Content strategy for B2B brands has two primary functions: to build trust and then develop that trust into working business relationships that benefit everyone involved. So how do you think about content strategy in order to set yourself up for building trust, and then converting? Let’s talk about that.
Before we get going, I want to point out that, during changing times, we need to rest upon a firm foundation of values, no matter what’s going on in the world. For this reason, we’re focusing on the fundamentals: building trust through coherent branding and then developing that trust through a series of communications, via an email-based content strategy.
Right off the bat, email should be at the core of most content strategies. Here’s why:
- You own your list. Unlike your Facebook page or Youtube account, you own your list, and it doesn’t belong to anyone else.
- Email delivers the best analytics. You can know exactly who opened and clicked through, which is not something web analytics offers.
- It’s a media channel. It’s like creating your own magazine you get to advertise in, but you control all editorial content and put the “ads” where you want.
Email allows you to measure and understand what your customer is doing at the individual level. In other words, where your website analytics only shows anonymized summary data, email shows you an email address and a name, including how they interacted with your content every month. If email is at the core of your inbound marketing mix, measuring all your returning customers and their interactions (perhaps together with your CRM), you now have the best data on those most valuable relationships (in other words, people who want to hear from you and who have said they want to hear from you).
Trust gives you repeat customers and higher-value customers. In other words, better relationships. People who aren’t trustworthy have to lower their prices. But if your customer likes and trusts you more than anyone else, you win and they win.
Here are a few possible problems you might be solving by gaining trust.
Your Competition is Untrustworthy
You could find that building trust is especially important if:
- You are surrounded by competitors who are transactional – who see people as dollar signs and don’t really care about having a relationship or building trust with your audience.
- And there is value in creating such a relationship – return customers are less costly to acquire and more fun to work with.
If people are starved for trust, you could be the breath of fresh air they want.
You can use email powerfully to build trust and engage your customers and other stakeholders after a merger or acquisition. Email gives you a chance to talk about the merger, even go into detail, and to address objections without rigid time constraints.
In other words, you can talk to the people who said they want to hear from you and send them information to keep them in the loop. Because in a merger or acquisition, the last thing you want is for people to misunderstand. But if you’re sharing information about everything you’re doing, telling them what to think about it and why you’re doing it, then your intentions become clear and believable.
You’re Entering a New Market
A content marketing campaign is especially valuable when you’re new to the market and people don’t know you yet. They don’t know what to think about you, they don’t know your approach to business, and they don’t know your character. A gradually growing email newsletter is a great way to help them to know how you think.
Leaders in innovation are by nature teachers. They share their vision and paint a picture of the future. Even if you’re just solving a problem in an innovative way, people need to understand how it works. If it’s a service, they may need to understand a new workflow.
Think of a new app that lets you buy stocks with no transaction fees. Instead of calling your broker, you get on your app. Now what? Some of us go to the internet to find out more about the app and whether it’s trustworthy and maybe even hints and tricks.
The problem is, there are many ways to provide products and services. By having an audience who trusts you and wants to be educated by you, you have an opportunity to help them to think like you. And if they think like you, they’re likely to think of you as an irreplaceable partner in business.
Do you have a way to help people think in a way that’s better than before? And can you offer products and services that help them to live out that new way of thinking? Email is a great way to make them unsatisfied with the old inefficient way to do it, and then empower them to do it better with you.
This leads us to conversions. Let’s say you’re a finance consultancy. You’ve found a better workflow for helping innovative companies (let’s call them companies that build new products) to evaluate their investments more efficiently through the development process to avoid sinking more money into products that could be losers.
For these investment companies, the classical way to look at finances is obsolete. But the industry continues to push classic, one-size-fits-all finance workflows.
For this reason, you know that you need to educate them gradually to the point where they’re ready to hire you as a consultant. That’s the final goal. That’s the bottom of the marketing funnel.
So what’s a marketing funnel? Glad you asked.
Marketing Funnel (Review)
Let’s review the marketing funnel. A ton of people will hear about you, a few will be interested, and even fewer will develop a desire to work with you. This is a funnel.
At the top of the funnel is where people enter. They are very likely to be interested in what you’re saying, but many of them won’t descend to the next level of the funnel. Let’s look at the theory of how it works, and then let’s use our maverick finance company as an example.
The Funnel in Theory
It’s just classic marketing. You might talk to 500 people and get them to show interest. Out of those 500, you might talk with 100 who are willing to take the next step and email you. Out of those 100, maybe 10 will meet with you. And out of those 10, maybe two will become clients.
So if you picture a funnel, at the top or widest part of the funnel would be those 500 people you introduce yourself to. The people who take the next step would be your 100 people – a little bit narrower part of the funnel but still pretty wide. And then the people who will meet with you are the 10 (getting to the pretty narrow end of the bottom of the funnel) and then below that are the two who actually become clients – the final output of that funnel we’ve been visualizing. This might even be a similar flow to your own marketing funnel.
The Funnel Example
So let’s go back to the finance brand who is trying to get people to think about financing a different way. The top of the funnel might be people who visited the site after having clicked on one of their ads. Those ads take them to a landing page that summarizes their financing consulting service at a high level (it’s the introduction to your whole system it tells them why the system is important, what kinds of companies benefit from it, and the risk of going with that other classic model). Then the brand gives them a clear path to the next step – a free consultation.
Here’s another way to look at it:
- You get them to the landing page and ask them to sign up for an email list. Some will.
- After you send an email, some will open the email. Some of them will open it every month and even give it a look.
- A few of those people will end up clicking through and looking at particular articles on your website. You’ll be able to see this in analytics for the email.
- A couple of those people will sign up for your webinar.
- A few of those people who sign up for your webinar will be curious enough and see the value in your services or product so that they will ask you for help.
- Some of them will become clients.
So you’re trying to get people from the top of the funnel which is visiting your landing page, all the way down to where they become a customer or a client.
My Personal Funnel
I use a funnel to help people out with advice. I get with people in half-hour increments and we talk about their problem. If it’s something we can do to solve it, I’ll let them know and we can move on to the next step. But if it’s not, I’ve helped them out a little bit and given them something to think about. In no case do I waste their time and they don’t waste my time.
This is a great funnel when the end result is taking care of people, living out your brand, and then not having your time wasted.
The Purpose(s) of Content Marketing
Remember that email marketing serves a branding effort and/or it serves a lead-generation effort. If you know what kinds of interactions you need, you can figure out what kind of funnel you have to set up. And if you know your brand, you’ll be able to do it in a way that builds your brand, even while you’re asking for customers to take action.
So we’ve now just talked about the purposes of content marketing. We’ve talked about ways to think about funnels and how to measure them. Take a minute to think about what results you want to see from your content, and then consider the kinds of results that you can get from setting up a measurable email marketing funnel.
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