Chapter 8: How to Pick Your Topics for Successful B2B Content Marketing

94% of the total customer count and sales won by Kevy, an eCommerce Marketing company, can be attributed to content marketing. How did they do it? By finding the topics that will get them traction. Picking the Topics that Will Get your B2B Content Marketing Traction What do you do when...

94% of the total customer count and sales won by Kevy, an eCommerce Marketing company, can be attributed to content marketing. How did they do it? By finding the topics that will get them traction.

Picking the Topics that Will Get your B2B Content Marketing Traction

What do you do when you're a young company trying to get noticed? This is the conundrum in which Brooke Beach, CEO at Kevy, found herself. Kevy is an Atlanta-based cloud integration company, and Brooke and her team are tasked with building and maintaining an inbound engine to educate and engage users – and bring in new leads.

Team Kevy started out optimizing for words that seemed to make sense, like 'integration.' But, nothing much happened at first. So, Brooke turned to Moz and Google Analytics to figure out which keywords would lead potential customers to Kevy. She quickly found out people wanted to find the services Kevy offers, but they weren't sure exactly what they were searching for. For example, rather than search for 'integration,' people were using search terms like 'automation.' Instead of trying to re-educate the masses to search for Kevy on its terms, Brooke and her team decided to speak into the language searchers were using and incorporate those keywords into their content.

It worked. Today, organic, inbound traffic is the top source of customers at Kevy. According to Brooke, Kevy is posting content on its blog page every day, and people are finding them. The Kevy sales team doesn't have time to cold call because they have so many leads. Every month, Brooke's team looks at the top ten keywords people use to find Kevy and the top 3-5 pieces of content that received the most interaction. They then cater their content to use the words people are already using to find them. Kevy's blog now ranks as one of the highest performing blogs of its industry, even when compared to the biggest competitors. Marketing has contributed to 94% of Kevy's of customer count and sales, with the majority coming from content.

Thinking Like Your Audience: Keywords

Brooke's story has a few takeaways that apply to just about any business, including the importance of using the right keywords. The right keywords are not necessarily the words you use to describe what you do–they are the words your potential customers use! You might be surprised how often these aren't the same. Practitioners and experts such as you often use a rarified vocabulary, when 'in the wild,' potential customers use a more generic search vocabulary.

Keyword research will help reveal how the audience thinks about you and your industry. This can take a bit of time — figuring out what your audience is looking for doesn't happen over night. A blog should naturally revolve around the keywords being used by the target audience. A good place to start when evaluating keywords to strengthen your B2B content marketing is Google's Keyword Planning Tool and Moz.

Finding the Right Format

In the course of building their content marketing program, Team Kevy discovered that ebooks really resonated–meaning that people would sign up for them and share their email address. Originally, the team decided to try out an ebook as an alternative to white papers because it wanted to bring a sense of fun and cool into its content – and make it feel more like b2c content marketing instead of b2b content marketing. The purpose of the ebook was to target the person likely to be the decision-maker on whether to buy Kevy, like the marketer or business owner, rather than the enterprise. The content was fun, engaging, and interactive, and this content marketing format resonated immediately. In one week, Kevy had 100 ebook downloads from registered users. The ebooks made Kevy more credible and trustworthy to searchers, like a friend steering them in the right direction rather than someone wanting to sell them something. Now, the company has built a mass following for its ebooks and is also building its thought leadership.

While ebooks work for Kevy, they won't work for every company.  Each audience has its preferred format. For example, Nike uses photos as a 'brand discovery' tool. It has one of the strongest brands on Instagram because they're a strong, bold brand that is action-oriented and communicates well visually.

What works for you

So what kind of company are you? Open yourself up to the fact that your best avenue for content marketing might not be a blog. It might be a photo stream or an Instagram feed. It may be ebooks. It could be video.

The best way to figure out which kind of content your audience likes best is through experimentation. There are no easy answers because you are not your prospects–they are different people. The authors of Traction say there are 18 different kinds of marketing content. You can't know which kind of content the audience responds to until you run the experiment. Try out various types of content marketing in an inexpensive way, like:

  • LinkedIn Posts
  • Blog Posts
  • eBooks
  • Pinterest
  • Instagram feeds
  • Twitter video
  • Webinars
  • Video series
  • Snapchat or Yik Yak
  • Billboards
  • Radio
  • Google Adwords
  • Yelp
  • Parties and events
  • Research

Double down on what works and find that right mix for you right now. Be ok with the fact that your content mix will change over time, too–with a measurement process in place, you'll always know where your audience is moving.

The best way to start figuring out which type of content works best for your audience is to organically get content from your own culture. If you are an early stage startup, the content might be from your customers and you. If you are a bit larger of a company, it might come from your employees. Or, it might be a hybrid of both.  Here are some suggestions on how to start getting content out of your culture:

  1. Hold a monthly pizza lunch for brainstorming, framed up by right keywords, in order to solicit different ideas from your team.
  2. Survey the whole company by email and ask them to vote on what they think will work best.
  3. Ask for suggestions through the company newsletter or social media.
  4. Look at editorial calendars for conferences in your industry and see what topics seem to be resonating.
  5. Ask your sales team for the top questions they are getting over and over again.
  6. Ask your customer service team for the questions they are getting over and over again.
  7. Use social media hashtags to see what topics are trending around your industry.
  8. Hold executive dinners where the executives share ideas about the company for blog and course material.
  9. If you have a robust website, look at what pages are already popular. Find out which pages are the most read.

Creating the Editorial Calendar

Whew! That was a lot of work. It's worth it, though, because now you have a lot of potential topics and formats for your B2B content marketing. But, how are you going to build some structure around these ideas? The answer is by building an editorial calendar. This calendar will define what your company will post, where, and with what frequency. The editorial calendar will need to include the different elements of your content marketing program, including social media. For example, the calendar will identify how many Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram posts – and how many blog posts – will be published in a particular week. Start by defining every week or every other week. Make sure the calendar clearly states what the content marketing items are, when they are due, and who is responsible for each item.

Click here for a sample editorial calendar to help you get started:

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The editorial calendar allows you to make assignments across your team for content, to create a keyword strategy, and to connect to events in your industry.

Planning for  Engagement

The editorial calendar can also include what the ideal level of engagement with content should look like. If you are like Kevy and ebooks are important to your business, then the number of downloads of ebooks are important. If you are a conference center, having photos of the center downloaded and commented on might be important for you. While planning the topic and keywords for a piece of content marketing, also keep in mind what the ideal engagement looks like. Whatever type of content marketing you are producing, your team can learn from the results if you share the level of engagement with them. Just as the best type of content marketing will be different for each company, the level of engagement will be different too.

Speaking with One Voice: Forging a CM Style

Usually, when a company starts a content marketing program, the tone and tenor of the content stays pretty consistent because one person is assigned to do all of it. The company's content appears to speak with one voice because only one voice is articulating it. This all changes when a content marketing program scales up and new voices are added to the mix. Having multiple voices creates challenges that can be circumvented if steps are taken to nail down the company's content marketing style.

To eliminate having a hodge-podge of styles, voices, and approaches to the content marketing, create a content marketing style guide for your company. The style guide might contain a preferred list of words, a list of spelling, grammar, and punctuation guidelines, and a list of keywords used by the company. In addition, pick a couple of blog posts that truly represent the tone and length of an ideal post. The posts can include instructions on things like how many subheads should there be in a blog post, how many characters in a title, and what voice should the author use. In just a few pages, a company can hammer out the details to allow for multiple contributors to the creation of content marketing.

An example of a company with a distinct content marketing style is UPS. The parcel delivery company has very concrete guidelines on how all of its photos should appear. UPS wants images that look authentic, with real people interacting with real packages.  It's not considered 'UPS' to have pure models, nor is it considered 'UPS' to have pictures of packages without people. UPS' house brand and house style inform the contributors about where the boundaries are in terms of corporate culture. The guidelines empower UPS' people to do a good job – and educate them as to what a 'good job' looks like.

Creating a Feedback Loop

Reinforcing these guidelines through continuous feedback is another effective way to encourage great results from content marketing on your team. Once there is more than one person contributing to content marketing, there is the opportunity for some friendly competition. Be sure to let people know who on the team is doing a good job and getting top results. Shine a light on what's working and why it's working – being as specific as possible with the numbers.  Consider having a weekly or monthly performance review meeting with the content marketing team to highlight the best work. This is a tremendous opportunity for success.


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