Content marketing is a pivotal strategy for B2B companies to forge meaningful connections with their target audience, establish authority in the market, and ultimately, drive impressive business growth. But as a budding entrepreneur of a startup or an owner of a small business, it’s easier to say that you need value-adding content to nurture your customers than to feasibly take out some time of your day to do it.
As a seasoned B2B digital marketing specialist, here’s a comprehensive and actionable guide to make your B2B content marketing journey easier as a startup or small business.
In this article, you’ll have a better understanding of B2B content marketing including getting the ground running from scratch, implementing effective B2B marketing strategies, and learning best practices as a startup regardless of where you are in the world.
What is B2B marketing?
At its core, B2B content marketing is a targeted marketing strategy that tailors content to resonate with businesses and organisations rather than individual consumers. B2B content marketing involves creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and informative content to attract, engage, and convert potential customers. It goes beyond traditional advertising by focusing on providing value and building relationships through compelling content.
By delivering valuable insights, solving pain points, and addressing the challenges faced by your audience, you can establish credibility, showcase your expertise and authority, and foster long-term relationships even as a small business.
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B2B vs B2C Marketing
While Business-to-Business (B2B) and Business-to-Customer (B2C) marketing share similarities, there are key differences that shape the approach and strategies used in each context.
Business decision makers, typically involving multiple stakeholders
Purchase/ decision process
What is a B2B Content Marketing Strategy?
Having solid marketing fundamentals is essential to all types of B2B companies. A well-defined plan may take a longer time to plan and implement, but it pays off in the long run because you can avoid unnecessary mistakes once you begin. Here are steps to create your B2B content marketing strategy:
1. Create and refine your value proposition B2B is a competitive landscape to be in. That’s why having a compelling value proposition is like wielding a superpower. Value proposition sets you apart from the crowd and communicates the unique benefit you offer to your target audience. Basically, why should they choose you over a competitor? To help you craft your value proposition, you can use the following questions as a guide:
Offer: In one sentence, what does your business offer?
Pain points: What problem or goal does your business solve in a way that no one else can?
Key differentiator: What truly sets your business apart from your competitors? Is there anything your business can do—or do better—that your competitors can’t or won’t?
Action point: Draft your value proposition by following the guide questions above. Your value proposition doesn’t need to be too short, as long as it encapsulates the message you want to use to communicate exactly how you can help.
2. Understand your target market
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that fully understanding the people you want to purchase is one of the foundations of a good marketing strategy. Identifying who you’re marketing to specifically helps you tailor your marketing efforts in a way that speaks to them.
B2B target audience typically involves identifying a specific company profile first. After all, your product or service is likely not something every business in every industry can make use of. For B2B companies, utilising firmographic data is a good place to begin. This data includes information that helps categorise organisations, such as geographic area, number of clients, industry, revenue, and so on.
Action point: List down the type of clients your business can be of best use for—industry, company size or revenue, location, etc. Segment them into your most ideal clients—one that fits your business best, and clients that are also potentially good candidates.
3. Define your target audience
Your target audience are the specific people working in your target companies who may be looking for your products or services. Demographic and psychographic data can help you identify individual qualities of the people you want to speak to. This may include information such as their age, location, gender, job title, roles and responsibilities, behaviors, and beliefs.
Action point: Identify qualities of the person who can best resonate with your products and services so you understand exactly who they are and what types of message will resonate with them.
4. Develop buyer personas
Create a detailed buyer persona representing your ideal customers. Buyer persona is a fictional representation that encompasses demographic information, job roles, pain points, goals, and challenges. Developing buyer personas will let you tailor your content to specific customer segments and deliver personalised messaging that resonates with them.
Depending on your business model, you may need more than one buyer persona.
Action point: Fill out the template below to start developing your buyer persona. An example is added below to give you an idea.
Business owner/ Founder
35 to 55 years old Entrepreneurial, hands-on
Limited resources and manpower Need for cost-effective solutions
Lack of expertise in certain areas
What do they value? What are their goals?
Cost-effectiveness Efficiency and productivity Expertise and reliability Growing the business / generating leads
Where do they get info?
Industry events and conferences Industry blogs and news Online forums and communities
Local business network
What experience do they expect when seeking out your services?
Customised solutions Responsiveness and proactive support
Practical and actionable advice
Common objections to your service
Pricing may be too high
Not sure how to start?
5. Create the B2B customer journey
Before we delve into the marketing strategies, take a moment to understand the B2B buyer's journey. This crucial piece of information will be the cornerstone of creating and executing marketing strategies that resonate with your prospects at every stage of their purchasing process.
Customers have different needs and expectations from each part of the customer journey, which means you can choose the most effective content types and channels to reach your target audience, sending the right message at the right time.
The B2B customer journey is typically divided into five main stages:
Trigger stage The journey begins at the Trigger stage when a potential customer identifies a need, challenge, or opportunity. It could be triggered by factors like outdated technology, growing business demands, or a desire to explore innovative solutions. Understanding these triggers is essential as they set the wheels in motion for the rest of the journey.
Active evaluation stage This is where thorough research takes place, as they explore various solutions, products, and service providers. As the business owner, it's your moment to set yourself apart from other business offering the same or similar service. In this stage, you want to be able to give valuable content, case studies, and personalised interactions to position your offerings as the best fit for their requirements.
Purchase decision stage In the Purchase Decision stage, prospects have narrowed down their options based on the criteria they set. Here, it's crucial to address any lingering doubts or concerns and present compelling offers that seal the deal. Building trust and showcasing our unique value proposition can significantly influence their final choice.
Post-purchase experience stage The post-purchase experience stage is all about delighting the customer after the sale. This stage is all about fostering a positive relationship with the newly acquired customer. Regular check-ins, offering additional resources, and providing excellent customer support help strengthen the bond and enhance customer satisfaction. This phase is critical as happy customers are more likely to become brand advocates and spread positive word-of-mouth. We want to ensure that the customer's experience exceeds expectations and that they feel valued and appreciated.
Loyalty loop or renewal stage Last but not least, we reach the Loyalty or Renewal stage, where we aim to retain the customer's business and build long-term loyalty. This stage involves continuous engagement, anticipating needs, and delivering exceptional value to encourage repeat purchases or renewals.
By understanding and optimising each stage of the B2B customer journey, we can create a seamless and delightful experience for our customers, ultimately driving business growth and cultivating lasting relationships.
But in truth, the B2B customer journey is never a linear or a simple loop. A lot of times, customers continue through the stages then go back, start the engagement and hesitate, ready to purchase then go back to evaluation, and so on. But by understanding that it’s never just a straight line, you can also come up with ways to nudge customers back to the right track even if they don’t follow an arbitrary timeframe or process.
Action point: Map out the journey of your customers, from the moment they are aware of the problem, the sources in which they’ll find you, other touchpoints that will drive them through every stage, and what can make them move seamlessly in your pipeline.
6. Start your B2B marketing presence
Establishing your B2B marketing presence is a crucial step toward unlocking new growth opportunities for your business. In this ever-evolving digital landscape, a strong online presence is your gateway to reaching and engaging your target audience effectively.
Develop a website Your website serves as the online storefront for your B2B business. It is also an essential channel for B2B businesses as it establishes your credibility and acts as a central space for your brand and how you can help. Create a professional and user-friendly website that showcases your products or services, shares valuable content, and captures leads.
Explore marketing channels to use Identify the most effective marketing channels to connect with your B2B audience. While LinkedIn is a powerful platform for B2B networking and lead generation, it's essential to consider other channels as well, such as industry-specific forums, social media platforms, and email marketing. By diversifying your marketing channels, you can expand your reach and engage potential clients across various touchpoints.
Optimise your digital presence Consistency and coherence are key when optimising your digital presence as a B2B startup. Ensure that your brand's voice, visual identity, and messaging remain consistent across your website, social media profiles, email communications, and other marketing materials. Your brand identity should evoke trust and credibility, resonating with your target audience and reinforcing your unique value proposition. Optimise your digital presence for search engines through search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques, using relevant keywords and meta tags to improve your website's visibility in organic search results. Engage with your audience through social media, responding to comments and messages promptly. By creating a cohesive and engaging digital presence, you build trust, nurture relationships, and position your B2B business as a reliable and authoritative industry player.
Action point: With the above steps, your digital presence should not just be done, but done right. What potential clients see on your online channels reflects your business and it should be informational, easy to navigate, professional, and error-free, Avoid publishing half-baked work and take time to perfect everything before making it available for visitors to see.
7. Use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform and tie your sales and marketing efforts
For B2B startups or small businesses, utilising a reliable Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform or tool is also crucial to the success of startups and small businesses, not just enterprises. Because deals in B2B industries generally take a longer time to close, keeping a close eye on your prospects is important so nothing falls through the cracks in your pipeline. Finding a CRM tool that also lets you perform marketing functionalities also aids in having a single source of truth for customer data, including lead status, deals closed, and even all marketing touchpoints of each customer within your business. Doing so makes it easy to create more effective lead scoring and lead nurturing efforts that remove the guesswork from identifying prospects who are ready to buy or who we call Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs).
Lead scoring is an objective ranking system that is used by sales and marketing teams to determine how likely a lead is ready for purchase. This methodology is done by assigning values, usually numerical points, to a lead depending on their profile and how they interact with your brand and marketing efforts. For example, someone who visits your solutions and pricing pages is more likely to purchase than someone checking out your careers pages, the same way as someone who frequently opens your emails and consumes the content you send them is more likely to buy than someone who unsubscribes.
Lead nurturing is the process of developing and maintaining relationships with your customers at every stage of your B2B customer journey, usually done through marketing communications. When a B2B prospect has intentions to buy your products or subscribe to your services, it’s common for them not to be ready to purchase as soon as you get in touch with them (look back to the B2C vs. B2B section of this article if you need a refresher). They may be your ideal clients and you may be the ideal solution but they aren't fully bought-in yet with your products or services. These people are called Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs)—leads that are qualified for marketing efforts that may just be the reason for them to convert.
Nurturing these MQLs with valuable content is an essential step in winning them over. By assigning lead scoring values on how they interact with your nurturing efforts, you’ll be able to gauge when they’re “sales-ready” before passing them over to your sales team to close the deal. With automated lead nurturing, your business can send messages to your customers through predetermined schedules or based on how they interact with your brand, such as showing their interest in a specific solution by constantly clicking emails related to it.
Action point: Research CRM tools that fit the needs of your business. Many free and affordable CRM tools are powerful enough for startups and small businesses to start with.
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8. Create a content strategy
Crafting a well-defined content strategy is essential for B2B content marketing success. A well-crafted content strategy serves as a roadmap, guiding you toward captivating your audience, building brand authority, and driving meaningful interactions.
Content marketing is a powerful tool that can significantly enhance your B2B marketing presence.
By creating and sharing valuable, informative, and relevant content, you can establish authority in your industry, engage your target audience, and drive meaningful interactions with potential clients. Here's how to make the most of content marketing in your B2B marketing strategy:
Define your goals Start by setting clear and measurable goals for your content strategy. These goals should follow the SMART framework— Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Common goals include increasing brand awareness, generating leads, nurturing prospects, driving conversions, and enhancing customer loyalty.
Craft compelling content Content can easily become clutter due to the sheer amount of available media to consume. Creating content that addresses your audience's pain points, challenges, and interests is much more important than churning out many, but of shallow value.
Tailor your content based on the B2B customer journey you created The way you communicate with someone still in active evaluation stage versus someone in post-purchase stage are miles apart. Educate and attract leads in the active evaluation stage, create consideration-stage content to help evaluate options, and encourage them to convert when they’re at the purchase decision stage.
Leverage different content formats Appeal to different preferences by experimenting with various content formats. Some may prefer written content while others may prefer more visual content like videos or infographics.
Distribute and promote your content strategically Develop a distribution and promotion strategy to ensure your content reaches your target audience effectively. Share your content across multiple channels where your target audience are. Don’t forget to tailor the content based on that platform to make your content more hardworking.
Measure, analyse, and iterate Regularly monitor content performance metrics, such as website traffic, engagement rates, lead conversions, and customer feedback. Use these insights to refine your content marketing strategy and focus on what resonates best with your audience.
Lastly, house everything in a content calendar Develop a content calendar that outlines the topics, formats, and publishing schedule for your content. This helps maintain consistency, manage resources effectively, and ensure a steady flow of content that aligns with your marketing goals. Include key events, industry trends, and relevant dates to capitalise on timely opportunities.
By following a well-defined B2B content marketing strategy, you can effectively engage your target audience, build brand authority, and drive business growth. It allows you to create a consistent and impactful presence in the digital landscape, attracting and nurturing valuable relationships with your B2B customers.
Stay up to date in B2B marketing
Maximise B2B marketing by staying in the know for marketing trends and updates that may affect your business or how you utilise marketing. My favorite places to get industry news and updates for B2B marketing include:
Content marketing for B2B can be overwhelming when you don't have the experience. If you are still lost on what to do next I'll be happy to take a jab!