The internet is a vast, infinite hole of everything you’ll ever need to know. What makes up just about everything on the internet from the B2B-centric articles that you read to the games you play is all content. In the modern age of internet jargon, we tend to think of articles or blogs when we hear the word “content,” but there’s so much more to it than that. Webinars? Content. Video posts? Content. Social media feeds? Content.
According to HubSpot, content is any piece of your marketing plan that continuously demonstrates who you are and the expertise that you bring to your industry — which brings us to the topic of this particular piece of content: your B2B company’s content strategy.
Why you need a strategy
You don’t put anything out into the world without any purpose behind it, do you? (At least, from a business perspective, I’m not going to draw any conclusions about your personal Twitter feed.) So why would you release content willy-nilly, without thinking about your strategy for rolling it out? But where to start? First off, think about what role content plays in your company’s marketing strategy. What kinds of content marketing ideas do you have that not only fall seamlessly into your company’s strategic marketing process and maybe even enhance it?
When creating your content strategy template
It’s understandable to be intimidated by the idea of creating a bigger picture plan for content that you’re used to just creating when you get the chance. However, you’ll quickly realize that doing this allows you to have more purpose behind your work, and it might even begin performing better once it’s more tailored to your audience. Here at SmarkLabs, we have ten tenets in mind when brainstorming our content strategies:
Have you ever looked at a webpage and seen that the last thing they released was from 2017? Or even earlier? Did you stop and think that maybe they’re not even in business anymore? The key to any content strategy template is regular publishing — not only do you want to stay at the top of potential customers’ minds, but you don’t want them to write you off for inconsistency.
Content should provoke action or have a goal
With each piece of content that you create, make sure there’s a reason behind it. Maybe you’re not trying to make a sale with a specific blog post, but perhaps you’re trying to establish trust with your audience, position yourself as a thought leader, or inform people of your services. There might not always an action taken after consuming a blog or video of yours, but there should always be a goal behind it.
Content is relevant to the buyer’s journey
Nobody is going to read or watch something that doesn’t serve them in some way. Try to make sure your content reaches your potential customers at an appropriate time in their buyer’s journey and, hopefully, even moves them forward to their next step.
Clear documented production process
Chances are, you’re not the only one at your company producing content. Whether you’re working with a team of writers, videographers, and graphic designers, you’ll want everyone on the same page when it comes to the production of these items. If there are deadlines, everyone should be well aware of them and given ample time to produce their pieces.
Align content with the strengths of the brand
This is yet another opportunity to get your company in front of people who may not be familiar. You want it to emphasize your strengths, not your shortcomings. What do you want people to know you can do?
Prioritize original content
Sure, you might not break new ground with each blog post you write or video you create. But that doesn’t mean you should just regurgitate what’s already out there. Whatever you create, you want it to be on-brand for your company and add a little something new to the conversation.
Set a clear plan for promoting content
How active are you on social media? Do you regularly send out newsletters? How big is your reach, and how do you plan to grow it? These are things you should ask yourself when creating your content strategy template. Some things, like visual content, work better on social media, while written content might perform better in a newsletter.
What about SEO
For a while, there was a conversation about how important SEO really was in the world of high-quality content marketing. Needless to say, it’s still pretty important — it just takes more thought than it used to. Gone are the days of keyword stuffing. We’re talking about thorough keyword research and targeting now.
Think about tone and style
Your content is an extension of your brand, so it should seem like it. If the rest of your content marketing ideas are conversational and light, your videos shouldn’t be bland. If your marketing materials are strictly professional, you shouldn’t be using slang in your blogs.
Prioritize visual content
Humans are naturally drawn to visuals over blocks of text. If you’re writing about a topic that’s explained better with charts, have a graphic designer on your team put something together that will really enhance the piece. This is especially important if the piece is shared on highly visual mediums like Instagram.
When your company is launching a new product or service, or even just refreshing your brand messaging, you need to have a solid strategy backing you up. You might think, “well yeah, you shouldn’t unveil anything without having a strategy in mind.” However, “just a strategy” isn’t enough. What you need is a go-to-market strategy (GTM).
What’s a go-to-market strategy?
Your company’s go-to-market strategy is the plan to deliver your unique value proposition to customers, using both your inside and outside resources. While this might be easy to confuse with a marketing strategy, the most significant difference between the two is that a marketing strategy is for your brand. Your GTM strategy is unique to your latest launch and a subset of your overall marketing strategy.
The whys, whos, whens, and hows, are four significant differences that set your go-to-market strategy apart from your marketing strategy:
Why: The purpose of your marketing strategy is to create an approach to achieving a competitive advantage. But your GTM strategy’s objective is to make sure a specific product launch reaches the right audience.
Who:Typically, your B2B company’s marketing team works together on the brand’s marketing strategy. A smaller product marketing team usually runs GTMs.
When: Though your marketing strategy is ongoing and continuously changing, it always includes marketing for your brand as a whole. A GTM strategy typically has a fixed timeline and is focused on a new aspect of the business.
How:Communication is vital in both your marketing strategy and your go-to-market strategy. While your marketing strategy communicates the brand promise to your customers, your GTM is delivering the vision of the product. The brand itself takes more of a backseat.
Why a GTM strategy is necessary
Think back to your college days when you always seemed to have another paper due, alongside your other assignments. Chances are, you kept yourself organized by establishing an outline before diving into your paper. That’s a lot like working on your go-to-market strategy. You’re likely working on other marketing projects as well. Outlining your plan to stay on track is a great way to know what direction you’re headed in, ensuring you’re targeting the right people.
Establishing your go-to-market strategy
When building your GTM, you need to ask yourself a few essential questions beyond what new product you’re trying to promote. Getting clear-cut answers to these questions will help you target your marketing to the correct audience. It can also allow you to determine whether you’re on the right path. This is always good to know before you launch a full-on plan that may not even lead potential customers through the buying journey.
Who are you selling to? Is your target audience the same as your overall marketing strategy? Or are you looking to promote to a small subset of your audience?
What is your distribution strategy? How about the sources of marketing automation you’re going to use? What do you have experience with, and what will you try for the first time?
Will you also use indirect sales channels? If you choose to leverage partners, you need to understand and communicate why you made that choice.
Some other aspects to take into account are your industry competitors and similar products and services that are already available on the market. Are you offering something completely new? If not, establish how your product sets you apart from other options. What benefits do potential customers get from working with you instead of a competitor?
Building your go-to-market strategy
As you probably would guess, HubSpot is a great resource when it comes to making any marketing strategy — including your GTM. HubSpot’s even outlined seven steps to take to get it up and running:
Identify the buying center and personas
You didn’t think you’d be able to skip establishing your buyer personas, did you? The Harvard Business Review states that an average of 6.8 people are called upon to have a say in whether or not a company decides to use a B2B product. These seven roles may vary, with some people filling more than one. But most companies have the people in the following roles calling the shots. Which ones are you targeting?
The Initiator: Shows initial interest and spreads the word
User: The person who will spend the most time with your product
Influencer: The one convincing the rest of the team to get on board with your product
Decision maker: Makes the final call about whether or not to make the purchase
Buyer: The one with the company credit card
Approver: Final person who pushes the initiative along
Gatekeeper: The one who needs more convincing
Craft your value matrix and messaging
The value matrix is a breakdown of each buyer persona, their problems, and how your product can solve them. How will you tailor your message to each persona? As we’ve established time and time again, a little bit of personalization can go a long way.
Understanding your buyer’s journey
While each buyer persona might have a different reason for seeking our your new product or service, chances are, each buyer’s journey is essentially the same:
Realizing there’s a problem that needs solving > Looking for solutions > Researching which solutions work best for their specific needs and budget
There is no excuse for not having a full understanding of it! The first step is typically the top of the sales funnel, the second step has them heading toward the middle. Then, the bottom of the funnel is where you leverage the opportunity to show your potential customer that your product meets their needs the most.
Choose a sales strategy
Like go-to-markets, sales strategies aren’t one-size-fits-all. HubSpot suggests taking complexity, scale, and costs into account when determining your strategy. Will you pursue a self-service, inside sales, field sales, channel model, or a mix of more than one?
Depending on how large and established your B2B company is, generating interest in a new product or service can be the most challenging step in developing a GTM. Luckily, we have all the information you need about demand generation in the B2B world in the Smark Blog.
Content marketing is likely a mainstay in your marketing strategy, but don’t discount its effectiveness in your GTM strategy. Leveraging SEO and driving inbound traffic to your site is a great way to generate interest and inform potential customers of your upcoming launch.
You don’t only see commercials for products that haven’t come out yet. So why would you stop promoting your new service upon launch? Here is where optimizing comes in. As you watch how your content performs, you’ll see how many customers enter the sales funnel, and how many conversions you make. So you can determine how to best reach the people who need your product most.
Download our Buyer Persona Checklist!
Think about your selling strategy
I know, I know, it’s strategies upon strategies upon strategies. But that’s what marketers sign up for! You can build up plenty of hype around your new product or service, but your customers need to know that they’re getting a good deal — so your selling strategy is also tied in with your GTM.
Will you rely on your customers to take the leap and purchase your new product upfront? If you’re well-established with a good track record of product launches and a solid list of contacts, this may be a viable option. However, if you’re more of a newbie in the B2B world, you may want to set up a free trial offer for a new service or discounted system for a new product.
Another option for an up-and-comer in the B2B space is to use service-oriented channel partners to sell on your behalf. Otherwise, make sure to cover all of your bases. From warm emails and direct mail to your industry contacts to AdWords and other SEO campaigns, every little bit counts.
Just because you put this much work into establishing your GTM doesn’t mean that it can’t be fluid. It should be, like your overall marketing strategy. Once your product launches, you probably won’t have much of a choice but to adapt your GTM strategy to what you’ve learned about your buyer’s journey.
This plays into the “optimize” step that HubSpot laid out. The more you learn about your customers and how they respond to your products and services, the more effectively you’re able to market to them. If all goes according to plan (and you plan to keep this service around a while), your GTM strategy will eventually roll into your B2B company’s overall marketing strategy. Isn’t marketing wild?
One of the biggest bottlenecks in launching a marketing campaign is the review and approval process. Late approvals can keep content from going out on time, affecting the entire timeline of a campaign. This issue is something many marketers face, with one in five Content Marketing World attendees revealing that tangled review and approval processes regularly delayed their projects by over a week.
To help solve this, we put together a guide to help you review and approve content more efficiently. With these strategies, you’ll be prepared to submit constructive feedback and feel confident in your ability to determine whether a piece of content will perform well.
1. Set expectations
To ensure you’re satisfied with an article, it’s important to set expectations with the writer or marketing team you’re working with at the start. Always be sure to clarify who you want to target, what message you want to communicate, and what you’re hoping to achieve through the article. It’s also important to communicate specifics, such as the word count you want to reach and the number of images you want in the article.
2. Focus on the big picture
Rather than getting hung up on spelling and grammar mistakes, you should focus on the overall message of the article. Spelling and grammar are easy to fix, but changing the main message or theme of an article will require an entire rewrite. It’s unlikely that your audience is analyzing the article and reading it from start to finish, so keep that in mind when you’re editing and providing feedback.
3. Ask yourself questions
When reviewing an article, it helps to ask yourself questions. Here’s a list of some important ones to guide your review process:
Does this article address my audience’s pain point? Or, more importantly, does it address the pain point that your product/service provides a solution to? The best way to grab your audience’s attention is by addressing a common struggle they face.
Does it offer a solution or actionable advice? This question is to make sure that you’re providing your reader with value. If you begin with a problem, you should follow up with a solution that helps your audience, whether it’s expert advice or a product/service.
Does it connect back to my company’s value and mission? Every piece of content posted on your site should support the promotion of your product/service. Because of this, each article should always reiterate your company’s value offer and mission.
Does the information provide match my audience’s depth of knowledge on this topic? If your audience is well-versed in a topic, your article should demonstrate a similar knowledge. You want to be sure the article isn’t too high- or low-level that it doesn’t feel relevant to your audience.
Does it contain a keyword I want to rank for? Keywords are important because they help attract views to your site. Each piece of content created for your site should be focused around a specific keyword. If the keyword isn’t obvious, you likely aren’t following the best practices for SEO.
4. Look for flow & coherence
Every article should flow, moving smoothly from one topic to the next. This is accomplished by including transition words and using connecting ideas. It also helps to include subheads that organize the sections of your article and signal a change in topic. In addition, taking complex ideas and making them easier to understand is the mark of a good article. You’ll want to determine whether an article possesses this type of coherence by reading it aloud and listening to ensure everything makes sense and sounds consistent.
5. Check sources
Every article needs sources in order to be factual and credible. Any claim made in an article should be backed by data or statistics. This is what sets you apart as a trusted source. The article should include information from leading publications in your industry. In addition, it’s a good idea to conduct regular interviews with subject matter experts so you can ensure you’re up-to-date on the latest trends and innovations in your industry. In addition to outside sources, your article should include relevant internal links to your site.
6. Pay attention to CTAs
At the end of the article, you want to inspire your reader to take action. For this reason, it’s important to include a call to action. However, this doesn’t mean you should just drop in a random CTA that doesn’t make sense. For example, if your article is titled “10 Ways to Make the Most of Your HubSpot Investment,” your CTA could be something like “contact us today for a free HubSpot audit.” Another important thing to note is that you can include multiple CTAs throughout your article to drive traffic to other resources or articles on your site.
To learn more about reviewing and approving content, reach out to us! We’re here to help!
If you’re part of a small team, you know how difficult it can be to stay on top of content demands. From posting on social media to blogging, producing a steady stream of high-quality content every week requires valuable time and resources. However, it’s not something you can skip — it’s proven to be effective in attracting new visitors and converting them into leads. In fact, new benchmark data from HubSpot shows that “the small companies that publish 11 or more blog posts per month drive much higher traffic than companies of the same size that publish fewer than 11 blog posts.”
If you’re having trouble producing enough content and time isn’t in your favor, read these ideas for some quick, easy ways to generate and repurpose engaging content.
As of June 2019, there are over 750,000 podcasts. The popularity of podcasts has steadily risen, with many people using them as a form of education and entertainment. On top of that, they’re super easy to produce. All you have to do is sit someone down and interview them while recording the conversation. The content doesn’t stop there though. You could transcribe the podcast and turn it into a blog, make it into a video by filming the conversation, or pull quotes and create images for social media — the possibilities are endless.
Similar to podcasts, webinars are a great way for B2B companies to reach their audience. In fact, a study from the Content Marketing Institute found that marketers rate webinars in the top five in terms of the most effective tactics they use. The main reason for this lies in the fact that webinars help build trust with your audience and provide them with valuable information. In addition, webinar registrations allow you to collect data on potential customers such as their email, phone number, and company name. There are also many ways to repurpose webinars, similar to the ones listed above for podcasts.
Surveys are a great place to start when developing a content strategy. They allow you to ask your audience questions, uncover their challenges/pain points, and uncover out what kind of content they’d be interested in. Beyond this, survey results can inform your content with unique data. For example, your survey data could be used in a whitepaper, data visualization, slide deck, research article, or quotes on social media. Supporting your content with your own data will differentiate your brand and help you stand out as a trusted expert in your industry.
Recap an event
Most people take notes when they attend conferences to remember important bits of information. You can use these notes to create a blog recapping the event. To make the recap as valuable as possible, you’ll want to take detailed notes throughout the entire conference and be sure to highlight the main takeaways from each session. Also, by adding pictures, videos, and details about each speaker, you can help your audience feel like they were part of the event too.
Turn blogs into slide decks
If your audience isn’t responding well to long-form blogs, try turning them into a slide deck where you can simplify the information and focus on key points. The average person’s attention span today is eight seconds, according to a study by Microsoft. This means you need to make your content as short and as simple as possible. Slide decks are helpful with this because they force you to summarize, turning long sentences into short bullet points. In addition, they’re a great downloadable asset that customers can save for future reference.
Create an infographic based on a blog
Infographics are a great tool for engaging your audience because they are easy-to-read and visually pleasing. They include data points and statistics, shown in the form of a chart or graph, as well as copy. Because infographics offer a detailed overview of a topic, they can be used to summarize a longer-form blog post. This type of infographic would be called a “visualized article,” but there are many other kinds of infographics you can use for a variety of purposes. To learn more about them, check out this article by Pikotchat.
Interview SMEs (internally and externally)
An SME, also known as a subject matter expert, is a powerful resource for producing content. By making an effort to conduct interviews with SMEs, you can develop a large pool of content to pull from whenever you’re short on ideas. An interview with an SME typically revolves around asking them about their knowledge or expertise on a particular topic or field. It’s important to note that this can be done with both internal employees and external experts. In addition, the interview can be repurposed into a podcast or blog.
Interview customers for a case study
Do you have a customer who has seen success with your product? Submit a request to interview them for a case study! This type of content elevates you and your client by highlighting the mutual benefits of your partnership. An effective case study includes an overview of both companies, the problem, the solution, how the solution was implemented, and the results. It’s also important to note that case studies can be shared during the sales process to add credibility and help in turning prospects into customers.
Run a curated newsletter
Sending your clients a weekly newsletter is a strategic way to share the latest content available on your site. In reality, it’s a piece of content that advertises the content you already have. A newsletter should be divided up into different sections based on content, such as “On the Blog,” “Industry News,” or “Latest Resources.” A weekly newsletter helps you drive more traffic to your website and establishes your company as a trusted, reliable source of information. Lastly, it allows you to build a base of subscribers that can provide you with feedback on your content so you can make adjustments accordingly.
If you’re having trouble keeping up with content and need some extra help, contact us to find out how we can support you in meeting your content goals.
Few companies stand alone in their field. No matter what product or service you sell, there will always be someone else offering the same thing. How can you make your brand stand out in the face of competition?
The answer is a well-crafted value proposition. A value proposition is your pitch for why someone should choose your company over another brand. It’s the first thing someone sees when they visit your website so it’s important it leaves a strong impression. A value proposition allows you to set yourself apart from your competition and explain your worth in easy to understand language. Clients want to know they will get their money’s worth from their investment in you and a value proposition assures them of that.
How you explain your value can make or break a sale. Check out how these brands nailed their value proposition so you can too.
MailChimp sets itself up as a smarter marketing solution through their email service. It appeals to your business aspirations, whatever they happen to be, and shows how a partnership could be beneficial. Notice how they speak in the second person. It’s often said that “you” is one of the most powerful words in the English language because it draws your audience in through a personal appeal.
Slack understands that a simple value proposition is a powerful one. Their proposition clearly establishes itself as an app for the workplace and speaks to anyone who needs a simple way to communicate with their coworkers. Being an app that streamlines and offers productivity, it makes sense that Slack wouldn’t waste time with a lengthy tagline explaining what they do.
HubSpot takes on a difficult challenge by putting together a value proposition for three services- marketing, sales, and service software. Yet, they manage to fit them together seamlessly into one overarching message: “a better way to grow.” HubSpot shows the genius of unifying your brand, no matter how many services or products your company may offer.
Evernote has a clear market: the busy professional who needs to stay organized. Their value proposition promises effortless organization, and their service delivery by allowing you to easily arrange all your notes in one place. In addition, they show the app can be used on a desktop or mobile platform.
Square’s value proposition targets consumer good companies by introducing a tool that accepts any payment method. Their value lies in helping you be more adaptable to your customer. Square also showcases a video as an extension of their value proposition, allowing viewers to learn more about the product without having to wade through endless text.
Stripe is another tool for online payments but exemplifies the power of a value proposition in a different way. They frame themselves as the ideal tool that others should aspire towards and capitalize on their past successes- “we handle billions of dollars every year.” Many businesses fear they won’t receive ROI after they purchase a service. Stripe addresses this by providing evidence they are established and trusted.
Unbounce uses its widespread use as a value proposition. Not only are they big enough to serve over 15,000 brands, but they also list the major companies that use their product. Their value proposition lets companies know there is no company too large or small for them to help with conversions.
Many businesses struggle to find the right talent and Proven understands this. Their value proposition is about giving businesses peace of mind and ease with their hiring. Proven also does a great job by focusing on the client in their proposition, rather than listing everything they can do. A strong proposition is not about listing talents and credentials, but focusing on the client’s needs.
BigCommerce does a brilliant job of including a call to action in their value proposition. In one simple sentence, BigCommerce tells you what they do and urges you to try it. They make a big impact without wasting valuable time.
Bitly uses action words such as “click, tap, and swipe” to describe what they do in a creative way. Their value proposition is effective because it offers companies the ability to take advantage of the way people interact with their website. By using phrases such as “the world’s leading link management platform,” they are branding themselves as the best in their industry.
How to Make Your Own Value Proposition
Now that you’ve explored other companies that have crafted the kind of value propositions that sell, how do you create one for your business? It’s time to get to the heart of what you do and how it benefits your customer.
Once you’ve determined these points, keep in mind the following key factors when it comes to writing a proposition:
Clarity. If it’s not immediately obvious what your business does, potential clients will quickly lose interest in you. They do not want to dig to find out exactly how you can help them. Your value proposition must be easy to understand.
Specificity. Your value proposition needs to tell the client what they will exactly get from you. Efficiency? Revenue growth? How specifically will they benefit from your product or service?
Uniqueness. Your potential clients want to know what sets you apart. Explain to them what makes you different and better.
Efficiency. You have mere seconds to impress. A value proposition needs to get straight to the point. This is not a time to get bogged down in the details of your business. If it takes longer than 5 seconds to be both read and understood, it’s too long.
Give Your Business an Edge
The value proposition, when used correctly, can have a major impact on how other businesses see you. By letting potential clients know how your company stands apart from the competition, you can give yourself an edge.
Once you have a value proposition, you’re on your way to building a successful brand. However, it takes marketing initiatives to really get your brand on its feet. That’s why we’ve created a toolbox that provides you with everything you need to start growing your business. The Smark Toolbox includes everything from blog writing guidelines to growth tactics. Access it here.
What makes a successful content marketer? When it comes to B2B content marketing, the Content Marketing Institute and its partners publish an annual review called B2B Content Marketing: Benchmarks, Budget, and Trends-North Americathat sheds light on some of the best content marketing practices.
Here, we list the characteristics shared by organizations that described their content marketing as extremely or very successful.
1. A Documented Content Marketing Strategy
Writing down a clear and specific strategy is important. It should include the goals you want to achieve and contain a profile of your target market, often in the form of buyer personas. Use what you already know about your audience. For example, identify your existing posts that get the most attention. Use analytics to determine which types of content generate the most engagement. Focus on that content and conduct keyword research to gather new content ideas.
2. A Mature Content Marketing Effort
Gartner has developed a Maturity Model for Content Marketing that shows organizations how to advance their marketing efforts over time by highlighting key milestones. The model includes 5 different levels, beginning at level 1 with a nonexistent strategy and progressing to level 5 with content being integral to a frictionless customer journey. Although you can’t suddenly make your content marketing strategy more mature overnight, you can consciously work toward higher levels of maturity.
3. A High Level of Commitment
Research shows that only 20 percent of marketers think their organization is highly committed to making content marketing work. This is a problem because content marketing takes considerable time, effort, and money. Content marketers need the automated tools that will help them achieve success. They need insights from marketing and sales to refine their approach over time. If the leaders of an organization aren’t committed to content marketing efforts, their team will end up doing a poor job. Therefore, it’s best to devote the required resources or save your money altogether.
4. A Realistic View of Content Marketing Results
Content marketing can provide measurable results for your organization. It beats outbound marketing in terms of generating more leads and costing less. However, content marketing isn’t the cure-all some people think it will be. Content marketing works in conjunction with a solid overall marketing strategy. Anyone who is an expert in content marketing knows it isn’t an overnight success. You need time to produce results.
5. A Calendar of Regular (and Often Frequent) Publishing
It’s impossible to build an audience if your content publishing is sporadic. If you publish content daily, weekly or monthly, your audience will expect you to continue to do so. Because of this, successful organizations make publishing consistently and as frequently as possible a priority. According to Hubspot, publishing 16+ blog posts a month brings 3.5x more traffic than publishing 0 to 4 articles.
6. A Focus on Building an Audience
Content marketing allows you to create an audience of subscribers. They’re the people who want to interact with your content and have subscribed to receive it. On the other hand, a lead is someone who you have permission to email but hasn’t taken the next step and subscribed to hear from you. Make it your goal to turn leads into subscribers by creating content that people want to read. It helps to ask your readers questions about the types of content they’d like to receive by conducting surveys.
Content marketing is a tool you can use to increase your competitive edge and grow your business. If you do it right, it can have a significant impact. However, it isn’t easy and will require a clear strategy, dedicated effort, strong commitment, and focus on one’s audience. In addition, working with knowledgeable experts in the field can make all the difference.
Contact us to learn how we can help you with every stage of your content marketing strategy, from creating buyer personas to developing an impressive content calendar.