Our second post in our Content Marketing Hack series involves how to talk to your prospects, not at them. A common content marketing mistake made by B2B businesses is that they create content for the sake of creating it. We’re not saying that having fresh content on your website is bad. Quite the opposite. A good content marketing strategy underpins an effective SEO strategy. Search engine algorithms like fresh content on a website. It’s the digital equivalent of a pulse, a sign of life that can be indexed and shared based on relevance to keywords used in organic search.
But creating content for search engine algorithms ignores your most important end goal: Converting prospects into leads and gradually moving them farther down the sales funnel until your sales team can close them. That’s a big reason why we’re not fans of letting SEO (and, frankly, SEO agencies) dictate the approach to content marketing. But how about getting the best of both worlds? How do you win at the SEO game while also setting the hook on prospects who visit your website?
Here are a few items to keep in mind when figuring out how to talk to your prospects, not at them:
Last week in our first content marketing hack we wrote about how to get to know your prospects and their needs. Often this takes the form of buyer personas — traits you’ve observed about your customers and how to aggregate them into accurate and predictable customer archetypes. Once you understand who they are, what their pain points are, and what their information needs are, you can do a far better job at creating the content that satisfies their needs.
“Life is like a box of chocolates”
Another trick to talking to to your prospects is learning how they talk. No, we don’t mean whether they talk with an accent or talk real slow like Forest Gump. It has far more to do with understanding your prospect’s role inside his or her company and at what altitude he or she views the company. A C-suite executive will want to see the 30-thousand foot perspective, themes addressing how your solution or product will improve the efficiency or revenue potential of the company. If you sell an XaaS (anything as a service) solution then you should avoid delving too deeply into the technical weeds when sending a case study or newsletter for her consumption.
On the other hand, a UX research professional in all likelihood deals with nitty-gritty issues in the trenches of design and really cares more about how he can improve the overall user experience of a website or app. A blog post that stresses how to incorporate user research into sprints will be right up his alley, and you can cram in all the technical terms you want.
All this is to say that you should know who you are creating content for well before you begin. You can accomplish this by creating an editorial calendar listing all of your content pieces (blog posts, case studies, white papers, product videos, etc.) and mapping your buyer personas to each one. This approach will help you avoid creating content for only one buyer persona, a common trap many B2B tech companies fall into. By courting only one buyer persona you risk losing the interest of other buyer personas, and in the process losing out on other potential leads. Also, by knowing who you are targeting beforehand, you will know what stylistic tone and theme to stress, and what kind of buzzwords to use.
[Caveat: While customized content that serves the needs of your various buyer personas is critical, it should not be done at the expense of your company’s overall brand. We recommend consulting with your brand guidelines to ensure you are not veering off course.]
Home sweet home
Just about anybody can write copy. But not everybody can write it well. And fewer still can write it so that it seems like a story you just have to read. A good storyteller can add the right embellishments to make your copy engaging, impactful and even captivating.
Wait, B2B tech copy that’s captivating? Absolutely! It all depends upon the buyer persona and nature of the content piece. For instance, a blog can and should endeavor to be captivating. It can entertain even as it informs. It’s perfect way to show off your brand personality and clue new website visitors into what makes you different from the competition.
Just about any tech company would benefit from having a copywriter on staff who can turn a phrase just so. Many B2B professionals may tend to be left-brained by nature, but they too can appreciate a well-written post, one that conveys the essential ideas in an authentic way. There’s a reason why we like a home over a hotel. Both have beds, showers and TVs, but a home reflects who we are and what we want around us. A good copywriter will know how to turn a dull blog post into something that can read like somebody really gets us, knows our pain points and maybe even our sense of humor or outlook on the world.
Drill, baby, drill
This isn’t about opening up the Arctic to the oil companies. It’s about staying on message and consistent in your production of content. The editorial calendar we discussed above can help you stay on course with your message and content output frequency. Both are essential to keeping your prospects coming back for more information over time and ultimately converting into customers.
Follow the leader (of the pack)
The longer you stay in business, the greater the chance your offerings will change with time. That also means the prospects you should be talking to will change. Don’t forget to review your buyer personas annually to ensure you are communicating the right messages with the most appropriate style and format.
If your business has gone from working primarily with SMBs to servicing large enterprises, it may be time to rethink your previous brand personality. The larger the average organization size you serve, the more you have to pivot your content marketing towards a higher professional standard capable of passing the scrutiny of 7-figure decision makers. It’s not that execs at global enterprises have lost their sense of humor or that your content will fall on their reading list with any regularity — in truth, it may never be read by them. Rather, it’s because an entire organization takes its tone from the top and striking the right chord with the top dogs will resonate with the rest of the pack.
If you build it they will…
This is the moment of truth. If you have built your content marketing strategy around the advice we have given over the past two posts then you will enjoy the results you seek: More website traffic, more leads, more engagement in all of your marketing channels. If all you hear are crickets chirping, then you may need to review your buyer personas and overall content marketing strategy to ensure you’re on the right track. Just keep experimenting and watching the results on your analytics app as well as the quality and quantity of leads entering the top of the sales funnel.