Your B2B Content Marketing Strategy Should Answer These 7 Questions
August 30, 2016
Why do you create content?
It’s an existential question for B2B content marketers. But it’s also a question that, once answered, provides the clarity and sense of purpose needed to succeed in the competitive landscape of modern marketing.
Businesses have accepted the fact that buyers control the path to purchase. Today’s buyers hold sales reps at arm’s length until late in the process, and savvy B2B businesses recognize that the marketing team now interacts with and influences prospects far more than in the past.
Given this reality, it’s no surprise that nearly 9 out of 10 B2B organizations now use content marketing, according to Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs.
Let’s overcome the onslaught of content competition and make the leap from sporadic tactics to strategic direction, shall we?
Answer the following seven questions to create a B2B content marketing strategy that drives revenue.
Question #1: Which Conversation Will We Own?
It’s tempting to say, “We want to own every conversation related to our offering.” And who wouldn’t? But unless you have unlimited resources at your disposal, this is an impractical answer.
As Joe Pulizzi says, “Stop writing about everything. So many brands create content and try to cover everything, instead of focusing on a core niche that they can position themselves as an expert around. No one cares about your special recipe… Find your niche, and then go even more niche.”
For example, there are thousands of conversations related to content and social media marketing, but the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions team needed to decide which conversation we should own first. After thinking about it, it became clear that our most relevant, most important, most “enterable” conversation was: “How to use LinkedIn for marketing,” which led to the next question we needed to answer.
Question #2: How Will We Own the Conversation?
It’s easy to get overwhelmed at the thought of developing content that keeps B2B buyers engaged during their (often lengthy) path to purchase. That’s where “Big Rock” content can help.
When planning your Big Rock, the goal should be to create the definitive content experience for the conversation you want to own. Since we wanted to own “How to Use LinkedIn for marketing,” our first Big Rock was The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn. It was a mammoth undertaking, but one we felt was necessary.
When done right, your Big Rock can convey your company’s authority on a given topic, fueling your demand-generation engine for months on end.
Recommended reading: Creating Your First Big Rock: A Step-by-Step Guide for Creating Marquee Content
Your Big Rock should be part of a broader thought leadership strategy, a strategy designed to satisfy your audience’s information needs while positioning your organization to stand out in a crowded marketplace. As Laura Ramos of Forrester Research says, “Business buyers don’t buy your product; they buy into your approach to solving their problems.”
When it comes to B2B content marketing, thought leadership falls into three major categories:
1. Product thought leadership: how-to’s, best practices, and strategy about how a product (or service) can transform a business.
2. Industry thought leadership: a fresh point of view on news, trends, and the future of the market, offering ideas for new ways to achieve success.
3. Organizational thought leadership: leading with company culture, talent development, and other internal advantages.
Recommended reading: The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to Thought Leadership
Question #3: Where Will We Engage Our Audience?
While the most effective channels can vary from one company to the next, we do know that 85% of B2B buyers believe companies should present information via social networks. Experimenting with new channels and platforms can yield promising results, but experimentation typically works best when B2B companies have already established a strong presence where their audience is most likely to engage with content.
Many B2B brands are active on LinkedIn because that’s where their audience is:
- 80% of B2B social media leads come from LinkedIn
- 50% of LinkedIn members report they are more likely to buy from a company they engage with on LinkedIn
- 43% of marketers say they sourced a customer through LinkedIn
Recommended reading: LinkedIn Content Marketing Tactical Plan
Question #4: How Will Sales & Marketing Work Together to Achieve Goals?
While definitions vary, one thing is clear: Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is truly where B2B marketing and sales teams can align around quality over quantity as it pertains to leads. Jon Miller, co-founder of Marketo and more recently of Engagio, is fond of comparing typical demand generation to fishing with a net, whereas ABM is fishing with a spear.
In other words, you cast a wide net with demand-generation programs and then whittle down the catch until you’re focusing on just the right “fish.” With ABM, you focus from the get-go on bringing in only the right “fish,” and that usually translates into the most strategic accounts for your business. And considering there are so few big watering holes to fish from, this targeted approach makes good business sense. In fact, SiriusDecisions found that 92 percent of B2B marketers recognize the value of ABM and see it as a “must have” business strategy.
ABM forces sales and marketing teams to work together to answer several key questions:
- What defines a “quality” lead?
- What does our ideal customer look like?
- Which stakeholders do we need to engage at our target accounts?
- What should the marketing-to-sales handoff feel like from the consumer’s perspective?
- How can both teams use content to engage key contacts throughout the buyer’s journey?
In short, ABM helps to align B2B content marketing spend with revenue potential. Marketers can also use LinkedIn Account Targeting to engage the right companies and professionals on the LinkedIn platform.
Recommended reading: The Sophisticated Marketer’s Crash Course in Account-Based Marketing
Question #5: Who Will Do the Work?
One consistent finding year after year across content marketing surveys is that many marketers lack the time and/or skills to produce all the content needed to engage prospects at every stage of the buying journey. But you don’t have to go it alone. Build a team by calling upon a mix of resources.
Marketing colleagues: Collaborate with marketing colleagues throughout your organization—including those responsible for branding, social, PR, and global marketing—to identify opportunities for cross-pollinating content plans.
Internal thought leaders: Identify thought leaders within your organization who are prolific writers (or connect them with a prolific writer on your team) and recruit them to drive relevant conversations with your target audience.
Freelancers: Freelancers can act as an extended part of your internal team to execute the content plan, foster creativity, and inspire new ideas.
Outside agencies: Agencies can do the same as freelancers but at scale and usually offer a wider scope of offerings (such as design and SEO).
A team approach is essential to B2B content marketing success. That means breaking down silos between the folks responsible for demand gen, social, and PR to work as a cohesive unit. Working this way can dramatically boost the impact of your individual efforts.
Question #6: How Will We Maximize Our Content?
A Big Rock does more than help you lay claim to a topic—it’s the jumping off point to create a pipeline of relevant content.
According to IDG Enterprise, buyers download an average of seven informational assets during the purchase process. It’s also no surprise that the 2015 TechTarget Media Consumption Report shows that, the higher the price of the solution being considered, the more assets buyers consume on the path to purchase.
In fact, SiriusDecisions found that 75% of B2B buyers rely more on content to research and make B2B purchasing decisions than they did a year ago.
Instead of creating content for content’s sake, create a strategic content repository you can leverage time and again.
Your Big Rock is the perfect starting point. Once you’ve created a Big Rock, the next step is getting it in front of your audience. Remember, not everyone will download your Big Rock and different stakeholders will prefer different content formats. Some may prefer to read a short blog post or glance over an infographic. Others may prefer to click through a SlideShare. And others may want to tune in for a webinar that walks them through all your insights.
Breaking your Big Rock content into “turkey slices” (if you’re new to this mixed metaphor, it will make sense when you read the post below) is a great way to increase engagement and awareness among the various members of your target audience.
Recommended reading: Turkey Slicing 2.0: A Content Marketing Thanksgiving Tradition
Question #7: How Will We Measure Success?
With great power comes great responsibility. Now that companies rely more on marketing to attract the right buyers and engage them throughout their journey, marketers are expected to prove their worth.
By substantiating that their marketing efforts pay off — ultimately by contributing to revenue goals — B2B marketers can confidently report the ROI of their programs and request larger budgets. Doing so though requires a clear understanding of metrics and analytics.
The simple way to understand metrics and analytics and the difference between them is this: Metrics are what you measure about your marketing programs to gauge performance or progress. Your most important metrics are your key performance indicators, or KPIs.
Analytics use metrics and how they’re trending to help you make decisions about your marketing efforts. Metrics and analytics are both important. You can’t have analytics without metrics, but metrics alone won’t help you take action that can improve your results.
The important thing is to make a decision regarding KPIs (you can always adjust later if needed) so that you can monitor them and use analytics to improve your results over time.
Recommended reading: The Sophisticated Marketer’s Crash Course in Metrics and Analytics
The moment you write down your answers to these seven questions, you leap ahead of the 68% of B2B marketers who currently operate without a documented content strategy, and significantly boost your chances of joining the B2B marketers who describe their marketing as “effective.”
For more advice on winning big with content, be sure to check out The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to Content Marketing. It’s over 100 pages of B2B content marketing insights from the brightest minds and brands in the industry.