Why Good Content is More Important Than Ever in B2B Marketing

Even before COVID-19, there has been a steady increase in the consumption of high value content across many industries. With over 26% of US adults always online, and 77% of US adults going on daily, the amount of content consumed has reached incredible heights.

This is why you’ll find over 91% of B2B businesses leveraging content marketing to reach their customers. That leads to a whole lot of noise. And not all content marketing programs are pumping out good content. In fact, 64% of marketers want to learn how to build a better content strategy. 

With most professionals working remotely and online even more so, quality content is even more important as companies determine the best way to speak to their audience during a time of uncertainty and instability. These are unpaved paths that we’re on give great content the opportunity to make or break brand trust to keep buyers coming back in the future. 

Why Good Content Marketing Programs Matters for B2B Marketers

For those of you who are content “skeptics” who don’t believe there’s value in a good content program, or maybe you haven’t realized any revenue from your content programs yet — below is a timeline of a B2B startup in the nonprofit space from before implementing a content program to when they had the engine humming in March 2020. 

good content marketing stats

The two shades of blue represent two different calls to action (or CTAs) being used to convert blog visitors. These two calls to action were a visitor survey template and a marketing planning document. Both were designed to address the needs of the company’s target buyer persona. 

You’ll notice that the company in the example went from 0 leads to about 70/month before dipping slightly due to the impact on business from COVID-19. These leads have translated to tens of millions in opportunity value for the startup. All from just starting a blog and creating great content.

But how does one define high-value content, especially in times where results are dropping?

Good content is content that is not only relevant to your target audience and buyer persona, but also provides value to the reader in a call to action. In these times, many content marketers have had to pivot and question what that exact value might be. 

But with this simple shift of putting yourself in the buyer’s shoes, you can succeed in taking....

Good Content = Useful Content. 

The Path Forward for Quality Content in B2B Marketing

Going from $0 to millions in ROI from content programs is a step-by-step process. In this market, it’s not enough to have any content. You need to have high value content to generate any revenue to the business. 

Here are the steps that I typically take to determine what high-value content would be for an audience.

Tips for Building a Good Content Program

Step 1 - Understand your buyer’s needs

Every audience is looking for something. Put yourself in your buyer’s shoes and ask yourself: What information are they looking for? What would help make their day-to-day lives easier? For example, if I was marketing to Executive Directors of nonprofit organizations, I would start by understanding their work and find the answers to the following questions.

  • What is their job title and core responsibility? This is obvious and helps you understand the type of content they may be searching for on a daily or monthly basis. I recommend looking at job descriptions of the job titles you are trying to reach to get an idea of what these types of roles typically need to know.
  • What other responsibilities do they have? Just because a nonprofit manager is focused on driving donations and events for their organization, doesn't mean they do not have other responsibilities. Things such as hiring staff, planning budgets, and even event planning may fall under the responsibilities of this person. Therefore, content related to these areas of focus would be relevant and useful for the target persona. 
  • What software, systems, technology do they use? Is this person using several different siloed systems for accounting, budget planning, marketing, and event management? Then, it may be great to create content that helps them organize and consolidate these systems. Try providing the target persona with “hacks” to help better organize their different software and tech systems, or alternative solutions for their problems. 
  • What are their most common problems they face? For our example, the Executive Director may face challenges for meeting budget deadlines, determining new donation strategies, public speaking at donor events, and reporting to a board. Content related to any of these topics would be considered as high value for the target persona.
  • What processes do they have in place that may be outdated or inefficient? Again, using our Executive Director as an example, they may historically use spreadsheets or powerpoints to manage their various projects and reports. Offering them downloadable template versions of those is useful content that they will download because it makes their lives easier. Rather than creating reports/spreadsheets from scratch, they can quickly use your downloadable template.
  • What are the most searched phrases relative to the above questions? Finally, I turn to Google to validate that my content ideas have merit. If you search for the asset or content piece you want to create and see additional search queries or popular searches that are relevant, then nice job! You’ve validated that your audience has an interest in what you’re creating. And be sure to differentiate whatever you are creating from your competition.

Step 2 - Determine your tone and style

Before you start creating content, I always recommend establishing some desired tone and writing style. Once you’ve determined if your writing style is going to be witty, professional, sarcastic, etc, then you can get to writing!

Note: You don’t always need to have the wittiest or world’s best journalists to create great content. Oftentimes, it’s more about creating something useful than the writing style (but if you have both that’s a huge plus!). For B2B marketing, I think the best starting point with tone and style is to be both educational and professional. It may not be the most exciting content, but you’re able to create with limited resources until you can bring on writers that are able to add extra “oomph” to the writing. 

Step 4 - Choose the right medium or channel for your content

Where you showcase your content is another question that you need to answer. In B2B content marketing, we always focus on the value of a blog. Blogs are a quick content medium to get running, you can be flexible with the schedule, and they can serve as a multipurpose tool for marketing, sales and support. But this content marketing swiss army knife doesn’t have to be the only medium you choose for content marketing. Youtube videos, podcasts, email marketing, social media, and even TikTok can become valuable content marketing channels for your business with the right strategy. The key is to determine tracking and metrics to track from any channel that you launch on.

Step 5 - Ensure it’s useful to the reader

Earlier I mentioned that good content = useful content. What this means is that readers will be able to walk away after reading your article with at least one nugget of information that will help make their lives and job easier or better. Most professionals are always looking for shortcuts to optimize their time. These shortcuts help the leader with a need that hopefully ties back to a problem that your product in fact solves too.

Final Thoughts: Building a Good Content Marketing Program

Once you figure out what works for you, it’s time to get out of your comfort zone. Continuously test new content ideas and styles to see if you can improve engagement from your content. It’s hard in challenging times as the risk is high for content that doesn’t resonate or worse turns people off, but the steps above ensure you are taking all the precautions you need to take some educated risks to stand out.

Still need help getting started? Download our free content marketing strategy template.


content marketing best practices during a crisis

3 Content Marketing Best Practices During Uncertain Times

To say life is the same after COVID-19 is an understatement, and for many of us — the bottom is still yet to come. With some projecting 30% unemployment from what used to be 3.5% just a month ago, many are uncertain what the future might hold.

Content marketing professionals are no different, especially with so many taking their best shot emailing the database, or not emailing, and determining how to calm the storm at this time.

But one thing is clear — it’s tough to know what is ok to say right now and what will be ok to say tomorrow. What might have been politically correct yesterday, might not be the case today or in a few months. Adapting daily across all industries is just required right now.

So here are the top do’s and don’ts for content marketing during a crisis, and also advice on how to measure and advise on the best strategy for your own company.

Note: Following the tips below will likely result in additional work as you update articles, drafts and tone in the coming weeks.

Provide product value, but don’t sell

Empathy is critical to content marketing. But empathy becomes tricky when the receiving ends of your audience vary so greatly. For instance, a healthcare company might be in a totally different place than a retail business or a restaurant right now. Ensuring that you are segmenting the message and asking yourself before each send or post how the receiving end might feel will undoubtedly help.

One message that resonated for me recently as we re-aligned on goals without knowing the real business impact from coronavirus yet was from Mailchimp. Every team is made of people and it’s one resounding truth that I think we can all relate to. The message was that we’re in this together — the stress, the adaptation of plans, and the unknown of how long this might last and what the true impact will be for all of us. Some that are sick might not be as productive. Don’t get me wrong, creating content goals will still be important in the coming months, but being more flexible with those goals will allow you to navigate a new content world.

>>Pro tip: At Lever, I recently posted an article on how empathy can help companies survive hardship. It's based on varying stats and intel across generations that value empathy — likely now more than ever.

What content metrics to measure during a crisis?

  • Open rates: An email from our CEO at Lever about our Zoom offering to customers had an over 40% open rate at launch. Good is typically around 30% or more
  • Response rates: See if your audience is interacting with you on a webinar, opting-in for a demo or asking questions. 
  • PV traffic conversion: In this new world, just seeing what topics or themes are resonating for people can help, but don’t just look at traffic. Analyze referral traffic and how that traffic converts. This will help you confirm that those people are your target market.

(Description: Blog subscribes converting to business opportunities for Lever in 2019)

Tailor the message to build brand and community

Content plans need to have flexibility to be constantly iterated upon. This is why content metrics and goals are important, but in my experience vary based on the times, key objectives you want to drive and the audience in which you’re trying to convert. We in marketing also love to automate and trigger campaigns, so during a crisis is the time to ask yourself — what nurtures are automated? What actions are they based on? What do they say? Is this still relevant to our buyer?

During a crisis, don’t put together a list of resources with links to out-dated articles about the topic. What was relevant just a week ago might not be today and teams need to be meeting regularly to stay in sync on the new content plan. For some, that might be pumping the breaks for a minute depending on the products you provide or audience receiving that message.

Organizations failing to serve Gen Z or Millennials and putting business needs over health right now might not succeed in the long run. This audience deeply cares about culture and your overall brand. For example, 71% of millennials want their workforce to feel like a second family. Think about what you might be able to give to people for free during a crisis? How can you help businesses maintain continuity and are there themes to write about there?

What content metrics to measure brand relevance?

  • Free signups: Focus on community and brand building during a crisis.
  • Overall page views: How many views is your blog post or web page getting right now?
  • Social shares: How much are people sharing the message on social media outlets?

Prioritize and share learnings as you go

When economies and businesses slow, it’s important to keep in mind that in uncharted territories that we don’t know what results are going to render the best for companies just yet. Remember to breathe and apply that 80/20 rule like you never have before. Now is not the time to spray and pray your audience with too many messages.

Some meaningful questions to ask:

  • What’s changed for our brand today?
  • What results are most important that content marketing can drive?
  • What are the results telling me that’s working today and what’s not? How has that changed from months before?

There is no better time to implement a weekly digest or content scorecard and start recalibrating on your strategy. Provide others with a way to see all the great stuff your content is driving. The key is speaking a content language that other departments can also read and understand.

Some metrics to consider sharing around:

  • Sales tiers responses to content campaigns
  • Global response to content campaigns

Responses could be quantified by leads, downloads, pipeline, sales calls from campaigns, etc.

Creating a content scorecard is a great way to keep people in the loop each week/month. These are just sample ideas for areas to include, and again — high intent buyers (or HIBS as we like to call them) are always more valuable than just eyes and leads in the long run. Awareness and community metrics may be where you want to focus in crisis. Be nimble. The more you can help your brand and business, the better results you’ll drive in the long run. It’s all about building the funnel and converting better as time goes on.

The recap: Keeping content relevant during uncertain times

DO’s DON’Ts
1 Provide product value Sell the product
2 Tailor the message to keep relevant  Keep the existing content plan
3 Prioritize and share learnings Focus on the same results

 

About The Content Network

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