Building A Realist’s B2B Content Marketing Strategy
BY John Miller
November 29, 2023

If you’ve worked in B2B content marketing for any time you’ve probably been using some flavor of a very popular playbook—a focus on SEO and inbound marketing designed to capture email addresses. I’m sure it was more complex than that and your particular organization had its own nuanced approach, but that was probably the loose framework for what you’ve done.

Well, as you look ahead to building your content marketing strategy for next year, you might want to think about switching things up.

Cuz that ship is sailing away.

There are a number of reasons why the strategy of yesterday appears to be on its last legs:

  • Your customers have become very skeptical of gated content, and are hesitant to surrender their email for your eBook.
  • AI is slow-motion strangling SEO. Search Generative Experience, anyone?
  • Increasingly, social media platforms punish posts that link off platform.

So if you can’t drive people to your website through social media or SEO, and even when you do manage to do that they won’t surrender their email to you, how can you build community? Even if you focus on high-quality thought leadership and leave the salesy SEO gibberish to others, how do you get people to engage?

Clearly, we need a new approach.

We need to stop playing follow the leader and be the leader.

Here is a six point framework for building your new content marketing strategy—one that actually works in the real world today.

Don’t fight the LinkedIn algorithm; use the LinkedIn algorithm.

We’re talking about B2B marketing here, so LinkedIn is almost certainly part of your distribution and promotion mix.

Some facts: LinkedIn’s algorithm prioritizes humans over companies. It punishes posts with external links. And people who are scrolling through LinkedIn most likely want to stay on LinkedIn, rather than link out to your website.

All of this means that you have to refocus your strategy to have conversations on LinkedIn (and maybe some other places too; more on that in a moment). Yes, this means you have less line of sight into how prospects are interacting with your content and where they are in the buyer’s journey. 

Deemphasize the importance of website traffic.

I know, this is scary. 

But three vitally important splashes of reality for you: 

  1. Over the last several years, we’ve all become conditioned to consume content in-feed on social networks. 
  2. Google is less and less interested in sending traffic to your website; they’ve been providing answers to questions on SERPs for years, and now their Search Generative Experience is a bold step in giving people the answer they’re looking for without going to your website. 
  3. As mentioned above, the social networks that often serve as a starting point for would-be customers are trying very hard not to send people off platform. 

We have to acknowledge these new realities. We need to retrain the leadership of our companies about the decreasing importance of website traffic—we’ve spent most of the last two decades reporting on website traffic and reinforcing that this was important. 

This will be a hard conversation. Err… series of conversations. 

Identify the watering holes where your customers hang out.

LinkedIn is one of the watering holes. Where else do they get information? 

Vertical industry media? Try to get your content placed there.

Trade shows? Don’t just go for the backslapping and gladhanding. Present your thought leadership content; if you do it right you’ll have instant credibility. 

Somewhere else? Figure it out, and figure out how to get involved.

Identify the influencers your customers pay attention to.

Influencer marketing has been a thing in B2C for a while, and it’s time we steal the basics of that idea and try to gain access to those audiences.

This is not a B2C-style transactional affiliate marketing-type relationship. But there are certainly some people in your industry who are thought leaders. How can you engage with them? Maybe it starts as simply as leadership at your company commenting on their LinkedIn posts. 

Assuming they aren’t your direct competition, maybe even do something in tandem with them—a podcast, a webinar, whatever.

Keep creating great content.

It’s tempting to think that we’re in a “post-content world” for B2B marketing. People have been saying for years that “nobody reads anymore.” And that “there’s already too much content.” And now they’re saying that “we can just have AI create content for us.”

There’s some truth in all three of those statements, but what it really means is that the bar is higher. Your content has to be phenomenal and different to get people’s attention. Sure, I‘m biased, but now is not the time to skimp on high-quality content.

The best content puts your thinking on the record, demonstrates your smarts, prioritizes authenticity and showcases your company’s personality.

That’s a tall order.

Be patient.

We marketers have gotten ourselves into trouble by trying to rush prospects through our sales process.

No customer wants this. They’ve been in control of the seller-buyer relationship for close to two decades, and they are exerting that control more than ever before. If you try to force them through your sales funnel, they will balk. 

Stop calling everyone who downloads an eBook a marketing qualified lead. Don’t barrage them with a drip campaign that hits them every day. 

Just. Slow. Down.

You’ve likely seen some version of the statistic that says 80 percent of the B2B buyer’s journey happens before Sales knows the customer is interested. The customer values that 80 percent. That’s the part where they’re fully in control. I know it’s frustrating, and you have goals to reach, but you’re doing more harm than good when you try to rush the process.

Creating your new content strategy using these guidelines will likely be a shock to the system. But technology shifts and evolving customer behavior have not given us a choice. 

We have to change. This is the way.

Let’s talk about growing your company.

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