5 Content Research Secrets B2B Marketers Need to Know
B2B companies that have an effective content strategy produce an average of three times more website traffic and 4.5 times more leads than their competitors. But figuring out the kind of content to create is a challenge. This is why content research is so critical for B2B marketers.
B2B buyers are going to be informed decision-makers who are looking for a chance to improve their own business. Not just any old sales-heavy content strategy will do here.
This is just one reason why content research is so crucial. Marketers cannot just shoot in the dark and use their precious time and resources to create content they merely hope will attract customers.
What is Content Research, and Why is it Important?
Content research involves investigating and collecting information to guide your marketing strategies based on consumer data. For the better part of the last decade, content marketing has been one of the most (if not the most) popular forms of brand promotion. Nearly all organizations across B2B industries are doing it in some form or another.
However, many businesses are unsatisfied with their marketing outcomes. One reason why many companies aren’t getting the results they want is that they have no clear plan. Nearly two-thirds of companies report they have no documented content strategy in place. This means that there is virtually no rhyme or reason behind the content they post–they simply create it and hope for the best.
This sort of approach can stand in the way of how your content strategy performs. If your brand’s content is simply not making the kind of impact you would like to see, it is likely because your content research process is insufficient.
Marketers will often look for easy ways to improve their efforts through optimization tricks and strategies easily found with a quick Google search. While some of this advice is sound, there are tons of tips out there that simply have no merit.
Instead of trying out new strategies that offer little direction, a smarter approach is to use proven research tactics to optimize your content by improving its visibility in the search engine result pages.
So, let’s dive into some of the best B2B marketing content research secrets out there.
Understand the Buyer’s Journey
It’s extremely rare to sell to a B2B client on the first interaction. B2B buyers check out 13 pieces of content on average from a brand before making a purchasing decision. Each piece of content should fulfill a singular purpose: to move them from one step of the buyer’s journey to the next.
In a nutshell, the buyer’s journey involves three stages:
According to a report from Demand Gen, the B2B buyer’s content preferences change as time goes on. During the initial Awareness phase, buyers tend to look for more broad information-based content, such as infographics, blog posts, podcasts, or industry publications.
Content for the early stages of the buyer’s journey is fairly straightforward. This is where you need to showcase your expertise in the field and answer the industry’s biggest questions. The better you can do this, the easier you can move buyers into the Consideration stage–where they are “considering” your product/service as a viable option.
Marketers should note that middle and end-stage buyers will be looking for content based on facts and figures rather than objective insight.
In this stage, they may look for more specific data to your business’s value proposition, such as analyst reports, comparisons, tutorials, webinars, demos, etc. In the Awareness stage, your goal is to show that you’re an expert. In the Consideration stage, your content needs to confirm it.
Now in the Decision stage, your goal is to give them the final pieces of confirmation to pull the trigger. Your content strategy needs to go beyond general white papers and blog posts. It should include pricing models, deals, user-generated content (UGC)–like reviews and testimonials–from previous customers, as well as partnerships with third-party entities to create case studies and reports that support your claims.
Once you understand what will motivate your customer to transition from one step to the next, you can have a more strategic approach to your content instead of just guessing what will be effective.
Know What Questions Are Being Asked
Knowing what motivates buyers and what kind of content will be the most influential on their decision to purchase is the foundational step in every content strategy.
This starts with a thorough audience analysis. Now, this may sound like a complex, data-driven process that requires a professional. While this is true to an extent, there are plenty of ways the average joe can conduct content research.
Start by figuring out what questions/problems people are asking about in your industry. Quora and Reddit are fantastic tools for this. Say you’re a web design/development agency. By simply entering the term “website design” into Quora, you’ll see all kinds of trending questions people are asking.
This is a great place to start for topic ideation.
Buzzsumo is another excellent tool for content research. Starting with your main topic, you can see all the different content trends in your industry. This will give you a good idea of where to start.
Remember, the initial stage searches will be more information-based and objective. Later stage searches will compare the possibilities, find more specific details on the products/services, and determine the best option.
As you get into the “Consideration” stage content, an excellent way to understand your buyer’s goals is to look at behavioral data. Start by taking a look at the interactions that customers tend to have with your site already. Look for the answers to:
- What are the most common searches users are inputting within your site?
- What are the most frequent questions your customer service and sales reps receive?
- What is the typical journey customers take from initial introduction to purchase?
Knowing the answers to these questions will help to guide the later stages of your content strategy. This involves answering the pressing questions visitors have about your business, products, services, etc.
The final stages of the content journey are pretty universal in terms of the goal. This is where you want to showcase content like pricing models, testimonials, and case studies for your product/service. Ultimately, this content should confirm that you are the best option.
Keep in mind; this content needs to be connected to the problems and questions you identified early. You want these later stage-content pieces to show that you have the answers and can solve the problems your buyers are facing.
Recognize that B2B Sales are Multi-Dimensional
B2B content marketing is so challenging that you are not just catering to a single buyer. In the B2B world, there may be a group of decision-makers, not an individual, like it is in B2C marketing. In fact, the average B2B buying group size is between 5-12 people.
This means that your B2B content needs to target multiple stakeholders and address their concerns, questions, and pain points. For instance, say you’re trying to promote a SaaS platform built for video production agencies. To sell your product, there are several different interests and stakeholders your content will need to appeal to, which may include:
The Founder/CEO’s concerns are more overarching. They need to know whether or not your solution will solve their big problems, make operations more efficient, and help grow the company.
The CFO’s concerns are all about feasibility. How will your solution create a positive ROI? Is it worth spending the money in terms of benefiting the organization?
The COO’s interests lie in the small details of the solution. They are well-versed in the nuts and bolts of video editing and are likely looking for very granular answers to very specific questions.
Chief Sales Officer
The Chief Sales Officer needs to know how this tool will put them in a better position to sell projects and increase the bottom line.
These are the people who will be using the program on a day-to-day basis. They need to know how this program will make their lives easier–and your content will need to address all the little thorns currently in their side.
The gatekeepers tend to be an overlooked aspect of the B2B sales process. When something goes wrong with a B2B product or service, the office administrators usually have to get in touch with the provider and do the dirty work. That said, their interests are focused on communication skills, customer success, and so on.
For your business to have a well-rounded B2B marketing strategy, your content research needs to account for all these different interests. Consider the following in your research process:
- Start by addressing a specific buyer’s problem
- Understand the consequences of the problem if it is not resolved
- Outline the positive results of what happens when the issue is solved
- Compare and contrast the solutions while examining their pros and cons
- Find a clear conclusion of a solution
- Know why your business offers the best solution to that problem
A huge part of your content research process needs to revolve around pinpointing different pain points. One great way to do this is to talk to your sales and customer service team. Ask them what kinds of complaints or questions they frequently get from customers.
Segment Your Keyword Research Strategy
So now that we went over the basics of content research and formulating a strategy let’s get a little deeper into the search engine aspect.
As discussed earlier, different stages of the buyer’s journey have different motives. With different motives come different keywords. A big part of your content research needs to revolve around the user intent behind these keywords. You need to compartmentalize your content research to match different stages of the buyer’s journey: awareness, consideration, and decision.
Awareness stage keywords will be informational and involve queries like:
As customers move into the consideration stage, their keywords will be based more on finding solutions that meet their needs. This is where they have an idea of what they need and will start narrowing down their options. Searches should involve queries like:
- Reviews of…
- Attributes of a product/service…
During the decision phase, people will be searching for specific information to make a final choice. Searches here may revolve more around specific services, as well as factors like warranties and deals. These keywords/phrases would typically involve queries like:
By segmenting your keywords–then using a content explorer, such as Ahrefs–you can get a strong sense of what is being produced for different stages of the buyer’s journey. This is one of the most critical steps in content research.
Keyword analysis tools are quite helpful when it comes to organizing and segmenting these campaigns. Topvisor and MarketBold are clustering tools for finding related keyword groups. These programs allow you to create segments of keyword groupings that cater to each phase of the buyer’s journey.
Hear From Industry Experts
Read the latest tips, research, best practices, and insights from our community of expert B2B service providers.
Don’t Forget About Your Existing Content
Trends in content marketing, SEO, and your industry are constantly changing. There is always room for improvement, even when it comes to the top-performing content on your website. If certain pieces or pages drive in the vast majority of your web traffic, take a look and see if there is any room for re-optimization.
Simply updating a piece based on your content research findings can help to boost its visibility–and keep it from stagnating. HubSpot ran an experiment with this on their content. They found that 30 of their blog posts outperformed the thousands of other articles on their site by a long shot.
They went through and revamped some of their older pieces by incorporating new keywords and updating data, such as statistics or report findings. Once these older posts were re-evaluated and optimized, view rates doubled, and monthly conversions grew by 240%.
Take a look at some past content pieces and see if any new opportunities can be capitalized on in your high-performing content. For instance, if you have a blog post on website design tactics performing well, can you update it with any new approaches? Chances are, you can!
You may also want to re-optimize the titles to match up with more recent keyword trends and phrases.
Content research doesn’t always have to be focused on new messaging. Depending on your niche and how it evolves, there may be plenty of opportunities from within.
Over to You
B2B content marketing looks quite a bit different than B2C. B2C is largely about impulses and appealing to a person at the right time and right place. B2B gets a bit deeper. Decision-making processes are longer and multi-dimensional–and there is no room for BS.
Fortunately, content research doesn’t need to be complicated or overly technical to be effective. If you can understand the questions being asked, the pain points being experienced, and the answers organizations are looking for, you are in a great position to succeed.
Hopefully, this post has provided some excellent insight to get you started.