Once you’ve done your homework from Part 1 and have a solid understanding of a few key concepts, you’re ready to start mapping your strategy. The questions you must answer:
- What makes your customers buy?
- What is the flow of your sales cycle?
- What problems do your customers have that lead them to you?
- How are customers currently using your website?
If you can’t answer these questions, revisit part one of this series and then come back. If you have the answers, you’re ready to rock.
Creating a strategy for your business depends on what you found in your research – every company will be a little different. Your individual strategy will depend largely on where the sticky points are in your sales cycle, so be sure you have a clear understanding of your goals before you begin.
The Most Important Thing
If you did your homework from part one, you have a lot of information in your arsenal. The most important thing to understand as you plan a content strategy is that content marketing isn’t about you. The whole point of the exercises was to gain a better understanding of your prospects and customers. What are they looking for? Are they finding it in your products and services? If not, why not? These are the keys to content creation.
As you create your content remember: your prospects only care about fixing a problem. They don’t really care about your awards, philosophies, staff picnics, or adjectives like “best,” “most useful,” “biggest,” etc. You will need to quantify everything you say, and you must put the needs of your customers before everything else.
Choose the Right Formats
Content marketing isn’t just about text. Yes, it’s about your website, blog, email marketing, white papers, etc., but it’s also about knowing what medium shows your products and services in the best light. If your products aren’t pretty, photos and images might not be the best form of content. On the other hand, if you have to see your product in action to really get a feel for it, demonstration or explainer videos might be a great option. If your marketing director has a great personality and can communicate well, maybe consider a podcast series. Push yourself and your company to think about less traditional forms of content marketing – especially if your competitors aren’t already utilizing that space.
Budget is important to keep in mind when choosing your media options. Video has to be done professionally in order to make it work for you, so if you don’t have the budget to create videos, don’t. You don’t want to skimp on budget, either. Hiring a cut-rate writer from a developing nation to create your copy isn’t going to impress anyone. Know how much you have to work with, and match your content creation accordingly.
Do You Have a Blog?
There are several schools of thought on blogging, and to be honest, many B2B companies ignore blogs because they think they don’t work. But the reason most B2B blogs don’t work is because they are not properly executed. For a blog to work as part of your content strategy it must:
- Be hosted on your website – Don’t have a blog that is housed on Blogger or some other platform. It should exist as part of your main website.
- Not be about you – Do I sound like a broken record? I’m going to keep hammering this point because too many B2B companies just don’t get it. Your blog is not a place to talk about your company picnics, your awards, your CEO, etc. Your blog is a place to connect with your potential customers.
- Be updated regularly – An inactive blog signals disinterest. Your blog must be updated at a minimum of twice a month.
- Provide calls to action – In order to get your blog working as part of your sales cycle, include a call to action in each post. Direct readers to learn more by signing up for your newsletter or to pick up the phone and call.
One of the biggest objections B2B marketing managers have about blogging is lack of time. They claim they don’t have time to maintain their company blog because they don’t really know what to write about. In order to develop a blog that is updated regularly with useful information, let’s refer to your homework.
What are the biggest problems facing your customers? What insight did you get from your sales and customer service team about these problems? Use this information to plan out blog posts. You can address the problems in depth by creating a series of posts surrounding those topics.
Next, refer to the top blogs you found in your niche. What were their most popular posts? How can you capitalize on those topics? Approach them from your unique provide a new way of looking at those topics. Do. Not. Plagiarize. Do. Not. Copy. Not only is it morally wrong, but you’ll get slapped with a duplicate content penalty from Google.
Use all of this information to plan out 15-20 blog post topics. That first handful of posts will be a jumping off point for future posts. As people comment and interact with your blog, you’ll get more and more ideas for the future.
Share new blog posts with your sales staff. It will help them to have a library of posts they can refer prospects to as they have questions or objections related to those topics.
Customer Success Stories
Case studies are an incredibly efficient way to overcome objections. You can get double duty out of your case studies by placing them on the website and generating PDF and paper copies for your sales team.
Case studies are not testimonials. Case studies take an in-depth look at specific customers who came to you with a problem that you solved in grand fashion. Case studies can be technical, or they can be written like a feature article, or both. Choose customers from a variety of industries (if possible) and choose customers who all had different problems or obstacles. Be sure you are featuring customers who have problems that match the common problems you discovered in your research. This way, your sales team has a full library to choose from when prospects have questions or objections. Referring them to real case studies about real companies with real problems just like theirs can go a lot farther than a sales person can by just talking. A case study is like a reference that the prospect doesn’t need to follow up on. They make you more trustworthy and help move prospects through the funnel.
“White Paper” means different things to different people. But the best definition is that it’s a persuasive piece of writing produced by marketers to promote a product or service. There are literally hundreds of ways to develop white papers but some of the most popular include:
- A bait piece about a new product
- A manifesto on solving a specific problem (using your products/services)
- Promotion in the form of an informational widget
A white paper helps people solve problems, understand issues, and do their jobs better. They can be formatted as a book, manual, list, or really anything that best showcases your methods or products. You can spend $100 on a white paper (I don’t recommend this) or $5,000 on a white paper. Your white papers are what you make of them. They will be informed by your company culture, your products, and your audience.
White papers are excellent follow up pieces for your sales team. They can address specific points of pain for prospects and they are a great subject for emails. When a sales rep leaves a prospect’s office or hangs up the phone, they can send the white paper. Instead of an awkward email that goes nowhere, they can send, “Thank you for your time today, it was great meeting you! During our chat, you mentioned you had a problem with XYZ. Here is how our Widget handles that problem.” And then they have a tangible reason to check back in with the prospect at a later date. “What did you think of the white paper I sent you?” These pieces can help give your sales team something to pin their hats on when trying to move prospects through the funnel.
Internet marketers are in love with infographics. These are often cutesy pictures that graphically represent large pieces of data. SEO companies fell head over heels for them a few years ago as link bait, but to be blunt, most of them stink and only one in a few thousand ever go viral.
But they are great for B2B marketers who aren’t looking to go viral, but who wish to provide an easy way for prospects to consume information. Instead of producing a booklet, white paper, or series of blog posts that spout out nothing but dry data, consider creating a visually pleasing infographic that shows exactly how effective your products are. These graphics are easy for sales teams to share via email, and you can submit them to industry blogs for republication.
There are hundreds of ways to produce video for your company. There are also hundreds of ways to fail at it. If you’re going to invest in video, choose an awesome video marketing company that can help you produce professional looking videos that will get results. Videos should be short enough to keep attention, but long enough to be useful. You can produce demo videos for your sales team to send out if travel is impossible. A series of how to videos can help you establish authority in your niche. You can even turn customer success stories into videos to give them a bit more flair.
The Possibilities Are Endless
The possibilities for what you can do with content marketing are endless. But you should choose mediums that make sense for your business and will assist your sales team in the field. Develop a content creation calendar for the year and be prepared to stick to it. Remember, content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint.
Up Next: You’re Producing Content. Now What?
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