Nov 30, 2015

Cultivate Thought Leadership Through B2B Content Marketing

2.1-cultivate_thought_leadership_through_b2b_content_marketing.jpgContent is king … everyone knows that by now, right? What some brands miss, however, is that the saying should really be: GOOD content is king. Because just any content isn’t going to establish a brand’s legitimacy or bring in a good number of qualified sales leads. It’s important to understand that the content you’re putting out there should be top notch:

  • Thorough
  • Accurate
  • Interesting
  • Reputable
  • Applicable

Thought leadership is one of the best, most proven ways to build brand recognition, especially in the B2B sphere. In today’s climate of constant, unending content, it’s not always easy to establish thought leadership. When it comes to the B2B sphere, the obstacles are even more numerous.

Let’s look at a few ways to cultivate successful thought leadership though B2B content marketing:

  • KNOW what you’re talking about – fact check and consider all angles
  • SOLVE the problems you know your customers have
  • Be a CONSISTENT presence
  • Write with a DISTINCTIVE personality as you deliver the content the audience wants

Know the Topic at Hand Inside and Out

The most important piece of the thought leadership puzzle is knowledge. It may seem obvious, but somehow it isn’t always so clear. Without a clear understanding of the topic at hand, as well as an in-depth bank of knowledge on the pain points of customers in your industry, it’s hard to establish trust.

When creating blog posts, emails or even shorter social posts, it’s important that your knowledge and understanding of the industry are unimpeachable. An inbound marketing expert who doesn’t know her sales funnel details isn’t going to know the best time to engage potential customers, resulting in the lowest return on effort. A social media expert who doesn’t seem to understand how marketing automation platforms can be of use isn’t going to be able to tell his audience how to garner leads from those platforms. A B2B expert who seems to know more about the B2C process almost certainly won’t be able to hold a reader’s attention for more than a few paragraphs, because she often fails to address challenges specific to the B2B industry.

It’s convenient to turn to a ghostwriter to produce content. However, knowledge must be distinguished from memorization and the regurgitation of statements. Sometimes it’s easy to tell when a piece of content didn’t come from the claimed source. Ghostwriting, while useful in a variety of instances, isn’t always a successful way to build thought leadership when it comes to highly technical topics. If the topic is technical, make sure the content is coming from you, personally, and contains particularly insightful gems.

Know your topic from back to front, up and down, inside and out. Have answers to questions before they’ve even been asked – stay a few steps ahead of your audience in all your content.

Create B2B Content That Highlights Specific Solutions for YOUR Customers

This point is especially important in the B2B marketing sphere. Creating and promoting B2C content can be much easier than creating and promoting B2B content, considering the decision to purchase is usually a single-step process involving just one person, versus the multi-step B2B sales cycle. B2C topics/products/services also have a tendency to lend themselves a bit better to viral content than B2B topics/products/services – generally due to the wider audience of B2C products like clothing, as opposed to the very niche B2B products like industrial drill bits. That makes it highly important to really highlight the knowledge you have for your given market.

You’ve spent years building your knowledge base and bank of experience in your industry. The content you create and share should take advantage of this and really impress your readers. For example, writing a blog post on the top ten ways to use Facebook as a brand is one thing; a post outlining a campaign combining social promotion through Facebook ads with social contests aimed at a specific target persona group is another thing entirely. The former is an overview to get started; the latter is a detailed piece on using specific aspects of a social platform to build a cohesive, testable strategy.

The latter will convince your readers you not only have experience in the area, but you have so much experience you’re able to draw out different areas that work for different strategies. One is sort of a list of helpful hints to think of when developing a strategy, while the other teaches the actual hows and whys of a specific strategy.

Naturally, focusing on the specific strategy and the steps to get there will better amplify your knowledge base while assuring the audience they have come to the right place on this particular topic. RSS blog subscriptions, bookmarking and following will come naturally.

Be a Consistent Poster and Problem Solver

So you’ve posted a great piece on LinkedIn on B2B inbound marketing. You’re happy to see an impressive number of likes, shares and comments, and quite a few people have sent you a connect request. It looks like the link to your site has been clicked on a number of times as well. Great job! You’re off and running; you’ve started something, and it’s working…

…then you don’t post again for three weeks, and that second post gets some engagement, but not nearly as much as the last post, and you notice that very few of the same people have engaged. What gives? Don’t they remember how great your last post was? They loved it! They shared it! They sang your praises in the comments section! How could they forget?

This is where the never-ending stream of new content issue comes in. The thing is, they probably don’t remember how great your last post was because in the content marketing world (especially the B2B content marketing world), three weeks might as well be three years. Be it personal social posts, blogging on your own site, guest blogging for other sites, engaging with other thought leaders, or simply reading and commenting on other posts, it is critical to maintain a presence and stay top of mind in your areas of expertise.

Put in the Time and Energy to Make Your Content Worthwhile

Part of the reason some say content marketing has become such an eye roll-worthy buzzword (buzz…phrase?) is because so many people don’t bother actually taking the time and energy to do content right.

Merely publishing a boilerplate, sales-y, brief blog post as an excuse for a call-to-action asking for email addresses is not the way to establish thought leadership and build trust. That’s not really content – it’s a sales pitch. And consumers aren’t falling for it, in B2C or B2B, especially not anymore with the vast Internet at our fingertips.

Content can be so many things – blog posts, white papers, marketing emails, social media posts, even comments on other posts or engaging with others on social. When you and your team put the time and energy into developing good content that offers insights people are seeking and solves problems, the results will follow.

And when you share, talk about, and tout that good content in the right places, and do it consistently, you’re building invaluable trust and reputable thought leadership.

And Finally … EDIT

One last thing to remember (from this English degree holding, grammar-obsessed writer):

RUN ALL CONTENT THROUGH AN EDITOR. Not just for topical editing, but actual, journalistic editing. Choose a style (AP, Chicago, etc.) and stick to it consistently in all your pieces. Misspellings, improper grammar, run-on sentences, inconsistent tenses – these simple mistakes are easily avoidable yet can quickly detract from your authority. (Fingers crossed I don’t have a single typo in this post – how embarrassing would that be?!)

Now get out there and establish thought leadership!

For more, check out our playbook below on creating content that connects most with B2B buyers.

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