Google processes over 40,000 searches per second, 3.5 billion searches daily, and 1.2 trillion searches yearly. That’s a lot of people looking for content, be it answers to questions, discovering something new, or seeing what’s happening in the world.
If you have quality content guided by a comprehensive strategy, a fraction of those trillion people could be clicking on your links. In the business-to-business (B2B) world, content is a powerful bridge between you and your customers. And it gets results: About 50% of marketers said they successfully nurtured their target audience with content, 60% said it built customer loyalty, and 42% said it generated revenue.
You can create content that achieves your marketing goals with a B2B content marketing strategy built for savvy modern consumers.
What is a B2B content marketing strategy?
Before we get into strategy, we need to answer, “What is B2B content marketing?”
B2B content marketing is a strategy that uses different kinds of content to achieve a wide array of marketing goals like increasing traffic, generating leads, closing sales, and building brand awareness.
In the last 12 months, the content types that produced the best results for B2B marketers were virtual events, research reports, and short articles (under 3,000 words).
B2B vs. B2C: What’s the difference?
As the name suggests, B2B marketing focuses on selling to other businesses. Think about all the tools you use to run your business or manage your marketing campaigns — those are B2B companies.
Business-to-consumer (B2C) companies, on the other hand, target individual consumers. Some examples of B2C companies are Banana Republic, David’s Tea, and other shops commonly seen in malls.
The distinction goes beyond your target audiences. Because B2B marketing focuses on decision-makers — most likely industry experts — your content has to be more professional and direct. It needs to address unique B2B concerns, such as ensuring compliance to legislation.
B2B content must convince readers your brand is credible, your team is reliable, and your product solves their company’s problems. It targets companies, not individuals, so it should address the needs of an entire team instead of just one person.
This usually spans from the person who first discovers you through to the final decision-maker, finance signing off on payment, and your actual user.
That’s where your B2B content strategy comes into play: It studies your target audience, clearly defines your content goals, and recommends the best course of action based on multiple pieces of information.
Build a B2B content marketing strategy in 10 steps
Your B2B content strategy should act as your content marketing North Star, but that doesn’t mean it’s infallible.
Create a solid foundation by learning about your audience, setting goals, and assessing the current state of your content.
Then, keep your content consistent by defining your brand, choosing which content types to prioritize, and deciding which content avenues to pursue for maximum exposure.
Lastly, keep your content up to date by incorporating regular reassessments into your strategy.
💡 Format your content strategy according to this content strategy outline 💡
1) Understand your audience
Like we said earlier, as a B2B marketer, your target audience is different; you’re after a more knowledgeable group of professionals with clearly defined goals and company needs (and deal breakers). To craft content for them, you need to get to know them.
A few ways to find out who your target audience is and the types of content they like to consume include:
- Invite your most loyal customers or clients for one-on-one feedback calls
- Implement on-site surveys to capture visitor feedback
- Send mass surveys to your customer base
- Talk to other marketers with a similar target audience and share notes
- Start conversations through email
- Build a community or forum where your customers and prospects can ask questions and leave feedback
If you plan to get in touch with your prospects and customers/clients or build out surveys, here are some questions you can ask:
- How big is your team?
- How many people are involved in decision-making for tool/SaaS purchases?
- What do you use/plan to use our product for?
- What problem of yours do we/do you think we can solve?
- How often do you use/plan to use our product?
- What are your biggest business challenges right now?
- What are your company values? How important is value alignment in decision-making?
- What online platforms do you use the most (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, Reddit)?
- What does your current toolset look like?
- If we disappeared tomorrow, would anything break for you?
- What other features/products would you like to see from us?
After you become familiar with your audience, craft your buyer personas, ideal customer profiles (ICPs), and user personas for each content type and add that information to your content strategy.
2) Understand the buyer journey
Next, you need to know the ins and outs of the buyer journey, from research to purchasing. The buyer journey has changed over time, growing more complicated as access to information becomes easier. Gartner identified six stages in the B2B buying journey, but don’t be fooled — it’s anything but linear:
According to Gartner, the buying journey starts when someone poses a question and seemingly never ends.
You don’t need to produce content for every stage of the buying journey right away, but you do need to decide which stage you want content for first, especially if you’re only beginning to delve into content marketing.
For example, a new user onboarding company shouldn’t immediately publish content on how to use their latest features. They would benefit more from explaining user onboarding to reach their audience in the problem identification stage, or publish an article on how user onboarding software fosters customer loyalty for their audience in the solution exploration stage.
Work with your sales team to map various customer journeys, taking note of the questions your customers ask and what challenges they face at each stage.
For your content strategy, understand the main questions your content should answer depending on the buyer stage you want to hit.
3) Set your content goals
You don’t need elaborate, world-shaking goals — just hyper-specific ones that clearly guide the kind of content you want to produce. Your topics, ideas, and even content structures will depend on what you want your content to achieve.
For example, if you want more website traffic, you need to create top-of-funnel (ToFU) content like ultimate guides that explain the what, why, and how of your solution. With the right SEO strategy, these can pull in more visitors with organic search.
If you want more leads, you should pursue informative downloadable walkthroughs your target audience can only access if they give you their contact information.
Your content goals will drastically affect the content you craft. Set your goals early on and update them as you grow.
4) Audit your existing content
If you have existing content, run a content audit to assess which pieces work best for acquisition, conversion, education, onboarding, and other key functions.
Look at what topics your audience resonates with the most, and which pieces are outdated and need to be updated, combined, or scrapped. This will help you understand what kind of content you should prioritize moving forward.
Add a content audit schedule to your ongoing strategy as well so you consistently keep your pieces up to date.
Based on experience, I recommend conducting audits:
- Quarterly if you produce at least 12 articles a month
- Every six months if you produce at least eight articles a month
- Annually if you produce at least two articles a month
Also, run an audit every time something new happens in the world that drastically changes your industry.
For example, the COVID-19 pandemic shifted purchasing behavior from in-store to digital, which made most pre-March-2020 eCommerce, digital selling, and eCommerce marketing content obsolete.
5) Define your brand (voice + tone)
Your voice and tone is the personality your brand projects to your audience.
Defining and disseminating these in your content strategy is important because 75% of customers expect personality to be consistent across different types of content and channels.
Some elements you need to define for your brand are:
- Your positioning statement
- Mission, vision, and values
- Color scheme and design principles
- The types of words you use and spelling preferences
- Tone — formal or informal, informative or entertaining (or both)
Once you’ve defined your brand, creating content that resonates and builds relationships becomes easier.
6) Try different content types
Content can come in various types and formats, such as:
- Case studies
- YouTube videos
- LinkedIn live
- TikTok videos
- Email newsletters
- Email courses
- Online courses
- Online conferences
- Twitter threads
- Social media polls
In the last 12 months, 58% of B2B marketers agreed that virtual events, webinars, and online courses produced the best results in terms of content type, followed by research reports and short-form content.
Again, because B2B marketers’ target audiences are more specialized, they tend to lean more towards educational content that positions them as the knowledgeable (and only) solution for decision-makers.
Start with three types of content so you don’t spread yourself (and your team) thin trying to produce five podcasts, four blog posts, a YouTube video, and a new email newsletter every month.
Select content type based on your goals, target audience, and competition:
- Your goals define what content types you should prioritize. For example, if you want to increase your brand’s ToFU awareness, develop how-to articles and ultimate guides. If you want to build thought leadership, publish thought-provoking social media content and videos about experiments you conducted.
- Your target audience consumes your content, so you need to create content that’s worth their time. For example, if your target audience is C-suite decision-makers, you might opt for blog posts, LinkedIn content, and case studies. Blog posts display your knowledge, LinkedIn content reaches CEOs where they’re at, and case studies clearly prove to your audience that your product yields results.
- Your competitors are great indicators of what’s working in your industry. If they’re producing YouTube videos or TikTok content, then you might want to follow suit.
A great example of a blog that does its job well is Clearscope’s case study page. Clearscope is a pricey product that targets B2B decision-makers, so they use content to validate the investment and show it’s well worth it.
7) Pick distribution channels
Content and distribution go hand-in-hand. Without distribution, even if you spend hours formulating your content, you’re basically yelling into an empty room every time you upload or hit “publish.”
Similarly, uploading your content to random places is like screaming from a rooftop, hoping someone on the crowded street below hears you (spoiler alert: no one usually does).
Picking distribution channels is as important as choosing content types. If your target audience is mostly on LinkedIn, it makes no sense to create content for TikTok.
In the same vein, if your goal is to generate new leads, then sending email newsletters only to your existing customers is unproductive.
Once again, use your goals, your customers, and your competition to discover which distribution channels work best for your brand.
If you need a place to start, around 70% of B2B marketers use blogs and email (newsletters and campaigns) in conjunction with their website to have their content reach more people.
Other distribution channels to consider are social media sites, forums like Quora and Reddit, and online communities such as Facebook and Slack.
8) Determine and reassess what success looks
Mark Schmukler, co-founder and CEO of Sagefrog, said, “New marketing trends are constantly popping up. We watch new tactics carefully to see which ones help us generate leads and close deals. Those tactics make the transition from passing fad to best practice.”
Define your success metrics based on your goals and gather data to make the right decisions.
Here are some metrics to get you started:
- Pageviews are the number of people who viewed your content from paid and unpaid sources.
- Organic pageviews tell you how many people visited your page from an unpaid source.
- Average time on page determines if your visitors consume your content or leave as soon as they see your headline or title.
- Bounce rate lets you know if your content doesn’t meet search intent.
- Likes and shares tell you how engaged your target audience is with your content.
- Conversion rate shows how many people became leads or customers because of your content.
- Traffic sources reveal where your visitors come from.
- Click-through rate tells you how many people click on links within your content and stay on your website.
- Top-ranking keyword shows what people search for to get to your content.
- Number of keywords per page measures how relevant your content is compared to other existing content on the same topic.
- Number of backlinks determines how authoritative your content is.
Monitor your content marketing efforts and results to see how successful you are at reaching your goal and if something in your strategy needs to change.
9) Update content regularly
Your work in content is never done; there are always new studies, trends, tactics, and sources popping up, and you have to stay on top of them.
Articles on sourcing strategy from 10 years ago, for example, will have outdated advice following laws and customs that have since evolved multiple times.
Revisit and update your content, starting with your most successful pieces once they hit a year or so (or if something big has happened in the industry lately).
Look at what you can add, remove, and combine to improve them as a whole. Perhaps you can combine a series of small articles on the same topic into a larger, more comprehensive piece.
10) Repurpose your content
Finally, as you notice which pieces perform best, extend your ROI by repurposing that content.
If you have an especially successful blog post, turn it into a webinar. Did you receive a high volume of answers from a Twitter poll? Write an eBook on the topic using your new data. If you ran an industry survey, translate the results into a whitepaper and hop on a podcast to discuss takeaways.
Content repurposing is a powerful strategy to reach audiences that have diverse channel preferences with your most important ideas.
People consume content differently depending on their environment (e.g., when they commute, are in the office, or are multi-tasking at home). Repurposing your best work allows you to cater to multiple situations.
Wrapping up — B2B content marketing for 2022
Even though the world has changed drastically over the past few years, your brand can continue to grow and stay on top of trends with a robust content marketing strategy.
Make your content work for you by creating for your target market, focusing on the biggest drivers, clearly defining your goals, and regularly reassessing your B2B content marketing strategy.
When you know where to focus and how to craft with intent, you’ll waste less time, earn better results, and build a swifter, more flexible, and more effective team.