Content marketing is a big issue these days for B2B marketers. The vast majority of them are using content marketing, but they’re not always getting the return they want.
The Content Marketing Institute published their 14th Annual B2B Content Marketing report. It identifies interesting statistics highlighting some of the issues. For example, 94% of those who participated in the study said they use short articles and blog posts, but only 47% said that content produced the best results. The same holds true for case studies and customer stories: 78% use them, but only 53% said that content produced the best results. Evidently, the content isn’t as effective as it could be.
As for the challenges that B2B marketers are facing, 57% cited creating the right content, 54% said they had a challenge differentiating their content, and 44% said creating quality content was a challenge. The survey respondents were also challenged by organizational issues I won’t address here such as a lack of resources, getting access to Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), and aligning sales and marketing to develop strategies.
So, what can B2B marketers do to make their content attract and convert visitors into prospects? Here are nine things that will make a difference in your conversion numbers.
1. Identify Topics that Resonate with Your Prospects
That may sound like it should be easy and obvious, but it’s not. That’s why so many marketers have a challenge creating the right content. You can look at your competitors and see what they’re talking about or look at the topics being covered at industry conferences. You can also look at your buyer personas. Think about the pain points your prospective buyer is experiencing and the goals they are trying to achieve.
Another great resource is your sales team. They talk to prospects and customers every day. Ask them to help you identify the questions that prospects are asking, the issues that prospects are confused about, and the issues about which they are misinformed.
Think about your customers’ journey. In general, buyers go through three stages in their journey to making a buying decision:
- Problem Awareness
- Solution Consideration
These stages are intended to give you a context for understanding the process most customers use. There is usually overlap between the stages. You should ensure that your content addresses each of those stages.
Let’s use a very simple example of Peter, an executive who has built his dream website but it’s not generating leads like he thought it would. Here’s what his customer journey might look like.
|Stages of a Customer’s Journey
|Problem Awareness – The buyer has identified a problem and they’re working to understand more about why they’re experiencing the problem and then researching potential solutions.
For example, Peter might search online for “Why isn’t my website generating leads?” or “How can I make my website generate leads?”
|Overviews that describe a significant challenge and explore possible solutions.
Easy to consume content such as blog/social media posts, infographics, and thought leadership articles. You want to establish your business as an authority with the expertise required to move forward into the Consideration stage. Be sure to offer subscriptions to your content stream.
|Solution Consideration – The buyer has completed some initial research and has narrowed down the possible solutions that fit their situation.
Let’s say that based on what he learned in the Awareness stage, he’s decided that he needs to increase traffic to get more exposure to potential buyers. He might start searching for things such as “How to increase traffic to a website?”
Let’s assume that based on his research in this stage, he’s decided he needs to hire an SEO firm. He’s also identified three vendors that have good reputations.
|Offer educational content like case studies, eBooks, white papers, comparison guides, and demonstrations.
|Decision – The buyer has narrowed down vendors that can help them solve their problem and they’ll decide based on their research in this stage.
Peter is now focused on evaluating vendors who can provide the services he seeks.
|Focus on the details with items such as pricing pages, buyer guides, case studies, vendor comparisons, customer reviews, and free trials.
2. Bring Your Own Perspective
You can write useful and engaging content based on internet research, and that’s how a lot of writing is done. Whether you’re working with a writer or using AI, you’re going to get content that is a marriage of information that is already on the internet. You won’t be accused of plagiarism, and if your writers are really good, they will create content that is very well received.
If you want to differentiate your content and make it stand out far above the rest, however, you’ll need to put a bit of effort into making it unique to your company. That typically requires gathering information from subject matter experts (SMEs). And getting time from SMEs was listed in the Content Marketing Institute report referenced earlier as one of the challenges you face.
You’ll need to work within your organization to educate SMEs and executives about the importance of your being able to tap the expertise that exists internally. You can make that job easier if you find ways to streamline the process for the SMEs so that working with you doesn’t become a significant drain on their time. Here are some tips for achieving that goal.
- Make sure you identify the best SME to interview. You may want to get a high-level perspective from a high-level executive, but you might waste a lot of time and annoy the executive by insisting that they participate. Always be open to talking to the person the executive assigns to the task.
- Provide a short set of questions to the SME before your meeting with them. The questions should be specific. You can always ask additional questions as you discuss the questions during an interview. Let the SME know that you don’t expect them to write responses to the questions. You’re just giving them a chance to be prepared to discuss them during the interview. Many times, I find that SMEs will just jot down some notes, which makes them much more comfortable during the interview.
- Stick to the time and duration of the interview. If the interview is going well and it seems that there’s more to discuss, you should stop just before the stated time limit and ask the SME if they’d like to go past the stated timeframe or set another appointment to complete the discussion. My clients appreciate it when I am careful with their time.
3. Deliver on Your Promise
Make sure that your content covers what you’re selling in the title. It’s easy to come up with a snappy title, but if you don’t follow through with the content that follows, people will lose trust. For example, if the title describes the “Complete Guide to XX,” then it better be complete. A few hints won’t work.
You can build trust with your audience by providing valuable content, information that is actionable, insight that isn’t found on every other website, and so forth.
4. Share Personal/Company Experiences
When Google analyzes content, it looks for EEAT. That stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. One thing that contributes to the EEAT value of your content is when you share personal or company experiences. This has two benefits.
- Sharing helps your content rank in the search engines.
- Sharing gives you an opportunity to link the content to your brand.
If you’re writing content in first person, it’s easy to share some of your personal experiences related to the topic. If you’re writing in third person, you can always write “We have found that” or “Company Name’s experience has been that.”
5. Make it Personal
You want your communications to sound as if you were talking to your readers. Avoid using industry jargon. If a one syllable word will suffice, don’t use a three-syllable word. No one cares if you know big words. Where appropriate, use the word “you.” Make your reader see themselves in the story you’re telling.
But, make sure you’re talking like your audience talks. If you’re writing about a technical topic, but your readers are non-technical people, then make sure they understand you. Translating complex topics into clearly understood content can be a challenge, but it’s worth the effort.
There are exceptions to this rule. For example, if you’re talking to teenage girls, don’t try to use the latest buzzwords. Like, they change so fast and will probably come across sounding contrived. Lighten up your writing and don’t talk down to them, but don’t try to become them.
6. Optimize for SEO
Your readers won’t turn into customers unless you’re bringing people to your content that are interested and can relate to it. Make sure your content is SEO optimized to attract the right people. In addition, don’t write content that sounds stilted or like it was written for a search engine. Work on selecting keyword phrases that are going to attract the right people, but that can also be seamlessly woven into your writing.
7. Promote Your Site!
Some people seem to think that if they publish SEO-optimized content, the readers will come. But, unless you have an advanced website, your content won’t appear on a search for your prime keyword phrase. At least, it won’t appear high enough on the search results to attract internet searchers.
You need to promote your content. You can use social media posts to direct readers to your content. You can also promote your content in communications like newsletters.
8. Use Images
According to a recent Semrush report, articles with more than seven images get the most backlinks, an increase of more than 555% compared to articles with no images. Images are good for readers and backlinks are good for websites. So, as Semrush suggests, plan for at least three images per article. And, if you can add a video, you’ll find that at least one video generated 52% more traffic than an article without a video.
9. Don’t Gate Your Content Unless It’s Amazing
Gated content lives behind a registration form. If a visitor wants the latest report, they must complete a form and give away some amount of personal information. Smart marketers don’t ask for a lot of information. Just a name and email address will allow you to add that person to your nurture email campaigns.
If your website is a true authority—like Forester or McKinsey—you could also ask for the person’s title, number of employees, and so forth.
But, unless your content is truly gate-worthy, you’re only hurting yourself by setting it up as gated content. Think about whether you’d be better off giving your PDF away for free to generate more interest and leads.
Your website is one of the most powerful marketing tools you can use. It’s the hub of your marketing efforts to a great extent. The content you publish should be structured to convert visitors into leads, and it will help you convert leads into customers. If you want to improve your conversion rates, a professional writer can help. Let’s talk.
Since 2004, when Kathleen Allardyce established Getting It Write, Inc, she has used her background in writing, consulting, marketing and sales to create content for her clients that differentiates them from their competitors to supercharge their marketing and sales.