You’ve likely heard about content marketing, and you may even believe it’s important. What you may not like to admit to anyone, however, is that you really have only a vague understanding of what it is or how it can help your business-to-business (B2B) company.
Don’t worry. No one ever has to know you read this post to get the inside scoop.
What is content marketing?
Traditional advertising (think billboards and TV ads) sends your message out into the world. That’s why it’s also called outbound marketing. It can create an immediate big splash, but also costs a lot of money and may fall on deaf ears.
Content marketing, on the other hand, is the process of creating information that will attract prospects and customers to your website. That’s why it’s also called inbound marketing. Content marketing includes things like blogs, videos, slideshows, infographics, ebooks, whitepapers, case studies, and webinars or other presentations. It’s a long-term strategy that costs less than traditional ads and is more targeted, but it can take months to deliver sizable financial results.
B2Bs that invest in content marketing can establish themselves as trusted authorities in their industry and, ultimately, significantly increase leads and sales. Just consider these stats:
- More than 200 million people worldwide have installed ad-blocking software. That makes traditional marketing pretty ineffective.
- While content marketing costs 62% less than outbound marketing, it generates 3 times more leads.
- 94% of B2B buyers conduct online research before buying.
- Companies with an active blog get 97% more leads.
- B2B companies that blogged 11+ times per month had almost 3 times more traffic than those blogging 0-1 times per month.
How do I get started?
Most service-based niche B2Bs follow a four-step model for content marketing:
- Attract online visitors using social media, blog posts, and search engine optimization.
- Capture leads with calls to action (capturing emails by offering free opt-in content).
- Create sales by emailing leads additional content and promotional materials.
- Turn customers into advocates with rewards programs.
A successful content marketing program, at minimum, should include:
- A blog that is consistently updated with new posts, and photos or graphics.
- Search-engine optimization (SEO) techniques to increase the visibility of blog posts and other online content.
- Social media participation in the channels used most frequently by your customer base (for people in creative fields, for example, Pinterest and Instagram may be most powerful; more technical businesses may find LinkedIn and Twitter most influential).
- Bonus materials for visitors who opt-in to your email list.
- An email list. Seriously, it’s impossible to understate the importance of having an email list.
- Regular email campaigns that offer great value.
Starting and running a successful content marketing program requires a range of creative and technical skills include writing, graphic design, SEO, social media automation, email campaign management, and web analytics.
Acknowledge where you (or your staff) are lacking skills and hire professionals to fill those gaps. Look for people with experience in your industry and be prepared to make an investment without immediate payback. Remember, content marketing is a long game with ROI increasing steadily over time.
Tips for content creation
Whether you take a DIY approach to content marketing or hire it out entirely, you should always be at least somewhat involved in your own content creation. After all, no one knows your business better than you.
- Figure out the why. Write down your reasons for launching a content marketing program and your goals for the coming year and what metrics you’ll use to measure success.
- Define your target market. Before writing anything, create a customer persona and make sure any content you produce addresses that person’s needs.
- Create a strategy that outlines your audience, topics, and channels for distribution. Download a content planner
- Audit your content. What brochures, newsletters, blogs, presentations, etc., do you already have? Update and repurpose this content to jumpstart your efforts. Get tips for repurposing content
- Fight the urge to promote yourself. With every piece of content, ask whether customers will care. The goal is to consistently produce content that’s useful, clickable, and shareable. 5 common content marketing mistakes
Worried about running out of ideas for blog posts or other content? Keep your ideal file full with these simple techniques.
- Follow other blogs in your industry. Don’t steal their ideas, but think about how you can give the same topics a new twist.
- Read trade magazines or attend a tradeshow and write about industry trends.
- Keep track of the questions your customers ask most often. Your answers can become a series of posts.
- Set up Google Alerts related to your industry and create a roundup post of the best stories you’ve read on a particular topic.
- Join industry-related LinkedIn or Facebook groups and ask for topic suggestions for your blog.
- Start typing an industry word or phrase into the Google search bar and see what it suggests as popular topics.
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