B2B Marketing Guide

Content Marketing

Be an expert because your audience is.

Walking the walk and talking the talk is vital in B2B communications. There is nothing general about a B2B audience. So it’s vital that you are authoritative in your content and demonstrate you know what you are talking about to earn the trust of your audience (more on this later).

According to a 2020 B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study:

48% of decision-makers say thought leadership content is effective at influencing their purchase decisions.

However, only 17% of decision-makers feel the content is of very good or excellent quality.

Create content from a thought leader perspective and make sure it stands out! Be sure to cover the topic at hand from top to bottom, share industry statistics and trends, and do not leave out essential facets. If you can help your audience think critically about the industry and make them more skilled professionals in the process, you will ensure they make a purchase decision they don't regret later.

Content marketing is first and foremost about people.

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We are all people, regardless of what we are doing at the moment; whether it’s buying an articulated hauler, a software system, or a pizza. There’s emotion in all of our purchases, large and small. As B2B marketers, it’s easy to produce content that appeals to the head and not the heart. But the reasons we are buying are changing.

Consumers today are increasingly reviewing and making purchase decisions not just on the quality and price of your products or services, but on values, beliefs, social causes, and environmental and philanthropic commitments of a company. In short, they are viewing their purchase more as a brand partnership than a simple product transaction.

A recent Accenture study noted the changes in purchase influences, citing things like health and safety (63%), customer care during times of disruption (72%), fast and flexible delivery (57%), sustainable product origin (55%), and trust and reputation (76%) as key motivators in why we choose to buy from certain brands.

Consumers want brands with purpose.

Brands that stand on core values. Yes, our content needs to communicate things like productivity, efficiency, versatility, etc. But it also needs to give them something they can believe in. Our content needs to communicate the things beyond our products and services that we care deeply about.

Meet Their Needs

Understanding your customers and prospects is key to succeeding in marketing and business today. Customers have lots of choices, and they aren’t afraid to switch brands if they aren’t getting what they want or hearing what is important to them — or if your brand isn’t delivering the right experience.

Content should not be about your brand or your business (overtly). Instead, it should focus on your customer needs, values, and beliefs. If the reader cannot apply the actionable elements of your content to their own work or business, it has missed the mark.

Understanding the audience may be the easy part, though so many struggle with it. Do these things and you'll drive growth. 

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    Talk to them.

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    Listen to them.

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    Track their behavior.

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    Anticipate their needs.

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    Be relevant.

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    Then inspire them.

    Buying decision by committee.

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    Learn More

    You are not just marketing to one person; you're marketing to everyone who has a say in the purchase decision — engineering, procurement, accounting, and department heads. And these buying committees have changed dramatically. Today, they are just as likely to be composed of digital-native millennials as they are of GenXers or Boomers. This puts a premium on digital content, with more and more of the sales cycle happening online.

    It also puts a premium on really understanding what everyone on the buying committee cares about — their pain points, drivers, and needs — before casting out your message. After all, they may not talk to your sales team until their mind is already made up.

    Personas to the rescue! A well-researched buyer persona is probably the single greatest tool you can invest in for your marketing efforts. Personas help you understand the needs of decision-makers and influencers and ensure you are creating content that will help everyone on the buying committee know that your product will solve their individual pain points and help the company achieve its goals.

    When was the last time you did a formal segmentation, persona project, or true awareness and usage study?

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    Personas can come in all shapes and sizes. We created four personas to better understand our agency workforce and potential job-seekers, from those just starting out to more seasoned marketers. Check out what makes them different.

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    It’s a marathon, not a sprint

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    The process that a company goes through when evaluating a B2B purchase can be complex and time-consuming. One of the biggest causes of slow or circular sales cycles is a group of decision-makers who can’t get on the same page.

    With this in mind, it’s important to keep buyers engaged throughout this extended buying cycle. Meaning you need to spread your content out across the various stages of the buying cycle for maximum exposure and impact over time. This is where content planning shines!

    Content planning will help you optimize your strategy for the long B2B sales cycle. Since the buying process can be cumbersome and complex, you also need to be ready for changes and make sure your plan is built to adapt when necessary.

    Although B2B purchase decisions may never be as quick as choosing a new pair of shoes, relevant content spread across the various stages of the buying cycle that addresses the audience pain points will help B2B buyers make quicker and more confident buying decisions.

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    Want to learn more in-depth how we go about building a content marketing strategy? We created a six-part series chock full of tips, tricks, and tools to help you understand and get started.

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    Build trust

    Along with building attention for your brand, building trust with your audience is also critical. By providing useful content between purchases, increasing personal touch points, and implementing other strategic tactics, you can help strengthen customer relationships and create loyalty. Here are some ways you can build trust through your content:

    • Listen first: Understand your audience needs and goals before sharing your message.
    • Make it personal: Tailor your content to the audience and their specific pain points and needs.
    • Be transparent: The more the audience knows about you, the more they will trust you.
    • Be consistent: Earning and maintaining trust requires commitment, especially during the long B2B buying cycle. Consistency across channels (social media, trade shows, website, etc.) is also important to ensure a consistent message.
    • Demonstrate expertise: Show that you, your company, and its products or services can help solve their problem.
    • Be authentic: Share stories about industry struggles and your own work-in-progress solutions; these stories will help develop deeper and more productive relationships.

    Build trust, and the business will follow.

      Start your measurement first

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      Marketers often think about measurement as something that you do at the end of a campaign. And this is often our first mistake. Measurement planning really needs to start at the beginning. Why? It’s important to think critically about measurement when you’re planning, so you can measure what really matters later on.

      This means that to do it well, you need to change the way you plan. We traditionally think about it in a linear fashion: plan, execute, then measure; Or if we’re more advanced: research, plan, execute, then measure.

      Long before pen is put to paper — when you’re still laying out what it is you are trying to accomplish — is the time to think critically about measurement and address the upfront work required to do it. What is that upfront work? Well, the details will vary of course, but a good place to start is to define measurable campaign objectives, ensure you have the proper mechanisms in place to capture necessary data, and plan a cadence of reporting and optimization.

      If you do the work upfront at the beginning, you’ll be in a good position to measure what really matters later on.