The clever answer to the question in the title of this piece may be, ‘Yeah, my customers’, but that doesn’t make it the right answer. Every piece of content marketing is, or at least should be, designed to attract customers. So, I’ll ask again, do you know, specifically, whom each piece of content is for?
According to recent research almost a third of content marketers don’t know whom each piece is targeted at. Or at least they admit they don’t categorize their content based on buying stage. Which means one in three B2B content marketers is producing content that is targeted only at a broad group of prospects. On the face of it, this may not seem like such a big problem.
However, according to the same research, 82 percent of B2B marketers are planning to increase content production in the next 12 months. Meaning those prospects are going to be more and more saturated with content. And they are only likely to engage with the content that best fits their needs. Which means broad targeting of content won’t cut it in the long term.
Buying stages should form a vital part of your B2B content marketing, because it’s not just important for helping the right prospects get the right content. It’s vital to every single stage of content production.
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Idea generation is often the most difficult step in B2B content marketing. Once you have the ideas and planning in place, the rest has a clear structure to follow. When you know which buying stage you are targeting, you can plan much more effectively. You can create valuable troubleshooting guides for products that cover a common problem. Or detailed case studies to help differentiate you from competitors. By understanding where the gaps in your sales process are, or where your best prospects are in the cycle; you can make these decisions and build content those prospects will instantly connect with.
The same goes for research. There is no point in providing detailed product information, or budgeting statistics to prospects that are still deciding if they have a problem or not. By the same token, someone who regularly visits your site and is considering becoming a hosted cloud services client doesn’t need to read content full of research on the benefits of cloud computing. You may be including it to add value to the content, but your prospect may think it means the content isn’t for them. Which may lead them to the same conclusion about your company.
When you’re actually putting the content together and preparing to publish it, the language you use and style you follow should also be dictated by buying stage. B2B content marketing is designed to build a connection with prospects and help you to nurture a relationship with them. You can’t do that if you provide too much technical info to novices or use simplified language that makes experts feel patronized.
What you actually do with content will also be influenced by the buying stage. While you may have a blog that contains content that runs across buying stages, you should target your sharing of content. Posts that illustrate how your product solves a particular problem are of little value too existing customers. They should know that already.
Follow-up is one of the most important factors in B2B content marketing. No matter how engaging, interesting, informative or entertaining your content is; it will mean nothing without an effective follow-up. That follow-up will have the most impact if it is targeted by buying stage. Prospects who have read a couple of pieces of content around a common industry problem, may be interested in a case study that illustrates your experience in dealing with that issue. But if they get bombarded with the same level of content over and over, or it jumps around the buying cycle, they are likely to go elsewhere.
Creating great content is about more than good writing, or in-depth research. It’s about knowing exactly who you’re creating your content for. And understanding that ‘who’ is a lot more complicated than ‘my customers’.
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