Content marketing, or inbound marketing, is a hot topic among B2B marketers. On the positive side, lots of companies recognize its importance and are working at it. On the negative side, it’s hard to find a company who does it well and does it consistently. How can you craft content that is both interesting and relevant? And make people actually want to share it?
Define your target audience
Make sure your content is geared towards people who will actually care about it. Consider who your current customers are and build a profile of them. Who are they and what are they interested in? Think about age, income, job titles, even hobbies. Then, think about what types of customers you want more of. What are they like? How are they the same or different from your current customers? Considering all of this information, build a persona(s) (one to as many as you want) that reflects your different audiences. Then, test yourself: take your content and hypothesize its effectiveness when consumed by your different personas. Does it resonate with them? Before you can start writing content, you need to make sure it will stick.
Make sure you’re hitting them with the right “what” at the right “when”
Now that you know who your readers/watchers/listeners are, it’s important to understand that they will have different needs at different times. You want to be considered right up front in the beginning of the purchasing cycle all the way through the decision point and beyond, so generate content that speaks to them as they progress through the cycle.
What will help you stand out to potential customers? This type of content will probably be self-serving, assuming that you’re not yet well known to your customer. Or even if they have heard of you or worked with you before, they might not know all you have to offer. Consider tapping your topic experts to write white papers, publish informational videos/webinars and write blogs.
Now, build the case for why they should choose you over your competition. What will convince them to buy your product or service? Example types of content that support this are case studies that demonstrate success, testimonials from customers, newsletters to keep them up to date, samples of completed work.
Turn this interest into action! Now that you’ve built the case, incentivize them with additional content in exchange for their lead information. Consider gated content that will be valuable for them, like a free product sample or trial, technical maps or guides, product or service demonstrations.
Once they become your customers, you can turn them into advocates. Make sure your site has interactivity built into it so that they can share interesting content or tools right from your site. When possible and appropriate, encourage them to contribute their own content to your site or social networks.
Generate a plan, and ask the right people for help
Generating thoughtful content takes a lot of time and effort. Start off planning your year with a brainstorming session with content experts. But give them a road map to start with. Begin the meeting with the personas to get them in the right mindset of who you’ll be writing for, and take the information from your purchasing cycle and map it against your company calendar. Are there peaks or valleys where there is more purchasing action? Since these people work in their specialty areas every day, they are most familiar with their industry topic and rhythms of the business. Get their input and write out an actual content strategy with specific topics, your company’s position on that topic and a calendar.
Here are some thought-starters to lead the discussion:
- What are your customers most interested in? What questions do they ask most frequently?
- What problems does your industry face? How does your business help address or solve these problems?
- Are there any products or services that are being put on the backburner that deserve some attention?
Write helpful content—and promote it!
Talk directly to your customer.
Don’t focus on the sales pitch of a product or service right away. Think more about what problems your customers have, and how you can help them. Customers turn to content marketing for help and advice on topics that matter to them. Give them some actual insights; don’t just turn it into a product pitch, and you will convert them into a return reader.
Make the content interesting.
Turn the content into digestible chunks, and break it up with pictures, charts, infographics—anything that will help tell your story. Visuals help paint a picture in the readers’ minds, and evoke an emotional response from them.
Make the content accessible.
One of the biggest mistakes is writing content and letting it languish and die. Promote your content on your blog, your newsletter, the home page of your website, wherever you are already getting natural organic traffic. If it’s appropriate, also consider promoting it on your social channels. Ideally, you want to turn your customers into your advocates; sharing this information among their peers will help establish your credibility, knowledge and expertise in your areas.
Make sure you have tracking implemented throughout your site in order to learn what is working for you and what isn’t. It’s helpful to meet every quarter with your content team to readjust and reevaluate based on real results. Evaluate number of leads generated, page views, total shares, total engagements, video views, product demo downloads, etc. What you think might be successful might not be, and the opposite is true, too. You never know what might stick with people, get the most shares or give rise to the most sales. Hone in on the content that gets you the best results.