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Your Beginner B2B Content Marketing Guide: How to Start Right

B2B content marketing is a big deal.

It has the power to amplify your brand and create a loyal troop of customers, fans, and followers.

It’s a pathway for businesses serving other businesses to drum up traffic, prospects, and committed buyers.

However, if you’re reading this, you might not know the nitty-gritty.

  • How does B2B content marketing work?
  • How does it differ from B2C content marketing?
  • Why is it better than traditional marketing?
  • What do you need to make your content marketing unstoppable?
  • What does successful B2B marketing look like?

For starters, over 6 billion Google searches happen per day (so much potential there!).

If you win the #1 position for a keyword, you can expect to ALSO win 33% of that page’s total search traffic.

And that’s only the beginning. 📈

Ready to learn the rest? Here’s everything you need to know about B2B content marketing.

B2B Content Marketing, Demystified: Table of Contents

B2B Content Marketing: What It Is and Why Your Brand Needs It

1. A B2B Content Marketing Definition

2. What’s the Difference Between B2B and B2C Content Marketing?

3. B2B Content Marketing Statistics: The Numbers Don’t Lie – Content RULES

Why a B2B Content Strategy Is Essential to Success – and the First Steps to Build One

Research, Research, Research

Where to Start? Begin with Goal-Setting

Examples of Awesome B2C & B2B Content Marketing

1. B2C Example: Yarnspirations

2. B2B Example: Mailchimp

B2B Content Marketing: What It Is and Why Your Brand Needs It

It’s time to dive into this “Little-Engine-That-Could” we call content marketing.

1. A B2B Content Marketing Definition

B2B content marketing is unlike any other kind of marketing out there.

It’s not about selling. It’s not about ads. It’s not about extolling the virtues of your business.

Instead, it’s about serving the users, A.K.A. your readers, target audience, buyers, customers – whatever name you want to give them.

A good, general definition of content marketing has already been laid out by industry leaders like the Content Marketing Institute. They put it like this:

“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

The main words here are “strategic marketing approach.” To make content marketing work – to end up “attracting and retaining a clearly defined audience,” you need a strategy at the foundation of everything you do.

The strategy is the blueprint to content marketing success. Here are the core elements every profitable B2B (or B2C) content marketing strategy must contain:

  • Knowing the foundations of content strategy – why, what, and how
  • Audience discovery and brand position
  • Understanding keywords
  • Building authority through content cores
  • Practical content creation
  • Editorial calendar and post-publishing

With each of these cores in place, your content marketing can take off.

This is how a typical buyer journey might look using content marketing.

  • You create useful, relevant, valuable content to attract your target reader. You optimize the content for keywords they’re entering in Google search.
  • Your content ideally helps them, solves their pain points, answers questions, guides them, or fulfills some other type of useful purpose (a big sticking point with Google).
  • Because the content helps your interested reader with no strings attached, trust is established.
  • You keep producing stellar content consistently.
  • Your reader starts returning to your content as an authoritative source of information.
  • Your reader loves your content and becomes a fan of your brand.
  • Eventually, because of your consistency + quality, your reader is moved to a profitable action for your brand. They sign up for your email list, they share and/or link to your content, they make a purchase, etc.

When your content works, it WORKS.

Sometimes – not always – all it takes is one incredible blog to convince a lead to become a customer. This visual showing the lifecycle of one impactful piece of content demonstrates that (at Express Writers, this has happened to us before!):

In short, content marketing is an inbound method to win customers. Instead of pushing your message or agenda in front of their faces to get their attention, you provide the means for them to find you organically, naturally.

Another big difference to consider between inbound marketing (content marketing) and traditional (interruptive, outbound) marketing: the cost to acquire new customers.

According to a benchmark HubSpot study, inbound leads cost 61% less than outbound leads:

That’s a big, big difference. Over time, the cost for outbound leads could really cut into your profits.

Just another reason why B2B content marketing makes more sense for growing brands.

2. What’s the Difference Between B2B and B2C Content Marketing?

So far, we’ve talked a lot about B2B content marketing. But what about B2C?

What’s the difference between them?

Simple: “B2B” is an acronym for “business-to-business.” Brands that use B2B marketing have target audiences mainly composed of other businesses.

Examples of a few B2B brands:

Meanwhile, “B2C” is an acronym for “business-to-consumer.” Brands engaging in B2C content marketing in 2019 are NOT targeting other brands – their intent is pulling in average consumers because that’s their target audience.

So, B2C marketing strategies will look slightly different from B2B.

Examples of B2C brands:

3. B2B Content Marketing Statistics: The Numbers Don’t Lie – Content RULES

There are innumerable reports, case studies, and examples that show why content marketing is the best marketing.

For example, according to Content Marketing Institute’s B2B 2019 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends Report, 93% of the most successful content marketers reported their organization is “extremely/very committed to content marketing.”

Additionally, 65% of the most successful have a documented content marketing strategy. (Meanwhile, only 14% of the least successful marketers reported they had one.)

Another key point: Did you know organic traffic from search has some of the highest conversion rates around? Marketing Sherpa estimates the conversion sits around 16% across industries.

It’s even higher for those in media, publishing, and marketing: They get an average 20% conversion rate from organic traffic via search.

Compare that percentage to the average conversion rate on paid search: a measly 3.75%.

Organic search performs over 4x better than paid search in terms of conversions.

Those rates have proven true for our own marketing at Express Writers, too. We get 14-16% on average from targeted organic traffic from content marketing.

We know because we did a case study on predicting the ROI of content marketing:

We researched to find benchmark conversion rates for traffic-to-leads and leads-to-sales, then came up with a formula using those rates to predict ROI.

Using our own stats, we plugged our traffic and lead numbers into the equation to come up with a projected sales estimate. Then we analyzed how it stacked up against our actual sales for the month.

As you can see, the numbers held up really well. We estimated a 14-16% conversion rate on our organic search traffic, which would amount to 347 sales from 2,475 leads.

Our actual sales totaled 289 – just 57 sales short of the predicted 347. However, that was easily explained by our agency’s shift in focus to only serving clients who are a good fit for what we offer.

When your B2B content marketing is a well-oiled machine, these conversion rates are the norm. Impressive, right? 🧐

Why a B2B Content Strategy Is Essential to Success – and the First Steps to Build One

We already talked a bit about how B2B content marketing doesn’t work (read: no amazing conversion rates, no profit from content) without a strategy behind it.

That’s because the strategy is everything: the map, the foundation, the engine, AND the sails.

Think of content marketing as a machine you don’t know how to work. The content strategy is the set of instructions you use to run that machine!

The basic pieces of a working strategy include:

  • Knowing your audience and what they need from your content
  • Having a clear idea of what sets you apart from the competition
  • Understanding which goals you’re working toward – what you want out of B2B content marketing
  • Defining your topic area of expertise – the knowledge you have authority in, the know-how you can share and use to guide others
  • Having a firm grasp of SEO, including keyword research
  • Knowing where + when to publish content for the highest ROI
  • Understanding practical content creation – tools, workflows, and processes that help you consistently crank out amazing content
  • Grasping the necessity of content maintenance, including budgeting, tracking data, and measuring results against the goals you’re trying to reach

This may seem like a lot, but it’s really not – not when you think of each piece as belonging to a key skill area you can learn. In general, for content strategy, you need 4 cornerstone skill points:

  1. Audience & brand style
  2. High-ROI keywords and SEO goals
  3. Create core content
  4. Budget, editorial calendar, and promotion

If you’re delegating content strategy, these four skill areas also represent the type of talent you need on your content marketing team.

Research, Research, Research

Finally, most of these content strategy pieces require some form of research.

For example, you can’t know and understand your audience without doing some detective work. You’ll have to figure out who needs your business and why they need it. You’ll have to talk to real prospects, do some social listening, and observe carefully to get a firm idea of your ideal customer.

Without content marketing research, you’ll never uncover the data to unlock a winning trajectory.

For in-depth instruction on how to research and build each piece of your content strategy, take a look at the Practical Content Strategy & Marketing Course. It teaches everything you need to know, step by step!

Where to Start? Begin with Goal-Setting

If you don’t have a B2B content marketing strategy yet, the best place to start is with goals.

The right goals will provide overarching direction and purpose for your content marketing.

Every brand’s nitty-gritty goals will look different, but most of our broad goals will look the same. We all want to use content marketing for two things:

  • Content marketing should drive targeted, inbound traffic to your site.
  • Your content marketing should effectively guide prospects through the sales funnel (or marketing lifecycle).

When you meet both of these broad goals, that’s the content strategy sweet spot.

Examples of Awesome B2C & B2B Content Marketing

Now that you understand the ins and outs of B2C and B2B content marketing, it’s time we got inspired by a few examples of both in action.

1. B2C Example: Yarnspirations

A fantastic example of B2C content marketing comes from Yarnspirations, a company that sells yarn bundles, patterns, and crafty tools.

On their “How-To” resource, they showcase tutorials and guides on improving your knitting skills, crocheting techniques, and step-by-step instructions to make cool items like sweaters, socks, blankets, dishcloths, cozies, and more.

Their target reader is a crafty person who loves to get creative in their spare time, whether they’re advanced or just a beginner.

Each project tutorial blog includes recommended yarns available on the Yarnspirations site and detailed process photos.

Knitters and crocheters will find it seamless (shameless pun 🧶) to find their next project and gather the supplies they need in one fell swoop. They’ll also return to Yarnspirations for guidance on the next technique they want to learn.

This is a great example of trust-building and brand positioning through content.

2. B2B Example: Mailchimp

For a great B2B content marketing example, look no further than Mailchimp. Their Resources section contains everything from in-depth guides to using their services to marketing tips and tricks.

Mailchimp’s B2B audience is looking for ways to improve and streamline their email marketing. As such, the brand delivers on providing the right guidance.

Their blogs and guides are useful as well as uniquely illustrated:

Most brands selling email marketing solutions have rote blogs with stock photos of people using laptops and sitting at tables in meetings. Mailchimp’s investment in an illustrative style and down-to-earth approach differentiate them nicely.

Ready to Dive into B2B Content Marketing?

By now, you’re probably ready and raring to go – and I don’t blame you. Content marketing’s promise is incredible, and it’s a slam-dunk if you get it right.

There’s the rub: Getting it right.

To do it not just with skill, but with panache, you need to study up.

  • Learn about B2B content marketing from bottom to top.
  • Understand why you need a content strategy, then gain the knowledge you need to build a sturdy one that will get results.
  • Finally, implement your strategy, follow the guidelines you created for yourself, get into grooves and workflows, and stay consistent.

To begin your journey from novice to expert, start with The Content Strategy & Marketing Course. You’ll learn everything you need to know, step-by-step, to reach the end of the rainbow and well-deserved ROI. 🌈🥇

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