I generally think of marketing in three phases: acquisition, retention and loyalty-building. Content marketers tend to focus on the tail end of that three-phrase cycle, loyalty building. B2B content marketing is ideal for building brand loyalty. Magazines, long-form content, case studies and similar content marketing strategies are often used to great effect by B2B marketers to boost loyalty. However, B2B content marketing for customer acquisition can be equally as effective if it’s done well.
Why Are Customers Looking for Your Products or Services?
All good marketing programs, including content marketing programs, begin by answering the question, “What do my customers want or need?”
People shop for products and services based upon needs. Those needs may be physical needs; you need milk for your cereal, so you go to the store to buy it. Needs may also be psychological. I made an appointment with my favorite hair salon a few weeks ago, and the first words out of my mouth to my stylist were, “Blonde me.” I needed a psychological “lift” for the new year, and my naturally ashy blond hair had turned dark brunette over the past year. An hour or two at the salon and I left with lighter hair and a lighter spirit. In that case, my needs were psychological.
Before crafting your content marketing programs, know what your customers want or need. Conduct surveys, listen to their comments on social media, visit with them, hang out with them, but do understand what they need. That understanding flows into the first segment of a three-step acquisition program.
Good B2B Content Marketing Begins with Education
Once you understand what your customers want or need, you can begin to think of how your products and services might fill that need. But don’t rush right into an advertising campaign disguised as content marketing. Instead, educate them first on how your products or services solve that need.
How do you educate customers via B2B content marketing? You have many choices:
- Educational content: This type of content tends to revolve around industry facts. Statistics, facts, data, product information are all forms of educational content marketing.
- How-to articles: Teach your customers how to tackle simple tasks that solve their problems and win their attention and loyalty. How to choose an accountant, how to tackle a computer-based task, how to do something smarter, better or faster are all great how to article types for B2B content marketing.
- Advice: I like using personal advice from an authority or expert to educate customers. This works best when your brand is already well-known or you have a strong ‘voice’ in the industry. I’ve used this successfully with manufacturing clients and those who have a very unique, specialized area of expertise. Customers are hungry for advice from a true ‘expert’ in their industry, especially industries where products are more prosaic and functional.
B2B Content Marketing as an Acquisition Funnel
All steps along your B2B content marketing program should act like a sales funnel, gently leading and guiding prospects to make that final decision to call, contact, or complete a sales action. Once you educate prospects, it’s time to introduce solution-focused content. Such content takes the educational information shared in step 1 and introduces your firm as a solution for whatever problem led them to your content in the first place. By helping, advising and guiding instead of hard-selling them on your product or service, you can share useful, actionable information without clubbing them over the head (figuratively, of course) emotionally with hyperbole charged rhetoric. Instead, you’re selling to professionals in a manner that appeals to them as business people.
Jeanne Grunert is the president of Seven Oaks Consulting, a content marketing writing and services firm based in Virginia. She hopes you found this article educational and informative.