Quality B2B content is what your SEO strategy needs to succeed.
Here you’ll learn:
- How to develop a B2B content marketing strategy
- What to consider when creating your buyer persona
- Top-performing B2B content channels
- More expert B2B marketing tactics
More than half of business-to-business (B2B) buyers are more likely to convert after reading a company’s content. But it’s not just one piece — on average, B2B customers consume 13 content pieces before making a decision.
If your B2B company hasn’t prioritized content creation, now’s the time to start.
Between competitors vying for the same customers and the B2B buying cycle tending to be longer than in other industries, the most efficient marketers rely on various tactics to increase the chance of a conversion.
Content not only boosts your SEO by increasing your visibility in search results, it also enhances your credibility while educating your audience, leading to brand loyalty.
Let’s look closer at designing and revamping B2B content marketing tactics for SEO success.
What is B2B content marketing?
B2B content marketing is a form of digital marketing that focuses on creating and distributing relevant, consistent, and valuable content to attract and retain business customers. It is used by companies to increase lead generation by:
- Driving organic traffic by zoning in on prospects’ pain points, desires, and needs
- Educating customers about their issues and your solutions
- Establishing thought leadership and encouraging trust
- Building relationships with prospects
- Engaging current customers to boost retention
- Converting leads into buyers
The ultimate goal is to connect with decision-makers in a company (your target customer), to get buy-in from the right people, so that they convert into long-term customers.
B2B content marketing vs. B2C marketing
B2B content marketing uses content to attract, engage, and convert other companies into customers. But it’s primary focus is to inform buyers so they become an influencer that gets buy-in from their organization.
B2C content marketing, on the other hand, uses content to target consumers (individuals) — most of which are savvy buyers looking for a great deal.
Both use inbound marketing tactics to get results, but how they do it is where we draw the line.
Core differences between B2B and B2C content marketing:
- Audience: B2B content marketing targets business stakeholders, such as CEOs, CMOs, CFOs, and other C-suite professionals in charge of purchasing decisions in a department. B2C content marketing targets individual consumers, such as mothers, husbands, or grandparents.
- Relationship-building: B2B marketing campaigns prioritize building trust, since B2B solutions often have higher pricing and take more time to get approval from several stakeholders. B2C content marketing efforts are often transactional and short-term.
- Decision-making process: In a B2B setting, many people are involved in the buying process, including the decision-maker, influencers, end-users, and gatekeepers. In B2C, there’s typically one person you’re trying to convince to make a purchase decision.
- Time to close: The B2B sales funnel is long, lasting anywhere from a few months to well over a year. That’s because there are multiple stakeholders involved and a lot of money to pay for certain B2B products (especially if multi-year contracts are involved).
- Content types: B2B content marketing efforts deal with educating buyers about a problem and how their solution can resolve it. B2C content marketing is typically more sales-oriented and aims to convince customers to buy now using methods like promotions and limited-time discounts (like in the Samsung example above).
This isn’t an all-inclusive list, but it sheds light on what makes the two kinds of content marketing unique. And although B2B and B2C content marketing have differences, they have the same end goal, which is to convert people into customers.
“I think there’s a bit of a misconception that B2B content is less personal – but a solid content strategy for B2B should share most of the same principles as B2C content strategies,” explains Patience Hurlburt-Lawton, content marketing manager at HawkSEM.
In both B2B and B2C content, you must:
- Identify your audience and narrow in on who they are as people
- Determine how they search and what long-tail keywords they use
- Learn what types of content they prefer to consume (and where)
- Build a tailored content plan around that information
How to develop a B2B content marketing strategy
“A successful B2B content strategy should take a thought leader’s perspective in every piece,” says Hulburt-Lawton. “To be an authority in your space means providing original solutions and answering questions at a higher level than anything else available on the SERP — which, of course, all lead back to your product.”
Ultimately, a content strategy is all about making connections, answering questions, and providing value for your target audience.
“I think it’s really important to remember that the audience for B2B is still made up of human beings searching for solutions to problems and making decisions,” she adds.
So to help you along, we compiled a list of five steps to build your B2B content strategy.
1. Identify your target audience
You can’t create helpful, effective content for your audience if you don’t know who they are. Even if you think you’ve got a good idea about your target demographic, it’s worth digging into the data to ensure your mental picture is accurate.
Creating a buyer persona can help you focus on the audience’s needs when designing your content strategy. Depending on your niche, you can either have one or several segments of the target audience.
Try to build your persona with information like:
- Demographics: including age, education, industry, company size, and job seniority
- Communications: places where you can reach the persona (e.g., LinkedIn, email)
- Hierarchy: who the person reports to and their role in the decision-making process
- Decision drivers: what drives the person to make a decision, including business objectives
- Challenges: what keeps them from achieving business goals
And since your company is B2B, it’s helpful to know what kinds of businesses best represent your potential customers. What size are they? What’s their average profit or budget? What industries are they in? These questions can guide new content ideas and execution processes.
Once you know who you’re talking to, you can develop content for every stage of the buyer’s journey.
Pro tip: Don’t just rely on tools and guesswork to gather information about your target customers. Get it straight from the horse’s mouth by interviewing your top customers, salespeople, and customer support teams.
2. Choose content format and channels
After identifying your target audience and business types, consider the channels you’ll use for your content. For B2B companies, the key channels to leverage are often:
- Paid ads
And B2B content doesn’t just have to stick to blogs. At one point, the top 5 content formats B2B marketers used distribute are email (93%), social media (92%), blog posts (79%), real-life and in-person events (56%), virtual events, and webinars (55%).
According to Content Marketing Institute (CMI), the content types that generated the best results over the past year are virtual events, webinars, and online courses.
But what works for another business may not work for yours. So experiment with different types of content and media channels, like:
- Blog posts
- LinkedIn posts, and other social media platforms (e.g., YouTube, Twitter)
- Industry studies
- Email newsletters
- Video content (e.g., webinars)
- White papers
- Case studies
- Thought leadership
Before building your next content calendar, ask yourself: Is your strategy sustainable? For example, can you churn out the number of articles or case studies you want each month on a recurring schedule without sacrificing quality?
“Be sure to prioritize the types of content your target business is most likely to consume first and build out from there,” advises Hulburt-Lawton. “More isn’t always better. Being overly ambitious can lead to sporadic publishing and posting, which makes your content channels look flimsy and less trustworthy.
Pro tip: Got content that’s performing well with your audience? Repurpose it! A popular blog post can inspire a long-form guide. A social post with high engagement can expand into a podcast episode. Not only does repurposing maximize your content, it also saves you money to boot.
3. Plan ahead with 20/20 hindsight (aka audits)
You may have heard the phrase, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” It probably wasn’t about B2B content originally, but it applies nonetheless.
Identifying and planning relevant topics for your B2B content marketing strategy involves several stages, which can look something like:
- Auditing your previous content
- Conducting a competitor analysis
- Defining your marketing and business goals
- Creating a content calendar and templates to streamline processes
- Brainstorming and conducting keyword research
A content audit will give you a bird’s-eye view of where your content stands, what topics haven’t yet been addressed through content, and what needs updating, revamping, or consolidating.
A competitor analysis will show how you’re stacking up against the competition. This is also a good opportunity to not only see how other B2B brands are marketing themselves, but you could learn about new tactics or content features that you can try yourself (just don’t copy another company, of course).
Creating key performance indicators (or KPIs) can serve as helpful benchmarks when you’re reviewing your content performance down the line.
Building a content calendar will make it easy to track content created, what’s in the works, and what needs to be tackled next. Lastly, keyword research will illuminate the words people use to search for your products or services, so you can fill out your calendar accordingly.
Pro tip: Using keyword research tools will speed up your process, organization, and campaign measurements. At HawkSEM, we use our proprietary software, ConversionIQ, to pinpoint the best keywords to drive high-converting traffic to your website.
4. Create your content
After planning and preparing your content strategy, it’s time to create the actual content. Depending on your team size, budget, and bandwidth, you can either create the content in-house or outsource it to a content agency.
No matter which avenue you choose, allot enough time to ensure the quality is top-notch. Low-quality content isn’t helpful for your audience, and search engine bots may not rank it as highly as better-written, thorough content.
After completing the content, either let it “rest” so you can read it later with fresh eyes, or have another team member read to offer feedback or catch errors you missed.
If you want to maximize your content output without hiring full-time content writers, you can work with freelancers to supplement your content team. This way, you can scale up and down as needed.
5. Promote your content
Promotion is just as important as B2B content creation. After putting in all this effort on creation, you want people to see it!
There are a handful of organic and paid options for promoting your content. You can leverage:
- Email marketing
- Social media content (organic and paid)
- Paid ads
- Guest posts
- Internal linking from your own high-performing web pages
- Backlinks from reputable non-competitor sites
Need more help with your B2B content marketing plan? That’s why we’re here.
Pro tip: Use social proof to show, not tell why you’re the best option. This can be written reviews, video testimonials, or case studies. Then use these on your website and in your content marketing efforts.
B2B content marketing pro tips
Once you’re in a groove of content ideation, creation, and promotion, these tactics can take your strategy to the next level.
1. Pay more attention to LinkedIn
Today, there are over 900 million users on LinkedIn in 200-plus countries.
This makes it an excellent place to share high-quality content, including long-form articles, blog teasers, and exclusive posts. If you have a limited budget, LinkedIn should be your priority channel.
2. Leverage collaboration
Guest posts can help you achieve various content marketing goals, including brand awareness and authority building.
Reach out and explore teaming up with other B2B companies with a similar target audience but aren’t competitors. You can offer to share content for their websites or platforms while they do the same on yours. Or you can create a joint piece of content, like an exclusive infographic or original research report.
3. Use paid social ads
When creating your ads, find ways to make them stand out without being sales-y or cheesy. Using captivating insights, stories, testimonials, and free resources can do the trick.
Here’s an example of ServiceNow offering a free ebook showing how businesses can proactively monitor IT risks in real-time (using their product, of course):
4. Measure content performance
B2B content performance changes over time. You need to keep auditing your website and monitoring conversions to understand whether your strategy is working.
How frequently you conduct audits may depend on your industry, budget, niche, bandwidth, and content volume, but it’s a good idea to start by running content audits at least twice a year.
Based on the CMI survey, 75% of B2B marketers said their organization measures content performance. Here’s a look at which metrics they state provide the most insights into content performance:
- 69% measure website engagement
- 67% measure website conversions
- 65% measure website traffic
- 64% measure email engagement
But what should you measure in your campaigns? You can identify KPIs by content type and measure them accordingly. For example, if you want to get more forms filled, then bounce rate should be a metric you monitor.
You can use tools like Google Analytics, Semrush, and Ahrefs to monitor traffic, conversions, bounce rates, and traffic sources.
5. Create unique landing pages for each persona
If you’re targeting multiple personas for different products or services, then each should have its own landing page. For example, if you sell finance software to business owners, accountants, and freelancers, then each should have a dedicated sales page that speaks to their specific problems and desires.
Similar to this example from HubSpot:
You can then tie these landing pages to paid advertising campaigns and content distribution strategies to monitor bounce rates and conversions. If you see a lot of bounces, then something is wrong with your ad targeting, or your website copy needs conversion optimization.
6. Educate your audience with tutorials
One of the best ways to educate your audience about a product is to provide tutorials and guides for using it. Create a list of questions your target customers have and answer them in an in-depth guide or video tutorial.
With this approach, you’re hitting two targets at once: helping your audience overcome a problem and promoting your product at the same time.
7. Personalize your content using behavioral data
Every piece of content you create should be tailored to the interests and needs of your audience. The best way to know exactly what they need and when is to analyze their behavior. If you’re using tools like Google Analytics and Hotjar, you can learn a ton about your audience’s needs.
For example, your analytics will show what topics are consumed the most, what posts they click on next, and which pages they bounce away from. This can tell you what topics to focus on in the future and link to in your other content.
You may also learn your audience prefers recommendations to other content on your site vs. a call to action (CTA) asking them to schedule a consultation.
Then if you’re capturing heatmaps and screen recordings, you can see which pages and calls-to-action are most effective. Then use this to improve the customer’s journey through your site.
Here’s an example of a heatmap in action from Hotjar:
The goal isn’t just to drive traffic to your website, it’s to keep them there as long as possible to understand your offer and how it can help them.
So pay attention to who’s visiting your site, which pages they visit, and how they move through it.
Content is a key pillar for SEO, and it’s an essential part of a successful B2B marketing strategy.
By coming up with a strategic plan to create high-quality content and distribute it through the right channels, you can achieve a variety of business and marketing goals for your B2B brand.
Not only that, but a successful B2B content marketing strategy can increase brand awareness, drive conversions, build authority, and cut marketing costs.
Need help jumpstarting your B2B content plan? Reach out to our experts at HawkSEM for a free, no-obligation consultation today.
This post has been updated and was originally published in November 2021.