We’re well into an era in which anyone who goes online is bombarded with ads. Ads on social media often sit unobtrusively within the feed, but generally online ads have become such a nuisance for many users that between 25 and 40% of internet users worldwide, and nearly 2/3 of Millennials, report using ad-blocking software or browser extensions. Ads, like other traditional forms of marketing, do little more than shout, “buy my stuff!” But as the statistics show, internet users, especially younger ones, are wary of being advertised to.
So what is a business to do? Turn to social media? Social media accounts that offer nothing beyond self-promotional posts get little in the way of user engagement, as this is just a cheaper way for businesses to say “buy my stuff!” People need a reason to follow an account. If you want attention—and more importantly, sales—in 2022 and beyond, it’s important to use your social media accounts and web presence not to self-promote, but to create content that adds value to your customers’ lives.
Marketing by creating content that provides value to potential customers, helps them solve problems, and offers actionable advice is called content marketing. Content marketing takes the form of articles, blog posts, social media posts, videos, and even podcasts and ebooks covering topics relevant to your business and to your customers. The purpose of content marketing is to establish your expertise, create brand awareness, and above all, demonstrate to potential customers that you understand their needs and know how to solve their problems.
B2C brands have already embraced content marketing, but it is just as valuable a tool for B2B businesses. 75% of B2B buyers consult social media when researching a purchase, while nearly half view 3 to 5 pieces of content before making a decision to buy. Content marketing can move those buyers closer to choosing your business at every step of the buyer’s journey. Here are some tips to help you get started in B2B content marketing.
Consumers trust individuals more than advertisers and professional reviewers. That’s why more and more companies are turning to employee advocates to get the word out on social media. Let them use their networks to talk about the company and its products. If the average consumer is already resistant to being advertised to, the people making purchases for other companies will be even more wary. The word of an enthusiastic employee, someone who really believes in what you are doing, resonates with customers more than an advertisement or a finely crafted PR message from an executive.
Content marketing works best when there’s a lot of it. Don’t just put something on Facebook once a week; maintain a blog on your website, create video content such as how-to videos on YouTube, or regularly engage with colleagues on Twitter and LinkedIn, as well. Experiment with different social media channels until you find the ones that work for you, but don’t feel like you have to spend all your time maintaining six different accounts. Figure out which ones work best for your business and stick to 3 or 4. And that leads us to our next suggestion…
As you try out different content channels, think about which ones are most effective. What’s getting the most clicks? What type of content generates the most leads, and how many of those leads turn into sales? Maybe you decided to put out a podcast where you share your industry expertise. Is it worth the time and effort you have to put into producing it? Is anyone listening to it? It might take months to catch on, and even then, it might be hard to know if it’s really generating leads. While you might instantly get a lot of engagement on social media posts, other forms of content marketing are a little more difficult to assess.
When creating content, keep your audience in mind. Solicit input from your sales team. What problems do your customers often bring up? What questions do they always seem to have for your salespeople? What makes them hesitant about doing business with you? Articles, blogs, and social media posts addressing these pain points will go a long way to bringing in new customers. Remember that content marketing is about creating value for potential customers more than it is advertising your products.
You have experience and wisdom to share. You understand the problems of buyers and you know how your business can help solve them. If you can also listen to your salespeople and stay abreast of hot topics in your niche, you can create content that establishes your expertise and credibility in your field, which translates to leads, and ultimately, to sales.