SEO pioneer and expert Barry Feldman likes to say, “Your website is the mousetrap. Your content is the cheese.” The first and most important step in a successful content strategy is to build the best possible mousetrap (our search/conversion optimized sales pages) before you start creating cheese (content creation).
Here, with effusive thanks to Actual Agency friend and brilliant digital strategist Andy Crestodina, from whom we have learned as well as liberally borrowed, are the 6 Steps to Successful B2B Content Marketing. Note: for brevity’s sake, I am not going too deep here, but rather providing a top-level run-down.
1. Build the Core
We begin with the centerpiece of all digital marketing: the search=optimized, conversion-optimized sales page. You build the page to attract and convert qualified visitors: the people who need our help and our services. It’s optimized in two ways:
- Optimized to rank (SEO)
It targets a commercial-intent keyphrase for which it has a realistic chance of eventually ranking, based on the Domain Authority of our site. It indicates relevance for that phrase using all the usual SEO best practices.
- Optimized to convert (CRO)
It answers all of the visitors most likely questions. It supports those answers with evidence. It includes calls to action and leverages human psychology wherever possible, using the usual conversion optimization best practices.
And please note that conversion optimization has a particular framework: answer your visitors’ top questions, address their main objections, support our messages with evidence and ensure you include simple and specific calls to action.
2. Define The Mission
Next, we need to make sure we lay the foundation of our content marketing: the content mission statement. It outlines three critical elements:
- Audience: Who is the target we need to reach
- Topics: The content most relevant to who we are trying to reach
- Benefits: Why that content is relevant to the target audience
This is an obvious step…right? Actually, it is frequently overlooked.
According to the 2019 B2B Content Marketing Survey, only 39% of B2B content programs have a documented content strategy. Those that do are twice as likely to report success in their content marketing.
3. Publish Research
Next up? something simple: beat every content program in our industry by being more relevant, useful and original. I know – that doesn’t sound simple, but here is how you separate and differentiate yourself: conduct and publish original research.
Original research is a powerful component: it makes your website the primary source of new data. It’s the most link-worthy content you could possibly create, so it’s a critical foundational element to our content strategy.
4. Write for current prospects
Your best source of content is your client’s own audience: hen you talk to prospects and customers, you learn their pain points, issues and worries. You find out what questions they have. It’s the job of your content to answer their questions.
Two great things happen when you write content that answers the questions your client’s prospects are asking:
- Your clients can send the article to companies that are currently in their pipeline, keeping those conversations going
- Your clients’ sales and marketing teams are unified in their messaging, and they can send the link to future prospects who have that same question
Important to note here: the best content marketers work closely with sales and marketing teams. It’s usually hard to be in meetings when you’re on the agency side developing content, but push to be on sales calls and listen for questions and answers – then, publish accordingly.
5. Use visuals
The foundation of every successful content strategy is great text – well-written articles. That said, every successful content strategy also uses visual formats regularly (images and video).
I’m sure you’ve noticed that the most engaging blog posts now include multiple images. In fact, nearly 20% of the top B2B blogs regularly creates video (source).
And metrics clearly show: B2B decision-makers are engaging more with visual content: We need to create more visual versions of our most important content.
6. Collaborate with influencers
Collaborating with influencers has multiple benefits for your content strategy – it accelerates the network effect, it lends greatness by association, and everything is better with friends. Here are five quick benefits to collaborating with influencers:
- Enhances the quality of your content (assuming they’re experts)
- Drives increased traffic from social media (assuming they share)
- Adds credibility (assuming they are reputable and support your message)
- It’s good for your personal network (assuming you keep in touch)
- It’s more fun! (assuming you like people.)
And please note: this does not have to be expensive or time-consuming. In fact, “organic influencer marketing” (which is really just collaborative content marketing) is free and can save you time.
More brands are investing in the tools and resources necessary to better position their value proposition online. More brands are accelerating their progress in understanding how to create an environment that draws visitors in and then engages them – whether they have commercial intent or information intent – and effectively moves them from the top of the funnel down.