Creating B2B Content for Your Small Business (SMB)
When your B2B marketing plan is in place, the actual content creation phase can start. Research has shown that the content creation is seen as one of the biggest challenges for small businesses in marketing. It’s not just authors who suffer from ‘writers block’, entrepreneurs, consultants, business owners and actually complete organizations face this challenge.
Creating content in itself is challenging, however, due to the rapid growth of content marketing initiatives, distinctive content is becoming more and more important. When content becomes a repetition of previously published knowledge or facts, the added value is limited. Providing content of high quality, with unique characteristics, increases its appeal. So how to get started as SMB?
This blog pays attention to various content types for B2B content marketing, the relationship between these content types and how small businesses can create them.
7 B2B Content Formats for SMBs
The most commonly used organization of content types is that according to format. The overview below offers an impression of different content formats that can be used to get across messages.
|Text||Blogs, columns, white papers, reports, background articles, point of views, interviews, cases, methodology, plan of action, checklists, templates, news, books and e-books|
|Visuals||Cartoons, photos, infographics, charts, flowcharts, presentations|
|Moving media||Videos, animations, webcast, demos and talkshows|
|Events||Conferences, roundtables, seminars, masterclasses, company parties, information sessions and product launches|
|Virtual events||Video webinars, slideshow-webinars, online talk shows, virtual conferences and live streams|
|Audio||Podcasts, music and radio shows|
|Interactive formats||Games, comparisons, scans, communities, social media|
In our blog Buyer Journey Content Mapping we discuss which content formats can best be applied for which purpose. The effectiveness of a format depends very much on the message and the audience, but also, of course, on the quality of the content and reach of the audience. It’s impossible to single out one format or offer advice on the best application thereof. It is possible however, to logically link content formats to the buyer journey. In order to stimulate the discovery process trend analyses, vision and infographics can be suitable. The discovery phase, however, lends itself to formats that can transmit more in-depth messaging, for example, white papers, checklists and demos.
Re-use, curation and cohesion
As time is an obstacle for any small business, here is some good news. In a carefully considered content marketing plan, efforts in the area of content production are optimized by cleverly determining possibilities for re-use and cohesion with different productions, to reinforce the message. Content can be re-used in various ways. A largescale content production can, for example, be divided up in a series of smaller productions or in a different context. Consider, for example, splitting up a white paper into blogs, an action plan and a checklist. Or dividing a long video interview up into short, specific Q&A shots. A change of formats of the same production can also be applied. An example of this is organizing a webinar based on market research, or making a SlideShare e-book from a white paper.
Content curation can also be effectively deployed to enrich your own content and raise the level of cohesion. Content curation includes: re-using external content. There is so much content out there on the web that it can be a useful exercise to make use of this through content curation.
The most well-known and accessible form of curation is, for example, retweeting relevant content for the audience to keep the Twitter account current and relevant. But curation comes in many shapes and sizes and the web offers a broad spectrum of tools for content curation, such as: Scoop.it, Scribble and SmartShoot.
A special category in the various content marketing tactics are the productions that involve an editorial formula, such as magazines, portals and large conferences. This involves issuing messages from a cohesive combination of different content types, tuned in to a specific target group. A magazine can, for example, contain a combination of background articles, interviews, columns, infographics and cartoons. A content marketing portal can be used for blogs, white papers, expert profiles, e-books and webinars. Production with an editorial formula as its base, often involves long-term objectives and are aimed at establishing ‘fixed value’ for the target group. The starting point provides focus, which is essential to successfully run a small business.
This is also the area in which marketing shares the most common ground with the world of publishing. Where many publishers with declining ads and changing demand reconsider their business models in terms of the advertiser revenue, brands actually now consider the publishing framework they can implement in order to give their messaging shape and connect their target audiences. Various experts claim that companies now need to think like publishers and that, in future, publishers will be owned by big brands. They, after all, have the budget, and it’s in their interest.
The actual creation of B2B content appears to be one of the most important marketing challenges for small and medium-sized businesses. This has repeatedly been demonstrated in international research. A common argument is lack of time, but if B2B marketing is established as a strategic means in your SMB of achieving economic growth, this is merely an excuse. Creating B2B content is a new task and should be accounted for, even if it is at the expense of other activities. Therefore, it is a question of good management, and setting priorities.
In order to manage the production of content, it’s sensible to work according to an editorial calendar. It contains a schedule for the planning of content that is to be developed. Items that should be included in this calendar are, for example:
- Deadline: date by which the content item must be finished.
- Working title: brief title description of the content item.
- Owner: person responsible for the production of the item.
- Message: the customer question which should be answered in the messaging.
- Target group: the DMU members or buyer personas at which the content is aimed at.
- Format: the content format (article, white paper, blog, video, webinar etc.).
- Conversion: the desired call-to-action on the content, for example a download, response, ‘like’ or subscription.
|Deadline||Working title||Owner||Message||Target group||Format||Conversion|
From content to communication channel
Content is produced to be consumed. The bridge to consumption is the communication channel. Content and channel, therefore, must match. Complementarity and separation between content and channel used to be evident. A commercial was made for TV, an ad for a magazine or newspaper, a banner for a website and direct mail in the post. The message was largely spread through the acquisition of media.
The rise of content marketing has blurred the lines in one-on-one interaction and the division between content and channel. Content can be created for multiple channels and the channel can form part of the content itself. For example, is an in-depth blog optimized for search engines a content type or a channel? Is an e-book optimized for SlideShare a content type or channel? By placing the emphasis on content that is relevant for the target group via editorial formulas, the importance of in-house media channels increases. Content and channel co-exist and morph. Our blog ‘How to Plan Owned, Earned and Paid Media for B2B Content Marketing’, goes in more detail on this topic.
5 B2B Content formats in text form
Paper is forbearing. Despite the fact that visual content is gaining ground, written content remains one of the most important content formats. Written content comes in many different shapes: from brief quotes to extensive books. Every format has its own set of characteristics, pros and cons. A big pro for text formats is that all you need to get started with content creation as a small business is a topic, some time and a computer.
The most well-known text format in modern marketing is the blog – quickly adopted by consumers in the rise of the internet and later adopted by the business world. The word blog is derived from the term weblog and is comparable to an online logbook. A blog gives people in your small of medium-sized business the opportunity to create an online podium for sharing knowledge or progress. Blogs are increasingly used commercially, in a creative way, to spar about industry ins and outs and to demonstrate products and services offered by your SMB to your customers.
A blog can be included on a company website, or be presented as part of a separate channel. For example, a WordPress-, Blogger- or Joomla- account. These are tools used for creating blogs in a preferred design and format. Moreover, a blog enhances brand awareness and SEO performance in Google and other search machines.
When the objective for the blog is to structurally appeal to an audience, then it is vital to blog consistently. If the audience has to wait too long for a blog update, the engagement declines. A good blog consists of short paragraphs. By referring to previous blogposts by your small business, ideas can be reinforced and highlighted. A blog usually contains between 300 and 450 words and makes use of images and powerful headers for each paragraph. But you can also produce ‘long reads’ and go into more depth. A blog can offer a colored view, and, you can entice readers through a catchy title.
Another way of sharing knowledge is to write white papers. The term white paper originally came from politics: it includes objective documents to backup decision making. The term was adopted by the IT sector and essentially a white paper is a substantive document of knowledge. A white paper written by a company, of course, is never completely objective, but the primary goal is always to share knowledge, for example regarding a particular vision, development or process.
A white paper should therefore not be written as a commercial document, it should primarily be written to provide answers to particular questions from potential customers.
Aimed at specific target group
Specific problem / theme
Lively, visual and to the point
|Pitch products & services|
Lack of focus
Praising the portfolio
Dry, boring and long
A white paper – usually between 8 and 12 pages long – gives an opportunity to discuss a topic at length and in detail. Publishing white papers positions your SMB as a thought leader. Naturally, it’s of great importance that the author captures the right tone-of-voice and content.
When writing a white paper, it’s important to make a target group analysis. Consider which challenges your target group is faced with. Research topics, potential solutions and developments that are aligned with this. In-depth knowledge of your audience and their challenges ensures that you can create useful content such as checklists and a list of pitfalls. In order to improve readability, make use of images and charts and use short paragraphs with descriptive headers. Furthermore, it is important to make a clear introduction, conclusion and summary, for those who wish to scan through the white paper. Make sure these parts are written as to entice people and reach them in the right way.
The white paper is a commonly used content format for generating leads. In exchange for downloading, readers must provide information. In this way, you can make contact with readers that are interested in a particular topic for which you have published content. It’s also possible to put the white paper on SlideShare, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media channels. By sharing knowledge via qualitative white papers, you position your SMB as a knowledge owner.
Industry knowledge can also be shared in the form of a report. What distinguishes a white paper from a report is the research aspect of the document. The word report is derived from the verb reporting: to report. Therefore a report, is an account of, for example, a development, trend or a situation, based on research and/or analysis. This could be market research, a survey or desk research.
A report should also have a neutral tone. Reports are written in the third person and in active form. Avoid long sentences and, as much possible, the use of adjectives. Be as brief as possible and make use of catchy headers for paragraphs. Select suitable charts, tables and images for your report, in order to engage readers visually.
A report can also be shared in different ways, for example via the website, a newsletter and various social media channels. A report that contains particular newsworthy findings can also be a good way to generate media attention.
Writing a book as part of a content marketing tactic is a huge challenge. It exceeds all previous text formats in terms of effort, in breadth and in depth. A book of your own organization, though, does give an in-depth expression of the knowledge and experience on offer. Furthermore a book can highlight a topic from all angles, through which potential prospects with a variety of questions can gain knowledge.
A good idea must be formed first in order to write a book. There also needs to be a sufficient amount of knowledge and expertise available to carry out the idea. Subsequently, discipline and a writing process is necessary to guarantee production.
An e-book is essentially a digital version of a book. The term e-book, however, often includes collections and bundles of previously published articles, blogs or white papers. Easy-access to technology means that in this way, existing copies can be given a new content form. The e-book then allows for extra exposure and the possibility to discuss different topics within your chosen field.
Digital media presents the possibility to backup text with, for example, video, audio or interactive graphics. Such e-books can be made accessible and can easily be shared via SlideShare.
Action plans, checklists, do’s and don’ts
Brief, practical documents often do well in campaigns for generating leads. Potential buyers are often interested in action plans, checklists and overviews of do’s and don’ts. Besides the added value they provide for many target groups, this type of content is often easy to create. Furthermore, such content can be re-used in white papers, e-books, blogs and quotes.
A practical document commonly used in the IT sector, is the RFP or RFI template. In making selections for software packages, often there will need to be a so-called request for proposal (RFP) or request for information (RFI). Through such a document, the buying party will invite a selection of providers to submit information or tender. An established RFP, should be as complete as possible for a buying party; no functionality can be left out. When the software provider provides an RFP template, the buyer is provided with practical input. Of course, additional information can be provided in the RFP that is to follow.
Does your small business rely on professionals with relevant knowledge on the same subject, with whom you’d like to create content? Then another possibility is to work on content in a shared wiki. A wiki is a web app in which various people can work on a knowledge document. The most well-known of these is of course, Wikipedia. The advantage of a wiki is that the text is written by multiple professionals, which means the text includes more knowledge than if it were written by an individual. The disadvantage is that the text will consist of different styles of writing and will be in need of editing.
Writing for the web
A number of aspects need to be taken into consideration when it comes writing text for the web. Writing a web text starts with a catchy, descriptive title. The title is the first thing a reader encounters and should prevent him or her from clicking away. Readers online can be quickly distracted by ads or banners surrounding the text. Readers online are constantly prickled by buttons, ads and other links. For this reason, it’s important to keep engaging the reader by writing text that is as short and catchy as possible.
- Make a target group analysis for the audience you wish to engage.
- Set up a brainstorming session to discuss a fun topic.
- Consider the content type in which you wish to publish your story. Think for example of, white papers, blogs or articles. You can also choose to make use of a white paper, divided up and published as blogs.
- Start the text with an enticing introduction, which briefly describes the contents of the text. Try to trigger readers with the introduction, so that they are interested in the rest of the story.
- Always make use of visual aspects in your content, such as images, charts and graphs. Colors and images trigger people to read further and give rise to curiosity.
- Construct your text using short paragraphs with a catchy header in which one subject is highlighted. Don’t make the paragraphs too long, use no more than 70 to 100 words per paragraph.
- Write engaging, active content that triggers a call-to-action. The knowledge you offer is not there just to be shared, but also to trigger prospects to behave differently.
- Refer to other content types, social media channels and online platforms in your web text, making your content cross-media and fully optimized.
- Write consistently and use one tense, do not mix past tense and future tense. In order to trigger readers, it’s important to write flowing text, but beware: avoid the use of fashionable language.
Cohesion between content
This blog discussed various types of textual content often used in content marketing plans. The production should also include the process of examining cohesion between various content types, as well as the content in itself. When you write a white paper for example, you can also use it for the production of various blogs. A research report can be combined with a webinar on the topic. By re-using messaging and the selected content formats, you can develop a broader content set, through which you can achieve greater interaction and exposure.