In an article in Forbes Magazine, Thought Leadership is defined as “simply about becoming an authority on relevant topics by delivering the answers to the biggest questions on the minds of your target audience.” One way of a company becoming a thought leader is by using content marketing to propel their brand forward.
Content marketing is a relatively new area in marketing. While it seems some digital marketers and even a few startups do a great job leveraging it, some of the more established brands seem to fall behind.
As a marketer for a B2B brand, you can think of it as an opportunity: While other brands still invest most of their resources on advertising, you can conquer the top spots of search engines with your great content.
This post covers:
- Why Content Marketing is Important for B2B Brands
- The 4 Stages of Content Marketing
- Tips & Best Practices
Content Marketing Does Not Mean Talking About Yourself
As the marketing manager of Roojoom, I get to speak to people about content marketing every day. Some people think content marketing means having a company blog, a Facebook page and maybe a Linkedin profile. And they think all 3 should talk only about their company.
Would you like to read an entire blog only talking about one company?
Almost every customer that signs up to our platform creates the first Roojoom about his company.
Then we reach out to them, teach them what content marketing is all about, and help them create much more engaging content.
So what should you talk about? You should talk about topics that are relevant to your audience.
Why is Content Marketing Important for B2B Brands?
The traditional marketing funnel is dying. We no longer sit still to watch TV ads one after the other – instead we prefer brands that “speak” to us directly. The brand-customer relationship is no longer based on one-way communication. These days, instead of calling customer support we reach out on Twitter for open communication. Instead of reading manuals, we go online to look for the information we need.
The brand that will provide us with this information will win our heart – and our money!
According to a Research by IDG Connect, CMO Council,Net Line, and Salesforce, eighty-seven percent of B2B decision makers report that content has either a moderate or major role in vendor selection.
Read more on the Roojoom below:
The 4 Stages of The Content Marketing Cycle
Now that we realized how important content marketing is for you, it’s time to get to work.
You might think that starting a company blog means writing about how great your company is, however, often this is the fastest way to bore your readers right past your website.
Think about those sales calls you are getting every day. Someone you don’t know calls and begins to drone on about how his product is the best you can find. Do you tend to believe him?
More importantly – will you enjoy this call or get any value out of it?
Most of us tend to tune out when we are “sold” to in the classic sense.
However, consider a different scenario where you meet that same salesperson – but this time, instead of launching into their pitch, they begin to ask questions about your business, and help you solve a problem you’ve been tackling for a while – without even pitching their product. Chances are you will begin to consider them a helpful resource to solving your problem – and their product or service will probably will be one of the first you consider when tackling a problem in your industry.
Content marketing follows the same guidelines. First, think about the problems your audience is facing and help them solve them. You might also want to check out my previous post about things content marketers can learn from sales people.
Here are a few great examples of great blogs that help solve customer problems:
Unbounce is a landing page platform that provides turnkey solutions to SMBs and Startups. Instead of talking about their platform, their blog focuses on conversion optimization, call-to-actions and landing pages –providing tips and best practices and also analyzing landing pages from around the web to help you learn what works and what doesn’t.
Another example is Buffer – a social management tool. They talk about… that’s right! Social media, including the best times to post, the optimal length of blog posts on each platform and more. Using their own data gathered by millions of posts going through their system every day they provide valuable information to their readers.
Why do they go to all this trouble? So that they become the most trustworthy source when it comes to marketing on social media.
If they have figured it out, I’m sure you can too. Whatever it is you’re selling, there is a niche topic you can talk about. Find it, stick to it and you will become the “go to” reference point for your audience.
2) Content Creation
Great, you’ve chosen your niche! Now it’s time to create the content.
Before you storm your keyboards, spend as much time as needed researching and listening.
What is already written on this niche? What can you add to it?
Join social media groups that discuss topics relevant to your niche. Not only are they great for learning, they will also come in handy for the next step – distribution.
While listening in, consider these questions: What types of content do well there? What kinds of content get shared? What triggers a discussion?
While you are listening, engage in a discussion to start familiarizing yourself with other group members. This will help you when you post your new content – there will be a higher chance they will engage with your content as well.
Once you have gathered enough insights, translate it to a plan.
First, brainstorm blog topics. I like to plan out 2 months in advance to make sure that I’ve got enough topics to choose from as I form my content calendar.
You can use a content calendar like this one:
Creation Tips & Best Practices:
1. Make sure to get yourself a great editor.
Writing is individual, but your readers are many. Get at least one additional pair of eyes to go over your words of wisdom before making them public.
There are also some great tools to help you improve your copy:
HemingwayApp – makes sure you right clearly in a way even a 6th grader would understand (this post was edited with Hemingway!)
Atomic Reach – makes sure your content matches the level of sophistication of your audience (also measures how each post did on social media!)
2. Get Visual – Great text will only get you so far, if you really wish to engage readers, use visuals. Here are some great free tools to help you create visuals yourself.
3. Keep it practical: In every post I write, I always ask myself, what will my readers to get out of it? Add tips, resources and examples to provide your readers with valuable, practical information that they can easily implement.
Get more tips in my recent post: 9 ways to increase engagement with your content.
Just like no one will read an un-marketed book, your content could fall into the content marketing black hole if not distributed with care.
There are several channels to market your content such as email campaigns, search engine marketing and link building. However, I’d like to focus on what I see as the natural partner of content: social media.
Every day people go on social media to look for information. To look for stories.
If your content has a story to tell, and its placed in front of the right audience on social media, it could become very powerful.
Remember those groups I had you engage with? Now it’s time to start posting your content there. Here are some tips & best practices to help you maximize traction from social media:
- Use more than just your company Facebook/ Linkedin page to distribute your content. Company pages have only reach a limited reach. If you rely on it get ready to spend a lot of money to get your content discovered.
- Select and consistently use a social management platform to share and track your performance. We have been using Oktopost for a few months now and get amazing results. For example, with Oktopost we organically received 13,645 hits from Facebook – not a penny spent! Read how we did it.
- Devote time to visiting groups, engage in discussions and share others content. By letting them know you are reading their content you will encourage them to read and share yours. Who knows – you might also learn something!
- The 80-20 rule. About 80% of the content you share via social media should be outside content you think is valuable to your audience.
- The key to succeeding on social media is simple: be social.
4) Content Re-purposing
You’ve invested so much in creating great content. Yet, a limited amount of people will read it!
Before you kiss your content good-bye, think of ways you can repurpose it.
Warning: Repurposing content does not mean using the same piece of content again for the same purpose.
Repurposing content means changing either the content itself (while keeping the idea), or the format of the content, or the audience.
For example, a blog post could easily turn into a deck, a video, or another blog post carrying the same idea, but in a different way or with a different audience in mind.
Here are a few tools to help you repurpose content:
- Content curation platforms: If used correctly, curation can become creation. You can use curation platforms, such as Scoop.it, Roojoom, Spundge and BundlePost to re-organize existing content into a new story.
- Presentations: Made a deck for a meeting or a speaking event? Why not upload it to Slideshare to get more people to see it? You may need to rearrange it, but hey — that’s what re-purposing is all about.
- Videos: Take videos of company events and speaking events and upload to YouTube or Vimeo. This is a great way to repurpose content from live events.
- Infographics: Take the same idea and create an infographic out of it. Then, pin it to your Pinterest board and upload it to platforms like Visual.ly to get more exposure.
See more repurposing content ideas on this post on Outbrain’s blog.
To become a thought leader follow the 4 Stages of content marketing and become a trustworthy source in your industry. Just like a good sales person, listen to your audience before laying out your content strategy. Engage with their larger questions and issues through a content creation and curation strategy that puts you as the front runner for industry interaction and expertise.
Over to You!
What is your experience with content marketing for B2B brands? Please share your insights in the comments below!