How to Start Successful B2B Content Marketing?
In our Webinar series "Building Blocks of Modern B2B sales and marketing" we covered digital strategy and online visibility and have now progressed to the third part of the discussion, building content marketing. Valve’s Joonas Rinne was joined by a Valve veteran Mikko Rindell who currently runs the marketing of the wellbeing company Lifted. Mikko and Joonas’s topics included content strategy, different types of content and the launching of content marketing. This summary will first cover these topics at a theoretical level after which they will be grounded in practice through Mikko’s concrete experiences, just like in the webinar. You can complement the blog experience by watching the webinar recording that you can access here.
Features of high-quality and effective content marketing
According to Inbound-guru Rinne, content marketing provides value to the customers, impacts sales and is data driven. Let’s unpack this statement. Adding value is a prerequisite for functional content. Content is used to inspire, help and train the customer. On the other hand, on the consumer side entertainment is the key – and even in B2B business it is never a down side if the content is fun to consume.
“High quality content marketing provides value to the customers, impacts sales and is data driven."
Quality content marketing provides value to the customers, impacts sales and is data driven. The type of quality content should be adapted to the step of the buying process at which it is directed. At the very beginning of the sales process the customer has a problem but often is not quite sure about what it entails. This means that the starting point is the diagnosis of the customer’s challenge. After this the content can be focused to solve the issue, build trust and take the sales process forward. Finally, content designed for the end of the sales process aims to help the customer to buy the right solution for his or her problem – preferably from the company that provided the content.
Sales can be positively impacted in many ways. Content marketing generates leads, and as stated above, these are nurtured through the sales process. On the other hand, because of the expert role that is developed through the content marketing, the seller can demand a price higher for its services. This is particularly applicable in B2C businesses. The consumption of content is also monitored and valuable data can be collected and used by the sales department. Using data in a smart way can allow the sales team significantly increase the efficacy of its processes. Content marketing rarely results in hockey stick style growth – it is systematic and long-term work, not a short cut to happiness.
When discussing data collection, it is natural to also talk about the third element of content marketing, data driven content. After all, it would make no sense not to utilize the modern marketing capabilities to monitor and optimize processes.
The seven stages of building content marketing
According to the Content Management Institute effective B2B content marketing is built through seven elements: planning, target audience, story, channel, process, engagement and the already mentioned measurement.
Planning - Joonas Rinne says that, “Traditionally a well-made plan is half the job, however, implementing modern marketing is a huge amount of work.” At best, modern marketing is agile and responsive, but this requires not only quick moves and planning but the forecasting of possible opportunities.
Target audience – Value generating content marketing must start with the target audience. The same content is not useful for everyone and thus the content production must start with the target audience’s challenges. It goes without saying that this requires a good understanding of the customer.
Story – The format of the content, what kind of content is produced, what kinds of stories are told?
Channels – Channel selection is determined by the objectives set in the planning phase. Some channels are more suitable for increasing familiarity (for example, social media) and others have a more direct impact on sales (for example, e-mail).
Processes – How is content generated? Processes must be in order so that you can quickly proceed from content production to its distribution.
Engagement – It is a cardinal error, particularly for B2B actors to only beat their own drum. Channels such as social media were created for dialogue, a fact that many forget as they still maintain a monologue. This may well be the result of insufficient resources, indeed, developing an active dialogue and maintaining content themes is time consuming. However, this is required in order to make the most of the opportunity.
Measurement – Measure all elements and optimize marketing based on results. What content resonates with what target audience? Does one channel clearly work better than others?
Balance your content offering with the content pyramid
One of the seven elements that make up content marketing is content format. The most traditional of these are eBooks, white papers, blog entries and webinars. A compass for content marketing is Curata’s hierarchical model that classifies different content types based on the resources required. At the top of the pyramid are large content formats such as guides and other e-books. Creating this type of contents takes a lot of time but they can also provide a lot of value for the target audience. These content elements are a primary channel for developing leads as they are only accessible in exchange for contact information.
The pyramids second level includes in-depth blog articles, the third level is made of infographs and the fourth is made up of lighter blog articles. This content, however, is typically not locked behind contact information forms but is used to drive traffic to top content that in turn collects leads. This lower level content can be created from higher level content – once created the content can be, so to say, put back to work. At the base of the pyramid are small content bits and social media posts. For example, this summary blog is the second highest level content, as is the webinar which inspired this content, even though the webinar already required contact information submission.
If an organization’s content offering only concentrates on one or two types of content not all of the benefits of content marketing are being unlocked. However, one does not need to create content across all of the model’s levels at once. It is important to create gated content to which prospects are directed to through the lighter content.
When marketing is used to attract users, they are converted into leads and moved forward in the sales process until sales function participates in the process. However, there is typically much to be developed in the cooperation between marketing and sales. For example, in the Harvard Business Review, Philip Kotler, marketing’s grand old man, compared these functions to the rival families in Romeo and Juliet. One of the most respected scientific marketing journals, the Journal of Marketing wrote that there is a veritable black hole between marketing and sales. In a finely tuned modern marketing machine the responsibility for hot leads moves seamlessly to the sales team. From the buyer’s perspective, the process that is divided between these functions is smooth and the customer experience is superb. Developing the cooperation between sales and marketing functions is also covered in a Valve webinar – check out the recording of the webinar “Sales and Marketing’s Teamwork” here!
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