It’s not enough just to create content. It’s not even enough to create excellent content. As a B2B marketer, you need authoritative content that converts. Follow our advice to develop a blueprint for success!
Content marketing is about telling stories, making connections and engaging your audience. At the end of the day, though, those stories and connections serve to generate leads and convert customers.
Building Your Plan
According to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2019 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America report, nearly 90 percent of top-performing B2B marketers are making their audience’s informational needs a top priority. And it’s paying off.
Ten years ago, content marketing was more about quantity than quality. Now, if you’re not giving customers exactly what they’re looking for, they will leave your site and go to a place that does have the valuable resources they need.
Another significant takeaway from CMI’s report shows that B2B marketers are building trust and loyalty through the considerations of their audiences.
“96% of the most successful B2B content marketers say audiences view their company as trusted resource.” – Content Marketing Institute, 2019
So these B2B marketers are listening, and their customers are consuming–imagine that! The difficult part of this will always be identifying who to listen to and how to collect the data and turn that into resourceful content, but starting with your brand’s buyers journey is always a good first step!
Step 1: Map the Journey
A conversion starts well before any money changes hands. It’s important to remember that when you’re developing content, you’ll speak to prospects during their journeys through three different stages: awareness, evaluation and conversion. This is what’s known as a marketing funnel.
At the top of the funnel, awareness is when prospects realize they have a problem and that you’re potentially the solution. At this stage, content that supports burgeoning awareness is key.
- Social media updates
These are the things that generate buzz and name recognition, which is great for general awareness. But B2B marketers really benefit in the next stage of evaluation.
Prospects will assess what you’re offering compared to what else is on the market. This stage requires content that piques their curiosity and nurtures an ongoing relationship.
- Email marketing
- Educational resources
- Quizzes, surveys, reviews
For B2B marketers, email continues to be far more valuable than social media. According to McKinsey, email is estimated to be 40 times more effective at capturing new customers than social media. Forty times! In a recent report by Forrester, top B2B marketers indicated email marketing is still the most useful strategy for lead nurturing.
Data on social media marketing corroborates this. The CMO Survey of nearly 400 top marketers found that 43 percent of respondents said social media marketing has yet to show an impact.
Honestly, it makes sense if you look at the numbers.
Kissmetrics notes that there are three times as many email accounts as Facebook and Twitter accounts. That’s somewhere in the ballpark of 3-4 billion accounts worldwide. Gmail alone has 1 billion active users. Meanwhile, Radicati calculates that more than 205 billion emails are sent daily, with that number potentially reaching 246 billion by 2019.
Plus, Facebook’s much-maligned algorithm changes have really hampered organic reach. After the 2014 organic reach crisis, brands have been fighting to capture as little as 2 percent reach via organic posts.
Finally, you’ve made it to the end of the journey, conversion. The final pieces of content need to assure prospects that they’ve made the right decision.
- Free trial
- Live demo
- Customer story
More recently, more brands (and PowerPost!) have turned to the hourglass buyer’s journey model, which includes two additional stages.
Cultivating potential new buyers is only half the battle. These last two stages work together to provide invaluable opportunities for your company, from garnering referrals to having true brand advocates.
Content dedicated to customer retention would resemble any of these:
- Troubleshooting Tips
- FAQ docs
- Ways you’re not utilizing the product or service to its fullest advantage
- New feature updates
The various mediums you should use to push this information include:
- Blog posts
- Social media
- Email marketing
Remember, happy clients lead to retention and referrals, which save you time and money in the long run.
Gaining the trust of consumers is often tough for marketers. In a world full of content overload, we don’t blame them. When making a large investment, it’s only logical that you want to dot your i’s and cross your t’s.
Taking the time to truly understand your target audience and cater to their needs will set your business apart from competitors. Appealing to their emotions makes the process feel more like a partnership and less like a transaction. When your clients start engaging with and sharing your content you’ll know your business is on the right track.
However, mapping the customer’s journey (and your content) is just the first step in your B2B marketing plan. It’s an excellent start, but you’ll still need to produce your content in a timely manner, get it in front of people and, finally, study the response you get.
It sounds like a lot, but once you break it down, it’s not so bad.
Step 2: Build a Content Workflow
You’ve planned for the prospect’s journey, and you know what content you need to invest in. Now you actually have to create that tailored content. A streamlined production process and guidelines are essential to that goal.
It’s essential because, well, there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen. Multiple people are involved with multiple projects at differing stages. Depending on the size of your team, hundreds of individual assets could be created in a single month.
A study by Gleanster and Kapost revealed that the top content marketing challenge for mid-to-large B2B marketers is managing the overall content process. It also showed that 62 percent of a marketing staff’s time is dedicated to content production.
Here’s how you fight inefficiency during the production process:
- Set clearly defined content goals and establish key performance indicators
- Assign roles and responsibilities, so everyone understands how they figure into the big picture
- Assign manageable deadlines
- Leverage usable team workflow tools with a content calendar, a digital library and a history of posted content
- Have an idea repository, a place for your team to share content ideas
- Implement editorial guidelines and an editorial review process
- Use a project management tool to track all department initiatives
Step 3: Tackle Distribution
With what seems like a new social media platform every day, mastering distribution is a serious challenge. It doesn’t have to be daunting if you work smarter, not harder.
First, as a B2B marketer, focus on your email distribution. The thing that’s going to get results and make your life easier is integration. Combine your email marketing automation tool, such as MailChimp, your customer relationship management (CRM) and your content platform to create a lead generating machine.
Get the most out of your email distribution by auto segmenting your contact list. Use the data you’ve collected from your records to target mailings to specific audiences. Keep in mind, segmented and targeted emails generate 58 percent of revenues.
A few useful segmentations:
- Birthday and age
- Agency contact and location
- Referral source
When it comes to social media platforms, schedule your distribution. A proven tactic for managing the time involved in posting to social sites calls for scheduling social updates in advance. In fact, we know a tool that can help you with that.
Don’t forget the top of the funnel, though! A company blog is one of the best top-of-the-funnel content channels for B2B marketers. But don’t let that quality, long-form piece of content languish there.
Atomize your post (breaking it down into several smaller, more shareable pieces) and distribute it across social media platforms. Lastly, weed out platforms that aren’t providing any returns. Focus only on what’s relevant to your prospects.
Step 4: Analyze and Optimize
You have a map, the content required, and a distribution plan. Now, reviewing your efforts and acting on available metrics to optimize performance is critical. These metrics can also exemplify how content is tied to return on investment (ROI) by recording the impact of a particular piece.
Tools like Google Analytics allow you to track the journeys visitors take to your website and within it. Other insights can be gleaned from:
- Ad pixel tracking
- UTM codes
- Goal conversion snippets
- URL-shortener stats
- Heat mapping
A measure especially useful to B2B marketers is website traffic to email conversion ratio (ECR). It can easily be calculated by dividing your new email subscribers in one month by your number of unique visitors in the month.
Contently points out that it’s a simple metric to demonstrate return on content investment (ROCI). They write, “ECR contributes to both hard-dollar and soft-dollar returns on content investment because it’s a primary driver of brand awareness, new leads, and audience loyalty. As it relates ROCI, ECR is a critical building block to generate revenue from leads in the short term and share of voice over the long term.”
But, at the very least, you should be able to collect information on new email subscribers, chat instances and form submissions. Tracking social metrics like views, likes, shares, comments, clicks and followers are also readily available, too.
The Wrap Up
Mastering a successful B2B content marketing plan is tough, but it’s a little easier with some guidance.
Remember, the journey to conversion starts well before the actual transaction. Consider your prospects’ journey and what will speak to them on their path. Furthermore, think about what will help you along the way. With a content map, a concrete production process, smart distribution and key metrics, you have everything you need to reach your prospects.
Once it’s all laid out, you see how easy it is to create a killer content marketing plan that returns on your investment.
For more information about making intelligent, authoritative content that will lead your brand to success, download our latest ebook!