Updated November 2021
Content marketing has transitioned from a competitive advantage to an absolute necessity for successful B2B marketers. It’s now a detrimental factor to drive search visibility, social media engagement, as well as traffic and conversions.
But, basic content simply won’t cut it anymore. To be successful, B2B marketers need to craft, publish and promote truly exceptional content. This means that you can no longer think of content marketing as an “extra,” but need to think strategically and proactively about your efforts. In order to do this, you’ll need to build a well thought-out B2B content marketing strategy.
Your Complete B2B Content Strategy Checklist
To help get started and guide your ongoing efforts, here’s a complete content marketing strategy checklist that is geared toward B2B audiences. Apply these steps and best practices, and you’ll start seeing better results from your content marketing initiatives – everything from keyword rankings to traffic, and conversions. Make sure you get each item checked off the list below!
What are your broader business goals and how can they tie back to content marketing for B2B specifically? What does your business want to achieve in the next year or so?
Whether your goals are around building thought leadership and brand awareness, generating new leads, nurturing existing leads, or even reaching a broader audience, consider these goals to help guide your B2B content strategy.
Of course, it’s also important to have these goals set in stone so that you can accurately track them and report on the progress. Your goals also need to be SMART: the popular acronym that stands for Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Oriented. If a goal isn’t specific, it’s hard to measure and therefore complete successfully, since the numbers can’t show if you are making progress or not.
Get Your Team Onboard
B2B marketers can get buy-in from team members and organizational leaders by defining solid content marketing objectives and clarifying how they will benefit broader business goals. It also helps to identify how content marketing specifically affects other areas of the organization. Once colleagues know how your team’s efforts affect their goals and performance, they are more likely to understand its importance.
Getting this buy-in will be essential to not only receive time and resources to support your content strategy but also to encourage subject matter experts to contribute content (or at least their opinions and expertise).
Know Your B2B Target Audience & Personas
It’s important to understand the different target audiences and B2B buyers that you’re aiming to reach. Laying this out before getting started with your content strategy will increase the likelihood of success. This includes defining the different job titles, demographics, goals, and challenges that you’re trying to appeal to.
It’s also important to great B2B personas specifically around why a buyer would be more likely to buy from your organization versus your competitors.
Determine Buying Stages
Your B2B content strategy should aim to provide information that meets the needs of searchers no matter what phase of the buying process they are in. This means that each content asset should encourage readers to move to the next stage of the sales funnel. When drafting content, this will help you determine the tone, language and information needed to meet the needs of your readers.
Consider each area of the B2B sales funnel and what types of content you can create for each stage:
- Awareness: Outreach content educating people on what type of products or services the organization offers
- Interest: Use specific content to showcase how the offered products or services can specifically help the reader with the problem they are having.
- Decision: Drive conversions with targeted content that compels readers to make a purchase or fill out a contact form. This could include CTAs for exclusive offers (like downloadable ebooks) or free consultations.
- Action: Provide content that helps customers introduce their way through the onboarding process. This could include “get started” guides, detailed tutorials, or different ways to use the offering.
Understand Your Areas of Expertise
Where does your brand have the most authority? What topics do both users and search engines associate with your brand?
When it comes to a B2B content strategy, sometimes less is more. Having a narrow vision of the themes that will make the most impact on results is often better than covering a vast range of topics. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Detailed topic coverage that focuses on long-tail niche keywords can often bring more serious leads that are at a more advanced step in the B2B sales funnel.
Conduct a B2B Content Audit
Unless you’re starting from scratch, a content audit is completely necessary. By looking at the performance of existing assets, you can determine where you should focus in the future or what to avoid.
Use the available data from analytics, internal site search, Google search console, etc and then ask detailed questions about how the data can be used to bring relevant action items and goals for the next month or quarter.
For instance, ask yourself or the team: are there existing assets that you should revisit, optimize or expand on? Can you repurpose any of your existing content? Are there older assets that can be made more evergreen? These are all questions to ask during your audit.
Be Aware of Competitors
Just like any other marketing strategy, you should be aware of your competitors’ efforts. This is not to say that everything your competitors are doing is right, but it will provide a solid foundation and help set the industry standard. You can also look at what they aren’t doing to capitalize on their weaknesses. If your competitors don’t publish industry news, for instance, possibly publishing a few pieces per month could not only bring in more organic traffic but also showcase thought leadership.
Other questions to ask include: How often are your competitors publishing content? Is their content optimized for SEO? What topics do their blogs cover? This should help spark some ideas and guide your efforts.
Layout the major themes that you want to have visibility around. This ties back to the importance of understanding your areas of expertise, as these themes will represent the subjects that you want to dominate.
For example, say you’re a marketing automation software provider, one of your core themes will be around marketing automation, while topics will include specific elements of marketing automation like retargeting programs, multi-channel marketing campaigns, email marketing strategies, etc.
You can also expand this to related topics that your target audience cares about. Using the example above, this could mean some articles about AI in marketing could bring in relevant users that would be interested in your automation software.
Determine SEO Keyword Focuses
Layout a keyword roadmap specific to your content strategy. This keyword roadmap will be different from the phrases you’re targeting on products, solutions, and services landing pages. Your content strategy should aim to address the challenges that buyers are facing rather than the products, solutions, and services they are looking for.
Sticking with the same example as above, if you’re a marketing automation software provider, you may be targeting “marketing automation software” on your main site, while your blog is targeting terms like “customer engagement,” “website engagement,” “shopping cart abandonment,” and other challenges that push potential buyers to look for a marketing automation software.
Timely content can drive impressive results. The events taking place within an industry or target market will also help guide your B2B content strategy. This includes conferences, trade shows, industry trends, major announcements, new product releases, etc.
Thinking about these events will ensure that you’re not only targeting content around your SEO-focused topics, but focusing on timely happenings that can also help boost visibility. We can’t always map these all out in our initial content strategy, as several new events will likely arise; however, it helps us get prepared for what can come next.
Draft A B2B Editorial Calendar
Without an editorial calendar, any success that you see from your B2B content strategy will essentially be luck. An editorial calendar provides a look at all of the assets that are currently in the works to get a clearer view of your ongoing content initiatives. This includes the pieces you have on the radar, assets that have been drafted but are pending launch, and published content.
Focus on what your audiences are looking for. This is often going to be different than a B2C audience, so pay attention to the themes and audiences that need your offerings specifically.
A few key elements to track on within your editorial calendar include:
- Title / topic
- Asset type (article, whitepaper, infographic, etc.)
- Keyword focus
- Existing keyword visibility (if any)
- Resources / cross-link opportunities
- Completion date
- Timeframe to publish
- Target audience / personas
- Vertical / industry (if applicable)
- Suggested length
- Tone or style
- Journey stage
Topic ideas should stem from your different target audiences, personas, buying stages, and themes. For each of these classifiers, you should have a solid set of topic ideas. Make sure to reference your priority keywords and what is currently showing up in top search results.
This will ensure that your content is in line with what search engines are recognizing as quality information. For example, if you’re seeing that top search results all include list-style blog posts, it probably makes sense to structure your content similarly to this (only better!) I’ll expand on this in the following section.
As mentioned with keywords above, also think about tangential, related content topics your audience might be searching for. For instance, if you mainly offer B2B website design, many sites may also want an e-commerce element. Even if that’s not what you specialize it, creating content around e-commerce (including setup and marketing) is helpful to your target audience.
Map Asset Types
Now that you’ve laid out your topics, it’s time to start figuring out what types of assets will drive the most visibility for each. Consider the type of content that should be crafted around the topic (blog post, eBook, case study, infographic, whitepaper, etc.), ideal length of content, style (“how to”, “what is”, list style, etc.), and even a brief outline of what should be covered in it. Cross-reference this with your editorial calendar to make sure any media type goals match up to what you want to create.
One thing to keep in mind: Don’t be afraid to test new things. If you’ve never tried creating a video explaining a key topic in your industry, who’s to say it won’t work?
Identify Key Sources
What sources do you have available to you help create the content that you need? Ideally, this should include internal subject matter experts, customers, third-party websites, industry publications and resources, and existing marketing collateral.
For external sources, there are a few lists that I recommend compiling to help guide your content strategy. Gather the following:
- Sales prospects
- Key influencers
- Industry-related publications
- Common support requests
- Internal site search queries
When it comes time to craft content and you’re looking for sources to pull information on the topic, these three lists will be especially valuable. Once the post is published, it presents you with an opportunity to reach out to the website and let them know that they’ve been mentioned. Ultimately, this will help you get noticed and build relationships with key targets.
Distribute & Promote
As part of your B2B content strategy, outline the ideal process that should occur after a new content asset is published on the website, in order to achieve the most visibility. Different promotion may suffice for different types of content; however, this is a good place to start:
- Post to social media accounts: Once the asset goes live, it should be immediately shared across social media channels, as this is an easy way to get exposure.
- Notify your internal team & encourage shares: Let your internal team know about the new blog posts by sending an office email.
- Notify your email list & encourage shares: Send a note to your email list or incorporate some of the latest blog posts in the monthly or quarterly email. More people heading to the post will increase the chance of getting social shares.
- Reach out to influencers or publications mentioned in the article: If an influencer, publication, or other resource is mentioned in the article, let those people know that they have been mentioned. They will likely share it. You can also create pre-written tweets using ClickToTweet or just pasting in the email to make sharing as easy as possible.
- Reach out to influencers on the topic: For exceptional pieces of blog content, there may be some influencers that would enjoy and benefit from the article. It’s worth reaching out to them via email or tweeting at them to share the post.
- Answer questions on industry-related forums: Answering some questions that people are asking on relevant blogs and forums is another way to gain some initial traffic to the post. Consider forums and social networks like Quora and Reddit.
Repurposing content is key when it comes to maximizing results. Revisit your top-performing content to determine other ways that you can leverage the information.
For example, you’ve created an infographic. Can you turn it into an extensive blog post or a SlideShare presentation? Here are some repurposing ideas to get you started.
Keep repurposing on your mind throughout the content creation process, as these opportunities might be worth noting in your editorial calendar or elsewhere. These types of content are also great for internal cross-linking.
It’s helpful to have a checklist and quantity goals for different types of content on hand during this evaluation process so you’re always able to provide a variety of content types.
Monitor, Measure, & Test
Continued monitoring of content performance is essential to the success of any B2B content strategy. This will help identify efforts that generated the most traffic, received the most engagement, and drove the most conversions.
Resharing top-performing content after it is published will help drive additional traffic, reach new followers, and connect with an audience you may have missed the first time.
The following questions should be asked when analyzing top-performing content assets:
- Is the content still relevant or is there outdated information that should be updated?
- Could this information be shared in a different way? (eBook, SlideShare presentation, graphic, etc.)
- Could the asset benefit from a different heading style or structure?
- What time of day was the asset shared? If the content was shared on a different day would it be more effective?
- What conversations are happening around the topic? Are people still looking for the information?
Final Thoughts on B2B Content Marketing
Hopefully, this checklist has provided you with everything you need to craft, publish and promote great content. Remember, the best B2B content strategies are always changing and adjusting to successes and failures. So, make sure that you have this checklist on repeat.
The B2B Content Strategy Checklist (Abbreviated Version)
- Set Goals
- Get Your Team Onboard
- Know Target Audience & Personas
- Determine Buying Stages
- Understand Your Areas of Expertise
- Conduct a B2B Content Audit
- Be Aware of Competitors
- Define Themes
- Determine SEO Keyword Focuses
- Consider Events
- Draft a B2B Editorial Calendar
- Determine Topics
- Map Asset Types
- Identify Key Sources
- Distribute & Promote
- Monitor, Measure, & Test
Did I miss anything? I’d love to hear your thoughts on anything else that you find critical to your content strategy in the comments below.