B2B marketing teams often struggle to produce enough content to support the customer journey through the sales funnel. Getting a steady cadence of white papers and blogs can strain the relationship between the marketing team and the technical or product group responsible for writing the material.
Try reversing your thought process from content to support your funnel to funnels to support your content.
Start by defining content pillars that your audience will care about – designed to inform and educate. The best way to do this is by interviewing customers and industry experts.
Ask questions like:
- What problems are you looking to solve?
- Where do you go to find information about your vertical?
- Are there experts or thought leaders in your space that you follow?
- What trends are you seeing in the industry?
- Are you seeing the possibility of disruption or new business models in your vertical?
Think like a publication
Form an editorial team and start thinking like a publication instead of a marketing department.
Make sure that this team is made up of a cross-section of product, technical, sales, and marketing members. Consider outside members such as someone with content production and marketing expertise.
A good content marketing strategy has to place audience education over product benefit statements. The latter will not attract an audience.
Be careful that the team is not dominated by a sales mindset or everything you produce will look like a product sheet.
In traditional publishing, you can often see the content pillars by the headline and subheads on the cover of the magazine.
In this case, we see entrepreneurship, business transformation, business software platforms, and leadership challenges. These topics will often repeat in every edition.
A starting point for a B2B vertical content strategy might be:
- Industry trends
- Growth strategies
Decide on the various content formats including vlogs, blogs, YouTube series, and whitepapers.
Content at scale
The only way to achieve content at scale is to create a repeatable process for each piece of content.
Right from the start, it’s important to think of content as a package, not stand-alone.
Notice that we didn’t list social as a content format. Social is one of the distribution methods that support content.
A typical content package would include:
- the content
- YouTube description (if applicable)
- email subject and body copy
- social copy
Find an audience
A great episode that gets 43 views isn’t a good use of resources. On the other hand, you are not trying to be a youtube influencer so a few thousand views might be reasonable for your vertical.
The most important aspect of keeping an audience is frequency. A blog a month, if that is all you are doing, is probably not enough to keep an audience engaged and coming back. Two to four major pieces of content per month are more realistic.
Here are some of the strategies to build an audience:
- Social, especially LinkedIn for B2B
- YouTube pre-roll ads – since this content is indexed by Google, you can be very selective as to the type of content that you want to associate your ad with. If you produce great content, the viewer will not ‘skip’ the ad since your content might be better than the actual search result.
- Paid search – the most common way for B2B audiences to learn about a topic is through keyword searches.
- Paid social – LinkedIn paid advertising can be very effective since you can use Sales Navigator to define the audience that you are after. For example, you can structure your campaign by company name, industry, job title, and geography.
- email – email can be a very effective way to get an audience for your content since once you have an address, each email is virtually free
Sustaining your cadence
In order to sustain your content production cadence, it’s a good idea to get outside help, especially on the production side.
Inside-only teams often get bogged down with other priorities. Outside help can also help to generate fresh ideas with a broader perspective. Marketing the content might also benefit from an outside agency.
Ongoing customer and thought leadership interviews are also important to keep the content relevant. A YouTube series that features customer and industry interviews is a good strategy to keep your content fresh.
Collaborating with partners on your content strategy can be very beneficial. Some examples of partner content collaboration include:
- Co-author white papers – this can give the white paper more authority and credibility. You might even get customers to contribute if they see that it’s not just one vendor behind the production.
- Sponsor episodes – quite often a partner will have similar ‘content pillar’ ideas since you share a common target audience. Since they are also looking for content for their marketing, sharing the production cost might make sense.
- Distribution through their social channels and mailing lists.
Think long term
The way to think about content marketing is long-term. Brands and audiences are not created overnight.
That doesn’t mean that you won’t see benefits in the short run. For example, your social campaigns will have an immediate improvement because the content is fresh and engaging versus the ‘in vegas at a trade show’ posts.
Once you have started producing great content at scale, you will never want to go back to one-off white papers and social posts.
In the world of B2B marketing, the question often arises whether to create a funnel strategy and then map content to it, or to start with a content strategy and build a funnel around that. While producing enough content to support the customer journey through the sales funnel can be a challenge, it’s important to prioritize audience education over product benefit statements in a content marketing strategy. This requires a focus on content pillars that will inform and educate the audience, with input from customers and industry experts to ensure relevance.
By thinking like a publication and forming an editorial team, B2B marketers can create a repeatable process for each piece of content and ensure a steady cadence of high-quality output. In terms of finding an audience, social media and YouTube can be effective channels for distribution, as well as paid search and email campaigns. Collaboration with partners on content strategy can also be beneficial, whether it’s through co-authoring white papers or sponsoring episodes.
It’s important to think about content marketing in the long-term, with the goal of building both the brand and the audience over time. By prioritizing audience education and using a repeatable process for content production and distribution, B2B marketers can create a sustainable content marketing strategy that supports the sales funnel.
While either approach works, starting with a content strategy is often the best approach because it ensures that you are creating the content at scale needed to support buyers through your funnel.