Many of you probably know the feeling; performing a keyword analysis for a niche B2B industry is like fumbling in the dark.
But don't give up! There is actually a lot of valuable knowledge to gain, as the analysis is not meant to stand alone. Instead, it should be paired with buyer persona interviews and insights from your sales department.
B2B content is not an SEO exercise.
B2B content is the art of using your SEO insights to create editorial content for complex buyer’s journeys that convert sales-ready leads by answering all your potential customers' questions throughout the buyer’s journey.
Here, your SEO insights help you understand your niche, the demand in your market and which content conversions are up for grabs by diving into the search behavior related to your product or service.
As a B2C company, you’d rarely consider creating content based on keywords with a low search volume (e.g. 30 searches). However, as a B2B company, those 30 searches might equal sales because you answer such a specific question in the buyer’s journey that your potential customers become ready to buy.
The value of a B2B lead is completely different than a B2C lead which is why you can’t compare your B2B SEO efforts with those used in B2C.
In this article, we present three strategies that will help you generate sales-ready leads with your content despite a low search volume:
- Get to know your potential customers through interviews
- Gain knowledge about your potential customers from the sales department
- Combine items 1 and 2 with your SEO insights and attract hot leads
Get to know your potential customers through interviews
You can only generate sales-ready leads if you know your target audience and their challenges. So let's start there.
You need to understand why your target group thinks and acts as it does.
You do this by creating buyer personas based on interviews that give you insight into your target groups' needs, challenges and the factors that influence their purchase and evaluation process.
When your persona work is done right, it creates high value for your company's sales and marketing activities, allowing you to deliver relevant and SEO-optimized content for all stages of the buyer’s journey.
But what is a buyer persona?
A buyer persona gives insight into which challenges trigger your target group's search for information, which problems they are trying to solve, and their needs and purchase barriers throughout the buyer’s journey.
A buyer persona represents a group of your potential customers, but a buyer persona is not an actual individual. The persona comprises observations and interviews with different buyer profiles with unique needs.
In short, you must conduct interviews and talk to four different buyer profiles in your target group(s):
- Your current customers
- Potential customers who considered your solution but chose a competitor
- Potential customers who considered your solution but chose to maintain the status quo
- Potential customers who use a solution like yours but with whom you have never been in dialogue
Interviews with buyers in categories 2 and 4 reveal the most valuable insights. Buyers in category 2 can articulate how they concluded that a competitor's solution was more valuable than yours. These insights are beneficial and valuable as the buyers have spent a relatively long time evaluating your solution. Buyers in category 4, on the other hand, provide new perspectives on solutions similar to yours, which is extremely valuable when mapping purchase preferences.
Interviews with buyers in category 1 uncover which aspects of your marketing efforts are important for the final purchase decision. In contrast, interviews with buyers in category 3 can be used to uncover the initial phases of your target group's purchase and evaluation process.
We would, however, like to emphasize that you shouldn’t spend too much time on the first category of buyers because their stories only reveal why your solution was an exact match for their needs.
How to do buyer persona interviews
Your interviews should aim to uncover each stage of the buyer’s journey and understand why some solutions and suppliers were considered rather than others.
You need to listen to your potential customers and let them tell their own stories, as this is how you gain valuable insight into the purchase and evaluation process you want to influence.
Always start your interviews by turning back to the day your potential customers became aware of their challenge/problem (they became pain-aware) and ask them:
“Can you try to recall the day you first considered [insert your product or service] and tell me what happened?”
The opening question is an attempt to get to the moment when your potential customers first became aware that they needed a (new) solution. This way, you invite your interviewees to talk about the specific event that made them aware of their challenge.
Your follow-up questions should be simple. For example, using a phrase like: "Tell me more about..." can be very effective as it helps buyers remember important details about the purchase and evaluation process.
In short, it's about asking the buyers to elaborate on their statements by asking a long series of follow-up questions.
It can be as simple as: "Your problem with reaching all employees with your communication is interesting. Please tell me more about it. Why is that important to you?”.
Another opportunity for follow-up questions occurs when a buyer replaces a detailed explanation with adjectives and, for example, tells you they need a solution that is ‘easy to use’. Naturally, it makes sense for you to ask the buyer to elaborate on what they characterize as user-friendly.
Once you’ve gotten to know your target group, it’s the sales department's turn to prepare for all your potential customers' questions during a sales dialogue.
Gain knowledge about your potential customers from the sales department
Let's start with a good rule of thumb:
When sales are asked the same question more than once by your potential customers, you should consider creating content about that question.
If those you are in dialogue with need answers to their questions, we must assume that many others are looking for the same answers.
Keeping that in mind, we can jump to how you can best gain knowledge about your potential customers from your sales department.
When B2B buyers search for information online to make an informed purchase decision, they most often search these five main topics:
We recommend that you gather your marketing and sales department for a content workshop to discuss your potential buyers’ needs to produce relevant and valuable content for them.
You should brainstorm on all five main topics. First, separately and then together, where you can discuss each topic.
1. Problems (product/service and supplier)
Problems are meant to describe the buyers' challenges and to talk openly about them. You must take ownership of the problems and, as a result, help the buyers understand what they can do to solve their problem - whether they choose you as a supplier or not.
- What challenges do you often experience that your potential customers have?
- What questions do you encounter in your sales dialogues?
- What questions do potential customers ask about you as a supplier?
As a customer, I want to know what I get for my money - and what I can expect.
What is typically one of the first things you ask in a research phase? What does it cost?
Your potential customers want to feel secure when they decide who to use as a supplier.
- Are there additional costs associated with your solution/service?
- Do you have a fixed price, or do you scale the price according to use?
- Do you have a fixed hourly price, or do you use value-based pricing for consultancy services?
Cases are really about social proof. Other people's opinions matter a lot, and we use them to make the final purchase decision.
- What do your customers think of you as a supplier?
- Have your partnerships produced good results? And which ones?
- Do you have certifications that provide social proof?
- Do you have good ratings on G2 or other review/comparison sites?
This category is about assuming a role as a thought leader and positioning yourself as a knowledge leader within your core competencies. But it is also about being helpful when potential customers are doing their research.
Explain which solutions match which challenges and which don’t – take the chance to set the standard.
- What do your potential customers google to find out what is "best in class" in relation to your solution/service?
- How can you answer "best in class" questions in an objective way that acts as a guide and not as a sales pitch?
- What type of client do you match? And who do you not match?
Versus is about helping potential customers make the right purchase decision. They will typically do this kind of research themselves to compare products/solutions. However, you can help them by offering it properly and soberly, which will help you appear as a reliable source of knowledge and information.
- What do your potential customers ask when they want to know the difference between "X" and "Y"?
- How is your one solution/service different from your other?
- How do you differentiate yourself from your closest competitors?
All right. Now that we have gone through how you collect valuable insights from customers and your sales department, it’s about time we match this knowledge with your keyword analysis. For that, we use an imaginary example from Helion's marketing strategy.
Combine your audience insights with your keyword analysis
We went through the process here at Helion B2B, as you should always remember to practice what you preach.
First, we did a keyword analysis where we identified the entire keyword landscape using competitors, current keywords and emerging keywords.
Next, we combined our keyword results with insights from our buyer persona interviews and our content workshop to put our keywords into context.
Based on this research (i.e. keyword analysis, persona interviews and content workshop), we created an editorial content plan, which we now use to make informed decisions about which keywords and content topics to prioritize.
Not surprisingly, most of our keywords had a search volume of 10-60 monthly searches, proving that a keyword analysis shouldn’t stand alone in a B2B context. For example, 'B2B SEO' only has 20 monthly searches, supporting our earlier point.
It might seem like a waste of time to create content on keywords with 20 monthly searches. However, because we answer a specific question in the buyer’s journey that might be the tipping point as to whether our potential customer buys from us or not, it is worthwhile.
Remember that the value of a B2B lead is often much higher than in B2C. Maybe the 20 monthly searches on “B2B SEO” convert two monthly customers who have this specific problem. You're nodding along, aren't you?
Editorial content is important in B2B SEO
An average B2B buyer consumes 13 pieces of content in their buyer’s journey.
The B2B buyer’s journey is often long and complex, and a lot of research is conducted before a customer feels prepared to make a purchase decision.
In fact, the average purchase journey in B2B SaaS is 84 days from the first point of contact if we disregard contract value. Small contracts have a shorter cycle, and large contracts naturally have a longer sales cycle.
Therefore, our best advice is to start working with content for all stages of the buyer’s journey, from awareness to decision. No one consumes 13 pieces of SEO text, which is why you should focus on editorial content.
You must hit your potential customers right where it hurts and come up with solutions to their problems through relevant and valuable content.
B2B products have complex buyer’s journeys, and the products often require an explanation. One thing is for certain, if you manage to communicate your complex products or solutions in an easy and comprehensible way, you will dominate your potential customer’s buyer’s journey regardless of the search volume.
We can help you with B2B content and SEO