higher demand generation returns, CMITraditionally B2B organizations stick with the status quo and fail to recognize the benefits of looking beyond “the way it’s always been.”

During her session at Content Marketing World, Rachel Foster of Fresh Perspective Copywriting covered how these organizations can use content marketing to improve their demand generation efforts while potentially shortening their sales cycles.

In my opinion, this is a must for any modern B2B organization that needs a boost in its approach to bringing in more qualified leads and, ultimately, more sales opportunities.

The content challenge for B2B marketers

Here’s a question posted to the B2B Technology Marketers LinkedIn group:

Can you use one word to describe the biggest challenge facing B2B marketing today?”

One of the biggest challenges reported by the group of 1,000 respondents was “content.”

Yes, content is the key, but how would you do this for B2B organizations? Let’s dig deeper and uncover this together.

Creating demand and positive ROI with content marketing

Although many B2B organizations only produce a sales message in their content, that’s not what content marketing is about — it’s about helping.

Ah, helping, not selling, is the key here — remember that, folks.

There are three keys to success when it comes to increasing demand generation with B2B content marketing:

1. Create content for multiple audiences: Going beyond just marketing managers, there are other audiences looking at your content. In B2B, you might have more than one decision maker, and that’s where different content audiences come into play. These key players could range from the CFO to the director of IT — keep your content focused on the person you’re targeting.

The content you create for the IT director might sound like a foreign language to the CFO. This is where you want to rely on building strong buyer personas for your content marketing efforts.

Personal note: Essentially, think of your target audience as one person and build your content to that one person. Married, young, or a lover of dogs, build a persona that’s as detailed as possible.

2. Create content for different stages of the sales cycle: If you simply develop the same types of content no matter what buying stage you are targeting, you might do more harm than good. In fact, effective marketers are 50 percent more likely to consider the buying cycle stage as they develop their content, according to the B2B Content Marketing: 2012 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends Report by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs.

What types of content are best for a given stage?

  • Early-stage leads: Look to create content that educates and helps them with their business challenges, like blog posts and white papers.
  • Mid-stage leads: Give your readers proof of ROI for your services, so they can build a business case around your offerings. Look to content like testimonials, data sheets, and case studies here.
  • Late-stage leads: Here’s where you want to give them content that can overcome doubts and demonstrate why you’re better than your competitors, such as comparison sheets and customized content.

Personal note: Don’t throw out all kinds of content to your audience. Have a plan and use the right content, at the right time.

3. Discover your story: First, you need to discover your customer’s story. What do they want to get out of your content? Who are they? Find remarkable things about them and the “why” of their business, and bring that into your content efforts. You see, customers look for communities to join and to connect with those with like interests to talk to.

Then, to discover your own story, look at your previous success stories; talk to other departments and ask for a wish list of stories from your customer — they might just have one that’s perfect!

To add value and find out more about your customer, consider pursuing the following ideas:

  • Subscribe to their trade publications, websites, and social feeds.
  • Attend events for their industry and find stories in sessions.
  • Review blog comments and LinkedIn group discussions.
  • Set up Google alerts for keywords related to your customer’s industry.
  • Listen to social media, and see what others are saying.
  • Offer up helpful articles or resources for customer consumption.

Personal note: Storytelling gets you seen and shows your audience you’re more than just a seller — that you’re human and want to gain trust. Buyers buy more from those they trust.

Bonus: Take risks with your B2B content marketing

The status quo may not always help with demand generation, and taking some risks could be what you need. Although you might get some who say, “It’s always been done this way,” it might be time to take a leap and try something different, including:

  • Using subject matter experts for content marketing ideas, but using writers and editors to polish the stories
  • Making your story available to all — not just your current customers
  • Conducting interviews and using key points to develop multiple stories to share with the world

By taking a risk and developing this type of content for B2B organizations, you will increase search rankings, gain a following on social networks and, potentially, pick up press mentions from your content.

If you’re a B2B organization that needs a boost in your demand generation efforts, don’t just jump in and expect overnight results. Remember, you need to tailor your content to your audience and offer the right types of content, depending on the position in the sales cycle — this includes telling compelling stories that attract more followers to your content marketing efforts.

My action item for you: Ask yourself how your organization can take some risks that improve your bottom line and get out there and start building content for your audience, based on the key elements of this post.

Want more content marketing inspiration? Download our ultimate eBook with 100 content marketing examples.

Image via Bigstock