Who’s succeeding at B2B content marketing?

The increased focus on content marketing continues to grow, a trend highlighted by a number of studies surveying marketers’ top priorities:

Most commercially important digital marketing trend 2015

The content marketing boom is also reflected in the relative search volume trends for phrases related to content marketing:

Content marketing - interest over time

Content marketing can be defined as the strategy of providing valuable, relevant, quality content that customers want in order to attract and retain a clearly defined audience.

This definition certainly applies to a number of notable case studies, particularly those involving Coke, Disney and famously Red Bull and Felix Baumgartner’s space jump in 2012. However, whilst these are all very valid and useful examples of content marketing at its best, they are all from consumer brands.

Content marketing is practiced by both B2C and B2B brands and for that reason this post will look specifically at case studies demonstrating how businesses are using content marketing in the B2B space.

Why content marketing has emerged as a top priority

It’s worth briefly exploring the concept of content marketing, the reasons behind its emergence and some of the prerequisites for success.

Whilst the origins of content marketing can be dated back to the late 1800s and the launch of John Deer’s The Furrow, the practice of content marketing in the digital era emerged in the shadow of more established earned media disciplines, such as SEO, social media marketing and online PR.

For all these disciplines, content has always been a fundamental element, although as these established practices matured, the use and application of content has evolved, too. Successful SEO used to involve the acquisition and production of large quantities of links and content regardless of quality and relevance. However, with the advent of Google’s various algorithm updates it’s been interesting to see how the popularity of some tactics have declined relative to content marketing’s rise:

Content marketing vs other tactics

The recognition from marketers of the need for more valuable, relevant, quality content to achieve cut-through and engagement has fuelled the rise in content marketing as a discipline. Whilst some have warned of the impending ‘content shock’ or ‘content deluge’ (diminishing returns from content efforts as a result of an over supply of mediocre content), it’s clear that brands following a best practice approach are succeeding.

We’ll cover some specific content marketing insights within each of the case studies below. However, some of the aspects brands finding success using content marketing share include:

A core content strategy

There is a difference between content strategy and content marketing, with the former setting the parameters and structure for the latter. A company’s content marketing efforts should be one of many elements encompassed within the overarching content strategy.

content-strategy-quad

A documented approach to content marketing

According to research from the Content Marketing Institute, whilst 94% of B2B marketers are doing content marketing, only 32% have a documented content strategy – even though many are producing more content than the previous year.

Those that are succeeding at content marketing have a clearly documented approach that outlines:

1. Who are we?
2. Who are we trying to reach?
3. What are we trying to accomplish?

A differentiating factor

Content marketing success isn’t about blindly copying the competition. Whilst it’s certainly important to audit competitor activity, those that are really standing out have taken a unique approach that meets their target customers’ needs and adds real value to their online community.

B2B content marketing: case studies and best practice

General Electric (GE)

What are they doing?

It’s really interesting to see how brands use content marketing in different ways and General Electric’s use of a wide range of channels and media formats, from Tumblr to Instagram and YouTube, are all quite inspiring.

At first glance, one wouldn’t expect a multinational energy, tech and industrial conglomerate to have the type of product and audience to be a social media hit and yet they’ve proved that thinking laterally and good execution pays off.

GE Technologist

 

GE content hub

Content marketing insight: experiment with different channels and formats

GE have created a variety of owned and social media properties, including the main GE blog, a research zone and numerous social media channels, all of which is aggregated on the GE social hub.

There is real diversity and imagination in the approach GE have taken and the Txchnologist, a Tumblr-based online magazine, is a great illustration of this, with posts, stories and insight designed to explore the ever-changing worlds of science, technology and innovation.

Moz

What are they doing?

For over 10 years Moz has been running their blog, initially specialising in SEO before over time expanding into other areas, including social media, web analytics and of course content marketing.

The Moz blog is a brilliant example of highly effective B2B content marketing, providing top quality specialist content to a very specific audience group. In addition to their daily blog posts, they also provide high-quality, in-depth guides as well as video tutorials – all for absolutely no cost.

The Moz blog

 

Moz Whiteboard Friday

Content marketing insight: focus on a select group of media for your target audience

Moz’s Whiteboard Friday series regularly receives some of the highest social interaction and comments on the blog and their Beginner’s Guide to SEO now has over 6,000 social shares and 1,000 backlinks.

Moz have successfully zeroed in on a target audience and use a select range of media (written content, video and research) that is regularly shared and referenced, all of which improves the brand’s authority within a very competitive niche.

Deloitte

What are they doing?

As a consultancy firm, Deloitte has a very broad customer base spanning multiple sectors and industries. Deloitte’s knowledge and expertise is a fundamental element of their value proposition and therefore great content marketing can be a differentiating factor.

Whilst some of Deloitte’s competitors are experimenting with content marketing, Deloitte stand out in the way they create a range of relevant content for such a wide audience that all fits as part of their overarching content strategy.

Deloitte

Content marketing insight: the creation of dedicated content hubs to meet specific audience needs

In order to reach multiple audiences effectively, Deloitte have created a set of dedicated content hubs, executed using topic tags based on each of the different services Deloitte provide and the industries in which they operate.

The result is a compelling content marketing engine that provides high quality, in-depth content for a very astute and knowledge audience, giving Deloitte an edge at every stage in the decision journey.