Chapter 2: Getting Started With B2B Content Marketing

Where does your content marketing program fit in the bigger landscape. Are you just beginning,? Diving? Thriving? Learn how to get from "here" to "there" with this simple approach to accurately accessing which stage you're in now.

A Love Affair with BMWs Leads to a Breakthrough

Andy Powell loves BMWs. Seriously, the guy loves them. So when this young developer and Georgia Tech grad got his first job, he bought a sweet 325 built in 1986. Of course, he didn’t want just anyone handling his new baby. Andy wanted an experienced mechanic for his car, but he had trouble finding a good place to have it serviced.

So, as one of his first businesses, Andy decided to put together an online directory of outstanding BMW service centers. He soon discovered the directory wasn’t super-useful because mechanics didn’t want to be contacted by email. Instead, they preferred phone calls, and phone calls are some of the hottest, most actionable leads a business can get.

Snag: in order for the mechanics to see the value of advertising in Andy’s online directory, they needed to know that incoming sales leads — phone calls — originated with the directory.

Andy solved the problem: he became an expert on how to track the code on which pages prospects were looking at on your website–and then which pages provoke them to “click to call.” Now, inbound sales calls showed a “referral web page.” The information was so useful for companies that sell by phone that he launched a company called CallRail. Suddenly, Andy had a solution that let any business know who is calling it and where they called from on the Internet. If you’ve ever touched a number on your smartphone, and it connected you, you know what we’re talking about.

CallRail provided companies with a dashboard, identifying who called the business, how long the call lasted, and what time the call came through, and even more interesting–which page they were looking at on the internet.. A company could log in and see the entire call history – and even record the call. This information is incredibly helpful for businesses trying to figure out where to spend their advertising money, especially industries driven by phones contact, like garages, doctors’ offices, salons, spas, and restaurants.

The next problem Andy faced was awareness. The huge solution Andy created with CallRail wasn’t obvious to the companies that needed it. They knew the problem, but they don’t know there was a solution available to solve it. So, Andy turned to content marketing to inform small businesses about his CallRail solution.

Through B2B content marketing and using social media sites like Twitter and LinkedIn, Andy is able to educate.

CallRail was awarded 10th fastest growing businesses in Atlanta in 2014 by the Atlanta Business Chronicle within two years of its launch. With that meteoric growth, CallRail the caught the eye of Wain Kellum, a noted telecom entrepreneur. Kellum and other investors put in $1.9 million of Series-A funding into CallRail. B2B Content marketing remains at the center of Andy’s strategy at CallRail, and he uses it today as part of a regular marketing program to continue to fuel CallRail’s explosive growth. (Want to read more about Andy’s journey and others? Check out our public relations case study files.)

Start Where You Are

Like Andy, everyone comes at content marketing from where they are at the present moment. This “beginning point” tends to fall into three main categories:

This “beginning point” tends to fall into three main categories:

A B2B Content Marketing Program with Little Content

1) Is this you? If you are in the first group, you already have a “content marketing” program, but you’re stuck on figuring out the content. In the beginning stages of a B2B content marketing program, most companies have trouble creating enough content. Companies in this stage have got good writers and the capacity to get the work done, but they don’t know what content to develop or what to do with it. When a company finds itself in this phase of content marketing development, the tendency is to use content marketing as a tool for self-reflection for the company.

While there is value to self-reflection, this amounts to nothing more than journaling, and the company in question isn’t really grasping what content marketing is all about. If your company is in this stage, It’s important to recognize it and move on.

Who’s in Charge of B2B Content Marketing?

2) If you are in this group, your company can create content, but it doesn’t have a distribution network hammered out for the content marketing.

Who is responsible for distributing the content? Is it the social media person? Is it the marketing person? Does the marketing person really have the time to take on this task?

Finding a home for the distribution system for content marketing is a very real problem right now if you fall in this group–and it’s an issue with which many corporations are struggling. At so many firms, content marketing doesn’t have a corporate home; it’s like a bird that doesn’t have a place to land. This hampers results that can be achieved through content marketing.

Companies that are growing through this painful stage often try handing off content marketing to the public relations department, outside freelancers, human resources, interns, and maybe even investor relations. None of that works. None of these departments have the cultural understanding of social media that is pertinent to making a content marketing program a success. It’s critical that a company build out the content marketing program as its own entity. That is the only way a content marketing program can really work – and a company can reap its rich rewards.

Content Marketing Pros

3) This group has “no worries.” These companies are killing it with their content marketing programs and they know it. They can’t hire fast enough. There are many great examples of companies that have grasped, embraced, and implemented high quality content marketing programs.

The car company Tesla is a great example of a business doing it well. In the media sphere, The Huffington Post stands out (it’s read even more than The New York Times!). And, among traditional companies, Delta Airlines, with it’s Sky Magazine and customer service attention via social media, is an example of doing content marketing the right way.

Identifying your company’s stage in the content marketing lifecycle is the first step in moving forward and maximizing your content marketing capabilities. Now it’s time to dig in, roll up our sleeves, and get to work on making your content marketing as good as it can be.

Starting the Audit Process

Set up an audit of the content marketing landscape for its industry, so you can get started on the right foot from wherever your company is. As we discussed in the last chapter, content marketing is about culture, and you need to understand the cultural landscape of your business before getting started.

But, doing an audit sounds a little intimidating, right? Where does a company even start to begin when trying to survey its competitive landscape? It’s best to start with some basic questions to frame the thinking around your business or industry.

Here are some examples of 5 great questions for your B2B content market audit:

  1. What are the big topics in your industry?
  2. What are the big questions in your industry?
    • What is your company’s position on two of these key questions?
  3. How many people in your industry are on different social media channels? It’s easy to figure this out, but you’ve got to go look.
    • Check out LinkedIn and search by company name or industry to see who is participating.
    • Go on Twitter and search for the names of big players in your industry. You might be surprised to find out who’s already participating in the conversation.
  4. Is your industry in a hyper growth phase, or is it in a slow crawl? Health care is an example of an industry in a hyper-growth phase, which helps explain why the industry is very active in social media circles.
  5. What is the cost of acquiring a sales lead for your company today? Make sure you include sales and marketing expenses, travel expenses and any collateral budget items. You’ll want to know this so that you can benchmark what you should spend (or not) on acquiring a lead through social. Good news — according to HubSpot’s 6th Annual Report on Inbound Marketing and Selling, content marketing saves an average of 13% in overall cost per sales lead!

Bringing Down Costs

What you will no doubt discover within your own firm is that B2B content marketing brings down the cost of acquiring a sales lead because the only cost to the company is the cost to produce the content and track the results. Compared to other salaried positions in an average company, social media people tend to be quite affordable — all the more reason in invest in a content marketing operation within your company:

Average Salaries (in 2013):

Social Media Coordinator $46,000
Sales Representative $64,670
Sales Manager $123,150
Marketing Manager $86,473
(Source: US News & World Report,, Simply Hired)

If a company replaces social media coordinator with a sales person, clearly the costs are significantly higher. By doing social media well, a company can bring down the costs to acquire a sales lead. Another bonus: Social media coordinators don’t have to take clients out to lunch or dinner. More savings in the expense account budget!

Don’t be Afraid of the Disruption

The next challenge is learning how to measure ROI from B2B content marketing activities, rather than getting scared off by the initial cost. The truth is, content marketing is disruptive to a business. It changes the way a business makes money. If B2B content marketing is done well, it will bring down the cost of getting sales leads. This type of tangible benefit will help make the case for content marketing to a company’s executive team, investors, and possibly even the board of directors. It should be done in a serious way.

That’s why it’s so important to audit your specific social environment with a careful eye. It’s a great and wonderful thing to know where competitors stand and benchmark against them. You can see how many people are following your competitors on social media platforms versus your own; there is transparency. The opportunity for competitive benchmarking is very clear, interesting, and illuminating for a business. Content marketing could also allow the opportunity to set industry trends if you determine that, within your industry, not many people are communicating in this way, but the buyer is there.

How Big is Your Target Audience?

Determining your company’s ability to set industry trends and affect the conversation is a multi-step process. You’ve already done your competitive landscape audit and studied the results. Next, begin analyzing your target buyer. Go onto Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter and determine how many potential buyers have profiles. Take a look at what they are messaging about. There will be some profiles that are inactive, so you will want to estimate the percentage that is active.

For example, if you find that 100,000 profiles are active, you have an idea of how many potential buyers are there for your company to reach.

Finally, check out the accounts for the conferences and trade shows in your industry, and look at the hashtags of the conferences. This will give you a good sense of the conversation within the industry. Now you’ve got a good foundation to being creating a B2B content marketing program, become a thought leader in your industry, and start moving the sales needle.

For details on that, let’s head over to the next chapter!

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