Content marketing is all about building trust.
In the B2B world, there’s a lot for you to deal with. You’re responsible for driving awareness of your brand. You’re tasked with acquiring quality sales leads that develop into long-term business relationships, and perhaps most importantly, you have to strike a balance between creativity in marketing and delivering results.
B2B content marketing breaks through the barriers that old-fashioned selling can’t. Done properly, it helps your sales team expand its reach and generate leads. It ladders up to your overall business goals and it reflects your priorities.
Whereas B2C marketing is positioned to appeal to people and their needs and interests, B2B marketing appeals to businesses and the needs of their entire organization. The approach has to be different with B2B marketing. Let’s get into the details of developing a content marketing strategy for B2B brands.
B2B ain’t easy!
With B2C marketing, the content is created to persuade or convince the customer. There’s plenty of blissful ignorance (which isn’t a bad thing) to bank on. It’s the type of content that, when you come across it online or in the wild, makes you realize you had no idea how much you needed a new toothbrush with scientifically engineered bristles that make you smile wider and brighter than ever before. *Note: That’s purely a dramatization. But it would be a cool product to have.
B2B content is often referred to as “smarter” content, and that’s for many reasons. First and foremost (and probably, the only thing you really need to know), B2B marketing is speaking to customers who are already educated about what’s being sold to them. If your client is buying payroll software, for example, the goal isn’t to tell them they need payroll software—they already know that.
The goal is to, succinctly and effectively, tell them why your payroll software is the best solution.
According to Corporate Executive Board (CEB), B2B customers are usually 57% of the way through their decision-making process before interacting with a sales or marketing campaign. This is a major challenge for B2B marketers because every step of the journey, through content, has to educate the buyer and move them closer to a decision on your brand.
Practical & plausible
B2C content has to be attention-grabbing. It has to be “disruptive” (we in the marketing world LOVE that word), and it must differentiate your brand or product. It’s a bit different with a B2B audience: that content has to convince the buyer that your product will drive their business and deliver a return on their investment. B2B buyers want to make decisions that, quite frankly, make them look good.
Devil’s in the details
This point dovetails off what we mentioned above: when you’re marketing to a B2B audience, they (more than likely) already know their options. There are multiple software platforms for their business. There are a handful of tools or services that they’re considering for a specific project. B2B content marketing must go deeper than your average content piece and explain HOW you will solve their problem. Go in-depth about WHY your product is better than all of your competitors, and what VALUE you bring to their business lives. B2B buyers want information, and it’s the job of your content to deliver it.
Pillars of Strength
Now, we’re ready to formulate a plan. While everyone’s plan will come together differently, these are must-haves in your B2B content marketing strategy:
Tell the story
Remember how we said B2B buyers are educated? Well, one way to get their attention is to tell them something they didn’t already know. Strong B2B content marketing goes beyond the brand, product, and functions. Dive deep, shed light on the process behind the product, and don’t be afraid to talk about technical or “in the weeds” material like R&D or engineering.
Make it visual
A big mistake marketers make is assuming that B2B buyers just want to read nitty-gritty details and inside-baseball material. Let’s debunk that right now, OK? There’s enormous potential with graphics (especially when making comparisons to other products) and, of course, video.
This campaign checks a lot of boxes, but most of all, it’s creatively ambitious. HP expertly ties in Christian Slater’s Mr. Robot role—a cybersecurity professional recruited to be part of an elite hacking group—to tell a story about the perils of leaving your printer unprotected. Pretty darn clever, right? It’s the ideal blend of sharp and bold visuals with a product-focused story.
Because B2B buyers are generally well informed, our content has to add even more educational value. Odds are that your content marketing already talks about how your brand or product solves a problem; with your specific targets and audiences, how does it solve their problems?
We all have goals. We all have deliverables. And, on the other hand, we all want to create content that’s unique and entertaining. Sometimes, there’s not a ton of overlap between the two. This can be especially true with B2B content (but it doesn’t have to be, as HP proves). Above all else, your content has to weave back into your customers’ goals for their businesses—what they need to get out of your content should be the main focus. Strive to make your content witty, fun, or entertaining (if that’s your brand), but remember...the point is to add real value to your readers’ lives.
Always-on content marketing isn’t easy, but it’s imperative in a B2B environment. Customers are being marketed to left and right (in their personal lives, your B2B buyers are pretty savvy customers, too), and pitched on the latest and greatest things they have to have. The right agency partner, one that’s experienced in creating content that meets goals that can best be described as “ever-changing,” can help you cut through that noise and secure your customers’ trust.