If If you’re struggling to understand the difference between the types of content usually employed in a B2B content marketing strategy—and when to use them—you’re not alone. A consultancy in America recently put out a piece that listed a whopping great 105 types of content we marketers can use to fill up our content calendars.
We agree that’s quite an extensive list. But you don’t need to get your head around all 105 in order to start turning visitors into customers. Here’s our breakdown of the major content types you need to be concerned with right now—and where in a B2B content marketing strategy, or inbound marketing funnel, they are best employed.
AttractThis stage is all about brand awareness and grabbing the attention of prospective customers to turn them into visitors to your website. You have little time to get their attention and create a touchstone between you that could potentially form a relationship. Which means that any content you are using in this stage needs to:
- be relatively short and snappy
- be visually eye-catching (coloured visuals are said to increase people’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80%)
- have oodles of educational and entertainment value
- be freely available to encourage interaction and sharing—you need to build up that trust before expecting any downloads.
Types of content you’ll find here are usually of the short(ish)-form variety, so we’re talking editorial and educational blog posts, although instructional videos or vlogs are a good way to go too (people who view videos are apparently nearly twice as likely to purchase than non-viewers). And while PPC and organic search are important, social media is a more instant and cheaper way of distributing your content, and 3rd party shares as widely as possible to boost your signal.
ConvertNow that you’ve got visitors to your website, you need to convert them into leads using ‘gated’ content. This means creating high-value, hidden content that visitors will need to offer up a few of their personal details to download—details that are essential for the next stage of the B2B content marketing funnel.
Types of content you’ll find here will be in two stages:
1. The ‘gateway’ content. This is like having Gandalf and his staff shouting ‘You shall not pass!’—except that it’s the complete opposite of that, so it’s really Gandalf shouting ‘You want to take advantage of our offer, so just give me a few details and I’ll step aside!’ This involves landing pages (highlighting the benefits of the offer) and their forms (with a variety of personal detail fields that should always include name and email address). To give you an example, here’s one of ours for creating content that doesn’t bore your B2B readers. You’ll see that the copy is short and snappy, the offer is clear, the form isn’t too overwhelming, and there’s even a nice visual on the page too!
Note: It’s important with forms to understand that the amount of information you ask the customer for matches the value of the content you’re offering. Don’t have a 10-field form asking their entire life history in exchange for a 1,000 word eBook.
2. The ‘offer’ content. This is always long-form, clearly demonstrating that a lot more time and effort has gone into researching, writing, designing, and organising this valuable piece of content. We’re talking eBooks, expert guides and live interactions (e.g. webinars), and, yes, the Content Marketing Institute still believes white papers matter too - especially those that, according to Rob Leavitt, Director of Thought Leadership at PTC, “really take the time to offer a well-thought-through point of view on issues that matter to your customers.”
Note: We know there’s a bit of confusion over what exactly a white paper is, especially between industries. So be sure to check out HubSpot’s excellent breakdown of ‘what is a white paper’.
This stage is where you keep your leads happy and warm them up until they trust you enough to (hopefully) become your customers. Or to pinch a couple of phrases that Rand Fishkin at Moz uses to describe nurturing through content, you’re getting them to build up ‘a positive bank account with you’—through ‘experiences and touches with your brand’ that create ‘capital in the account’.
Types of content you’ll find here will be mainly of the email variety (although you need to make the time for social media engagement too). Whether you send to everyone or segment your lists to better target your content, will depend on the nature of the emails. For an idea of what to include, here are a few emails that might be useful:
- Thank-you emails, which are sent after someone has downloaded content.
- Follow-up emails, which act as a reminder of that content, but also give you the chance to guide them towards related content they might be interested in.
- Newsletters, perhaps detailing a catch-up of the month’s blog posts (in case they missed some), some industry news they might not have been aware of (as a helpful resource), and perhaps some news about your company (to create another personal touchstone in your relationship).
- Content offer emails, which highlight a new or recent eBook or whitepaper (etc) they might have missed and directs them straight to the landing page.
So you’ve brought in new visitors, converted them to leads, and nurtured them into a place where they could be ready to buy. This is where you get to show them as strongly (but as helpfully) as possible what benefits you offer that lift you and your product way above your competitors, so that they become your customer.
Of course, more often than not you’ve passed these warm leads to your sales superstars, who will close the deal the ways they know best. But your content could still have a part to play to win them over.
Types of content you’ll find here should focus on vendor and product comparisons and, especially in tech, providing downloadable trial (or even on-site) demos. Case studies are also exceptionally beneficial, as they provide success stories demonstrating that what you’re offering has already worked for a business just like the lead’s.
DelightThis final stage is often overlooked, because you’ve already turned a visitor into a customer and isn’t that the end game?
Well, no. First of all, it’s way cheaper to keep a customer than find a new one and now that you’ve got them, you want to provide them with the best service possible in order to keep them buying from you. But just as importantly, this is an excellent opportunity to make them a promoter of your business!
Types of content you’ll see here will be very much like the nurturing stage, so mainly based around email and social media to keep them engaged with your brand—with a little more focus this time on creating content they can’t help but share with their networks. Feedback forms or surveys are also great, as existing customers will be far more likely to participate and provide honest details of what you’re doing right and where you can improve. And by making them feel like they matter (which they do), you’re creating brand loyalty that will be hard not to shout about.
If you develop your content marketing strategy in the right way, you can become known as an authority in your field, a "thought leader". This raises people's awareness of you and puts you in a position to win new business.