A well-developed B2B content strategy is essential for any business, as it ensures the delivery of valuable information to recipients throughout the buyer's journey while supporting the company's overall strategic goals. However, while the possibilities for content production seem endless, production resources are often scarce.
So what is the best place to start, and how do you prioritize your resources most effectively? Instead of spreading precious production hours thinly across many areas, we recommend picking one or a few focus areas. Based on our experience developing marketing strategies for numerous B2B companies, the content needs of businesses can be summarized into the following six areas of focus:
In the following, we will dive into the specific tactics within each strategic focus area that will help you decide what content to focus on depending on how you want to influence your target audience(s).
There is no clear distinction between the six areas, so there will be overlap. However, the categorization lets you gain perspective on your organization's varied content goals and helps you focus your marketing efforts.
1. Brand: Spread awareness in the market
The Brand focus area deals with brand-building content. The content in this category aims to expose as many people as possible to your brand and become known for what you, as a company, want to be known for.
Obviously, B2B branding is a broad discipline that goes far beyond content production; virtually every marketing initiative and tactic impacts your brand. It's a critical area for new businesses that still need to build significant reach through their own channels.
You can start by creating engagement using external channels, such as LinkedIn, where you know your target audience is present. The goal is brand impressions through content, i.e., posts that spread organically with the help of reactions, comments and shares.
Attracting traffic from external platforms to your website is not the primary goal, although it is a desirable side effect. Instead, focus on 'priming' your target audience: getting them used to your brand and associating it with the knowledge you want to be known for.
It can also be a good idea to partner up and tap into other brands' already established audiences (mailing lists, followers, etc.), for example, by publishing guest posts on a partner's blog or newsletter, thus getting your content (and your brand) distributed to a new, but qualified, audience.
Content formats that resemble more traditional business communication also belong here. Who are you, and how can you help? If you have a good 'founder story' about your company's startup, for example, it can help create brand awareness and engagement. If you can connect these stories to your product and the problems you solve, that's even better.
Suggested tactics for the 'Brand' focus area:
- Social media posts that have the potential to increase organic reach
- Guest posts on established partners' blogs or newsletters
- Traditional PR and stories about your company: Why were you founded, and what is your expertise?
2. Audience: Build your audience
If you already have or are starting to see increasing traffic to your website, for example, due to a brand awareness campaign, now is the time for your content to capture visitors and create a recurring audience. It's all about publishing expert content that answers your audience's questions.
Search engines are still where most people look for answers to questions online. That's why search engine optimization (SEO) is crucial to driving traffic - and building an audience - with your content. This includes organizing your content into 'topic clusters.'
Building an audience is about gaining permissions that allow you to communicate with your visitors via email. A common way to get email permissions is to get visitors to sign up for your newsletter. In other words: your visitors found your content so valuable and trustworthy that they would like to receive similar information in the future.
Newsletters - and email marketing in general - are still an effective way to distribute your content. Your subscribers have trusted you with their email addresses because they expect to receive valuable content. Of course, to meet this expectation, you need to have your email marketing concept in place: What should it do and for whom? How often should the newsletter be published? It must be clear to the visitor what they are signing up to receive and how often they will hear from you. The newsletter's value must be clearly articulated at the point of conversion.
Suggested tactics for the 'Audience' focus area:
- Blog content (organized into topic clusters) to build an audience from search engine traffic
- 'How to' articles: Help your audience solve concrete problems
- Newsletters: Give your subscribers more of what they've asked for
3. Leads: Qualify your audience
Now that your website is starting to attract traffic and you're building an email marketing list: How do you structure your contacts in your CRM to distinguish between those with a superficial interest in your brand or content - and those who could be potential leads?
You can use 'premium' content to get an idea about what your audience is interested in and where they are in their buyer’s journey. Premium content is content of such high quality and utility that visitors or subscribers are willing to provide personal information in exchange for it, typically more than just an email address, as is the case when signing up for a newsletter.
When to 'gate' your content, i.e., make it available behind a form, is a broader discussion. You can read more about gated vs. non-gated content in another blog post. Gated content is a way to qualify the contacts you already have in your database by getting more information about them, such as their role description or the number of employees in their company. You can see if the person matches your customer profile and whether it makes sense to start sending automated lead nurturing emails.
Lead nurturing emails and flows consist of a series of automated and scheduled emails that aim to inspire or educate your leads. This way, you can offer more helpful content, tell more about your products or go in-depth on a specific topic to 'mature' the lead. You can set up lead scoring and monitor how much your leads interact with your content to see if they are on their way to becoming sales-ready or if your emails need to be optimized.
When visitors download your content, it doesn't necessarily mean they're ready to be contacted by sales or that they're even looking to purchase. Therefore, the primary purpose of premium content is not to create ready-to-buy leads but instead to build a base of more or less qualified contacts to process these with further marketing: either by 'maturing' contacts, for example, through your lead nurture flow, to become sales leads, or simply to ensure that your brand is top of mind once they are 'in the market' for a product like yours.
When your content is downloaded, you gain valuable data about your audience and their interests. So, unless you're dealing with inquiries from actual sales-ready leads, spend your energy on those who expressed interest rather than, for example, cold-calling your webinar attendees.
Suggested tactics for the 'Audience' focus area:
- White papers
- Automated email flows for lead nurturing
4. Revenue: Give your salespeople more tools to close sales
Don't assume that customers will start pouring in just because you have content for the marketing part of your sales funnel. Most often, it's not untill the sales team processes a lead that the real relationship work begins, and trust starts to be built. Here, informative and reliable content plays an important role.
As a potential customer is taken through the sales process, the salesperson needs various tools and materials to address the customer's objections and doubts. This includes email templates, product materials, articles that answer frequently asked questions (FAQs) and more.
In the B2B context, it is rarely only one person who is involved in a purchase. Hence, the sales department must have materials ready to send to their primary contact, who can forward the information to other stakeholders to address any resistance. Ideally, you'll have sales materials tailored to the different buyer roles involved in a purchase.
Any content that can help convince potential customers in the buying process that your product is right for them falls under the 'Audience' category, including:
- Sales FAQs
- Pricing and product materials
- Templates for key phrases and information
- Customer cases
5. Service: Retain your customers
It's important to remember that a customer’s journey doesn't end as soon as a deal is closed or a subscription is sold. It's just as essential to offer the right content to those who have now become customers and help them get started with your product. Therefore, the focus area 'Service' is all about ensuring happy customers by providing them with the information they need.
Customer-facing content can serve multiple purposes. One example is to ensure successful customer adoption of your product ('product activation' or 'adoption'). This can be supported by onboarding emails, help articles and training materials. Another example is general customer care, such as customer newsletters with upcoming product features and invitations to customer events.
It's cheaper and easier to retain existing customers than it is to acquire new ones. Happy and satisfied customers will talk about your product in their networks, and they might even point a new customer in your direction. On the other hand, if the customer doesn't get value from the product because they don't know how to make the best use of it, they will eventually cancel the contract. Therefore, remember to have materials and offers that are dedicated to existing customers, such as:
- Online training material
- Product news
- Support articles
6. Influence: Change your industry
For both established businesses and startups, there may be a need to change the perception of your brand or lead the way in your industry. This is often referred to as 'thought-leadership' or taking a thought-leadership position.
Sometimes you need to create demand actively, typically referred to as demand generation, before you can expect customer inquiries. This may require changing the industry's perception of new technologies and working methods. A comprehensive content marketing strategy can help achieve this but typically requires heavier marketing efforts than the tactics mentioned so far. The better you are at communicating and facilitating expert knowledge to the professionals you serve, the more likely you are to influence the direction of the industry.
One way to facilitate expertise is to host industry events where you bring leading names together to present ideas and share knowledge - with the expectation that your hosting will have a ripple effect on your brand. In addition, all the knowledge shared at such events can be published as part of your content activities: for example, video wrap-ups of event highlights, panel discussions as Q&A content, keynotes as white papers, etc.
Suggested formats for the focus area 'Influence':
- Expert interviews
- Reports and studies
- Keynote presentations
Focus your content efforts
A successful B2B content strategy considers the entire customer journey and includes content for all stages of the buyer's journey. The six focus areas presented here indicate what to focus on in your content production, depending on what's most pressing for your business right now.
Is it attracting new customers, optimizing your onboarding, retaining existing customers or creating ambassadors? It can be challenging to manage and have enough resources to create content for all focus areas at once, so it's a good idea to identify where your business has the most potential for improvement and start creating quality content there.
About the author
Aske has around ten years of experience developing and executing marketing strategies at agencies and companies. At Helion B2B, he leads a team of strategists and content creators and specializes in implementing SaaS growth strategies, including inbound and content tactics, as well as HubSpot deployment and operations.