There are 3 important moments in every B2B marketer’s career:
- The moment they find their dream job
- The moment they sign on with a dream client
- The moment they read this blog post
You think I’m joking.
I am—kind of.
If you’re a B2B marketer and you don’t know what you need to know about content, I’ve got you covered. In this post, I’m going to break down some of the most important concepts in content marketing and how they translate to B2B marketing specifically.
What role does content marketing play in the B2B marketer’s toolkit?
An important one. A very, very, very important one…
But content is still overlooked by B2B marketers who are in the trenches trying to generate leads, buzz and sales.
Here are some of the concepts that every B2B marketer needs to know about content marketing—and that, lucky for you, I’m going to cover right now:
- How Content Can Influence The Entire Sales Funnel
- Understanding Why People Share Content Online
- The Important Role That Organic Traffic Plays In The Marketing Mix
- Different People Want Different Types Of Content
- The Importance Of Content Distribution
- Why Learning Alone Is Not Enough
Let’s dive in.
How Content Can Influence The Entire Sales Funnel
For years the traditional B2B sales funnel looked like this:
Awareness > Interest > Consideration > Purchase
Potential customers enter your world through some combination of cold calling, word of mouth or advertising. If someone expresses interest in what you’re offering, that makes them a marketing qualified lead (MQL). At this point, the marketing team hands everything over to sales.
Sales then follows up with the MQL (many, many, many times) to find out more about them. If they meet the predetermined criteria of a “potential customer,” your MQL becomes a sales qualified lead (SQL)—great job, sales team!
From there, sales tries to close the deal. The SQL either buys from you (hooray), buys from a competitor (not hooray), or abandons the purchase altogether and buys nothing—in which case you’ve just wasted a lot of time and energy.
The problem with this old-school B2B sales funnel?
The only way to carry a potential buyer through from top to bottom is by manually reaching out every single time.
Once you’re on their radar, your sales team has to do the heavy lifting to qualify and nurture each and every lead.
There’s a better way to do it:
Add content marketing to your B2B sales funnel.
Here’s what the new B2B sales funnel looks like:
Everyone starts as a stranger who knows nothing about you or your business. You then attract those strangers to your world—usually via your website. Once they become visitors, you convert them into leads. The final step is closing leads to customers.
Similar to the old-school funnel?
Yes—but here’s what it does better:
You can use content to carry your buyers through the funnel without constantly following up manually.
You can attract strangers with top-of-funnel content that answers the questions they’re asking right now. Blog posts, videos, podcasts, etc.—the way you introduce people to your business can vary, but providing them with some value before even asking for an email address is key.
You can then use middle-of-funnel content like case studies and product-focused blog posts to combat any objections or hesitations your visitors have about getting in touch or requesting a demo.
And finally, you can get real specific with use case studies that show exactly how someone like them was able to get results with your product or service.
The best part?
All of this can happen without your sales team sending email after email, meaning they’re free to invest more time in nurturing your most qualified opportunities.
Understanding Why People Share Content Online
Instead of just pressing the “share” button we now know and love, people would clip stories from newspapers and magazines to share with their friends.
When I was in junior high, I had this long-running debate with a friend of mine about hip-hop. It was a pretty common debate at the time:
Who’s better: Biggie or Tupac?
He says Biggie. I say Tupac (the correct answer).
To support his side of the debate he found a magazine article about Biggie, cut it out, and brought it to school the next day.
Nice try—it’s still Tupac.
Times have changed, but the idea’s the same:
When new-school debates like Drake vs. J. Cole come up, instead of clipping magazine articles to support their side, people find stories or tracks online then jump onto Facebook and share the links with their friends.
But what actually drives people to share content in 2020?
- To bring valuable and entertaining content to others. We want to share content we got something out of. If we found it insightful or funny, we want to give our friends and colleagues a chance to experience it as well.
- To define ourselves to others. We share content that reflects our feelings and beliefs. Here’s an example: I’m a Philadelphia Eagles fan. When they won the 2018 Super Bowl I was sharing videos of the team celebrating, memes about Nick Foles being the greatest QB ever, everything I could find about the Philly Special—I wanted the world to know I was (and always have been) an Eagles fan. #GoEagles
- To grow and nourish our relationships. We share content that can help establish new relationships or grow our existing ones. If one of my friends is a huge Boston Celtics fan and I come across a story about the Celtics that I think he’ll find interesting, I’ll send him a link to check it out.
- Self-fulfillment. A lot of the time, we share content for no reason other than it’s something we enjoy and want to share. If it makes us feel better about ourselves, we want to share it.
- To get the word out about causes or brands. If there’s a brand we love or a cause we’re supporting, we’re likely to share content about it. A prime example of this was the ALS ice bucket challenge—everyone was sharing videos of themselves getting ice water dumped on their heads and tagging their friends in support of ALS.
The Important Role That Organic Traffic Plays In The Marketing Mix
When someone has a question they want to answer or a problem they’re trying to solve, here’s what they do first:
- Open up Google
- Type their question into the search bar
- Boom—get their answer
Here’s how it looks at the most basic level:
Wondering what colour curtains you should get for your new bedroom?
Or what foods are best for keeping your skin healthy?
You can go to Google, type in what you’re looking for, and get millions of results that answer your question.
And this isn’t just the case for B2C questions like curtains or groceries.
The same process applies to B2B.
When B2B buyers have a question or a problem they need to solve, they go to Google and start searching for answers and solutions. For example, when a business is looking for ERP software, they go to Google and hit that search button.
In fact, there are over 40,000 people searching for “ERP software” in Google every month:
And the top result is bringing in close to 8,000 organic visits per month:
If your target customers are starting their search for solutions on Google (spoiler alert: they are), showing up on the first page is a great way to attract them. And this isn’t just a B2C strategy either—some of the largest B2B companies in the world are bringing in hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of website visitors every single month from Google.
For example, grainger.com is getting 2.6 million organic visits per month:
SAP.com is driving 720,000 organic visits:
Slack.com is at 2.6 million organic visits:
Even the Amazon Business homepage is at 86,000 organic visits per month:
Organic traffic and Google are key to building a sustainable content marketing engine in B2B, and ranking for the top keywords in your industry is what powers this traffic-driving machine.
Different People Want Different Types Of Content
Attention B2B marketers:
Everyone has a different taste in content.
When HubSpot asked people what types of content they’d like to see more of in the future, here’s what they said:
There are two key things to take away from this survey:
- People want more social media posts, news and videos.
- People also want more than just social media posts, news and videos.
They want interactive tools, research, long-form content, podcasts…
Social media posts, news, and video may be leading the charge, but the fact of the matter is this:
Different people are interested in different types of content.
The Importance Of Content Distribution
For years, the digital marketing mantra was this:
Content is king.
Create content, then create more content, then create more content.
So marketers created content—lots of it. And we convinced consumers that more content is what they wanted and needed. We told them the more content they could get their hands on, the better.
And they listened.
A crowded market, full of content. There’s so much content in every single corner of the internet that it’s becoming more difficult to win at the game of content marketing than ever before.
If you want your content to stand out, here’s what you need to do:
Focus on content distribution.
It’s no longer good enough to write a blog post, hit publish, then sit back and wait for the traffic, shares, likes, and comments to roll in. If you want people to see the content you’re creating, you need to do the work to get it in front of them.
Check out this webinar I did about 7 advanced ways you can distribute your content in the crowded market that is the internet:
“Awesome, Ross…but how do I know which channels to start with?”
Great question! In the world of B2B, one of the best content distribution channels is the one and only LinkedIn.
There are a number of go-to content distribution tactics on LinkedIn: You can share content directly from your LinkedIn business page, leave comments on posts by other people in your industry, write long-form articles, take part in LinkedIn groups, and more.
(PS. You can check out my complete list of LinkedIn marketing tactics right here.)
Time To Start Executing
Most marketers have heard of the T-shaped marketer concept—the idea that the best marketers have a wide range of knowledge across multiple topics, and deep knowledge in a small area.
I think the T-shaped idea is valid. It’s a good place to start. But there’s one major thing missing:
Execution—actually applying the knowledge you have.
That’s why it’s time for T-Shaped marketers to evolve into I-shaped marketers (that’s a capital “I”)—adding the bottom layer of action and execution.
By reading this post, you just gained B2B knowledge.
You’ve learned about content marketing…
You’ve learned how content influences B2B buyers…
You’ve learned why people share content…
You’ve learned about organic search…
But here’s the thing:
Learning is only the first step.
It’s time to take what you learned and actually apply it to the projects you’re managing. Use these ideas to get more results from your marketing without investing more time or dollars.
What are your thoughts? Let me know on Twitter @TheCoolestCool—I’ll make it nice and easy for you: