B2B E-commerce business owners are always looking for marketing strategies that will help give their business a competitive advantage. For the past decade, content marketing has dominated the B2B digital marketing space – and for good reason.
Research by Demand Metric indicates that content marketing costs ‘62% less than traditional marketing and generates about 3 times as many leads.’ However, according to the Content Marketing Institute, only 42% of B2B marketers believe their content marketing is as effective as it could be.
In this article, we will evaluate how content marketing has changed over the past decade and identify which targeted strategies are going to help grow your B2B e-commerce business in future.
Is content marketing the right choice for B2B e-commerce businesses?
This is a resounding yes! Of course, it will depend on the industry you work in and size of your business. However, B2B businesses all share the same problem of longer lead times. As a result, inbound marketing strategies tend to be the bread and butter of B2B
According to Forrester, 74% of all B2B buyers have reported that they research more than half of their purchases before they buy. Having blogs and other resources available online helps familiarise your prospects with your brand, whilst informing them of your products and services.
Content marketing also has positive expected value in terms of building your brand’s credibility and authenticity. By regularly blogging relevant and authoritative content, you are nurturing your prospect, and making it easier for your sales teams to close deals. Considering the lifetime value of customers in B2B e-commerce, the benefits of a long-term inbound content marketing campaign over short-term outbound marketing ploys is obvious.
Of course, you will need to invest in advertising and outbound campaigns; but, if your B2B marketing activities are a pie, outbound is the filling and inbound (or content marketing in this case) is the crust that holds it all together.
How has content marketing changed in the past decade?
As the Socratic Greek philosopher, Heraclitus said, ‘Ever-newer waters flow on those who step into the same rivers.’ In the world of digital marketing, it’s never enough to remain complacent. In order to get results, we need to be constantly reevaluating our strategies to see if they still work. And, when it comes to content marketing, it might still be the same river, but those waters are changing.
Content marketing has seen a surge in popularity over the past ten years, especially with the increasing adoption of mobile phones and social media. However, while blogging, for example, used to be a staple for e-commerce marketers, there are many marketers who are
questioning if it is still worth investing the time.
In 2008, a lazy 500-word article every week might have generated a genuine return on investment (ROI) for your business. However, as the digital terrain has grown more competitive, e-commerce businesses have had to invest more time and resources in order to
see the same results.
Traditionally, all content marketing used to be about was consistently publishing content, building links, and sharing on your social platforms. Typically, blogs were written by interns or outsourced to inexpensive freelancers. The content itself didn’t need to be ground-breaking; for the most part, writers would just repurpose other people’s articles. Similarly, when it came to measurement and evaluation, many content marketers interpreted success based on intuition and vague metrics.
However, as the practice has matured over the past ten years, so too have the demands being put on content marketers. The laissez-faire practices mentioned above are no longer competitive in 2018.
The most successful B2B e-commerce businesses are changing their approach to content marketing entirely. For these businesses content marketing is about the following:
● Creating narratives and sharing experiences that are unique to their business;
● Focusing on quality over quantity;
● Exploring other forms of content beyond blogging;
● Nurturing prospects through personalised, segmented, value-driven content;
● Generating genuine value for the communities these businesses serve;
● Using Analytics, A/B testing, goal-setting and KPIs as the foundation of quality
measurement and evaluation.
Now you see why many content marketers are questioning the benefits compared to the costs in time and resources. Despite these new challenges, content marketing remains one of the best marketing strategies for B2B e-commerce businesses.
What will a good B2B content marketing strategy look like for 2019?
Given the changes to content marketing mentioned above, we recommend you reevaluate your content marketing strategy as follows for 2019. In this section, we have outlined six content marketing strategies for 2019 that will help you grow your B2B e-commerce
1. Find a storytelling narrative that connects with your target audience.
Brands that are succeeding at content marketing are building narratives with their content over time. Every piece of content is one patchwork in an overarching story. Finding a theme and a topic that works as a rationale for all your visual and content marketing decisions is what sets apart great from average marketing.
Knowing your own story is one thing, but knowing who you are telling it to is another. Know your target audience and research what is valuable to them. Not just superficial value either. Don’t put content in front of your audience unless you know they will appreciate it. Too many marketers insult their audiences by underestimating their intelligence. If your content marketing is not working, consider if what you are putting out there is of actual value. Now is the perfect time to consider who your audience are, and the types of concerns they deal with on a daily basis. What are they interested in? Who are their heroes? Why should they care about your products and services?
For more on developing an understanding of your audience, read this article on Creating Buyer Personas For Better B2B Marketing.
2. Identify potential partners (and dream partners) for your business to collaborate with.
“Just one great partnership with the right person can have an incredible impact on your business success.” – Janine Ogg and Jo Foster
Partnering with others is the best way to grow your audience and your business. It is a win-win situation when you partner with a business, blog or influencer with mutually beneficial interests as you. Consider writing a list of all potential partners you could leverage. Once you have prepared this list, now write a dream partner list – don’t be practical, just let your imagination go.
Now you have a list of those you would like to partner with, consider who is most likely to respond, how you are going to reach out to them and what practical ideas you can offer. If you are interested in learning more about partnerships and influencer marketing for B2B
businesses, read this article on The Art of Influencer Marketing for B2B.
3. Hire the best talent you can find.
In such a competitive market, it is important to hire quality content producers that make your content stand out amongst the crowd. Hiring a journalist and/ or a photographer can help you raise the bar on the quality of your content marketing. By investing in high quality professional creative work, you are helping your brand stand out. Most importantly, you are creating content that is very hard to replicate anywhere else. Remember that unique and original content is what performs best.
4. Identify community and social issues your brand authentically aligns with.
Nobody likes seeing feigned social advocacy by a business, however, if you find a social or community issue that aligns with your business mission, vision and values you should use it. By advocating social causes, you are demonstrating to your audience what kind of business
you are, and what is at the heart of your business. Not only is it a great way for your business to help the community, but it helps build a personal rapport with your target audiences (who will most often share those same values as your business).
5. Content is for nurturing, not for selling.
There is no need to hard sell your products and services so early in the game. Content marketing is considered a top of the funnel marketing activity; meaning your goal is to nurture and convert cold leads into warm prospects.
Many impatient content marketers opt straight for selling their products and services straight away. This may work for B2C e-commerce, but B2B e-commerce requires more thought, over a longer period of time, by a large group of people. Your aim is to be as helpful as possible so that those reading your article come back to you for more advice, and possibly to purchase your goods and services.
6. Test the waters with one very high-quality piece of content.
If you are unsure about changing your content marketing strategy completely, why not start with one project and see what results in you get? We recommend that you pick one idea for a piece of content that you think will genuinely wow your audience.
Take your time preparing this content and then invest in distributing it so it has the best chance of being seen. See how your audience reacts to contact. If you get a positive response, you may want to continue making more content like this on a regular basis.
Here are some ideas for content that you can consider:
● An explainer video describing your company, products and services
● An informative ebook which answers your audience’s frequently asked questions
● An automated and personalised email marketing campaign
If none of these ideas is striking a chord with you choose from this list of 69 B2B Marketing Lead Generation Campaigns.
Growing a B2B e-commerce business takes considerable time and effort, likewise building up your content marketing takes the same. If you want to do content marketing right, take time and consider what you are trying to achieve and how you are going to achieve it. With the right investment in time and resources, you can take your content marketing efforts to the next level.
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