The five foundations of successful content marketing for industrial B2B marketers

Smart marketers in the industrial business-to-business (B2B) sector know that providing information of value attracts prospects and builds customer loyalty and a highly effective way of communicating this to prospects and customers is through content marketing.

“Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” – Content Marketing Institute.

Content marketing is really taking off in B2B. Why? Well, because valuable, relevant and consistent content is more likely to engage prospects and customers.

According to the latest research, 35 per cent of businesses have a documented content strategy, 42 per cent of businesses will publish new content at least weekly and 55 per cent of businesses will increase their content marketing spend in the next year.

In essence, content marketing is important because it ‘organically’ grows website traffic. By ‘organic’ I mean traffic that is generated from relevant online keyword searches via search engines i.e. Google. If you have a content-rich site then the chances of prospects and customers finding your site from a relevant keyword search are significantly increased.

Five pillars underpin content marketing: (1) defining your audience, (2) mapping content to the status of prospects and customers in the sales cycle, (3) creating content, (4) promoting content, and (5) measuring content engagement.

  1. Define your audience

It’s a no brainer, but so many companies fail to understand their customers. You need to be SPECIFIC in profiling your target customer by developing a ‘buyer persona’.

An example of a buyer persona might be Joe Bloggs, an electricals manager at AAA Gold Mining. Joe’s interested in solutions and methods that help him safely and efficiently maintain and run the electrical assets and infrastructure on site. He is the decision maker on the specification and procurement of equipment and services. Joe is not currently seeking electrical equipment or services.

This persona is different to John Smith, an electricals manager with an EPC for a major gas project. He is responsible for procuring electrical equipment and assets and does this via tender and bid processes. The scope of electrical equipment and assets – specifying or ‘spec’ing’ – has been defined and John is in the process of sourcing appropriate vendors and calling expressions of interest for particular packages.

According to MarketingSherpa, the most effective ways of defining your audience is through the following methods:

Interviewing your customers and target customers – 64 per cent

Interviewing sales – 56 per cent

Surveying prospects and/or customers – 47 per cent

Mining in-house database to identify characteristics of best and/or worst customers – 43 per cent

Executing Web analytics reports – 34 per cent

Interviewing customer service – 27 per cent

Using keyword research to identify topics of interest – 25 per cent

Monitoring activity on social media – 20 per cent

The key here is to develop content matched to the persona’s needs that helps them make informed decisions about the purchase, procurement, specification and operation of plant and equipment.

  1. Matching content to the sales cycle

The sales cycle is the sequence of phases that a typical customer goes through when deciding to buy something.

The cycle typically begins with an awareness stage followed by a consideration stage and then a decision stage. This is also referred to as the sales funnel which is broad at the top and narrow at the bottom. In building awareness the aim is reaching the widest possible audience relevant to your solutions. As leads are qualified, the number of prospects decreases and decreases again at the bottom of the funnel where the high-quality leads will be i.e. people who see your company as a product/service leader, make the decision on purchase and procurement and are ready to buy.

The important thing here is to identify your prospects’ needs at each stage of the cycle. This requires different content angles.

Let’s say a processing plant manager on a mine site is considering retrofitting a fire detection system for his plant. For this person, it would be appropriate to briefly write about the benefits that the latest fire detection solutions supported by a couple of testimonials. On the other hand if your prospect is a Structural Mechanical and Piping (SMP) manager with an EPC for a major construction project seeking a fire detection system for the entire facility, then content should be more comprehensive i.e. case studies, spec sheets etc.

A survey by MarketingCharts revealed that whitepapers, case studies, rich media and infographics are the best content for prospects in the initial sales phase. Detailed technology guides and implementation scenarios are the best content for prospects in the mid-to-final sales phase who are seeking solutions and considering appropriate suppliers and service providers.

In the sales cycle there are three sequential stages: (1) awareness, (2) evaluation and (3) purchase. To be effective content should be mapped to the prospect’s stage in the sales cycle.

Awareness in the sales cycle is about building brand. If your prospects have never heard of you then you need to communicate what you do, how you do it and why you do it. Tactics to build awareness include things like blogs, whitepapers, educational webinars and infographics. Importantly, this takes time. It is a process – not an event.

Evaluation in the sales cycle is about qualifying leads. In this stage, prospects aren’t ready to purchase, but they’re aware of your company and perceive your company to be a brand leader. Publishing an appropriate amount of effective awareness content is an important precursor to engaging qualified leads. Effective tactics in the evaluation phase include publishing case studies, product webinars, video, and technology guides.

In the purchase stage of the sales cycle prospects are ready to buy, so content should communicate why the prospect should purchase your equipment and/or services. Appropriate content here includes implementation or installation guides, free trials and live demonstrations.

  1. Creating content

Okay. You’ve identified your prospects and you know what content is appropriate for each stage of the sales cycle. It’s now time to develop the content and determine the length of that content. So what content is most valued? – Well according to research by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council and NetLine, 65 per cent of buyers value research reports and studies, 50 per cent value technical spec sheets and data sheets, 46 per cent value analyst intelligence and insight, 35 per cent – whitepapers, and 30 per cent – articles on trade publishing sites.

As for word length, research by serpIQ found that longer content ranks higher in Google search results than shorter content. In fact, 2000 words is the optimum length. This is something I’ve been advocating to clients for years. The article is ‘too long’ my clients would say. Yeah, and there’s good reason, I’d reply, but they would insist on cutting the word length! Well, here’s the evidence not to cut.

Bottom line is that longer content will rank better in Google, circulate better in social sites and get more inbound links, which is great for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) purposes.

  1. Promoting content

Having the best piece of content is useless unless it’s read and shared. You need to publish it.

The first and most obvious place to start is by posting the content on your website. Importantly, don’t just rely on visual reminders and queues like links in the content to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn; post and tweet the content yourself.

Email marketing campaigns are extremely powerful in getting your message to market, so ensure you email it to your database of email (compliant) subscribers. These people know you and your brand and will be the most receptive to engaging with your content and sharing it. Best of all email marketing is highly measureable, so you can see who is engaging most with the content. This is very insightful.

As a former trade publication journalist and editor, I always encourage clients to email their content to the editorial department of relevant publications. Trade publication editors are screaming out for good original content. Editorial personnel have to meet endless demands for content to post on their websites and in their e-newsletters to drive traffic to their sites and newsletters and meet commercial obligations to their advertisers. The great benefit here is that if your content is published on a trade publication website then it will reach a vast audience not to mention the potential for the content to be shared via social media.

Now, if you’re reluctant or bashful about releasing content then it’s usually an indication that it’s not good enough, so develop good content! The litmus test here is to ask yourself: ‘would I like to see this content promoted on the front page of a trade publication or would I like it to go viral on social media?’. If the answer is a confident ‘yes’ you’ve got good content.

Other ways of promoting your content is via Google Adwords campaigns. Here you can promote a whitepaper, webinar or infographic.

Social media campaigns are another way of promoting your content. You could for instance, post a blog on your website and branded LinkedIn page then tweet it two or three times a day on Twitter.

  1. Review, measure and analyse

Okay. A show of hands who measures their marketing activities? Anybody? Anybody? It’s easy to publish then forget about your content, but in doing this you’re not getting the full benefit of content marketing. I kind of liken this to a golf swing. Any golf pro will tell you how important it is to follow through on your swing. Same with content marketing. If you’ve published it then you then need to ascertain things like:

How many views did the content get?

How many people opened your e-newsletter with the content topic clearly visible in the subject field of the email?

Where are the visitors to your content based?

What content was most read?

What keywords did people type into Google to find your content?

How many leads did the content generate? – What was the quality of those leads?

What content was most shared?

If an article on crusher maintenance receives the most views and shares then it makes sense to develop and publish more content on crusher maintenance.

Conclusion

From this article you now know about content marketing, how it works and how it can benefit your business. You also know how to develop effective content.

By implementing the five foundations of content marketing you will be well on the way to increasing awareness about your company, getting better quality leads and more sales. You’ll also get better accountability for your marketing dollar and be smarter in targeting content based on where your prospects are in the sales cycle.

Author: Jamie Wade

Jamie Wade is the Director of Wade Business Media. Based in Halls Head, Western Australia, Jamie helps industrial suppliers and service providers create engaging content that attracts prospects and enhances customer loyalty. You can connect with Jamie on LinkedIn and Twitter @MediaWade. For more information, contact Jamie on 0435 945 868 or jamie@wadebusiness.com.au.

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