Content marketing and thought leadership of the B2B firm – how to plan strategically

Ivaylo Borisov, Dublin, Ireland

Written by Ivaylo Borisov

September 21, 2019

Content marketing is at the core of the marketing strategy for the B2B firm. As I often say, content marketing is one of the three pillars of B2B marketing – web site and blog, content and social media or primary owned internet platform, thought leadership, content distribution. And from the point of view of lead generation, obviously we need useful and engaging content along the customer journey – from search engine and first prospect contact to current product and services end-users.

According to the recent Edelman-LinkedIn Thought Leadership Impact Study, content is defined as “Free deliverables that organizations or individuals produce on a topic in their area of expertise when they feel others can benefit from their perspective.”

But according to the same research report, although content and thought leadership give access to decision makers at the highest level, companies are finding it difficult to use content for brand positioning and reputation management and to create enough quantity of high quality pieces of content.

Very often marketing professional make decisions on their marketing strategy based on mostly two factors – most popular content formats, determined according to the many dubious research reports and according to how fit is the organization to produce particular content formats. Both are not enough to conduct content strategy and here I will discuss a particular strategic approach to content marketing.

As content marketing is critical for the lead generation, thought leadership, management’s positioning and corporate reputation, it must be carefully planned to take into account all of the above considerations.

Content is defined as “Free deliverables that organizations or individuals produce on a topic in their area of expertise when they feel others can benefit from their perspective.”

Ardency Consulting Content Management Matrix

The Content Management Matrix shows us how to manage content formats according to relevant topics in order to reach all organizational stakeholders consistently. Stakeholders and topics determine formats and frequency of publications – very often in non-linear relationship.

Communications stakeholders

The content marketing stakeholders matrix can be quite complicated but for the purposes of our discussion a general list of decision makers and influencers for a typical ICT services company includes: IT director, finance, other senior management from HR, operations or other departments, multiple influencers along these departments and many end users.

We can imagine how the needs for different types of content, topics and format of all of the above. And these needs basically determine what I call the content marketing matrix of the organization.

For example, senior management needs short formats with concrete and concise information, IT decision maker or influencer could need long form content on the products and technologies provided and end users need quickly searchable manuals as well as FAQs.

How to determine content topics for the B2B firm

Next, different stakeholders are interested in different topics. Senior management and other partners are interested in business performance, IT are interested in project management and technology and other departments in applications and organizational benefits. And this is very simplistic. In reality, many different stakeholders need many different content formats along their customer journey.

In addition, as we know, content must support business, sales and marketing communications strategies. This means that content topics must correspond with brand positioning. If, for example, a company needs to establish positive reputation through consistent community relations, major topics will be business performance and sustainability as well as community and societal challenges.

The business and industry structure determine the priority and dominance of certain topics over others. For example, if you need to demonstrate technological advancements, obviously tech innovation would be of primary importance. And on the contrary, if B2B sales is the major business goal, then business success and customer relations are more important topics.

Very often, technological companies are wondering why we propose certain topics which are not the obvious technological, R&D or innovation ones. Well, very often business partners do not care about what you think about your technological advancement. As I have mentioned many times, most of the technological companies are competing in industries where the companies are selling applications of particular set of technologies, not competing on fundamental innovations. So, for your partners and customers of primary importance is how you deliver, not the technology per se. And critical proof point for the delivery capabilities are business results, referrals, case studies. Content format which focus on the business and project side of the things, not the tech one.

Therefore, choice of topic priority is very important for the positioning of the company. Here is an example of content topics for a software company. These could be business performance related, industry trends, customer success, technological innovations, societal and community issues, new products and services, major societal issues addressed by our solutions. We will talk about specific example in out next story on content marketing and thought leadership.

Of course, different professionals or managers are not only interested in different topics but also could have different media consumption habits. Also, different communications topics require different formats, which in turn have their own publication frequency. I know that this cold sound a bit too media professionalist but there is a reason for “brand journalism” and in the end, when you are trying to publish many different things, one needs to act like a publisher. Therefore, needs to be familiar with the scope of different publications and their frequency.

For example, if you want to coordinate business performace content on the corporate news web site with media relations, you need press release ot media piece which is up to two pages and with very different frequencby. Some organizations are producing at least one per day, some one per month. But format is the same.

And on the other side of the spectrum, if one needs to adress major societal or technological or business issues, their company is tackling through technology or other services, we would need cornerstone conent article of at least 1 200 word or around 10 pages. And a white paper could be 20 pages.

Therefore, marketing management need to consider carefully what kind of content strategy will pursue and on next stage consider the required resources for implementing this strategy. The one and only most important resource in conducting a professional content strategy is the number of man hours available for content creation. But on this in our next article.

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