They say content is King, yet no King can survive without a winning strategy.
To be able to create good content, you have to understand the nature of online content that becomes popular, well-known, and accepted by the market, particularly when it is used for B2B inbound marketing.
Qualities That Make for Good Content
- Multi-disciplined. Good content should not be formed only from one mold. This means that content needs to be varied in its format, in its approach or treatment. The core topic that the content presents to the audience should not be confined to only one format.
- Valuable/Informative. Good content should provide facts and/or figures, not just opinion. Of course, certain kinds of opinion are highly valued in the B2B market, particularly when coming from people or organizations that are considered as thought leaders. Then, it all comes down to the information included. Content should be highly informative. This is what brings out its actual value.
- Relevant. Content should be timely, address a problem and provide a solution. Content becomes irrelevant when it has no direct bearing on your B2B market’s concerns in the here and now. Even time-bound or historical data may be considered relevant, if its use is directed towards making sense of, or otherwise helping to clear up a current situation being experienced by the market.
- Engaging. Content should give answers to the pains of the audience. In order to make it engaging, creators need to think of different formats and design (text, images, video, audio). Every different piece of content has its own different requirements. Marketers need to study the requirements and practice. It takes time, analysis and measurable data. A good narrative is the perfect tool to make all types of content engaging enough.
After gaining some familiarity with the characteristics that help define the nature of good B2B marketing content, it’s now time to focus on our promised 5 quick and easy steps for beginning a B2B content marketing strategy.
Keep in mind that the strategy that we will discuss has been created for inbound marketing online, as it applies to a B2B setting. As such, it will tackle only virtual or digital marketing formats. No mention of the use of “real life” marketing collaterals (such as the production and dissemination of brochures, catalogues, posters etc.) will be included.
These steps are sequential. They are meant to be done in order, for best results.
Step 1- Research about your B2B inbound market and “get into their heads.”
The very first step of your inbound strategy for content marketing should be to get to know your B2B inbound market intimately. By that, we mean, you should be able to think like them, to become familiar with their business words (even the jargon they use), and to make decisions in the way that they do. Most importantly, marketers need to identify the needs and the pains of their prospects and existing customers and partners.
You’ll accomplish this by studying not just their demographics, but actually finding out what drives them to make the kind of decisions they do. To achieve this, know where and how they socialize, whether online or offline. The social groups they choose to join or belong to, speaks a lot about them, especially if their participation or activity level in such groups is high. Build complete personas of the people you are “talking” to with your marketing efforts.
Step 2 – Map your audience
This doesn’t have to be fancy. It would help, though, if you wrote everything down, for cross-referencing later.
Your Customer Mind Map should contain 4 major items:
- A problem faced or being experienced by the customer that you are certain your product or service can solve.
- Ideas or concerns that the customer will not want to deal with, or want to get rid of. This could be budgetary constraints, learning curves, lack of time, and uneasiness about trying out a new product or service.
- A list of what your customers stand to gain from using your product or service. This has to be stated in very specific terms, and such terms should make an impact either on the personal or professional life of the customer (depending on what the product or service is).
- A list of what your customers stand to lose by not using your product or service. Again, this should also be as specific as possible. Mention concrete disadvantages. Avoid speaking in general terms.
Review and revise your customer mind map until you are satisfied with it, or until you are quite sure that it contains the specifics that you need to communicate to your inbound market when creating your content.
Step 3 – Assess Your Resources
Coming to grips with the extent and condition of your resources is a critical part of creating or beginning a B2B content marketing strategy.
When assessing your resources to begin a content marketing strategy, take a very realistic look at your situation. Work from there.
If the ideas you come up with are not feasible to do because of a current lack of resources – whether time, money, manpower, or skill – reserve that idea. Don’t just throw it away, but simply reserve it, as you may still be able to use that idea someday.
For the moment, though, think of alternatives, and when you arrive at an alternative that your resources can support, then focus on that alternative as your viable option.
Keep on doing this until you are satisfied with the kind and quantity of content is listed in your content strategy. Be specific about this.
For example, if you decide on blog posts as one of your content formats, make sure that you have a list of topics to write about that is at least good for 4 weeks. You don’t have to blog daily. What you need to do is come up with relevant and informative blog posts as scheduled. That schedule is known as an editorial (or publishing) calendar. Prepare your list of topics, then your editorial calendar, and do your best to stick to it.
At the same time, be ready to adjust when there is breaking news in your industry. Even if you already have a list of topics and an editorial calendar ready, it will be harmful to your content marketing strategy if you ignore important developments in your field.
Step 4 – Review Existing Material, Learn to Curate
Let’s face it. Nothing is really spanking new in this world anymore.
The world has been existing for a long time, and ideas that were born thousands of years ago may have been new at the time, but they are definitely “old hat” now.
But! It is very much possible to make even ancient content interesting again, to a modern audience. It’s all a matter of the kind of treatment you give your content.
That’s why you need to be patient enough to review existing material, then learn how to curate.
If you’re worried that doing so makes you a plagiarist or someone who steals the good content of others, remove that idea from your head.
First of all, you will not stop at curation.
Second, you will not simply copy the content of others, and pass it off as your own.
Instead, what you will do is to look for the strong points of existing content that is relevant to your niche, and then, use that content as a springboard for creating great content on your own.
Did we just describe how most infographics come to be?
If you analyze most infographics, you will see that an infographic is mostly a collection of ideas, facts, and/or figures that have been assembled together to deliver a specific message. These ideas, facts, and/or figures come from different sources – the more varied they are, the better, as it reinforces credibility and builds your authority as a thought leader in the minds of your inbound market.
Even the best thought leaders cannot simply whip up statistics out of the air. Some other person (most likely a researcher) or agency did the digging up of the facts for them. Of course, there are experts in their field who conduct their own research and write about it. But as mentioned before, not everyone can be an expert. So, instead of either ranting or getting depressed over why you are not an expert (yet) in your niche, learns from the expertise of others. Curate their work (don’t forget to give credit where credit is due).
Then, add your own special touch to the curated work. This is the part where your Voice or Tone comes in. All content that you create, especially those that come from curated content, need to have that “authentically you” sound. In particular, this applies to the kinds of opinions and recommendations that you share with your market.
Step 5 – Be Prepared to be Creative: Open Yourself to the Benefits of Re-purposing
Related to Step 4 above, some inbound marketers get worried about running out of ideas, curated or not.
After all, if everything in this world has already been said and done, chances are good that no matter how many treatments are used in presenting content, they would also have been used anyway, right?
For example, in blog posts, how many kinds of market-acceptable treatments can there be? Let’s name the most popular content treatments that can be used for B2B markets:
- Listicles, or articles in list format
- News, with your opinions or your commentary – these are mostly about your entire industry or niche, as opposed to purely Public Relations (PR) content (see next).
- Public Relations materials, which are used for giving news or updates that is mostly specific to your business or brand, and slanted in such a way as to be beneficial to you, written within the content itself, but not standing out as an independent commentary opinion.
- Instructional, or “how-tos”
- Human interest features, or write-ups that do not directly promote a product or service, but rather train the spotlight on a certain individual (such as an expert or celebrity in your niche), a relevant event, or a place that’s important to your market (think of this as PEP- people, events, and places). The product or service that is being marketed gets mentioned indirectly, but in such a way that it has become integral to the write-up because it has led to it.
- Infotainment, or content that is meant to inform and/or educate, but is couched within an entertaining treatment. This usually involves plenty of visual imagery (pictures).
- Testimonials: Short but engaging interviews with people you work with and are satisfied by your presence. (customers, business partners).
- Case studies: Touch on a specific customer. Show what were the needs of that business, what you did for them and how they managed to overcome its problems with your help. Usually, add one or two simple visuals and keep the content relatively short.
- White Papers: “Technical” content addressed straight to industry experts. Usually it is not more than 12 pages long. Since it is technical, graphics are more than necessary.
- Customer stories: Present your valued partners and customers to the rest of your audience. Ideal length is not more than 2,3 pages.
Assuming that in the creation of your inbound content strategy you have already used all the popular content treatments above for an article, a blog post, or even an e-book, what else can you do?
Think of a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly.
When the metamorphosis or change happens, the caterpillar (your existing blog post, for example) does not actually die (get thrown away or deleted).
Instead, it is revived in a new form!
Your old or existing blog posts can be checked, edited, and updated for relevancy (especially when they have statistics), then turned into slides, eBooks, or videos!
You will not be hit by “duplicate content penalties” because your content has been re-purposed. It comes in a different format and treatment, and will therefore not be considered as an exact copy or duplicate of what already exists.