6 kinds of content for B2B marketing
Business-to-business marketing used to be all about face-to-face selling: trade shows, business lunches, and handshakes were the way to get deals done. But the new generation of business people is different - they’re digital natives, raised on the internet. Young professionals are used to doing everything online, from research to buying to networking, and these habits are extending to the workplace, even in the B2B environment.
B2B marketers cannot afford to ignore this trend, they need to create an engaging online experience to attract customers and make sales over the web. The way to do this is by producing interesting, useful content that draws business shoppers to your website and establishes your company as an authority in your field. Here are six types of content B2B marketers can create to engage potential customers online:
One way to interact with customers online is by contributing comments to forums, online groups, and social media. Provide helpful answers to questions about your products or area of expertise, or ask questions to generate responses from others. Include links to useful content – yours and other people’s – that will help solve readers’ problems or add to the discussion. The key here is to have genuine conversations that will interest people, don’t pitch your products or services – that’s what your website is for. Also, be sure to check back regularly on comments you have written to see whether anyone has responded, and keep the conversation going.
You are an expert in your field. What better way is there to demonstrate that than by providing useful information to potential customers? Write a blog on your website to relay tips and tricks, how-tos , recommendations, news, events, and more to the people who use your products and services. Blog posts don’t have to be expansive; they can be as short as a few hundred words and can deal with small, specific topics (like a list of content types!). Again, don’t write a sales pitch here, provide helpful information that your customers can use.
It’s important to update your blog consistently. Decide how often you will post (once or twice a week is typical), and then stick to that schedule. Visitors will get used to your posting frequency and return to look for new posts, but if you keep them waiting too long they’ll give up on you and stop coming back.
Perhaps your material shows better than it tells? If the information you want to get across works best in a visual format, consider creating a video that you can post to your website, blog, and social media. Many people hear ‘video’ and think of big, expensive productions, but you can create your own videos using a high-resolution camera or camcorder, or get creative with animation. Ideas for video content include how-tos, product demos, testimonials from customers, interviews with your CEO or product specialists, coverage of events like conferences or tradeshows, and promos for your products or services. Like blog posts, videos don’t have to be long - they could be as short and simple as a 30-second “tip of the week.”
Keep your customers up-to-date with your latest product and service updates, news, and upcoming events with a monthly or quarterly newsletter. You can incorporate other content you’ve produced, such as blog articles or videos, and then send it to your customers over email, post it to your website, and promote it over your social media.
A note about email marketing: Bill C-28 has made it illegal in Canada to send marketing emails to anyone who has not given you express permission. So, call up your customers and prospects and ask them if you can add them to your email list, and respect their wishes. You can also add a “Join our mailing list” button to your website so that new prospects can sign up. Whatever you do, don’t give into the temptation to buy email lists – you don’t know until you get it whether the contacts are any good, and you can’t legally email them anyway.
Webinars or Podcasts
Longer, more involved content such as a training course, informational or sales presentation, or a panel or speaker discussion can be presented online via a webinar or podcast. You can promote these as live online events to generate buzz among your customers and present the material in an interactive format, leaving time afterwards for questions and comments. Then, you can post recorded versions to your website and social media or send links via email so that customers can access them at their convenience. Registrations and downloads for these events are a great way to capture warm leads that you can then pass along to your sales team.
Whitepapers and eBooks
If you want to provide a more in-depth, written resource to your audience, you can consider publishing an ebook or whitepaper. Ebooks are the more casual of the two, presenting information such as a how-to guide in small chapters or sections with pictures, call-out boxes, and bullet lists to make content easily digestible for the reader.
A whitepaper is more formal, like a research paper or argumentative essay, and would be used to present the findings of a study you’ve conducted, educate your reader about a specific topic, or convince them of your opinion on an issue related to your products or services.
Both types of content can be shared on your website and promoted over email and social media as well as via pay-per-click advertisements. Collect contact information when your whitepaper or ebook is downloaded to generate a list of warm leads.
The main thing to remember when creating content is to keep with it. If one comment or blog post doesn’t generate a response, the next one may. It takes time to build an audience and get them involved. Over time, if you produce useful materials and promote them to your target market, you will establish your brand as a thought leader in your field and as a valuable resource for your customers and industry partners. Then, when web-savvy professionals are researching their next B2B purchase online, it’s your brand that will capture their attention.