- Katrine Zane
Effective B2B Content Strategy for 2020
at would it feel like if this year, you beat your sales goals by 67%?
What if you could go to your CEO and say that the email campaign you launched has reached a 75% open rate?
Chasing mission impossible? Not so much. These are real results I’ve achieved for my clients. How?
→ By creating a smart, client-centric content strategy.
→ By knowing exactly what their target audience wanted to hear, what would peak their curiosity and the pain points that would close the deal.
→ And by adding more personality to their content and
→ Optimising their content creation process.
Here’s exactly how.
1. The Grand Picture - Your Offering
Before we dive into the magic of content, let me ask you: Can you summarise in two sentences what you offer and the transformation it brings to your clients?
Can everyone on your sales & marketing teams?
Can everyone in your company?
Can anyone else?
This is absolutely fundamental. If your offering is easy to understand and explain, it’s easy to share. It’s easy to talk about.
More to the point, your employees are among your strongest and most trusted brand advocates. If they can easily explain what the company does (and if so can your happy clients), word-of-mouth will become one of your top growth channels.
2. The Meat - The Content You Share
A content strategy has two principal goals: attracting potential clients and turning them into qualified leads.
Achieving these goals takes
Top of funnel content that attracts your target audience and boosts engagement (particularly on social media)
Middle of funnel content that builds brand reputation and thought leadership
Bottom of funnel content that turns a lead into a paying customer.
In sum, a carefully crafted content for each stage of the buyer journey, and for each of the different decision-makers in your sales process - from strategic content for the C-Suite to technical/operational content for the end-user.
Every time I’ve lead my clients to surpassing their sales and marketing goals, the content strategy I created followed the following rules:
I. Know thy client
>> Know what your target audience personas - that is, every decision-maker in the sales process - care about, the questions they need answered, their end-goal, and the solutions they’re looking for
>> Speak directly to your audience’s pain points
>> Start conversations, use content and social media networking to build relationships with them
Talking about your products and services that would be of so much benefit to their business won’t cut it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen brands losing sales and visibility online by falling in the ‘me, me, me’ trap.
I know much of it comes from belief in your offering, stress around sales goals, internal pressure and deadlines. Even so, you’ll reach your goals much faster the moment you adopt empathy and relationship-building as part of your marketing and sales strategy.
It’s more than knowing the industry and job seniority of your audience. You need to speak the language of the CEO, CTO, CFO, or the process specialist who will close the deal for you. Each of them has different priorities; each faces different challenges in reaching their goals; each will appreciate a different level of detail and focus in your content.
One might be struggling with employee expectations and pressure from investors, another - with reaching goals amidst budget cuts, the third - with meeting management expectations and getting that promotion they’ve been working for. It’s always a mix of challenges that factor in the decision-making process, alongside the fundamentals like product features and cost.
So, make it a real conversation. Give them a reason to follow your page on social media, spend time reading your newsletter and reach out to you.
II. Value, value, value, sale!
>> Provide a lot of value upfront before attempting to make a sale
As a general rule of thumb, I advise a proportion of 80:20 when it comes to value vs. sales/promotional content.
Prior to doubling the sales goals for one of my clients, I started segmenting their audience according to where they were in the sales funnel and getting them used to regularly receiving valuable content, which included a customised weekly newsletter. This approach led to a significant increase in email open rates.
Only after weeks of providing value upfront did we ask for a sale. It took slightly more time than the client was used to investing in marketing. It also beat all their best scenario sales expectations.
3. The Spice - Brand Storytelling
>> Talk like you’re a person
>> Use storytelling techniques to make them actually read through what you’re saying
I. What’s in it for me?
Even though you’re in the B2B space, your content is still consumed by fellow human beings - people with different backgrounds, similar challenges and various tastes.
What really cuts it for brands in 2020 are real relationships, raw emotions and stories. A 2013 study by McKinsey  revealed an astonishing fact: The elements that B2B buyers considered to be the most important in a brand were among the least emphasised topics in B2B marketing. Furthermore, Edelman’s Trust Barometer  2020 has revealed that public trust in a company is predominantly determined by its competence and ethics, with the latter dominating 76% of key trust factors.
Conclusion? Communicating what your company offers, what it stands for and the action it takes will be crucial to your business’ growth in the upcoming years. Knowing and communicating the elements your target audiences actually cares about - even more so.
The stories you share and how you tell them become the core of how people feel about your brand and what they associate with it. So, the next time you publish a blog article or a social media post, think of the person who’ll be reading it. Give them a reason to click on ‘Read more’ or the link you’ve shared.
What’s in it for them? Will it be funny and entertaining? Is there a quote or a valuable insight that offers a useful insight?
They’ll only care about what you have to say (and sell) if they’ll see you care about them first.
Just take this article, for example: I could share it on LinkedIn saying: “Check out my thoughts on effective B2B content strategy that will win in 2020”
Or I could say: “I see eyes wide open and a slight disbelief in people’s faces when I tell them I’ve helped my clients surpass their sales goals by 67% and reach a 75% email open rate when the industry average is 15%. It’s really not rocket science, just a good content strategy. Today, I share my secret recipe with you - take a look! ”
Which one would you be more tempted to click on?
II. Tell a story
Next to providing high-value content, emotion is the only thing that can truly capture your brand in people’s minds.
It doesn’t always have to be a jaw-dropping, make-the-entire-audience-cry kind of story. It just has to be honest and real. It has to be yours.
How did your company begin?
Why do you do what you do?
Where are you going and why?
Who are the people behind your amazing services/products?
How did you come up with your best-selling product?
Your first big client success - how did it come about; what were the challenges you faced and the outcomes and lessons learned?
If it’s a sales/promotional post, share how buying from you will change their lives. Show the people behind the brand. Talk about the client service they’ll receive. Share a real client success story.
There. Enough content for an entire video series.
4. The Sauce - Your Content Creation Process
In 2020, marketing is moving from a multi-channel to omni-channel experience. While you may not necessarily need to be omni-present just yet, you’re already using more than one channel of communication.
Becoming extremely focused in your content creation process and where you allocate your resources has thus become more important than ever.
I. Save your precious time (and money)
>> Save time by creating content around what’s already happening
>> Focus on high-value, highly converting pillar content
First, start by having a shared content ideas bank that everyone on your team can contribute to. This can be either a project in your favourite project management tool, a shared note or a Google document.
Secondly, focus on creating pillar content - the main piece of content for your primary platform - blog, YouTube, podcast.
Your pillar content can be turned into multiple smaller content pieces for social media: Instagram, Facebook and Twitter posts, polls, pins (ideally 15-25 per blog post), short audio excerpts and video snippets, quotes, a carousel for Instagram and a slide deck for LinkedIn, a screenshot of your tweet or the comments below a post, etc.
The key is creating multiple pieces of engaging content to share over time among other posts.
Extra tip: Consider creating a niche podcast. On most social media channels, a post will capture the audience's attention for a few minutes at best, while the average podcast episode lasts 40 minutes, and the number of podcast listeners continues to grow. Even a few hundred podcast listeners could lead to millions in annual revenue.
Moreover, a podcast episode can serve as a source of multiple content pieces. It can be simultaneously recorded as a video and shared on YouTube and other social media channels, then transcribed and summarised into a blog post. It also gives you the opportunity to invite guests and co-contributors, who will give your brand a broader reach.
II. Make the best of what you already have
>> Leverage your agenda
>> Make the best of your top performing content
A lot of content sitting in your calendar.
People love peeking behind the scenes, which is the perfect opportunity for you to show how you differ from your competitors.
Give your audience a sneak peek into how you’re preparing for a client meeting
Share a quick video answering one of the questions you hear from clients and prospects the most.
This kind of on-the-go content is a great engagement boost and an excellent time-saver.
Participating in an upcoming industry event?
Share some of your top takeaways from the previous year or similar events
Reach out to speakers and participants to arrange interviews during the event
Post short behind-the-scenes videos and thoughts live from the event
Share a longer form article with your top takeaways from the event and how your business is staying on top of the trends.
Pay attention to the questions and discussions at the end of each panel and presentation, the conversations happening around you - there’s inspiration for more content to expand on in the future.
Any of your articles or videos getting a consistently high number of hits month after month? Maximise on those.
Turn them into pillar articles other blog posts link back to it
Create a video or video series on the topic
Organise a live video or a webinar on the subject
Create more content on similar topics.
Turn what works best into closing-the-deal content.
Create product demos and how-to videos
Host small in-person events
Publish customer stories and case studies
Create a great downloadable that leads them through a carefully crafted, nurturing email sequence.
>> Include your employees in the process
>> Co-create and co-promote together with your partners
Leverage partnerships to mutual benefit by co-creating and co-promoting content, events, social media contests, live video episodes and workshops.
Make it even more fun by taking over each other’s social media profiles for a day.
#ProTip: Sharing and retweeting your partners’, clients’ and top followers’ posts is another great way to strengthen relationships.
Employee advocacy program is another smart way of leveraging a priceless resource at hand that can spread the word faster than fire.
Many of your employees have a strong audience of their own. Use different incentives to encourage them to engage with and share your company updates on social media.
Have a company social media policy in place, but give them the freedom to use their own unique voice.
#ProTip: LinkedIn now lets you notify your employees of each new post on LinkedIn pages. Just click the dotted ‘More’ icon on the update and select ‘Notify employees of post.
Cross-team collaboration is another powerful tool. You already have some of your best content revealed to you by the head nods you get during client meetings, the concerns your sales team hears, the questions your customer service receives. And there’s always a technical benefit to your clients that your developers understand better than anyone else.
When I bring together people from different teams for a content workshop, it often turns into a goldmine for the business.
III. Experiment and optimise
>> Test different marketing channels, topics and forms of content
>> Optimise your marketing campaigns and content creation processes
There’s no argument - business is a serious matter. Life is serious. Just don’t take it too seriously. Seriously.
Playfulness is an essential ingredient in feeling happy and fulfilled in life. Having a sense of humour and a culture of creativity and innovation translates into fulfillment and growth in business, as well.
The world of marketing is an ever changing beast. Social media algorithms never cease to surprise, new platforms emerge, trends come and go.
Maintain an agile, playful approach to marketing. Test and prototype.
Experiment with different lengths and forms of content - GIFs, carousels, PDFs, video, audio, long-form articles... Try different content topics. Ask your audience what they actually want to hear about from you.
Test different platforms and social media channels. Ideally, one of those will be an owned channel like an email list. (No, email is not dead, not by far.)
Keep a sharp eye on your competitor activity, but remember - what works for them, might not produce the same results for you.
Check in on your web analytics: Which social media channels bring more visitors; which have the highest conversion rate (Hint: they might not be the same ones); which content gets the most attention; which pages lose you leads?
Optimise your web copy. How’s your overall bounce rate? The best marketing campaigns won’t save you from losing money, if your website is not made for converting. Sometimes even a few tweaks in copy and design can make a huge difference.
IV. Extra tip: Jump in on hot conversations
Oreo’s legendary use of the Superbowl blackout several years ago is a great example.
Whether playful humour is on brand or not, you can increase your visibility by jumping in on trending industry conversations. Buzzsumo and Ahrefs are great tools for seeking out top performing content.
I also love to use LinkedIn’s content suggestions which let me find the trending topics by industry, company size, employee seniority and other key criteria.
So, there it is. Every time I’ve led my clients to surpassing their sales and marketing goals, the content strategy I had created included these very ingredients. Add them to your content strategy mix, and it will have the greatest possible impact on your marketing and sales, as well as the overall brand recognition.
Looking for a more personalised approach? I facilitate strategy and storytelling workshops that leave you with a set list of topics and channels to expand on, customised to your target audience and the available resources at hand. Message me to book a time!