What is B2B Content Marketing?
How to Create, Earn, Share and Spread your Brand Messaging
B2B content marketing is the cornerstone of a brand’s online presence.
More than just being a vehicle for sharing your brand’s messaging, though, content marketing can be — and is — an effective way to meet your organization’s bottom-line goals.
With great content, you can attract new investors and customers, nurture cold leads and convert warm ones.
Without it, your organization will become a ghost — something that’s there, but not seen.
I recently talked about the difference between B2C and B2B content marketing, how to create content that effectively generates leads and how to develop content marketing skills with Christopher Null of Null Media.
Coming from a journalism background, Christopher is a 20-year veteran of magazine and internet trade, working with big names like Yahoo!, Intuit, McGraw Hill and other large companies in publishing and news media.
But while reporting is more about looking for the truth and sharing facts, content marketing requires you to have a clearly detailed end destination and objective in mind and work towards that.
The differences between a B2C and B2B content marketing strategy
The answer to “what is content marketing?” can often be defined by the industry, the product being marketed, and the audience you are speaking to.
In other words, it’s defined by the organization itself.
That being said, both B2C and B2B content creative needs to create a robust strategy with well-defined goals.
Your content marketing strategy also needs to address every part of the content marketing funnel. Top funnel content is typically more introductory in nature, while bottom funnel content is toplines information that drives conversions.
A good content marketing consultant executes on your content marketing strategy, bringing a pitch or outline to life and connecting you with your ideal audience.
On the other hand, a digital marketing consultant like me works closely with decision makers and brand stakeholders to build strategies for owned, shared, and earned media outreach – as well as a methodology for how to measure the ROI of your content marketing program.
While they do have clear differences, B2C and B2B content marketing begins when you learn owned media marketing. Owned media is media you own, and it's comprised of content marketing materials like blog posts, technical guides, white papers, checklists, and product reviews that live on your own website. Hence the term, owned media.
Consumer-facing organizations tend to produce more superficial content, but it still needs to be vibrantly written and come off the page to capture the attention of readers.
B2B content marketing is usually more research-focused, but it still needs to be compelling. Even though it’s written for a niche audience, B2B content should be nothing less than dead-on accurate with useful information detailed specs. Targeting the right topics starts with researching the B2B keywords people search when they are looking for answers to problems you can solve.
Some brands overlook the importance of their owned content marketing channel. But I’ve seen multiple companies rapidly expand using smart growth marketing strategies and by leveraging SEO content.
Earned media is the union of content marketing and digital PR. You can learn earned media marketing anytime, but you're not ready to implement earned media outreach until your owned media strategy is in place. Earned media is media coverage you earn on someone else's website, which link back to your website.
Earned media marketing is what PR firms do. Media relations pros know how to get press coverage for startups and other unproven companies by finding a news hook. For B2B organizations, there will again be a lot of research needed to understand what you want to get across and who your audience is.
“It may be so narrow that you create content that’s only intended for 100 people — or less. But a company with aspirations to become a household name will want to show up anywhere and everywhere, no matter what,” says Christopher.
Having a well-planned content brief and success metrics will be a determining factor in the effectiveness of your content marketing or public relations consultant.
Any discussion about sharing and spreading your content while likely include SEO (organic/owned), PR (earned) and social (shared). Shared media is media you share on social media.
Regardless of whether your organization is B2C or B2B, content marketing relies on you showing up where your customers are engaging already, and if that's on social networks, you should be there too..
A well-written technical guide that provides solutions to your customers’ needs is useless if it’s not read. Social media marketing is how you can engage a community that's interested in what you have to say, as long as the content brings something new to the table, and isn't just another me too blog post.
Knowing how to create viral content in your niche and designing content specifically for use on the social channels where your audience is engaging will help you fill the top of the marketing funnel.
I personally like the concept of scaling social media algorithms by enabling a community to engage on your behalf. My sense is, why not teach everyone in your organization to be able to decide what can be shared publicly and what needs to be kept private, and encourage them to use social media to get their jobs done. That way, marketing becomes a byproduct. But for that, you need a good social media policy and training in place. I have a detailed social media policy template you can start with, if you want to take that approach.
A B2B content marketer will need to understand the relationship between paid and organic content marketing efforts. I implement paid media marketing last, because I want a proof of concept that proves my path to purchase converts before I buy traffic.
Pivoting to paid advertising will serve as a way to get a quick, short term surge of interested leads, and should be coupled with a long-term organic growth marketing strategy to ensure you have multiple inbound marketing channels working for you.
How to create content that generates leads
Attribution in content marketing can be more difficult than direct marketing approaches. But when it comes to measuring your content marketing funnel, lead generation, customer engagement and SEO rankings are three trackable metrics.
“Everything you write should be aimed toward generating leads. It’s critical to understand how keywords and SEO work. It’s simply got to be better than everything else out there. Which, honestly, might not be that hard,” says Christopher.
B2B content marketing that converts is informative, fact-checked, uses eye-catching imagery and makes the company — and anyone associated with it — look smart. I wrote a separate B2B Lead Generation Guide as well, that you may want to check out.
Regardless of the industry, good content marketing is simply good writing.
And pushing a hard sell will only send your (formerly) prospective customers running the other direction.
“In B2B a lot of content marketing is written by developers in their spare time on a Saturday night because management told them to share something. It reads like a page in a technical manual and it’s not compelling. There’s a huge opportunity for smaller organizations with limited resources to stand out,” says Christopher.
Don’t be afraid to be a bit controversial. Have a perspective, tone or approach that’s not the standard for SAAS or tech brands and you’ll begin to get noticed.
How to find a B2B content marketing consultant
Keeping with the suggestion above, someone from your dev team is likely not the best fit for a content creator.
Proximity to the product does not make you a good content marketer.
A content marketing consultant niched to your product or industry can help you create — and execute on — a winning content marketing strategy.
Christopher shared with us his shortlist for what to look for in a content marketer:
- First and foremost, writing experience. This does not need to be a journalism background such as his, but there does need to be some sort of portfolio.
- A research-driven approach. Someone who is dedicated to and capable of learning every part of your product in a timely manner is key.
- Collaboration and investigation. The expertise is in your company. A B2B content marketer needs to know who to talk to and how to talk to them in order to extract the information that only your team knows.
- An understanding of lead generation. A good B2B content marketer understands the psychology of reaching readers and how to turn them into leads or customers.
- Subject matter expertise. While not essential, if you need to move quickly, it can speed up the content creation process and shorten the learning curve.
The last one may depend on the individual marketer, as there are generalist content marketers and writers who can use the tools of journalism to research and learn about something new. But there’s no substitute for someone who’s already familiar with concepts like product-led marketing, starting an online marketplace, or online reputation management, if that’s your jam.
How to work with a content marketer
Like any consultant or agency relationship, you can mitigate risks of a failed venture by preparing in advance.
No one can know what’s inside your head.
Compile your expertise, create a brief and be prepared to talk to the individual. An initial call is an important step when it comes to picking up on and understanding the voice of the founder and other decision makers.
In addition to the content marketing tips we discussed in relation to building an effective B2B content marketing strategy, my discussion with Christopher shares some incredibly actionable advice for finding a great content marketing consultant.
“It can be difficult to find a good content marketer and/or writer because you really don’t know who’s behind the great stuff. Most content out there is ghostwritten — or has no name on it,” says Christopher.
Working with a full-stack digital marketing consultant like myself will take the guesswork out of creating and executing a successful B2B content marketing strategy that includes owned, earned, social, and paid media. If you’re interested in learning more about my unique approach to achieving digital marketing success let’s talk.
Until then, be sure to catch us next time on the B2B Lead Gen Podcast for more B2B marketing insights.