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The B2B Content Marketing Derby: When & Where to Place Strategic Bets

Posted on May 2nd, 2019
Written by TopRank Marketing
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  • The B2B Content Marketing Derby: When & Where to Place Strategic Bets
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    When & Where to Place Smart B2B Content Marketing Bets

    The Kentucky Derby has long been referred to as the fastest and most exciting two minutes in sports. And when it comes to your B2B content marketing efforts, getting your audience to sit on the edge of their seats, glued to your content for two whole minutes can be a major feat.

    To generate Kentucky-Derby-like attention for your B2B brand, your content marketing strategy needs to leverage the right tactical mix for your audience, industry, product mix, and objectives. However, over the last decade, the content marketing field has become crowded and even convoluted with hopeful tactical and strategic champions. The field has evolved from traditional winners like blogging and eBooks to include a new breed of favorites like influencer marketing, interactive content, and more.

    So, when and where should you place your B2B content marketing bets? Read on to learn about the latest content marketing tactics and their odds of putting your brand in the winner’s circle.

    The B2B Content Marketing Derby Contenders

    1. Old Reliable

    What: Blogging

    Racing record: Blogging is the trusty content marketing steed: It’s Old Reliable, with origins dating back some 25 years. With the right audience focus and SEO insight, blogging allows B2B marketers to consistently create relevant, quality, best-answer content for every stage of the buyer’s journey.

    But having been the reliable favorite for so many years, the blogging field has become crowded and fiercely competitive. Anyone and everyone can have a blog—and topical and target keyword overlap with your direct (and indirect) competitors is inevitable. In fact, the number of bloggers in the United States alone is expected to reach 31.7 million by 2020.

    via GIPHY

    Odds: Old Reliable is a smart bet for your content strategy if you have dreams of creating a consistent content drumbeat to educate your audience at multiple stages of the funnel. For the best odds, SEO—another favorite content marketing stud—needs to be part of your blog ideation, creation, and ongoing optimization. This helps ensure you’re creating data-informed blog content around keywords and topic clusters that can boost search visibility and capitalize on white space.

    Read: Nearly 3 Years Later, Antea Group USA Still Seeing Triple-Digit Growth Thanks to SEO-Driven B2B Content Marketing Strategy

    2. Hollywood Heartthrob

    What: Video Marketing

    Racing record: Over the last few years, video has become a top consumption channel for audiences. Now that bingeing TV shows and movies on streaming services like YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime have become the norm, so too has bingeing video content on social media networks, Vimeo, TikTok, and others. Research supports this trend with 57% of consumers saying they want to see video content from brands. Plus:

    However, professionally produced video can be time, budget, and resource intensive. In addition, live video featuring more unscripted commentary and scenarios in the B2B space can be hard to get buy-in on.

    Odds: If you’re looking to bring your brand to life and infotain your audience, strategic use of video content, who we like to call Hollywood Heartthrob, is a horse to add to your betting roster.

    The key of course is choosing the right video content type and style to engage and nurture your audience, and align with and support your marketing goals. Generally speaking there are four video content marketing types:

    • Teasers
    • Trailers and Previews
    • Explainers
    • Video Essays and Companion Videos

    As far as keeping production costs down, there are plenty of free apps that can turn your phone into a studio any director would love. Vidyard is tool that can help you produce, publish, and track high quality videos without expensive equipment.

    As a more general rule for creating great video, you need to be able to tell a story—a story that doesn’t focus on hitting all your product talking points, according to seasoned B2B marketer and comedian, Tim Washer.

    “For example, we did a mini documentary for Cisco that showed how smaller service providers are serving third-world countries,” he mentioned in an interview. “It focused on how our customers are making a difference, and of course inferred that our technologies are helping them make that difference.”

    As a general rule for creating great video, you need to be able to tell a story—a story that doesn’t focus on hitting all your product talking points. @timwasher #B2BContentMarketing Share on X

    3. Fact Not Fiction

    What: Infographics

    Racing record: Infographics are loaded with information. But so is an encyclopedia. One of the best benefits of infographics is that they provide valuable information in an easy to read, easy to understand way. It pairs text-based information with data visualization, graphs, and pictures to help educate audiences. And it is for this reason that 40% of marketers listed infographics as their top performer for driving engagement.

    Odds: When it comes to educating your audience in a simple, easy to understand way, infographics are second to none. Plus, they’re extremely shareable, extending your reach to a larger audience. Fact Not Fiction is a smart bet for your content strategy when awareness and education are top of mind, or if you’re attempting to simplify a complex topic.

    4. The Proof Is in the Pudding

    What: Case Studies

    Racing record: Evidence is some of the most compelling content you can create. Testimonials, case studies, and reviews show audiences that your products and services actually work. It also allows them to envision themselves as a customer and see how they could benefit from similar services.

    According to the 2018 Demand Generation Benchmark Survey Report, 73% of marketers found case studies to be the most successful tactic for converting and accelerating leads in the middle and late stages of the funnel.

    Image credit: 2018 Demand Generation Benchmark Survey Report

    Odds: When prospects are in the consideration or conversion stage of the buyer journey, proof and evidence can help guide them towards a purchasing decision. If moving more buyers through the funnel means winning for your brand, relevant and insightful case studies are a great bet.

    5. One for the Record Books

    What: eBooks

    Racing record: According to the 2017 Demand Generation Content Preferences Survey Report, 63% of buyers are willing to share information about themselves (e.g. email addresses) in exchange for eBooks. By creating longer, more visual content through eBooks, studies show that eBooks are a great lead generation tactic. In addition, eBooks rank in the top five most effective content marketing tactics for both the top and middle of the funnel.

    Odds: One for the Record Books is able to last for miles, diving deep into a niche topic to further educate audiences and provide valuable information in great detail. This is helpful for both the top and middle of the funnel when education is key.

    When gated, eBooks are also great lead generation tools that open up new paths for audience nurturing—as long as the content delivers the kind of robust insight and value that warrants an exchange of information.

    Read: To Gate, or Not to Gate? Answers to an Age-Old Digital Marketing Question

    6. Social Butterfly

    What: Social Media Marketing

    Racing record: The number of active social media users is expected to reach 3.02 billion by 2021, according to Statista. And the average person spends nearly 2.5 hours on social media each day. If you want to meet your audience on their turf, social media marketing needs to be a part of your content marketing betting strategy.

    Because social media allows you to share content on a channel where your audience spends a great deal of time each day, there are opportunities for growing a following, building a community, delivering customer service, and boosting engagement.

    However, the social media ticket is evolving thanks to a few scandals, abuse concerns, and platform changes to aimed at enhancing the user experience. So, if you’re getting ready to double-down on your bet, go in with eyes wide open.

    Odds: Savvy B2B marketers said goodbye to organic-only social strategies built on “post it and they will come” a long time ago. But still, Social Butterfly can be a great community building tool for B2B brands if you’re providing relevant, thoughtful, and valuable content and insights.

    via GIPHY

    Take the time to research your audience’s content consumption preferences (e.g. leverage your website and social analytics, survey your existing customer base, etc.) to uncover patterns and top content types, as well as gauge which platforms deserve your care and attention.

    7. Dapper Don Draper

    What: Digital Advertising

    Racing record: Organic visibility and reach are anything but guaranteed on today’s content marketing track. But digital advertising can give you a competitive edge, supplementing your organic efforts at every stage of the buyer’s journey. Studies have shown digital ads to be an effective method of top of funnel lead generation and awareness with findings like:

    However, it’s important to note that a quarter of U.S. internet users blocking ads. The good news is that the real beauty of Dapper Don Draper is it’s versatility, with options including native text and video advertising, paid social, search, and display.

    Odds: With clearly defined objectives and the right content, Dapper Don Draper is a well-placed wager. Whether you’re breaking into a new market and need some quick brand awareness wins or you’re promoting a new interactive influencer asset, Triple D can help your other efforts win, place, and show.

    For the highest probability of generating results with your digital advertising, it’s important to use all of the audience targeting features available to you. In addition, native advertising units are very effective as they appear similar to the other content on the page.

    8. Black, White & Gray All Over

    What: SEO

    Racing record: SEO, which we’ve affectionately named Black, White & Gray All Over, has one of the longest and wide-ranging B2B content marketing records. She’s won some and certainly lost some, but her place in the B2B Content Strategy Derby Hall of Fame is confirmed. Why?

    Because as TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden has often said: “Content is the reason search began in the first place.” And according to Internet Live Stats, there’s currently an average of 40,000 Google searches every second. That’s the equivalent of 3.5 billion searches per day on Google alone. But search is growing more crowded by the second, with trillions of website pages already indexed and counting, and algorithms growing more sophisticated.

    Content is the reason search began in the first place. - @leeodden #B2BContentMarketing #SEO Share on X

    Odds: SEO is a fickle filly, with her training regime and environment evolving at the speed of machine learning. But she’s built for the long haul if the content jockey builds good rapport at all stages of the funnel.

    Increase your odds by regularly reviewing results and identifying opportunities to attention to optimize existing and future content to better match search intent, volume, competition, and more. In addition, look for white space that you can fill with relevant, best answer, SEO-informed content.

    9. On Good Authority

    What: Influencer Marketing

    Racing record: Influencer marketing, aka On Good Authority, burst on the content marketing scene a few years ago and has proven to be a rising star. In fact, Instagram influencer marketing is expected to hit $8 billion in spend by 2020. But that growth trajectory is not limited to consumer brands. B2B companies are also realizing the value of collaborating with influential thought leaders for marketing purposes and count the practice as one of the top 4 tactics planned for 2019.

    On Good Authority’s efficacy and worth have been questioned, but the results speak for themselves. (Checkout our cheat sheet of inspiring B2B influencer marketing examples.)

    Odds: Fast out of the gate with a strong finish, On Good Authority has great odds when it comes to increasing brand awareness, thought leadership, and even lead gen.

    But place your bets wisely. Topical relevance, for one thing, is absolutely critical. So, for the best chance of success with your influencer marketing programs, make sure you’re working with the right influencers that have the appropriate levels of expertise, relevance, and reach.

    10. All That and a Bag of Chips

    What: Interactive content

    Racing record: All That and a Bag of Chips is perhaps the prettiest horse in the race. It grabs attention. It encourages interaction. It improves the user experience. And it’s been known to work well with all of the other horses listed above. But just because this horse is a team player, doesn’t mean it’s not here to win.

    In fact, 87% of marketers agree that interactive content is more effective at grabbing attention than static content. Plus, one of our interactive campaigns drove three times the average share rate and a 500% increase in pageviews.

    Prophix Crush It Interactive Quiz

    Odds: If you’re looking to go bold at every stage of the funnel, All That and a Bag of Chips is as good as gold. To ensure that this horse is crossing the finish line first, consider pairing it with another horse in the race to slingshot it to victory.

    For example, create an interactive infographic, eBook, or influencer-driven landing page. You might just see your results compounded.

    Place Your B2B Content Marketing Bets

    To win big at the B2B Content Marketing Derby, the “watch and win” approach isn’t advised. You need to place smart bets on multiple horses, pairing them together and investing in different heats to hit your marketing goals.

    Depending on variables like budget, objectives, or time, any combination of the above contenders could win their way into your content strategy—there’s a time and a place for each of them. So, step on up and place your bets … wisely to win.

    via GIPHY

    Need a little help selecting your strategic bets? Follow this three-point checklist for documenting your B2B content strategy.