It is tempting as a B2B company to assume that inbound marketing and content creation are second-tier activities and won’t drive business acquisition. Many B2B businesses don’t understand how creative content marketing strategies can help them build their customer base. Content marketing is usually associated with consumer marketing campaigns to drive social media traffic on Facebook or Pinterest. However, with the right content and a creative content marketing strategy you can quickly build an effective inbound marketing program that will attract business customers.
B2B Inbound Marketing Increasing
Applying creative content marketing programs to build B2B business is on the rise. According to the “B2B Small Business Content Marketing: 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends” report:
- 94 percent of B2B SMBs are using creative content marketing.
- 45 percent of B2B SMB marketers said they were effective at content marketing (up from 34 percent last year).
- 75 percent of B2B SMBs are producing more content than they were a year ago.
And the use of B2B content to feed social media channels is up as well:
- Google+ rose from 40 to 61 percent;
- SlideShare rose from 24 to 40 percent;
- Instagram from 9 to 23 percent; and
- YouTube from 62 to 75 percent.
More B2B business owners are discovering that creative content marketing gives them an edge on their competition, and when it’s done right, it can be their most effective source of new business.
Use Content to Fuel Marketing
You will hear online marketers often say content is king. That is because it is content that fuels the marketing machine. A good content marketing strategy is structured to generate a feedback loop. You start with the content; use the content to stimulate conversation; and ultimately you use the conversation to convert new leads and new customers. However, to keep the conversation going, you need to provide information and insight of value to the reader.
With content as the fuel, you still have to construct the marketing machine. Here are some of the key steps that make up any creative content marketing program:
- Set objectives – Understand why you are embarking on a content marketing program. Are you looking to build brand awareness? Increase the sales pipeline? Sell a new product? Have clear objective before you begin.
- Have a target – Know who your target reader is and what interests them. A common approach is to create a persona that you can use to identify points of interest. Understanding who your audience is will help you choose the right topics and channels to reach them.
- Engage – Use company blogs, contests, social media channels, articles, success stories, infographics, and other tools to engage your target audience.
- Convert – Provide a means to invite online followers to engage with you. Offer white papers, a newsletter, or information they can’t get elsewhere in exchange for their contact information. Build your prospect database so you can continue the online conversation with more prospects.
- Measure the results – Determine what channels work best to engage with your target audience. Do you get more traction from blog posts, or social media, or direct marketing efforts? Are you meeting your conversion goals?
- Refine and repeat – Analyze the program results and determine what is working, what isn’t, and refine your program.
Channels of Outreach
When reaching out to your target market, use various creative content marketing tactics:
- Blogging – A blog lets you share your knowledge about your industry, market trends, show the value of your wares, explain how customers get value from your products, and more. You use the blog content and links to drive web traffic and to share with others to promote conversation.
- Guest blogging – Write guest blog posts for popular industry sites with content links to build your online reputation.
- Social media – Use social media channels to build visibility and promote conversation. Choose channels that reach your B2B audience, such as LinkedIn and LinkedIn Groups. Share your blog and ask for comments. Follow industry thought leaders and comment online. Use the social media channels to engage with your audience and promote conversation.
- Build your prospect list – Use content to gather more contacts. Invite followers to subscribe to your company newsletter, sign up for a webinar, enter a contest, or find other means to get them to surrender an email address and maybe a phone number.
- Convert using specialty content – Develop white papers, case studies, and content that is of real value to your B2B audience and offer it in exchange for contact information.
- Email marketing – Once you have a list of qualified contacts, you can develop a direct marketing campaign that will include a call to action to turn followers into customers.
It takes an average of 7 to 13 marketing touches to convert a prospect to a sales lead. If you use creative content marketing you will have plenty to share and new reasons to reach out to your prospects until they are ready to buy.