Learning how to regularly create b2b content can be a challenge for any organization. It requires a different approach to how you think about educating and communicating to your audience and customers.
A good b2b content strategy will incorporate well-crafted text and material that is designed to serve a specific purpose, but it is also important that new initiatives and market changes are reflected and that you react when the time is right. That is why content marketing is so important.
B2b content marketing in 2017 requires alignment with content strategy in order to ensure that you stay on track and present a consistent face to your audiences.
But what can you actually create b2b content about on a regular basis?
What is b2b content?
Firstly let’s ensure that you are clear about what b2b content actually is.
In essence, it is content that promotes your brand. A brand is the story of a business, and a story needs to be told – we do that through b2b content.
It is content that helps support sales and increase customer lifetime value (CLV) by doing the following:
- Grabbing the attention of casual readers/viewers/listeners (as Gary Vaynerchuck likes to point out; before you sell to somebody, you need their attention),
- Encouraging those casual viewers to engage more deeply with your business’ content, and essentially provide all of the information and prompts needed to turn them into a prospect or lead,
- Supporting converting that lead into a paying customer,
- Educating and inspiring that customer to get the most value from your product or service, as well as to purchase more, and
- Convincing the customer to help you (either directly or indirectly) attract more customers or otherwise contribute to your business’ growth.
That’s it! Seems pretty simple when written out although there are of course many different variations and steps involved at each stage of the process. But that basic overview is a good framework for understanding how to create content, and this is explored further in the 5 b2b content marketing examples below.
#1 – Customer problems and solutions
What issues do your customers actually have when they come to you? What is it they are trying to achieve or to become?
In a b2b setting this can be a surprisingly difficult question to answer.
Some of your clients have a clear strategic or tactical objective that they can quantify, and need your help in reaching. Others have been tasked to help ensure the company can reflect certain commitments or elements of its brand, and need assistance with this.
Others are just looking to save money by moving to new suppliers – while some have budget that needs to be spent and don’t necessarily need amazing results (crazy as it sounds). And finally, some customers just want to try something new.
With all these categories of customer it is no surprise that the problems they have to start with can vary dramatically. But thankfully, there is one group of people in your company who understand them inside out – the sales team.
Develop a content creation process that involves the following:
- Send a short email to selected members of the sales team asking them to name:
- The top 1-3 problems that customers highlight in sales conversations (and that your company helps solve), and
- How they explain the solutions to those problems to customers.
- Use this material to create content that can be used to support early-stage sales conversations. Use the classic copywriting formula Problem-Agitate-Solve:
- Problem – first present and explain the problem, using the customers’ own words and phrases (as explained by the sales team) as much as possible,
- Agitate – then make things worse – mention the knock-on effects of this problem such as what other great things it prevents them from doing, or unintended consequences it can have if not addressed,
- Solve – finally, present your company’s solution to the issue in the best way possible, highlighting your unique approach and track record where possible.
- Share this content with the sales team and, over time, refine the format, topics and delivery based on their feedback into something they find really useful.
Different target segments will have different problems at different times – so provided you can maintain engagement with your sales team then there should be an ongoing supply of useful content ideas flowing into your content marketing machine.
If you execute this process well you can regularly create content that helps support parts 1 and 2 of the customer lifecycle explained above.
But that’s not the full story.
#2 – the vendor fit
Customers don’t make dispassionate decisions on whether to buy a product or service – it isn’t only based on a cold assessments of costs and benefits (except, to some extent, in procurement of course). Emotions also have a role.
In the first suggested b2b content creation method emotions absolutely did have a role – agitating a problem is best done by playing on the emotional elements – but that content is designed to support the first few steps in the sales process directly, by trying to encourage specific action.
What’s missing is whether or not the lead actually likes and values your business; this is sometimes known as vendor fit, and it is important to try and factor this in when planning how to regularly create b2b content.
Vendor fit is tricky beast – it relies in part on first impressions and general branding, and in part on gradually getting to know the business and understanding more about the people involved in it. With these things in mind, here are three types of b2b vendor fit content that can be created regularly:
- Values information – content that shows what values your business holds that you believe are important to your customers (and that are true of course!) Share information about charitable or social initiatives and discuss your role in them, explain more about your environmental policies, or maybe discuss your company’s position on important issues.
- Behind the scenes information – sharing details about the human-side of your business can help increase the emotional connection that your customers have with it. It’s pretty easy to get annoyed with ‘tech support’, it’s less easy to get annoyed with ‘Greg from tech support who loves the same band as you’ (not impossible, because Greg can be annoying, but it’s a bit less easy). Humanising your company by sharing content by and about the people who work there can really help, and is a nearly endless source of content ideas.
- Staff positions – why not give your people a voice that separates them from the company, maybe even dramatically? Empower your staff to create content, not about their life and work at your business, but about issues that are important to them. Even if those issues refer to your customers. And even (whisper it quietly) if your staff disagree with the company’s position on the issue. Don’t indulge in mock indignation or contrived conflict – but if you think that what a staff member has to say deserves a platform, why not give them one? Don’t enter into this tactic lightly, but don’t discount it because you think it might be a little uncomfortable.
Up until now we’ve focussed on content that helps supports the acquisition of new customers (either directly in the sales funnel or more generally by communicating your company’s values and interests). Next let’s turn our attention to existing customers.
#3 – making the best of it
Just like the sales team, your tech support personnel can be an invaluable source of new content ideas. They too deal with your product or service users on a regular basis.
Depending on your business you might not have an actual ‘tech support’ team of course, but chances are there are one group of people who deals with all of your existing customer issues regularly – perhaps they are account management, a complaints department, phone operators or they run your website contacts.
Whoever they are, engage with them in a way that helps both of you.
Send a short email to members of the tech support team asking the following:
- What issues crop up on a regular basis when talking with your customers? What are the common problems or misconceptions?
- What are the primary ways in which your customers could get more value from your products or services? What aspects or features aren’t they taking advantage of?
- What format, topic or type of content would be most useful to them (the tech support team member) in order to make their job a little bit easier?
The answers to these questions all provide great ideas for b2b content. In addition, the technique can be reused again and again – for example, once you’ve produced really clear and engaging blog posts that help your customers solve the top 5 issues, you can start to work on the next 5.
#4 – Content that encourages referrals
A referral is one the best kinds of new customer you can get. For one thing they probably cost you nothing to acquire (except for doing a great job for whoever passed you on) and they come to your business actively looking for what you have to offer.
But referrals sometimes seem so darn hard to generate. It seems like luck and patience are all you can use.
Well . . . you can also use content.
B2b content that encourages existing customers or clients to connect you with new leads is another great focus for regular publishing. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be too difficult to create.
Fundamentally what you need to do is to create content that solves a problem, positions your business in doing so, and that has a clear call to action encouraging the reader to pass it on to a specific group of people.
#5 – Regular SEO content
The final tactic for creating b2b content on a regular basis is to focus on your SEO strategy, and create content that can boost both your results for short chain, competitive keywords as well as building traffic with medium or long chain keywords.
Search engines are working hard to deliver the best content to a searcher on almost every topic under the sun, and the publishers of that content get rewarded with high quality traffic. Why not grab a piece of the action?
For example, if you offer marketing services for restaurants and would like to build traffic for the competitive term ‘restaurant marketing’, you might create content on topics such as:
- How to Market a Family Restaurant in 2017
- What Marketing Tools is your Restaurant Missing?
- 10 Restaurant Brands who Understand Online Marketing
Such content could be really successful at bringing in traffic on specific topics that resonate with your audience, but it is hard work to identify good medium chain keywords on a regular basis.
However, there is a great tool that can help you with this, along with much more of your SEO strategy, called Long Tail Pro. This powerful tool will help you identify keywords that you can rank for, and which get traffic, as well as analyze your competition for them.
SEO traffic is one of the most powerful forms of lead generation for a business when done right. Searchers are actively looking for results – for answers to questions or for products or services that can meet their needs. They are primed and ready to engage with your business – you just need to ensure you show up in search results and give them a gentle push in your direction.
Creating regular SEO content with Long Tail Pro’s help can help you do just that.
Over to you
I know that implementing clear workflows that reflect how to regularly create b2b content isn’t easy – it can sometimes feel like you’re feeding a beast that is never full or satisfied. The multitude of platforms, media and competing sites out there constantly pressure you to do and produce more.
However, if a huge part of success is simply showing up, then a huge part of success online must be showing up with new content to help educate users and contribute to your industry’s conversation.
Hopefully this post has shown you that with a few simple techniques you can more easily identify topics and formats that will give you opportunities to help your audience and grow your business. Again and again and again.
Also published on Medium.