B2B firms are natural candidates for inbound marketing and content strategy campaigns. Many entrepreneurs believe that effective inbound marketing efforts require tens of thousands of dollars, hundreds of hours, and at least a year to get traction in the marketplace. However, with content marketing, it’s possible to make a significant impact against specific metrics in a short period of time.
Here’s a plan that’s achievable for any content marketer or entrepreneur at a B2B firm. If you’re strategic, you can plan, develop, launch, and begin to reap the benefits of a content marketing campaign in as little as sixty days. Ready to learn how? Read on.
For purposes of building out this plan, let’s begin with a case study to help focus our strategy. Consider a company that builds specialized software that makes it easier for freelance workers to bill their clients. The business sits squarely in the B2B space. It’s targeting a wide audience that crosses many different markets, from consultants to accountants. The marketing issues that a product like this faces are representative of similar challenges throughout B2B markets.
An effective content marketing strategy begins with clear goals. Outlining your highest priorities helps allocate limited human and financial resources, and prioritizes content and dissemination choices. Some common goals for a content market strategy include:
For a sixty-day strategy, choose no more than two goals to focus on. For example, consider the software above. The owner of the company may want to raise the profile of the software with a specific group — freelance accountants — and develop a stream of leads from independent accounting firms.
By laser-focusing on these goals, the content marketing campaign will be set up to succeed from the beginning. Smart choices can be made about topics, formats, and dissemination venues that support those outcomes.
The heart of an inbound marketing strategy is developing a clear audience profile. In a B2C situation, profiles typically focus on an individual. For example, let’s say your prospect is a middle-aged, married man living in the Midwest and struggling with his mortgage.
On the B2B side, developing a comprehensive audience profile is more challenging. Buying cycles are complex, and buying decisions are often made by committee. Your B2B audience profile needs to speak to the following factors, which may sometimes diverge and even conflict:
Use the above points to create a framework for understanding who your customers are. This includes both the business you’re serving and the person that’s spearheading that purchase decision within the organization.
B2B purchases are often fraught with internal landmines. They represent major investments for companies. A bad choice could upset their clients and cost business. A bad investment could cost an individual employee her job. The deeper you’re able to dig into the psyches of both the business and the individuals at play, the more effectively your content will anticipate and speak to their needs.
A note on sources: there are a number of ways to gather this information. Start with the data you have on file — your Web analytics, your buying data, previous surveys and customer demographics. Interview your best customers if you can, and get as much information directly from them as possible. Take advantage of the expertise of your sales team and customer service reps. Their day to day interaction with your prospects and customers has uniquely positioned them to speak to what your ideal customer really wants.
Your sales funnel or buying cycle is important for one reason within your B2B content marketing strategy. Prospects and customers at different stages of the buying process are looking for specific silos of information. Someone in the earliest stages may simply be trying to learn more about a class of products. A buyer close to making a decision is looking at differentiating factors between providers or answering specific questions about customer service.
Content strategies directly connect with the buying cycle in three ways:
To map out your sales funnel, it’s helpful to take a step back and analyze how your existing customers have found you. In our software example, the accountant may decide they need a more sophisticated time tracking option. This leads to online research. Once prospects discover our software brand, they typically download a white paper and schedule a demo. At this point, a percentage will convert, download the software and sign up for our service.
Connecting that process to a content strategy might look as follows:
Your goal should be to walk out of this phase with a clearly defined buying cycle and general content ideas that support each phase. Begin to tie your strategy together by testing each content type against the audience profile: would these basic ideas speak to your prospect?
An important component of inbound marketing is capturing the benefits of organic SEO. In order to do this, it’s necessary to clarify your keyword strategy. If your organization already has an SEO campaign underway, audit your keywords to determine which terms should be priority focuses for your content strategy.
If your strategy is taking your business into new areas — like in our example where the company is bringing software to a new market — it may be necessary to expand that list. Ultimately, your keyword list will serve as a helpful resource for brainstorming content ideas and for optimizing content for the dissemination phase.
If you need more background on developing a keyword strategy, I recommend the following resources:
The conceptualization and content-creation phase is where you bring it all together. Your buying cycle work defines the types of content you need to create. Your audience profile hones in on who you’re creating content for. Your SEO strategy lets you focus on your priority concepts and the keywords that you’re trying to rank for. During this phase, you integrate all the hard work you’ve done; spend a couple days brainstorming topics, and then dive headlong into the creation process.
In developing your concepts, there are a few key aspects to keep in mind:
For more inspiration on developing content marketing ideas, see these articles:
The next couple weeks will involve intense writing, recording videos, or subcontracting design work. Put together an executable plan and figure out what needs to happen to get your content creation done. Use your strengths and outsource around your weaknesses. Freelance writers can help create a healthy volume of quality content. Designers can take your ideas into the visual realm. Possibly you’re creative and are able to set aside the time to execute your own content strategy.
The big message here is that there’s no right way to get it done. Your focus should simply be on execution. Identify the most effective way forward for you and your goals at this time, and be relentless about getting your content completed and published so you’re ready to tackle the dissemination phase.
Experts like Derek Halpern suggest that dissemination should take 80% of your content marketing time. The idea here is simple: if you create awesome content that no one ever sees, it’s not helpful. Here’s a simple, step-by-step guide to create some buzz around your content.
In reality, measuring isn’t something you’ll do in a single day. Tracking your results throughout your campaign is the best way to know what kind of an effect you’re having and auto-correct for anything that’s not going well. But plan to sit down at the very end of this sixty-day content experiment and see how you did overall.
What you measure will tie back to several factors including the initial campaign goals you established, but here are some of the key analytics that can help you track the outputs and impact of your efforts:
At the end of the day, what matters most is sales and revenue. But it’s important, especially in the complex world of B2B transactions, to development an evaluation system to that takes into account the universe of possible conversions that can impact and have value for a business. Sales and revenue matter most, but there are many other metrics that show you’re making meaningful progress with your business.
Our sixty-day content experiment should do two things: build your confidence that content marketing is something that you can do for your business, and give you proof of concept of the power of inbound marketing. If you’ve followed the plan, you’re in a position to repeat the process to achieve any marketing goal in a methodical way.
Whether you roll out your content marketing strategy to a bigger audience or build on your success for the last two months with a specific product, this plan will set you on your way to some strategic wins in the B2B content marketing space.
What are your best tips for creating short-term wins with B2B content marketing? Let me know in the comments below.