Creating stellar B2B content is tough but essential.
That’s a good thing, because content marketing will cease to be valuable the moment it becomes easy. Tough strategies create profitable competitive advantages. So, quit whining about how hard it is to create content and start solving the problem.
It’s most helpful to tackle this B2B content creation in three phases:
#1: Find compelling topics that your audience finds useful.
#2: Increase the ROI of your content to justify its creation.
#3: Make your content work harder for a longer period of time.
We’ll walk you through each of these phases now.
How to Find Compelling B2B Topics
Finding topics is an ongoing challenge for B2B content marketers. Use the following tactics to quickly pinpoint topics that will attract readers and prospects:
All B2B sales start with a question.
How can we shorten the sales cycle for our sales reps?
How can we get key financial reports completed faster?
What is the best way to add video to our marketing mix?
These and other questions become the search query in Google. From there, Google directs the prospect to a website — most likely a blog. More often, we are seeing prospects ask these questions on social platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter which are answered by the network. In these cases, a network connection may refer the person to a vetted and trusted source of information. Your goal is to be that source. You increase the likelihood of this by writing interesting answers to the common questions asked by your target client.
This topic selection tactic isn’t new — I first heard of it about 5 years ago. However, many B2B content creators adopted it for a few months and then dropped it when a newer (not better) tactic came along. I encourage you to build your content creation efforts around identifying and being the best “question answerers” in your industry. By the way, this tactic will always work as long as human beings ask questions.
General topics are the enemy of effective content marketing. The large, broad, topics are already dominated by the top publication or the top business in each industry. For instance, it’s very hard to compete with HubSpot in the marketing automation industry. To compete, a business will need to refine their topic to a smaller niche where they can make an impact.
We often advise our clients to slice their audience to a group small enough to target effectively, but large enough to make an impact on revenue. For example, an advertising agency will find it difficult to make headway with general advertising tips content. The agency should chunk down the industry by breaking down the industry in steps:
- Advertising for B2B
- Advertising for Professional Services Firms
- Advertising for Professional Service Firms that cater to attorneys and accountants
- Advertising for Professional Service Firms that target Attorneys and Accountants in large metropolitan areas.
Content produced by this agency would be hyper-relevant and useful to their business development team too.
In many cases, it makes sense to further chunk your B2B content by prospect roles.
To illustrate, executive recruiter firms could immediately enhance their content quality by chunking their content by titles such as CEO, CMO, CFO, and Director Level. In this case, their prospective clients will appreciate advice that is tailored to the role they are looking to fill. A post titled “Executive Recruiter Tips” will simply get lost in the noise. However, taking one more step to chunk content by role will convincingly establish the firm as the go-to expert in their field.
How To Get Better Results From Your B2B Content
We’ll be going more in depth about lead generation B2B content in the Content Toolbox over the next few months. For now, there are three ways to improve the ROI of your current content:
#1: Align editorial calendar with customer buying process
Can you map out your customer’s buying process?
The standard B2B Purchase Process looks something like this:
Your prospects ask specific questions at each stage of the purchase process. What are the questions your prospects ask? Once you know the questions, create an editorial calendar that answers these questions. It’s best to discuss the editorial calendar with your sales team to insure alignment.
#2: Get permission to continue in-depth communication (email, membership areas)
Every stitch of content you publish should ask for permission to continue communication. You can ask for permission by:
- Offering better information in exchange for an email address
- Asking your readers if you can send them updated information when it is published
- Inviting your readers to a different platform for follow-up feedback such as a LinkedIn or Facebook Group
You’ve turned a reader into a lead once you’ve received permission to continue talking. Don’t be shy. Make the best offer you can in as many ways as you can. B2B content without a follow-up call to action is worthless.
Did you know that Toyata, at the peak of their success during the 1980’s and early 90’s, freely offered plant tours to American car companies? They did this because their manufacturing methods required years of experimentation and relentless follow-through to work. Toyota knew that knowing “what” to do was far less valuable than “how” to do it.
I frequently come across businesses who insist on publishing generic, barely useful content, because they fear that their competitors will steal their ideas. I always emphasize that they should focus on their business model first if their ideas are so basic that a blog post can derail their business. I also tell them that they should freely share the “what” and make money from the “how.”
Your business cannot survive in a content marketing fight if you withhold information that is genuinely helpful to your audience. Giving the good stuff is now the price of entry for effective content marketing.
How to Stretch the Life of Your Best Content
According to a recent study, 53% of businesses struggle with content creation.
Deep Content — articles that comprehensively cover a subject — have a longer shelf-life than shorter articles. This Deep Content is usually 1000+ words and published at a slower rate than shorter posts. You can increase the frequency of these articles by hiring a team of writers, (in-house or freelance) but expect to spend more time on these articles. The longer publishing cycle means that your readers will have time to fully digest the information.
As a rule, we recommend having a 70/30 Evergreen to Topical content mix. Evergreen content isn’t tied to a time, date, or notable occurrence. For example, a post tying this year’s Oscars with your product will be dated the morning after the Academy Awards. However, a post offering a point-of-view on a common and frequently asked industry question will be useful for months – even years.
Full Stack Content
There is a slow movement away from text as the primary medium for online marketing. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, summarized this well –
“Going back about 10 years, most of what we shared and experienced was text. And then it was photos. And now we’re entering into a world where that’s video. But pretty soon, we’re going to live in a world where everyone has the power to share and experience whole scenes as if you’re right there in person.”
B2B content creators need to think more like their B2C cousins here.
Thinking about the experience your prospect has while consuming your content will help you create durable content that stays top-of-mind.
Our Full Stack Content™ methodology focuses on defining the customer’s research experience and building content across platforms to deliver it. This could mean creating an Instagram photo album with beauty shots, a Slideshare “Reason’s Why” presentation, or an Explainer Video, along with a podcast interview with the product’s project manager. In this case, one topic is turned into a multi-platform experience.
Make Better Content With These Resources
In the Content Toolbox we have several tools that can help you implement what we discussed in this post. We have:
- Editorial Calendar Topic Generation Worksheet: A template to help you brainstorm 52 blog posts in under 30 minutes.
- Content Marketing Scorecard: Audit your content marketing program. Immediately identify your strategies strengths and weaknesses.
- 10 Expensive B2b Problems Your Prospects Need to Solve: Use this checklist to inspire new blog content ideas.