B2B Content Marketing: How To Charm Other Businesses Into Buying

By azfar on April 7, 2017

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b2b content marketing

Are you just now looking into content marketing for your B2B business?

Well hurry up, you’re late!

Right now, nearly 90% of all business-to-business companies use content marketing as a part of their marketing strategy. If you’re not, that you means you are missing out on customers that are right now being funneled toward the competition.

But don’t worry. I’ve got your back. In this blog, we’re going to find out all about how content marketing can help increase your online success doing business as a business to business business. Business.

So, the first thing it’s important for to state is that business to consumer (B2C) content marketing has a different audience and therefore a different strategy. Our website has so far shared a LOT of content on B2C Marketing. If you came here looking for consumer content marketing advice, go to one of these articles instead

If however you want to know how to use content marketing within a B2B approach, then look no further. Fortunately, B2B content marketing is actually the best way to hook target businesses in comparison to other commonly used methods like outbound marketing, cold-calling or billboards. All these scatter-shot approaches are too broad and too easy to ignore.

Content marketing offers you distinct advantages. In this article, we’re going to look at what those advantages are and how you can utilize them for profit.

Because this is an overview of a whole field, it’d get very easy to wander aimlessly and get lost. For that reason, I’ve broken things down according to audience variables, business copywriting tips, business content marketing tips, and then rounded it all off with a guided tour of some of the best examples currently available online.

These powers combined should give you all the briefing you need to start making your own campaign, sure in the knowledge that you’re doing the right things.

But we’re already late! Let’s crack on.

Business Readers Are Different

Business readers differ from your general consumer audience in a number of important ways. Knowing what these differences are will allow you to optimize your content from the outside for precisely the kind of people you’re targeting.

Business Readers are:

  • More Industry Savvy – Business readers know their world better than anyone else. They’re experts. That means you can’t BS them – they’ll smell it a mile away. But if you can show that you match their expertise, and can offer them something – be it a product, a service, a process, or even an angle – that will benefit them, they will be hungry for it. They are looking for opportunities so they can seize them.
  • More Highly Educated – Across the board, most people at a level high enough to buy B2B services have at least a Bachelors and usually a Masters level of education. Attaining that level of education relies almost solely on critical thinking skills, research skills, and the ability to assess the strength of arguments based on what backs them up. While consumers may be more interested in emotion, hyperbole and experience, business audiences are more data driven.
  • Doing Work-Related Problem Solving – Business readers are reading on company time, and time is money. Don’t waste that. They aren’t looking for entertainment (though your content can still be entertaining, it shouldn’t be your focus), they’re looking for an answer to a particular problem they have right now. More than that, they’re looking for the best answer. They’ll look at multiple potential sources before making a decision on a provider, so you have to stand out from the crowd.
  • Accountable For Their Decisions – Consumers make decisions for themselves, or at most for their families. Business readers will make a decision behalf of their company, and they’re answerable to their superiors if those decisions aren’t good ones. As such, the level of certainty and confidence you need to create is much higher. There are no impulse buyers.
  • Spending Company Money – Business readers aren’t spending their own money. In business, everything is more expensive than in the consumer world, while price-point is the be-all and end-all. Business buyers will often have been given a budget for their department, or even to engineer a specific solution, and that budget will include products and services like yours, as well as other things. Make sure your product is falling within the average budget range for your targeted companies.
  • ROI-Centric – Related to budgets is the efficiency your product can bring, which can lead to more profitable use. Basically, the return on investment. If your product is more expensive but offers a much greater return on investment, then businesses will understand the advantage of making the additional spend.

Now, these variables cover ‘business’, which is in itself a pretty broad umbrella to group people under. People in different niches will have different variables, priorities, and even a culture and a voice they operate within.

Fortunately, you’ll be able to use research to identify what these are, and use that to begin to sculpt your content in a voice that harmonizes with their ear. Which leads us smoothly onto our copywriting tips!

B2B Copywriting Tips

So now you know who you’re writing for, or you know to find out who you’re writing for. Now you need to know how to craft your message so it matches those you want to engage with it. The following are some copywriting fundamentals that will point you in the right direction, and help you become a competent B2B copywriter.

Master Your Tone of Voice

  • First off, don’t be formal. I said above that highly educated people want data. That’s true. But they don’t want boring. Business customers are still people underneath those sharp suits and expensive watches. People just like you. Use a conversational tone and continue to appeal to the reader’s emotion and interest. What a relief it’ll be, how much stress you’ll save, how impressive your department will look when you use our product.
  • Keep it light on references, memes and non-sequitors. While these people are still real people, they’re also busy people. Keep it relevant, and don’t undermine the seriousness of your benefits by being too light-hearted in your presentation. Preserve your impact.
  • Make best use of tribalism. Include niche-specific references and industry in-jokes instead of pop culture and mainstream ones. This allows people to see that you ‘get’ them, you’re from the same world. It creates a sense of closeness.
  • Storytelling is good. I’m not saying write War & Peace or Rocky, you can skip the rich detail and the long explanations, but a story structure is still the most successful medium for any messaging. Protagonist (customer) has a crisis, grows to overcome it (using your tools), changes because of journey (gets the promotion). You can hit these three points in infinite ways. Just hit them.

Readability

  • For a general audience, you’re supposed to make your writing as easy to read as possible. You want to aim for around a 60-70 Flesch–Kincaid score. That’s a readability measure by the way. You can check yours here. You don’t want to stray too far from a good score, but you have more wiggle room in business than you do with consumers.
  • In specific niches, you’ll have to use certain specific words and phrases that a readability tester may deem as jargon. As long it’ll be easily understood by your audience, that’s fine. It will help you strengthen your association with their field and better understand what effect your product or service can have.
  • As well as using some jargon, you’ll also be allowed to mine your points for more detail, using longer and more complex sentences to illustrate more complex thoughts to your audience. This will ‘harm’ your readability score, but if it’s necessary to make your point, then don’t sweat it.
  • Basically, when it comes to B2B copywriting, a readability score of 50-60 is perfectly acceptable, provided your breaking the rules for the right reason. Longwinded, complex waffle won’t do anyone any favors.

Imagery

  • As far as imagery is concerned, the rules are similar to those of B2C. Basically, don’t use stock photos. They’re so identifiably generic and ‘of a style’ that make your content look like a template or holding page. They suck. Don’t do it.
  • If you are going to include images (and you should), then make sure they serve a specific purpose. Not just that, but that the purpose adds real value. They should complement or serve to better explain or illustrate the points being made in the content.
  • Infographics are perfect for B2B, as they strike the right balance of information and eye-candy. They provide a clean and stimulating way to present the information that make the detailed content easier to understand.
  • Humor can be sprinkled lightly, but you have to pitch it right. Your humor shouldn’t undermine your authority, it should show that you wear your authority comfortably. An excess of animated GIFs and memes can make things look unprofessional and at worst, juvenile. Look more at wit than at broad humor.

Level Of Comprehension

  • When it comes to your audience, you have to assume that they will have some knowledge of the industry you’re working in. As such, you don’t want to talk down to people or waste time explaining concepts from scratch. That will come across as condescending, and you’ll waste the time of the people most likely to buy. Make sure your content is pitched for people with intermediate and expert knowledge of the industry.

Titles

  • Because your audience is primarily looking for these, your titles need to be solution oriented. Your content needs to offer a way to overcome a common problem within the industry, so there’s a promise of value for those reading.
  • Refrain from clickbait style “you won’t believe” or “the answer will shock you” – put the answer in the title. Remember, business people don’t have time to wonder whether or not content will provide a solution. Get your USPs up front.
  • Include benefit-oriented words. Solutions are great, but remember our story structure. Protagonist, obstacle, solution, benefit. Your protagonist is your audience. Their problem is the obstacle. Your product is the solution. So what is the benefit? It may be ROI, it may be returns, it may be making processes more cost-effective, it may be increasing productivity. But you need to tell your audience what it is up front.

B2B Content Marketing Tips

Now we’ve covered the main differences in content writing, we need to talk about B2B content marketing. It’s one thing to have great content, but it’s what you do with it that counts. Just like the writing, there are several key differences with B2C marketing, which are based on the differing behaviour of business people online. Below are three free starter-tips to help you maximize the impact of your shiny new content.

Content Promotion

  • Social Media comes second. Even IF people are on social media at work, they’ll generally be on there to take a break. Yes, a lot of people are looking at twitter and Facebook, and it could be a nice excuse for them to browse around a little if your product is on there, so by all means have a presence. But it shouldn’t be your main focus.
  • Focus on niche communities. The internet is full of niche communities with specialist interests, with forums where people can discuss their challenges and opportunities and find the best results. If you aren’t on these forums already, you want to be doing detailed research to find where they are, who the influencers are, and how to become one of them. Be a helpful member of the community first and an advertiser second.
  • Answer Questions. There are whole resource centers like Yahoo! Answers and Quora where people go to ask challenging questions and get expert answers. These sites provide a great opportunity for you and your content to be that answer. You can provide an answer in brief with a link to you piece of content, which offers a more detailed analysis.

Synchronize Your Offer With Target Niche’s Budget Flow

  • Look at the financial structure of the companies you want to work with. When is their typical budget allocation and review? Does it happen monthly, quarterly, annually? What is the usual way in which tranches of funding are released for spend? By understanding these questions you can time your content to be especially relevant at the right times.
  • Create offers and promotions using this information. If a company is just about to allocate additional funds to a department, make sure you have special offers in their inbox shortly before that so you’re ‘top of mind’ for these companies at the time when they have the most money ready to spend.

Give Actionable Freebies

  • Offer practical downloadables. As well as the typical free trial, which within a company structure still requires a large commitment, you can also offer branded accessories including templates, plans and calendars that will be useful to the company’s every day running, require little in the way of infrastructural change, and help establish your brand as one to work with.

Some of The Best B2B Content Marketing Examples

As I said at the start of this blog – 90% of B2B companies are already doing content marketing. Here are some of the best B2B content marketing examples to give you some guidance and inspiration.

  • HubSpot – The largest content marketing blog around, and one of the most influential. They have split their content into streams – marketing, and sales. They aren’t the same. HubSpot teaches you that right away. From there, they can offer detailed guides and free resources that prove their value across both disciplines.
  • Buffer – Buffer is a social media management tool. Their blog has set itself apart with a commitment to detail and quality. There is hardcore research and serious number crunching going on, while the articles are written accessibly so people can benefit from this research. Not just financials, but psychology and tech too. Buffer have three blogs – social media, engineering and transparency (or business practice).
  • Brand Savant – Here you get a three-for-one. Tom Webster is head of Edison Research, presents {Grow}’s podcast (who themselves have a great blog), and a regular dissector of other successful blogs that could make this list, like Convince and Convert. His skill as a market researcher allows him to break down and see through the numbers to give you the actionable insights within. This one is useful to you not only as an inspiration and a model for best practice, but as a further useful tool as well.

By modelling your approach on that of these successful examples, you will probably understand two things: how to do it well, and how much effort it will take to do it so well.

Now, BEGIN!

You’re in the minority if you’re doing B2B and still haven’t seriously undertaken content marketing.

You’re NOT in the minority if you’re in B2B and your content marketing has been underwhelming or unsuccessful.

I hope this post has given you some illumination as to why B2B content marketing is important, how to do it well, and what guiding lights to follow as you develop your presence. Doing so might seem daunting right now, but my advice is this: begin.

Write one post using these best practices. Think of it as a tester. Then see what you could have done better and write another. Find a different topic. Look at your product from a different angle. Listen to the feedback you get and respond to it with a new piece. Soon you’ll be thriving, and you’ll be landing more business because of it.

Copywriters out there! Do you have advice for our readers on what can make the difference in successful B2B copy? Let us know in the comments below!

Content Marketing Made Easy:
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Updated: 26 May 2017

Azfar Hisham

About Azfar Hisham

A copywriter with previous experience developing computer simulations, managing websites and being the social media guy. Interested in Google Patents, Knowledge Graph and questioning everything.

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