Content marketing in B2B – ultimate guide

Why is content marketing such an important element of B2B communication? What content to choose for corporate customers? How to evaluate the viability of content marketing in B2B?

Content marketing in B2B (Business to business) - funny picture

Why content marketing in B2B?

Do you know why content marketing is so important in B2B business? Well, companies buy prudently, based on rational premises. They need a large dose of knowledge about the solution before they consider the possibility of purchase. Products or services for business are quite often more complex than those offered to individuals – so the need of clear and in-depth presentation of their use and benefits is so vital. Companies also want to buy from experts, and those get respect to big extent thanks to their Internet presence. Do the specialists from your company have their impressive online publications?

Content marketing is a set of necessary tools to attract the attention of your potential customers and convince them of the value of your solutions.

B2B marketing is education and relationships. Companies, that decide to buy are those, which have received the right knowledge and with whom the seller has established a relationship.

Marketing funnel and content marketing

The most important stages of the marketing funnel:

  1. making the potential client aware of the need and of the possibility to satisfy it,
  2. client’s consideration of possible solutions,
  3. negotiations and purchase,
  4. customer care after the purchase, which should result in re-selling and positive opinions about the product / services.
Marketing funnel - ToFu, MoFu, BoFu
Marketing funnel – four main stages

Content marketing is responsible for the entire first stage of the customer acquisition process. It makes him aware of the needs and indicates solutions. Everything on the basis of functional arguments, because these definitely prevail in B2B relations (in contrast to the emotional premises in B2C marketing).

Content marketing is also crucial at the second stage of customer acquisition – considering solutions. Already aware of the client’s needs, he analyzes available products or services. He reads more advanced educational blog content, reviews, opinions, articles, downloads e-books, watches video tutorials or even sends queries. Sending a query from the perspective of the supplier is in other words a skillful effect of lead generation.

Content marketing and GDPR

Nowadays, both the expectations of recipients and the provisions on the protection of personal data have significantly limited the possibilities of using the so-called cold calling or cold mailing, that is, calling or sending e-mails to people who have not previously agreed. Therefore, the best sales representative, who has a great solution, perfectly matching the needs of a given customer, cannot contact him. It is just content marketing (and sometimes also trade fair opportunities) that should bring potential customers to a website and encourage them to leave contact. Along with the growing emphasis on the protection of personal data, the role of inbound marketing is flourishing. Creating interesting content, which makes the potential client looking for a contact with the company, becomes more and more important.

Choice of content and a perfect customer

What should you write about or what should be the topic of your video and podcasts? To answer this question, you need to know well which companies you are targeting. It’s not about the characteristics of your average customer, but about your best, most important customers. About those to whom you want to sell the most.

How to chose the best potential customers? If you sell a solution to companies from many industries, it may be worth choosing a few industries that are most profitable for you. It is also good to think about the size of the company. Is it better to sell to large companies that make contracts for a lot of money, but demand long payment terms, or rather smaller companies, easier to negotiate? Determinants may also be location, cooperation with data distributors, problems with the sales process or after-sales, target users of solutions and many other factors.

Once you determine your perfect customer, i.e. your target audience, it will be:

  • easier to reach the recipients with your content – they will find information about your offer faster, when you create content related to their industry / company size / location / other key factors. For example, imagine that you run a company with building automation. If you create general content about remote media control in real estate, then you will write to everyone and no one. If, however, you write about automation in doctors’ surgeries or banks, the chances are growing that you will get information from purchasing departments in medical centers and financial institutions.
  • more facile to induce recipients to purchase (thanks to content, which they have learnt) – knowing the recipients well, you can precisely define their needs and obstacles and indicate how your offer can solve these specific problems.

Choice of content and format and stages of the sales funnel

The B2B shopping process usually lasts from a few weeks to several weeks or even several months. Therefore, the readers at the beginning of the road, who are only realizing the need, look for completely different content than those, who already know about the existence of the solution and especially from those, who are wondering which suppliers to buy from. Consequently, you must create content of different types, tailored to the expectations of the recipients at each stage of the purchasing process.

Content for customers at the top of the funnel (TOFU)

Content for customers who are only learning about the solutions offered by your company should focus on benefits and risks. Texts, graphics or video should show the advantages of using solutions and at the same time show the dangers or losses to which a company may be exposed if it does not use these solutions (services, products) . Regarding formats, it is worth considering blog entries, expert articles in external media, communication in social media, infographics, video and podcasts – that is, easy-to-consume formats, suitable for people who are not yet involved.

Content for customers in the middle of the funnel (MOFU)

At this stage, potential clients have already heard about solutions and independently gain wider knowledge about their application. Compare the available variants to choose the best one. The content for this group can be much more extensive and in-depth. Appropriate formats will be e-books, reports, guides, case studies, templates and tools, source lists, mailing courses, newsletters and webinars.

Content for customers at the bottom of the funnel (BOFU)

In turn, content suitable for clients at the stage of negotiations and decision making are price lists, specifications, demo versions, trial versions, testimonials from satisfied customers and implementation stories.

Content for customers after purchase

Do not forget about these clients! Their positive opinion about your products or services is worth much more than many blog entries written by your internal specialists. This is the stage where you need to make sure that the customer that he/she has made the right purchasing decision. There is a considerable role of the implementation and sales department, but there are also tasks for marketing. Build a knowledge base that is only available to customers. Create a customer group on social media. Prepare a section of questions and answers regarding the use of your solutions. Provide opportunities for affordable upselling. Search for opportunities to promote your company at industry events together with the client.

Content marketing in B2B at consecutive stages of the marketing funnel (Tofu, BoFu, MoFu and after purchase stage)
Marketing funnel and marketing content formats for each stage

What specific formats to choose and where to publish?

Learn your recipients preferences

You need to know if people, who are to get acquainted with your content, prefer video or texts, what types of movies, regarding texts – if mainly blogs or ebooks, reports, guides, etc. Will it be better to write in a free, even jocular style, or keep seriousness and impersonal tone? Which social channels can be used? Which websites should you apply for publications on?

Create buyer persona

You can find out answers to the above questions. Examine preferences of people who make purchase decisions or influence these decisions (two separate groups) for your clients and competitors. Learn buyers’ decision-makers and their communication preferences. Do it using information from your customers. Here is a handful list of questions.

Buyer persona question list:

  • In what age are they usually?
  • Are they more often women or men?
  • Are they mostly parents or singles or people in loose relationships?
  • What positions do they occupy?
  • Do they have managerial functions?
  • What are their key professional skills?
  • What are their main obstacles at work?
  • What industry media do they read or watch?
  • What social media sites do they spend time on?
  • Do they prefer to surf the Internet on computers or mobile devices?
  • Are they interested in technical innovations?
  • Etc.

The replies enable you to build the image of “buyer persona” – the person who decides about the purchase.

Buyer persona – techniques of collecting information

In order to know the persona buyer well, you need to conduct talks with sellers, get marketing data on the most-consumed online content and talk to the customers themselves. Action requiring some time, but worth the effort. You can read more about the analysis of people making purchasing decisions here.

When planning a content marketing campaign, you need to have a specific person working in a particular company in front of your eyes. Create content and pack them so that they will like it. Publish them in the channels in which they spend their time.

How to assess the profitability of content marketing?

Creating valuable content and promoting it requires a lot of effort. After completing the necessary analyzes and preparing the strategy, most activities must involve industry expert, copywriter, graphic designer, SEO specialists, social media and PPC. It would be reckless to run content marketing without analyzing its effects.

ROI from content marketing

Four basic indicators of the effectiveness of content marketing:

  • Website traffic generated by the published content – number of unique users in a given period (check it in Google Analytics)
  • Number of leads generated – number of email addresses acquired thanks to published content (downloaded templates, reports or e-books, subscriptions to the webinar or newsletter, etc.)
  • Number of orders placed – how many leads became clients in a given period
  • Value of placed orders – what is the total value of orders placed by generated leads in a given period

Analyzes should be carried out both for the whole campaigns and for their individual elements. It may turn out that some type of blog entries is completely uninteresting to the recipients and it is not worth creating them. It may also be that some kind of content generates a lot of traffic on the website, but it does not translate completely into sales – perhaps these contents are consumed by Internet users who are not your potential clients (for example, students). The analysis of all actions in relation to the assumed goals will indicate whether marketing generally goes in the right direction. Analysis of the elements will enable optimization of content.

Value of outlays on content marketing vs. sales revenues

Not all content marketing activities should be evaluated in terms of the number of leads generated and the sales value – at least in the short term. Activities aimed at building the brand image should be analyzed in this aspect – to what extent they have contributed to the establishment of the brand image created by the company.

However, the analysis of the impact of marketing on sales is an indispensable element of the effectiveness of the undertaken activities. And it is relatively easy to implement. It is enough to track in the CRM system, or even in the database of leads and customers in Excel, how many orders and of what value comes from the leads generated by content marketing. Then, you should compare sales revenues from those leads to marketing expenditures in a given or previous period (two schools). If, after deducting marketing costs from your income, there is a margin covering other costs and ensuring profit – marketing activities are profitable.

How many leads should your content marketing generate?

Most often, goals for marketing are set in relation to the expected value of sales in a given period. So that you know, how many leads your content marketing should generate, it is necessary to determine the average value of the lead. It is the result of dividing the total sales (historically) in a given period by the number of leads acquired during that period. Required number of leads, i.e. how many leads should be generated, is the result of dividing the planned revenue (sales target) by the average value of the lead. The next step will be to determine how many of the required number of leads is to be ensured by content marketing, and how many by other marketing activities.

Summary

Content marketing is an indispensable element of B2B marketing. It makes potential clients aware of their needs, builds trust in the brand, and allows to show in a rational way competitive advantages of the company. It makes it easier to search the company’s website on the Internet (SEO). Effectively generates leads at every stage of the sales funnel. It supports the lead nurturing and building customer loyalty.

In order for content marketing to be fully effective, preliminary analyzes of recipients are necessary – building a profile of companies to which you want to sell and the profile of purchasers (buyer persona). This will allow you to tailor the content to the actual needs of companies. This will also raise web position in the search engine for inquiries from these companies. It will allow you to match the content formats and communication channels of their transmission to decision makers’ preferences.

Content marketing, like all forms of digital marketing, enables detailed analysis of effectiveness. Thanks to fairly simple tools, you can determine how much income they generate, what traffic they bring to the site and how many leads they generate.

Essential, effective, easy to assess the effects – content marketing in B2B.