Read on for a comprehensive guide to B2B content marketing based on the experiences of a legal SaaS startup
As Marketing Operations Coordinator at MerusCase — a SaaS, cloud-based legal practice management company — the majority of the work that I do is focused on B2B content marketing to generate inbound traffic.
For those who are new to the world of marketing, content marketing is a practice that involves creating and distributing content that inspires current and potential customers to both share your content and respond to your Call to Action.
This means that a content marketer’s strategy is mostly focused on producing content that is genuinely useful to the reader as opposed to blasting Internet users with untargeted PPC advertisements and discount codes.
In everything that our marketing team does, and through every piece of content we produce, we’re always thinking about our end goal: how is this going to move a user to take action?
This “action,” although it may differ for every piece of content, is generally constructed by having extensive knowledge of the customer’s journey, their pain points, and how MerusCase can address those pain points.
For us, this means understanding the law firm business model, how technology can be used to make lawyers’ lives easier and improve their firms, and then framing MerusCase as the technology that meets those needs without reservation.
Ultimately our approach to B2B content marketing is three-fold: thought leadership, product marketing, and support-based.
The world of legal technology is in an interesting place right now. Although there are so many products on the market, there are very few that are actually cloud-based. Moreover, products that provide a full suite of solutions for law firm management are incredibly few and far between.
Instead, many case management products still rely on bulky server rooms or endless integrations with other products in order for lawyers to have a fully functional network of systems.
That’s where the MerusCase approach is different: our company believes that it’s integral to provide an exhaustive suite of features for total practice management.
With such dissenting beliefs about the current state of legal technology, establishing our brand and company leadership as thought leaders is an important part of our approach to B2B content marketing.
This includes producing blog posts, webinars, white papers, comparison charts, and guides that highlight our controversial views, showcase our expertise, allow us to provide value to the market, and enable us to forge connections with other like-minded companies and individuals in the industry.
I’m constantly interacting with bloggers and thought leaders on Twitter, having coffee with marketing teams from like-minded companies in the Bay Area, and co-authoring content that both audiences can benefit from.
For us at MerusCase and within the B2B realm as a whole, this thought leadership is really about having a dialogue with other stakeholders in the industry, not just a one-way monologue about our beliefs and about how “great our company is.”
The product marketing aspect of our B2B content marketing strategy is molded by knowing our target market, having a deep understanding of the legal tech marketing landscape, and understanding what our competitors are doing to generate success.
Most importantly, it’s essential that our marketing team is able to help equip our sales team with the data they need to be successful.
This means that we should be able to share which content a lead interacted with on our website, what kinds of emails they’ve received, and where we think they might be on their decision-making journey.
Moreover, it’s widely known that the B2B customer journey and decision-making process is typically more drawn out, which means that our marketing department needs to be effective at not only generating leads, but sustaining the interest of leads as well.
With law firms, it can be difficult to get past the gatekeeper, so it’s our job to continually create content that reaches attorneys directly (i.e. content that inspires attorneys to get a demo of our software).
Finally, we need to be able to bring leads back into our marketing funnel even after they decide they aren’t interested in our product.
From here, it’s our job to ensure that we’re directing our B2B content marketing toward their pain points — showing them how MerusCase can help them solve their firm’s issues and ultimately grow.
In everything that we do, our underlying belief is that we’re consultants, first. We strive to work together with our clients in order to empower them as they integrate MerusCase into the work they do in their firms.
This particular branch of our B2B content marketing strategy is especially important as it enables us to assist our clients in a way that extends beyond the traditional support model of, “Oh, you have a problem? Well, let me just do it for you and get you back up and running ASAP.”
Instead, we focus on arming users with the tools that they need to constantly innovate on their own processes, helping them to work smarter, not harder, with MerusCase by their side.
Additionally, we believe in treating people like people, something that is so often lost in B2B content marketing.
It’s easy to see how companies can get caught up in the automation of social media, email marketing, and the like, as they bury themselves in data to the point that they forget that they’re actually marketing to humans.
Support and retention-based marketing is an opportunity to nurture current customers by providing webinars, knowledge base articles, and blog posts specifically aimed at helping them to increase their knowledge of MerusCase.
This also includes consulting on any firm management issues they might be dealing with and constantly generating content that helps all users with their own professional development.
B2B Content Marketing vs. B2C Content Marketing
On the most basic level, B2B content marketing differs in several ways from that of business-to-consumer.
We’ve found that long-form content resonates best with our audience.
Whereas, in the world of B2C, long-form content definitely has a time and place, but short, timely pieces usually see fast results with less effort.
Quality vs. Quantity
This reinforces our belief in producing quality, compelling content over a large quantity of content.
Although we try to never post less than 1,000 words, we know that our readership is busy. If the content isn’t awesome, and if it isn’t truly worth their time to read, we’re not doing ourselves any favors by posting it.
According to HubSpot’s data, B2B companies generally see a greater ROI on their blogging when posting at least 11 times per month. For us, we’ve definitely found this to be true!
With so many other things for B2B marketers to focus on, it’s easy for blogging to be overlooked and put on the back burner when you don’t see immediate, monetary results.
That said, the value of a content calendar is not something to be misjudged: planning out our content well in advance, assigning writers, and sticking to a schedule is the perfect way for us to make sure that we’re consistently producing two to three pieces of fresh content per week.
Role of Research
Another difference that we see in B2B content marketing?
Our copy generally needs to be serious and factual in order to appeal to our readership, filled with references and sources where appropriate and speaking to more tangible concepts.
Our tone, on the other hand, isn’t overtly affected by our target audience. Instead, it is guided by the content marketing status we hope to (someday) achieve.
As a company, it’s important to come off as authentic. Your content should inspire leads to take action (read: convert), but it shouldn’t feel like a 24/7/365 stream of sales pitches.
The Lost Art of Strategy
B2B content marketing requires strategy; without it, you’re left poking around in the dark, not completely sure of where you’re going or how you’re going to get there, which greatly limits the impact of your marketing efforts.
This is largely because the digital world is so over-saturated with content that, in order for your content to be read, you need to find a way to cut through the noise and stand out.
The need for B2B content marketing strategy is also due to the fact that, when dealing with other businesses (law firms, in our case), decision-makers already have so much going on in their work lives that reading extraneous content isn’t a top priority.
Lucky for us, lawyers do tend to be readers, but it’s still important that we address these readers in a way that makes it worth their time to read!
According to data from the Content Marketing Institute, only 35% of B2B content marketers say that they have a documented marketing strategy and only 21% claim that they are successful at tracking and measuring ROI.
For many marketers, measurement is lacking (or incorrectly focused), ideas aren’t being tested against each other, and data isn’t being used to make sound marketing decisions.
Now that consumers have so much power to control what they see on their screens as far as advertising goes and a large part of the buyer’s journey is conducted by self-study on the Internet, it’s more crucial than ever that marketers turn away from gut decision-making.
Instead, we must get our hands dirty in data, using numbers and cents to drive our decisions.
Marketing can feel like an incredible waste of time if your efforts aren’t producing the expected ROI.
But how do you know what your ROI is if you’re not tracking anything? And how do you know whether or not your ROI is good unless you’re measuring your ROI against KPIs?
At MerusCase, we find it important to take the time to track and review our analytics daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly. Ultimately, we’re able to use these analytics to determine which channels are creating the most sales leads, what our customer acquisition cost (CAC) is for each channel, which channels are becoming a money suck, and so much more.
In addition, all of these numbers help guide us towards smarter marketing investments — investments we wouldn’t necessarily know how to make if we weren’t tracking accurate data.
Finding and Reaching Your Audience
One of the most difficult parts of developing a B2B content marketing strategy is figuring out how to reach your customers.
At MerusCase, we’ve seen this play out in our social media strategy. For example, earlier this year, I decided to start a Pinterest account for the company, hoping that it would be useful for widely distributing our content.
After just a few months of investing time into Pinterest, I started to realize that the ROI couldn’t hold a candle to some of our more successful channels. At that point, it became glaringly obvious that I needed to ditch Pinterest and spend more time reaching customers where they already exist — in our case, Twitter.
If you’re a business that’s just starting out, social media might be an easy, inexpensive, and obvious place to start, but how do you know which social networks to invest in?
You might think “the more the merrier.” However, unless you have enough human power to devote 100% to each network, you’re diluting your marketing efforts, not bolstering them.
That said, it’s essential to understand where your customers already exist on the Internet (versus trying to bring the customers to you), how to segment them, and how to market to each segment of your potential customer base.
The best way to take the deep dive into target marketing is to start tracking your analytics in detail. From using a system like Google Analytics to something like Optimizely for A/B testing, you should be using every piece of content as an opportunity for your customers to tell you what they best respond to.
Having an understanding of each of these items helps funnel you towards an answer to the overarching B2B content marketing question: How can I drive my potential customers to action?
Distribution as a Driver of Growth
Of course, pouring hour after hour of time into creating content doesn’t do much good if you’re unable to get any eyes on said content.
Everyone digests information in different ways, so it’s crucial to format your content not once, not twice, but at least three times whenever possible, as we did with our Cloud-Based Case Management Comparison Chart.
This means that, if you write a blog post on a certain topic, you should reformat that post into a Slideshare presentation or infographic, and then use that in an email send. Why waste time creating new content before leveraging your current content to its maximum capacity?
Make Sharing Easy
Another important part of distribution is to make sharing your content easy.
A few of the tactics we use to increase shareability are, first, that we include “Share This Post” links for every social media network at the bottom of our blog posts.
Finally, we’ve optimized our landing pages (such as the one for our MerusCase template creation webinar) so that, when someone clicks on “Email to a Friend” it generates a pre-created email for them. All they have to do is type in their colleague’s email address and click “Send.”
Overall, no matter how you decide to go about your B2B content marketing, it’s important to remember that people — your potential customers — don’t exist in a vacuum.
No matter how much effort marketers put into predicting the path that leads will take towards becoming customers, if we focus too much on a stiff and structured path, we’ll miss endless micro-conversion opportunities (such as Twitter mentions and blog comments). And we mustn’t forget that each and every micro-conversion brings your lead one step closer to a win.
The ultimate lesson we’ve learned about B2B content marketing over the years? Flexibility is essential.
Sometimes you may not be able to figure out which particular campaign will outperform your other campaigns. But if you can recognize success at an early stage and capitalize on its momentum, you’re well on your way to finding B2B content marketing success.