How to Boost Your B2B Content Strategy and the New, Free LinkedIn Page Feature that Can Help
April 16, 2019
Editor's Note: As 2020 approaches, we're looking back at some of 2019's most popular posts on the LinkedIn Marketing Blog. This one ranked No. 14.
What is a B2B content marketing strategy? How can I execute one optimally on LinkedIn?
Whether you’re learning how to start a B2B content marketing strategy, or brushing up on the basics, or looking to achieve mastery through our new Content Suggestions feature, you’ll find everything you need ahead.
The Basics of B2B Content Marketing Strategy (and the Free LinkedIn Tool That Can Help)
What is B2B Content Marketing?
Content marketing is a practice that’s been around far longer than its current label. It involves planning, creating, and distributing materials that are interesting and useful to your specific audience, but do not promote your product or service directly. Brands use this method to develop brand awareness, trust, and affinity with the potential customers they wish to reach.
Meanwhile, B2B content marketing refers to the creation and distribution of professionally oriented content for the same purposes. The idea, most often, is to help people solve business problems and do their jobs better, while subtly guiding them toward your brand and solution.
B2B content marketing is a long-term play and should be integrated with a full-on digital marketing strategy. When done well, it is reliably a very effective approach.
Why is a B2B Content Marketing Strategy Important?
According to the latest B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends research from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 93% of the most successful B2B marketers say their organization is extremely/very committed to content marketing, compared to just 35% of the least successful. This data also suggests that documenting your B2B content marketing strategy is of great importance:
“Strategy” can seem like an ambiguous word, and with good reason: it is broad in scope and should account for almost every element of your brand’s digital presence. The word strategy originated from the Greek term for “general,” and encapsulates the gravity of a general’s duty in planning for battle; they must decipher the strengths and weaknesses of each soldier, they must anticipate the enemy’s maneuvers, and they must fully understand the lay of the land.
Digital strategy isn’t quite so weighty as wartime, but in a crowded marketplace with competition rising and attention shares shrinking, the stakes are high. As such, modern companies must adopt a general’s mindset and see the big picture.
Simply put, creating a B2B content marketing strategy is a must for virtually any business that wants to succeed today. It’s something we intuitively understand, but the data also continues to make it clear.
Thinking Through Your B2B Content Marketing Strategy
Incomplete or incoherent strategies are bound to fail. That’s why it is vital to be deliberate, coordinated, and comprehensive when developing your B2B content marketing strategy. At a high level, there are six components you’ll want to nail down: audience, competitors, objectives, measurement, customer journey, and relationship-building.
Know Your Audience
This insight will become the basis for everything you do. The more detailed and holistic your audience research – who are they, what are their needs and aspirations, what makes them tick – the better you will be able to align every piece of your content strategy accordingly.
On LinkedIn, marketers have access to a wide variety of professional targeting parameters, whether posting content organically or via paid. This enables you to get hyper-specific and segmented with your campaigns.
Understand Your Competitors
Presumably you have already identified who they are as part of your general business strategy, but understanding what your competitors are doing from a content marketing standpoint is key. What do they do that you can do differently, or better? Where is the “white space” – those unaddressed gaps that you have a chance to fill in for your audience?
Clearly defined objectives should be at the heart of any B2B content marketing strategy. These are the incremental goals that ladder up to your ultimate mission: driving sales and revenue. Common B2B content marketing objectives on LinkedIn include:
Increasing LinkedIn Page following
Expanding branded content reach
Driving qualified leads
Growing awareness/connections within targeted buying committees
Driving traffic to your organization’s website
“That which you cannot measure, you cannot improve.” It’s a hackneyed phrase at this point, but the reason it’s repeated so often is because it is eternally true. The only way you can be confident your B2B content marketing strategy is moving in the right direction is if you closely monitor results and metrics, and adapt based on what your audience’s engagement is telling you.
We can inform our decisions through careful research and planning, but ultimately it’s all guesswork until we have cold hard numbers to consult. Luckily, LinkedIn offers a robust suite of analytics to measure every aspect of your program. More on that in the implementation section below.
Map Out the Customer Journey
Context matters. As strategies evolve and become more sophisticated, the focus becomes less on what we’re creating, and more on how we’re delivering it. For maximum impact, B2B content needs to reach the right people in the proper context – the right time and right place. Mapping out your customer’s journey, and identifying which steps they tend to take en route to purchasing products in your category, makes this possible. You’ll want to learn:
Which terms and topics do they run searches on?
Which influencers do they pay attention to?
Which content formats do they tend to consume at various stages?
Which social media channels do they use, and how?
Which actions and behavior tend to correlate with buying intent?
Create Relationships and Build Trust
There is no greater imperative in the modern marketing landscape. Despite some misconceptions to the contrary, emotion plays a major role in B2B decision-making, and trust gets to our deepest and rawest emotions. Missteps here can be costly. In the words of Kevin Cochrane, former chief marketing officer for SAP: “Once trust has been lost, it’s nearly impossible for brands to rebuild sustainable, honest relationships with their customers.”
So as you devise your B2B content marketing strategy, the overarching objective of building trust and meaningful relationships should always be a factor.
Implementing Your B2B Content Marketing Strategy
Now that we’ve charted out the definition of B2B content marketing strategy and its most important elements, let’s discuss the ways in which an organization can effectively get one up and running.
Every content program should be customized to the needs of the business and audience, but in general there are a few common traits among top performers.
Create documentation: Earlier we referenced research from CMI and MarketingProfs showing that 65% of the most successful organizations have a documented content marketing strategy, compared to just 14% of the least successful. Getting your strategy mapped out in a way that’s centrally accessible to everyone involved is crucial step.
Be consistent: It’s important to maintain a regular posting cadence if you want to build a firm rapport with your audience. On LinkedIn, Pages that post updates at least weekly receive 2x more engagement.
Integrate multimedia: Text-only posts have their place, but in general, the inclusion of visuals such as video and custom imagery are highly recommended. We find that video, specifically, can drive a 5x increase in engagement.
Follow the 3-2-1 formula: It’s a good rule of thumb for finding the right balance with your content mix. The 3-2-1 model calls for a weekly breakdown of three pieces of industry-related content, two pieces of “proud” content (positivity for your employees or community), and one piece promoting your brand or solutions.
How to Generate Content Ideas
Developing a consistent and substantive editorial calendar is easier said than done. Even if we understand the reasons for producing a steady stream of content, we still need to figure just what that content is going to be.
As a springboard, you can check out our rundown of 10 content ideas for your LinkedIn Page. But when it comes to identifying relevant subject matter that will resonate with your audience, we highly recommend using Content Suggestions to surface trending topics on LinkedIn. We’ll discuss how this free tool works shortly.
User Generated Content
Few types of content can match the authenticity and relatability of that which comes from fellow users. Many of the most powerful B2B content marketing strategies are partially powered by customers and advocates who speak genuinely about the brand.
On LinkedIn, it’s easy to keep an eye on what people are saying about your organization. You can track @ mentions in your Page’s activity tab, and then leverage your best content in this area. But make sure to always ask for explicit permission before reusing anyone else’s original materials.
Additionally, the Content Suggestions tool helps you find long-form articles written by your own employees, which you can reshare from your Page for amplification. Members of your team, speaking from their own personal viewpoints, are very influential sources for UGC.
The Role of 3rd Party Content
Featuring content from other reputed sources is a smart move for many reasons. It provides external perspective and credibility for your audience, while still supporting your narrative. It lightens the load on your creators. And it can help you build relationships with other websites and publications.
With that said, you’ll want to be selective about what you share. Again, the Content Suggestions tool comes in handy here because it can help you identify third-party content your audience is already engaging with on LinkedIn.
More than Just Copy
Here are three popular ways to spice up your LinkedIn content and drive higher engagement on your Page.
Infographics: Turn data and information into compelling visuals.
Videos: There are so many different ways to utilize this fast-growing medium, and not all of them require huge budget or expertise. For inspiration, check out the big list of B2B video ideas.
Webinars/Podcasts: These formats are gaining rapid traction, thanks to the inherent serial nature and possibilities for audience interaction. Determine a unique angle and start driving subscriptions!
How to Measure and Track Success
Page admins can dive into a comprehensive suite of insights through LinkedIn Page Analytics. This will help you gauge the effectiveness of your updates and shares. You can also tap into aggregated data around your followers and their professional demographics. This, in turn, enables you to continually refine your content strategy in alignment with what’s working and who’s viewing.
Through the revamped Page Analytics tool, you can now view insights around Visitor Analytics (who’s visiting your Page?), Update Analytics (who’s engaging with your content?), and Follower Analytics (who’s subscribed to your Page?).
How to Use LinkedIn’s New, Free Content Suggestions Tool
This feature was added to the LinkedIn Page suite to make it faster and easier for organizations to identify content topics and articles that were uniquely relevant to a certain audience on LinkedIn. Here’s a quick guide to getting started with Content Suggestions:
Log into LinkedIn and select the Page on your sidebar you wish to manage
Click “Content Suggestions” on the top navigation bar
Define your target audience with parameters like industry, location, and seniority (these can be adjusted later)
In the Content Suggestions interface, you’ll be served a list of topics (at the top) and articles (below) being engaged with most by LinkedIn members based on the criteria you selected
You can alter and tweak the list of articles in real-time by clicking different topics and audience variables
While perusing the list of suggested content, click through to review and – if the piece fits within your strategy – click the “Share” button
Here you can quickly craft a customized message to accompany the link, and publish it directly to your LinkedIn Page
B2B Content Marketing Examples
There are more than 30 million LinkedIn Pages, and within this ecosystem you’ll find an enormous variety in approaches, styles, and brand personalities. Adherence to the guidance above will put you on the right track, but if you’re looking for examples of B2B content marketing strategy in action on LinkedIn, here are three that impress us, and why.
This global professional services network has more than 2 million followers on LinkedIn, and keeps them engaged through a robust, varied approach.
PwC keeps a continual feed of content flowing through its Page, with a heavy focus on company culture. The cover image on PwC’s LinkedIn Page points out that the brand has been recognized by Fortune as a Top 100 Company to Work For in 15 straight years, and much of the content correlates with this narrative.
Why It Works
Happy employees strengthen trust, both internally and externally. By highlighting this throughout their Page and in much of the content shared (as well as the Life tab), PwC paints itself as appealing to both talent and customers. Additionally, PwC updates multiple times per day, staying visible on the feeds of its many followers.
Find creative methods to engage and showcase your employees on your LinkedIn Page. Stay on the radar of your followers through consistent updates.
While PwC is an international enterprise brand, ePac Flexible Packaging is a smaller business in the U.S. midwest, and is one of many that exemplifies SMB success on LinkedIn.
ePac posts regular updates to its Page, with a heavy dosage of authoritative third-party content that fits with the organization’s narrative, and speaks directly to various segments of their audience.
Why It Works
Tight topical alignment has been key for ePac, with a cohesive flow between the third-party articles and reports they share, and their own first-party content. ePac expands targeted reach with strategic hashtag usage.
Use Content Suggestions to find popular topics that your audience is already engaging, and co-opt strong messages. Follow the 3-2-1 ratio for a balanced content mix. This will help you replicate ePac’s effective formula of delivering value and staying on-brand while avoiding the appearance of being overly self-interested.
One of the world’s largest recruiting and staffing firms, Hays makes the most of its LinkedIn presence and drives powerful engagement.
Much of the content shared by Hays is highly functional, helping job searchers with the various aspects of finding an ideal spot. Their Page features plenty of video content to draw in scrolling members. Hays also incorporates recognizable influencers to instill familiarity.
Why It Works
Statistics continue to reinforce the effectiveness of video on social media. Hays keeps theirs short and to-the-point, compelling viewers to stay tuned. Featuring the voices of executives and other business leaders, Hays maintains a strong position of thought leadership with its followers.
Implement a varied multitude of content, including short and attention-grabbing videos. Align your messaging with your organization’s purpose, as presented on the About tab. Share articles and guides that are acutely useful to the people you wish to reach.
Additionally, in this short video, LinkedIn’s Ryan Roslansky and Warren Quach provide tips on how LinkedIn Pages have been redesigned to make branding on LInkedIn more effective than ever.
Master B2B Content Marketing Strategy on LinkedIn
Today’s buyers demand cohesive experiences across brand interactions and touchpoints. A well defined B2B content marketing strategy enables you to deliver it. To recap some of the points we’ve covered here, you’ll want to make sure you:
Fully understand your audience, competitors, objectives, and measurement systems
Follow B2B content marketing best practices: consistency, documentation, multimedia integration, 3-2-1 content sharing model
Include original content as well as user generated content and credible third-party articles
Use LinkedIn Content Suggestions to keep your pipeline loaded with relevant pieces to share
Draw inspiration from the guiding B2B content marketing strategy examples listed above, as well as others showcased in our Best LinkedIn Pages of 2018
We created this action plan to make it simple for small organizations to grow their business with LinkedIn Pages. You can also find out how the world’s biggest companies organize internally, strategize content, and engage their employees to make the most of their LinkedIn Page by downloading the LinkedIn Pages Enterprise Playbook.