There's no question that content marketing has taken business-to-business marketing by storm. According to the latest study from the Content Marketing Institute, 86% of b-to-b marketers use content marketing today. Ad Age reports that 75% of b-to-b marketers expect to increase their content marketing budgets in 2014. But I suspect that some b-to-b marketers are struggling to put content marketing into a strategic context, to focus their efforts, make their programs work as hard as they can and prevent waste. To that end, I offer this four-part framework.
Here are four areas where content marketing makes an invaluable contribution to the b-to-b sales and marketing mission.
1. Thought leadership. Insightful content demonstrates that your company knows its stuff, and by implication can help customers solve their problems. So content intended to show your expertise, and position your executives as visionaries, goes a long way toward establishing yourself as a trusted advisor and resource in your field. Thought leadership pays off not only in building awareness, but also in kick starting the business relationship. The types of content that work well for thought leadership: video interviews with the CEO, strategic white papers, keynote speeches and books.
2. Lead generation offers. Content assets, like case studies and research reports, are the single most compelling category of motivational offers for b-to-b lead generation. The reason is simple: Business buyers are trying to solve problems, and they need information. If a vendor can provide useful statistics, case examples, and how-to's, a buyer will gladly exchange his or her contact information for the material. The information should be packaged up in an appealing format, irresistibly titled and of course prominently presented, with a strong call to action -- and a landing page that captures the prospect's data.
3. Search engine rankings. By now, it is a search engine truism that a website packed with useful content is going to show up higher in organic rankings. No more keyword-stuffing and link-building. It's real content, with business value, that brings new prospects. So while you are creating brilliant content assets intended to move your prospects along their buying process, tailored to key segments by industry, company size, and buying role -- all these items will also serve to boost your organic search results. B
4. Lead nurturing touches. B-to-b marketers these days have a new understanding of the value of doing more with the leads they have, instead of spending all their resources on filling the pipeline with new ones. A robust lead-nurturing program can quadruple conversion rates from the same prospect pool. Nurturing means a series of outbound communications, containing valuable, relevant and non-sales-y messaging, to keep the prospect interested until he or she is ready to talk to a sales rep. A library of content assets is just the thing to keep a nurturing program humming.
Content marketing adds value across the b-to-b sales and marketing spectrum. No wonder it's the new, new thing.