It wasn’t that long ago that marketing experts were just starting to talk about B2B content marketing as possibly becoming the marketing approach of choice for firms in the professional services community. Fast forward to today, and it IS the marketing approach of choice. And no wonder – we discovered through our own research, as well as through the thought leadership and experience of others, that B2B content marketing is by far one of the best ways to grow your professional services firm. The dialogue is no longer about whether to do it, really the dialogue has shifted to HOW you do it.
As with many things in life, figuring out the “how” is always challenging. Both large firms with ample talent for writing, producing, and promoting content along with a healthy marketing budget, as well as small firms with very limited resources struggle with determining how to formulate a successful, sustainable B2B content marketing program.
Why the struggle? First, let’s define what we’re even talking about here. B2B content marketing, as we define it, is producing and distributing content that is valuable and interesting to your target audience. The type of content I’m talking about here can be blogs, articles, social media posts and shares, webinars, ebooks and the like. What I’m not talking about is news about a new partner you hired or an event you secured the keynote for. Nor is it a new service or approach you’ve developed, no matter how useful it may prove to your marketplace. For B2B content marketing to be successful, leave the company news out and focus on educating your readers on something they care about – a problem they’re trying to solve.
What topics should you create content on?
And herein lies one of the primary struggles – how do you know what your target audience cares about? Research. There are numerous methodologies and tools at your disposal with a wide range of budgets – from informal sleuthing around on LinkedIn or other online forums where your target audience is sharing their thoughts to more formal and much more thorough primary research with well designed surveys that assess key challenges and emerging issues your target audience is battling. The key is to take the time to know, not guess, what your target audience cares about. So many well-intentioned firms miss the mark here and it’s hard to understand why you wouldn’t do some kind of research. In fact, we found that formal research has a serious impact on a firm’s bottom line. Firms that conduct quarterly research on their key audiences grow 10 times as fast and are twice as profitable as firms who don’t. The more you know, the more you grow.
What techniques should you use?
You’ve done your research and are ready to start writing. How do you determine which techniques are most effective and most appropriate for your firm and your audience? The first thing to realize is that you’ll want to balance your B2B content marketing and traditional marketing strategies. A helpful hint: we found in our research that firms that generate at least 40% of their leads online through a content marketing strategy grow 4 times faster than firms who don’t.
Why? Because B2B content marketing demonstrates expertise (around what your audience cares about) and helps qualify and nurture leads in a much less expensive way than traditional outbound marketing. B2B content marketing works around the clock and around the globe.
Figuring out that balance is probably less challenging than figuring out which techniques are best suited to your cause. The key is to be everywhere your target clients are with a message that speaks to their needs. We talked with high growth firms to find out which techniques they ranked as most effective in their online lead gen efforts, and search engine optimization topped the list (see figure below). Nevermind all the changes to the landscape Google has imposed on us all – the fact still remains that search engines love content, good content, and if you optimize your content with well researched and meaningful key words and phrases, leads, the right leads, will find their way to you.
Types of content like blogs, email marketing campaigns that promote your content, and premium type pieces like white papers and ebooks were in the top 5 – which are good candidates if you’re trying to figure out just a few techniques to adopt because they address prospective clients at different stages of the decision making process. Blogs, because of their shorter, easier to digest nature, are great content pieces to attract prospect who don’t yet know you, while ebooks and lengthier white papers are excellent nurture pieces for those who are captivated by your blogs and social media posts and are willing to give you an email in exchange for valuable content.
Creating a B2B content marketing program is not for the faint of heart. It’s hard work, requires consistent and coordinated effort, and has a lot of temperamental attributes that make some firms seek refuge at trade shows and networking events. Content marketing is by far more rewarding than it is challenging however, and with smart thinking around what your program should be, you’d be surprised at how natural it can begin to feel in a relatively short period of time. Your growth and profitability depend on it!
To learn more about Why B2B content marketing is such a good fit for professional services download our free guide, B2B Content Marketing Guide For Professional Services Firms