Consumer purchases are often impulsive and emotional - how often have we bought a product we didn't really need? Maybe we liked the branding, saw a persuasive advertisement or were seduced by a special offer or promotion.
B2B purchases, by-and-large, are different. These decisions are often made by groups of people rather than individuals, meaning they generally take longer to make. They're also firmly rooted in value - emotion and impulse are much less important. Inevitably, a great deal more thought, research and deliberation take place prior to a buying decision.
In recent years, outbound B2B marketing has become expensive to the point of near impossibility. Spam filters, ad blockers, caller ID's et al have combined to greatly diminish the success rates of the old techniques. In their stead, we've seen an increased reliance on inbound methods, exemplified by the explosion of Content Marketing. In fact, 93% of B2B marketers are now 'doing' Content Marketing - a huge number, which makes it one of the most widely used strategies out there.
This guide to B2B Content Marketing is designed to help get you started - we'll talk about why you should embrace it, the different forms it can take, and how you can start rolling it out across your own business.
What is Content Marketing?
For the uninitiated, Content Marketing simply refers to the creation and distribution of branded content pieces, which are designed to engage with your target market. This can take a number of forms - blog articles, videos, infographics, e-books, Slideshare presentations, podcasts and many others.
So what's the difference between B2B and B2C Content Marketing?
We've touched on how important emotion is in B2C transactions, so, as you might expect, this also tends to be at the heart of B2C content marketing. B2C content tends to be fairly light-hearted, focusing on entertainment, emotional resonance and brand perception. It's rarely product-led.
B2B content on the other hand, while entertaining in its own way, tends to be much more grounded in reason. It's less 'fluffy' than B2C content as, ultimately, it's aimed at professional people who are making cold decisions regarding whether or not to make business purchases. Light-hearted and frivolous B2C content does nobody any harm, but B2B content must be valuable, it must be useful and it must have a clear purpose.
Why is it so useful?
1. It helps spread the word
When 'done right', content can be amazingly effective, simply because it has an interest factor and shareability that other techniques just can't match. This means that, without spending excessive amounts of money on advertising, you can position your business in front of a potentially huge audience.
2. It engages decision makers and improves your image
Awesome content grabs the interest of the reader, and adds great value by providing useful, helpful information. The impact your content makes - allied with solid, consistent branding - immediately gives your business a head start in lead generation. By helping the decision maker before you've even met them, you've already established a valuable sense of trustworthiness and authority in their mind.
3. It's more engaging than traditional ads
Of course, there's still a place for traditional advertising. But, particularly online, we've developed a certain immunity to it. Business decision makers are generally much more likely to digest a piece of content that educates, informs and interests them than they are to engage with an obvious advertisement. Content pieces are also, by and large, much more substantial than adverts, giving you more scope to make the case for using your service or product.
4. It's good for SEO
If you do a really good job on your content, you'll find it starts to be shared and picked up by other outlets. Not only does this help to raise your brand awareness, it also builds valuable back-links that are a huge win for your site's SEO performance. This is a big deal; studies suggest that 9 out of 10 business buyers will 'find you' when they're ready to buy, and 81% of these people start that with a web search.[source]
5. It's long-lasting
Once you've created your content, it stays created! It doesn't slip away or become redundant. It's 'out there' ready for your target audience to find and can continue to help your business years into the future.
Do decision makers consume content?
Yes! This is one of the big plus-points of making content the cornerstone of your B2B Marketing strategy. For example, a KnowledgeStorm survey revealed that, of technology decision makers:
- 90% watch videos
- 80% read blogs
- 80% read Wikis
- 69% use social networks
- 53% listen to podcasts
Not only do decision makers consume content, they do so perhaps even more than the average person.
What makes great B2B Content?
A good place to start when planning your own content is to isolate your target customer, and identify what stuff they want, or need, to know about. What are they interested in? What are the issues they're facing? What will they search for on Google? And what information could you use to help educate them, while subtly steering them towards your product or service as the solution?
For example, check out the ebook we produced for our great friends at AmeriCommerce, '21 Tips to Thrive in Ecommerce.' AmeriCommerce's target market is business owners who are looking to sell more in their online store. This piece of content not only assists the brand's existing customers, it targets people who don't yet use AmeriCommerce. It provides genuine value and tips, free of charge, to help people grow their business...but it's also comprehensively branded.
So, let's say John is thinking about quitting his job and starting an online business. He finds the AmeriCommerce e-book through Google. He reads it. He digests it. He finds it useful. He's looking for an Ecommerce platform - it's a no-brainer. AmeriCommerce has an immediate headstart.
What sort of content can I produce - and how?
- Write a blog
Blogs are great because they're extremely widely consumed - a whopping 77% of internet users regularly read one or more. And, even better, they're easy to setup and maintain. Anyone can do it! You can set up a blog for free on Wordpress.com, or alternatively download Wordpress' simple back end CMS at Wordpress.org. You can plug this directly into your website, and even download themes to make it look amazing without any coding whatsoever. In terms of content - write about what you know. You'll be surprised how much expertise you might be able to impart. Each article you write is a potential search engine result that can help guide a potential customer onto your website.
- Write and publish an ebook
This is one of those things that sounds a lot harder than it really is. Once you've got some writing experience through your blog, it's simply a case of choosing a niche subject and writing 'more' about it than your typical blog article. Ebooks aren't really books - they're PDFs, which you can either design yourself, or have a professional designer do the job for you.
- Create an infographic
Infographics are visual representations of data and knowledge, and they're phenomenally popular. Search volumes for infographics have increased by over 800% since 2010!
- Make videos
Video is an awesome medium for B2B. Forbes research suggests that 75% of executives watch business related videos every week, of whom 65% subsequently visit the marketer's website, and 50% go on to make a purchase.