A content first marketing strategy is embraced by more and more companies in B2B. Get valuable insights, actionable takeaways and learn about 2019 trends from Sabina Varga, an experienced Content Marketer and Storyteller.
How is content marketing different for B2B?
First of all, let’s not forget that B2C or B2B means talking to people. Just because you’re selling to other businesses, it doesn’t mean that you’re selling to abstract entities. Whatever content you create, make it human and relatable. That being said, content marketing for B2B means that you’re dealing with longer sales processes than in B2C and that there are several decision-makers involved in the process.
It’s one thing to sell chocolate to a hungry student browsing the supermarket aisles, and it’s another to sell large quantities of cocoa to a business manufacturing chocolate. In the first case, the student will take a quick decision, based on top-of-mind awareness (what brands quickly come to mind when thinking of a product category), taste preferences (milk, dark, caramel, etc.), price vs. money available to spend, and what’s actually available in that store. In the second case, the chocolate manufacturer will go through a lengthy decision process, because the cocoa it chooses will affect product quality, price, and, ultimately, will influence its success on the market. The decision-makers will consider the provider’s history and reliability, the origin of the cocoa, how it’s harvested and processed, what price it can get for the quantity it needs, and how that stacks against its business plan. The chocolate manufacturer will compare multiple providers and take the best decision in a matter of weeks or months, not minutes.
Let’s say you’re a content marketer selling chocolate to the student. You will want to make sure he remembers and likes your brand, is aware of and wants to taste the flavors you produce, and has a general positive outlook of your product. So you will create content that increases brand awareness, content that makes your product look tasty and irresistible, content that is memorable. That means great photos, short videos, and fun social media posts.
Now let’s say you’re selling cocoa to the chocolate manufacturer. The decision-makers there are not going to care about the fun part of harvesting and processing cocoa. They will care about numbers, process efficiency, reliability, and success history. So you will create whitepapers and videos that explain the process step by step, infographics that show success through numbers, and testimonials with happy clients. You will also want to create content for the various stages of the longer sales process.
In both cases, you have to keep in mind who you are talking to and what their motivation is.
Can B2B content marketing deliver results on channels like Instagram and Facebook? If so, what strategies should marketers consider?
Yes, B2B content marketing can work on Instagram and Facebook. It’s down to your audience, where they spend their time, and what they expect to find there.
People go on Instagram to see amazing, fun, entertaining images. You can use it to create a brand identity, show how your business operates daily, create stories about employees, talk about client success, and showcase products. Will you make a direct sale on Instagram? Probably not.
But content marketing is about building trust and relationships one step at a time. The people ultimately taking the buying decision will grow to know and like your brand through Instagram, and that’s enough. IBM, MailChimp, and Shopify are great examples of using Instagram for B2B marketing.
Should you use Facebook? Considering that everyone is on Facebook, I’d say the decision is easy. People go on Facebook to keep up with family and friends, but they also use it to discover news and events and to follow the brands they like. Just like with Instagram, you can increase brand awareness on Facebook. But you can also use it to drive traffic to your website and generate leads. Unlike Instagram, you can use more diverse content on Facebook. And the best part is that you can advertise to specific audiences, at a relatively low price. For example, an advertising agency can create short videos showcasing its expertise and target those videos to people working in the companies they would like to work with. It has been done and it works.
Just remember to respect the rules of each platform. Don’t just use the same content everywhere. Create a micro-strategy for each platform and content that fits the expectations of the people browsing through it.
What skills/abilities are required for a good content writer to become a great B2B content writer?
Patience, practice, and perseverance.
Know the market you’re writing for and your audience. Who will read your articles and whitepapers? What are their problems and how can your business (or the business you’re writing for) fix them? What are the topics that will most likely interest your audience? Remember that it’s people you’re writing for – people who work for businesses you want to sell to, but still people. People who have to solve problems every day, who have to convince their colleagues and bosses of things, who have to be efficient and achieve their business objectives. Write about things that matter.
After you’ve pinned down the substance, take care of the form.
Great B2B writing is concise, to the point, and actionable. Avoid jargon and unnecessary words that you think make you sound smart, but only confuse readers.
Use catchy titles. Make the text readable. Give people take-aways. And always lead them to the next step in the sales process.
Avoiding “salesy” content is quite challenging. How can content writers stay away from it? Should they?
Content is “salesy” only if it’s not relevant to the reader. If I decided that I want to buy a new laptop, I will read all the salesy content I can find. I want to know about the features, technical specifications, benefits, and price. I will read reviews, blog posts, watch videos, and look at photos.
If I don’t want to buy a new laptop, I won’t care about your blog post about the new Lenovo *whatever model*. But maybe I don’t know that I want a new laptop. Which means, maybe you can write something about a problem I’m having, like dealing with a slow machine, that makes me think that maybe it’s time to get a new one. Or maybe I’m a video producer and you tell me how I could process videos much faster.
“Salesy” content is not a problem as long as it’s relevant and helpful to the reader at a certain point in the sales process.
Sometimes you need to inform, sometimes you need to blatantly say “buy this”. We shouldn’t be afraid to sell a good product that solves someone’s problem.
Strategy and expertise aside, we use technology a lot in marketing. What are the tools and platforms you recommend to content marketers?
Notepad is my favorite tool. I write everything in Notepad first to avoid any issues with formatting. I use Google Keep to organize my notes. I recommend WordPress as a content management system because it’s just so easy and intuitive even for first-time users. Learn the basics of Google Analytics to analyze results and of Keyword Planner to research keyword in your industry. I like MailChimp for email marketing, also because it’s easy to figure out and it integrates well with other platforms. For quick photo editing, I use Canva.
Overall, when it comes to technology, I’d say experiment, but keep it simple.
We just entered 2019 – can you tell us what are the emerging trends in content marketing this year?
Video, obviously. It’s been a trend for a while and it’s not stopping. So, if you aren’t already, start thinking of ways in which you can leverage video for your business. Platforms are auto-playing videos with the sound off, so think of the way people consume your content. Should you use subtitles? Is it self-explanatory without?
Audio content is gaining speed. Besides podcasts, which have been around for a while and are getting more and more fashionable, brands are experimenting with Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa.
Algorithms will be getting smarter at predicting people’s preferences, so you’ll probably be able to target campaigns better.
And the one trend that never dies: creating relevant, interesting, and entertaining content. If you do that, everything else is easier.
Sabina Varga is an experienced content marketer and storyteller with extensive experience in content creation, strategy, and planning. With an understanding of all things digital, she is helping B2B companies to approach their target audiences and generate leads on global markets.
You can follow Sabina’s articles on her (Romanian) website BlaCuSens.ro. Her soon to be launched podcast on writing is highly anticipated by her followers.