How to Develop a B2B Content Marketing Strategy? A Guide for Founders and CMOs
Jan 9, 2023
You’re a CEO or CMO at an early-stage B2B startup. As your company is fresh out of Series A, you’re pondering new ways to expand your digital marketing efforts. Which marketing channels should you invest in?
Search engine optimization. Email marketing. Social media. Working with influencers. There are so many options to pick from.
It’s only logical to think about content at this stage. After all, content marketing combines all of these different ideas into a comprehensive strategy that drives revenue.
But, given that most content efforts fail due to a lack of proper planning, how do you come up with a content strategy that drives results?
I’m Ritoban. I’ve spent the last 5 years working as a tech journalist and content marketer for a variety of media publications and growth-stage startups. I’ve worked with the likes of Techradar, Kubera, Superhuman, and Glide.
This is not your generic B2B content marketing strategy guide for rookies. I'll be sharing a step-by-step process that you can put to use starting today to start seeing some actual results. Interested? Keep reading!
Why Do You Need a B2B Content Marketing Strategy?
Let's begin by defining the right way to think about content strategy.
Content marketing isn’t just about traffic. It’s about demonstrating thought leadership, targeting specific personas, and driving leads through conversion paths you have created. Here are some tactical reasons why you should consider investing in a B2B content marketing strategy:
Generate High-Quality Leads
A well-executed content marketing plan will help you generate more qualified leads that are genuinely interested in your product or service. Through targeted content pieces, you can reach out to potential customers who would be more likely to convert into paying customers.
Build Trust and Reputation
Content provides an opportunity for your brand to connect with prospects on a personal level by engaging them in meaningful conversations. By sharing content that adds value to their lives, your brand can foster relationships of trust with prospective customers and build an active community around your product or service.
Expand Your Market Presence
Content marketing allows you to target new audiences by expanding your reach through owned and earned channels like SEO, email marketing, social media, etc. It's one of the most cost-effective ways to diversify your business portfolio and expand into new market segments.
Become a Knowledge Resource
Content marketing can help you become the go-to resource for potential customers who are looking to learn more about your product or service. By creating content pieces that address common pain points, you can provide value to prospects and position yourself as a reliable source of information and expertise in the industry.
Increase Your Conversion Rate
Content marketing isn’t just about generating leads; it’s also about converting them into paying customers by leading them down a funnel. Through effective content pieces, you can nurture leads down your conversion path until they are ready to engage with your sales team.
A Step-by-Step Framework for Developing a B2B Content Marketing Strategy
Now that we have established the right approach for thinking about content, let’s move on to discuss how you can go about building an effective content marketing strategy. Here's a step-by-step framework that will help you define and implement a strategy for your B2B company:
Step 1: Conduct Thorough Product Research
Before you can start creating content, it's important to get a better understanding of the features, benefits, and unique selling points of your product. A quick way to kick off this process is to use the Onliness Statement by Marty Neumeier. It goes like this:
We are the only (category) that (differentiation characteristic) for (customer) in (market geography), who (need state) during (underlying trend)."
For instance, here's an example featuring a company selling cloud storage solutions:
"We are the only cloud storage provider that offers secure and reliable data backup services for businesses in North America, who need to protect their mission-critical business data during the pandemic."
Step 2: Identify Your Buyer Personas
The next step is to identify your buyer personas. These are the end users or decision-makers who will most likely be interested in your offering and would be more likely to purchase it.
Start by creating a list of questions that will help you gain insights into the decision-making individuals within your target organizations, such as their demographics, job roles, responsibilities, challenges they face in their day-to-day work lives, etc.
You can use customer surveys and one-on-one interviews to collect these data points. You can also refer to existing customer profiles that your sales or customer success teams might already have on hand.
Step 3: Perform a Content Audit
It’s now time to assess the content assets you already have in place. This will help you determine what content pieces are performing well and which ones need improvement.
Gather all your existing content pieces including website pages, blog posts, videos, podcasts, ebooks, webinars, etc.
Categorize pieces according to the type of content and topics they cover. You should also note down their funnel state and buyer personas.
Analyze the performance of each piece in terms of views, engagement rates, social shares, conversion rates etc.
Identify any gaps in your content assets such as missing topics or content types that you may want to add.
Set measurable goals and objectives for each piece and track progress against them over time using analytics tools.
Step 4: Identify All Keyword Opportunities
Content marketing is about 70% organic marketing. That means your content needs to be built and optimized for a search engine audience, with the goal of landing conversions through organic traffic.
For that, you need to perform keyword research and identify queries that your customers are entering into search engines to find solutions to their problems. You can start by using an Excel sheet along with a keyword research tool like Ahrefs.
Here's a quick step-by-step process for conducting keyword research using Ahrefs:
Figure out the main topics your customers are interested in. These can be broad topics like "cloud storage" or "content marketing".
Enter these seed keywords into Ahrefs and look at the related search terms that show up.
Analyze the search volume, competition level, and keyword difficulty of each term to identify potential opportunities.
Filter out any irrelevant keywords and add only those that are relevant to your product offering and buyer personas.
Group related keywords into content pillars and topic clusters.
Plot the data into an Excel sheet for easy reference.
Step 5: Develop a Content Calendar
Now that you have identified the right keywords, it's time to plan out your content ideas and decide when you will create that content. This is where a content calendar comes in.
A content calendar will help you organize your content tasks, set deadlines, assign tasks to team members, track progress, and measure results easily. It also ensures that all pieces of content that you create adhere to a consistent messaging strategy.
You can create a simple spreadsheet with columns for date, topic, keyword, writer, format, turnaround, and any other relevant criteria. Once done, you can start filling up the calendar on a monthly or quarterly basis to chalk out your content creation process for that period.
Step 6: Create Consistent Content Briefs
When you're working with multiple writers and designers, it's important to ensure that all your content pieces are created with a unified voice. The best way to approach this is to create detailed, consistent content briefs for each piece of content you plan on creating.
A content brief should include details such as the purpose of the project, the target audience, your desired outcomes, target deadlines, assigned individuals, research sources, content formats, and subtopics to be covered. This document will act as a reference point for all stakeholders involved in the creation process and help them stay on track throughout.
Once you have developed a few documents for different types of content, add these templates to your task management platform so that you can quickly access them whenever required.
Step 7: Begin Regular Content Production
It's time to start producing content. This is where your content calendar and briefs will come in handy. Content creation is a collaborative process and having these assets in place will make sure that all stakeholders are on the same page.
For maximum output, set up an efficient production workflow using a combination of tools such as Slack, Google Docs, Asana, or Trello.
Finally, don’t forget to review all your published pieces for quality assurance purposes before pushing them out into the world! Make sure that you audit them regularly to maintain high-quality standards across all your assets.
Step 8: Perform Direct Influencer Outreach
Now that you've got a selection of content assets ready to go, it's time to think about outreach. Ideally, outreach planning should begin while you're still developing your content calendar but only be executed once you've got a steady flow of content collateral in place.
That means you need to develop an outreach plan for each piece of content you create. Your plan should include details such as the type of influencers or websites you want to reach out to and how best to approach them. You may even include it as part of your content brief.
Make sure that your outreach emails are personalized and focus on building relationships with potential partners, not just promoting your product or services. If done right, this can be a powerful way to spread the word about your business and generate more leads in the process.
Step 9: Regularly Monitor Your Campaigns
The last step in creating a successful content strategy is to track and monitor your campaigns. That will help you gauge the performance of each piece of content and identify areas where optimization is possible.
Look at metrics such as website traffic, lead generation, engagement rate, or number of conversions for each piece of content using a marketing tool like Google Analytics. You can then use these insights to make incremental tweaks to your content calendar or briefs going forward.
You should also use social media analytics platforms such as SproutSocial or HootSuite to track the performance of your outreach efforts over time.
However, remember that there's no one golden metric that paints a comprehensive picture. Instead, use various tools and indicators to gauge the overall success of your content strategy.
A Few Successful B2B Content Marketing Strategy Case Studies
Here's the hard truth. Most content marketing campaigns fail. And they fail because of one common reason: the lack of a documented strategy playbook.
Yes, you should measure the success of your content strategy on an ongoing basis and make regular tweaks as needed. But, you should also document that strategy by taking notes on what's working and what's not.
If you want to learn how, here are a few examples of the most successful B2B brand content marketing strategy case studies from the past few years:
Here's how ClearVoice, a content marketing platform, grew its monthly organic blog traffic from 3K to 50K pageviews in 3 years.
ClearVoice’s marketing team performed a thorough content audit by identifying key reference points in their content marketing strategy, called Content Audit Points (CAP). At what point was their blog traffic the highest and lowest? Were there any anomalies where their content performed outside the range of expectations?
By looking at these data points, they were able to discover content strategies that worked for them in the past. For example, they found that original data and infographics worked best when it came to driving eyeballs to their content.
Using all this new data, they revamped their content strategy to focus on the type of content that worked and improve the key areas where their strategy had failed.
ClearVoice's approach is a great example of how you can use existing data as a reference to improve your content practices. Most companies have a similar treasure trove of data points just waiting to be analyzed, but they never visit them!
Brian Dean, the founder of Backlinko, put a spin on an age-old marketing strategy and used it to drive hundreds of links to his platform. These backlinks improved overall website authority, helping his business rank higher for search terms.
How? Over a period of just a few years, he published hundreds of guest posts on websites ranging from niche platforms to news publications.
He even shares his winning strategy on how he got all those guest posts to get accepted by their target publications. It starts by identifying worthwhile publications that accept guest contributions using Google search queries. And it goes all the way to following up on your guest posting emails to ensure that they're taken up for consideration.
Of course, there's more nuance to it than just that. He also recommends attaching a gated hook to each guest post to drive direct leads instead of waiting around to convert visitors through your own website.
Backlinko is a champion when it comes to using networking tactics to boost its blog traffic, making this a great example.
Mint is a fintech startup operating in the personal finance space, a niche ripe with competition. Aaron Patzer, its CEO, had a very simple approach to marketing: “Whatever we can do, basically, for cheap or for free.”
As a result, inbound marketing tactics like creating new content were the obvious choice. But, Patzer did it so well that just 2 years after its launch, he was able to sell Mint to Intuit for 170 million USD.
Unlike other B2B companies, Mint banked its content strategy not on metrics but solely on quality content. The focus was to create sensational and different content that went viral and generated interest in the product.
A key differentiator for their content strategy was also that fact that each article came from a named source within the company rather than a nameless corporate desk. Patzer had his own blog section, along with other team members like David Michaels and Jason Putorti.
The idea of focusing on quality over quantity is not new to content marketing. But, Mint's strategy is a great example of how to execute that principle in practice.
Outsourced vs In-house: What's the Best Approach for B2B Content?
As content marketing has become an integral part of B2B operations, you have to make a tough decision on whether to keep it in-house or outsource it.
There are pros and cons for both sides. In-house teams can give you much better control over the quality and direction of your content. However, they may not have the necessary expertise or bandwidth to create the right kind of content.
Outsourcing, on the other hand, can give you access to a bigger talent pool and help save time and money. But it comes with its own challenges - like lack of control over quality and getting stuck with agencies that don't understand your marketing goals.
Luckily, there's a third approach.
Hire an In-house Consultant to Take Charge of Your B2B Content
Hiring an in-house consultant to lead your B2B content strategy can be the perfect middle ground for producing great content at scale. You get to enjoy the perks of both in-house and outsourcing while avoiding their drawbacks.
An experienced consultant will bring with them years of industry know-how, giving you the depth and variety of experience that you'd expect from a big agency without all the overhead costs.
At the same time, an in-house genius will understand your company's modus operandi much better than an external team ever would - making sure all their recommendations are tailored for success within your unique context.
Plus, since they have no vested interest in pushing specific solutions or services, you can trust them to give you unbiased advice about what's right for your content goals.
If you're looking to build a successful B2B content strategy, hiring an in-house consultant is the way to go. They'll be able to take charge of your strategy and steer it in the right direction while staying agile enough to manage any curveballs along the way.
I'm Ritoban and I have been operating in the content space for the last 6 years. In that time, I have contributed to content marketing campaigns ranging from media publications like Quartz and Techradar, all the way to B2B startups like Glide and Sendbird.
My approach to content involves collaborating with your in-house team every step of the way, functioning essentially as an extension of your in-house team while offering all the benefits of hiring a professional consultant.
Want to learn more about how I can help direct your content strategy? Fill up this brief form to schedule a 1-on-1 strategy session!