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An In-Depth, Step-By-Step Guide To Creating And Executing A B2B Content Strategy

By Aidan Coughlan

These days, we hear a lot about content marketing - that it’s the ‘shop window’ of the twenty-first century for businesses - and more and more, people are investing in it. But what exactly is content marketing? Why is it so great? And importantly, why should you and your business commit to it?

The following is an exhaustive guide to developing a B2B content marketing strategy, with six overarching segments entitled:

This guide will leave no stone unturned in your quest to generate leads and revenue through the medium of content.

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1. Knowing Your Audience: Developing Accurate Personas

umbrellas

Before we get into the high-tech algorithms and sophisticated SEO stuff, it’s important to remember the bottom line here: a successful content marketing strategy relies on an innate understanding of your audience base. This means that before you try to reach readers, you need to ask yourself what does your audience value and how can you help appreciate that?

Breaking this down into a simple example helps.

Consider the relationship journalists have with their audience. In the newsroom, journalists cover news items they know their audience will be interested in. Remember, it is the role of journalists (and marketers!) to understand the importance of their audience, and seek to grow this number.

But how can audiences be grown? How do journalists and marketers know what stories will build a rapport? The key here is establishing trust.

Taking the same strategy when implementing a content marketing plan would be a wise move.

Backed by thoroughly researched consumer intelligence, data and insights, you can begin to understand your audience and, more importantly, you can predict how they will behave. This means that you should be investing in the careful curation of content, blended with the science of SEO. A comprehensive content marketing strategy ensures that audiences can be reached out to, engaged with, and galvanized.

Personas

When you’ve had a think and attempted to understand your base audience, it’s time to introduce the science bit. Together with honed sales instincts, mapping out ‘personas’ is the foundational element of a content strategy.

Personas are basically fictitious sketches of characters that help marketers understand the behavioural traits of various audiences. Without getting into facts and figures, in general, these character descriptions should be fairly detailed - but also flexible.

We know that audiences by their very nature are responsive to new trends and societal occurrences. Creating personas means that marketers can embrace the fluidity and variety of our culture and society while simultaneously focusing on the actual desires and goals of our intended audience.

At a minimum, it’s worth outlining personas under the following headings:

  • Person: Who are they, what’s their role, and what’s their position in the organisation?
  • Goals: What are they trying to achieve?
  • Challenges: What’s standing in their way?
  • Questions: What do they need to know to overcome these challenges?
  • Our role in the solution: What can we do to help deliver those solutions?

You should be thinking about your audience in this specific way because, at the very least, personas provide you with a solid starting point content-wise. From there, it’s possible to build, adapt, expand and fine-tune.

What’s more, generating 2-4 personas will place a remarkably solid structure on your content thinking.

Sample Persona

For the purposes of this guide, we will use our artistic license to create a fictional company called Rover Returns (unfortunately Betty’s Hotpots were unavailable for interview!). Rover Returns are a cloud-based accountancy platform for SMEs that focus on automation, availability of third-party integrations and ease of use for non-accountants.

An example persona of the Managing Director of Rover Returns could be along the lines of the following:

Alya, Managing Director of Underworld

  • Person: Female, 27, Owner and Managing Director of a manufacturing facility in Greater Manchester;
  • Goals: Stabilise and grow the business following a recent takeover;
  • Challenges: Lack of accountancy knowledge; poor oversight on business financials due to having no full-time accountant; too much time spent on day-to-day admin to focus on business growth;
  • Questions: How can I save more time on administration to focus more on strategic initiatives?; How can I quickly see the state of my business without needing to call our part-time accountant?; How can I get more out of the four hours per week I have with our accountant?
  • Our solution: Cloud-based software offers clear management dashboard for anytime access; automation of manual administrative tasks such as invoice posting, expenses and payroll; integrations to automate more advanced accountancy tasks, such as cash flow projection.

The art of creating a persona

While your client personas may not end up at the Louvre, embracing the art of creating a vibrant and resonating persona means that marketers get to the root of their audience demographic.

Thoughtful and reflective observations rule the roost here - getting into the nitty gritty of Alya’s problems and needs are key.

Developing a strong persona establishes a close link between business, employee and client, meaning that relevant and authentic marketing strategies can be devised that truly touch and inspire potential clients to take action.

Understanding your buyer’s journey

When it comes to your content strategy, the aim is simple: you need to provide answers customers need at each stage, in order to be able to generate leads and reel in new business.

The more involved you’ve been in Alya’s journey, the more likely you are to have a future-proofed sense of her needs.

The modern buyer journey can be an immensely complex beast, involving hundreds of touch points, questions, calls, emails, site visits, and so on – particularly for B2B customers, where the ticket price tends to be significantly higher than in B2C, and so warrants more research.

Understanding your buyer’s journey is absolutely essential and thankfully, industry experts such as Hubspot have developed the following roadmap that allows content to drive alongside buyers on their journey:

  • Awareness stage: The customer has become aware of a problem or an opportunity;
  • Consideration stage: The customer has clearly defined the problem of opportunity, and is evaluating courses of action;
  • Decision stage: The consumer has decided upon a course of action;

As you can see, these stages align closely with the last three sections of our outline of Alya’s persona. It is these details that should form the backbone of your content roadmap.

Identify decision makers: the bottom-up approach

It is worth noting at this point that the ideal ‘decision maker’ is not always the person with the credit card and the fancy C-level title. The assumption that you go for 'the big boss' is a widespread one that needs to be challenged.

A bottom-up strategy is incredibly useful and gives a great insight into the makeup of a company. What do we mean by bottom-up? In essence, this translates as; the lower down in a company hierarchy you go, the more tactical your information will need to be.

Having the intuition to speak to decision-makers on their level, using a tone and content they will appreciate and respond to is of vital importance. Once this rapport has been established, feedback can be used strategically – is it best to layer your communication, for example?

Indeed, talking to those on the ground may generate a buzz that will then reach a decision-maker. It is worth thinking about how your content reflects this journey.

That certain je ne sais quoi: the road to delighting clients

The icing on the cake for any content strategy worth its salt is the idea of ‘delighting’ clients - or keeping existing customers engaged and switched-on to your business.

When we think about delighting customers, we need to consistently refer back to our personas. How would we keep Underworld’s Alya as a recurring customer? What pain points should be repeatedly touched upon? What can we do to hook clients like Alya and generate loyalty?

It’s fair to say that empowering Alya and motivating her to feel good about her purchase decision is integral to the journey. Identifying that added ‘je ne sais quoi’ that makes content just that little bit special is the bread and butter of a content marketer.

But before we get into the act of writing however; let’s get to grips with the best ways of presenting words. Once we are structurally sound, filling in the gaps with inventive and exciting writing will be made far easier.

With this in mind, here are a series of resources and tools that can help you identify your audience, compose a persona, understand your buyer’s journey and identify decision-makers.

Resources and Tools

2. Plotting your journey: creating a content roadmap

roadmap

Unlike a map directing a boring car journey from A to B; there is no such simple route for the creation of content. Deciding exactly what it is you want to write about is unquestionably intimidating. But when you break down your content strategy into defined stages, the process can become manageable.

Reaching readers generally operates on a two-pronged offensive.

First and foremost, content needs to work for your audience – if it doesn’t do that, it simply won’t be consumed and you won’t get any return on investment.

Secondly, content also needs to work for your business - if it doesn’t, you are essentially investing in traffic that will run out of gas.

The Content Marketing funnel

Content for the sake of content is about as pointless as building a house without a foundation. If your content is going to successfully guide prospective clients through each phase of the buyer’s journey, then you will need to be mindful of the content marketing funnel.

Designed with one goal in mind, the funnell will help your prospective clients to identify their problem, the solution to it, and make a firm decision that your business will help them get where they need to be.

Top of the funnel content: what’s the problem?

Top of the funnel (TOF) content relies on the production of high-quality, educational information with little or no focus on a solution. The aim is simply to attract users to your website by providing them with values and information. Generally, TOF content should be fairly low-friction – it should be easy to read, consume and access.

Remember that at this stage, your consumer hasn’t firmly defined their problem yet; so asking them for an email address for an effort-intensive ebook or webinar may be a reach too far.

For Rover Returns, some examples of TOF content could be articles such as:

  • Work Smart, Not Hard: Small Business Owners Share Their Secrets To Getting More Done Each Day
  • 7 Tools To Help Every Small Business Owner Save Time Each Day
  • The Key Numbers For Non-Accountants To Look At When Running A Business
  • 4 Questions To Ask Your Part-Time Accountant During EVERY Meeting

In the case of Rover Returns, the types of TOF content that would attract Alya offer insights on how to run small businesses in a smarter, more time-efficient manner. This content will guide Alya to the root of her particular problem - inefficient ways of working.

Middle of the funnel content: what’s the solution?

Next up, middle of the funnel content (MOF) - designed to guide your audience through the consideration stage, MOF helps clients choose a specific solution to their problem.

MOF content must specifically outline solutions to problems and provide more information - referencing products where appropriate. However, relentlessly pushing a product is definitely not the way to go here. Instead, consider using email signups, ‘party bags’, gated content or long-form content as a way to inspire your clients.

In the case of Alya at Underworld; she will be attracted to pieces that recommend products and meaningful strategies that maximise worker efficiency. Content ideas that will entice Alya could be as follows:

  • ebook: The Ultimate Guide To Building An Automated SME For 2018
  • ebook: What Is ‘Smart Accounting’ – And Why Is It Changing The Way We Do Business?
  • How To Build A Reporting Dashboard That Will Help You Make Better Business Decisions
  • Webinar: How To Save Hours Every Month By Automating Invoice Posting 

Bottom of the funnel content: who should solve the problem?

Bottom of the funnel (BOF) content that is explicitly designed to motivate a decision. BOF should convey and convince: what you are offering is a necessary solution to a strategically thought-out problem. This content must be clear, direct and provoke the reader to take action.

For Alya, she knows that her business requires a smart accountancy system with reporting and automation capabilities.

At this stage, it’s time to bring out the big guns and sell her in on the specifics of what Rover Returns can provide to help solve her problems.

Example content that will do this is as follows:

  • Case Study: How Rover Returns Helped Me Turn My Business Around – Without An Accountant
  • Pricing Table
  • Feature Comparison
  • Offer: We’re Giving 60% Off Rover Returns Until Midnight Tomorrow

The ‘passive loyalty’ of ongoing content exposure

Ongoing content exposure is important at every stage of the content mapping journey. Exposure is a ‘social proof’ that helps your ideal reader move to the post-purchase stage. Key to this is ‘passive loyalty’, meaning that the groundwork is laid to sway customers in favour of making future purchases.

If the marketer thinks like a publisher, this is the stage that keeps the reader coming back to buy the next edition. Guardian readers don’t just consume one piece and discard the publication - they trust it, they advocate for it and they keep coming back for more.

Generating passive loyalty means that marketers must shift to this deeper, more altruistic brand connection. Our words must fuse experience, facts and emotions in a way that is memorable and stands out. In terms of figures, BizTraffic have worked out that 87% of consumers are loyal to a company they interact with daily. With margins of success so high, repeated interactions are absolutely the goal here.

The foremost aim of ongoing content exposure is to ensure that audiences buy again, or continue with new, but similar actions (for example, they upgrade to the next package).

If you can build the same level of trust that a top publication has with its readership, you can be certain that your clients are going to feel good about their purchase decision and more importantly, have your business at the top of their minds for future purchasing decisions.

 Resources and Tools

3. Making It Happen: A Content Process That Works

waterfall

Okay. SO.

At this point, you have your persona identities and you’re well versed in the types of content that suits your audience. Now it’s time to work out how you’re going to turn this knowledge into words on the page.

Like so many things in life, the more you put into content, the more you will get back in terms of results. At this stage in the process, the resources you produce will have a profound impact on how your B2B marketing strategy moves forwards.

Your target issue at this beginning stage is the lifecycle of a content piece. While content life has been the subject of debate, most marketers generally agree that a workflow that revolves around gathering, creating, publishing and recycling is the most successful way of getting the most out of your content.

What we know for certain is that your workflow must take into account:

  • Where your work lives – for example, Google Sheets, Gather Content
  • How your work is commissioned
  • An analysis of which stakeholders (if any) need to be involved
  • Your sign-off statuses (most commonly: Written, For Edit 1, For Edit 2, Signed Off)
  • How your work is moved from its production location to its professional platform placing

With these golden rules in mind, you should avoid using Word documents when brainstorming and writing content. At the very least, content writers should use live updating sheets so iterations will not be confused.

Oftentimes, more than one writer has their pen in the inkpot of content creation. Word does not allow for real-time updates or cross-body sharing. Google Documents is not only free but presents the perfect solution, allowing multiple eyes to view, edit and compose all at once.

Worthy of significant investment is time management and organisation. Most experts agree that creating a writing checklist is a great help. A checklist means clear-cut purposes are assigned to each edit as a way to reduce errors and produce accurate writing.

An idea of a checklist could be:

  • First draft should be substantive for content
  • Second draft for inserting links and resources
  • Third draft a read-over of the document and correction of clunky sentences
  • Fourth draft - if possible, send to another person for an objective, outside look
  • Last draft purely just for spelling, grammar, clarity and punctuation

Spending gross amounts of time on the surface elements of content early in the process is pointless - errors can and will slip in via amends and additions. That said, keeping an eye on quality throughout, particularly if stakeholders are involved and have access to writing drafts, is a valuable use of time and will benefit the piece in the long-run.

Evergreen vs time-sensitive content

In a traffic driven environment, you have to constantly have your finger on the pulse and be ready to hit ‘go’ at any moment. Fortunately, this is not the case in content marketing. However, there are still important decisions to be made and marketers need to decide which type of content will work best for their particular business objectives.

Two major forms of content are relevant here: evergreen and time-sensitive.

Evergreen content is useful for marketers who want to build an audience over time. So while the occasional piece of time-sensitive content may give your editorial a more timely feel (such as takeouts from a recent conference, or product updates to engage existing users) it is generally best to think of content that will be as relevant in a year as it is today.

Of course there will always be some erosion due to the passing of time, but evergreen content is about selecting words and subject-matters that can be updated minimally and still stay fresh.

Balancing your content between contemporary tactical insights and the long-lasting underlying philosophies behind what you’re saying generally works best.

Certainly, the ways we communicate with audiences will change between now and next year, but the core message and underlying value exchange will not. If, by 2020, marketers want to update their content (and we will!), only certain elements will have to be edited or updated - the complete piece will largely remain intact.

With all this in mind, topical content is rendered useless, and frankly diminishes the audience’s perception that you’re there to help them.

Fads and passing trends such as National Burger Day? Forget it.

Sustainability

Perhaps the most significant problem for B2B content marketers is managing content that isn’t sustainable in the long-term. With this in mind, producing content in a batch and releasing it at once is a smart and proactive approach to take.

This means that marketers will be able to get SEO benefits from Day 1, while also cutting down on the resources required to deliver.

A smart tip to remember is using a reminder system to give you a nudge when you need to update or refresh live pieces. A post entitled ‘the best smart accountancy tips for 2019’ can (and should) be given a new headline, a new image and some new insights as we look forward into 2020. All you need to be able to do is identify the moment when it arises. 

Cut-through content

Some of the content that you produce and publish may feel a little bit ‘basic’ to your expert eyes. But bear in mind that covering the basics is perhaps the most essential element in any B2B marketing strategy.

Deliver your message in a way that’s different to your competitors – or indeed to publishers who are covering similar topics.

This is where the broader values, selling points and messaging of your organisation will come into play. Consider key questions such as:

· What is your key selling point (KSP)?

· How does the KSP communicate itself via content?

In the case of Rover Returns, if you are an accountancy platform whose KSP is smart tech that saves time through automation, then you are in a strong position to talk about time-saving techniques, smart work practices, automation, integration management, and so on.

If your company really is good at what it does, you’ll be surrounded by smart minds who will be in a position to share their insights – reaching out to these experts will drive your company’s success, so they’ll certainly be able to do the same for your content.

Resources and Tools

4. Creation: Getting It All Down On The Page

creation

With planning and strategy in the bag, it’s time to put all the groundwork we’ve done to good use and generate some content.

With leads, revenue and growth as your primary objective, the main question here is how best can content marketers entice their audience and get them to engage and act?

The brief: what problem are we solving?

Every piece of content – and we really do mean every piece – should answer a question, and solve a problem in the mind of the reader. So before you sit down to write, or before you assign someone to a document, you need to ask yourself the question: what exactly is the problem we hope to solve?

Once the piece is done, it’s equally essential to ask: did we solve the problem?

The questions we ask can range from the big and overarching to niche queries. For example, a big problem could be: how to set up a smart accountancy system from the ground up? A smaller, more genre-specific question could be how to switch the default VAT rate for new customers in your software.

When negotiating with such a broad range of problems and questions, it is worthwhile to remember that the length and investment of a piece is not always proportional to the ‘size’ of the question. You should utilise your intuition and artistic license here - these are the key creative elements involved.

Sitting down with a blank page

There is nothing like the freedom - or terror - of the blank page. Whether it’s a podcast script, a video treatment or an article, there are few things more intimidating – to seasoned pros and newcomers alike – than words waiting to be written.

The solution is simple: generative writing. In layman’s terms, this means using time-management systems to get the thoughts out of your head and onto the page. It might be a paragraph plan, some headers, a headline, your pithy intro line or even just a random selection of words or keywords that you’re building the piece around - but this strategy will get your writing juices flowing.

While they may not be the best words ever fashioned, getting sentences onto the page will at least give you something to poke and prod at – and before you know it, you’ll be crafting paragraphs.

Incorporating the Pomodoro Technique into your writing practice has proven to be a successful mechanism for many content marketers. Slicing your writing time into manageable chunks with space to take a reflective time out minimises interruptions and maximises productivity. Don’t knock it 'til you’ve tried it…

Introducing your content

Because content marketing is at heart the fusion of the creative, algorithmic, psychological and scientific; it can be easy to get lost in the technicalities of your marketing strategy.

One thing you don’t hear so much about, though, is the importance of the introduction. All the clicks in the world, paid or organic, will amount to nought if the reader closes the tab after reading a single sentence.

The trick with an introduction is not to be too smart - keep things simple.

Think about how many TV shows make their name by beginning with with cold opens. Novels open with flash forwards, and films frequently drop us into the middle of the action, leaving us to work things out for ourselves. Seldom does a piece of work just start ‘at the beginning’.

However, for a successful B2B content marketing strategy, imitating that gimmicky form of introduction may ignore the differences in audience intent. After all, someone who has paid into a cinema or downloaded a novel on to their Kindle has already bought into the content they’re consuming. Content marketers, on the other hand, have to work a little bit harder and a little bit faster in order to impress their audience.

With all that in mind, here are some do’s and don’t to live by when writing up your introduction:

  • DON’T luxuriate in the faux intellectualism of an obtuse analogy
  • DO emphasize the problem you are addressing
  • DON’T begin with ‘picture the scene’ rambles
  • DO embrace short and snappy terminologies
  • DON’T use dictionary definitions to start yourself off
  • DO set the tone for what’s ahead

Paint a picture through images

We know that nothing paints a picture like an image. The popularity of sites like Pinterest and Instagram show that the consumer market responds to photographs, infographics and even gifs.

Images provide a visual canvass that the human brain can immediately respond to. Capitalising on relevant, professional and high-quality images is a great way to produce more hits and discussions. Instagram in particular have latched onto the successful integration of images with content by maximising their ‘Link in Bio’ feature.

Headlines

The headline is perhaps the most critical element of your entire piece. It is a crucial part of the ‘shop window’ through which your audience are going to choose whether or not to give their time to your content.

In fact, headlines are such a controversial and important topic that really, they deserve an article all on its own. (And if you check back soon, you’ll find exactly that.)

A word of warning though, in this day and age, no-one falls for clickbait headlines anymore. In fact, gimmicky catchphrases largely serve only to show how unimaginative and unprofessional content writers can be. Avoid this trapping at all costs!

Getting your content live

Once written, making the decision to put your content live can strike fear into your heart. There is always a feeling of vulnerability in knowing that your work is out there in the open, being read by strangers and perhaps even competitors.

If you’re not used to publishing, this can be quite overwhelming.

Such fears can lead to delayed posting, second opinions, repeated tweaking, third opinions, ‘final’ re-reads and more – with every stage only increasing (rather than settling) your sense of trepidation.

On the other side of the coin, you don’t want to publish anything that’s sub-par and would reflect badly upon your brand – so striking a balance is absolutely key.

Observing these three rules should ensure you produce and publish only your best work without spending needless hours agonising over when to go live:

  • A quality control checklist;
  • A defined workflow;
  • Set a deadline

Quality control checklist

The creative process of writing and the more logical process of tying up loose ends occupy very different parts of the human brain. So once you’ve finished writing up a piece, it can be incredibly difficult - and mentally taxing - to tie up all the loose ends and ensure the nitty-gritty elements of content are intact.

From SEO meta info to linking, and from headline capitalisation to the clarity of the problem/solution, these elements can have a profound impact on performance – so naturally, it’s essential to include them all in a Quality Control Checklist.

A checklist will ensure that you can turn around a process that can be iterated upon. An example of a Quality Control Checklist could be as follows:

  • Check for obvious mistakes: This will require a thorough re-reading of your work to ensure that spelling or grammar errors don’t slip through the net;
  • Has the problem been solved? Asking yourself this question will mean you frame your pieces around the central question being asked, and whether it has been clearly answered or not;
  • In the same vein, ensure your pieces of work relate to the well-researched personas ensures the production of timely and relevant work;
  • Best practice: this means ensuring that the skeleton of your pieces - the headings, images, use of fonts - adhere to the best practice standard or in-house style system of the company being marketed;
  • Quotes: If you have used, for example, a blog piece to amplify the voices of business owners, competitors or customers; it is imperative that they are quoted verbatim. It is worth double-checking all quotes to ensure no misrepresentations occur;
  • Final review: one last read through before clicking publish.

Once all items on your list are checked off, remember the old saying of ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ - your words are ready to go live.

Defined workflow

Depending on your organisation (or depending on the subject matter of the specific piece of content), you may be able to hit ‘publish’ on your post as soon as you have finished writing.

Or you may need to send it through 12 layers of upper management before it goes live.

You’ll also want to get a second pair of eyes to read over what you’ve written – once for content, and again for grammar and style once amends have been made.

Either way, the above needs to be defined. Following a set process will not only give you peace of mind that your content is up to scratch – it will also allow you to shepherd your words over the line, through any senior stakeholders, with minimal fuss and confusion.

A suggested workflow for this practice could be:

  • Get organised: use a shared project management tool to ensure all readers and contributors are on the same page;
  • Submit article to relevant peers in a shareable live document;
  • Communicate through comments to ensure all problems are teased out and corrected;
  • Re-read the article again in isolation to ensure the flow remains the same and that problems are asked and answered.

Set a deadline

This stage is quite self-explanatory – as content marketers, adhering to deadlines is part and parcel of the job. When you say you’re going to post, post.

Certainly a perk of the online age is that we are no longer working in print. If you come up with a neater analogy or a more pertinent example in 12 hours’ time, you don’t have to snap your 1950s-style suspenders and yell ‘STOP THE PRESSES!’. Edits and amendments can be quickly made, with minimal fuss.

Get the piece live. The rest can follow.

Resources and Tools

5. Distribution: Getting It Out There And Making An Impact

distribution

Make your content work hard

Sustainability is key to producing cost-efficient and on brand content. The words marketers create should ring true and have an impact on the personas they are targeting - but first they need to be put in the right places to reach them.

Thinking back on our Alya persona, a successful content piece should be built upon and repurposed for multiple platforms in order to grab her attention. Tailoring industry pieces to listicle formats for example - while challenging - can increase company reach, extend brand visibility and generate greater traffic and financial revenue.

Post-purchase content

At this stage, it is important to remember the objective bottom of the funnel content. By including updates, exclusives, sneak peeks and discounts; Alya can be kept abreast of exciting and interesting new developments being made.

A unique and interesting way to build up bottom of the funnel content is to inject some heart into your business. Profiling employees and company ethos can play a large part in this strategy and therefore, making use of platforms such as Instagram and Facebook to promote the individual elements of your business and the people behind it (and their pets!) can generate memorable allegiances.

Distribution

It sounds so obvious that it hardly bears saying but… what good is the best content in the world if nobody gets to see it? Distribution is often the forgotten phase of the content process, despite being in many ways, the most crucial.

Take the golden days of the print media when the New York Times or the Washington Post was being gleefully flung onto the porches of loyal readers across the US. Where would they have gotten their morning updates had it not been for the youngsters peddling their hearts out and launching broadsheets at their front doors?

In the online era, you might not have to worry about hiring a thousand delivery staff to get your content across the country but, the vehicles you choose to deliver your message where it needs to be are equally important.

How will users find you?

Are people like Underworld’s Alya aware they have a problem that you are able to solve? And if so, is her problem sufficiently important that she will actively search for a solution?

How can we distribute content so that both of these issues are combatted?

Questions to bear in mind here are:

  • If Alya is searching for a solution, how is she doing it?
  • Will Alya find you by searching? Or do you need to place your words and values in front of her?

It’s worth noting that these are broadly similar to the questions you’ll have asked at the outset of this activity – only now, you’re looking at it all through a different lens. This time, the major question is, how you can use the qualities that make your content relevant to ensure Alya finds it?

Paying in or growing organically?

Most distribution methods can be summed up under the following criteria: paid or organic. You should also consider if your content is being pushed to users - or does it work to pull them in?

By answering the questions above, you’ll have an idea of whether you need to use push, pull or a combination of both. To refine this further, you need to look at your resources. In particular:

  • How long can you afford to wait to gain traction?
  • How much money can you invest?
  • How much time/effort can you expend in distribution? 

Audience management

Whatever forms of distribution you use, it is absolutely essential to capture and sort the traffic that comes on to your site. The best and most effective way to do this is by using audience management.

In its simplest form, this means using cookies to ‘group’ users based on the content they’ve consumed – usually based on the user personas you outlined earlier in the process – and save them into custom audiences.

Audiences such as Alya can then be retargeted with follow-on content from further down the funnel (such as special offers or e-books) making them far more likely to take that elusive next step. 

In short, the overarching goal of audience management is to give a personable nudge that will promote the transition from a lead to a committed and loyal client.

Without capturing audiences, you are essentially sending people onto your site and into a bottomless bucket – they’ve been and gone and you’ve no way of following up on their initial interest.

With effective audience management, you can seamlessly move potential customers from one stage of the funnel to the next and separate the serious buyers from the window shoppers.  

Pay to stand out, and reap wins

How can you make your superior content stand out online? In the midst of local and international competitors all vying for the opportunity to go viral, paid social promotions are certainly beneficial in the content realm.

Reaching readers means that you should consider exactly who you want to target and ensure that the ratio between time spent writing and promotional payments makes sense.

And remember, if you don’t succeed at first, try again. Retargeting can sometimes open a door that wasn’t even there first time around.

Is organic social worth it?

Organic social - that is, using free tools to build and create community engagement - means that you will have to focus on growing clients through repeated interactions.

This approach takes a lot of effort and while it can sometimes be useful for the promotion of a business’s ‘social landing page’ and for SEO, there is little other real value to organic social.

As the internet increasingly becomes the primary landscape for marketing, global platforms are catching up too. The fact is, paid placements vastly outrank organic social contributions – and while organic may be heartfelt and genuine, promotion is key.

With this in mind, the financial and business brains at Forbes advise that you concentrate on content, rather than vanity metrics such as follower count. Focussing on engagement metrics will help you understand how much of an impact your website and social media presences have on your ability to attract, retain and convert potential customers.

“By measuring how potential customers engage with your website and your social media presence, you’ll be able to develop a far better understanding of whether your marketing efforts are working”, says Sujan Patel. Wise words!

Resources and Tools

6. Converting: Turning Content Into Leads

conversions

The art of turning content into leads is one that is constantly changing and as a result, it is imperative that your content marketing strategy is fully up-to-date with the newest trends and innovations.

Platforms like Hubspot (that’s what we like to use) are world-leaders in helping companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers. Strong on blog placement, Hubspot is, in our opinion, the go-to platform for content creators.

Similar to Hubspot, Marketo is also a worthwhile software to consider using in your content marketing strategy. With a focus on account-based marketing, including email, mobile, social, digital ads, web management, and analytics; Marketo provide incisive opportunities to maximise your content for the purpose of gaining leads.

Be present, curate your placement

Remember that you are always pitching a service in the hope of generating revenue. With this in mind, it’s only natural that you will want brand placements to feature in your content, as a reminder to readers that they are on a company website.

Whether it be a chat prompt from Intercom, clearly marked CTAs or offering a ‘party bag’ when an audience clicks to exit, guiding readers towards taking a next step is key to converting content into leads.

Conversion Offers

The key to converting content into leads isn’t a reliance on slick, well designed presentation (though of course that does help!). But really, you don’t need a design team to convert content into revenue, it is the words and that all-important hook that are always key.

Do you have an Excel spreadsheet that’s really informative, or an internal process that works really well for you? Don’t worry about fancy design - offering truly unique content placed in the right place speaks volumes. Readers are attracted to informed, high quality inventiveness - cater to them.

The value-effort trade-off

The extent to which a client will commit is relative to what they get out of content. So, if for example, Rover Returns assemble an incredible guide to accountancy automation, audiences should be so convinced of their need to read the guide, they will jump through hoops to access it.

You need to be aware that hooking in clients is the key goal of every piece of content you put out. Two important points to remember are:

  • Make it clear to readers the unique benefits of your content;
  • Appropriately target content based on the stage in the funnel. It is pointless to direct a client who has never heard of your brand to download an ebook - they just won’t be sold in on the value return.

Measurements - KPIs and learning patience

Key Performance Indicators run parallel to every stage of the B2B content marketing journey. They help outline what is working and what isn’t in your content marketing strategy. Evolving alongside strategy, KPIs are a reflective measuring tool that analyse performances in terms of readership, CTA, CTR and downloads.

With this in mind, it is important to remember that not every piece of your content will set the world on fire, so keeping a close eye on KPIs across the board means that you will have the opportunity to zone in on the positives and negatives of your strategy.

Those parts that aren’t particularly well-received? They can be fixed in order to perform better while the elements that are already delivering can be kept just as they are.

Justifying the need for patience

Of course, reflecting on KPIs is not an overnight solution. It’s a fool’s game to expect immediate results - content marketing is about much more than lead generating. Before sales start to land, traffic is grown and built. Prioritising the objective of producing meaningful and memorable content will, down the road, lead to sales. You just need to bide your time.

Attribution

We recommend that you wait in and around 90 days in order to hone in on what is working (and what isn’t) as regards new leads.

Many content marketing platforms use analytical facilities that allow KPIs to be quickly and clearly seen. For example, Google Analytics provide an array of services that can allow a thorough examination of a B2B strategy after a designated period of time.

Resources and Tools

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Even at 8,000 words, this guide probably doesn't answer every question you have about content marketing. And so it shouldn't – despite the simplicity of its principles, this is a vast, complex topic that even the best heads in the business are still actively learning about on a daily basis. 

Which is somewhat apt, after all, for a trade that thrives on information and education.

If you want to learn more, just follow the links in this piece – and of course, remember that we here at Far From Avocados are always happy to answer your questions, big and small.

Aidan Coughlan
Written by Aidan Coughlan

Co-founder of Far From Avocados (and also of a toddler)


Your business WILL grow with content. And we're here to help.

Book a quick, commitment-free Skype/Zoom consultancy with our co-founder Aidan Coughlan to chat about your business, and learn how content could help you gain a remarkable advantage over your competitors.