B2B content marketing is all about providing useful knowledge to buyers as they search for solutions – ideally teaching them something they don’t already know.
Content Marketing is one of those marketing buzz words that annoy me slightly. It has been presented as something new when it’s actually been around for decades, maybe centuries. It’s another example of something old being given a new label.
(British Gas in the 1950s used a free recipe book to entice people into their retail showrooms, and Benjamin Franklin is credited with using content marketing in 1732.)
However, content marketing is effective, especially in an overcrowded marketplace that uses aggressive sales techniques. It can establish your organisation as helpful experts, and increase the possibility of being added to a buyers shopping list.
So here is the process I use to create and distribute content.
Step 1: Who are you targeting?
Be clear about your target market. Content is not about showing how clever you are, it’s about delivering value to an audience. There’s a value exchange; you agree to deliver knowledge and in return, they agree to give you their contact details.
Decide on whether your content is about your customers or your customer’s customers. Here is an example. Imagine you are targeting recruitment managers. Do you write a report based on a survey of recruitment managers, or a report based on a survey of candidates?
Ideally, you do both (in other words, two separate reports). The Recruitment Manager Report will enable managers to benchmark their activity and processes against the industry standard. The Candidate Report will give them insight into the needs and attitudes of their audience. Both reports are valuable.
Content about your customers is Vertical Content, content about your customer’s customers is Horizontal Content.
Step 2: Create original content
If you simply repeat content that is already available you are always going to be in second place – especially if you quote research conducted by other organisations (they get the credit, not you).
Do your own surveys, asking original questions. I have three methods; Twitter surveys, Toluna Quick Surveys or SmartSurveys.
Twitter is great for single questions with a maximum of four answers. You can target your audience and it’s relatively low cost (typically £25 for 200-500 responses).
If you want to ask more elaborate questions I suggest you use SmartSurveys if you have your own list of names/emails, or Toluna Quick Surveys if you don’t have an audience list.
Limit the survey to 8 questions, any more than that and people lose interest and the quality/accuracy of their answers begins to drop.
Whatever method you use, make sure the results are valid. More on that in my blog article ‘How valid research improves the authority of your content‘.
Not all content has to be supported by survey results, but it does help add originality and authority to your opinion.
Step 3: Plan your distribution
Before you start writing or recording videos, plan the sequence of distribution. The most successful content I produce consists of reports that contains original survey results.
My distribution of this valuable information is designed to reward existing customers and prospects that have engaged with our marketing. I normally let customers know they are getting the report 4 weeks before official publication, and key prospects get it 2 weeks before official publication.
Here is the sequence I typically use:
Content marketing distribution plan
- Week 1: Send new report to existing customers
- Week 3: Send the same report to prospects who subscribe to your newsletter
- Week 5: Send the report to targeted prospects
- Week 6: Officially launch report via blog article and promote a webinar
- Week 7: Send Press Release about the report’s main findings
- Week 8: Webinar with guest to analyse the report
- Week 9: Further blog articles that expand on one or two sections in the report
- Week 10: Launch video/podcast (either recording of webinar or talking head) and infographic
Now you know what to produce and when.
Step 4: Be a subject matter expert
Not as easy as it may sound. I’ve been surprised at how many senior managers (even CEOs) are reluctant to express their opinion in writing or on camera. They either struggle with grammar (in which case you become their ghostwriter) or they get tongue-tied when the video starts (which either means great editing or you step up and take their place).
Some organisations are reluctant to express a view because they are afraid their rivals might challenge them. Well, you are either an expert on the subject or you are not. If you’re not a subject expert. hire someone who is!
Personally, I like it when competitors challenge views and opinions, it’s an opportunity to prove them wrong. It also proves you have chosen a hot topic.
For more about identifying subjects for content marketing see my article ‘A practical guide to content marketing‘.
Step 5: Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose
Content marketing is not necessarily a one-off, time-limited piece of work. I revisit content regularly and update it, but I also consider how I could reuse, recycle or repurpose it.
Repurposing content is normally transforming it into a new format. For example, using a blog post as the basis for an infographic.
Recycling content means promoting it again. Just because a blog article was written a year ago does not necessarily mean the views and opinions are less valid.
Reusing content means taking parts of it creating a new item. It could mean taking survey results from a report and using them to discuss new legislation planned by the government.
Bonus: Forgotten content
Case studies are often overlooked as a form of content marketing, yet they are very useful. A case study not only allows you to demonstrate the real-life benefits of your proposition, it also shows the reader is interested in your solution.
I argue that a person who downloads a case study is a very warm lead – they want to know how good you are and seek evidence on what you have done for others.
The results I have achieved using this strategy include:
a) High volume of C-level engagement
b) Website users increase 10 fold
c) LinkedIn clicks rise by 7,700%
d) Twitter clicks up from 6 to 3,500 per month
e) Backlinks boosted by 330%
Content marketing provides knowledge, usually for free, in support of a business goal. You are not doing it to be nice, so be clear about the goal you want to achieve and teach people something they don’t already know.