Allison Thomas
Allison Thomas

Content marketing is one of the most cost-effective and influential digital marketing strategies in the marketing playbook. Seventy-two percent of B2B decision-makers read a blog before they make a purchase, 60% of people are inspired to make a purchase after reading a blog post, and content marketing is 3x more effective and 63% cheaper than traditional marketing methods.

This all sounds great, right? Here’s the problem: only 9 percent of B2B marketers rate their content marketing as” very effective.”It gets worse. A mere 25% of marketers can even prove that their content marketing strategy has reduced the cost of customer acquisition for their business.Despite content marketing sitting in this beloved bubble of marketing value(78% of CMOs say content marketing is the “future of their business”), 91% of B2B marketers don’t rate their content marketing efforts as highly effective.

What’s going on? How is it that a handful of B2B brands are absolutely dominating with content marketing while the rest struggle in a confusing wasteland of never-ending blog posts? For starters, 21% of B2B content marketers have exactly zero content marketing strategy. But it goes beyond having a strategy; the majority of B2B companies have the wrong strategy.

Want to know how the best B2B companies in the world use content marketing? Here’s what you need to know about building highly effective content marketing campaigns in the crowded,liquidity-heavy, and hyper-competitive B2B marketplace.

1. Create Content Around the Buyer’s Journey

Your buyer’s journey (i.e., your target audience’s natural progression through the “purchasing” phases) isnt only a handy tool for outbound campaigns; it’s the juicy center of effective B2B content marketing strategies. Here’s a question: Why do your customers read your content? It’s not because they can’t find anything else to read: the internet is home to +500 million blogs. They read your content to answer a question or solve a problem.

So, when you create content, your primary goal should be delivering value. The specific problem prospects need solved depends on where they’re at in the buyer’s journey. Let’s say you run a business that sells B2B sales software. A blog post that defines sales software, discusses what sales means, and ends with a CTA is great for people in that first phase of the journey. But what about the customers who already understand all of that information and want to learn more about the specifics of your product or service?

You need to create content for each of the “core” phases in the buyer’s journey. That may be a 15-stage-long buyer’s journey or the standard 3-stage. It doesn’t really matter. Your goal is to provide value and answer questions for customers based on what they actually want. Let’s use the simple3-stage buyer’s journey and break down what types of content make sense in each phase.

  • Awareness: No one has ever bought a B2B solution because they were bored. There aren’t impulse purchases in this ecosystem. Decision-makers do their research. So, the first stage is about answering their baseline questions. If you have a SaaS sales solution, those initial questions may be something like: What is a “sales solution?” How does a sales solution help businesses? Are sales solutions difficult to integrate?  You want to generate hyper-digestible content that provides broad value. Examples of this include blog posts, social media, and simple eBooks.
  • Consideration: Once prospects move into the consideration stage, they know they have a problem, and they’re actively looking for a solution to that issue. During this stage, they want to know why they should choose you vs. the competition. This is the stage when you’re looking to make sure they’re a good fit for you, and you want to build a healthy,lasting relationship that’s beneficial, emotional, and genuine. Content in this stage often includes newsletters, emails, and social media — or anything else that’s personal and targeted.
  • Decision: At the final stage, customers want a confirmation that your solution is perfect for them. By this point, they’re almost there. They just need that last little nudge. Whitepapers, webinars, and in-depth posts work great for this stage. You want to show off features, showcase demos, and give them the juicy details they need to make an informed and accurate decision.

Remember, your buyer’s journey stages may be slightly different. You may have a post-purchase stage or a few stages between consideration and decision. That’s fine! Try to craft content for each of those core stages.

2. Needs Before Sales

Don’t sell products; sell solutions. Thirty-three percent of customers will outright ignore a product or service that doesn’t fit their needs. Often, we make the mistake of selling our product on our terms. Here’s why we rock! But customers don’t care about how amazing your product is or how much better you are than your competitors at x, y, or z. They care about their needs. People purchase solutions to solve a problem.

Here’s where things get tricky. Do you solve the business’s problem or the decision-maker’s problem? According to Google, you want to target the person, not the company. B2B purchases are 50% more likely to purchase your product/service when they see the personal value, and they’re 8x more likely to pay a premium for it.

Instead of discussing how much money their business will save, give them details that benefit them. Decision-makers don’t buy budgeting automation software because it costs less than other solutions on the market or gives their business better governance capabilities. They buy it because it saves them time, money, and headaches. Target needs — not sales.

3. Amplify Content on Non-owned Channels

Winning with content is about more than pumping out fresh, organic posts. You need the cross-channel support provided by non-owned channels. We like to view content as existing in three buckets:

  1. Owned
  2. Earned
  3. Paid

Organic content is the stuff you create on your owned channels. It’s the bulk of your content strategy, and (over time) it can become your primary lead generation tool. Earned content is content that exists on non-owned channels that didn’t cost you a dime. These are your retweets, mentions, shares, and backlinks. You get earned content by creating value-driven (see above) organic content that inspires.

Paid content is your advertising. Those social media ads and influencer mentions are the quickest way to generate a buzz, but this content will only reach certain types of consumers, and it costs more (given time) than organic content. You need all three types of content.

Here’s the strategy. Map out your buyer’s journey, find any existing gaps, and use paid content to fill those gaps effectively. So, let’s look at what types of owned, earned, and paid content exists in each of those stages:

  • Awareness
    • Owned: Blog posts, eBooks, social media posts
    • Earned: Social media retweets, backlinks, blog post shares
    • Paid: Quizzes, surveys, blog post drivers
  • Consideration
    • Owned: Newsletters, emails, social media
    • Earned: Social media shares, backlinks, co-posts
    • Paid: Whitepaper ads, videos, social media takeovers
  • Decision
    • Owned: White papers, demos
    • Earned: Digital WoM, shares, dedicated groups, forums
    • Paid: Trials, referrals, demo ads

Amazing content campaigns combine all of these. Don’t pay attention to stat-laden blog posts trying to sell you one type of content over other types. Leading B2B brands use an effective combination of every medium to reach decision-makers at various points in the funnel.

4. Measure ROI

Fifty-five percent of winning B2B content campaigns measure ROI. Yet, only half of B2B brands even try to measure ROI. Running any type of campaign without measuring your return is like running a competitive lap without timing yourself. You can’t grow your content marketing effectiveness without understanding your ROI.

Sometimes, measuring this ROI is difficult. You have content coming from a variety of sources (e.g., in-house writers, freelancers, social posts, paid mediums, etc.), so trying to put a firm figure on your efforts requires a ton of touchpoints. To solve this problem, more than 60% of B2B brands outsource content marketing. It’s easy to put a figure on a lump sum as opposed to a ton of micro-purchases.

Even if you keep it in-house, you need to find a way to rally metrics together to prove value. This is critical. You cannot run successful content campaigns without measuring ROI. It just doesn’t happen. You need to prove value. Plus, understanding ROI helps you effectively run A/B tests and play around with different channels, so ROI dictates the course of your campaigns. It’s the captain.

Want to Run Hyper-Effective Content Marketing Campaigns?

Most B2B brands fail at content marketing. The landscape is saturated with competition thatshares your subject matter. Want to stand out with campaign strategies that work? T.A. Monroe is home to a specialized team of experts who help B2B and SaaS clients perfect their funnel, content marketing playbook and campaigns. Ask us about seeing your ROI on content.