The A to Z Guide to Content Marketing for Distributors
Distributors have a unique position in the supply chain, managing and marketing to manufacturers and retailer partners at both ends.
Content marketing for distributors is a way to engage these multiple audiences at once while growing your brand visibility.
Sounds awesome, right?
But what if you’ve never done content marketing before, or your current strategy just isn’t working?
If that’s the case, good news: we’ve created a comprehensive A-Z guide to get you up to speed on content marketing in general and learn how it can be used most effectively by distributors.
- Customer segmentation helps distributors better engage manufacturers, retailers, and other important audiences.
- Content provides an effective way for distributors to differentiate themselves in a competitive market.
- SEO is essential to ensure your content is visible to buyers and drives traffic to your website.
- Lead magnets and visual content are two of the best ways to make content more engaging and convert more leads.
- Customer testimonials are extremely effective at influencing B2B purchase decisions.
Content Marketing for Distributors: The A-Z Guide
A is for Audience
Audience should be at the top of the priority list in every content marketing strategy. For distributors, there are typically two main audience groups: manufacturers and retailers. Content should be created to increase visibility with both groups and any others that are relevant to your specific brand.
The way to do it is through customer segmentation, or the division of your audience into smaller groups based on characteristics and needs. Segmentation helps you identify what kind of content will provide value for each audience group and develop your content accordingly.
For example, product guides are relevant for retailers, but not for manufacturers who actually build the products. On the other hand, case studies that highlight your successful partnerships with other manufacturers won’t matter to retailers, but will be relevant to manufacturers considering you as a partner.
Have a Great Blog
Your blog is the primary driver behind all of your content marketing efforts. For some reason, though, distributors and brands in other technical industries sometimes shy away from creating one. Often this is due to a misconception that technical content related to distributors and the supply chain isn’t interesting or “bloggable,” if you will.
But this just isn’t true. The beauty of a blog is that it’s created with specific goals and audiences in mind. Technical content may not be thrilling to the masses, but it is quite valuable to distributor customer groups.
Technical content specifically aims to put a marketing spin on more traditional technical writing. It still breaks down complex topics, but it does so in a more conversational, easily digestible way. Your blog is the perfect place to do this.
It’s important to note, too, that distributors aren’t locked in to technical content only. Just like any other brand, you can expand your content marketing horizons by commentating on industry news, storytelling through case studies and real-world examples, and using your own unique voice and brand personality.
Here are some types of blog posts you can write to get you inspired:
Convenience Goes a Long Way
It’s easy to end up frustrated as a buyer on the supply chain today. Distributor websites generally don’t offer much information around pricing, lead time, or other specifics buyers want to know. While we get this is an intentional strategy employed to force customers to call you, it can absolutely backfire if you aren’t careful.
Like every other industry in the world, supply chains are becoming increasingly digital. Buyers are doing their research online, and they want to be able to fully evaluate potential distributors without having to spend hours on the phone.
So while we aren’t suggesting you have to publish your entire pricing model to the web, we are saying you should give potential buyers enough information to know if it’s worth contacting you. Then, you need to make it easy for them to actually get in touch.
Evaluate your website and consider the following:
- Write with the customer in mind. Be sure web pages are updated and your menu is easy to navigate.
- Provide clear, specific information about your products and services. Even if pricing is a conversation for later, give enough information that a potential buyer can evaluate whether you might be a good match for them.
- Make it easy for customers to contact you. Phone calls might be your preference, but it likely isn’t theirs. Include an email address or even better, a contact form right on your website. Have the right processes in place to ensure quick follow-up.
Focus on Differentiation
To buyers, distributors can often all seem like one in the same, especially when they share an industry niche. Content marketing is a proven way for distributors to differentiate from competitors. You can use content to establish a brand personality and get more personal to make customers feel connected to your company.
Some ways to do this include:
- Commentate on industry news and events. Don’t shy away from offering a unique opinion.
- Highlight the people in your organization, including executive teams, sales representatives, and operational employees.
- Tell stories. These can include case studies that showcase customer success, internal wins like new innovations or strategies, or give historical context about your company.
Make Email Part of Your Strategy
Distributors are great at sending promotional emails, but are you also incorporating content into your email strategy? If you’re not, it’s time to get on board.
You already know about distribution channels, and one of the most effective ways to drive more traffic to your website and blog is by taking a multichannel approach to its distribution. Social media (more on that later) and email are two powerful platforms for doing so.
It also creates a win-win situation for your marketing strategy. When your content is more widely distributed, it gets more traffic and makes a bigger impact. At the same time, your content makes your emails more interesting, helping to increase open rates and ultimately putting more eyes on those promotions you’ve already been sending.
Know Your Customer’s Journey
The B2B customer journey is a long and winding road (typically 3+ months). It also involves multiple stages, and that B2B buyers are doing a lot of their own research before they ever think about contacting a company directly.
This means you need to first, know your customer journey, and second, create content for buyers at every stage of that journey.
Customer journey mapping is an important exercise every company should perform as part of launching their content marketing strategy. It puts you in the driver’s seat and allows you to guide buyers through the journey rather than arbitrarily trying to catch them at the right time.
Once you know your customer journey, take a funnel marketing approach. This ensures your buyers are landing on the right content at the right time, which ultimately drives increased leads and higher sales conversions.
Here’s a good example of what the marketing funnel generally looks like and the types of content that fall under each stage:
Create Powerful Lead Magnets
For B2B companies, capturing contact information is an essential part of the content marketing strategy. You can do this by using lead magnets, or high-value content offered in exchange for a buyer’s information.
Lead magnets are a proven tactic that can increase your conversion rate by up to 85%. They’re typically offered at earlier stages of the customer journey to get buyers more deeply engaged and ensure you can follow up with them after they leave your website.
Some of the most effective types of lead magnets for B2B marketers include:
- Demo Videos or Webinars – We’ll get into video more later, but for now know that it consistently beats out other forms of content. It’s also a great way to educate your buyer without being boring.
- PDF Checklists – Checklists help people feel organized. They can make a complex problem feel more manageable. They also give buyers a better understanding of their problem and the solution you can provide.
- Ebooks and Whitepapers – These demonstrate your industry expertise and educate buyers who fall under both the non-expert (ebook) and expert (whitepaper) categories.
The common thread across lead magnets is that they offer extremely high value and are actionable for the user. Lead magnets aren’t just another blog post. They may take extra time and effort to develop, but the ROI they create makes it a worthwhile investment.
Optimize for SEO
Content marketing experts aren’t kidding when they say that content is what helps you rank on search engine results pages (SERPs). Today, 93% of all online experiences begin with a search engine. If you aren’t ranking on Google, it’s likely potential buyers will never find you in the first place. For distributors, the market is often saturated, making rankings even more important.
Fortunately, there is a ton of information out there — much of it from Google themselves — about Google ranking factors and the right tactics for optimizing content.
Here’s a quick list of the most important things to focus on:
- High-Value, Relevant Content – Google’s use of intelligent AI algorithms mean it’s not enough to just hit the right keywords. Be sure to always prioritize quality and relevance first.
- Keywords – But keywords are still important! You can do keyword research for ideas and to be sure you’re covering important industry topics.
- Mobile Optimization – More than half of all web traffic is happening on mobile devices, and even B2B buyers are using their phones to do research. Your content must be mobile optimized for the best possible user experience.
Get Active on Social Media
Social media is one of the most direct and effective ways to engage with buyers, partners, and other stakeholder groups. It’s also a powerful distribution channel for your content. Social media is another one of those strategies distributors and other technical companies sometimes shrug off as not relevant for them.
If that’s you, think again. Just like with SERPs, if you’re not on social media, you risk being invisible to important audiences that drive your business growth.
Launching a social media strategy can feel like a daunting task, and our advice is to start small and build on your strategy over time. First, consider which social media platforms are best for you. We recommend every B2B company get active on LinkedIn, so that’s a great place to start if you’re considering just one platform.
Once you’re established, you can expand your strategy and grow your social media presence in other places. There are social media scheduling tools that can help you automate and streamline your posting, and incorporating social media into your content calendar can help you stay consistent.
Share Customer Testimonials
Social proof is important for every kind of marketing today, but B2B buyers especially are looking for recommendations and established company track records.
After all, B2B purchases often involve a much large financial commitment and impact an entire organization. B2B purchase decision makers are under high pressure to choose the right seller.
When buyers see you’ve already succeeded in other partnerships, it increases their trust in you to deliver and eases some of the hesitation that comes with making a purchasing decision.
Some statistics to consider: 89% of marketers have said customer testimonials are their most effective form of content for influencing purchases. Almost three-fourths of consumers use reviews to establish trust with a brand, and 89% trust a testimonial just as much as a personal recommendation from someone they know.
It’s clear that leveraging social proof to establish credibility and trust works, and it’s your job as a content marketer to be sure you’re incorporating it into your strategy.
ThinkImpact reports that 83% of customers are willing to provide reviews after having a good experience with a brand. This means most of the time, all you need to do to get a good testimonial is ask!
Publish High-Quality Visual Content
Visual content is all the rage today in content marketing (and it won’t be going anywhere anytime soon). For distributors it can be one of the best ways to make content more engaging. According to Nielson, users only read about 20% of the text on any given webpage. At the same time, they remember visual content 6x better than text.
Visual content like infographics, videos, and images to accompany social media posts do a better job catching your audience’s attention and are shared more than text content. This means including visuals is a surefire way to increase your content visibility by getting others to share it for you.
For distributors, some of the best visual content options include:
- Demos and Explainer Videos – Demos and explainer videos are a more interactive way to help customers understand your products, processes, and services.
- Infographics – Putting visual design next to statistics and other information makes it more noticeable, shareable, and engaging to read.
- Product Images – A visual of the real thing is much more impactful than a text description.
Launch Your Content Marketing Strategy Right Away
Distributors who utilize content marketing earn a competitive advantage and gain the most direct connection to potential buyers, positioning themselves to generate increased leads and convert more sales.
If you’re ready to launch a new content marketing strategy or enhance the one you have, Marketing Insider Group can help by delivering ready-to-publish content every single week. To learn more, check out our Content Builder Services or schedule a free consultation today!