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Why Every B2B Company Needs a Content Marketing Plan

If you want to convert the people who visit your B2B company’s website into customers, you should probably familiarize yourself with the term “content marketing.” During the last five years, online and digital marketing has changed a lot, and the result is simple: producing high quality content will help reach the end goal of growing your business.

There are three easy steps that illustrate how content marketing is a driving force of successful business practices, and why it works.
1.What has changed in the marketing environment and how we have to adapt.
2.Examples of five B2B companies who understand and practice great content marketing.
3.How to create a plan that not only drives results but can also replace other, less effective marketing strategies.

The need to adapt

Why does marketing have to change? In our noisy world, indifference towards traditional advertising is higher and higher. Marketing mes¬sages are everywhere and people are not affected by hard selling techniques as they used to be. Have you heard that advertising is going “native”? In the Attention Age, we need to give people a reason to trust us and care about what we offer. That’s why content marketing comes into play. When we provide people with information that is useful, entertaining and unique, we lay the ground to turn that “stranger” into some¬body who appreciates us and might buy our products or services.There are B2B brands doing a great job at content marketing. To improve online conversions, we can definitely learn from their success stories. Limelight Networks understood that teaching sells. With a “For Dummies” campaign educating their prospective clients on how to handle their digital presence, the company gained incredible exposure and new business for $200K, TopRankBlog reports. Crowe Horwath, a big accounting and consulting firm, created a content marketing campaign based on case studies, infographics, executive briefs on regulatory compliance and risk management for financial institutions. The results? 778 prospects engaged and $250K in revenue. InsideOut, a provider of management, leadership and other types of corporate training, reported a +338% increase in leads through content marketing. With a series of slide decks, articles and videos on coaching and business strategy, the company managed to attract a much wider audience compared to its previous outbound marketing tactics. Law firm Levenfeld Pearlstein found out that the attorney bio pages attracted thousands of visits on their website. They decided to give prospective clients more than a simple profile page with basic information on the attorney. The firm filmed short inter¬views with each attorney, engaging them in conversations beyond legal matters and answering questions on life, work and love. This kind of content creates an emotional bond between your company and prospects and addresses possible objections. In this example, Levenfeld Pearlstein disputed that the law and lawyers are boring and impersonal. Last but not least, Aternity. This software company managed to triple its database list with a content curation experiment named End User Experience, an online magazine aggregating news and interesting content on enterprise mobility, cloud computing, UX and more. The campaign, started in 2010, led to a 130% increase in newsletter subscribers between 2010 and 2011, and a 70% increase the following 12 months.

How to create a content marketing plan that converts

How do these companies manage to create such powerful and high converting content marketing campaigns? It all starts with a plan which addresses two main issues: what kind of content to produce and how to distribute it. How can you help and connect with your prospective clients?

Target definition and contextual understanding
First of all, let’s try to focus. If you want your content marketing campaign to be successful, one of the first things to do is to concentrate on only one customer segment, your best one. Modeling your best customer will allow you to create a buyer persona to direct your content efforts.A deep understanding is needed to be able to provide prospects with the best we can offer. You need to analyze those people and evaluate:
1.Their motivations and pains.
2.Their buyer journey.
3.Their attitude towards your company.
Understanding who your ideal clients are is of utmost importance to create the right kind of content.

Content ideas
So, what content should you create and publish? Let’s see a few ques­tions you should ask yourself about your personas to brainstorm effectively.
1.What can you teach them?
2.How can you help them make better buying decisions?
3.How can you entertain them?
4.How can you help them save time?
5.How can you create an emotional bond?
6.How can you empower them?
7.How can you keep them updated on relevant news?

Along with more creative ideas, some traditional content genera­tion templates exist which can help content producers and cre­ators, for instance:
How to ____
Mistakes to avoid when ____
Best practices in  ____
Top products for ____
Should you  ____ or not?
Why you should  ____

These are particularly useful when deciding on blog post topics, but the same main concept lies at the heart of more complex content forms, such as: White Papers/Ebooks, Videos, Newsletters, Slide Decks, Membership Websites & Infographics.

Your conversion goals
What actions do you want content consumers to take as a result of your efforts? Having clear conversion goals is essential. It is marketing after all! Results are what matter, and you want your investment to pay huge dividends. While your ultimate marketing goal is acquiring new paying clients, you should consider smaller goals along the buyers’ journey, such as social media shares, email subscriptions and free trials. It’s important to establish and quantify those goals earlier. For exam­ple, you might set a “1,000 new subscribers in 3 months” goal, or “50% increase in free trials”.

Step by step
It’s important to keep the way you engage with your prospects aligned with who they are and where they are in their journey from “apathy” to “interest,” to when they finally become clients. Less commitment at first, more later. If people don’t know you, they won’t give you their email to access a free trial of something they barely know. Instead, they might read your article, share it on social networks and follow you on Twitter. Later on you will be able to help them move through the funnel, commit more to your brand (signing up, trying your products) and buy from you.

How to keep going
The number one challenge for B2B content marketers in North America, according to the Content Marketing Institute, is the lack of time. One should plan how to keep content producing efforts alive over the long term; results can’t be immediate and persis­tence is needed. How do you do that? Simple: repurpose. Don’t even think about using your ideas only once! Does this mean you have to plagiarize? Of course not. Repurposing your content means simply being able to scale. Here are three things you can do:
1.Produce 5 articles based on your ebook’s main ideas
2.Aggregate smaller pieces of content to produce a useful collection
3.Convert one form into another: from slide deck to article, from ebook to videos, etc.
You will be able to provide more value and reach more people across several platforms. With the right strategy and mindset, you’ll be able to turn your ideas and published content into a lead generation machine that will grow your business much faster than traditional marketing.

Social Media Presence
Build a social media presence for your business. You do not need to be everywhere, but you can concentrate your efforts on one or two social media websites to start. Post regularly and make an effort to connect with your audience instead of trying to sell products. Work on not only building a social media presence but actually getting your audience to share your content as well.

Link Building
Generate links for your site by doing guest posts, promoting your blog posts, sending press releases, doing interviews, getting media coverage, and by giving away free stuff (ebooks and white papers). Again, you need to generate quality content that people actually want to read because it has interesting insights, statistics or any other information that would be relevant to your audience.

High Conversion Rates
Conversion rates are the lifeblood of any business. Your conversion rate tells you how many visitors actually become customers. Your site could get a lot of traffic, but you may realize that they are not really buying anything. There are other conversion rates to consider in terms of how many people subscribe to your mailing list or sign up for a free trial. This factor will have a huge bearing on the amount of revenue that your company will be able to generate.  Here are some tips about how to boost your conversion rates.

Test Your Current Website
Before you start making any type of changes on your site, you should first create an overview of your entire customer acquisition process. Take a look at your landing page and think of each step your cus­tomer must take in order to make a purchase. Create a hypothesis of what you think is going on in your customer’s mind and look at where people are falling off. Have a clear goal and vision for what people will think and do when they visit your website for the first time.

Use a Heatmap
Use a heatmap to track and record your customer’s every move on the site. Again, before you make changes you need to understand what is going before and after you make the changes to figure out what is and what is not working. You can use an app like Mouseflow to do this.

There is no right or wrong answer as to which colors you should use on your website. The colors that you select will depend on your branding and your audience’s preference. You will probably need to test a few different colors on different areas of your website to figure out which ones have a higher conversion rate. In many cases, blue happens to be a safe color to use for links and buttons. However, be careful with red and green because people that are colorblind may have some difficulty distinguishing the two.

It is important to not just look at a bunch of numbers in a vacuum when you make choices for your site. As you consider the numbers, take some time to literally talk to people that use your site and get their opinions too. Have some friends use your website and give you feedback in real time and also create some simple surveys that your customers can complete on your site to provide feedback. If you start to hear a lot of people complain about something on your site, then you should probably work on changing that aspect first.

A/B Split Testing
A/B split testing is basically a method used to test two different things on a website. This could mean that you try using a green or blue but­ton to sign up for a trial subscription. It could mean that you use a dif­ferent headline at the top of your page and see which one works better. In order to figure out what is going, you will need to closely monitor your analytics each time you make any type of change.

Know When to Make Big or Small Changes
Changing your conversion rates will depend on the types of changes that you are willing to make on your site. Sometimes it is fine to make minor adjustments, but if you notice that there is a serious problem on your site then you may need to make a significant change to see an improvement. This could mean that you need to change the col­ors, webcopy, reorganize the site, or have the site redesigned entirely. In either case, you must be prepared to make any type of change that will give you the desired result.

Identify Key Metrics
Identify key metrics for your site, which could include not only the number of people that make a purchase, but the bounce rate, email opt-in rates and the cost per acquisition. There is no specific number to look for because it really depends on the nature of site and your goals.

Simple Registration
A lot of websites lose customers when they have complicated regis­trations to sign up or make a purchase. You should focus on asking people for the bare minimum to avoid scaring them away and use an API to allow them to login in with another account like Facebook, Google or Twitter.

Test Your Value Proposition
Sometimes changing the copy on certain parts of your website can make a really big difference. One of easiest things to work on is your value proposition. Create a few different versions of your value propo­sition and experiment to see which one generates more conversions.

This is honestly a lot of information and the only way to tackle it is by creating a plan and breaking it down into steps. Set some goals for your company and then use these tips to organize a plan and a weekly schedule to keep yourself on the right track. To view this article and other marketing related trends and tips, subscribe to the ASPE-ROI newsletter.

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