If you are trying to establish your company as a trusted B2B brand, grow your customer base and earn more business, a good content marketing plan is a great place to start. A well-defined, well-executed content marketing plan can help you achieve all those goals.
However, the plan must be engaging, organized and focused on your audience. Well-crafted content is one of the best ways to reach decision-makers, who look at an average of 10 articles or posts before they make a buying decision.
Good content creates touchpoints that build brand recognition, establish your expertise and help you become part of your audience's online community. These are vital marketing functions, whether you're growing in an existing market or expanding into a new one. To get started, or to strengthen your existing program, here are four core elements your content marketing plan needs.
1. Build an effective B2B blog.
Blogs drive keyword search traffic to your site, promote your thought leadership content and give you content to share on social media, which is why more than 80% of B2B companies have a blog. A good blog focuses on what your audience needs and delivers that information in a relatable, non-salesy voice.
The purpose of your blog is to establish your brand as an expert resource for your customers. Research shows that 88% of content marketers say good content achieves this goal. That means that whatever form your blog content takes, every post should speak to one or more of your brand’s buyer personas. These buyer personas are based on the characteristics of your best customers. For example, if your brand sells SaaS cybersecurity solutions, your personas may be CISOs who want to keep pace with industry trends and IT managers who need to stay current on network security best practices.
What type of content can you post on your blog? Employee profiles, industry news discussions, event promos and recaps, how-to videos, customer profiles, media mentions, webinars, and more. Each post should include relevant keywords and metadata, references to support your assertions, and visual elements like photos, infographics and videos.
Previous HubSpot research found that 16 posts per month is ideal for generating traffic. Companies that post at this pace generate more than three times as much traffic as companies who post once a week or less often.
2. Create thought leadership content that works.
Brands sometimes overlook the power of thought leadership content, but it's a must-have. Fifty-five percent of decision-makers surveyed in 2018 by LinkedIn and Edelman said they read at least one hour of thought leadership content each week. More than half said they use thought leadership to evaluate prospective service providers. Some executives in the survey said they rule out businesses that lack a high-quality thought leadership presence.
Articles written by your company's executives and subject matter experts show that your business takes its mission seriously. Like blogs, thought leadership articles should focus on the audience, not the brand. Be aware that most publications won't accept self-promotional articles.
Consider your buyer personas when you develop ideas for thought leadership articles. Write about topics that matter to your prospects and existing customers, like industry trends, market conditions, and best practices. When you help readers solve problems or improve their business, they will come to trust you and look to you for insight. Decision-makers who read your executives' articles may also decide to connect with them online and in person at trade shows, further strengthening your brand's relationships with its audience.
As you brainstorm article ideas, think about where you'd like the finished articles to appear. Online trade publications that your customers read are usually the best place to pitch your articles. Depending on your industry and audience, you may also want to reach out to general business news sites. Before you submit an idea or an article, check out the site's submission guidelines. Brands that follow the rules for article formatting, sourcing and length are more likely to get their thought leadership pieces published.
You can also share your brand's thought leadership pieces on social media. How frequently you can publish articles depends on your executives' schedules and the publications you pitch to. When you're just starting your brand's thought leadership program, a good goal is at least one published piece per month.
3. Reach B2B decision-makers on social media.
B2B content marketing through social media increased by 61% over the past year. That's because social media can give your content a reach far beyond your company blog and published thought leadership articles. With careful research, well-written posts and a steady schedule, you can use your content on social media to grow brand awareness, share your brand's voice with your industry, drive traffic to your website and build an online community based on topics that matter to your audience.
The platforms you use should depend on your audience's habits, the type of content you create and the time you have to tailor your content for posts on different outlets. LinkedIn is a natural fit for in-depth B2B marketing because it’s the source of 80% of B2B leads and more than 40% of social media traffic to company websites.
Of course, there are other networks to consider. Twitter posts can drive traffic to your content and raise awareness of your brand, while Facebook is a good place to share blog posts, articles, opinion polls and discussions. Instagram is a good platform for brands to share visual content and short videos.
You don’t have to stop there. Medium is an increasingly popular place for thought leaders to publish their articles, which they then promote on other platforms. Quora offers subject matter experts a chance to answer member questions and prove their expertise. Don't overlook YouTube for video content, even if you also host your videos on your company site. HubSpot data shows that 65% of senior executives say they go to a company's website after viewing their YouTube content.
The exact ideal posting pace varies by platform and by the size of the company and its audience, but in general, no more than once per weekday is optimal for return on investment.
4. Invest in marketing automation.
By now, it's clear that an effective B2B content marketing program contains a lot of content and a lot of moving parts. To manage it all and maximize its impact, marketing automation tools are a must. The core marketing automation functions, as described by MarTech Today, are email marketing, lead management and CRM integration.
Without automation, each of these functions would require a major investment of time to manage, and they would be expensive and difficult to scale. That's why more than half of B2B content marketers are already using marketing automation systems, according to Social Media Today. Even if you're just starting your program, marketing automation tools can free up time you need to focus on research and content development.
However, today's marketing automation platforms offer features that go beyond time savings on the basics. Social media integrations let your content reach a wider audience and generate inbound traffic. A marketing automation platform that integrates mobile marketing can help your content reach busy buyers where they spend much of their time. Marketing platforms can provide increasingly granular messaging aimed at specific accounts, including personalized site content and emails. Of course, automated marketing tools also include data analytics that let you track content performance, customer behavior, and website and social media statistics.
Every marketing automation platform has a learning curve, but that learning is an investment that pays dividends in the form of a more effective content marketing program. With powerful management tools, a smart social media presence, well-written thought leadership articles and a regularly updated company blog, you can build a content marketing program that earns the attention, trust and business of B2B decision-makers.