The importance of content marketing can’t be denied. It’s proven to be the best tool for a business to establish a credible, trustworthy image, as well as to establish a successful rapport with potential clients. Of course, any company will benefit from these effects, but this is especially true for B2B companies, which must convince clients to trust them for purchases that are not only major financial commitments, but are crucial to their business’s operations. B2B companies can use content marketing to drive ROI with great success—but it takes work. Content marketing without any direction is never effective, it needs to take place within a coherent marketing strategy.
Determine Your Goals
The first step to creating a content marketing strategy is to determine what you want to accomplish with it: foster brand recognition, generate leads, deepen your relationship with prospects, make sales, reach new verticals etc. Especially for B2B companies, it’s best to focus on only one or two of these goals at a time, so that your marketing resources won’t be spread too thin.
Identify Your Target Audience
Once your goals are established, you begin crafting the content marketing strategy to meet them. The core of that strategy is, of course, to identify the target audience. This can be more challenging for B2B companies because their potential customers’ buying decisions are often made by committees composed of people with various roles in the company and varying degrees of influence over the final decision. In order to identify the right target audience, a B2B company should look at factors such as:
- Problems that can be solved with your product, which will help you identify businesses that are likely to want to learn more about you
- What potential customers’ buying procedures look like and who is involved in the process, which will help you determine how much and what kind of content your prospect will be looking for in order to make a decision
- How a purchase will personally affect the job of each person involved in the buying process, which will help you create content with personal relevance to your customers
With a clear picture of your audience and its needs in mind, it’s time to actually create the content that will cement your image as a trustworthy source of quality products/services. Whatever content you produce, it should be up-to-the-minute, forward-thinking, and comprehensive. Your audience shouldn’t be able to detect any bias in your content or be left without all the relevant facts. Either of these two situations will signal to potential clients that you aren’t trustworthy and/or that you aren’t as knowledgeable about your industry as other companies.
While creating content, you will need to decide who and how to create it. The approach that seems to have been most successful for B2B companies seems to be starting out by leveraging in-house talent, then supplementing it with out-sourced content. German software company SAP found great success with a content marketing strategy that revolved around inviting average employees to blog regularly about their work, as well as topics that were personally meaningful to them, such as trying to achieve a better work/life balance. These employee blog posts proved an organic and unobtrusive means of demonstrating SAP’s skills and company outlook, as well as enabling potential clients to feel a personal connection to the company.
It is important to keep in mind that content marketing is always about providing something immediately useful to potential customers. Your content should never contain sales pitches or extoll the virtues of your company. This is another way to immediately lose a potential customer’s respect and trust. Since B2B companies have a small pool of potential customers to begin with, the best way to win them away from your competitors is by providing higher quality, more useful content.