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First things first

Is Content marketing still relevant?

If you were wondering whether content marketing is still relevant for b2b marketers today

– trust us, it is.

But you don’t have to take our word for it – just think about your own daily habits and the way you make purchases.

We’re willing to bet good money that you answered ‘yes’ to at least one – and more likely more than one – of these questions.

Icon - Search online solutions

Do you search online to find solutions to problems?

Icon - Compare products before purchase

Do you compare products before making purchases?

Icon - Ignore ppc search results?

When you Google something, do you ignore the pay-per-click (PPC) search results and scroll straight to the organic results?

Icon - Using ad blocker on devices?

Do you use ad blockers on any of your devices?

Icon - Being put of through hard selling?

Have you ever been put off by a company or brand because they kept giving you the ‘hard sell’?

Enter content marketing.

The fact is that outbound marketing – in other words, advertising – doesn’t work as well as it once did. People are so inundated with ads that they have simply learned to tune them out.

The fact is that outbound marketing – in other words, advertising – doesn’t work as well as it once did. People are so inundated with ads that they have simply learned to tune them out.

Many are even turning to technology to stem the flow, with one report estimating that 3 in 10 internet users will be using ad blockers by the end of 2018.

Rather, people prefer to find the information they need themselves, whether that’s by reading blog posts, watching product reviews or listening to podcasts and webinars (to list just a few ways in which people consume content).

Indeed, over half of b2b buyers have made the decision to purchase before they even speak to a salesperson.

In this era of ‘fake news’, customers value brand authority, authenticity and credibility more highly than ever before. And that is precisely what content marketing delivers.

That is why companies are turning to content marketing in droves. According to a 2018 survey by the Content Marketing Institute, a whopping 85% of Australian organisations use content marketing.

Some might think this would lead to content saturation; that the sheer volume of information is only making it harder to be heard above the noise.

However, the reality is, as long as people are looking for answers, companies need to try to provide them. And if they don’t, buyers will turn to those that do.

Not to mention that these brands are definitely getting results, with 66% of Australian organisations also reporting their content marketing approach was somewhat or much more successful than the previous year.

1

What is content marketing?

You might think that the definition of ‘content marketing’ would be pretty straightforward. After all, it’s all right there in the name – right?

If the current states of our inboxes are anything to go by, though, it doesn’t seem like everyone’s quite got it all worked out. The reality is, while many businesses might think what they’re doing is ‘content marketing’, those of us on the receiving end simply call it ‘spam’.

So how do we transform our businesses from mindless spammers to lean, mean content marketing machines?

A good first step is having a deep understanding of what content marketing is – and, by extension, what it isn’t. Content marketing is a subset of inbound marketing, which aims to draw customers in with valuable content, rather than pushing your product or service onto them.

The Content Marketing Institute provides this excellent definition of content marketing:

“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.”

Let’s unpack some of these keywords to really get to the heart of it:

Icon - Clearly defined content

Your content should be for a clearly defined audience

Content for everyone is content for no one. You need to make sure you know exactly who you’re speaking to.

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Content marketing is strategic

Content marketing is not a ‘spray and pray’ approach; rather, it is built on a deep understanding of your potential and actual customers, and what they need at each stage of their customer journey. Your strategy should inform what type of content you create and where you distribute it.

Icon - Your content should be valuable

Your content should be valuable

This is what separates content marketing from simple advertising – people should want to consume your content, because it delivers value.

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Your content should be consistent

Your content should be consistent: Good content marketing is not just about delivering high-quality content, but delivering high-quality content on a regular basis, in order to build a solid relationship with your customer.

Icon - Relevant content

Your content should be relevant

Your customers are not simply numbers on a spreadsheet; they are human beings, with very specific wants and needs – and your content should speak to those wants and needs.

2

How do you build a content marketing strategy that works?

On the surface, content marketing might sound easy – just knock out a blog post once a fortnight or month, or post a funny GIF or two on social media, and bob’s your uncle!

 

But believe us when we say, this sort of haphazard approach is a good way to kill your content marketing, fast.

Imagine, for example, that you decided to throw a spontaneous dinner party. Sounds fun, right? But planning is so passé – so you’re just going to wing it.

 

Dinner party illustration

You send out some invites, and rush home, only to discover the only things in your fridge are three-week-old cheese and a questionable orange.

The end result? You're running around the kitchen like a headless chook trying to put something edible on the table, and your poor guests are subjected to a pretty average meal - and we're guessing they're not going to be beating down the door come to your next dinner party either.

But had you taken the time to think about who was coming and what they might enjoy, research some recipes, shop for ingredients and prepare accordingly, the night would likely have had a much bigger chance of success.

So it goes with content marketing - those that go in with a well-formulated, detailed plan will be the ones who get the biggest return on investment(ROI) from it.

Indeed, according to the Content Marketing Institute, 72% of marketers who said their content marketing approach was more successful than last year attributed that success to the development and adjustment of their strategies.

So where to start?

A sensible place to start is with your target audience. In other words, who’s on your invite list?

Buyer personas

It can be easy for b2b companies to forgot that they're not communicating with companies, but people within those companies.

Yes, demographic comapny data is useful - for example, knowing the number of employees a company has will help you pitch the right products, services or plans for their needs.

But these demographics are not really going to speak to the actual problems that the people within those companies are actually facing, and trying to solve with your product or service.

Here’s where buyer personas come in. In essence, a buyer persona is a fictional representation of a member of your target audience. Most b2b companies will likely have more than one persona, as there are often several people involved in the buying process.

In order to create a buyer persona, you need to be asking some very detailed questions about your model buyer, and, ideally, verifying those details with real-life buyers.

The questions will include information like:

  • Age
  • Job title
  • Income
  • Hobbies
  • Where they live
  • What their family situation is
  • Career path
  • Work goals
  • Challenges they encounter within their role
  • How they fit into the decision-making process
  • How your business product or solution might be able to help them
  • Where they look for information
  • What sales objections you might hear from them
  • How they might describe themselves
Buyer persona illustration

After you have clear idea of who you're targeting as an individual, it should be easy to craft sales and marketing messages that resonate with that person.

Buyer journeys

So you’ve got your personas down pat – awesome work! But it’s not time to launch into content creation just yet.

Just as the perfect dinner party begins with some appetizers, followed by an entrée, a main course and finally a dessert, your content should be perfectly matched to each stage of the buyer journey:

Your strategy needs to factor in how to seamlessly move your buyer from one stage to the next.

Awareness

During the awareness stage, the buyer has a niggling feeling something isn’t quite right, but they’re not sure what the exact problem is, or how best to solve it.

At this point, they are going to search generally around the problem to try to gain some more insight into the issue, and figure what solutions are out there.

Content at this point should be trying to address these pain points, and not trying to upsell your product or brand.

When trying to figure how to throw the perfect dinner party, for example, you might try the following searches on Google:

  • what makes a perfect dinner party
  • scintillating conversation starters
  • easy meals for large groups

Consideration

During the consideration stage, the buyer has a good idea of what the most viable solutions are, and will be spending their time researching deeply into these options, comparing and contrasting the pros and cons, in order to work out which is the best fit for them.

Content at this point should highlight the ways in which your solution addresses your buyer’s specific pain points.

It shouldn’t, however, be overly sales-y – your buyer is not at the point of being ready to purchase; they’re still just weighing up their options. Your job here is to highlight the benefits of your product or service.

By this point of your dinner party planning, for example, you may have narrowed down the possible themes of your dinner party to three choices:

  • Hawaiian luau
  • 1950s housewife
  • Murder mystery night

But which option best suits your budget, cooking ability, time constraints and guests’ preferences?

Decision

During the decision stage, the buyer feels confident that they know which solution will be the best fit for them – now it’s about deciding who the best provider of that solution will be.

At this point, they will likely have a shortlist of vendors they will be looking at through a magnifying glass, comparing features and prices, and seeking validation that will support their decision.

Content at this point should demonstrate why your solution is better than that of your competitors, and how your solution delivers good ROI.

Let’s return once more to your dinner party preparations.

Having weighed up the pros and cons of the various themes gleaned during the consideration stage, you’ve decided a murder mystery party is the way to go.

Hawaiian luau

Roasting a pig Hawaiian-style requires digging a large hole, and the roasting time alone is 10 hours

Can’t pull off a coconut bra

1950s housewife

Love idea of dressing up as Betty

Food from 1950s leaves a lot to be desired

Murder mystery night

Don’t need to spend hours digging a huge hole in backyard

Still get to wear a fun costume

Now you’ll be comparing the merits of various murder mystery party games to decide which one suits the sensibilities of your guests the most.

Delight

This is an often forgotten, yet crucial stage of the buyer journey, especially for b2b companies – after all, it’s far cheaper to retain an existing customer than acquire a new one.

The delight stage is all about maximising the value you provide to your buyer, whether that’s by showing them new and exciting ways to use their product, providing loyalty discounts or offers, or simply by checking in every now and then to see how things are going.

The goal of this stage is to make the buyer so happy with the decision they made that they make repeat purchases and shout your praises to anyone who will listen.

During your party, for example, you might serve surprise welcome cocktails, or make little giftbags for your attendees.

You’ll know you succeeded in throwing the perfect dinner party when you get a text message from one of your guests the next day that says: “Great party last night, had so much fun! When’s the next one?”

3

How do you produce great content?

Now that you know who you’re producing content for, and what their buyer journey looks like, you can now start creating content mapped to each stage of the journey in order gently nurture prospects all the way through to conversion, and keep them delighted post-conversion.

Seems relatively straightforward – until you start to think about the sheer number of different content types available to you.

Here’s a list of content formats from HubSpot

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How-to's

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Content Curation

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Helpful Application/Tool

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Opinion Post

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Case Studies

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Vlog

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White Papers

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Charts/Graphs

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Ebooks

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Videos

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Templates

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Email Newsletters/Autoresponders

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Cartoons/illustrations

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Surveys

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Book Summaries

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Slideshares

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Original Research

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"Day in the Life of" Post

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Press Releases

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Infographics

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Photos

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Interview

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Predictions

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Lists

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User Generated Content

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Mind Maps

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Company News

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Meme

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Timelines

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Online Game

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Tool Reviews

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Resources

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Giveaways

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Quotes

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FAQs

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Quizzes

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Q&A Session

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Polls

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Webinar

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Podcasts

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Guides

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Pinboards

Every business will be a bit different, and while you will have some idea from your buyer persona interviews, it may take a bit of trial and error to work out which types of content work best.

That being said, there are some general rules of thumb for producing great content, as well as key content types that have been proven to be effective for b2b marketers. In this section, we’ll cover some of the most important aspects of b2b content production, including:

Search engine optimisation

Search engine optimisation (or SEO) is about improving your website so that you attract more visitors from search engines (such as Google, Bing or Yahoo!).

When you look up something, the search engine will send spiders (or web-crawlers) through the web to find the content that is the most relevant, trustworthy and useful to your search, and will rank them based on popularity and authority – the more visits an entry gets, the higher it will rank.

There are two kinds of entries: paid ads and organic results.

1

Paid ads will be at the top of the search results (usually the first two to four entries) with the word ‘ad’ next to it in a little green box.

2

The organic search results will come after these. While paid ads do have prime real-estate, according to searchenginejournal.com, 70-80% of searchers scroll right past those ads to the first organic search result on the page.

This is why appearing at the top of the organic results is the holy grail for businesses.

Not only do 75% of people tend to stay on the first search engine results page (SERP), but, compared to a paid ad, an organic result promotes credibility, because there is a perception that many people have gone to this website – so it is known and trusted as an authority in its field.

So how do you appear at the top of the SERP?

Why, with amazing content, of course! (Bet you saw that one coming.)

Regularly creating content that is valuable, relevant and consistent will do wonders in terms of bumping your website up the SERP.

But that’s not all there is to it. In order to rank highly on the SERP, you need to speak the same language as your buyers.

This is where keywords come in.

Keywords

If you want to create content that’s relevant to your buyers, you need to know exactly what they’re typing into the search bar. (Your buyer personas should definitely help with this step.)

In other words, you need to know the best keywords to rank for.

For example, if you’re trying to find the best murder mystery kit for your dinner party, which of these terms are you more likely to use?

  • best murder mystery kit
  • top murder mystery game
  • best murder mystery dinner party kit

This is the level of detail you need to get into when it comes to keywords. There are several ways to find out the best keywords to try to hit in your content:

  • Ask the sales team what the most frequently asked questions are
  • Search the web for alternatives
  • Look at what your competitors are doing (and not just your direct competitors, but anyone your personas might be spending money with in other industries)
  • Use Google Analytics and paid SEO tools to gather information on the key phrases your visitors are using to find your site in the first place
  • Do some interviews with real-life examples of your buyer personas

When you’ve got this established, ensure that the keywords are:

  • In the body of the content
  • In the URL
  • In the image and alt-text
  • In the meta description

Be careful not to go too crazy with overstuffing your content with keywords though. If it feels forced or awkward, it can severely undermine the quality of your piece and lower your ranking.

Blogs

Your blog is the bread and butter of your content marketing strategy.

Your website (and your homepage especially) is your business' most important marketing asset, and your blog is a key way of driving visitors to your website and generating awareness.

In fact, research by HubSpot indicates that companies that blog get 55% more website traffic than those who do not.

Here are some top blogging tips to ensure your blog generates as many leads as possible:

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Top Tip

Don’t toot your own horn too much: The majority of your blog should be directed at buyers in the awareness stage – and that means no pushy sales talk. This is the business world equivalent of talking about yourself too much on the first date – it’s an instant turn off.

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Top Tip

Put on your journalist hat: Journalists know how to boil a story down to the essentials and make sure their facts are straight – all good lessons for blog writing (and branded content writing in general).

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Top Tip

Create an editorial calendar and style guide: When it comes to blogs, the name of the game is producing quality content regularly. An editorial calendar helps to keep your strategy on track, and helps to hold people accountable. (To make things even easier, we’ve put together this easy-to-use editorial calendar template.) A style guide also helps ensure content consistency, making your brand recognisable and your content reader-friendly.

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Top Tip

Irrelevance = death: When considering a topic to write about, ask yourself, ‘Is this something my readers would find useful or interesting? Would they get value out of this?’

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Top Tip

Include a call-to-action (CTA): Every post should end with a CTA to help the buyer move to the next stage of the buyer journey. Effective CTAs include inviting readers to sign up for your email newsletter, or encouraging them to download a super-useful ebook or template that relates to the topic at hand.

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Top Tip

Practise good SEO: Drive organic traffic with SEO techniques, like researching keywords your buyers are most likely to search, and creating strong, engaging meta-descriptions (that also include your target keyword).

Videos

There’s no denying video’s allure.

Videos are highly engaging – according a survey by HubSpot,

  • Videos were rated the most engaging format, with 62% of respondents reporting that they consume videos thoroughly, versus 38% who said they only skimmed them.
  • People are demanding more, with 53% of respondents in the same survey saying they wanted to see more video in the future.

But fulfilling this demand is easier said than done.

This can come down to any number of reasons – high costs, time required to put a storyboard together, lack of video editing skills or experience, getting participation from people without ruffling too many feathers, finding the right location, getting approvals, making sure the piece is done by a certain time …

The list is endless.

That’s why we road-tested this 4-step approach to creating marketing videos to help get the job done under budget, and with minimum fuss.

Step 1

Start with the storyboard
In order to maximise the value of every single second, the first step is creating a story that succinctly encapsulates the message you’re trying to communicate.

Step 2

Write the script with the end in mind
Attention spans are short (and getting shorter), so you want to make sure you’re delivering your core message as early as possible.

Step 3

Source the talent
You don’t necessarily need professional actors; instead, consider sourcing your talent from within the business, or from friends of the business. This not only saves money, but also lends authenticity to the video.

Step 4

Preparation is key
The key to staying under budget is being well prepared ahead of shooting day. This means:

  • Organising lights, equipment, outfits and makeup so it’s all on site ahead of shooting
  • Having a back-up plan in case things go awry (e.g. someone doesn’t show up, equipment doesn’t work etc.)
  • Doing table reads the day before to ensure everyone knows their lines

Ebooks, whitepapers and reports

For b2b marketers, long-form content pieces like ebooks, whitepapers and reports, which give in-depth information about issues near and dear to your buyers’ hearts, are a great way to demonstrate your authority and earn trust.

Not to mention that they make great lead generation tools.

According to the Demand Gen Report – 2017 Content Preferences Survey, 76% of respondents said they were willing to register and share information about themselves in exchange for white papers, while 63% said they were willing to do the same for ebooks.

But we’ve all been the victims of ebooks that were either too shallow, too complex, or, frankly, dull as dishwater. Creating great long-form content is not just about engaging writing, but also gorgeous design.

Here are our top 10 tips for creating ebooks that your prospects will want to read cover to cover:

Top Tip

Tell them what they’ve gained: Start the book by telling your reader what they will learn by the end of the book.

Top Tip

Keep it tasteful and interesting: Create something that you would want to see.

Top Tip

Go large with quotes: They are super shareable, and people love ’em!

Top Tip

Break up large areas of text: Large sections of text can be off-putting to readers – break them up using sections and icons.

Top Tip

Start a dialogue: Include an email link on the last page to encourage interaction from the reader.

Top Tip

Design for humans: Look over somebody’s shoulder while they read your ebook and see how they interact with it.

Top Tip

Keep your logos small so they don’t overwhelm your cover page design.

Top Tip

Use great high-quality images: Photographs and illustrations add visual interest – just be sure to use a consistent style so the entire piece works in harmony.

Top Tip

Anticipate boredom: Highlight what’s on the next page at the end of a section to keep the reader hanging on.

Top Tip

Don’t forget to CTA!: On the final page of your ebook, think about what you want your viewer to follow on to next and nudge them in that direction.

Case studies

So you’ve enticed your buyer with interesting blog posts, engaging videos and informative ebooks. Job well done!

But those alone aren’t going to be enough to get your buyer over the line. You need to put your money where your mouth is, and prove you’re the best company for the job.

This is where case studies come into play.

Case studies help to convince buyers your solution will work for them by demonstrating it has worked for other clients in the past. And they work.

According to Demand Gen’s 2018 Content Preferences Survey

  • 79% of respondents reported using case studies to research b2b purchasing decisions in the last 12 months,
  • 42% felt case studies were the most valuable piece of content for both the mid- and late-stages of the buying process, and
  • 64% of respondents reported sharing case studies with their colleagues (only blog posts were shared more, at 71%).

So not only do they provide that all-important social proof, but they are also great resources that can be easily shared to other stakeholders and decision-makers within the business.

Writing case studies can be a headache for many. That’s why we put together this failsafe 7-step process to writing the perfect case study.

Step 1

Draft your headline
Your headline is one sentence that summarises the BIG ACHIEVEMENT of the case study. What it is about your case study that makes it a story worth telling?

Step 2

Write a description of your client
Set the scene here. Is your client is new, big, award-winning, a household name or notable for any other reason? This will make your case study look even more impressive.

Step 3

Sum up their situation / need / problem
Talk about why your client was embarking on this project, and how it was going to impact their business. Remember, the more severe a problem, the more impressive the solution will seem.

Step 4

Outline the challenge
Every good story – like David and Goliath – has an element of overcoming a challenge. What made this a tricky job?

Most importantly, don’t forget to talk about how you got around the problem. Not only does this highlight your adaptability and problem-solving skills, it makes your story a whole lot more interesting, too.

Step 5

Taa Daa! Give us the solution
Here’s where you tell us what you delivered and how it fit the bill. Focus on what benefits your product / service delivered to your client.

Step 6

Talk about any results
This is where you sum up how you (or your project, product or service) made a difference to your client’s business. Bonus points if you include some key facts and figures to support your statements.

Step 7

Finally, get a comment to close with, if you can
A quote from a happy client, talking about why they are pleased with their experience and the outcome, can really boost the credibility of your case study.

If you can’t get a client quote, try getting one from a member of the team who worked on the project.

Webinars

Combining the high engagement of video with the authority and trustworthiness of ebooks, webinars (or web-based seminars) are another powerful weapon in the b2b marketer’s arsenal.

Whether you’re using your webinar to educate your prospects on a particular issue, or to demonstrate your product, webinars come with a swathe of advantages (the following stats were sourced from Demand Gen’s 2018 Content Preferences Survey):

  • They’re inexpensive: All you need is some webinar software, and you’re able to connect with several prospects at the same time.
  • They’re sought after by buyers: 66% of respondents reported using webinars to research b2b purchasing decisions in the last 12 months
  • They’re shareable: 61% reported sharing webinars with colleagues
  • They’re perfect for those in the Consideration stage: 48% said webinars were their top choice and most valuable content format in the mid-stage of their buyer journey
  • They’re highly engaging: While typically people spend less than 5 minutes reviewing a piece of content, webinars were far and away the most engaging format, with the majority of respondents (37%) spending 30-60 minutes reviewing them. This is likely due to their interactive nature – during webinars, buyers often get to ask their most burning questions specific to their situation.
  • They’re great for lead generation: 75% said they would share more information to receive webinar content.

To make sure you reap all these benefits and more from webinars, just follow these 5 steps for hosting a successful webinar.

Step 1

Plan It!
What exactly is it that you want your webinar to deliver? Even if it’s just a case of boosting your company’s reputation, it’s worth keeping this objective fresh in your mind.

Step 2

Choose Your Platform
Do a bit of research to find the best webinar platform for you and your needs.

Some of the most popular ones include GoToWebinar, WebinarJam and Adobe’s Acrobat Connect Professional.

Of course, if you have a tried-and-tested platform that works for you, stick to what you know.

Step 3

Invite
It’s also good practice to send a reminder email to your registered attendees the day before the webinar – and in some cases an hour before too.

Use your existing e-mail list, social media and blogs to direct people to register. Make sure your message is sufficiently detailed that people know what the webinar is about.

Step 4

Presentation Time!
Keep your webinar as short as you can (30 mins is ideal) and make sure you open your webinar at least 15 minutes early so your audience has time to test their connections.

The content of your webinar will vary according to what you’re trying to achieve, but try to make sure it’s 100% relevant, runs at the right pace for your audience, and doesn’t sound like a robot spouting a slew of features.

If it’s interactive, leave plenty of time for questions afterwards.

Step 5

Record and Follow Up
Once you have delivered your webinar, follow up with the participants while it is fresh in their minds.

You could send a link to the recorded webinar in case they would like to listen again – encourage them to forward it on to colleagues.

A survey is always handy too, and don’t forget to follow up on points or areas of interest which were raised during the webinar.

(If you’re in the tech software space, you’re likely running webinars to demo your product – so be sure to also check our blog posts on how to improve your product demo close rate – in part one, we reveal how to make sure you’re speaking to the right leads, and in part two, we’ll tell you how to nail the demo.)

4

How do you effectively distribute your content?

You could spend hours creating the most amazing content, but it’s all for naught if no one ever sees it.

While good SEO while help drive your website up the rankings, it’s a slow burn – in the meantime, you need to give your content a little push to help it reach buyers.

There are lots of ways to distribute your content – for example, in-person events, print magazines, guest blogging, content hubs, to name just a few – and your personas should help you pinpoint where your buyers are hanging out.

But two methods of content distribution have proved far and away the most effective for b2b marketers: email and social media.

Email

It might seem old-fashioned in this age of virtual reality and artificial intelligence, but the humble email remains a dependable workhorse in a b2b company’s content marketing strategy.

According to the Content Marketing Institute’s ‘Content Marketing Trends 2018 – Australia’ report (9), nearly three-quarters of respondents rated email an effective format for distributing content, making it the most highly rated format.

Here are just some of the reasons email continues to reign supreme:

  • 99.99% buyers will have an email address, but not everyone will have a social media account: OK, so I made that statistic up, but here’s a real one: more than 3.8 billion people – in other words, over half of the entire planet– use email right now. (In comparison, Facebook has around 2.3 billion users currently.)
  • Buyers are highly engaged with email: According to HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2018 report , 83% of respondents prefer to communicate via email for business purposes.
  • Email is one of the few channels you have complete control over: With email, there are no tricky algorithms or updates to contend with – you have total ownership over who you reach out to, and how and when you reach out to them.
  • Email delivers the highest ROI: On average, email generates $38 for every dollar spent.

 

Golden rules for stellar email marketing

Yep, it’s true, email is the bee’s knees.

But its effectiveness means everyone and his dog are also competing with you for your buyers’ attention – and those on the receiving end are forced to bear the brunt of bloated email inboxes.

So how do we save ourselves from being relegated to the junk folder?

By going back to the basics.

Cast your mind back to where we defined content marketing – those same rules apply to good email marketing too.

Here are the golden rules for stellar email marketing:

1

Make sure your emails are valuable
Just as your content should speak to your buyers’ pain points, so too should your emails.

When drafting an email, put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself, ‘Is this something I’d be happy to receive?’

2

Make sure your emails are relevant
Remember when we said content marketing should be directed at a ‘clearly defined audience’? That applies doubly to email marketing.

Your database should be segmented, whether it’s by behaviour or demographics, or a combination of both, to ensure you send highly targeted messages to the right people.

Bonus points for trigger emails based on your subscribers’ behaviour – these get double the click-through rate (CTR) of standard emails.

3

Make sure your emails are consistent
When it comes to good email marketing, you should be as dependable and anticipated as that first coffee in the morning.

Regular communication is key – but don’t overdo it. Sending several emails a day is a definite no-no.

4

Email marketing should be tied to specific goals
Don’t just email for the sake of it – every email should be tied to a specific goal or KPI, whether you’re trying to increase your subscriber base, qualify leads or encourage repeat purchases.

5

Test, test, test
One of the great things about email marketing is the amount of data at your fingertips.

Put it good use by tracking your performance against your goals and performing A/B tests on a regular basis, so your results get better and better each time.

Social media

Rated an effective format for distributing content by 58% of Australian marketers (according to the Content Marketing Institute’s ‘Content Marketing Trends 2018 – Australia’ report), social media is another important piece of the content marketing puzzle.

Yet too many businesses go into social media with an ad hoc approach – and end up frustrated when they don’t get the results they want.

Just as with any other aspect of your content marketing, you need to go in with a well-formulated plan – and a fairly crucial aspect of that plan is deciding which platforms will work best for your business.

 

A quick-fire guide to the biggest social media platforms

Having a strong social media strategy does not mean having a presence on every social media platform that’s out there.

You only have limited resources (read: time and money) and you don’t want to put those resources where

  1. they’re not going to reach the audience you want, and
  2. they’re not going to give you the kind of engagement you want.

Not to mention that spreading yourself too thin across too many channels is a great way to lose followers.

Here’s a quick-fire guide to the biggest social media platforms to help ensure you get the most bang for your buck.

LinkedIn

As a b2b company, LinkedIn is in all likelihood going to be one of your most important social media platforms for you, if not the most important.

Which makes sense, considering it’s pretty much built for targeting professionals, high-level decision-makers in particular – according to one study, 91% of executives rated LinkedIn as their number-one choice for professionally relevant content.

With LinkedIn Sponsored Posts, you can target these users with surgical precision, making it great for lead generation – marketers in one survey reported that 80% of b2b marketing leads sourced through social media came from LinkedIn.

Yes, the cost-per-click (CPC) is higher than the other platforms – but the results make the investment worthwhile.

Facebook

While Facebook’s reputation has been tainted by the recent data breach scandals, it still remains a social media powerhouse.

With 60% of the Australian population being active users on Facebook, it’s simply too big for b2b businesses to ignore.

Pundits are also predicting that augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will be huge trends in the coming months and years, and we expect Facebook to be at the forefront of these trends, particularly with the development of their virtual reality platform, Spaces.

One of the key advantages of this platform is that users are highly engaged, often checking their newsfeeds several times a day, making it perfect for brand awareness content, though it typically doesn’t generate as many leads as LinkedIn.

Like LinkedIn, Facebook pay-per-click (PPC) ads are highly targeted – not to mention their CPC is one of the lowest of the big social networks.

Twitter

Twitter has seen a bit of a resurgence since it doubled its character limit to 280, though with 3 million monthly active users in Australia, it still lags well behind the reach of Facebook (15 million) and Instagram (9 million).

That being said, it’s great for building relationships with buyers, whether it’s by retweeting posts, answering industry-specific questions, or responding quickly to customer service queries. You can even segment leads and customers into lists for regular monitoring, so you can be even more responsive.

Instagram

With 9 million monthly active users in Australia, Instagram is a platform that should definitely not be ignored.

There’s also evidence to suggest that millennials are ditching Facebook in favour of Instagram, and as this demographic moves up the ranks and into decision-making roles, it will become all the more crucial for brands to meet them where they are.

Instagram has also recently launched IGTV, a long-form video portal that aims to give YouTube a run for its money. Users will be able to post videos lasting up to an hour, opening up exciting possibilities for b2b marketers.

Instagram also boasts some of the most engaged users on any network – engagement with brands on Instagram is 10 times higher than Facebook, 40 times higher than LinkedIn, and 84 times higher than Twitter.

However, b2b businesses need to remember that this is a visual platform, so unless you can produce compelling and relevant images on a regular basis, this might not be the platform for you.

YouTube

YouTube is the third most visited website in the world, behind Facebook and Google. This is one of the reasons it is fast becoming an important platform for b2b businesses.

According to the State of Inbound 2018 report, nearly half of all respondents reported that they were planning to add YouTube as a content distribution channel to their marketing efforts in the next 12 months.

YouTube is a great way to harness the power of video (remember when we talked about how engaging they are?), and it is also particularly good for boosting search engine rankings – in fact, a keyword-titled video can often show up higher than a written post.

Golden rules for stellar social media marketing

There’s a reason so many businesses get less-than-fab results from their social media strategy – it takes a lot of time, effort and trial-and-error to get it right.

But you can shorten the path to success with these tried-and-true tips.

Top Tip

Don’t try to be everywhere at once: Many businesses mistakenly think that a healthy social media strategy means being present on as many platforms as possible, but, in fact, you’ll get much better results if you direct your resources into those channels that are going to give you the biggest rewards.

When choosing the right social media channels for your business, be sure to consider your brand, your budget, your objectives, your audience, your competitors and even your geographic considerations.

Top Tip

Use a mix of owned, earned and paid tacticsThe beauty of social media is that it’s a great way to build relationships with prospective buyers in more direct, authentic ways, which is why having an organic social media strategy is so important.

But, like SEO, building up a strong organic presence takes time and work. In the meantime, bolster your strategy with paid tactics (like sponsored posts) and earned tactics (like reaching out to industry influencers).

Top Tip

Tap into the power of community Crowdsourcing on social media can be a really engaging way to create great content, whether that’s by initiating healthy debates with your followers, gathering data and insights using surveys and polls, or reaching out to industry experts for a unique perspective.

Top Tip

Don’t entrust your social media to your intern!: On the surface, entrusting your intern with your social media might seem like a good idea – after all, they spend half the working day on social media anyway, so they might as well put that time to good use!

But your social media is far too important to put in the hands of someone inexperienced. Instead, hire an experienced social media manager or enlist the help of a marketing agency.

Top Tip

Watch the data: The instantaneous nature of social media is a beautiful thing because it allows marketers to be super responsive to the ads they post.

Unfortunately, most fail to make the most of the analytics, letting the ad run its course like a billboard in the 1990s. Big no-no.

There’s no point paying for an ad to run on a platform for a prolonged period of time if it’s not getting clicked on.

Smart social marketers who want optimum lead generation will watch the data like a hawk, tweaking and following the results all the way to the bank.

5

How do measure and improve your content marketing strategy?

No content marketing strategy is perfect from the word go. That’s why the final step – measurement and optimisation – is so important, allowing you to get better results, wring every single dollar out of your efforts, and really understand the value you contribute to your organisation.

But with so much data at our fingertips, trawling through the numbers to find meaningful insights is easier said than done.

Don’t let marketing be perceived as the ‘colouring-in’ department – earn your seat at the table by following these 5 steps:

Step 1 -Set goals
Step 2 - Collect meaningful data
Step 3 - Interpret the results
Step 4 - Apply incremental changes
Step 5 - Document your learnings

Step 1

Set goals
If you don’t know what success looks like, then you won’t know when you’ve achieved it. That’s why setting goals is important – everything you do should be deliberate and tied to a specific, measurable objective.

It can be helpful to tie goals to your buyer journey, in order to see how effectively buyers are moving from one stage to another.

Step 2

Collect meaningful data

Once you’ve set your goals, you can then determine which metrics will reflect success. Be careful, however, not to be distracted by vanity metrics. For example, if you’re a conducting a paid social media campaign, click-through rate (CTR) will tell you more about audience engagement than likes.

Here are a few examples of goals tied to the buyer journey, and the metrics that might indicate success:

Goal: Increase awareness

Metric: Monthly Increase in Website Traffic

Goal: Increase numbers of customers moving from awareness to consideration stages

Metric: Monthly Ratio of Website Leads to Content Conversions (where content conversions = downloaded a deeper piece of content)

Goal: Increase numbers of customers moving from Awareness stage right through to sales stage

Metric: Quarterly Ratio of Website Lead to Sales Conversion.

It’s also important to be clear on the difference between a metric and a key performance indicator (KPI) – while metrics can indicate whether you’ve reached a certain goal, KPIs are directly tied to business objectives, and produce meaningful insights towards growth.

Step 3

Interpret the results
Collecting the right metrics will ensure you have a much clearer picture of what is happening.

For example, if you’re running a paid social media campaign, ad clicks will only tell you so much. Not all ad clicks go to the website, because sometimes people click on the company name, taking them to the company page on the platform, and not your website (and yes, you still pay for these clicks).

If this is the case, that might indicate the audience is interested in finding out more about your company, but the content itself might not be speaking to their most pressing pain points.

But if the ad clicks are going from the ad platform to your website, this means that the call-to-action (CTA) in the ad campaign is relevant to the audience selected, and the audience is motivated to click through. This metric also shows the effectiveness of a channel in bringing the ad-click out of the ad platform to your website.

Step 4

Apply incremental changes
So, you have done the hard data interpretation and your fingers are itching to tweak your CTAs, button colours and email subject lines all at once.

Hold your horses! This is the time for you to take a deep breath, make a cup of tea and think carefully about how you want to apply your insights strategically to your campaign.

Only ever make one change at a time to your campaign assets. Yes, we know that this is the more time-consuming approach to campaign tweaking, but it’s also the only reliable way to find out what changes had the biggest impact on your conversion rate. Repeating this process over the entire length of your campaign will ensure that you’re getting the best possible results.

Step 5

Document your learnings
Yes, we hear you: documentation is not really the most exciting part of a marketer’s job. But it’s vital to foster a culture of ongoing learning, enabling you to make informed decisions about how your organisation should invest their marketing dollars. Most importantly, the documentation process will give you a great starting point to plan your next inbound campaign.

The easiest way to stay on top of the documentation is by producing regular marketing reports. These are not only useful for you and your team, but also serve as proof to the executive board of the value your department is contributing (to learn more about this, check out our ebook 6 marketing metrics your boss actually cares about).

Reporting is also an important means of showing the ROI of your content marketing efforts – after all, all most executives want to know is how your strategy impacts the bottom line.

Yet this is one of marketers’ biggest challenges – according to the State of Inbound 2018, 42% said proving the ROI of their marketing activities was one of their top priorities for the next 12 months.

Think of ROI in terms of customer lifetime value to the organisation – what is their value to an organisation over their entire lifetime, and what amount of that would you be willing to invest to get that customer on board?

It’s important to calculate it in this way, so that you’re able to demonstrate the full value of that customer acquisition to your C-Suite, especially given that new customers are more expensive to acquire than retaining current ones.

Conclusion

Yes, the b2b world is in the throes of a love affair with content marketing.

But content marketing is not a check-the-boxes, one-size-fits-all approach – it’s a long-term strategy that requires significant investment in time and resources.

By carefully considering how you:

  • understand your buyers and their journey,

  • produce valuable, relevant and consistent content,

  • distribute content where you buyers live, and

  • measure and optimise your results

You can build a content marketing strategy that gets amazing results and works for you well into the future.

And if you need help with that, get in touch and we’ll see how we can help.