Why Content Marketing Is So Important for B2B
B2B content marketing is a cost-efficient way to engage customers and build long-term relationships. In today’s crowded advertising environment, content marketing provides a way to break through the clutter and deliver exactly what B2B buyers are looking for when they are looking for it.
In this guide, we’ll show you:
- What is B2B content marketing
- How B2B content marketing is different than B2C
- The key benefits of B2B content marketing
- Tips to optimize your B2B content marketing efforts
Let’s start with defining B2B content marketing.
What Is B2B Content Marketing?
B2B content marketing is a strategic approach to create and distribute different types of content to expand your audience, create demand and interest, establish authority, and develop leads for your business. Rather than direct advertising, strong content marketing provides relevant information for B2B buyers to expose them to your brand and gain their trust.
How Is B2B Content Marketing Different Than B2C?
B2C marketing has two specific goals: brand awareness and sales. Most content development focuses on one or both of these goals. Most B2C purchases occur in a short cycle.
B2B sales, however, typically take a much longer time. Nearly half of B2B sales take seven months or more to close. Three-quarters of B2B sales take four months or longer. As B2B customers work their way through the buyer’s journey, B2B content helps nurture them at each stage to drive them forward.
To do this, B2B content marketing should be useful and focus more on the content than the marketing. The best B2B content will educate users, provide answers to the question they have, or solve their challenges.
The most successful B2B marketers have three specific goals in mind when creating content:
- Prioritize user informational needs above company sales and promotional messaging
- Differentiate their content and brand from competitors
- Create content for users at each stage of the buyer’s journey
The Key Benefits of B2B Content Marketing for Your Business
Content marketing helps you reach B2B buyers on their terms. By providing quality information when they are searching for it, you can get your brand in front of them. B2B content marketing does much of the heavy lifting for you to find, attract, and generate leads.
Here are some of the key benefits of B2B content marketing and why it’s so important for your business.
The Way B2B Buyers Approach Purchasing Has Changed
B2B sales were moving increasingly online before the pandemic, but we’ve seen a significant acceleration over the past two years. By 2020, B2B buyers were already spending more time doing independent research than engaging with sales reps. Now, the gap is more than two-to-one. If you’re not providing the information B2B buyers are looking for in a digital format, you’re handing potential sales to competitors that are.
In making purchase decisions, B2B buyers want self-service tools that allow them to find the information they want without dealing with the sales team. This is consistent across the entire purchasing process.
B2B Buyers' Preference for Self-Serve Channels for Information
- When researching: 65%
- When evaluating: 61%
- When ordering: 62%
- When reordering: 6%
You may have a great sales team, but if you aren’t providing the content B2B buyers are searching for online, your sales reps may never get to engage.
Another way the sales process has changed is in the interaction between marketing and sales. In the past, there was a clear handoff from marketing to sales. With so much of the buyer journey occurring online, marketing and sales are intertwined throughout the entire process. As such, marketing and sales need to be completely aligned to ensure that content reflects buyer needs.
B2B Buyers Are Purposely Ignoring Your Advertising and Outreach
One of the most valuable things business leaders have today is time. They don’t want to waste it on unsolicited sales pitches or pushy salespeople. B2B buyers use caller ID and spam filters to ignore cold calls and emails. More than a quarter of internet users are also using adblockers.
It’s always been difficult to break through the clutter of advertising messages, but in today’s environment, your best efforts for outbound marketing and traditional outreach may not even get past the technology to reach potential customers. They’re going out of their way to avoid you until they are ready to engage on their terms.
B2B Content Marketing Builds Trust and Authority
When you provide relevant and valuable information to your audience — rather than hit them with overt promotional pitches — it helps establish authority and expertise. It positions your company in a leadership role with a demonstrated commitment to helping others solve their problems. The more you develop insightful content that answers questions and solves problems, the more you will be seen as an authority.
So much of sales today is about mitigating risk for buyers. When they believe you are an authority, you are reducing that risk. It’s why brand names still outperform generic products even if they are exactly the same. Well-known brands inspire trust. Content marketing helps establish that trust.
When you become recognized by a potential buyer as a go-to resource for expert information and insight, you can build long-term relationships.
This is especially important in today’s highly competitive environment. New startups are launching every day trying to usurp your customer base. Content marketing helps build and maintain your reputation to fend off rivals.
You Can Target, Customize, and Automate Content
Within your company already, you likely have significant data points that help you know who your target customers are and what traits your best customers share. This helps you identify your ideal customer profile (ICP) to help target your content marketing efforts.
Today, marketing automation makes customization at scale possible. You can track various customer touchpoints across your digital platforms to deliver the right content at the right time in their buying journey. You can customize and personalize content to various industry groups at different levels of any organization. For example, you might explain the revenue potential of your solution to CEOs, the potential reduction in the labor force to CFOs, and how it increases productivity to line-level managers.
Account-based marketing (ABM) solutions with content marketing can go even further to target individual buyers within companies and customize content based on individual behavior.
B2B Content Marketing Is Cost-Efficient
Content marketing has been shown to generate three times more leads than outbound marketing efforts at a cost that is 62% less.
Good content marketing also has staying power. If you buy an ad, it’s only effective when it’s seen. After your ad buys end, it’s no longer useful unless you want to spend more money to serve it up again. Content marketing is the gift that keeps on giving. Strong content can last for years, waiting to be found by new buyers entering the sale cycle. When you develop specific content for each stage of the buying journey, even older content is fresh to the audience when they enter that stage. So, once you develop engaging content, you can update and refresh it occasionally to keep it working for you.
Another reason content marketing is cost-effective is that you can broaden its reach by using your content in different forms and media. Here are just a few examples:
- When you create a blog post, you can promote it on social media or turn it easily into an email or newsletter.
- You can create a video or infographic with the same information.
- When you create long-form content such as a white paper or eBook, you can create short-form blog posts or emails to persuade people to download the more in-depth report
With a well-thought-out content marketing strategy, you can create a single asset and then use it in multiple ways to engage with your audience.
One of the most expensive things any business will undertake is the activities to acquire new customers. Because of the shelf-life of good, quality content, you can dramatically decrease your customer acquisition costs (CACs). The more content you develop, the lower your cost per lead can go.
Content Improves SEO & Website Traffic
Since 68% of all online experiences today start with a search engine, it’s essential that your business shows up at or near the top of the results. When B2B buyers are searching for solutions, they are more likely to research specific problems or information rather than type in a company name. Google research shows that more than 70% of B2B buyers start with a generic search rather than a branded one. You need content marketing to be found.
Strong content marketing associates the keyword buyers are using to search for information with your brand. This helps drive search engine optimization (SEO) and improve your rankings in Google and other search engines.
When you create relevant and informative content, it may also lead to links from other reputable websites. Notice all the links in this article? They are citing high-quality information from high-authority websites. They’re important to allow users to dig deeper into topics and demonstrate authority.
When others link to you, these backlinks help your SEO.
The right content often gets shared on other platforms. When business leaders find your content useful and share it, it amplifies exposure and provides an implied endorsement. It’s like getting a referral without having to ask for one!
All of this equates to more traffic for your company website and more exposure to your brand. The more traffic you get, the more B2B buyers are consuming your content. While there, they may see something else of interest, do further research, sign up for an email newsletter, or check out your current offers. This creates additional traction for other things you do.
And, the more they engage, the more you establish yourself as a trusted authority and viable option for purchase decisions.
You Can Continually Optimize Your Content
Businessman John Wanamaker is famously quoted as saying: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.” Today, we’d venture to say it can be a lot more than half.
Here’s the brilliance of content marketing. You can know what’s working and what’s not. Today, you can measure and evaluate each piece of content to see if it’s meeting your marketing goals. Content scoring can quantify how content performs in generating, nurturing, and converting leads.
You can A/B test different titles, calls-to-action, images, and graphics to see what produces the best results. You can use dynamic content insertion to customize content based on user behavior.
At every step of the way, you can improve the quality of your content to improve your results.
B2B Content Marketing Works
Perhaps the biggest reason to use content marketing for B2B sales is that it works.
62% of the most successful companies have a documented content marketing strategy compared to just 11% of the least successful brands. More than 70% of successful companies say the content marketing strategy is mature and sophisticated. Of all the organizations using B2B content marketing, just 3% say their efforts are not successful. Those are pretty good odds.
The biggest gains from B2B content marketing? 60% of marketers say content marketing generates demand and leads. 70% report that content marketing helps educate their audience and 60% say it builds loyalty with existing customers.
Tips For Optimizing Your B2B Content Marketing Efforts
From lead generation to nurturing to conversion, here are a few strategies that can help improve your content marketing and achieve your goals.
Research Your Audience Needs
The better you understand the challenges and pain point your potential customer is dealing with, the easier it will be to create the right content for engagement. Don’t skimp on the research phase. While this can help you create your buyer personas or ideal customer profiles, the research must go beyond that to truly understand what’s happening in your buyer’s world.
Nobody wants to be sold products. They do, however, want to find solutions to their problems. When you can craft content that addresses their concerns, you can capture their attention.
Research Your Keywords
With this understanding of your audience's needs, you will have a good idea of what type of content they are looking for. The next step is to make sure you are using the right terms and phrases within your content marketing that will help get your content ranked in search.
There are various platforms online that can help you research keywords and automate this process for you. If you are just getting started, you can use Google’s free Keyword Planner tool. Type in a phrase and it will show you search results for that phrase plus suggest similar phrases that are also generating interest.
Seeding these keywords and phrases throughout your content (without stuffing them in) will help you optimize your visibility by search engines.
Develop Content for Each Stage of the Buyer's Journey
Different B2B buyers will be at different stages of the buyer journey. Some are in the initial phase of doing research or trying to find answers to their questions. Others are comparing products and services. Others are ready to buy. You need different content for each stage to optimize your results.
In the Awareness phase, B2B buyers are recognizing they have a problem or area where they need to improve. Customers are researching potential solutions and looking for advice on how to solve problems.
Content for the awareness phase includes blog posts, eBooks, white papers with original research, educational content, social media, videos, email newsletters.
In the Consideration phase, buyers have identified a need and are now looking for the best solution for their problems. They will research categories and products and weigh the pros and cons as they begin to narrow their choices.
Content for the consideration phase includes comparison guides, webinars, white papers, guides, explainer videos.
In the Decision phase, they have identified the solution that is best for them and they are deciding the best place to purchase from.
Content for the awareness phase includes a more active selling strategy designed for conversions, such as case studies, product specifications, trial offers, demos, and incentives.
Have a Goal For Every Piece of Content You Create
Every time you begin the development process of any piece of content, you need to know where it fits in the buyer journey and establish a goal.
- Are you trying to make someone aware of your brand?
- Are you trying to get them to buy right now?
- Are you trying to get them to sign up for your newsletter?
Without establishing a goal, it’s difficult to evaluate whether your content is doing its job.
Promote Your Content
Many companies make the mistake of generating content and then letting it sit there. They wonder why it doesn’t attract an audience on its own. While using optimization methods to gauge effectiveness is important, you also need to promote the content to get it in front of the right audience.
This means using social channels, sponsored posts, guest posts on industry sites, retargeting methods, email newsletters, and targeted advertising.
Build Your Sales Pipeline
Content marketing is an investment and it does take time to craft high-quality, relevant, and engaging content. When done well, content marketing can provide a wealth of benefits.
It takes a strategic approach and a relentless focus on what your customers care about. Over time, your content can generate a predictable, methodical way to build awareness and keep your B2B sales pipeline full.