B2B content marketing has changed drastically. There was a time when business publications also published how-to information about business taxes and direct marketing, best hiring practices, and deep dives on new tools like Facebook Marketing, or setting up Amazon as another sales channel.
Those days are mostly gone. Business publications like Inc., Fortune, Entrepreneur, and the handful of others instead publish stories about brands and their founders – a constant stream of tales about the most successful (or the most unsuccessful) of us rounded up annually into 30 Under 30 or Most Innovative lists.
Learning how to run a business or a department has been sidelined in journalism, put into the main purview of universities (which are often behind the times given how quickly technology and strategies change), or venture capital firms (which require, of course, the giving away of a part of your business to gain access).
There is one place, though, where you can still learn how to run a business, or department, or get a deep dive on how to accomplish a specific task with a specific tool – and no, it’s not just Reddit.
Blogs have become the gold standard for learning new strategies, new tools, new anything related to business.
Ahref’s or Moz’s for SEO, or ConversionXL’s for conversion rate optimization, don’t just educate professionals of all ages and skill levels – they also drive significant increases in sales for the businesses that invest in these blogs.
This is because publishing long-form (or just plain helpful) educational content regularly does something incredibly important: it builds brand equity in the form of trust and thought leadership.
So the next time you’re asked the question, “Why is content marketing so important for B2B businesses?”, you can answer, “Simple. It increases sales.” The more complicated but realistic answer is that content marketing increases brand awareness, brand trust, and makes it easier to acquire new customers for years on end.
Of course, not all B2B organizations have amazing blogs and publish content that builds brand equity.
No, you have to produce the right content at the right time that speaks to the right problem that your tool/company can actually help to solve – and then, you have to get it in front of the right people who can actually make the purchasing decision.
It’s a lot of work, and this is just an introduction. We’ll cover a few of the basics, talk to a few folks who have done it, and give you some examples you can mimic.
The basics of B2B content marketing: It’s all psychological
How do you write B2B content that builds brand equity? First, you focus on exactly who your ideal customers are.
- Are they IT executives?
- Are they senior marketing managers?
- Are they entry-level sales managers?
You want to know as much as possible about who your ideal customer is, and then go deep on exactly what keeps them up at night.
You should be asking yourself: “When this IT executive drops her kids off at school in the morning and is heading in to work, what is it that she is most worried about –– what is she using this time in the car to try and think through, and solve?”
And then: “What is the root fear about that problem?”
In exercises like these, you are trying to get answers like:
- She is most worried about keeping the company’s site up and live 100% of the time over the holidays, despite known traffic spikes and a lot of her team taking time off to be with family. Less people. More traffic. How do you ensure there is no emergency?
- The root of the problem is fear (as most problems are): her company is on a custom technology stack – and if something goes down, there is no backup plan and there is no one else to blame. If she can’t figure this out, it’s her job at stake – and her reputation.
How can your business, if that is your ideal customer, solve that problem for her? How can you help her sleep better at night?
Well, if your company is a B2B SaaS solution that has 99% uptime and a track record of 100% uptime over the holidays, it might make sense to write content that talks about that technology, interviews customers who don’t have to worry about uptime anymore, and what they do with that extra brain space to make the company even more money.
In other words, the basics of great B2B content marketing is to make your reader a professional hero at their organization, and help them move up the career ladder as a result – ideally using your tool or platform along the way.
Jamie Turner, the founder of 60SecondMarketer, agrees: “The secret to B2B content marketing is for the reader to think, ‘This was written specifically for me!’ By creating content that resonates on a personal level, you’ll improve your engagement and click through rate.”
B2B content marketing examples
Some of the best B2B companies are also the best examples of amazing B2B content marketing. Outside of this site, which has been noted as the best thought leadership site in the industry, Shopify, for instance, uses content marketing both for the small business blog and their enterprise blog.
What Shopify does really well is that the content strategies for both blogs are not the same. And that’s because the personas and audiences for who they want to attract for each are very, very different.
On the main Shopify blog, you’ll find basic how-tos and success stories about folks who grew their side hustle enough to go full time. Then, they’ll explain exactly how they did it, which tools they used, and show you real numbers of it all working in unison.
You can’t do that with enterprise organizations. And Shopify Plus’s blog doesn’t try. Instead, it focuses on overall trends, e-commerce security issues, and pushes readers to download industry-relevant statistical analysis so leaders can make informed decisions in strategic planning.
This is what Nigel Steven, founder of Organic Growth Marketing, calls “doing one thing really, really well” – and that’s producing deep content that resonates more than anything else out there.
“Do one thing REALLY well, vs. a bunch of things just OK. Rather than churn out a bunch of content that looks like all the other ones you find in search, create a piece of content that is a) naturally tied to your product, and b) has a unique angle that nothing else out there on the subject is doing.”
Making super hero content
The #1 rule of great B2B content marketing is that quality is better than quantity. You do not need to publish a blog every single day. Instead, it’s better to publish a blog once a week or once a month as you’re growing. Make sure that it’s the absolute best piece of content out there on a specific topic. Make it the super hero article that will give someone who takes the time to read it a massive leg up in their career.
And then, spend the rest of the month promoting that content. Pull out the most important parts and offer that as an Executive Summary that readers can download if they are short on time. In that nurture stream, push folks to use your tool or software to help solve the problem the article addressed (ideally, more easily than the manual ways you explained in the blog).
This is the full cycle of content marketing: Publish something you are proud of, that you could teach a class, and then do everything you can to get it in front of the right people so that you can solve that problem you researched.
Content marketers at B2B organizations are versions of journalists these days. You are a researcher-on-hire for your customers and prospects. Hold yourself to high editorial accountability. Make your pieces well worth your audiences’ time.
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