I was recently on a call with a potential client looking to attract restaurant owners and restaurateurs to her product- a paging app to streamline service, allowing servers to know when they're needed rather than guessing and checking too frequently for comfort.
The target audience is, essentially, people with decision making and purchasing power. This could range anywhere from the mom and pop restaurant owners to the tycoons like YUM! Brands, which owns 50,000 restaurants across 150 countries.
While she hadn't yet built her website, we'd discussed blogging strategy and the types of blogs she wanted to produce to attract clients. It consisted almost entirely of these types of posts:
Restaurant's to check out in local areas
Now, I can understand why she wanted to go this route, if I'm approaching it from a completely objective point of view. As she explained her reasoning, it came down to this- she thought that, if she blogged enough or well, she'd get enough people talking that the message of her product would get around.
The problem is- she was taking waayy too many steps to get to her customer. She wanted to talk to people eating at the restaurants, rather than the restaurant owners themselves. While it's the passion for restaurants, and the desire to improve service, that drove this product into fruition, it was limiting her possibilities for success with content.
My take is- if you're going to blog, do it with intent.
The thing is, she's not alone.
A lot of B2B (and B2C) companies struggle with creating content for the RIGHT audience.
A coaching client came to me to help sort out her content on a landing page. It was written for entrepreneurs that were just getting launching their business, ut her target audience was executives that just wanted to take that next step into becoming an industry leader.
A luxury home building lead I spoke with this week told me their biggest challenge, and the thing they hope to solve the most by working with me, is that they get calls all the time, but it's never for the right type of work. Their calls are usually from people looking for quick renovations, installs, and small updates like installing new windows when they're actually a whole home renovation company. However, what their ideal client wants a multi-million dollar new home build, utilizing everything from their in-house architect to their interior designers.
My current B2B tech client has great, informative posts, but only some of them hit their mark. They sometimes write for remote working employees, with topics like how to avoid overworking as a remote employee, when they should be focusing on executives that want to know techniques for time management, success stories from CEOs and startups that went from the bottom to the top of their industry. They want to know how to succeed, improve their workplace, their productivity, and their relationship with their employees.
Every business wants to create content that connects with the very people they want as clients. Every marketer, content writer, and startup founder works their butt off to create this kind of content. Unfortunately... messaging is challenging. Writing articles is challenging. Coming up with the right ideas for the right people, doing research, interviewing, keyword searching, the writing itself... and then there's promotion. Most don't go beyond SEO and sharing the articles on social.
It's a lot of work, and a lot of companies give up on it after content teams can't prove it's value. Or they use it solely as a means of building domain authority and indexing pages on Google.
Trust me, I get it. But I know leads can come from content and proper content promotion because that's the sole way I'm getting my leads at the moment.
Creating content that reaches your target audience is all about "knowing your audience"
Honestly, I dislike the phrase "know your audience". It's the first thing on every marketer's "how to..." article, and yet so many only go so deep as "my audience is small businesses with 50-100 employees and a revenue of $1Million a year". Or, they'll build a little "ideal client" profile with a cheery picture and details like "female", "age 50-60", "uses these channels"...
What kind of companies?
Who is going to be the point of contact- the one that would actually search for your product/service?
What do they typically share on Facebook and LinkedIn?
What publications do they read?
What communities do they interact in?
What are the biggest pain points across their industry and their specific business?
What are the biggest pain points of their clients?
What kind of content do they consume?
What is the best method for reaching them?
There is a method for figuring this out. Well, several methods. This is mine...
Step 1: User research to narrow an audience down to an ideal client
When I work with a client on their content, the first thing I want to know is- who are you already working with?
Who is already buying from you?
Who do you LIKE working with the best?
Who is the easiest to work with?
Who has worked with you for a long time?
What are some of the largest problems you've been able to solve for clients?
** I don't always have to ask these questions. Sometimes it's easy to determine based on what clients offer up while talking with me, or I see it in case studies or other information I've pulled before talking with them.**
In the case of my tech client, I learned that they work with quite a few architects, marketing agencies, and consultancies.
These are the companies that provide the most value to their business. They engage with them on social media. They enjoy the relationship and are easy to work with. They have big problems solved by their products.
Step 1...A? Let's call it: Executive research
From there, I compile a list of the companies my clients like working with best, and begin going through company profiles using SimilarWeb to learn their traffic, page views, and other key points about their company.
After I understand the company, I begin looking deeper at my clients' point of contact with those companies, as well as other members of their management staff.
I get in DEEP. But the things I want to know most are what they read and share. Not only do I look at what the businesses share on their public company profiles, but I take a look at what their managers and executives share as well.
To take it even further, and really "know the audience", I look at Facebook groups and LinkedIn groups.
(It's quite a simple template, when it comes down to it, but it's helpful. You can get the template for yourself here)
This helps me get a feel for the kind of articles I need to write in order to reach people just like them.
Want me to do the research, content idea creation, writing, and promotion for you? You can learn more about working with me, here.
Step 2: Discovering customer pain points, and the start of pain point SEO
After you figure out your best customer- the one that provides the most value to you and is the least difficult to work with- and you know the kinds of content their executives consume and share- it's time to figure out their pains.
Well, this is the content you should be writing. Customers are already searching for answers... if you want to work with them, you should be the one answering their burning questions.
In comes pain point SEO.
Pain point SEO is not a new concept, necessarily, but it is one that is becoming increasingly popular in the content marketing realm. For good reason too.
Pain point SEO is the concept of creating content based on the biggest challenges or pains of the industry, specific clients, or your existing customers. This content aims at solving their problems by providing answers and helpful, actionable information.
While keyword hunting, the aim is to find the keywords that best align with that pain. These are typically low (or even very-low) volume keywords that have a higher "buyer intent" or are further down the funnel. They're typically longer phrases or even full questions.
Step 2 in action: Determining customer pain points & generating post ideas
For any client I work with, I determine their pains clients' pains in several ways. The first is to ask my client directly. I always have one point of contact, possibly two, that I work with on a continuing basis. However, that one person never has all the answers that I need. That is why I meet with every other department as well.
Method 1: Talking with people on the team
It's great to meet in person, get a feel for the office, understand them a little better and have an exchange of ideas freely flowing. But, since the pandemic has changed the world quite dramatically, this isn't always a reality. Not to mention that I sometimes work with companies that are entirely remote, have partially remote teams, are spread across multiple offices in different cities, or are even spread across the globe.
Because of this, I like to use Slack and Zoom. Slack is probably my most preferred channel, because I can speak directly to entire teams, all at once, and they can reply at their leisure.
For discovering pain points, I'll often open a channel for sales, one for development, another for marketing, etc. I'll also have direct message channels to heads of departments.
I'll ask them all at once:
What do your customers complain the most about?
What are the biggest reasons your customers reach out to you?
What drives customers to your product?
What are some big issues you've solved for companies you work with?
I'll ask as many questions as I can until I start to see a better picture and have enough material to generate content ideas from. When talking with many departments, you should be able to get a good list of pains, questions, concerns, complaints, etc.
Method 2: Searching reviews
If your company has reviews, I want to read them. It usually only takes a simple Google search to get results.
Reviews are helpful because they are feedback directly from the people using the product/ service. They often list the pros and cons in bullet points or have it separated somehow on their review. Even better they realy get into detail about the things that they love... and that they hate. They may even express what they wish the product/ service had that it doesn't at the time of the review.
This is great for generating a list of topics. Not only do you know what their pains and complaints are, but they're giving you a list of your best qualities. The qualities that they found the most appealing, and that they thought would be appealing to others.
Seriously. Use all of it. With my tech client, I've used their reviews for social posts as well as for content ideas. I've come up with guest post topics, ideas for publications, and of course, blog topics.
Method 3: Quora & Reddit
A lot of people turn to the crowd to get answers, especially if they aren't getting them in a general Google search.
All you have to do is search on these sites for keywords like "time management" as I have been doing for my time tracking tech client. Or "restaurant tech", "improve restaurant service", or "server management" as the B2B restaurant tech client, that I mentioned at the beginning of this article, should.
The conversations there should give you some answers, since you'll often see the same questions repeatedly in your search.
Method 4: Google's "people also ask" section
All you need sometimes is to ask Google. The most frequent questions appear in the "people also ask" section on a Google search page. To get to the most relevant questions, simply type in the specific keywords that relate to your brand/ industry/ product/ service.
Method 4: Surveys
There are a few ways to survey your customers:
Over the phone while on service calls
In an on the phone survey after the call
Email blast survey to your list
Ask on social media to your following
Ask your best customers directly
Put a question out on Quora/ Reddit
Method 5: Social media
One of the best ways to know your audience is to engage with them regularly through social media and communities. This gives you direct access to them, and their problems. They may reach out to you directly for an answer, or you may spot something that gives you an idea for a post.
Dori Saltzman, of Copy by Dori, explains this process a little further:
"I think articles that point out areas of weakness in a niche are helpful. For example, I wrote a social media post about how too many life coaches market themselves the same way. I could easily expand that into an article about what the problem is and what the consequences are when competing businesses all market themselves the same way. The goal is to get my target clients to recognize themselves first and then see how they're hurting themselves so that they want to take action."
Edin Bidani, copywriter and acquisition strategist at Green Light Copy, brings up a great method of capturing some of that information, even little kernels of talk, and transforming it into posts:
For finding topics to write about, the easiest way is to take note of what people are talking about around you. You can save or bookmark posts that look get lots of engagement on social media and then use those topics or trains of thought for inspiration. The other way is to use tools like Zest, Exploding Topics, and SparkToro to help you dig deeper into what's being discussed right now on the Internet - and what your audience cares about.
No matter what method you use, there will be trends among answers and searches. Those are the biggest pains, and the ones that I want to focus on first.
Content ideas: There isn't just one type of B2B content that works for all B2B businesses
Before I get into how to create content using the information you gathered in the research phase, I want to address something...
The type of content you create depends greatly on the type of company you are, the pain points of your audience, and the types of content your users consume.
In other words, you can't, and shouldn't, solely write content that addresses the big pain points that you've gathered in a big list. You cant, and shouldn't, solely write about the features of your product. You also shouldn't write a wide variety of topics that reach different audiences simply because you've run out of content ideas.
No. Instead, you should understand what your audience wants and needs, and create a well-balanced content schedule.
What does this mean?
When I asked my friend and former colleague Mackenzie Meter (Marketing Specialist and Copywriter at Grasslands), she had this to say:
"It's a competitive content world out there, and finding ways to stand out is increasingly more difficult. To help your brand stay above the content waterline, first look at your goals and upcoming projects. Is there a product launch, a new initiative, or an upgraded feature on the horizon? Has technology like your business's been featured in the news recently? Do you get a lot of the same questions from prospects? Is your organization committed to volunteering, social change or sustainability? Can you curate a gift guide that (gasp) includes some of your competitors or similar businesses?"
In other words, don't just focus entirely on creating content that answers their biggest pain points. Though that should be a focus, content should serve other purposes. It should be engaging as well, and match your business agenda as a whole. It should be just another piece of the entire body.
Got a launch coming up? Write a post or a few about that- the features, how to use it, the development process, behind the scenes, and insights from a customer that has used it.
Is your company doing something great for the community or environment? Write about that, with a journalistic approach. Heck, you can even write that for a publication or syndicate it with a publication.
Ashley Amber Sava, Content Marketing Manager at Pushnami, also gave me her feedback on the best types of articles for B2b clients:
In my experience, the best blog post formats for lead gen are almost always in-depth guides. These are generally your "how-to" posts. Pretty much everyone already knows this, but very few people know how to actually create incredible in-depth guides. Doing so requires extensive explanations, examples, data, and unique insights from your experience. You have to make content that is truly valuable and truly unique.
I love this advice, because it gets to the very heart of my argument. If you're going to write a "how to" article- and my gosh there are millions of them- then it has to be able to stand on it's own.
That means it has to be informed by experts. It has to be detailed, and in-depth, with data and expert opinions.
Take it from Camille Trent, Founder of Camille Trent Marketing and now Managing Editor at MarketerHire, who gets massive amounts of engagement on LinkedIn due to her well-informed posts.
"For a number of reasons, content needs to be written or heavily informed by subject-matter experts. This type of content will also convert at a higher rate because both Google and human beings are more likely to trust it."
Camille went on to break down what she considers the best examples of expert content, including:
Industry reports (using primary research or original research)
Experiments (walk the reader through it and provide a detailed analysis)
Teardown (what is working)
She and I see case studies as an extension of this concept and believe they are one of the greatest pieces of content you can produce (and are also one of the most widely adaptable types of content that works for most clients).
This is because case studies show you as an expert, show the reader what works, and answers a desire they have. They have a problem, and they see another company solving the same problem using your product/ service.
This worked for me with my last post- "How I Grew A Construction Company's Leads By 30% in 2 Months". Not only did it increase my readership by 760%, it gained me a high-quality lead the following morning.
Because of the in-depth analysis, you begin to develop a reputation among your readers for providing real insights. Derin Crag, Founder of Richtopia, agrees on this point as well:
"Going the extra mile with analytics, research, thought-leadership, and consistency. Lead generation happens organically that way, not artificially."
When I combine the advice of all of these experts, as well as my own insights, it's easy to see that the best types of content for B2B companies is heavily informed, detailed, and hits the readers with the kind of information they are yearning for.
To make it a little clearer...
The best types of content for B2B companies are:
In-depth guides with data
Detailed information about your products, how to use them, and what clients get working with you
Stories of success
Stories involving the news in your industry- what everyone is already talking about
Posts that answer big and common questions in your industry and about your product/services
News about your company- updates, new features, engagement in the community.
I'd also like to add, that taking a more journalistic approach to content is typically a great idea, especially for posts to publications.
For instance, even before working with my B2B tech client, they understood this concept well. They told unique stories about their company, with a post to TechCrunch about how they raised 5Million to bring their product to the market. Another post about sleeping in a closet for three months to find venture capitalists/ investors, and make their dream a reality, published in BBC news.
Step 3: Creating content that drives conversions and traffic to your site
Now we're finally getting into the good stuff- how to create content that generates leads/ drives conversions/ gets your readers to read even more of your posts.
Here, I want to explain the process of creating content from those pain points, questions, and other information that you collected while doing user research and pain point research. It'll blend a little into the last section.
Step 3: In action
In my own process, the very first thing I do after compiling all the user research, is to create a spreadsheet page (just another tab) for all of the questions, complains, pros and cons from reviews, etc.
I create another tab for blog ideas themselves (and another for primary promotion channels- where the audience gets their news- but that's for a different blog post).
Generating actual post ideas from all of that information is easy... and also rather difficult.
What makes it so, is that you have to know the right title that will attract them. You have to have the right subject material. The right resources, analytics/ data, and everything else to back it all up.
It's a good idea to screenshot your analytics, images, quotes, or anything else you might want to use for later, and store it in a file somewhere. Keep it as organizes as you can. I do this for every client I start with. I capture their social media numbers, traffic numbers, domain rating, etc. I also set up google tags to monitor how well the content does, and its relation to conversions. Not just so I can show clients what I achieve, but also for my own evaluation... and also for yours- for case studies.
While your business may be different in the types of case studies you'd write, you should still capture as much before and after as you can. Be it reviews, interviews, analytics, or what have you.
If you ha