The B2B technology process is complicated. The marketplace is crowded and the complexity of the sale only increases as more stakeholders get involved. Technology marketers, however, can leverage content marketing to simplify their message and connect to these decision-makers.
A recent study by MarketingSherpa surveyed 4,000 b2b technology business professionals to understand what types of content these buyers are looking for. The types of content most requested?
CASE STUDIES: 67% of buyers reported case studies at the top of their list for most desired content.
EDUCATIONAL CONTENT: 84% of buyers want content that educates them and expect vendors to provide it.
CONTENT THAT SOLVES A PROBLEM: 72% of buyers want to find “solutions to solve a current problem.”
CONTENT CUSTOMIZED TO DIFFERENT BUYING STAGES: 60% of buyers look for different types of content depending on their needs at the time.
We surveyed the b2b technology landscape and interviewed content marketers from brands leading in these four areas. Here, we’ll discuss their strategies and see how they approach creating these types of content.
CASE STUDIES: Salesforce’s Customer Success Stories
In 1999, Salesforce was founded as a CRM company. Since then, the brand has grown into a tech giant, expanding its end-to-end SAAS offering over the past fifteen years. Since the beginning, however, sharing customer success has been at the forefront of its marketing strategy.
Salesforce’s Customer Success Stories page is the core hub for sharing these stories and case studies with prospects and customers. Readers are able to filter through the comprehensive collection by industry, product or business size to find the best match for their use case. The brand’s collection of case studies not only covers vast depth and breadth, but the content itself is also compelling and comprehensive. Each case study is complete with a detailed use case, screenshots of the customer’s customized Salesforce instance, a list of all Salesforce products the customer uses and a customer quote. Some case studies are also amplified with a high-quality video of the customer narrating his or her story.
While powering this extensive catalog is no easy task, the team has developed a “content engine” system that starts with a central focus. Content Marketing Manager, Amanda Nelson, explains:
“We start with an ebook. From there we publish the content by recycling and reusing it on multiple media.”
- We’ll read the eBook aloud and make it an audio book.
- We’ll interview the customer for a quote in the eBook and then put that up as a video.
- We’ll take the audio from the video and make a podcast.
- We’ll create a presentation from the eBook with highlights.
The content engine strategy is also powered by a team of dedicated marketers with various roles and responsibilities. The team covers everything from writing the content, to distributing and optimizing on social, to designing visuals that bring the content to life. As a result, the team has seen about a 300% year-over-year increase in eBook shares and downloads, and a 150% increase in blog post social shares.
Educational content: Zuora’s Academy
Zuora is a cloud-based software company that provides everything needed to run a subscription-based business. Essentially, the brand is selling a business model and aiding the transition from selling a product outright to a subscription instead. To support this mission, Zuora founded an Academy, a central source filled with straightforward and actionable advice. The Academy includes informative content, ranging from foundational overviews to industry deep-dives, for a variety of roles including marketing, finance, technology and operations.
The Academy’s Content Marketing Manager, Gabe Weisert, explains:
“The goal is to teach people, and we definitely try to do that in the most entertaining, compelling way possible.”
With customer success managers and finance decision makers being Zuora’s main target audiences, the content focuses around pain points felt in those organizations, such as customer retention, fighting churn and billing, rather than Zuora’s product offerings.
To create the content, the team interviews a variety of resources, including Zuora customers and finance and marketing professionals. Weisert explains further:
“Everyone loves to talk, nobody likes to write. A lot of times we’ll hold 30 minute interviews, record the transcript and edit that down so we still get a sense of the person’s personality.”
Lead generation is also a main key performance indicator at the center of Zuora’s strategy. The team successfully approaches this by un-gating all copy, but gating the option to download PDF versions. With this strategy, anyone can easily access Zuora’s helpful content, but only the contact information for prospects with strong interest is captured.
Finally, while creating quality content is the backbone of the Academy’s strategy, the team has noticed common trends within its best-performing pieces. Weisert shares:
“Titles are super important. Odd numbers, how-to’s, talking about things that didn’t go well, mistakes to avoid, etc. These are all things that consistently perform for us.”
Content that solves a problem: Shopkeep’s counter culture
Founded in 2008, ShopKeep is a cloud-based mobile point of sale solution for small and medium-sized businesses. The company’s mission has always been to help local brick and mortar businesses succeed, and a big part of that means providing useful content.
In 2013, the company launched Counter Culture, a news and advice center dedicated to helping small businesses succeed. Formulating the content strategy took about two months, and the team went straight to the source to find out what their audience wanted. Paul Nugent, ShopKeep’s Director of Content explains:
“We interviewed merchants, did site visits and hosted phone calls with small business owners. We asked about their pain points and areas of concern.”
Content is organized by important topics universally relevant to small businesses, including inspiration, money, operations, planning and technology. ShopKeep also leverages the expertise of other small business owners as guest bloggers, using Counter Culture as a platform for knowledge exchange. Nugent adds:
“Small business owners don’t always want to hear what we have to say. They want to hear what other small business owners have to say and their point of view.”
In order to drive consistent engagement, Counter Culture’s distribution strategy includes a weekly digest to its subscribed readers. Staying true to keeping its readers as the focus, however, the digest doesn’t only include Counter Culture content. Instead, the weekly digest includes anything the team sees around the web that week that they feel is valuable for their audience, regardless of the source. The digest below, for example, includes articles from Huffington Post and Small Business Trends in addition to a Counter Culture article.
Overtime the strategy has evolved to include prioritizing SEO and including middle and bottom of the funnel content. For example, the team has begun to write more helpful content around point of sale topics, such as how to run employee shift reports in an effort help Counter Culture rank when a potential prospect is organically searching for that information.
CONTENT Customized to Different Buying Stages: SAP’s Business Innovation
In 2012, SAP began a marketing initiative that put content at the forefront with the SAP Business Innovation blog. The site’s goals were to create an affinity for SAP products, establish the brand as a thought leader by answering early-stage buyer questions and drive calls-to-action. To formulate the strategy, the team began with a content audit to see the difference in organic search traffic, between unbranded terms, like “big data” versus SAP branded terms that included product names like “HANA.”
The team found there were many more search queries across nearly every one of the categories for unbranded search terms. They then looked at how much traffic SAP received from these non-branded searches, and found that 99.9% of SAP’s traffic came from branded search terms. This meant almost all their traffic was from late-stage prospects already considering to purchase SAP and virtually none of their traffic was from early-stage prospects looking for potential solutions. This was especially a problem because SAP was vastly expanding its portfolio to include new solutions and were looking to grow awareness and penetrate those markets. The final step was to look at the existing catalog of content by buyer stage. They found that 94% of their content was middle-stage or late-stage content, which mirrored the type of traffic they were receiving. Based on this data, the team knew they needed to focus on reaching early-stage buyers, especially in these newer solution categories.
Today, Business Innovation “help’s executives develop a deeper understanding of the trends affecting the future of business through fact-based executive research, supplemented buy the latest thinking from expert bloggers”. The site’s over 11,000 blog posts are easy to navigate with categories including Future of Business, Technologies, Line of Business, Industries and SMB. Content is also customized for every buyer, no matter where they are in their journey.
EARLY-STAGE CONTENT: Quality, licensed content around broader, shareable topics that drives visibility and engagement: blog posts
MIDDLE-STAGE CONTENT: A combination of licensed and original content that hits on niche topics specific to SAP’s offering and solutions: white papers, case studies, video and infographics
LATE-STAGE CONTENT: Original content promoting SAP’s products and services: technology guides and case studies
CUSTOMER-STAGE CONTENT: Consistent cadence and mix of content as well as personalized recommendations: white papers, case studies, technology guides
The fresh strategy proved to be, and continues to be a success with leaps in traffic, engagement and publicity. Within a year of the new launch, the site received 3 million page views, averaged 5 minutes in time on site engagement, converted 1,800 prospects and received recognition from notable publications, including Fast Company, Content Marketing Institute and Digiday.