Properly Fueling Your Sales Funnel with Content Marketing
CMO with Belkins | Marketing Strategies That Grow Business | Growth Marketing & Lead Generation
Whenever my team discusses B2B content marketing, we split into two opposing camps: the “Just SEO” camp and the “Content Strategy” camp.
The first camp considers content strategies irrelevant and unnecessary, emphasizing the importance of search engine optimization and keywords. In their opinion, getting to the first page of search results is the only way to secure popularity and visibility.
The second camp believes in the power of strategically placing informative tips, ebooks, interviews, podcasts and other types of business content across every stage of the sales pipeline, considering SEO to be an important foundation, but not the only solution for promoting the company’s services.
Neither side is wrong. Modern websites are all about being brief and compliant with search engines. However, when it comes to the activities beyond the site, things get even more complicated.
B2B content marketing is becoming more and more challenging every year. Neglecting it and letting your business promotion rely solely on clients’ reviews and referrals won’t let you lead the competition.
B2B content is made by businesses, for businesses. It’s not consumer oriented. It’s not here to validate the user or to be relatable. It’s here to be relevant to the issues and concerns your prospects encounter at work. It’s here to highlight the pain points and the new terrains of the industry. So, naturally, if you think about bright banners, social media ad campaigns, and entertainment when planning B2B content, you’re making your first mistake.
Is B2B content marketing supposed to be dry and formal?
When I say “useful” and “professional” I don’t mean “bland” and “dull.” B2B content is still read and consumed by people, and people love creativity in any shape and form. Nobody is excited about reading a very detailed and very long report on lead generation.
What makes B2B content marketing so complicated is that as a content writer, you are supposed to work even harder to produce and deliver high-quality content that would be both useful and engaging. Unlike in B2C, you have certain limitations regarding tone and voice as well as customer engagement tactics, yet you’re still supposed to bring results.
So, B2B content marketing is not about being professionally toneless. It’s about the ability to use the data at your disposal to turn it into something exclusive, authentic and compelling.
How to use B2B content marketing efficiently?
Dive into your audience
Not literally, of course. The data behind your site visits, your current customers and the prospects at the end of your sales funnel should be your main tool in mapping the portrait of your average prospect and understanding what kind of content they crave.
To explore your audience properly, you would need to take a look at:
1. Google Analytics
Shows age, gender and geographic location of your target prospects, which service pages they view the most, how long they stay on the website, etc.
Shows the number of clicks on CTA buttons, most popular email, interaction with email content.
Demonstrates open rate, the engagement rate of your target audience and the number of active users.
Aside from data, there are other ways to get ready for a B2B content marketing campaign.
Create a persona. In B2C marketing it’s called a client avatar, an approximate outline of the person that is more likely to favor your product and make a buying decision. There can be more than one client avatar to match every segment of your audience. While this method is not really successful in B2B because the end decision is carried out by an entire team, not just one person, it can work out for start-ups that are looking for investors or specifically target small businesses.
Segment your audience. In B2B, it’s pretty much a must and we have already mentioned it. You should know the priority segments and be able to break your audience down by each stage of your sales pipeline.
How to optimize your B2B content stage by stage?
Stage 1. Awareness
Your prospects have encountered your brand for the first time. Right now, they don’t know what to expect and have no clue why they need you. However, unlike in B2C, they found you because they were exploring a particular subject that is relevant to your brand. It means they have questions that they want answered.
This is your opportunity to provide them with the answers they need. To secure this top-funnel stage, you must make sure that your off-site presence is strong.
Utilize guest posts and press releases about your company. Make sure your press releases are available and your LinkedIn is fresh with new, relevant data.
Adding such social media as Facebook to that list wouldn’t hurt as well. Even though Facebook is not considered to be a B2B platform, it is capable of expanding your presence and attracting prospects with creative, informative content.
Stage 2. Interest
At the Interest stage, your potential prospects don’t just google general information about the product. They visit review platforms to see what users say about specific products and read articles posted by sales community or industry community authors. They’re not mildly curious, they are already thinking about the benefits the product may provide for their business.
Make sure that you’re present on the review platforms, especially the ones that are specific to your industry. Your potential buyers should be able to see that people are talking about you. Your brand is here, it’s the real thing and it brings results.
Stage 3. Consideration
Consideration is the mid-funnel stage. While B2C buyers are only starting to read reviews, your B2B audience is already contemplating the probability of buying your product. Your decision makers show the information they found to their teams and stakeholders to analyze your unique value information and weigh all the pros and cons. At this stage, they’re actively researching your website and pay extra attention to your case studies, success stories, and social proof.
Therefore, your company blog page and case studies page should be filled with illustrative and presentable content that would highlight your expertise in tackling a wide range of issues or challenges and delivering results.
Stage 4. Intent
When your prospects move to the Intent stage, they are ready for a product demonstration. They get test leads, run a trial or talk to your CEO to see how well you click together and whether it makes sense to start a B2B relationship.
Your corporate content must be impeccable. Everything from CTAs to reports should be the pinnacle of style and have 100% grammar.
Stage 5. Evaluation
The B2B Evaluation stage is the stage where your prospects are ready to sign a contract or agree to schedule an appointment. They’re not your clients yet, but they are really, really close. But there is still a danger of no-shows or any other dealbreakers.
During this stage, your email communication can save the day. You should have a couple of appointment reminder templates on hand so that you can nudge your prospects softly towards ultimately meeting you and closing the deal. Don’t send articles or case studies to your prospect. Being extra chatty or overbearing will only turn them away and result in them reconsidering.
Stage 6. Remarketing
Unlike in B2C, your customers don’t just merely add items to their cart and then forget to complete the purchase. There are two types of prospects you have to recapture:
No-shows. They are the prospects you spoke to and scheduled an appointment with, but they never showed up for the meeting. When recovering no-shows, you must rely on strategically placed follow-up emails to recapture their attention or at least get any kind of response from them.
Lost prospects. These are prospects who jumped off at the mid-funnel stage or earlier without making any conclusion. They can be followed up with blog updates and case studies (if they subscribed to your blog), free ebooks, tutorials or reports. It’s also possible to reignite your prospects via social media by inviting them to participate in surveys or AMAs.
How to monitor B2B content success?
A while ago, content used to be spontaneous and lacked strategy. Nowadays, you have clear KPIs for detecting the weakest spots of your content and tracking your overall progress.
Depending on your content goals, your KPIs should be:
How many users visit your site per quarter? How many of them go to your website from your guest post? How many of them come to your website from your social media or press release?
Knowing this will let you estimate if your current content format is compelling enough and whether you should change your style or the choice of subjects.
For how long do your users stay on the page? What pages do they visit? What site elements do they interact with?
Each session lets you see how well your readers get hooked on your content and whether they are interested in exploring your brand closely.
If your blog posts end with CTAs, how many clicks do they receive? How often do users click the links in the post?
This metric shows how clearly users see your message and navigate through your content. It also allows you to measure how interested your readers are in exploring your content further.
How often do your visitors leave within a minute? Does this tendency increase with every new article?
A high bounce rate means that your content lacks whatever your readers are looking for. If your bounce rate keeps growing as you update your blog, this is a major funnel leak that should be investigated and remedied.
What about SEO?
SEO is vital at any stage of your sales pipeline, so priming up your meta descriptions, headlines and keywords must be in your to-do list.
Compared to B2C, SEO for B2B drives less organic traffic.
However, you must make the most out of the traffic you receive because it almost entirely consists of decision-makers. Your potential buyers value substance over keywords. By taking a look at your content, they evaluate the quality of communicating and working with you.
The search that ultimately brings users to you starts with a question. Use “How,” “When, “Where,” “Why,” “Tips” and similar words when composing meta descriptions and taglines to match the inquire your prospects use the most often.
Pay attention to the low-frequency keywords that are relevant to your business. They are used by the prospects who are looking for a vendor already, so adding a keyword like “cold email services B2B Illinois” to the content that outlines the specifics of your cold email service for B2B companies in Illinois would be a good call.
How to keep your B2B content fresh?
Supplying each stage of your sales pipeline with relevant content means constantly generating ideas. In B2B, things get complicated because cat videos and slang are not here to help you out. Also, all hot topics have been explored already, so sooner or later you have to dig really deep in order to deliver something really exclusive and worth reading.
At this point, your sources of inspiration should be the following:
1. Your team
If you’re an in-house content writer, you’re working side by side with professionals who can share their experiences with you. Ask them to tell you about any particular case they had, and turn it into a story. Even in B2B, users choose storytelling over a simple report on the subject.
2. Social proof
Your business doesn’t stand in one place. Achievements are made, events are attended, partnerships are established — there is no point for you to hide it. Fill your pages with testimonials, success stories and even news on receiving an award.
If your networking and customer relationships are on point, this is another opportunity for you to stand out. Compile a list of questions related to the industry and the interviewee, wrap the answers up nicely and provide your readers with another fine and original piece.
4. Guest authors
If your content activity is building steam, you’re quite likely to be contacted by the authors willing to post their piece on your blog. Quite often it’s a good way to add more visibility to your company and spread awareness about your growing content hub. To keep your blog’s style wholesome and consistent, develop the guest-posting guidelines and introduce your guest authors to them, making it clear that only compliant articles will make it to the blog.
Take a look at the experts in your network. What are they talking about? What posts do they share? What kind of news are they discussing? A topic that popular is worth exploring. Also, you will be able to add something to the conversation. You don’t have to agree with the audience to get traction. Posting a piece that counters popular opinions may be more rewarding since it will ignite a discussion. However, you should do so only if you really have some solid arguments to present. Disagreeing for the sake of disagreeing is bad taste.
New tools for content marketing, research and analytics are released constantly. Since most of the web technologies are quite expensive, people always look for better, more budget-friendly options. You can be their navigator, testing and comparing the tools, enlisting the company’s tools of choice and explaining their pros and cons. Simple keyword research will show you the most high-ranking search inquiries about the tools of interest, giving you an idea of how your future material will look like.
7. Beginner tips
This will never get old. We all have been there, we know the challenges we had to deal with and we will certainly meet people who have yet to take the same steps. Look back on your experience and think about what advice you would give to yourself from five years ago. Many people would appreciate this advice right now.
Approach every post like you approach your sales template. Your readers must clearly see what’s in it for them and why they should stick around. Avoid overly repeated paragraphs and statements, go straight to the point and outline the advantages of your post in its opening lines.
Accept that your content is not your main way to attract new prospects. It’s your way to retain and engage the prospects you already have. The farther they go down the sales pipeline, the more interested they will be in learning more about you. It won’t go unnoticed if there is an information gap, resulting in risk or prospects leaking away from the funnel.
Apply visuals and images. Infographics, video reports, explainer videos, and downloadable PDFs show that you’re willing to go all the way just to make your visitors feel comfortable. Whenever your prospects notice those extra efforts, they get a better concept of you as a vendor and are willing to try out your service.
Assess your KPIs quarterly. Sometimes things change in a blink of an eye, so it’s important to pinpoint every fluctuation in your metrics and adjust your content accordingly. For instance, if you see that users spend less time on posts dedicated to cold emails but pay a lot of attention to the materials dedicated to spam issues, or that your shortreads get more love than longreads, it makes sense to revisit the posts that are yet to be published and make some adjustments.
My ultimate advice is this:
Once you get things started, never stop halfway. You can decide if the chosen content style and strategy work for you only when you complete your goals for this quarter and receive a full set of data. Minor setbacks and doubts should not cause you to put the entire campaign on hold. Content marketing in B2B is a process that will take your time, a good chunk of your patience and night sleep, but if you’re persistent and know your way around information, it will help you unleash the full potential of your sales team.
If you have any more questions regarding content marketing, send them over to me on Linkedin
Previously published at https://belkins.io/blog/fueling-your-sales-funnel-with-content-marketing
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