Blog /Growth Marketing

Effective Content Marketing for B2B Companies: What Will it Take to Succeed in 2020?

27th Nov 2019 – Effective Content Marketing for B2B Companies: What Will it Take to Succeed in 2020?

As a B2B organization, you’re dealing with more than just your typical consumer. You’re dealing with decision-makers in your target company, and they’re more difficult to convince than your average person.

They’ll want more solid information upfront and are less likely to make a spur of the moment decision.

The thing is:

That makes it even more important to build a strong relationship and establish your company as a subject matter expert. Content marketing can go a long way in doing both, as long as you execute it correctly.

In this post, we’ll look at strategies you can apply for more effective content marketing campaigns for B2B businesses.

Tell a Story (It’s Not What You Think)

So why tell a story. And what on earth is “good storytelling”?

Blogs talk about it all the time… but there are few concrete examples of great storytelling in the real world that’s been successful for B2B brands.

Good storytelling for any company is not about narrating a sequence of events. It is about establishing connection and resonance by bypassing the logical part of the human brain. If you try to appeal to your target audience with facts alone, they will judge you critically and analytically. Not a great place to start. A good, gripping and relevant story allows you the advantage of reaching the “heart” and impacting the emotions.

So what does great storytelling look like in the context of businesses and companies?

The answer lies in this image:

great storytelling

What do these TED Talks have in common?

…… They tell a POWERFUL story… One of redemption, one of discovery and they tie this arc back to value delivered directly to the audience.

Connection + Value made them the most watched TED Talks of all time!

And the same formula works for businesses.

Check out this masterful campaign by Philips.

It tells a story – of the hardships faced by Icelandic fishermen who spend days without sleep at sea and come home to Insomnia.

Gripping and compelling… it doesn’t make sense if you see it without context. But when you realize that the campaign was primarily developed for doctors who treat these fishermen, you realize that Philips has hit a homerun. It has researched its buyers so thoroughly that it can create a whole arc based on their most pressing need (ability to offer proper treatment) and deliver it to them with a reassuring call-to-action.

B2B storytelling is not intrinsically different from B2C.

In B2C storytelling can result in a direct transaction, while in B2B it is one of the several touchpoints that interact with the customer account to finally seal the deal.

Here’s the thing though… B2B decision makers are people too. When you tell a story they identify with, you secure one of the 5 key “yes” that can lead to a sale.

B2B storytelling does not have to be dry and about a long winded founder’s journey. Well, it can be about your founder’s journey but it is not about the journey or the founder.

A B2B storytelling leverages legacy and people to do one or all of the following:

  • Talks about why the background of the brand positions it as one of the best options on the market. This offers Inspirational Value by aligning the brand purpose with the purpose of the target account.
  • Highlights CSR initiatives to appeal to the buyer’s better nature. After all everyone wants to be part of a force that is already doing good in the world. 
  • Delivers massive value and learning in a way that breaks the information fatigue to inspire true learning.
  • Maps real life outcomes to product or service features. The pyramid of B2B values says this is “Individual Value” designed to directly affect the career or the reputation of the decision maker, but is still extremely effective. Here is an excellent example of stellar, tangible value storytelling by Microsoft.

Telling a story is essential because, according to Simon Sinek, “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.”

Don’t Blog for the Sake of Blogging

“Think about changing the mantra from always be closing, to always be helping.” — Jonathan Lister.

If you keep thinking of closing, you will produce “you” centric content. Content that is about a topic your target market does not care about and written in a way that does not resonate with them.

If you think of helping, you will be automatically nudged in the direction of providing value.

Blogging is still effective. It is not dead. What is dead is content that rehashes what is already out there, does so without personality or flair and refuses to think out of the box, or out of the sales cycle.

The best example of B2B content marketing done right comes from HubSpot.

Here are the things they nail with their strategy:

  • They know their buyers. They know exactly who uses HubSpot and what these personas care about. In fact, they have blogs to cater to specific user segments. It is a content cluster on super-drive.
hubspot blogs
Source: HubSpot
  • They answer questions. HubSpot’s SEO strategy is one that is buyer focused. It is not about pure numbers. While they do have evergreen head term pages like this gem about content marketing, they mostly focus on real questions asked by real buyers.
hubspot´s SEO
  • They genuinely care. Let us revisit the screenshot above. The blog right next to Content Seeding talks about Google Docs. Why Google Docs? Because it is almost ubiquitous, and marketers who use HubSpot are sure to benefit from a comprehensive guide to making the most of this convenient tool.

HubSpot must get hundreds and thousands of pageviews from people who will never use HubSpot, but need Google Doc know-how. The key thing is – their buyer persona also benefits from the content and HubSpot invested time and care in producing a piece that seems unrelated, but actually establishes them as a marketing niche authority.

  • They understand how content upgrades work. Hubspot pretty much started the trend of content upgrades. And since 2014, no one has done it better. This particular strategy may require a large team of content producers, but it is worth mentioning so that brands interested in B2B content marketing in 2020 do not make the mistake of going generic with upgrades.

HubSpot offers a “post specific” content upgrade with each blog post. Can’t stress the importance of “post specific” enough.

If the blog talks about content marketing, the content upgrade continues the conversation with more knowledge and examples of how HubSpot – the tool – makes the job of content marketing easier. This is not a random ploy to collect an unqualified lead. It is a way to move people down the HubSpot funnel and their individual buyer’s journey.

HubSpot has also mastered the art of content distribution.

But that behemoth deserves a stand-alone post.

While these strategies can work for any business model, for B2B companies juggling several buyer personas within a single account, they can help streamline, organize and compound the effect of content marketing, also making the next step simpler.

Use Data to Rinse & Repeat

It’s 2020.

Marketers in general can’t afford to not focus on data.

As these five simple examples show that if content is the driver of leads, data is the lever that makes the engine more effective and efficient.

B2B content marketing is no different.

Start with the end in mind. And drop vanity along the way.

Even though it reads like a bumper sticker, it makes cold sense.

1. Start with the end in mind. What is the goal and purpose of each content piece. Is it to generate X leads? Or is it to gradually lower cost per click of your ads by priming a cold audience about your solution? If you do not know where you are shooting to reach, you may just end up in the dark.

Once you do have a SMART goal for your content marketing in general and your assets in particular, your analytics can be streamlined to measure every step of the funnel, detect anomalies and optimize for small consistent lifts that eventually lead to big ROI.

2. Drop vanity along the way. Don’t focus on vanity metrics. Page views for instance. So your blog apparently raked in 5000 page views. But who were these engrossed readers? Do they belong to your persona? Have these page views moved you closer to reaching your “end”? Unless you know you are measuring for intangible impact like brand exposure – page views should not be your metric to determine success.

Data does not lie! Especially when it is objectively analyzed. 

Relying on it to constantly tweak content marketing is the new mantra for B2B brands. 

Content Marketing Stats & Facts:

Content marketing is the exact opposite of conventional marketing. It’s created from the perspective of the client’s needs and can position you for credibility and authority. As a result, it is a far more effective way of starting a dialogue.

We have worked hard to put together a unique infographic that tells you what worked in terms of content marketing in 2019. Let the facts guide you to your own conclusions.

Content Marketing Stats & Facts infographic
Source Review42
Originally published November 27, 2019 - Updated December 17, 2021

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