How to Create a Content Strategy for B2B Companies
Content strategy is a critical element of any successful marketing campaign. A strong content strategy helps you:
- assess your current situation (where your content marketing efforts are today and where you want to go), and outline steps necessary to achieve your objectives
- identify all crucial aspects required for a marketing campaign to be a success
- clearly communicate expectations and establish an agreement on these between everyone involved
- track campaign progress, and construct reports valuable to stakeholders
Launching a content campaign without a clear strategy is like trying to navigate an unfamiliar place without a map. You may ultimately end up at your intended destination, but odds are you’ll get lost along the way.
Content Strategy for Business
Your intended audience will obviously have a major impact on your content strategy, and business audiences can be very different from consumer audiences.
Characteristics of B2B Audience
While the following characteristics may not apply to EVERY business, they’re good to keep in mind when creating B2B content:
- Business consumers are often less concerned with the money they spend. After all, it’s not their money.
- They rarely make a buying decision on their own. Typically, a number of people are involved in vetting and approving a new purchase – and the bigger the product or service they’re buying, the more high level approval the purchase will require.
- B2B customers are more logical when it comes to purchases. B2B purchases are rarely governed by impulse. Instead, business buyers tend to analyze every aspect of what they’re looking to buy before making the final call.
- When it comes to content, the B2B audience wants to be educated. Not only do they want content to provide them with the basic information they seek, they want it to inform them on a level that enables them to ask the right questions, discuss intelligently, and confidently present findings to stakeholders as needed.
Imagine someone looking to outsource an SEO project to an agency. Before they make a final decision on which agency to hire, they’ll want to understand the work involved as best they can, even if only to be able to demonstrate to internal stakeholders the rational behind their selection.
Therefore, content intended for a B2B audience should be:
- highly detailed
- providing a high educational value
B2B Buying Process and its Significance in Content Strategy
Understanding how your customers buy products/services will help you tailor your content to be most effective at the point in the buying process your customers encounter it.
The buying process is the set of steps a customer goes through in order to complete a purchase. Every business has their own unique buying process, but most follow this general pattern:
Stage 1: Awareness
The buying process typically starts at what’s known as the Awareness stage. This is where a customer realizes they have a problem, but are not yet actively seeking to purchase a solution.
Content aimed at this group should serve one primary purpose – convince them that their attitude should change. It should help them see the severity of the problem, and realize the value of solving it.
Stage 2: Evaluation
In the Evaluation stage, the prospect acknowledges the existence of a problem, and the need to solve it. They’re ready to consider alternatives and solutions available to them. They seek out experts and leading figures on the matter while finding out what realistically can be done to solve their problem.
Content targeting users in this group should highlight your expertise. Since these prospects already have a basic knowledge of their problem, your task is to convince them that you can help them.
Stage 3: Decision
Lastly, at the Decision stage, everyone involved in the selection decides who to buy from. At this stage, the content that they’re most interested in includes case studies, customer success stories, and anything else that can highlight the usefulness of your solution.
A Guide to Developing a Content Strategy for B2B Companies
Step 1: Define Your Audience
The B2B audience spans across various levels of the organization. You are not selling only to execs or end users. Depending on your product or service, you might also be selling to engineers, procurement managers, operations managers and many others who can initiate the purchasing process. These are the people who are the first to notice a particular problem in their area and highlight a need for a solution.
Defining your audience will help you highlight things like:
- topics your audience is interested in
- their literacy level
- tone of voice that’s best to communicate with them
- content types they would consume the most
…and so on.
Step 2: Develop Content Personas
Knowing the overall characteristics of your audience is only the first step to creating content that will engage them. Next you need to develop individual content personas representing your typical audience members.
There are a number of reasons for this:
- Doing so will give you a much better understanding of who, specifically, you are speaking to.
- They allow you to personify your audience.
- They help you to predict how the audience is going to respond and thus, better target your content.
- They promote objective strategy.
In short, content personas will help you to select topics, write more engaging copy, and position your content in a ways that will entice the audience to take desired action.
Step 3. Define Content Topics
Based on your audience, their preferences, and content personas, you should then develop a set of topics you want to focus on. These are not individual content ideas, but simply general areas and problems you will be targeting.
This is also a good time to, based on personas and content themes, consider the appropriate tone for your content.
Step 4. Define Content Types
Content marketing is not just about publishing blog posts. There are many other content types you could use to engage your audience. At this stage you need to decide which ones would be the most suitable for your audience and ideal to convey your topics to them.
Most Engaging B2B Content Types:
Content types you use are crucial for any strategy success. Here are some suggestions for content types that will engage a B2B audience.
- Expert Interviews
- Case Studies
- In depth blog posts
- White papers
- Research findings
We published an in-depth guide to most engaging content types for B2B (and B2C) audiences here.
Step 5. Specify content marketing goals
One of the best ways to measure the effectiveness of your content strategy is to set goals. So along with information about the content and audience you want to target, your strategy should also include what you want to achieve with your content, and how.
Your goals should be derived and linked to your overall business goals. A few example goals may be to:
- increase site traffic
- generate leads
- raise awareness of your business
- help build a social following
Step 6. Define calls to action
Your goals are also linked to actions you want your audience to take upon consuming your content.
An official definition of a call to action states that it is “an instruction to the audience to provoke an immediate response, usually using an imperative verb such as “call now to find out more” or “visit a store today“.”
That response, or action, could be a number of things: downloading an ebook, sighing up for your newsletter, contacting you, viewing your products list, getting a coupon, and so on.
Step 7. Map content ideas and types to the sales funnel
This is where you connect your content with your audience’s buying process.
You need to decide which content will target your audience at their awareness stage, which will help them to evaluate you as an expert, and, lastly, which will help them make a buying decision to hire you.
Step 8. Develop initial content calendar
The expectation here isn’t to have a full calendar year of content scheduled. To launch your strategy you should have gathered all information you’ve used to shape your strategy so far, and come up with content ideas for at least the next few weeks. This will give you enough material to pilot your strategy and start measuring its effectiveness.
One of the best ways to plan content development is by creating a content calendar. A content calendar will help you visualize how your content, topics, and production, are distributed over a specific period of time.
There are a number of ways to create a content calendar. You could use something as simple as an Excel spreadsheet, or, if you need a more advanced solution, there are dedicated content calendar apps like Trello, Gather Content, Kapost, CoSchedule, and many more.
Step 9. Come up with a content promotion plan
Your last step is to define how you are going to promote your content to your audience.
Once your content is live you need to make sure that it reaches its intended audience. Obviously, you should be optimizing it for SEO from the start, but it will still take time before search engines pick it up. Which is why you should also consider promoting it on social media, personally reaching out to your industry’s influencers (and other people who could help to magnify it), and syndicating it to other sites.
Neil Patel offers some incredible insights into the process in his content promotion guide.
Typical Content Marketing Mistakes
There are a number of common mistakes you should try to avoid when creating and executing your content strategy. A few of these include:
- Focusing on a single content type. Even though it might seem logical to publish only blog posts, doing so limits your reach. A proper strategy should include different content types, each designed to deliver a different message to different readers at a different stage of a buying cycle.
- Not using content personas. Many companies skip creating personas, preferring to publish content they simply assume their audience will be interested in. Assumptions are a trap, and most of these companies eventually realize the importance of objective data like personas in guiding their content strategy, and end up having to create them anyway, after wasting valuable time and effort shooting from the hip.
- Not including keywords in the strategy. Regardless of what the newest, hottest trends in SEO may be, keywords are the foundation of almost all online marketing strategies. They are what customers use to seek out information, and should not be ignored.
- Lack of content promotion. Creating content and hitting publish isn’t enough to reach your goals. Once the content is ready, you need to promote it to make sure it reaches the target audience.
- Over-selling. Self-promotion should rarely, if ever, be a cornerstone of your content marketing strategy. Stuffing content with sales messages is more likely to turn potential customers away from it. Instead, focus on the value your content itself offers your audience, and use it to steer them toward your more promotional content at the appropriate phase of their buying process.
Check out our other content marketing guides to learn more: