B2B: How to draw a line from marketing to sales

The Globe Content Studio's guide to content marketing success

blog-1By Sean Stanleigh

I recently judged a business competition and one of the presenting companies was founded to help lawyers prospect corporate clients. It leverages automation technology to comb online sources and supply content feeds containing information about industries relevant to each lawyer’s area of expertise.

The assets can be shared on social channels or in newsletters and other correspondence, saving the time and effort required for a human to search them out. The payoffs are assists on the business-development and relationship-building fronts.

What does this startup’s technology not do? Draw a direct line to signing new clients. It’s a content marketing tool to capture leads and generate interest. Sales cycles in the B2B space have a long tail and this is one step in the process. It takes, on average, seven to 10 touchpoints to close B2B deals, and they can be up to a year in the making.

Here are the key elements of a successful B2B marketing strategy:

Your website

This is where you want prospects to land, which means all advertising and marketing efforts should ultimately lead here. The design should be clean and attractive, optimized for mobile and desktop, and easy to navigate.

Be sure to include multiple contact options, background on your business and its employees, and details on pricing for products or services.

Now you need to ‘sell’ customers on why to visit, and that’s where a regular cadence of shared or produced content comes in. You’ll have better luck drawing potential clients to pages that provide a net benefit, which in this case is information related to your industry. Think of your article pages as individual home pages, containing links to relevant sales material.

Content

Insights and thought leadership will position your business as a leading expert in its field. Like the legal startup, you can share third-party content from news or trade media, or reports and white papers from non-competitive sources.

But to have the greatest impact you should craft your own material, or hire a provider such as Globe Content Studio to create high-quality storytelling that features staff voices on issues that will engage prospective buyers. An external creative team also gives you a three-fold advantage: Content can live on other sites in addition to your own to extend audience reach, you can boost volume beyond your internal capabilities, and an outside perspective reduces tendencies to lay the sell on too thick. Subtle integration is best.

Content also provides an opportunity to fill the sales funnel. Request email addresses in exchange for articles, reports or infographics, or for quizzes or tools related to that content, and use them to build a newsletter database and for other retargeting efforts.

SEO and SEM

Search engines use spiders or crawlers to find pages that match user queries. What would a prospect search if they were looking for your product or service? Bear in mind that people are honest and direct when they ask Google a business-related question. SEO targets keywords from content on your pages, including story text, URLs and image descriptions.

The more clicks, the higher your organic ranking. The more content you create, the more opportunities audiences have to find you.

Nothing is free, of course. SEM or search-engine marketing allows you to pay to further boost your results. Be consistent with your keywords across your content spectrum to maximize your spend.

blog-2Social

LinkedIn is the by far best choice for B2B marketing on social media. Audiences are there specifically to connect, learn and discover information pertaining to their fields of expertise. It’s also the last big organic social channel standing. You can still create a strong brand presence by actively sharing industry-related content on your channel.

Likes, shares and comments are a guide to your success. Learn what content works and what doesn’t. Be an active participant. Join groups and weigh in on discussions. As with SEO, you should consider paid extensions to fully realize LinkedIn’s strong targeting capabilities. The cost-per-click is higher than other channels, but content is more appealing than traditional advertising outreach and should help deliver efficiencies.

Analytics

As content marketing supports your efforts to lead clients down the garden path toward sales, data is your guide. Key points to measure include page views, average time spent, unique visitors, and sources of web traffic to your site. Over time you can adjust your content topics accordingly. Vendors such as Globe Content Studio provide analytics related to any content you host on their platforms, and combining these insights with your own is a powerful combination.

Tools such as Google Analytics are a good starting point, but as you boost content volumes and sophistication, it might be worth considering Sophi, The Globe and Mail’s automated content curation and predictive analytics platform. It uses artificial intelligence and natural language processing to remove guesswork from content decisions and promote optimization based on your business KPIs.

Final thing to remember

Consistency is everything. Stick with what works, ditch what doesn’t.

Sean Stanleigh is head of Globe Content Studio. Follow him @seanstanleigh on Twitter and @sstanleigh on Instagram. Contact the Studio at GCS@globeandmail.com