How to Develop a Successful B2B Content Marketing Process
Updated: Mar 24
For a B2B content marketing effort to succeed, it must be executed with the right mix of creativity, strategy, and consistency. Despite content marketing’s increased visibility and popularity, research shows that many businesses still haven’t found that right way to combine all the elements that go into content marketing in a way that helps achieve an effective result.
There are many reasons why businesses are falling short with their content marketing, from improper planning, lack of consistency, to not listening to their customers. But, despite those setbacks, 91% of B2B marketers are currently using content marketing tactics and 46% say they’ll increase their content budgets in 2022.
This guide is designed to provide businesses owners and B2B marketers with a step-by-step process for building a content marketing program. Let's get started! Or, to skip ahead to a section use the navigation below:
Developing a B2B Content Marketing Strategy
The first step of your buyer persona process is to identify what exactly you wish to accomplish with your content. Why are you going to spend money every month on creating marketing content?
The main reason businesses generate content is to increase their website traffic leads and capture more organic leads. That’s far from the only reason, however. Businesses develop content marketing programs to solve a range of business problems.
Early stage and startups Growing startups develop content to help outline what they do and why they do it, explain the founder’s vision for the company, and lay the foundation for a strong emotional rapport with its early-stage adopters and investors.
Established businesses Midsized businesses may choose to create deep-dive content on new products or services to generate upsell opportunities with existing customers. They may also want to create content to help qualify serious prospects from casual website traffic, or foster brand loyalty by providing high-value information, which their existing customers can’t find elsewhere.
Market leaders Enterprises create internal content to unify disparate teams or offices around business goals, enhance collaboration, promote greater morale, and achieve variety of other business goals.
Those are just a few of the many things that businesses can achieve with content.
No matter what your goal, a documented strategy ensures that you have a clear sense of those goals and makes certain they're specific, measurable, attainable, achievable, and time-bound, or SMART. This ensures that all the subsequent stages of the content marketing process are aligned in lockstep in the right direction and helps you identify identify the metrics best suited to measuring performance.
Create Actionable Buyer Personas
You shouldn’t develop content unless you know exactly exactly who you want to consume it and what their needs are. This means knowing what information they're looking for, what their objections are to further engaging with your brand, and how the buying journey takes place at their organization. This is information that the buyer persona research study uncovers.
But what is a buyer persona? It’s a concise representation of your ideal client and all the factors that drive their evaluation of your solution. Created through systematic, one-on-one interviews, the buyer persona provides a signpost for creating messaging and content that helps facilitate business goals.
An often-overlooked aspect of the content marketing process; companies often skip buyer persona research because they make assumptions about who their buyers are and what they need. Sometimes, these assumptions are based on the way things have worked in the past, and the assumption that what was fine two years ago will be fine next year.
In other cases, businesses will just pull information from their sales and marketing teams. While this information may be useful, this approach is equally flawed. To get a comprehensive view of your buyers and prospects, you must speak with your existing customers, your prospects, and prospects that you lost to a competitor. Only then will you really understand
How do you conduct an effective buyer persona research study? Of all the systems we’ve seen for building accurate and actionable buyer personas, the one we like most is from Adele Revella at the Buyer Persona Institute. In her book, “Buyer Personas,” she proposes a system that gathers insight along five different axes.
Priority Initiative Assuming that the prospect has always wanted a solution to this problem, what prompted them to start their search now? Like the hero’s journey in Joseph Campbell’s work, there must have been something that initiated making their search in earnest.
Success Factors How does the company, and each role within the group that makes the buying decision, define success with regards to your solution?
Perceived Barriers What are the attitudes or obstacles that would prompt your buyer to seek a competing solution? Assuming you’re at the top of their list, what factors are preventing them from buying?
Decision Criteria What are the capabilities and functions that your personas are prioritizing in their search? How are the needs of each role in the buyer group being weighed against each other?
Buyer's Journey How is the decision to buy made in your ideal persona’s organization? Who initiates the search, and how is the information they gather communicated to others?
A demographic is not a buyer persona. Knowing how old your buyer is, what they do on the weekend, and what they’re trying to achieve professionally doesn’t tell you anything about how they discover, evaluate, or buy your product or services.
Too many teams rely on this shallow demographic information, regardless of the fact that they’re poor substitutes for a real buyer persona.
>> Continue reading for a deeper look at building B2B buyer personas
Develop a Keyword and SEO Strategy
Building organic visibility around key topics is an important part of content marketing for revenue generation. Identifying keywords that people are searching for on Google and Bing, aligning your content with those searches, and creating content that wins the search engine results page (SERP) is an excellent, low-cost way to drive people to your website and company.
Keyword Research Keyword research is the process of identifying and prioritizing which keywords and phrases you should focus on when you’re developing your content. Keywords are the building block of a search query, and while developments in Google’s algorithm and natural language processing have somewhat diminished their importance, they’re still the starting point of any effective SEO strategy.
A great place to start the keyword research process is simply talking with your team and gathering topics that they think are relevant. This process will identify all the basic ideas and topics, often called “seed keywords” that you can then use for deeper keyword analysis.
Once you have a long list of seed keywords, start to expanding that list in tools like Ahrefs, Answer the Public, Google Analytics, and the host of other free (and paid) keyword tools available on the Internet.
How do you want to evaluate keywords? Here are some quick and dirty tips to help you prioritize.
Start by looking at both the total keyword volume, as well as it’s difficulty. You’ll wanted to find keywords that have significant volume but aren’t too competitive, which means that targeted content effort should yield faster results.
As you explore seed keywords, note all the related search terms that appear. This process of keyword exploration can often yield hundreds of search terms and content ideas, each of which will have unique volume, difficulty, and search intent.
The Topic and Cluster Model
Begin organizing all those keyword ideas into topics into “buckets” or “clusters,” grouped logically around high-difficulty keywords. First proposed by Hubspot, the idea of the topic cluster model is to optimize you site's architecture for search engine visibility by strategically linking blogs, infographics, and video around major “pillar” content, which are authoritative, deep-dives on a major topic.
By organizing pillar content around difficult, high-competition keywords, building out as much "cluster" content for related topics as you can, then promoting that content and gaining backlinks from authoritative websites, you can accelerate your SEO efforts and eventually gain a foothold onto even competitive SERPs.
Gather Intelligence from Key SERPs Another important aspect of building a winning SEO strategy is to gather intelligence about your competition from important SERPs. Once your keyword priorities come into focus, start paying attention to the search intent for each of the terms. Why? Because increasingly Google is less interested in keywords alone then the context in which users perform search queries.
As a very simple example, if I search "horse," am I looking for information about the animal, or the children's game, or the builder's tools? To determine that, Google will need to look at the context of that search.
There are four main types of search intents on Google: commercial, informational, navigational, and transactional, For example, if I search for "IT services" in Philadelphia, the results that I'm served up by Google are all service pages from IT service providers in my area. Knowing that Google considers this keyword commercial is important information for me as I optimize my pages and develop new content.
Clear Away Technical SEO Hurdles Don’t forget the technical SEO. While high-quality content is what you’ll need to connect with visitors, move up the SERP rankings, and convert more leads. However, if your website isn’t properly configured, then you may undermine your own content efforts.
Some of the common technical issues that businesses may stumble on include:
Slow loading pages
Lack of secure HTTP connection (HTTPS)
Missing or incorrect Robots.txt
Broken internal or external links
Lack of responsive or mobile design
For most small and midsized businesses, technical SEO issues are usually a straightforward fix, which means you can move onto the more strategic content marketing issues after remediating the issues found in a complete technical SEO audit.
Remember: Personas Take Priority Over SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) make an excellent guideline for your content marketing effort, but it should never overtake your content strategy as top priority. Why do we say that?
Here are the reasons content comes first, with SEO playing a supporting role:
Align Your Content with Your Sales Team The content that moves the needle is the content that’s aligned with the conversations your salespeople are having during sales calls, not what people are searching for on Google. Part of the content planning at BIOS is talking with your salespeople and involving them in the process, then supplementing what we’ve learned with tons of research about your products and market. The result is content that helps drive sales conversion in addition to greater organic traffic.
Google is Built for Humans (Not Robots) As Google gets better at identifying high-quality information, the technical aspects of gaming SEO visibility have started to fade away. Unenjoyable, overoptimized blog posts and other spammy techniques are now definitively out as they will just cause users to bounce away from your site which hurts your SERP ranking, not help it. Instead, focus on creating high-quality, authoritative content that leverages both your SMEs knowledge and information gathered from your community. Only human-centered content, built on your buyer personas, can meet the needs of the complex buying journey in the considered purchase market.
Valuable Content Shields You from the Next SEO Algorithm Google is constantly updating its algorithms to improve its search results. When you create content based on the latest gimmick of fad, then you’re setting yourself up for disaster when Google changes its criteria. If you’ve invested in developing quality content though, you’re well positioned for Google’s next algorithm update, saving your business a time and effort.
Search Volume and Intent is Hard to Gauge for Technical B2B Niches Selling a new cybersecurity tool or business analytics program isn’t like selling sneakers, items that have millions of organic searches every month. Some highly technical or innovative niches may hardly have any search data volume at all, which can complicate building an impactful SEO strategy. When you’re selling to a rarified or niche audience in enterprise markets or government, it’s always best to build content that first resonates with your target audience, then optimize it for SEO as an afterthought, once you’ve hammered the core content down.
Content Strategy and Planning
Let’s return to the first question of the business problems you’re trying to solve with your content, then build from there by formalizing that into a strategy and plan.
There's ambiguity around both of those concepts, so let’s define our terms first. When we say content strategy, we mean defining a long-term vision for how to achieve the goals that we identified earlier. The content marketing strategy should provide a concise overview of what we hope to achieve, along with the tactics that you’ll use.
What is a tactic? It’s a specific action or activity that your business will use to achieve the goals in your marketing strategy. Common content marketing tactics include blogging, case studies, white papers, landing pages, etc.
So then, what is a content marketing plan?
A content marketing plan exists between the strategy and the tactics, outlining in clear terms how you’re going to execute on the strategy. Having a content plan provides an additional layer of efficiency and reliability to the content marketing process, which includes:
Maintain Relevancy and Uniqueness Without a clear content plan, you may find yourself developing redundant content as you scale your efforts. Knowing what you’ve created and when you’ve created it not only prevents duplicate effort, but it also help you when it comes to content maintenance.
Streamlines Project Management Workflows Content production can become messy, especially as you scale your efforts. Having a plan to support your strategy helps ensure that your whole team stays moving in the right direction as your roll your content efforts out and keeps that effort on a schedule.
Maximize Content Engagement The planning phase adds another period of consideration to the content marketing effort. This is a valuable opportunity to consider your strategy and gather input from each sales and marketing stakeholder. The content plan also provides a centralized, shareable location that you can use to facilitate collaboration, which help streamline the effort.
The Content Calendar: A Centerpiece of the Content Planning Process
During the most content planning processes, one of the most often used tools is a content calendar. The calendar is a centralized document that organize your content assets by the delivery date. This keeps your whole team on task and makes sure that schedules are met. Specifically, here are some things you can hope to achieve with a robust content calendar.
Audit existing content assets to find gaps, areas for optimization, and measure baseline metrics
Outline the tactics you’ll employ to achieve your content marketing goals
Clarify and delegate responsibility for all the tasks related to your content marketing program
Content Analytics and Optimization
Unlike traditional advertising, where companies bought ads on radio and TV with few ways to gauge actual engagement, digital marketing has put copious amounts of data in the marketer’s hand. This is especially true of content marketing, where each blog post of infographic can (and should) be measured, monitored, and optimized.
The first step is to identify metrics that match your business goals. In the case of B2B technology firms, this could range from generating media buzz and backlinks, building more website traffic, social media engagement, form signups, or sales calls.
Inbound Leads The goal of any growth marketing campaign is to drive inbound leads, which is when people make an inquiry about your products or services via a sign-up form or your website. In most B2B marketing campaigns, prospects can also exchange their contact information for a gated piece of content, such as informative white paper or eBook.
Content marketing takes more time to build momentum than most traditional marketing programs — between six and twelve months, depending on your market and competition. Once it gets going, however, it should start producing regular, high-quality leads for your business. Hitting that point, then making further refinements to incrementally improve performance should always be a central goal.
Total Website Traffic When overall website traffic goes up, that’s a decent indicator that people are finding your company and engaging with your content. While it’s important to protect your site against useless website traffic by needlessly generating SEO-optimized content your buyer personas don’t need or respond to, overall website traffic remains a powerful metric in the hands of a smart and trustworthy marketing team.
Content Engagement Metrics Thanks to Google Analytics, Search Console, and other tools we can measure not just how many people are reading your content, but how they’re engaging with your content. How many pages are they reading on an average session, how long are they spending on your website site, how quickly do they navigate away from each piece of content you’re producing?
This broad category of metric allows us to drill down into how visitors are interacting with your website and content, paving the way for a long-term content strategy and optimizations.
No matter which tools you use, B2B content marketing attribution is not an exact science. Prospects jump in, out, and back into the buyer’s journey at various stages, making it difficult to know precisely which piece of content or channel is responsible for prompting a prospect to pick up the client and make a call.
The average B2B buyer engages with 13 pieces of content before making a purchase, according to research by FocusVision.
Combine Processes with Great People and Technology
Good marketing process comes down to the right combination of “people, processes, and technology,” to borrow a phrase from the IT services field. While we’ll touch on the process and technology in another post, let’s first address what it means to have a solid content marketing process, and how to identify a team that will be able to provide that.
Talented Marketing People Impactful, ROI-generating marketing is a combination of established best practices, deployed with creativity by marketers who know when and how to adapt those best practices to meet the individual needs of a business.
When you’re talking about content marketing field, you’re talking about content strategists, copywriters, editors, SEO specialists, graphic designers, and videographers. They're the ones who plan and create the content, then give it the visual appeal it needs to stand out and attract viewers.
Among these talented folks, having a team of industry-specialized copywriters is most important, because your company needs to be able to speak to your prospects in a language that they understand and appeals to them. This means simplifying technical concepts or going into the minutiae as necessary, and strategically employing your prospect’s industry lingo in order to build rapport
Content Marketing Support for B2B Technology Firms
Struggling to see a positive return on your content investment? Perhaps creating marketing content has put a strain on your team? For over a decade we've been helping software and SaaS, IT services firms, cybersecurity, and data science firms develop and execute impactful content strategies.
For help tackling your content marketing challenges, reach out any time at 215 392 0750, or firstname.lastname@example.org .