“Content is the highest form of sales enablement because it primes the prospect to trust you before they ever speak with you,” Shiv Narayan, CEO, How To SaaS.
This is precisely the reason product marketers create content, like blogs, apart from creating internal-facing collateral. Successful product marketers and content marketers from B2B unicorns and startups have a customer-centric approach to content creation. They create content for target personas after identifying ideal customer profiles (ICPs) and their lifecycle journeys, to ensure the content is relevant and useful.
But most B2B companies we spoke to mainly relied on digital channels to create a content strategy. Meaning, they adopt SERP and keyword analysis to develop content map instead of taking a customer-first approach.
While helping these to-be unicorn B2B startups with content strategy, we made one thing clear: relying on digital search patterns may be relevant for B2C, but not at all effective for B2B. At the end of the day, we are all here to serve our customers and not digital footprints, right?
The below image represents how identification of content that the audience wants requires us to understand target audience first.
In this piece, we’ll dive deeper into the content creation process by going through the following points:
- Impact of content created by product marketers on business
- How to create content with a customer-first approach rather than digital-first approach?
- Myth #1: SERP can help you grow your B2B business
- Myth #2: Keyword volume represents the audience’s search patterns
Impact of content created by product marketers on business
The history of product marketing teaches us how good product marketers took B2B organizations to greater levels. It’s their deep understanding of the market, the product, and the target customers that produce significant results. The knowledge on all these aspects also help product marketers create better content, and they are the major stakeholders in content creation for the following reasons:
- They create a variety of both internal (for Sales) and external (for target audience) content, as you see in the image below.
- Product marketers review content produced by anyone, such as content marketers and engineers, to ensure the accuracy of product messaging.
- They create and promote gated content to capture leads.
- Product marketers monitor content performance and tie it back to revenue and growth KPIs.
Usually, product marketers create content for the dedicated blog of their organization, where prospects can be more aware of their problems, learn about opportunity loss, and explore solutions. Through storytelling, product marketers make the content engaging for the visitors and present the product they sell as an ideal solution to prospects’ problems.
B2B product marketers also create gated content—such as ebooks, white papers, and case studies—requiring visitors to enter their contact information to view it. This helps in generating leads, which Sales can pursue, depending on where the prospects are in the funnel.
In a nutshell, product marketers generate content that would impact the following:
- Brand awareness: Content, especially thought leadership, drives brand awareness across various channels, such as Google search, social media, and other platforms. The content makes your target audience see you as a go-to expert in your field. Thought leadership with consistent messaging is the cornerstone of brand awareness for many B2B organizations these days.
- Quality traffic: Target audience will engage with quality content that delivers value and will share the content among their peers. Hence, the right content would increase brand advocacy and bring quality traffic to your website.
- Demand gen: Rightly messaged solutions would not only just attract an audience but also would increase customers’ willingness to try your product or solutions. The content can be sales enablement documents such as first call decks(FCDs), product data sheets, blogs, or videos.
- Builds trust and credibility: Content—such as case studies and success stories—demonstrates the brand promise to your audiences. It helps your customer to develop trust and showcases interest to purchase your products.
[Read more on the responsibilities of product marketers and the impact they have on business: What is Product Marketing, and How does it Help B2B Firms to Scale]
But, even when the benefits are apparent, the question remains: How to create content that matters to the audience?
How do successful product marketers create content?
Some B2B organizations take a digital-first approach to content creation. That is, product marketers create content using any SEO tool and searching for content topics generated by their competition on the primary targeted keywords.
While this may be tempting, it will not be sustainable in the long run because we want people—not only crawlers—to read our content.
Let’s dig deep into how successful product marketers create content by identifying the target audience and their lifecycle journey, to win customers and overthrow competition.
Content creation begins with in-depth primary research on your target audience or ideal customer profiles (ICPs). In a typical B2B scenario, this entails learning in-depth about your user, influencer, and buyer personas. It’s critical to understand them and their pain points/problems to produce content relevant to them.
Depending on your industry, figure out these three key stakeholders and create ICPs for all of them. Once they are ready, you can track their customer lifecycle journey.
Customer lifecycle journey
There are many levels between someone who doesn’t know about your product and after they become your customer. These different stages that a potential client goes through before making the purchase are called the customer lifecycle journey.
Product marketers can use the AIDA (awareness, interest, desire, action) model to track these different stages of their journey. To know more please refer to understanding customer lifecycle journey to create content strategy for B2B software companies.
When you know who your audience are and the pain points/concerns they may have in different stages of their buyer journey, you’re almost done. These will help you come up with topics that are relevant and create content that are useful for them.
(Sometimes, AIDA may not be enough to create a sureshot content map for your business. That’s why we came up with an upgraded version called AIDA++, which you can read about here: Creating content using AIDA and AIDA++ models)
Now that you’ve understood how successful B2B product marketers create content, let’s burst some myths about taking a digital-first approach to content creation.
Myth #1: SERP can help you grow your B2B business
Search Engine Results Page (SERP) is the page that a search engine returns when a user enters a search query. SERP analysis means understanding what the pages appearing on top of the SERP have written to be there. It also includes a general observation of all the questions displayed in the Google search section called ‘People also ask’ (PAA), as you see in the image below. It shows the PAA questions for the keyword “iPhone 14”.
In the digital-first approach, product marketers would do SERP analysis and spend time on PAA questions to gain a better understanding of the search engine landscape. Covering those questions in the content makes the searchers believe the brand is familiar with their issues, which makes them more inclined to trust the brand.
Also, creating content that answers most of the PAA questions might make Google think that your content answers user intent, resulting in a better ranking. This is one reason digital marketers ask product marketers to create content by doing SERP analysis. The common and traditional assumption here is that SERP represents buyers’ intentions.
But, is it true?
No. No. For heaven’s sake, no.
Bursting the myth- Example-1
SERP analysis can help with finding content ideas and topics you can include in your content relating to a keyword. But it will never end up in accurately identifying content that helps your target audience and meets their expectations. Let me explain using a simple example that somewhat reflects the B2B scenario involving influencers and buyers.
Suppose that someone (we’ll call him Robb) earns $60,000 yearly on average, and he would love to own a luxury watch. Robb is ready to spend around $15,000 for the purchase and is looking for watches around that budget.
Since the watch costs a hefty chunk of Robb’s money, it will not be an easy, impulsive purchase for him. He’ll obviously educate himself on luxury watches and may discuss it with his friends or family.
As part of getting to know more about a watch that fits his budget and a brand that he knows about, he may type “Omega Speedmaster” on Google.
The SERP will return a PAA section like this:
Do you think Robb will buy the watch after he reads an article only answering all these questions? Obviously no. And the main reason is this: customer experience.
As someone who’s about to spend one-fourth of what he makes in a year, Robb would want to know what makes the piece unique. He would love to know the history of Omega Speedmaster, and why the first person who ever walked on the moon wore it. And then comes the finer details like dial type, features, the material used on the strap, watch movement, etc., (the list goes on depending on the nerdiness). Also, since Robb hasn’t yet finalized a watch to buy, he might also look for similar watches with the same pricing from different brands.
Here, Robb is looking for a complete experience, but the PAA touches only on general topics. As you can see, PAA questions miss a lot of pain points or questions that can be answered in an interesting article. This is why content creation must start with understanding the target audience and their customer lifecycle journey.
However, your content *may* still rank on the first page of the SERP if you focus only on PAA questions. But, the audience will immediately realize the lack of value in the content, resulting in an increased bounce rate.
The example is similar to B2B selling where there will be multiple stakeholders (users, influencers, buyers) influencing the purchase. They all will be curious to know how buying a product—especially when it’s costly—has a tremendous positive impact on what they do. Only content that is backed with well-researched ICPs and customer lifecycle journeys will be useful for them.
Bursting the myth- Example-2
Let’s take the another example in B2B space with Spinnaker—an open-source software used by software developers to deploy their code to the cloud. There are software players which provide solutions around Spinnaker, such as OpsMx and Armory.
When someone searches for “What is Spinnaker”, they would see results from companies like BMC, which sells nothing related to Spinnaker (not even an educational course). BMC software is known for their IT Service management and IT Operation products. They provide consultation in the DevOps field.
The moment someone clicks on BMC’s link, they would land on an educational blog and one will discover three important things:
- The article is well-written and almost covers all the elements for the readers. (Well done author!)
- The fantastic article is written by a 3rd party author, Olatoye Idowu, who’s a seasoned DevOps consultant. But, Olatoye has never worked at BMC, so a product marketer or a content marketer certainly strategized the article to attract a related audience to the page. (Nice job here too.)
- There are promotions of a gated content—DevOps skill report—everywhere to gain leads from this page. (Superb work!)
This is a classic strategy:
Pick up keywords in a domain
Evaluate if they have a high search volume
Create content to attract audiences.
But unfortunately, the intention of a person searching for “What is Spinnaker” can be to try out Spinnaker, perhaps install it on a local machine, or try out some product use-cases. But the article instead offers only links to other unrelated articles or DevOps skilled reports.
This is how the strategy of creating content based on keyword volume in a domain becomes a wrong strategy.
Bursting the myth- Example-3
Another example from a B2B software firm why you should not rely on SERP to create your content map.
Go beyond SERP
I’m not downplaying the idea of doing SERP analysis or keyword analysis to create impactful content. After all, it’s helpful to understand related queries and get a sense of what people are searching for with a specific keyword.
The best practice for product marketers will always be to think primarily about the customer and their pain points before creating content. Because SERPs are not human but a machine running on an algorithm suggesting what are related users’ search patterns. In other words, they only show you what they “think” is relevant, which might not be the case most of the time.
Best product marketers use a unique sequence for producing content instead:
- They identify content topics
- Create content
- Perform SERP analysis and keyword research to add appropriate titles
- Add a few sections to provide a superior customer experience and ensure full SEO content.
For content topics’ ideation, B2B product marketers can collaborate with various stakeholders, such as Sales, leaders, product managers, and implementation partners. It helps to understand customer pain points with the utmost clarity.
Remember: nothing beats figuring out ICPs, understanding pain points, and creating content depending on their level in the stages of the sales funnel or customer lifecycle journey. Adopting this customer-centric approach is the only way to increase conversions. You can use our AI-based content marketing platform to do this easily.
It helps product marketers and content marketers to create content maps and monitor content performance that would positively impact your organization’s branding and sales pipeline. Feel free to request a demo and see it in action.