How to plan content for B2B brands in 4 easy steps

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Contributor, Sell to Win

B2B brands either understand the importance of content planning, or they struggle to generate leads.

When it comes to content planning, there is a bold line between companies that have their strategy figured out, and companies that struggle to generate leads by using varying and inconsistent methods.

Having a content plan means that a company is not at the mercy of whimsical and experimental marketing practices to generate leads. Just because word-of-mouth generated a few leads this month doesn’t necessarily mean that word-of-mouth should be the sole focus of the marketing team, for instance.

Each industry is going to have different content based on what they specialize in, but the content development process should follow the same established standards.

B2B vs. B2C

First, it’s important to differentiate between B2B and B2C:

Typically, B2B marketing will focus on logical and process-driven buying decisions, as the products or services are marketed towards an entire organization.

B2C marketing, however, is geared towards individuals, like clothing, video games, and other personal goods and services. This means B2C tactics are often more personal and emotion-driven. See also: Facebook’s algorithms.

Both styles of marketing, B2B and B2C, require careful content planning in order to maximize results and keep marketers’ efforts optimized.

Content planning step 1: Define your audience

The first step to creating an effective content plan is defining who your target audience is with business personas. A business persona is a fictional representation of your business’s ideal customer. They are based on research, data analysis, and surveying your customers, and include the goals, needs, and behavior patterns of your ideal audience.

The reason you want to create personas for your business is that when you target the right person, with the right message at the right time they are more likely to respond to your call to actions (CTA) and purchase your products. Make sure to include these elements when creating your personas:

  • Name: What are you going to call this ideal client? Usually, you want the name to be descriptive of the persona. For example, use “Cheap Chris” as the persona for a client that doesn’t like spending a lot of money or “Bougie Britney” for someone who enjoys the finer things in life.

It’s nothing personal, Britney.

  • Professional and Personal Background: More specifically, what does this person do for their career? What are their hobbies? This is important information necessary to understand their income level and can offer insight into how they shop.

  • Demographics: How does this individual look? How old are they? Are they married? Be as specific as possible and if you find you need to make more than one persona, take note of that and create a second persona later. Focus on one persona at a time.

  • Goals: What type of goals does your persona have? Usually, the goals have to do with what you offer, and how you can solve the persona’s problem and help them reach their goals.

  • I need/want statements: What does your persona need or what do they want so they can reach the defined goals? This can be something like, “I need a sales software that can help me design my sales process and offers automation.”

  • Concerns or pain points: What issues does your ideal persona have? What are their primary concerns? You must identify persona priorities, even if they’re not related to what you offer.

  • Previous buying behavior: Is this a one-time purchase, or would this persona be a return customer? Is this a brand loyal person or are they a little more fickle and will buy from anywhere?

  • Persona’s environment: Whether it be physical, social, or technological, it’s important to understand the type of environment your persona is in. Do you think they’re going to access your content on their phone? Or are they doing it at work? This helps you understand how you should present your content.

  • One quote: Bear in mind, the persona is the embodiment of this person. For example, it may be “I want an easy way to shop for my clothes without spending too much money or relying on coupons.”

  • Photo: Adding a picture makes the person real, and helps you and your team think about this person as an individual rather than as a marketing tool. Your ultimate goal is to identify ways you can assist this individual.

Five steps for creating effective personas

Now that you know what to include in your personas, how do you go about actually creating them? Follow these five steps to create effective personas:

Related: The complete guide to researching sales prospects: 13 tools to help you understand your buyers

  • Talk to your current customers: Put together a quick survey or chat with a couple of your ideal clients on the phone. You’ll find most people are willing to help you and answer questions.

  • Go out and ‘be’ the client: Sometimes you can literally get out of the office when you’re brainstorming your persona. Try to understand their habits, their motivations, their influences, etc., really put yourself in their shoes. The goal is to understand how they behave on a qualitative level so that you can present them with ideas and concepts and fit their worldview just a little better.

  • Online research: Hop on the good old fashioned internet and consult current market research or look at what your competitors’ clients are saying on review sites. Try to understand where your competitors fit within the market, and what works for them versus what doesn’t work, so that you can form a better strategy to communicate with your prospects.

  • Analyze data: Pertinent data includes buying habits of your ideal audience, as well as trusted information about the industry as a whole, and how

  • Share with your team: You’ve done the work and it’s time to show it off. Share all of the personas with every team member so everyone shares a common goal.

It’s really important to create these personas before you start any other marketing development ideas or create content. Effective personas should drive your content and goals. So be sure to give them the time they deserve.

No matter what you find through your research, you should always reach your audience where using their preferred communication channel. It’s also important that your content provides each persona with the information that matters most to them.

Content planning step 2: Content development

Once you understand who you want to reach, it’s time to actually create your content. One of the best ways to plan this is with a content calendar. A content calendar keeps track of what type of content (blog posts, landing pages, emails, social media posts) goes live and when.

The reason you want to create a content calendar is so you know when you need your content created by and when it’s scheduled to be launched. Then, you can see how your audience interacts with what content and if there’s a better day or time to post something.

There are plenty of software options available to help with planning out your content, such as Constant Contact for email marketing. Be sure the software you use integrates with your CRM so you can track your results.

If you’re having a hard time deciding what type of content to make, consider some of the following options:

Blog posts

People who like to learn alone will love blog posts so they can figure things out for themselves. They’re great for your brand because if someone learns from your blog post, they’re more likely to use your product or service in the future.

eBooks

If you have a very successful blog post, you should consider expanding that information out into an eBook. This is great for people who want to read in-depth information and like to do a lot of research before they buy.

Emails

For younger audiences, email communication is very valuable. Almost 68% of teenagers and 73% of millennials prefer brands to email their content.

Case studies

While interacting with customers during your research phase, you should put together success stories for clients who like to do a lot of research before they purchase. These can be done in a written or video testimonial and are very effective in helping potential clients see how you can help them because you are sharing how you have helped others with similar goals. 

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Content planning step 3: Testing and optimization

Your job isn’t done once your content plan is launched. In fact, the hardest work has just begun. You may need to revise your content based on how your target audience interacts with it.

For example, if you send your emails out in the evening, and aren’t getting the results you expected, you can try sending your next email in the morning and see if it gets better results.

This same strategy works with social media posts. Just because you aren’t getting the level of engagement you were expecting from your audience doesn’t necessarily mean you have targeted the wrong audience. It may simply be an indicator that you’re not posting at the right time.

For each type of content you create, you must complete the following steps:

  1. Launch and share content.
  2. Receive feedback from your target audience on your content.
  3. Update content based on the new information you received.
  4. Launch and share new content and repeat the process.

If you’re not having much luck with your campaigns, consider performing A/B tests. This is where you only change one element of an ad campaign and split your audience in half to test how each group responds to the campaign. Whichever element performs better is the one you end up using for the rest of the campaign.

Identifying how to optimize your content takes work, but the new leads you will capture make the process worthwhile.

Content planning Step 4: Reporting and revisions

Once you’ve completed all your testing and content optimization, it is necessary to use accurate reporting software.

Use a CRM software that will keep track of what your audience is doing on your site. Analyze how the content is doing and see if it’s actually leading to more leads and sales conversions. If not, revise it and try again.

Common B2B marketing strategies

There are numerous B2B marketing strategies you can implement in your content planning. Check out some of the following ideas you can try in your next marketing campaign:

Drip email campaigns

With automated email marketing messages generating 20% more sales opportunities, this type of content is an essential part of your marketing content plan. Drip campaigns are great because you set them up and let them run, only changing them if your offers change. You can set up a drip campaign for each persona, letting them receive the information when they want it.

Related: Try these welcome email templates to get started on the right foot. 

Create a high-quality website

If you haven’t updated your website in the last 3-5 years, it’s time to give it a makeover. Websites are the lifeline to your business and are usually the first impression potential leads get of your brand. Your website is the hub of where your content will live, so make it user-friendly and informative.

Related: What is a good web page, and how do I make one?

Search engine optimization (SEO)

SEO is how new people find your website through organic search. It’s critical to create your website in a way that makes it SEO friendly and that it provides information people are looking for.  

Use on-site SEO to improve your website’s visibility and readability, and use off-site SEO to drive people back to your website.

Related: What is SEO content writing?

Social media

Don’t think that just because you’re a B2B brand you don’t have to worry about social media. Studies show that over 60% of buyers check out businesses on social media. Having a strong social presence can help disseminate information to the people who are most interested in your brand.

Referral marketing

Implement a referral plan for your potential clients. If you do good work for one business, chances are they know someone who could benefit from it as well. Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals or set up a referral program to make it easy for companies to refer you and be rewarded for the referral.

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