Content marketing has become mainstreamed and a significant number of businesses are having a go at it, including B2B Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies.
But there’s a problem: Although almost everyone does content marketing, they are not all thriving at it.
According to this report by Crazy Egg, just about 41% of marketers actually see a positive return on investment (ROI) for their content marketing efforts.
But there ought to be more.
Obviously, there’s a difference between what’s working and what marketers are actually doing out there. So I want to address that disconnect today and show you some things you can do to make content marketing work for your business.
I’m putting together this guide for those businesses who are doing content marketing but aren’t seeing results. They don’t feel content marketing is effective.
If that’s you, let me have a little heart-to-heart talk with you right here:
Why isn’t content marketing working for you? Seriously, friend. Why aren’t you seeing results? Could it be that content marketing doesn’t work at all, but just another Internet gimmick? Or, does it have to do with some insider secrets you have no clue about?
Well, turns out it’s none of those. Instead, the answer has to do with how you handle your content marketing.
See, you can’t execute content marketing just anyhow and expect results. You can’t do content marketing haphazardly and hope to discover the B2B content marketing gold you’ve been told. Nope, it doesn’t work that way.
If you want results, you would have to step up your game, become enthused, and really get down to business. I’m not saying you have to follow some laid down rules that are written in stone, but there are some things you cannot run away from if you want content marketing results, things you just have to do and do pretty well.
Below are some of the most important ones:
Document a B2B content marketing strategy.
I cannot emphasize the importance of having a content marketing strategy enough. I feel it’s super important.
To drive home this point and show you clearly the significant difference between having and not having a content marketing strategy, let me share with you a quick case study.
Back when they started out, Groove HQ, an online customer support service, had early troubles. They were about to be out of cash and their startup was about to fold.
Were they doing content marketing?
Yes, but their marketing efforts were failing because they didn’t have a concrete strategy. As a result, nobody was visiting their site or signing up for their product.
Desperate, lost, and terrified, they decided to finally get serious about content marketing. The Groove team stopped everything they were doing and spent the next two months researching and asking for advice from experienced content marketers.
Within those two months, they regrouped and came out with a content marketing strategy based on expert recommendations.
Today, Groove has over 250,000 people reading their content each month, 6,000+ customers, and they’re generating about $5 million in annual recurring revenue all thanks to the strategy they developed back then.
Your business may not be about to run out of money, but like Groove, you need a content marketing strategy if you expect to be successful.
Why? Well, because it’s important. One of the top reasons for the miserable results businesses are getting from their content marketing is the lack of strategy.
A survey jointly conducted by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs finds that of all the successful marketers surveyed, 66% have a documented content strategy. And only 11% of the unsuccessful marketers have a documented content strategy.
Those stats show that companies with a documented content strategy are more likely to succeed than those without.
Without a strategy, you’ll be wasting your time, losing money, and feeling frustrated in the end.
Among other things, an effective content marketing strategy should define your key performance indicators (KPIs), identify and track the numbers that are important to your B2B tech/software business — social shares, conversion, views, traffic, CTRs, sign-ups, etc. — and address your priorities.
For instance, in a study, B2B marketers say their biggest priorities are understanding the customer buying journey (78%), mapping the right content to the right buyer journey stage (77%), and attributing and measuring performance across channels (53%).
Now, don’t get it twisted:
Publishing content is not a strategy. Deciding to have a blog and write whatever articles you want is not a strategy either. Content marketing strategy subsumes the big picture of marketing, including audience, content types, revenue, profit, brand, goals, execution plans, etc.
Also, in creating a content marketing strategy, stop thinking of content in a vacuum, but go deep and beyond the everyday limits. Ask yourself challenging questions like:
Why am I doing content marketing? What am I trying to accomplish with my content? What are my goals and how do I best achieve these goals?
Who exactly am I trying to sell to and what are the best and most effective ways to reach them?
Your B2B content marketing strategy should clearly answer questions like these and more in a profound and data-driven way.
2. Create valuable and informative content.
Creating quality content day after day is difficult to pin down. Being a professional freelance content writer with years of experience, I know this quite well.
The chart below supports this fact.
From cases of writer’s block to the difficulty of digging for good topics and ideas, there’s no denying the challenges that come with creating fresh, valuable content for your audience. Yet, there’s also no denying the immense benefits of consistently publishing informative content, and the latter is exactly why you simply cannot afford to not do it.
People who successfully and consistently craft compelling, valuable content that gets to the heart of their readers experience drastically more site growth than their competitors.
Take for example, Buffer, a social sharing platform, consistently publishes what it describes as “Deep Tactical” content on its blog.
As a result, it receives millions of unique visitors each and every month with about 66% of the traffic pouring in from search due to the consistent quality posts.
An accident? No.
The fact is, people want valuable, informative materials and the marketers who provide these sort of materials are those who will eventually win the hearts of people.
Look at the image below and you will find that the biggest factor that has contributed to B2B marketers’ increased success over the last year is higher quality and more efficient content creation.
In addition to creating valuable and informative content, also personalize and customize your content.
You see because according to the IBM Digital Experience Survey, over 56% of marketers believe that personalized content promotes higher engagement rates.
Personalized content helps consumers to remember a brand and encourages them to engage more personally with the company. This introduces a positive feedback loop that benefits both the customer and the company.
Again, according to Dragon Search Marketing, 61% of consumers are influenced by custom content.
The bottom line: You can’t build a badass brand with shitty content.
To solve a problem, it’s advisable to identify the cause and attack it from there.
What could be causing you to create content that sucks? Let’s quickly look through it:
You don’t have an idea of what kind of content to produce. I recommend you get connected with your target audience and ask them what they want to see.
You create the wrong content every time. It could be wrong in terms of buyer persona, content type, business market (B2B vs B2C), etc.
Your content is f**king boring. I once created a series of content for a company in a “boring” industry, so to speak. I had to apply special techniques and optimization methods to bring the content up to life. It worked.
You don’t stand out from the crowd. In the opening of this guide, I mentioned that almost everyone today is doing content marketing. In this kind of situation, to succeed, you’d have to produce better content and proactively make efforts to stand out.
You hired inexpensive writers. Most businesses are guilty of this. They want to do content marketing, so they go over to a content mill (or simply post an ad to a low-quality job board) to hire a writer for $5/post. They generate a shit ton of topics and let the writer mess around with words. Then they post the worthless stuff on their blog and call it content marketing. It goes without saying that’s a waste of effort, time, and money. Not only should you hire a writer who is worth his salt, but one who has an in-depth knowledge of your industry. For instance, as a freelance writer, I don’t write for every business that contacts me; I specialize in writing for B2B tech/software businesses.
Both B2B and B2C marketing are facing buyers who are eager to learn and self-educate. It makes sense to provide as much content as possible to facilitate that process.
It’s much like buyers are literally screaming “Give it to me NOW.”
For B2B in particular, purchases are higher value and rely more on quantifiable benefits and less on implied or lifestyle outcomes.
While B2C is about feeling safe, secure and informed, B2B is about respecting insights or knowledge… which means expertly-written content is necessary, and at some point, your business buyers will require it from you.
The better content you publish, the higher your chances of winning. Just consider the fact that nearly fifty percent of B2B technology buyers consume two to five pieces of content before making a buying decision, as revealed by the Eccolo Media B2B Technology Content Survey Report.
3. Promote your content intensely.
Have you ever wondered why your blog posts, no matter how great you think they are, fail to receive much attention?
There’s only one answer to that: You don’t put them in front of the audience that matters.
In short, the fastest way to not get results from your B2B content marketing is to do nothing after you click “publish.”
But sadly, that’s what most marketers do.
Content marketing is not just about creating content; content creation is only one part of the equation. There’s another (and a more important) part: Content promotion.
To get results, you have to promote the content you create, and you have to do so intensely.
Now, when I say promote your content, I’m not just talking about going on Twitter to tweet a link of your post once or twice, or just sharing an excerpt of it on Medium (although those platforms by themselves are great for promoting your content). There’s more to content promotion; it’s deep and requires way more serious efforts than just posting on your Facebook page. In the future, I’ll create a detailed guide on the subject of content promotion on this blog.
I recommend you even apply the 80/20 rule. The rule states that 80% of our results come from 20% of our efforts, and so we ought to focus our energy on the important 20% activities.
But here’s how you should apply it to content marketing:
You ought to put in just 20% of your time on creating content and 80% promoting it.
If you flip that, your pieces will not receive the exposure they deserve.
Does this mean creating quality content isn’t important? Nope, it is. Without great content, there’ll be nothing to promote in the first place, right?
But you can be doing everything right in terms of content creation and optimization and still see little to no engagement from readers and the SERPs.
The point is this:
If you aren’t taking the time to squeeze the most out of your content in terms of promotion, you’re banging yourself in the head.
Listen friend, content promotion is not rocket science. If anything, it actually what you need to do to maximize your content marketing results.
Spend the bulk of your time promoting your content through the right channels. This way, you’ll inevitably get your pieces in front of more eyeballs, grow your audience, and maximize your results.
Where should you start?
There isn’t a “right answer” to that question. My advice is to focus on the promotion channels that get you the most returns on your time invested.
Reports show that most B2B marketers use, on average, 13 content marketing tactics to promote their post.
While that could mean you have a plenitude of options for promoting your content, it could also mean you have numerous opportunities to waste your time on platforms that simply won’t work for your business.
However, if you want recommendations, here are a few promotion tactics I know to make sense:
4. Invest in content marketing.
Just as with most things in life, when it comes to content marketing, you get what you pay for. If you want results from content marketing, you need to invest enough money in it to achieve that.
Businesses who invest a lot in marketing are able to expand quicker and more easily than companies who don’t spend as much.
But content marketing is still cheaper than traditional marketing, yet it offers the best return on investment (ROI). For instance, content marketing costs 62% less than outbound marketing, yet it generates more than three times as many leads.
Again, for every $1 spent, email gives back a whopping $38 in ROI, and offers the broadest reach, according to CampaignMonitor.
Now you know why these businesses are putting their monies on it.
But hey, just because businesses are spending billions of dollars on their content marketing doesn’t mean you should throw your hard earned money into content marketing just like that.
Go back to your drawing board and meticulously look at the content marketing efforts that have had the greatest ROI for you. Then, invest more in those.
Generally, tech B2B buyers prefer whitepapers (98%), case studies (66%), and technology guides (37%), as revealed by the Eccolo Media B2B Technology Content Survey.
Here’s a takeaway for you:
It is advisable to spend more on a good content marketer versus on tactics. A good marketer knows all the creative and digital touchpoints that can boost results and will give you more ROI.
Again, you get what you pay for. For example, if you hire someone from a marketplace like Upwork to create a 1000-word article for you at $3, the outcome can never be up to the quality and results you will get if you pay a professional freelance content writer $300 to produce the content.
If you’re on a tight budget, I advise you hold spending on the higher priced content strategies like paid social ads and focus on the less expensive methods like blogging.
5. Get your SEO working.
I’ve heard people say things like “SEO is dead” and “Content marketing has replaced SEO.”
While the era of stuffing keywords in a blog post so that it ranks higher on Google is far gone, SEO is still very much alive and even more important than ever. Only thing is, the game has changed, mostly due to Google’s recent updates in the past few years.
Studies upon studies have proven this. This study, in particular, finds that 81% of shoppers use search engines before making a purchase.
So don’t make the mistake of thinking that SEO is dead because of content marketing. There is no competition between the two. Instead, they work together in correlation.
If you’re doing B2B content marketing, but have poor SEO, you might as well not be creating content because no one is going to find your content.
In fact, 72% of marketers say relevant content creation is the most effective SEO tactic.
6. Be consistent and give it time.
Being a corporate blogging expert, I’ve come across thousands of businesses who abandon their blogs just after a few months of publishing content. For them, they’ve tried but it isn’t working.
Here’s what you might not like to hear but it’s the truth anyways:
If you think you will get thousands of customers overnight with content marketing, then you’re probably going to be disappointed… except in extremely rare situations.
Blogging is primarily a long-term strategy. It takes time. Don’t expect results in a matter of a few weeks or even a few months. Give your content time to gain traction and deliver organic results. See content marketing as a marathon rather than a sprint.
The beauty of it is that if you’re consistent, you’ll certainly get something out of it in the end.
As a matter of fact, the more you blog, the more likely you are to build a foundation of traffic and leads over time. HubSpot mentioned that 75% of their blog views and 90% of blog leads come from old posts.
They also mentioned that 60% of marketers list blog content as their top inbound priority. In addition, marketers that blog regularly receive approximately 67% more leads versus those who don’t.
So what should you do?
It’s simple. Do MORE!
The future of content is more, not less. Platforms like The Washington Post publish 1,000+ posts each day. Google keeps adding millions of indexed web pages to its engine every year.
And your competitors?
They’re not showing any signs of slowing down either; that’s not funny. You even have more competition this year. I mean, 70% of B2B marketers say they are creating more content this year than they did in 2016.
Clearly, content is booming. If you do less, you lose. If you stop, you’re out. The only way is to keep going, bigger, better, and stronger.
Because content marketing is the new and only marketing, today and in the future. And maybe forever.
Content marketing shark, Seth Godin, even said once that content marketing is the only marketing left.
Here’s the kicker:
While you can almost see quick, short-term returns on traditional or native advertising (which are dying, by the way), content marketing will help your business continue to thrive on a long run because today’s customers will continue to depend on you for helpful information.
In other words, though it might take a bit of time for tangible results to show, especially for B2B marketers, content marketing is a strong, long-term approach to improving your brand’s visibility online and nurturing a stronger relationship with your customers.
Here’s what CMI finds out about this:
I’m convinced that your business can do content marketing more profitably. You can make content marketing work and produce great results for you.
But that’s only possible if you do something about it. Start by making up your mind to make content marketing work for you and you’d be surprised.
Of course, there are more things you can do to get B2B content marketing working for you, but if you would put to work these major ones discussed above, you’d take your business where it is and snowball it.