According to Content Marketing Institute’s B2B Content Marketing 2017 report, 71% of survey respondents consider how their content impacts the overall experience a person has with their organization. Why is this so important to marketers? Creating the right content for your audience can mean the difference between a good and bad impression and, ultimately, whether you gain a new customer.
How can you know that you are creating the right content for your audience? A combination of goal-setting, research, planning and evaluation can help you determine what your target audience wants and how your content is performing.
Identifying Your Marketing Goals
Are you creating content without a goal in mind?
Your marketing goals should always guide your content strategy. If your main business goal is to drive sales, then you may want to produce gated content for lead generation purposes (80% of B2B marketers will focus on lead generation in 2017). If you want to drive traffic to your site or build awareness about a topic (79% of B2B marketers will focus on brand awareness in 2017), you may want to focus on producing sharable content, such as articles and infographics. Knowing your goals will give your content purpose and make it more effective.
Analyzing Content Performance
Establishing your marketing goals is not enough on its own—you must measure your marketing goals appropriately as well. Although evaluating your content marketing performance is the best way to determine if you are creating the right content, many marketers are using the wrong metrics to evaluate their content’s performance.
The content marketing report above states that 78% of B2B marketers use website traffic to measure how well their content marketing is producing results. While this metric can help you determine if you are driving traffic to your content through promotions or organically, it alone cannot tell you if those visitors are actually consuming your content nor who they are—the majority of your visitors could be non-buyers or even competitors.
It can be difficult to pinpoint the cause of poor content performance because many factors play a part. It could be due to a lack of promotion, not necessarily the topic or format. Be sure to consider these factors when analyzing your content. The marketing metrics you select should be dependent on your marketing goals for each piece of content you produce.
Use these resources to help choose the best metrics for your goals:
Understanding Your Audience
Most B2B marketers (69%) focus on creating content for their audiences verses their brand (B2B Content Marketing 2017). If you haven’t already, try taking a customer-centric approach to content creation by ask yourself the following about your target audience:
- What problems and pain points do they have?
- How do my solutions address their problems and pain points?
- What topics are they searching for or do they find helpful?
- How do those topics relate to my products or services?
- What formats do they prefer?
- How are they accessing content? Via mobile vs. desktop, social vs. search engines, etc.
What does the buyer’s journey look like?
Marketing content isn’t just for lead generation—it’s also for lead nurturing. In order for your content to effectively move your leads down the sales funnel, it should correspond with your buyer’s journey, helping educate visitors at each stage and guide them to the next step.
Determine the duration of the buyer’s journey, what happens at each stage, how much time generally passes between stages and common actions/signals that tell you that a lead or site visitor is at a certain stage. Your content may not perform well if you are serving it at the wrong time, so knowing this information can help you determine if you have the right content for each phase, if you are serving it at the right time, and what is most effective at converting your site visitors or achieving your marketing goals.
Once you better understand your buyer’s journey, map your current content to the buying cycle per persona. This will help to visualize where your assets fall, fill in gaps in the buying cycle, know when to serve content and identify where site visitors are in the buyer’s journey.
Every business can have its own buying cycle, but you might want to start with the following buying stages before modifying the journey:
What do your current customers do?
In addition to analyzing your content’s performance, look at what your current and past customers do on your website. This is perhaps the most insightful data that you can use to guide your content strategy because you already know they qualify. Try to answer the following questions by segmenting your customer data in your marketing automation software:
- Do they access your site through mobile or desktop?
- Do they consume more checklists, blog articles, downloadable templates, videos, etc.?
- What are the most popular topics?
- How did they originally come to your website?
- What channel do they use to return to your website?
Segment website visitors
Using a combination of progressive profiling, demographic information and behavioral data, you can assign a value to each lead in your database. It’s called lead scoring, and it’s useful for more than identifying which leads are most likely to buy or where they are in the buyer’s journey. You can also use the score to segment your leads and identify which content is working best with your most qualified leads.
Choosing the Right Topics & Formats
Without thorough research and planning, it can be difficult to find the right topics for your website. To spark content ideas relevant to your customers and fill in content gaps on your website, start your brainstorming process by asking your sales or accounts team what FAQs they receive and reviewing your customer and lead content views.
What are people searching for? What will they search for in the future? What topics are people sharing on social media? What topics are performing in your industry right now? Use BuzzSumo, Google Trends and Google Search to get an idea of the topics that are trending and ranking and platforms such as Answer the Public and StoryBase to see what questions people are searching for related to your topic.
Before you decide on a topic, confirm that there aren’t similar articles you have to compete with, especially from a competitor. If there are similar articles, ask yourself how your content will stand out, if you should consider a different angle or revisit the topic later. When developing your content ideas, be sure that your topics are relevant to your products or services (without directly promoting them) and will nurture your leads along the buyer’s journey.
What formats are B2B marketers using?
According to the Content Marketing Institute’s B2B Content Marketing 2017 report, B2B marketers’ most-used content marketing tactics include:
But B2B marketers reported the following as the most successful tactics:
BuzzSumo recently published findings that identify the most successful B2B content formats based on social shares and volume of backlinks. Each of these formats appeal to B2B audiences for different reasons and, therefore, help marketers accomplish different goals. The top formats include:
- Practical guides and helpful content (tips and tricks, advice articles, etc.)—BuzzSumo suggests that guides are powerful for building links and authority.
- In vogue and trending topics—Articles about trending topics “resonate” and generate more shares, but because of their short shelf life, they aren’t the best for generating links (with some exceptions, of course).
- Research and insights—Research and insights can help create shares, backlinks and authority, with the most popular posts focusing on industry trends.
- Case studies and stories—Case studies and stories are great for generating shares and links and resonating with your audience.
- Infographics—Infographics are great for shares but tend to gain few links; however, the infographics that are more like reference guides do tend to garner links.
- Authoritative industry news—If industry news comes from an authoritative site, it can generate both shares and links.
Creating and Promoting B2B Marketing Content
70% of respondents said they expect to produce more original content in 2017
(CMI B2B Content Marketing 2017)
After evaluating your content performance and gaps in your marketing content, you’ll need to decide if you should create new content or revise your current content. Although it’s nice to have new content, you can save time and resources by updating and repurposing older content. Consider bundling or breaking apart content into pieces and promoting it that way. If your past content performs, you may not want to replace it with something new, just update it.
Before you invest in new content, make sure that you are properly promoting the content you have through website CTAs, social posts, ads, emails, etc. In addition to your promotions, you must optimize your content for search engines so that users can find your content via search over time. If you fail to promote your content, the only way users will reach it is by navigating through your website or through organic search (if you rank).
If you’ve just started out with content marketing, focus on content that drives traffic to your website, such as blog articles and original research. However, you also need to have a conversion opportunity so that you can market to visitors in the future.
Need help planning, evaluating or promoting content? We can help. Find out more about our content marketing services.