All too often, business to business (B2B) marketers hear “content marketing” and dismiss the practice as belonging under the purview of consumer messaging. I won’t mince words: I believe this is a mistake. Content marketing has to do with advancing a compelling and overarching brand message that leads to a strategic action item. As a business, you can’t stay afloat without seeking to drive action from your clients.
Here are six ways to leverage content marketing for B2B sales:
1. Understand what content marketing actually is.
Even now, I see brands confusing blogging with content marketing — but content marketing is about sharing strategic brand information that drives engagement and provides reader value.
One of the biggest mistakes I see with company blogs is when the content ultimately boils down to telling the world how great the company is. But readers aren’t interested in ego; they’re interested in stories that interest, surprise and engage them.
Therefore, if your blog is simply rhetoric on why someone should buy from your brand, it misses the opportunity to humanize the content and inspire people to buy in. And without digital ad spending behind your blog, it will likely go unread.
2. Use Google Ads to complement (not replace) your content marketing.
Unfortunately, Google Ads gives you very strict restrictions on how many words you can use to tell a story — at least, most of us can’t do it in less than a sentence. In order to make Google Ads work, you have to leverage catchy headlines that encourage the user to click into a piece of content that emotionally engages them before they then go interact with the website.
Google Ads surface the content, and your headline entices — always with the end goal of driving people to read longer-form stories. But the strategy doesn’t end with paid placement. Google Ads are part of the puzzle, but as of now, they still fall under the marketing component of content marketing.
3. Keep your website and content engaging.
Far too often, brands forget that a website should have moving content and not just be the equivalent of a static billboard. Brands with this outlook put up their website and then happily forget about it, which leaves a limited reason for users to come back and understand more about the brand. In order to drive people to your site, you want to leverage an emotional trigger that demonstrates to the reader that you know what information is valuable to them and that you can be relied upon to deliver it.
By way of example, take a YouTube video that speaks to why a user (which is to say, a prospective client) wants to be part of a brand. Within the caption of the video, plus the transcript and the video itself, you can include a link which routes the viewer to a written form of content. When people come to your brand’s site already educated — or better, by way of their own interest — they’re more likely to buy or inquire about your services.
4. Understand that your buyer persona is essential to delivering content.
Identify your target, and then leverage the tools that exist to place your content in front of that individual. Technology like Facebook and LinkedIn ads provide demographic insight so you can nail down the interests, age range, education level and local communities of the target audience — this maps your client persona. Also, leverage data from those who’ve already engaged with your brand — that gives you a leg up in determining how you want to spend your digital ad dollars to drive a look-alike target to the content.
5. Understand your target’s intentions.
Brands think people care about them, but many people don’t; they care about their own lives and those of their friends and family. Don’t push your brand down your target audience’s throat. Push the solution to a problem that plagues them.
Consumers and clients alike care about what’s important for them, not what’s important for you. And don’t kid yourself: Both consumers and clients know you’re going for sales. Discharge the distrust that naturally attends sales by providing an experience that resonates with your user.
Chick-fil-A has emerged as the king of this approach: the way guests are treated when they walk in the door, the dialed-in price point for the high quality of food and so on. Yes, Chick-fil-A is obviously in the practice of making money, but the brand finds ways to engage an active audience that sees itself as akin to the brand in the interest of enduring brand intimacy.
6. Examine your marketing spending to maximize the campaign reach of the content or story you’re telling.
Far too often, brands budget within silos: PR budget, marketing budget, social media budget, etc. Ultimately, however, your brand should have play in each of those areas where you’re spending money.
Say you’re with a tech company sourcing restaurants to purchase your integrated restaurant management system (RMS). You could host a Facebook drawing for a free RMS package (social) in which you ask restaurateurs, managers and restaurant operators, “Which data point or dimension of your restaurant’s operation is the hardest for you to accurately track?” While you’re at it, promote engagement by requiring that they like your page and share the post to their own Facebook page. You could advertise the contest locally around your existing restaurants (advertising). You could highlight the contest in your print (marketing) and on your website (digital). You could then select one name (per foodservice segment) to win your software for use in their restaurant. Connect the communication silos with an integrated marketing approach if you want the best shot at winning the marketing war.
Ultimately, I believe it’s time for B2B marketers to realize that the era of the hard sell or gatekeeper-style advertising is over — at least if they hope to move the needle. Capture prospective client interest with a strong content marketing strategy, and watch your business grow.