Building an Effective B2B Content Marketing Strategy
Content marketing is a key part of B2B marketing strategies for a simple reason: when it’s done right, it brings more leads for less money than most other channels. But it’s one thing to say “I’d like to increase our B2B content” and another thing to write the most effective content for your target market. Let’s look at the key steps to developing a B2B content marketing strategy that brings traffic from the right audience.
Persona research: Yes, you really need to do this
Before you decide what to write, you need to decide who you’re writing for. This is where buyer personas come in. Personas are characters you create to represent your target customers. It means that instead of saying: “I want to sell to cyber security decision-makers,” you’ll say “I want to sell to Evan, the 39-year-old CISO at a major manufacturing company who’s concerned about maintaining security on a reduced budget.” In order to build a full buyer persona, you might want to ask some questions like:
- How old is this person?
- Where do they live?
- How big is their company?
- Who do they report to?
- Where do they read most of their news or content?
- What’s their favorite thing about their job?
- What is their biggest concern in their job?
- Which tasks are they spending too much time on?
The more detailed your target persona, the more relevant your content. And the more relevant your content, the more likely your targets are to engage with your business.
Keyword research is the next, and really critical, step in your B2B content marketing strategy. Keywords are literally the key to getting your content in front of your target audience. Google and other search engines use keywords to work out the topic of your content, and decide when it’s a relevant response to a user web search request.
You need to be really specific when you choose your keywords. Even the difference between describing your company as an “Industrial Cyber Security” or “ICS Security” company affects who ends up visiting your website. When you do your research, you’ll see that some keywords have more variant spellings than others, which gives you the opportunity to target all those versions in your content. You might discover, for example, that ‘IT security’ is trending downwards for user searches, but that ‘cloud security’ has a rising trend.
Keeping an eye on your competitors is also crucial. Don’t just search for your own ideal keywords; check which keywords your competitors are ranking for. It opens up insights into their priorities for marketing and conversions, their target personas, and possibly give you hints about their plans for the future. For example, if you find that your competitors are consistently using keywords around cloud security instead of endpoint security, but your company has been focusing on endpoint security, you might want to shift your business priorities.
However, do be careful. Just because your competition is ranking for keywords, it doesn’t mean they’re ranking for the right keywords. Be sure to do your own in-depth research with a tool like SEMRush or BuzzSumo.
Pillar pages are the main element of your B2B website. If your homepage explains what your company does, the pillar page is a long form page that quickly establishes you as an expert in your field. Generally, pillar pages are around 2,500 words, targeting a broad concept that you plan on writing a supporting content for. So if you’re trying to market a cyber intelligence platform, your first pillar page might be something like “What is Cyber Intelligence” or “Why do I need Cyber Intelligence?” This gives you a chance to write many more connected blog posts that show off your expertise, create a set of interlinked web pages, and connect more whitepapers and webinars to a central hub.
Consider Wikipedia as a great example of pillar page content. Wikipedia pages are long form, detailed, and link to many other connected topics. They consistently rank at the top of Google search results because they are highly relevant. In order to keep them relevant, Wikipedia constantly updates their pillar pages with new content. You also need to keep your pillar pages updated so that they keep on serving as useful sources of information.
While you might be tempted to use a sign-up form to grant access to such a detailed research, it’s critical that pillar pages remain ungated. This is still top of the funnel content. It’s not the right place to ask for contact details from a visitor. Let them read the page, and then offer them a gated content option like downloading the page as a PDF, accessing a more in-depth white paper, or signing up for a demo.
Whitepapers, eBooks, and blogs
Whitepapers and eBooks are your lead-generating all-stars. These are long-form pieces of content that should be gated, and promoted on social media and through paid campaigns. It’s a good idea to produce a new eBook or whitepaper at least once a quarter, to maintain interest among your audience, but you should write a new blog at least once a week.
General topics that promise (and deliver) real insights regarding a major area of concern for your target audience will be the most successful. On Marketing Envy, for example, we have eBooks and whitepapers offering real solutions to digital marketing questions for cyber security companies.
Finally, we get to the most common and maybe the most challenging aspect of B2B content marketing: blogs. For every dozen B2B blogs, there’s probably only one or two that actually provide valuable content for their readers. Often, that’s because companies misunderstand the purpose of their blogs. It’s not the place for press releases, self-promotion, or company or product information. Hint: Do not self promote on your blog. Every now and again is OK… but that’s it. Blogs should first and foremost deliver valuable information that your target audience will find helpful and interesting.
One way to make sure your content is relevant and engaging is to get as many people involved in the brainstorming as possible. Talk to your sales team to find out the most common questions asked by sales prospects; get the technical team to explain a clever methodology they just implemented; record your CEO’s insights about the industry for a thought leadership post. As long as people have questions, your blog should be providing the answers. Don’t forget that you can and should repurpose old content. Instead of wasting valuable content that’s going out of date, rewrite it or find a way to update it so that it’s always fresh.
Content strategy is about good planning and consistent execution around a predetermined group of keywords that you want to focus on for the next 6-12 months. If you keep providing good content, people will read it all the way through. After all, you made it to the end of this blog, didn’t you?