Marcus Sheridan's 3 Fundamentals of B2B Content Marketing

Three things you MUST do to succeed with any B2B content marketing strategy, courtesy of leading inbound expert Marcus Sheridan

Picture of Ian Guiver Ian Guiver

Published: 14 May 2015

5 minutes read

Marcus Sheridan's 3 Fundamentals of B2B Content Marketing

 Marcus Sheridan was a 'pool guy' from rural Virginia and is now one of the world's most inspirational speakers on content marketing.

Marcus only takes on new customers for his digital marketing consultancy if they have read his 230-page ebook, so it's worth listening to what he says about content marketing and business blogging.

He gives us three ways to make sure that a B2B content marketing campaign attracts potential customers and turns them into people who WANT to buy our goods and services.

Here they are:

1. Listen to your customers and answer their questions

“We're making this process of 'blog topics' harder than it needs to be because we’ve forgotten our greatest source of information and inspiration - living, breathing and thinking customers."

Set yourself the goal of listening better than anyone else in your market. Listen to your customers. Listen to the questions they ask. Listen to the language they use. All customers in all markets ask five types of question:

  • What does X cost?
  • What are the problems with X?
  • How does X compare with Y?
  • Has X been reviewed?
  • What is the best type of X?
Marcus Sheridan Your best blogs and other content will answer these questions. Marcus reckons most of us have answered hundreds of questions from customers over the years. So, the advice is: spend some time getting those questions and the answers down on paper and then on to your website. If your past and existing customers wanted the answers, so too will your future customers.

By the way: lots of people in your organisation will be able to contribute to this process. Customer service, after sales, implementation consultants and of course sales will all have a lot of knowledge to bring to bear. In larger organisations, senior managers may actually be less well-placed to help.

I’d go further: marketing can’t do this alone. If you're doing inbound in-house, it's important not just to get buy-in - you need every department to embrace the concept of content marketing and how it will change the fortunes of your business. Even if you're working with an agency to create content, your content will be much better if the agency can pull on the knowledge of as many people as possible.

In the past, we've done this by running a discovery session to brainstorm ideas with new clients. Recently, I've developed an Axon Garside workshop to help people achieve the cultural shift needed to make content and inbound marketing really work for organisations.

One of Marcus’s themes is transparency. He poses the question: Why wouldn’t you be transparent? What are you afraid of? There is really just one potential downside to being transparent when you answer any of the five questions above in your B2B content marketing: you’ll put some people off.

But that’s fine. They weren’t a good fit anyway. You won’t put off the people who could be your customers - and they’ll actually trust you more because you've been candid. They're the ones who will pay your bills.

Your products won’t suit everyone, so the smart thing to do is target the people they will suit and use your content to weed out those who are not a good fit for your company. We’ve all taken business from customers who were not a good fit. Has the experience ever left you satisfied and boosted your profits? Creating better qualified leads who understand your unique selling points and probably the potential cost of your offer is one of the main benefits of inbound content marketing.

2. Use the language that your customers use

Are you using your language or theirs? Are you writing on their level or your level - or somebody else’s level? The B2B content marketing and inbound textbooks tell you to create personas before you get going with your content strategy. The problem is that personas are hard to create unless you’ve used them in anger. That’s one of the reasons I always advise people to go back to their personas and revise them. The most important thing when you're writing is to address their questions and subjects in ways that are relevant and which will resonate with them. Don’t make assumptions about what they know - or patronise and talk down to them. So, for example, an ERP distributor may have 'head of IT' and 'finance director' among its personas. Their concerns and objectives will be very different and generally, so too will their language and knowledge.

It’s worth saying that if you've only recently started blogging, you may have fallen prey to the temptation to write for as many different buyers as possible in one blog post or downloadable ebook. Don’t do it - it wouldn’t work for you as a reader and it won’t work for your readers either.

Of course you can and should check the language you think prospects are using by making use of keyword tools from Google, HubSpot and others. These will help you to refine your content, but the ideas will come from your own experience. Once you’ve posted a blog, it's equally important to track the impact of that blog so you can focus on what works best and optimise based on the results. There’s also another great benefit that comes from measurement: initially reticent bloggers within your organisation will become evangelical on the subject once they've seen how their words contributed to the success of the company’s content marketing campaign and more importantly, and measurably, its bottom line.

3. Educate, don’t sell

Are you justifying people’s trust as readers by being transparent, honest and objective? Are you sharing knowledge and teaching or spinning a yarn? If you are, they’ll find out. Of course we should always be clear how any piece of content, whether it is a blog post, downloadable ebook or infographic, is going to make it more likely the reader will buy from us before we produce it.

Our purpose is to help the reader solve problems, but also to help them understand better in which circumstances our products or services will be the best fit. That is not the same as overtly pitching our wares. Too much marketing content equates to a thinly-veiled sales pitch. If you would see through it, so will your prospects.

So if your blogging efforts are faltering, set up a meeting with departmental colleagues. Create a simple agenda that is nothing more than 'questions that your department gets asked by customers'. Be sure to capture the ideas and turn them into a content campaign calendar or editorial calendar and like any good editor - never miss a deadline!



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