The rise of consumer-driven content grew in the late 19th century as technology and infrastructure advance. The oldest example of content marketing dates back to 1732, where Benjamin Franklin first published a yearly almanack called Poor Richard’s Almanack¹, to promote his printing business. The almanack contained the calendar, weather, poems, sayings, astronomical and astrological information. The publications were well-received and continued on for 25 years, bringing Franklin economic success and popularity.
The content marketing landscape has evolved tremendously since then and now faces a new frontier – the digital era. There are several content distribution channels for B2B companies. Amongst the popular ones include email, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Instagram. Content serves as a complementary strategy to almost all online marketing strategy. However, what gets you SEO results and shares? Good content.
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience and ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
Content Marketing Institute²,
If so, what makes good digital content for B2B?
As a rule of the thumb, keep it SIMPLE.
S – Strategize Your Content
Content is one of the best tools to earn trust, build your brand, generate site traffic and qualify leads. A content marketing strategy is necessary to chart your course – to where you want to go. If you’re lost, you can always return back to where you left off and re-start the process better (from experience and knowing what works or not). The best content focuses on helping customers solve their problems but how do you continue doing this for every content?
Ask yourself the following questions –
- Who are you serving? Create marketing content that aligns with your target audience.
- What does your audience want? You need to know what (digital marketing platforms) to choose from and craft your content to meet with the needs of the target audience you’re trying to reach.
- And ultimately, the answers should meet with your business why (objectives and goals).
You might also like: Blog Strategies for Your Business
I – Insightful Data
Data is more than information collecting – you need to dissect and act upon your discoveries. A Sloan Review reported that more than half (51%) of managers expressed that by using data analytics, it helps their business gain a competitive edge³. Most marketers use a mix of engagement data (likes, followers), sentiment (positive or negative) and website traffic as the top source of measurement. Content creators need to understand how to translate these data into valuable insights. Each and every touch point should be analysed for greater understanding – how and when people engage and on what channels. Data should not only be utilized as a performance analysis for launched campaigns.
M – Market Research
In a market saturated with content, the only way to distinguish your company from the rest is by creating value for your target audience. Traditionally, companies had to rely on formal research and focus groups to gather consumer insights. With the advancement of technology, you can launch online surveys to obtain valuable feedback on products or services from your stakeholders. More companies are engaging with their consumers directly via social media platforms to build closer relationships. This establishes more trust, which ultimately leads to even greater insights to customers’ preferences, buying habits and their decision-making process. B2B companies can leverage from these insights to craft blog posts, white papers, e-books or newsletters that serve to stimulate customers appetite for quality, well-researched content that meets with their needs (and at the same time, create brand or product awareness of your company) without being too sales-like. A good content places emphasis on what a customer wants, as opposed to, what your company wants to sell.
P – People Focused
When companies commit to creating good content and are consistent in disseminating them, you increase not only brand awareness but a following. Over time, consistency also promotes brand loyalty. Apple’s success is not only attributed to its brilliant products – Steve Job’s innate ability to combine science, technology and innovation with artistic design and user-friendliness. Their almost-cult-like following is the result of adopting a people-centric culture – which is evident in their entire modus operandi. While it is the ‘Shiny New Things’ and technology that create buzz, sales are made by actual humans, not bots. Even in B2B, the stakeholders and decision-makers are just like you and me.
L – Listen
Create content that encourages conversations within your industry. To do so, you need to treat social media (including blogs, podcasts and comments made by consumers) as a platform to listen to your community. These conversations give better insights into what your community want or need. Digital analyst, Brian Solis identified the perception gap between marketers and consumers as ‘very real and very deep’ – 76% of marketers feel that they know what their customers want, only 34% have bothered to ask them 4. The data goes to show that there are major areas of disconnect that needs to be addressed. We encourage you to listen to the conversations about your products, services and competitors. Then, create value-adding or problem-solving content surrounding those conversations.
E – Engaging
The more engagement you get, Google considers your content to be of high value, which boosts SEO rankings. Content that builds trust between buyers and brand drives quality engagement leading to quality acquisition. B2B companies have a longer sales cycle, high-ticket purchases and multiple people who play a role in closing a sale. B2B marketing requires a different social media presence – one that promotes customer support, loyalty and problem-solving compared to sales-focused strategies from B2C companies. Research reported that loyalty isn’t functional – it boils down to likeability and trust 5. Content creators who focus too much on tactics but overlook emotions would not be able to engage the audience.
Last but not least, in our content-driven world – every one of us is a writer. Being able to communicate well in writing is not a goal, but a necessity. Top marketing veteran Ann Handley summarizes good writing in Everybody Writes as follows:
- The foundation of good content that gets noticed, no matter what form the content ultimately takes.
- A mirror of good, clear, thinking that’s an antidote to the complexity that sometimes characterizes our business world.
- The key to a customer-centric, intuitive and emphatic point of view.
- Wikipedia: Poor Richard’s Almanack (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poor_Richard%27s_Almanack)
- Content Marketing Institute: (https://contentmarketinginstitute.com/what-is-content-marketing/)
- Sloan Review, MIT (https://sloanreview.mit.edu/projects/using-analytics-to-improve-customer-engagement/)
- Brian Solis, “Perception Gap”
- Rare Consulting (https://rare.consulting/rare-research/loyalty)
- Nick Westergaard, “Get Scrappy. Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small”
- Ann Handley, “Everybody Writes”
Freelance writer who (tries to) dabble with digital marketing and practises yoga in her free time.