B2B content; the basics, AI, and budgets
B2B isn't that different from B2C, both are human with the same content needs
You often ask me, ‘And what about B2B content?’, with my famous astonished stare, my answer is always the same…, ‘ as if B2B all of a sudden is a different kind of species, and the basic rules of content need to be adjusted?’
B2B and B2C are both human, with the same needs, and the same content rules apply: add value, be you,
sexy easy on the eye.
A small side note: all below is focused on SME B2B (small and medium enterprises). If you’re a large(r) B2B brand, just double the budget ballparks, and you’ll be fine.
Why it matters
For B2B, the content isn’t different from B2C. Both industries have human audiences who want to be inspired, educated, or entertained, so the same rules apply to get attention and engagement.
The biggest difference is that for B2B, you might need a little less and very high-quality content.
And if you can't comply, maybe no content is even better. To ‘do content’ or not, it all depends on your business case and how you get your customers in.
For the first year ballpark budget is € 30k to € 45k, and for the second year, € 15k to € 20k. And these are just the numbers for production. Team, tech, and distribution are not included.
Below, I’ll explain that the rules of content still apply
- Audience is still first
- Inform and educate, claim leadership
- Frictionless and easy-to-access
- Sexy. Visually appealing
- SEO. Another no-brainer
And more that's good to know
- Budget ballparks
- What about social?
- And what about AI?
Audience-first sounds like a no-brainer. In the B2B reality, that’s often a whole different story. Content is gated, and the audience feels like a lead. It almost sounds like the brand is put first, not the audience.
Driven by fear of losing data and giving away knowledge to your competitors. To mitigate these fearful feelings
- What do you actually do with the microdata? Is that for shitty shiny MT reporting, or do you adjust and AB test your content accordingly? Based on experience, I bet it’s the first.
- How high is the conversion on the leads you’re getting in? And do you know how much you’re missing out by having the gate up? You don’t know what you don’t know. I bet there are more people clicking away than giving their data to get your whitepaper. Is this tradeoff worth missing out in the leadership claim?
- Do you really think your competitors aren’t already undercover in your funnel to check your sales processes and lead generation machine? Next to that, make them jealous and envious of your knowledge and expertise. Nobody can 1:1 copy-paste another brand’s content. And if they do copy-paste-adjust, you should feel proud and further step up your content game.
2. Inform and educate
Now that you put your audience first, what to tell them? The golden rule is to inform and educate. Your prospects have an information need, and they go online to self-educate.
This self-education is the start of your content strategy. What are they looking for (SEO, keywords), and how can you answer their questions with your content?
They ask, you answer
Definition: You give an open, transparent, extended, and honest answer to all the questions your customers have. You pre-think for them and have your content ready for when they enter their question in Google. As soon as they ask Google, you are there to answer.
- To discover their questions, use Google and ChatGPT
- Creating answers; testing. iterating, planning, and distribution
They ask, you answer, all nitty-gritty details about how to do this.
By the way, this is great for SEO as well.
3. Frictionless and easy access
Nobody wants to feel like a lead. If you are a bit like me, you get immediately irritated and frustrated by making an effort to click, fill in a form, leave your details to get a whitepaper, and then be stalked with annoying newsletters or, even worse, a sales rep. ‘70% of buying committee members say they prefer rep-free sales experience’ (Gartner, Contently)
Any marketer knows that every additional click causes a drop in conversion. In this case, the conversion is getting your content seen by your audience (prospects).
Embrace the dark funnel; there’s nothing wrong with not knowing everything. It’s audience-first, remember? And if you can make their lives easier by giving frictionless and easy access to your knowledge, it’s a win-win for both. They find what they are searching for; you claim your leadership.
Why not to gate your B2B content and get your expensive content seen by as many people as possible?
4. Sexy. Visually appealing
Telling your story and showing off your knowledge and expertise is one thing. Making it look visually appealing is something else. It’s magic is in the formatting, usage of whitespace, and the visuals.
Nobody gets excited by long reads with big chunks of copy, stock visuals, and hardly readable infographics. Even though your information might be excellent, making it look sexy is what gets the attention of the readers.
Two open doors
- Mobile first. Yes, also for B2B, those humans are also on a mobile phone. Besides, optimizing from a mobile version for a laptop is far easier than vice versa. How to get short, sweet, and airy copy and formatting tips.
- Visuals. No stock. Please. Use your dirty mind and some tools. Keep in mind that it's the visual that gets the first attention, not the copy.
5. SEO. Another no-brainer
No need to explain the importance of SEO. If you apply the ‘they ask you answer,’ you are more than halfway there. The next easy thing to do is to be very precise and meticulous in your CMS. Use the keywords in H1 (title) and H2 (subtitle) and write your copy in a human conversational language. Also, for B2B, they are human, after all.
You can take it overboard, get really nerdy for SEO, and optimize in the smallest details. Up to you if that investment is worth making.
From my own experience, I stick to ‘they ask you answer’ and smart writing, and I already rank pretty well in Google.
Good to know that I don’t get my clients from SEO; my lead gen is word of mouth and recommendations by former clients or peers in the industry. I use my blog to claim my leadership and as a backbone for my clients, with more information, knowledge, and experience available at their convenience.
Content is expensive. Content that claims leadership has a long lifetime and ranks well in SEO even more. For now, I’ll focus on production costs, the team and technology you need, or the distribution are not included.
The numbers below are SME B2B ballparks, which I think is worth it. If it’s more, reconsider if you have a solid business case to make such investments. Depending on your own digital maturity, what you already have, and in-house expertise, it can be less.
If you’re a bigger B2B and not an SME (anymore), please double the numbers.
First year € 30k to € 45k
- Content strategy: € 7,5 to € 10k
- Three or four hero content items: € 2,5 to €3k each, € 10k
- Help content, about € 1,5k to € 2k each, you need around 10 items, € 20k
- Video: are you sure it’s worth it? It starts around € 5k per video
- Miscellaneous costs ~10%: € 5k
Second year and after € 15k to € 20k
- Two hero items: € 5k
- Six additional help content items: € 12k
- Miscellaneous costs ~10%: 3k
Do it well or not at all
All can be done cheaper or by AI, you’ll notice. So will your audience. And SEO.
For content goes, do it well or don't do it at all. Nobody is waiting for more mediocre content or that’s outdated.
Make sure you have the budgets allocated above for year one, two, and three. It takes time before you see an effect, and stopping after one year because you don’t see results is stupid. If that’s your case, I recommend not to start at all.
What about social?
Social. The magic word. In reality, it isn’t. Not any SME B2B has grown huge based on social only. You need your backbone and .com presence. So start with your .com content first, then start thinking about social.
And free up the same amount of budget for the first years. Year one € 30k minimum, for year two, and after, € 15k minimum per year
And what about AI?
AI and ChatGPT are not the magic answer to your content problem. Not even with the most recent (October 2023) AI updates by OpenAI, Meta, and Alexa to give you more accurate, recent, sourceable output.
Typing in a prompt, copy-paste-polish the output, and publishing that as your own content will not move your needle.
People recognize AI-generated content, and so does Google.
Don’t get me wrong, AI is great. As a wingman. Super for research, ideation, and to help you write more and better. Not to do the work for you.
How to start with AI: train the people you have and learn them to innovate. AI is not a static tool; it’s a different way of thinking and working.
If there’s one platform that gives away all their knowledge and insights, it’s Contently. They are B2B and lead by example. Great website, amazing newsletter, and SEO savvy.
Why they are good
And yes, they have a sales funnel. And it’s quite pushy. And I get that as they need to drive business to be able to give us content. Quid pro quo.
I do know who I’ll call when I need a content marketing platform.
Content for SME B2B is expensive. It's up to you if there's a business case for this investment. What I know is that you really need to invest in high-quality content.
Leaving it to a junior or medior without proper guidance and senior support is setting up for failure. And that’s not the medior’s fault, or ‘that content doesn’t work,’ it means you didn’t invest enough.
And please, please, don’t gate your content. We are in a new content era. Gating your content to get as many leads as possible and push them into your email database is not moving the needle. Even more so, you miss out on reach, and your expensive content doesn’t get seen.
We are not in the 90s or 00s anymore. Make your content as easy and frictionless accessible as possible, claim your leadership, and the leads will follow if you’ve done your content right.