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More and more B2B businesses are getting on board with content marketing. After all, in a world where purchase decisions increasingly start with Google, and your website meets your prospects before you do, content – blogs, eBooks, case studies, whitepapers, the list goes on – play a crucial role in convincing prospects to engage with your business.

The power of content marketing is well documented. According to the Content Marketing Institute, small businesses with blogs get 126% more lead growth than small businesses without; content marketing generates over three times as many leads as outbound marketing and costs 62% less; and content marketing rakes in conversion rates six times higher than any other method.

However, in order to benefit from content marketing and achieve the kind of results mentioned above, a content marketing strategy must be in place.

The fact is that a great content marketing strategy can help boost your website’s search rankings, improve brand awareness online – helping interested parties to find your business – and help you to generate more leads via your website. It will also help you to identify the blogs you should create, for both now and the future, as well as help you to nurture leads at every stage of your sales funnel.

But for many B2B businesses “getting started” with content marketing, the strategy behind content creation has not been devised and, in some cases, not even considered. These businesses have gone “all in” with content creation, producing blog after blog, but over time they realise that their content marketing activity is not delivering the results they expected.

To quote Arjun Basu – author and Twitter storyteller –

“Without a strategy, content is just stuff, and the world has enough stuff.”

No matter how much you invest in content marketing and content creation, if there is no strategy behind it, you will not get the results you need or attract the right target audience.

If you are just “getting started” with content marketing and want to ensure it actually works, here’s what you need to do.

Define your goals

Every marketing strategy for your organisation needs to be built around clearly defined business goals. Think about why you want to create content and what you want to achieve through it. Do you want to generate more leads? Increase business exposure? Demonstrate your industry expertise. By taking the time to think about your business goals, you can then develop the rest of your content strategy with ease and determine what content assets you should use. For example, if you want to build brand awareness you would use blogs, thought leadership articles and opinion pieces. On the other hand, if you want to generate more leads you would use gated content assets, such as eBooks, whitepapers or case studies.

Build and/or refine your buyer personas

The next thing you need to do is build and/or refine your buyer personas. What are buyer personas? Well, buyer personas are – according to HubSpot – ‘semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers based on market research and real data about your existing customers.’

Buyer personas provide you with insight into your prospects, allowing you to understand their business pain points, business goals, and day-to-day business issues. If you understand the business problems that plague your prospects, you can begin to create specific, targeted content that helps them to solve those problems.

With high-quality content tailored to your target audience, you can demonstrate your understanding of their business problem(s) – demonstrating your knowledge and expertise – and as a result, slowly position your business as the solution.

Run a content audit

Before you start creating brand-new content assets, you should review your existing content (if you have any), repurpose that content (if possible), and try to identify any content gaps. Once you have reviewed your existing content, you will want to map content to specific buyer personas and to the stages of the buyer’s journey: Awareness, Consideration and Decision.

For example, at the Awareness stage, the beginning of the buyer’s journey, your potential prospects have a specific business problem and want to know about solutions. At this stage, rather than bombarding them with information about products and services you provide, you should create informative blogs, in-depth guides and tip sheets to provide advice and help them to solve their business problem. You should then include CTAs to other relevant content assets to not only provide website visitors with more information on related subjects – but also help you to move them through the sales funnel.

At the Consideration stage, the middle of the buyer’s journey, your potential prospects have narrowed down their options and are considering specific solutions. At this stage, they want to understand what solution is most appropriate for their business problem. Talk about your products and services and explain how they can help potential prospects. Create eBooks, case studies, fact sheets and product comparison pieces to showcase your solutions and how they have helped previous clients. 

Finally, at the Decision stage, the end of the buyer’s journey, your prospect has narrowed their options further and is looking to make a decision. It is at this point that you provide them with detailed information on your products and services to highlight why they should choose your business. Free trials, product demonstrations, technical documentation, and detailed case studies are all content assets you can use to show your prospect how you can solve their business problem.

Make sure you audit your existing content with the above stages of the buyer’s journey in mind, as they will enable you to accurately map out your content and identify what content you need to create next.

Make sure you conduct keyword research

While search engines now put more emphasis on topics than specific keywords, keywords still have an important role to play in your overall content strategy, especially when trying to understand what your prospects are looking for.

Keyword planners, such as Google AdWords’ Keyword Planner, will give you search volumes, and keyword competition, and provide suggested keywords related to your original search term. With this information, you can quickly build out a list of specific, long-tail keywords (three or four-phase terms) related to your products and services that are actually being searched for.

Make sure you avoid using generic keyword terms as people using these terms may not necessarily be looking for what you offer – and these terms will be highly competitive and therefore difficult to rank for.

Promote, promote, promote!

Now you have created high-quality content and have content at every stage of the sales funnel, it’s time to promote it across channels relevant to your business and target audience. By promoting your content across these channels, you can increase the exposure of your content, improve your brand awareness, and drive interested parties back to your website – all of which will help generate leads. As well as promoting your content, you will want to have an editorial calendar in place to ensure you are always producing new content on a regular basis.

Content is the best and most cost-effective way for your business to be found online by interested parties and to direct those parties back to your website. In order to benefit from content marketing, you must have a strategy in place and you must regularly review that strategy. Make sure you take the time to evaluate your content, buyer personas, and social media strategy to ensure everything is working as well as it can.

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