9 Ways to Make Your B2B Content Marketing Convert

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
  • Decision

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 JourneyCommunication
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

Differentiate your content

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

B2B content marketingWhen 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.

  1. Sharing helps your content rank in the search engines.
  2. 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!

How to Make Your Content ConvertSome 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

How to make your content convertGated 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.

Final Thoughts

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.

 

Unlocking Success: How Case Studies Help Small Businesses Grow

Case Study: A marketing tool that helps to attract and convert prospects by describing the results of working with or buying from a business.

When small business owners talk about their marketing challenges, they cite a wide range of different issues depending on the business they’re in. But, many owners have some challenges in common expressed as things like these examples:

  • Getting prospects to understand what we do.
  • Getting prospects to understand why they need our products/services.
  • Explaining the benefits of our products/services.
  • Getting people to trust our company and do business with us.
  • Getting people to understand why we’re better than our competitors.
  • Managing prospect expectations.
  • Justifying the cost of our products/services.

If you have uttered one or more of those sentences lately, you’re among the small business owners who should take a hard look at using case studies in your marketing strategy.

Really? Case Studies?

Yes, small businesses benefit just as much from case studies as do larger businesses. If you’re familiar with case studies, you’ve probably run across them on the websites of medium to large companies. Under their Resources tab on the navigation, they may even have a category for case studies. And, maybe you should, too.

Case studies give solutions to problemsWhat is a Case Study?

Here’s a brief overview of what a case study is all about. It’s written about the experience of one of your customers. It’s typically divided into three sections.

  1. The Problem. A description of the problems or challenges facing the customer before you hit the scene.
  2. The Solution: A description of what you did to address the problem. You can describe the products and services you provided to the customer and how those things helped them fix their problems. It also gives you a chance to differentiate yourself from your competitors. It gives the reader an idea of how you approach your customers’ problems and what it’s like working with you.
  3. The Result: This section is where you figure out what qualitative or quantitative results the customer experienced because of your expert assistance.

To complete a case study, you need to have the cooperation of one of your customers. And, done properly, customers really like participating. You’d be careful that the case study doesn’t paint your customer as incompetent, just as someone making an informed choice to address their problems. You can always offer an incentive. too.

A business may like having a link back to their website to help with their SEO. For either businesses or consumers, you could offer a small discount on their next purchase, a gift card, or some other token of your appreciation.

How Do You Publish a Case Study?

There are several ways to publish a case study, depending on how fancy you want to get.

  1. Publish the case study as a blog post. You can still use the same content and publishing it as a blog post is the least amount of effort.
  2. Publish the case study on your letterhead. You do have a version of your letterhead that you can use in Word, for example, right? You can create a Word file containing the case study and save it as a PDF file for distribution.
  3. Publish the case study with some graphics. If you have a way to create a PDF file with graphics in it, you can create a cover page, the content pages, and an end page with information about your company. You can use stock photos to illustrate the content, create “call outs” to intersperse in the content to highlight critical information, create charts or graphs if it’s appropriate, and more.

Why Do Case Studies Work?

Small businesses can use case studies whether they’re selling to consumers (B2C) or businesses (B2B).

B2C Marketing: A case study is very similar to a customer review, but you have the opportunity to give consumers much more information about your product or service.

Have you seen the research showing that 98% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, and 49% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family? Well, it’s true. What that means is that you can use case studies to help your marketing even if you’re selling to consumers.

B2B Marketing: The DemandGen content preferences survey found that 49% of B2B buyers found case studies very helpful in making purchase decisions. In addition, other research shows that 80% of B2B buyers use case studies as part of their buying research.

So, regardless of whether you’re selling to consumers or businesses, your prospects are looking to things like case studies to make their purchasing decisions.

What Case Studies Can Do for You

Increase sales with case studiesRemember those marketing challenges small business owners listed at the beginning of this blog post? Case studies are the perfect way to address all of them. Here’s why.

  1. Case studies describe what you do and why your prospects need your product or service. If it’s difficult to get prospects to understand what you do, a case study can help. For one thing, a case study is your opportunity to really figure out how to describe your business. Once you have it in writing, you’ll be able to use it when you’re talking to your prospects, too.
  2. Case studies describe the benefits of your products or services in real terms. A case study does an excellent job of describing the benefits of your offerings in real terms, based on the experience of someone that your prospects can relate to.
  3. Case studies build trust and credibility. Real world examples of how you successfully help your customers instill confidence and show that you can deliver on your promises.
  4. Case studies can highlight your solutions. You can showcase the unique way you go about helping your customers and show how you have solutions that set you apart in your marketplace.
  5. Case studies point out the return on investment you offer your customers. You can describe the benefits your customer received and, in many cases, show how they turned the expense of working with you into an investment.
  6. Case studies can improve your website’s SEO. You can optimize your case study for SEO and drive traffic to your website.

Maybe the best thing case studies do for you is they give you the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of how to present your products and services to prospects and customers.

 

If you want assistance with developing case studies, or want to learn how to develop case studies yourself, get in touch!

What Everyone Needs to Know About Small Business Branding

“I’m not sure what a brand is, but I don’t really need one.” I hear that sentence all the time. If you’ve ever said or thought that, you need to understand what a brand is and then decide if you need one. In this post, I’ll describe the concept of small business branding in a different way than you’ve seen in the past. I’ll explain why you need a brand, and then you can make your own decision.

How Can You Recognize a Brand?

Small Business BrandingRaise your hand if you recognize the car in the photo.

If you didn’t raise your hand, all you know is that it’s a sporty-looking car.   Just looking at the car, for all you know, it could be a hybrid with a top speed of 60 miles an hour. That could be your perception just from looking at the photo.

If you did raise your hand, you know that you’re looking at an Aston Martin. And, now that the rest of you know it’s an Aston Martin, you probably have quite a different perception of the vehicle.

What do you know about Aston Martins? If you’re a car buff at all, you know that James Bond was fond of Aston Martins. So, does that fact make you feel differently about the car now that you know it isn’t a hybrid?  Indeed. Why?

Because you now perceive the car to be a hot sports car, capable of making beautiful women swoon, achieving high rates of speed, completing very sharp turns, and in the hands of “Q”, launching rockets.

And, that perception is reinforced by other things you may know if you are a car buff. For example, here is a short list of famous folks who drive Aston Martins: David Beckham, Elle Macpherson, Ben Affleck, and Pierce Brosnan.

So, even if you’ve never driven an Aston Martin yourself, every perception you have of the car is consistent. It’s a hot car that anyone would love to own.

So, That’s It. That’s the Brand.

Now, look at the photo again, and point to the brand. You can’t, can you? Why? Because the brand is a perception that the company worked hard to implant in the public’s mind.

The brand is your perception of what the Aston Martin is all about. You developed that perception because everything you were exposed to concerning that car reinforced its brand.

When people ask me what the result of branding is, it can be difficult to explain. There isn’t something you can see, feel or taste. It’s not like a website or a marketing brochure. And, that is a big part of the reason why branding is often misunderstood.

When we do branding, the product is a market positioning statement and a Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Just words on a page. But, the point is that you can take those words and use them to start implanting a perception in the minds of the people in your market area. You can use variations of those words everywhere: on your website, brochures, blog posts, and in an effective “elevator speech.”

The branding process gives you the opportunity to clearly identify:

  • your target market
  • your target market’s needs and pain points
  • how you satisfy those needs in a way that is different from your competitors

Without a Brand, You’re Just Another Face in the Crowd

Until you know what the Aston Martin’s brand is, it’s just a car.

Until you have a brand, you’re just one of many competitors trying to grab your prospects’ attention.

And, that’s why you need to do small business branding.

Supercharge your marketing and sales with an effective brand. Contact me for more information.

 

How Digital Marketing Works

Most small businesses need to use the internet well to promote their business and attract prospects. Here’s how digital (internet) marketing works.

Digital Marketing Blog

 

1. Capture Interest

After you define what you’re selling, the first step in digital marketing is to capture the interest of individuals who may be interested in what you have to offer. This step is critical today because prospects are much more active in controlling the buying process.

In fact, prospects do a lot of their research before they even talk to a sales person. Every expert seems to have a different statistic on that topic, as you’ll see in this CustomerThink article:

  • Forrester Research says that 74 percent of B2B buyers do at least half of their research online before buying.
  • SiriusDecisions reports that 70 percent of the buyer’s journey is over before a prospect contacts sales for more detailed information.
  • The Corporate Executive Board states that 57 percent of executives have already made a purchase decision before they contact sales.

Even though those statistics are different, the take away is that prospects aren’t dependent on you or your sales team to get close to making a purchase decision. You may not hear from a prospect until they have a short list of vendors to choose from based on internet research.

Therefore, you need to be aggressive in using digital marketing tools to make sure prospects find you when they’re surfing the ‘net searching for information about your type of solution. Those tools can include things such as SEO, Pay Per Click advertising, blog posts, being active on social media, and more.

Digital Marketing Blog2. Convert to Lead

Once you have a prospect’s attention, the real work begins. First, you need to convert that prospect to a lead. A lead is a person who is interested enough in what you offer to give you some type of contact information. It could be an email address, or if you’re lucky, an email and telephone number.

With contact information, you can communicate with the prospect to determine if they’re qualified to be a lead. If they are, you can continue the education process to answer the lead’s questions as they move through the buyer journey.

Tools to convert prospects to leads encompass things such as landing pages, online appointment setting, and calls to action on your website that include forms you motivate your prospects to complete.

3. Convert to Customer

Now that you have real leads, they’ll ask themselves more in-depth questions. You’ll need to respond with things such as eBooks, case studies, newsletters, webinars, and demonstrations.

4. Convert to Cheerleader

As you know, your job isn’t over when you generate a new customer. You’ll need to continue to provide exceptional products and services. Your customer service also needs to be outstanding. You’ll need to stay in touch with existing customers, just as you do with leads.

If you do all those things right, you’ll convert some of your customers to cheerleaders. A cheerleader is someone who leaves you powerful reviews and refers you to others. Word of mouth marketing is some of the most effective, so make sure you work hard to make it easy for people to recommend you to friends and associates.