On the surface, content marketing seems like a form of digital marketing that only business-to-consumer (B2C) companies can benefit from, especially if these brands have big budgets to create viral content.
But content marketing isn’t exclusively for B2C businesses: in fact, 91% of business-to-business (B2B) companies say they use content marketing.
Still, many businesses struggle with figuring out exactly what types of content marketing to use, and whether or not it’s worth their time and money. If you’re unsure what types of content marketing will be best for your business, these examples will show you how each works and can be used to your advantage.
What is B2B Content Marketing?
Business-to-business (B2B) is a term used to describe long-term sales between companies and bulk buyers, as opposed to business-to-customer (B2C), which targets individuals. In a B2C company, the customer selects a product based on their personal preference, price, or popularity, whereas a B2B company makes purchasing decisions only based on price and the potential to earn revenue.
A company using a B2B content marketing strategy is producing content aimed at other businesses, with the intention of broadening their audience, establishing relationships between other companies, and driving sales through these relationships. B2B content marketing is meant to be used solely by businesses, and differs from your average content marketing strategy aimed at individual consumers.
The most important thing about B2B content marketing is that it must be practical. In this guide, we’ll provide methods and examples of B2B content marketing, and explain how each one will help your business become a leading resource in your industry.
1. How-To Guides
How-to guides provide step-by-step information on how to do something. They’re concise and clear, and like listicles, are a great opportunity to promote your product or service within the post.
When crafting how-to guides, it’s critical to first think about your target audience. What problems do they struggle with, or have questions about that are related to your product or service?
In our example above, we know that content marketers, our target audience, sometimes have difficulties figuring out who their target audience is. That’s why we created our user persona guide — anyone who wants to learn about how to engage a target audience is a likely Compose.ly customer.
Regardless of whether the topic of a how-to guide is simple or complicated, it should help the reader understand how to use or build a product that they may not have been familiar with before.
Practical guides are also great for increasing traffic to your site. Many people will refer to the internet when they want to learn how to do something, so by creating how-to guides, you can take advantage of the web traffic that is related to your industry.
Videos are becoming an increasingly popular form of content marketing and many marketers agree they have the best ROI, because they’re inexpensive and easily accessible by anyone with a mobile device.
Companies that want to bring attention to a specific topic will find that videos are extremely beneficial. Videos are an entertaining way to deliver your message – you can also post them to social media accounts easily and do well in spreading brand awareness.
Let’s look at some different types of B2B content marketing videos and why they work.
How to use the product or service
Squarespace created a video featuring actor Jeff Bridges showing how he used their service to host his Sleeping Tapes project. Besides having a celebrity endorsement to get the message out, this video is effective because it showcases how to use the service. At the end of the video, Squarespace includes a call to action, inviting the audience to check out the album and build their own site.
Customer success stories
Hubspot uses a testimonial in this video, which is one of the best ways to format a B2B video – getting professionals to share their experiences gives a stronger impression to viewers rather than having them reading a blog post about it. Letting a satisfied customer speak about how the product made their job easier gives your brand even more credibility.
Persuading the audience to use the product or service
Ideally, a business video should be around 1-2 minutes, but Zendesk challenges that idea by creating videos that are only 16 seconds long. The message is simple and humorous, but tells the audience that they can improve relationships between customers and companies. Short videos like this one can be especially useful for social media when you want to gather attention to your topic. On sites like LinkedIn where much of the content tends to be dry, these quick and entertaining videos are a way to change up your content strategy.
The best way to share videos in content marketing and social media campaigns is to upload them to YouTube and include them in blog posts or any relevant posts. Include a call-to-action at the end to guide users into the next step of the sales funnel, and try to link them to your landing page or site, too.
3. White papers
White papers are still a critical part of your content marketing strategy, despite what many business leaders might say.
White papers are packed with information that is meant to provide solutions to problems and expertise on a certain topic. They emphasize the details, and usually include graphics and charts. If you want to become a thought leader and build respect within your industry, then publishing a white paper will be invaluable.
Example #1: Metadata Matters by Bloomberg
Bloomberg targets media companies in their white paper on metadata. In “Metadata Matters,” they discuss what exactly metadata is, why it matters, how it can help, and how to do it right. At the end of the white paper, Bloomberg includes a CTA about licensing content with their service, stating that their assets are available with associated metadata, ensuring that subscribers are able to uphold metadata best practices.
Example #2: Using the Internet of Things for preventive maintenance by IBM
IBM aims to target technical businesses in their white paper on using IoT for maintaining assets. Clicking on the “Try it free” link will bring you to a page on how their IoT product Maximo works and benefits companies, incorporating a video funnel to explore the topic further.
White papers are also useful for generating leads using information forms. On a white paper landing page, include a data collection form to access the document that require users to provide their name, company, location, and contact details.
If you’re aiming to make content that can be easily shared across the web, look into creating an infographic. Research has even shown that infographics are shared 3 times more than other forms of content on social media.
Infographics are great for taking complicated material and simplifying it in a more visually appealing way. Well-designed infographics will drive more people to your site, and since the infographic will have a backlink included within it, anyone who shares the image will provide even more links to your site.
When creating an infographic, the content should be on a relevant and in-demand topic. Another way to approach your infographic content is by making it into a solution to a problem, using a similar format to a how-to guide.
Check out the resources below to find out what people are searching for on the web and gather ideas for your next infographic:
- Do searches on Google Trends and Answer the Public for keywords and topics
- Quora and Reddit are great places to start to get ideas on what people are asking about and discussing
- Look at infographics on Visual.ly for ideas and inspiration on your topic
- For more specific keyword research, try BuzzSumo and KWFinder to discover trending topics
The format of your infographic will depend mostly on what type you decide to create — for instance, a comparison is likely to be split into two columns. As a general rule, be consistent, but try to make the designs simple and clean – you don’t want readers to be overwhelmed.
If you can, keep the design, coloring, and style on-brand. Not only will it look more professional on your website, it will also make your brand more recognizable over time as people see more of your content. Just like how-to guides, include white space and organized sections, as well as a title that briefly explains what the infographic is about.
5. Case studies
Case studies promote a service your business offers and are a great opportunity to place a call-to-action form. Your goal is to target customers who are increasingly curious about your products and services, and want some evidence that you’ve helped customers like them before.
Ideally, a case study should provide in-depth research and analysis about how your product or service has already helped other businesses. Case studies are beneficial for quite a few reasons:
- They showcase your product or service
- They concretely demonstrate how similar businesses can benefit
- They can easily be repurposed into different formats – put on your blog, into a sales letter, a brochure, or even a video
Every case study should include a summary, an explanation of the problem or hypothesis you’re studying, your unique solution, and finally, your data results and what they mean for your target audience. Treat your case study like a blog post that answers “how” and “why” questions.
A common error many people make with case studies is simply stating the facts without providing a strong narrative that keeps the reader engaged. Case studies should not bore the reader – they need to offer reasons why the reader should care about your business and its solutions. Remember to add an actionable element to the study so that readers understand how to produce similar results, and most importantly, how to get started doing business with your company.
6. Email newsletters
For strengthening relationships with customers and improving communication with them, email newsletters are a great option. Newsletters make it easier to drive sales since the ROI is high: every $1 spent on email marketing provides a return of $45-$50.
Email newsletters can perform a variety of functions, including:
- Generating repeat traffic to your website from potential customers
- Making a hard sale in your newsletter for your own, or an affiliate’s products or services
- Generating authority on your niche subject
- Providing updates about your business, particularly when it will affect your customers, or when you have new products or services to provide
- Retaining current customers by keeping them engaged
If you want people to visit your website, look at your content, and make a purchase, you will also need to invite and encourage them to do so, as simply waiting for people to come to your page won’t be enough. Creating an email newsletter can play a huge part in driving traffic and sales, depending on your business model. You’ll also increase site traffic by including a strong call-to-action and making sure your email is targeted to the right audience.
While blogging can and should be a key part of your content marketing strategy, don’t feel limited to using only one type of content to increase traffic, gather leads, and push sales.
To achieve positive results and progress your business, a diverse content marketing strategy is absolutely necessary. Content marketing is a huge investment, but the payout can be even more rewarding.