These days, marketing experts love to advise their clients to use content to “tell your story.” Rather than focusing on the “hard sell,” content is far more likely to draw eyeballs when it engages your potential customers and draws them in with the story of your brand. But what does that mean for B2B services companies?
First of all, to dispel some common myths:
Myth #1: Content is only for consumers
Equating the entire concept of “content” with the gag pictures, spoof videos, and tongue-in-cheek articles that spread like wildfire all over Facebook is a big mistake. While these things do fall under the header of “content” – and can be useful in their own way – the idea of content is actually much broader.
Content isn’t only about funny cat pictures and music videos.
In a nutshell, content can be anything that someone on the Internet can look at, listen to, watch, or read. Content marketing consists of creating those articles, images, and videos in a way that helps the audience achieve a specific goal. So, when developing content for a B2B company, the questions to ask are, “What specific goals are potential customers trying to achieve?” and “What content can our company provide to help them achieve those goals?”
Looking at content from that perspective, rather than viewing it as a race to put out the next viral video or popular Internet meme, increases its relevance in B2B marketing. When companies start putting themselves in the shoes of their customers and asking what problems those customers are trying to solve, they can then start developing content that is useful and, therefore, engaging.
Myth #2: Any old content will do
After deciding that content has a place in a B2B marketing strategy, should a company just get going and start cranking out as much content on a given subject matter as possible? In a word, no.
Digital marketing tends to be much easier to push live than most forms of traditional marketing. Radio advertising usually requires working with a sales representative and a studio, meaning at least some quality control is built in to the process. The same goes for print: most publications require some amount of editing, layout, and design before they will run a particular advertisement. And television? The expense required to purchase a spot and produce a commercial makes quality virtually mandatory.
TV and radio often have built-in quality control.
On the other hand, many view digital marketing as relatively inexpensive and fast, especially with the broad range of intuitive web design platforms available. A blog post requires nothing more than a few extra minutes in the day to hit some keys and publish whatever comes out. Social media? Just ask someone’s teenager to throw a few things up on the company Facebook and Twitter account. Perhaps the company logo and graphics need some extra attention, but there are also a number of pre-packaged graphics options out there as well.
If that last paragraph sounds familiar, there probably need to be a few changes, starting with implementing a strategy.
- The number one mistake most businesses make, whether B2B or B2C, is failing to have a content marketing strategy, or failing to include their content marketing in their overall marketing strategy.
Companies should not let the relative ease of clicking “post,” “publish,” or “tweet.” fool them into thinking that developing quality content is just as easy as posting it. Depending on the size of the company, it can often be a good idea to hire someone to be in charge of developing content, or to find a firm that offers content marketing services to ensure cohesion with the company’s overall brand and image.
Myth #3: A website is enough
Businesses need websites. At a bare minimum, most customers expect to be able to find a business’s contact information via its website. For B2B companies, it is also an opportunity to showcase services and testimonials, among other things. A good first step into the content world is adding a blog and filling it with useful articles relevant to the company’s industry. But efforts should not stop there. In fact, some marketing experts are touting the death of the traditional corporate website.
Setting aside all of the other benefits of strong content for just a moment, one important concept that goes hand-in-hand with content is something called search engine optimization (SEO). Without going into an in-depth exploration of SEO and all of its benefits, here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to SEO and content, and why a website is not the end-all and be-all of a strong content strategy:
- Good content on a website uses keywords that potential customers of a B2B business are searching for (e.g. “professional IT services”) without making them appear unnatural. This content boosts credibility with search engines, which then rank a page higher in a searcher’s results, but…
- Websites that don’t link out, or that don’t have any other outside websites that link to them, lose credibility with search engines, causing them to rank lower.
The bottom line: having strong, consistent internal content is a good thing, but if a company does not have a presence with content outside of its own website, that content will never go anywhere.
This point goes hand-in-hand with the next myth, which is also a key factor in promoting high-quality content:
A B2B company that produces useful, engaging content for its customers but that does not put that content on any social media outlets is like getting all dressed up and having nowhere to go. What’s the point?
- Social media is one of the least expensive and most effective ways of sharing and spreading useful, engaging content.
Consider the following statistics, many from a recent Content Marketing Institute survey:
- Where B2B marketers use social media, 91% use LinkedIn to distribute content
- LinkedIn was effective for 62% of the B2B marketers who used it
- 80% of B2B marketers now use Twitter and Facebook as well as LinkedIn
- Facebook has an audience of approximately 1.2 billion people
- When a B2B tech brand publishes a tweet, users who see it are 47% more likely to visit the brand’s website versus those who do not see the tweet
This data applies to service-based companies and product-based companies alike. For example, consider Maersk Group, a Danish shipping company. In 2012, they ran a Facebook campaign describing the journey of its shipping containers across the Baltic Sea in the winter, when it is primarily frozen. The results of their campaign: 150 unique leads, just from Facebook. To them, the story of how something they ship gets from Point A to Point B might not seem interesting, but to the folks on Facebook, it made for a fascinating tale.
Maersk Group leveraged its unique story on social media to grow its business.
Putting these facts and examples together reveals one important point: B2B content has a place on social media, even on the platforms traditionally designated as “social” and “consumer-based.” Where do B2B marketers think the purchasing agents, business owners, and executives they are trying to reach spend their free time online?
Furthermore, useful content has a way of spreading. Returning to the point about SEO, social reputation now counts as a factor in determining a page’s rank in search results. If a company releases strong content that users find interesting, leading them to share it, then search engines like Google take note. But that can’t happen if a B2B company shies away from going social in the first place.
Turn It Into Action
Understanding the importance of content marketing is all well and good, but how does a B2B company get started? Here are a few preliminary steps to take:
1) Outline a B2B content strategy. This strategy can change over time, but it should be cohesive with the company’s existing branding and set specific parameters for what content is appropriate and how and when it should be released. Included in the strategy should be a description of the end goal: who is your ideal buyer? It is often helpful to create a buyer persona to assist with this step.
2) Consult with a content marketing expert. Even a few hours of consulting time spent with an expert specializing in content services to fine-tune the company’s strategy and get some input can go a long way to making a more effective campaign.
3) Incorporate a blog into the company website. This basic step should not be skipped. Part of the strategy discussed above should include a plan for updating the blog on a regular basis.
4) Establish a presence on social media. Like the blog, this step is vital to a company’s content strategy. One caveat: companies just starting out on social media should be careful not to spread themselves too thin. One active social media account that has regular updates is better than several accounts that are stagnant.
5) Seek other venues for content. These venues can include strategic partners who are willing to exchange guest blog posts, or Internet hubs for members of a company’s particular industry.
6) Be consistent. It bears repeating: one of the worst things content can do is become stagnant. Someone should be in charge of content, and keep it updated on a regular basis.
What other myths do you think B2B service companies believe in, and what strategies have you implemented at your firm to overcome them? Share your thoughts below, we love to hear your comments!