content. Again, this cost could be time for your team or money paid to an outside agency.
  • Opportunity: opportunity costsA benefit, profit, or value of something that must be given up to acquire or achieve something else. (Bus. Dictionary), a popular economic term, should not be ignored when considering the costs of your content marketing. Could your time be better spent elsewhere? What projects are you not working on because you're focusing on content marketing? This might not be a traditional return-on-investment cost but I think it's something that you shouldn't forget about.

Performance of content

We know the work that goes into creating a good piece of content. Now, what are we getting out of it?

According to HubSpot, the 7 metrics commonly used by marketers to measure content marketing success, in order of popularity, are:

  • Traffic: additional website traffic attributed to the content, both to the location of the content as well as to the entire site as a whole
  • Sales: sales for the business when the purchase path can be tracked back to the content
  • Conversions: successful call-to-action attempts
  • Search result ranking: the ranking of the web page containing the content for a particular keyword in Google or other search engines after a given period of time
  • content marketing metrics
  • Time on site: the length of the user's sessionA session is a group of user interactions with your website that take place within a given time frame. For example a single session can contain multiple page views, events, social interactions, and ecommerce transactions.(Google) when drawn to the site to consume the content
  • Customer feedback: a comment after the content or social media interaction
  • Subscriber growth: reader opt-ins to a newsletter or other email list compared to number of content visits

Each of these can play a part in explaining the success of your content, however, be careful that you don't settle on just one of these metrics to measure the success.

For example, your site's traffic could skyrocket as a result of a quality piece of content but sales could be unaffected. Would this mean that your content was at fault, or maybe your sales funnel - how you get your audience from consuming your content to being a customer - needs some work?

Or maybe the web page containing the content ends up ranking really well in search engines but provides a putrid amount of conversions. This could mean that search engines find your content to be valuable at answering search queries but its not actually doing much to benefit your business.

As much as possible, select multiple items from this list to focus on and improve.

Utilization of content

While the formula for return on investment is already complete after calculating the cost and performance of the content, an intelligent business will look for opportunities to reuse and recycle their already-existing content.

Amazingly, according to Sirius Decisions:60-70% of content goes completely unused

Let's say that your company produced some form of content - a research report, white paper, etc. with thoughts of using it on the website. Then another project came along, say an expo, that took everyone's attention. The content that was previously created was never used resulting in a 100% wasted piece of content.

How can you make sure to get the most out of your content?

  • Send it in an email: gather a list of your current or prospective customers who may benefit from your content and send it in an email to them
  • Divide it into sub-blogs: is your content long enough to be able to break it up into smaller sub-sections that could be posted as separate blog articles?
  • Post sections of the content on social media: take a few highlights from the content and share them on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn
  • Create a PDF or e-book: use the content as a lead magnet for growing your email list
  • Turn the content into a video or podcast: simply read the content (or some version of it) out loud and post it on Youtube or social media

As you can see, there are many different ways that you can reuse your content. You and your team took the time to produce it and have already spent the time and money to do so. Now, the content is an asset of yours to use whenever and as frequently as possible!

Think - Do - Measure

To be sure we have a practical understanding of what content marketing is and how we can apply it as a useful tactic for our business and marketing, let's summarize what we've learned in this chapter by applying the Think, Do, MeasureThe Think, Do, Measure method is a practical tool that I use with clients to develop a simple strategy, decide exactly what we're going to do to accomplish the strategy, and identify how we're going to measure our success. method of learning to this important marketing concept.

Think

Your customer is in control and they're looking for you. Do you have the information in place that allows your potential customers to not only find you but view you as an expert in the industry because of the quality of your information?

In order to produce content at a level that will benefit the growth of your business, it's important for you to understand who is consuming your content and that you need a strategy in place to offer value through your content in a unique and brand-supporting way.

Then, once we've put together a tremendous piece of content, we want to encourage our prospects to find it. We can do so by using techniques such as influencer marketing, digital advertising and email marketing.

Do

To act upon what we now know about content marketing, we could just dive right in and start typing away. This is actually how most businesses handle their content execution strategy.

However, I think that taking the time to fill out a content calendar will not only help you to be organized but will encourage you and your team to continue with the content marketing program that you know your business will benefit from.

The download link for the B2B content calendar I created for you is above, but in case you need it again here it is:

B2B Content Calendar [Download]

I created a business to business content calendar Excel file based on the above content. Feel free to download the file to get a head start on your content marketing execution plan!

Download

Measure

When we measure our content marketing strategy to determine how well it's working, we want to consider the cost of producing the content, the performance in terms of web analytics, and the utilization of our content to make sure that we're going the most out of our efforts.

While the ultimate goal of our content marketing strategy is to increase our business's sales, it's helpful to know how well we're doing with a basic metric such as the user's average time on pageThe average time on page is measured by the amount of time all users spend on a single page before closing the page or viewing a different page.. This will give us a fairly clear indication if our content is written at a level that encourages our audience to stay and consume all (or a large portion of) of our post.

Summing up

Content marketing plays a huge part in the business to business customer journey. Not only is it used to support your other digital marketing tactics such as digital advertising and social media, but the content itself can act as a tactic when it's amplified through search engine optimization.

As we discussed at the beginning of this chapter, content marketing on your website is a great way to make yourself able to be found by customers who are already looking for you - or at least the solutions that you're offering to their problems.

In the next chapter, we're going to discuss a tactic that you can use to drive traffic to your content - digital advertising.

Hey, I'm Tyler

I help businesses use digital marketing to generate leads & sales.

Former Operations Manager at Pepsico, I understand the difficulty and hard work that goes into changing the culture of management teams and business systems that are content with the status quo. Why is that important? Because I'm passionate about empowering individuals and companies to build and consistently manage marketing systems unique to their brands even if it means making radical changes.

Learn more

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