Content marketing isn’t exactly a new tactic, but what is new, at least to many marketers, is the concept of leveraging the Internet, SEO and social media to deliver content. Not only can it drive leads and sales, effective content marketing also serves the needs of your customers and prospects, helping to create strong relationships before, during and after the sale.
While more and more brands are (finally) grasping the importance of content marketing, there’s exponentially more to it than publishing boatloads of content. In 2006, there were about 35 million blogs, and today, there are about 237 million blogs, so the battle for attention is greater than ever before. As more and more companies embrace content marketing, what can you do to stand out from the crowd? To help you make the most of your B2B content marketing, here’s a list of the top five goals that should guide your content marketing efforts.
Increase Brand Awareness
Put simply, brand awareness is all about getting customers to recognize and remember your brand. Elements such as taglines and logos play a big part in visual branding, but what really makes your business stand out from the crowd is creating great content and distributing it effectively.
The “creating great content” part is something that many B2B companies struggle with, as most are naturally inclined to write content that’s little more than advertising disguised as a blog post. Great content is content that is designed to serve your customers and prospective customers with information that helps them in some way, especially as they traverse the path to purchase.
Great content (and brand awareness) isn’t just about blog posts—infographics, videos, images and graphs are all ways of spreading your brand’s messages, too. Similarly, reaching out to other respected industry blogs for guest posting opportunities is a terrific way to promote your content to other businesses and improve your brand recognition.
Effectively Generate Leads
Some 61 percent of B2B marketers say that the biggest challenge they face with regard to lead generation is generating high-quality leads. However, there are several content marketing methods that B2B marketers can embrace when it comes to lead generation.
For example, webinars are often a great way to generate leads as they’re considered high-value, and people are normally happy to provide their contact information in exchange for first-hand training experience from an industry expert. Webinars can help you gauge how interested they are in your products or services.
Similarly, hosting or sponsoring industry events typically produces a high-conversion opportunity. Not only can you promote your content through speaker presentations and live updates, you can also make use of your content for pre-event promotion and post-event follow-up. The greatest value of events is that your sales team can get up close and personal with prospects and develop relationships.
White papers and case studies are also valuable as part of the lead generation process, so try to integrate development of these types of content into your overall content marketing mix. It’s smart to gate this kind of content with landing pages that contain only a few number of fields for a prospect to complete (fewer fields = greater conversion rate)—and this helps you build a prospect database that you can continue to market to and nurture moving forward.
Attract and Retain Customers
Once a lead has been generated, marketers need to work to turn that lead into a potential sale or new client through engaging in conversation and offering valuable content—or by helping your sales team do so.
If you collectively (both the marketing team and the sales team) can add value to your customers by providing them with insights into your industry, your business and your products, they’ll be more likely to trust the brand and see you as a credible authority. By providing valuable content to your customers, you’ll reinforce to them that your company knows its stuff.
Engaging your audience like this makes your brand more transparent and more human, which is always a good thing. It’s much easier to relate to a company when it’s not obviously working to get you to buy something, so focus more on adding value and less on closing a sale. If you trust in this process, it’ll ultimately lead to more trust—and more sales.
But once you have a new client on board, the work isn’t over. The sales team might head off in new directions, but it’s vital that your marketing and customer service team re-engage.
Innovate with Thought Leadership
One of the main focuses of any B2B marketer should be to position your business as an industry leader or thought leader. You should want other businesses to look to you for information and guidance.
To be a thought leader, you need to understand how ideas evolve and how your business can grow with those ideas to meet the needs of your customers.
In 1962, a professor of rural sociology named Everett Rogers wrote a book called “Diffusion of Innovation.” He divided people into five different groups:
- Innovators – 2.5 percent
- Early Adopters – 13.5 percent
- Early Majority – 34 percent
- Late Majority – 34 percent
- Laggards – 16 percent
As you can see, most of us are either early majority adopters or late majority adopters, meaning we tend to follow suit after everyone else has tested the waters. The Innovators and Early Adopters, however, are the thought leaders. When it comes to positioning your company as a thought leader, you need to understand how to identify, engage and influence your customers and encourage them to become early adopters to your innovative content ideas.
Engage Your Audience
Remember, your customers and prospects are a dynamic group with fractured attention spans and limited time. Think about how you can create and curate content that serves, informs, assists and sometimes even entertains them. Ask them what they want and need—and deliver it. Remember that you can’t treat it as just another way to deliver your sales materials and a sales pitch.
It’s becoming a crowded landscape, and to cut through the noise, you truly have to embrace content marketing with customers’ needs in mind. And you have to be genuine in your efforts to serve them, and to develop relationships (and credibility and brand authority) with information.
Keep your eye on the prize. Understand that this is your opportunity to develop a real competitive advantage, because chances are good that your competitors haven’t yet figured this out. But they will. If you figure it out first, and focus on creating to serve instead of living to sell, you’ll position you and your company to win.