Are you looking for content marketing strategies and ideas to help you grow your business?
Like SEO and social media before it, B2B companies are beginning to understand that they need content marketing to help them generate more business online – however, not everyone’s sure of exactly what it entails, or how to get it right.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, 48% of companies say they have a content marketing strategy, but it is undocumented. Out of those companies, only 32% rated their strategy highly in terms of effectiveness, compared to 60% of those had documented strategies.
In this blog post, I’m not only going to explain the ins and outs of content marketing, but also:
- How to create the perfect content marketing strategy
- Whose responsibility it should be to create content
- How long it takes to see results from your marketing efforts
- The average cost of content marketing
- The 7 deadly sins of writing content
And much more besides.
I hope you’re sitting comfortably, as this is a really comprehensive guide to just about everything you need to know about B2B content marketing!
What is B2B content marketing, anyway?
In the truest sense, content marketing is essentially creating content that is helpful to your target audience – or your ideal customer, if you will.
This helpful content comes in the form of answers to your customers’ most asked questions, and can take the shape of blog posts, videos, infographics, slideshares and so much more.
Content marketing is generally needed because buyer behaviour has changed significantly in recent years. People are now fed up of being advertised to; instead, they want to discover the solution on their own. This is why they turn to search engines such as Google to do their own research.
Therefore, if your website only talks about you and the products you offer – without going into detail about the problems you can solve for other businesses or consumers – then this is going to turn people off. What you really need is content that helps and educates.
You need to create content that helps move you new potential customers through to the point of sale – or at the very least so you can have a meaningful conversation with them.
Content marketing is not:
- A collection of blog posts that talk only about your business and services
- Pages on your website that talk about how great you are
- Pieces of content that have no call-to-actions or don’t tell your audience what to do next
- A blog post with no means of determining ROI. You should be able to justify every piece of content and demonstrate how it is actually contributing to a sale.
How to create the perfect content marketing strategy
There are so many elements required for a good content marketing strategy – this is because your content marketing basically overlaps into so many other things, as such email marketing, social media, and your overall marketing campaign.
Below are some of the basic ingredients you need to develop a solid content strategy:
1. Define your goals
The first step towards a successful content marketing strategy is to first determine why you need one – which goals can it help you achieve? Perhaps you’d like to generate more quality leads, faster. Or maybe you want to increase your revenue by a certain percentage.
At the same time, your goals have to achievable, so ensure they are S.M.A.R.T.
S.M.A.R.T stands for:
Any good content marketing company will help you sit down and plan out some S.M.A.R.T goals at the beginning of your campaign.
2. Develop buyer personas
You may already have some relevant buyer personas, but if you don’t, it’s important to create them by analysing your existing customer data and pinpointing who your ideal buyer actually is. What do they care about and why?
You should never shut the book on your buyer personas – you should be continually developing them as you slowly understand more about your audience/customers.
Check out the following infographic from the Buyer Persona Institute:
3. Research questions you need to answer
This will define the very heart of your content. Think about you and your team’s everyday experiences with talking to customers: what are the questions they ask you the most? What challenges or pain points do they face?
You might be regularly asked questions such as:
- Where can I find the best solution for me?
- How long will it take?
- How much will it cost?
- Which materials will you use?
- Are there alternatives to your solution?
- What are your competitors offering?
These are the real gold that your prospects will be typing into Google search – you need to be the one to answer those questions.
4. Determine your keywords
Sit down with your team and identify which keyword groups you could ideally (and realistically) rank for, along with some relevant long-tail keywords you should be including in your content.
Pinpointing these exact keywords could take a bit of research, but you could always try free tools such as KWFinder. Last but not least, always ensure you insert your keywords as naturally as possible within your content – Google’s algorithms are getting smarter every day.
5. Inventory existing content
Part of any successful content marketing strategy should always include taking stock of the content you already have. Is any of it relevant to your existing goals?
Perhaps a few carefully added keywords or a clever CTA (call-to-action) placement could make all the difference to that old content that’s otherwise just sitting there going to waste.
6. Create a content calendar
Now, it’s time for the real meat of your content strategy – planning out the titles and various types of content you’re going to produce, when it will be published, and the CTAs you’re going to use for each one.
This should be in the form of a content calendar and should preferably cover the next three months at least. Use marketing automation software so that everything stays on-schedule and goes out to all the right channels.
7. Track content metrics and KPIs
Once your content has started going out, you can use that same marketing automation software to track various content metrics and KPIs, so you can find out what is working and what isn’t. You can use this as a tool to sharpen your keywords and the overall effectiveness of your content strategy.
8. Analyse, test and optimise
Finally, inbound marketing is all about analysing, testing and optimising to ensure you’re getting the best possible results. Don’t be afraid to test new things out, but always pay close attention to what those metrics are telling you.
Whose responsibility is it to create the content?
With 46% of people reading blogs more than once a day and 93% of B2B marketers and businesses using content marketing the need to be creating content has never been greater.
For you, a business owner, it can be difficult to see how on earth you are going to create all of this content. If you are considering content marketing, this can be one of the biggest sticking points you’ll come across.
I hope this section will help relieve the anxiety of content creation and help you to understand that it is not as difficult as it sounds.
Where should the content come from?
You are the industry expert and it needs to be a shared responsibility when it comes to creating content.
After all, there’s nobody more qualified to write about your business than you are. You’re the one with the vision, passion and drive to make your business work, and you probably spend time speaking to and answering questions from customers all day long.
You should use the questions, challenges and pain points you hear from your customers on a daily basis, to come up with helpful, quality content that addresses everything they need to know. This will help them become more informed and confident to make the next stage of their buyer’s journey.
If you or your team don’t have the time to create content by yourselves, don’t panic. Any good content marketing agency will help you to put together a solid content marketing strategy and help you create great content you can put out on your blog.
Most agencies will respect your time as they have very efficient ways of helping you to create engaging content. The businesses that have the most long term success with inbound are the ones that adopt a content publishing culture within their organisation.
How can a content marketing agency help?
Content marketing (as the name suggests) requires your chosen agency to create a lot of content and they will need you, the industry experts, to help with this.
They should conduct monthly interviews with you so they can create the most accurate content possible, then come up with outlines of this content for you to review before they create the final versions.
I would estimate that they will need around an hour a week of your time to conduct these interviews and have update meetings on progress. As your relationship develops, the better the content will potentially become.
They will need you to invest at least 4 hours every month liaising, and you will need some further time for you to gather the information needed. They’ll also work with you to find the perfect balance of responsibility.
These days, there is some really advanced project management software available, so you and your agency can collaborate effectively to ensure there are no missed deadlines and missed deliverables.
I have seen the best results with our partners when they give us a point of contact that can respond quickly and make crucial decisions. This is the key to a successful partnership.
Why content marketing should be a team effort
You know who else is an expert? Everyone on your team! If you have employees dealing with sales, customer service – or in fact, anyone who’s out there talking to customers, you should get them to contribute or create valuable content, too.
Picture this: If you have 30 employees working for you, and each writes just one blog post a month, that will give you a blog post a day! Think of how cost-effective it would be compared to the amount of content you’d end up with at the end of the day!
Or, if that isn’t possible, you could simply get your entire team together in one room and have them tell you the questions they frequently hear from customers. This is a great way of getting together a content strategy, as you can use all of these questions to come up with blog titles that could last you months.
Read more about why a content strategy is so important in this blog post.
How long does creating all this content take to see results?
I believe the best things in life take hard work and patience; content marketing is no different. It is important not to expect overnight success. The inbound marketing methodology is designed to build momentum and lasting success.
Month 1 & 2 – Research, Development & Implementation
Your content marketing agency will work with you to build you the infrastructure you need to succeed.
Together you will create buyer personas and understand your sales process. The’ll analyse the best keywords that people use to find your business and create your custom blueprint. They will then create your inbound marketing framework.
Month 3 to 5 – Creating Your Custom Sales Engine
Now that they have built the engine, it is time to add fuel to that engine and start building momentum for success. Creating weekly blog content that answers questions customers have will attract them to your website is a must and I recommend this as being a shared task.
Month 6 to 12 – Start Seeing Results
Having the foundation firmly in place you can now start to see some results. You will be able to examine the success of the blueprint and optimise this for greater success. Your agency will work closely with your team to continue to develop the campaign based on the measurable data that you now have.
Next you and your agency can start to set some monthly goal targets so everyone can see what you are going to achieve and the goals your business is working towards.
Content marketing takes a lot of patience and collaboration from both sides and can take time to see results. No good marketing strategy happens overnight and no great marketing strategy works without the timely collaboration of both parties.
I would encourage you to allow at least six months. This helps to fully achieve your success and meet your marketing goals.
How much should content marketing cost?
Quality content is absolutely essential for any successful digital marketing campaign – but how much should it cost?
If you’ve been thinking about outsourcing your content marketing, you’ve probably already come across various different ideas about price – from agencies which charge hundreds of pounds, to content mills that are cheap as chips, and everything in-between.
Below, I’m going to give you a better idea of how much content marketing should really cost.
The average cost of content marketing
Hmmm, this is a tricky one.
A recent study by the Content Marketing Institute stated that on average, around 30% of B2B budgets are spent on content marketing.
However, whether you’re outsourcing your content marketing or getting someone in-house, it really depends on the experience level and going rate of any particular writer or agency, as well as your budget.
Determining your costs
The cost of your content marketing will really come down to how much content you’re going to need on a monthly basis.
Personally, I’d recommend starting at no less than two blog posts per week that focus on answering your customers’ questions and addressing their challenges.
But there are a few different routes you can go down when it comes to actually sourcing your content. The main ones are:
As a freelance writer, I’ve seen my peers charge anywhere between £25 – £60 per hour for their work – and I’d say this is probably the average range you can expect to pay.
Each blog post should probably take a writer between 1 and-a-half to two hours to write. So, if that writer charges £40 per hour, for eight pieces of content per month, you’d be looking at between £480 – £640 per month.
A freelance writer can be a good option for some companies, although not all freelancers are experienced marketers, so you could be spending money on content that doesn’t get the desired results.
You may also want to hire an editor to ensure that all the work that goes out is completely flawless.
A professional marketing agency will have the experience and expertise to take you exactly where you need to be with your content. The range of services on offer from these agencies can vary, and often can go much further than simply coming up with quality content.
I’d always recommend going for an agency that uses an inbound marketing approach, and can work with your existing budget.
The average monthly cost you can expect to pay for an agency can typically be anywhere between £1,500 – £4,500.
According to Payscale.com, the average annual salary you can expect to pay an in-house copywriter is just over £22k. Of course, this really depends on the experience level of the writer, with the higher end of the scale rising to around £34k.
Remember, having your own dedicated copywriter may not always be the best option, unless they are also experienced in inbound marketing and can put together an effective content marketing strategy.
Ways to save on budget
There ARE ways to cut this price down, and maybe small businesses find cut-rate content from content mills such as Copify or Zerys.
However, the old saying ‘you get what you pay for’ really applies here. If you’re only prepared to pay £10 for a 500-word piece, you can’t expect the writer to spend a lot of time researching or checking for typos.
You also can’t guarantee you’re going to get an experienced writer, or someone who knows anything about the subject you’ve requested, so you’re really taking a bit of a gamble on these sites.
I suppose you could argue that for such a cheap rate, it’s a gamble worth taking – and there ARE some talented writers on such sites – but some view content mills as taking advantage of good writers who are down on their luck and really deserve to get paid more for their work.
In fact, you could say content mills are the Primark outlet of content marketing.
The 7 cardinal sins of content marketing
Writing is an art form. That’s true whether you’re writing a 150,000-word novel, or 500 words of content marketing.
You may think the latter is less important, but certainly not where your customers are concerned.
After all, a well-crafted blog post could make all the difference between pulling in a steady stream of leads and sales, or just sitting around hoping for a miracle.
With that in mind, I’ve put together the following 7 cardinal sins of content marketing, so you know what to avoid:
1. Large paragraphs
White space is your friend. It makes your writing much easier to follow, and easier on the eye.
If you clump your writing together in paragraphs that are five or six lines deep, people will be less likely to stay and read to the end; this is known as a ‘text wall’.
Instead, take a new paragraph when it feels appropriate, and ensure your writing is laid out in manageable, bite-size chunks.
2. Not getting to the point
So, I was talking to my friend the other day who recently started up their own content marketing consultancy, and had met me for lunch at this new restaurant in town. It was a really nice restaurant, actually. I ordered the steak. Anyway, just before the dessert arrived, we were talking about content and what to avoid doing, and he said…
Okay, so the above is pretty much all unnecessary content. There’s no need to waffle on in a blog post, unless your story is relevant to the point you are making. People don’t have the time, and when they click on a promising blog title, the last thing they want to read about is your lunch date.
Which brings me to my next point…
3. Not delivering what you promised
Your title has to grab their attention, but there’s nothing more frustrating than clicking on a blog called something like ‘Where’s the Best Place to Get Quality Content?’ and then just reading an entire blog post about where NOT to look, and the author’s terrible experiences.
Best case scenario, they see it’s not what they wanted and click away. Worst case scenario, they read through to the end and leave feeling frustrated having wasted their time. They may even leave a comment telling you as much.
Always deliver on what you’ve promised your readers in the title – or simply change the title.
4. Ignoring your buyer personas
Anyone will tell you that your buyer personas are oh-so important, so why would you ignore them when it comes to your content marketing? As SEO Hacker says, you can’t simply write about whatever you feel like because you THINK everyone is going to be interested.
Also, writing vague content that could basically appeal to anybody may seem like a good game plan, when actually you’ll end up appealing to no-one at all.
Instead, make it as personal as possible by talking their language and addressing concerns that you know they already have.
5. No actionable content
Actionable content can make all the difference between a decent blog, and a great one. You’ll find most people are actually searching for actionable content – i.e. content they can then take action on.
Just as example, imagine searching for ‘wholesome winter foods’. One blog has a list of exactly what you’re looking for, with some colourful photos. That’s nice.
But wait, the next link you’ve clicked on provides everything above, as well as the recipes you need to make them yourself. Which are you likely to prefer?
This blog is another example of actionable content, as we’re telling you what to avoid – as well as what you can do, instead.
6. Too many cooks
Or in this case, too many writers. Ever heard the popular saying: ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’? This is especially true when it comes to content marketing.
One person thinks something should be phrased one way, another has a ‘better’ idea, and then a third comes along and thinks that it’d make more sense if the whole thing is rewritten.
Best case scenario, this just delays your content. Worst case scenario, the content suffers, becomes weak, and is littered with typos and various different voices to the point where it becomes hard to follow.
Instead, I’d recommend having just one (good quality) writer, and one editor to check the work for spelling and grammar.
7. Vague subheadings
Finally, people like to know what they’re reading before they fully commit. It’s likely they’ll scan down the page to get a good idea of what you’re talking about before spending the next five minutes properly reading through.
One of the things you can do to give them a good idea of the gist of your blog is a good title. However, you really need to apply the same principle to your subheadings, otherwise they may click on your blog and then lose interest.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this extended blog post on content marketing, but please remember that you should never create content just for the sake of it.
You may think you have a great list of topics to write about, but your customers are the ones who should dictate whether you actually go ahead and write them. Remember to focus on topics that your customers care about and are asking questions about – this is the biggest tip I can give you when creating content of your own.
I believe every piece of content has to justify itself in contributing to increased sales, and simply raising brand awareness won’t impact on your bottom line.
Now it’s your turn
Why do you think you need content marketing, and what do you think it can help you achieve for your business? Let me know in the comments below.