The most powerful way to connect with B2B customers is through education — people are eager to learn, and providing the information they need can help drive them right to your door. How can you help educate your prospective customers? The best place to start is by creating content you can use across all marketing channels, from outbound digital campaigns to inbound interactive campaigns. You control this portfolio of assets, which is why it’s called owned media. Here are some ideas on how to start building your content library.
Bylines and Editorial Content
Bylines and other stories for trade publications or industry blogs are some of the most powerful pieces in your content library because they help you extend your reach to a new audience. When you develop a story for another publication’s site, think about who you are writing for — what knowledge can you share that will help them with their work? This type of journalistic content can establish your thought leadership especially when you deliver in-depth, well-researched and –written articles. Stay away from sales pitches and marketing speak, and focus on the insight you have gained that will help others. In addition to being more interesting to your prospects, it’s more likely that you’ll be asked to contribute editorial again — some editors even work with our clients to develop article series, or ongoing guest blog posts.
Many companies have used bylines and other pieces to earn backlinks to their websites. Because these links come from B2B trade publications that are respected in their fields, these referral links can be very valuable for SEO.
This type of earned media in a leading publication is fantastic for marketing campaigns — create an outbound email campaigns promoting the byline, develop a Twitter and Facebook campaign, and share via LinkedIn. That sales support often generates new leads, and prompts contacts to connect.
Customer Success Stories
Customer success stories are one of the most successful types of content for the digital marketing sales funnel — prospects want to understand how their peers are using your product or service to grow their business and meet their goals.
Customer testimonials are amazing because they are powerful and believable. You can develop these with your internal team, but we often find that this is a great place to hire an external content development firm — customers seem to find it a lot easier to tell someone outside the company all of the reasons why they love you, and why others should buy from you.
Good B2B customer stories demonstrate how business objectives are met. They outline business issues so that prospects can gain insight into solving their business issues. And they identify new areas where your product or service offers value.
When crafted correctly, a customer success story can advance the sale by demonstrating value and helping you build trust with your prospect.
Back before content was called “content” we had the press release. It’s the workhorse of the communications world, and remains an effective way to gather and share all of the elements of your company’s news. We no longer automatically develop a press release for every piece of news, but we still find a lot of reasons to use them. Once developed, use them everywhere, including as LinkedIn updates and in email campaigns. Of course, don’t forget to share them with the influencers they are named after: the press. You have a list of your most important press at the ready, right? If not, start now — whether you are communicating a formal press release or just reaching out with other pieces of news, you need to know your influencers.
Outbound Marketing Content
This type of content for customer and prospect outreach is usually a variation on other pieces you have developed. You can pull an excerpt from a published byline and use it in traditional and email newsletters and email campaigns, drip campaigns, and other campaigns to reach your prospective customers. Or you can pull highlights from a white paper or customer case study. Another effective method is to let your prospects and customers know about a new blog post — even a couple of sentences can be enough to get them to connect.
Ebooks and White Papers
This long-form content explores a subject in depth. Often used for anchor content, these pieces deliver real value to your customers, and generate leads when used for both inbound and outbound marketing. These pieces require a significant commitment — you must conduct interviews, do necessary research, and write clear and compelling content that truly helps your customers understand an issue or implement a strategy. Think of these as investment pieces — they are worth taking the time to develop and share with your customers and prospects.
Slide decks and webinars are great to move prospects through the sales funnel and to educate existing customers. Lately when I do searches to find the industry influencers, slide decks that have been published on LinkedIn Slide Share are bubbling to the top. The same rules apply as with written content — be educational, not sales-y, and use clear and effective language. And remember — you don’t want to sit through a boring sales pitch; neither do your prospects.
Online and Social Content
Just about every piece of content can and should be formatted to go on your website and to your social channels. Create blog posts and web copy from your content and share it via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and any other social channel of choice.
Infographics, Stats, and Surveys
Everybody loves data, right? Numbers can be a super compelling way to tell a story. There are a lot of easy cloud-based tools to help you conduct surveys with your list of prospects. Remember to focus on both the front-end — creating measurable and insightful survey questions — and the back-end — designing an eye-catching piece that communicates the data clearly.
These are just some ideas to get you started on building your content library. Just a word of caution — with the rise of content marketing, there is a lot of bad content out there. If you are going to spend your time and resources, make sure you are developing the high quality, journalistic content that tells your story, engages your prospects throughout the sales funnel, and helps you close sales.