You’ve undoubtedly heard the mantra “content is King.” Nowhere is this more true than in the world of B2B, where purchasing decisions take a considerable amount of time, research and deliberation and include multiple stakeholders within the organization. After all, investing in a $100,000 software product isn’t quite the same thing as shopping for a sweater. For B2B marketers, success depends on attracting the right audience, and then establishing a long-term relationship with them.
With content that educates and captivates your audience, quality leads will come to you.
And inbound leads don’t just cost less to acquire. They’re also five times more likely to become paying customers than outbound leads. At the same time, customer attention has never been such a scarce commodity. According to Nielson, customers see more than 2,000 marketing messages every single day. There’s more content out there than ever, and it’s all immediately available for consumption. In order to stand out, B2B marketers need to get the right content in front of the right audience at the right time. And they have just seconds to make an impact—or risk losing the customer forever.
Don’t panic. We’ve pulled together some proven content marketing strategies to help get you get the leads you need to move your business.
1. Build awareness about a problem
B2B marketers mistakenly assume that their audience knows they have a problem, and that the solution to that problem involves spending a portion of their budget to alleviate it. Meanwhile, their target customer either hasn’t identified this as a line item on their budget or doesn’t even realize there is a problem in the first place.
That’s why marketing leaders must create a demand for their product or service—and they do this by building awareness about a problem facing the industry or job function. Whether it’s in a white paper, a blog post or a webinar, your job is to highlight the pain points most relevant to a particular audience. In doing so, you also set the stage for your future sales pitch. Now that your audience realizes there’s a problem, they’ll be more receptive to the solution you have to offer.
2. Be a thought leader
If customers see you as an expert, they’re more likely to listen to what you have to say. To be a thought leader, you need to find out what questions your audience is asking, and then create content that answers those questions. It takes a dedicated approach to understanding the internal perception of the customer, but it pays off in spades.
And when you’ve reached the limits of what you or your team can offer, don’t be afraid to look beyond the company walls. Reach out to influencers in the industry or sector and ask them to write a guest blog post, share an eBook or host a Twitter chat. The important thing is for customers to see you as source of valuable information—even if you have to go outside your organization to get the expertise you need.
3. Focus on the customer
Too often, marketers let their products and solutions drive content decisions. However, the customer’s purchase decision doesn’t typically follow this line of thinking.
Take the time to learn your customer’s pain points. Send out surveys, attend conferences, monitor Twitter conversations and conduct keyword research. Whatever it takes to really understand the customer’s point of view. Choose topics they care about, even if they don’t directly relate to what you’re selling. And keep in mind that different pain points exist, even within the same organization. Members of the buying committee might be more focused on details, while executives look at top-line challenges and benefits. If possible, create content that can answer both.
The goal here is to position yourself as a trusted player in the space, one who understands the customer’s dilemma and can articulate the best path forward. You can give them a more direct sales ask once they’ve identified interest or understand they need help, but the first step is to just get them there.
4. Talk to people like they’re people
Writing for robots? B2B marketers are notorious for this. We’re just so used to reading dry, jargon-heavy content, it’s easy to forget that there’s another way. Talking to customers like they’re a friend or coworker is a way to differentiate yourself. Use the simplest language possible to get your point across. A business might be the overall target, but it’s a real live person who’s going to read and react to your content. And that person isn’t just busy, she’s also distracted by other vendors (remember those 1,999 other marketing messages?). The best B2B marketers find a way to tap into the human angle, whatever the subject matter. They strive to entertain their audience, or at the very least, not bore them to tears.
5. Test, test, test. And then test some more.
The boss might love that blog post or subject line, but that doesn’t mean your audience will. Make sure your decisions are driven by data, not gut instinct or how things worked in 2013. Never before have marketers been able to test so many things with a minimal investment. Now, we can A/B test headlines, CTAs, content architecture, graphics and more. However, effective testing requires a strategic approach, one that identifies what you hope to learn and how learning it will improve your future content investment.
Whatever you decide to test, trust the outcome, even if it’s not the one you expected.
6. Think beyond the white paper
There’s no denying that white papers have their place in B2B content marketing. They’re the tried-and-true path to thought leadership. But today’s busy, on-the-go customer is also looking for shorter, more engaging content. Think: Infographics, videos, checklists and anything else that stands out against traditional content. Remember, customers are busy. You’re vying for their attention amidst thousands of competing marketing messages. The more entertaining and easy-to-digest your content is, the more chance you’ll have at capturing—and keeping—their attention.
7. Get social
What was once thought of as more of a B2C tactic has become a must-have in the B2B marketing toolkit. Social media helps you raise awareness for your brand and offers a unique opportunity to engage with customers.
For B2B marketers, LinkedIn is the preferred medium. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 90 percent of B2B marketers distribute content on LinkedIn. That’s not surprising, given its position as the professional social network. LinkedIn also allows users to use its site as a publishing platform—you can publish entire blog posts and articles right there on your company profile, instantly reaching your network of followers, who will potentially share your content with their followers. And whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, remember that social media is a conversation. Leave comments, answer questions, repost content and like other people’s posts, then watch your network grow.
8. Make the move to mobile
How many times have you checked your smartphone in the last hour?
Think B2B customers are any different? By 2019, WiFi and mobile devices will account for 66 percent of IP traffic. With more and more content being consumed on mobile devices, B2B marketers need to ensure their content is optimized for mobile viewing. Whether it’s an email, article or landing page, you don’t want your audience to turn away because your content won’t load properly on their smartphone.
“Responsive design” should feature prominently in your marketing vocabulary in 2015. This approach ensures customers have a great viewing experience no matter what device they’re on, making it easier for them to engage with your content, from reading an article to filling out a contact form or even making a purchase.
You may also consider new, mobile-friendly forms of content, like a cool app that solves a business problem, or a short video designed for mobile viewing.
9. Create a formal business strategy around lead generation content
Businesses can no longer ignore the importance of content. And yet, just 35% of content marketers have a documented marketing strategy. It’s not enough to just haphazardly post to a blog or come out with the occasional white paper. Leading B2B marketers know that creating a formal content strategy is the only way to have a real impact on the bottom line. Like other initiatives, the content strategy must be tied to real business objectives, and campaigns need to be measured against those objectives. A content calendar should be created to support those objectives. The content strategy should be documented and integrated into the larger marketing strategy. Only then can businesses truly gauge the effectiveness of their content marketing and make the improvements needed to take it to the next level.
This article was syndicated from Business 2 Community: 9 Ways to Turn Content into Leads
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