B2B content marketing: Key elements and top examples
B2B content marketing can sometimes have the unfortunate reputation of being challenging to execute.
We’re not gonna lie or sugarcoat.
There’s more than meets the eye to putting together a comprehensive B2B content marketing strategy that’s effective. Effective here means using content to successfully attract your target audience with an ultimate end goal of converting them into sales.
Understanding your buyer persona.
Doing SEO keyword research.
Crafting an editorial calendar.
The strategy part of B2B content marketing is a tedious process and it’s an important first step to get the ball rolling. But after all that’s done, the content created must be of quality to do all that initial work justice.
In this article, we’ll talk about the key elements all B2B content must have, and present to you some of the best B2B content marketing examples and what they’ve done right.
That way, you have everything you need to apply to your own B2B content to make it stand out.
Five characteristics of great B2B content
Content can take on plenty of different formats and B2B content is no exception to this.
But regardless of its end product (be it blog posts, ebooks, social media, video, podcasts, etc.), there are five characteristics that unite all great B2B content and they’re what make them stand out above the rest.
Let’s take a look at what they are.
1. Practical and actionable
First and foremost, B2B content must be useful and practical.
Imagine a reader who’s on your website looking for more information about a problem he’s facing. If your content doesn’t guide him towards better understanding his problem, it essentially serves no purpose and he’ll soon be hopping over to a competitor’s website who has the problem-solving content he’s after.
On top of practicality, it also needs to be actionable. That means that aside from understanding the why and what, they must also know the how to apply your content to their problem.
As a business, you’re a representative of your industry and an expert. That means your target audience and clients must be able to trust the solution you’re offering.
This starts with providing accurate and high-quality content that must be reflected in all your B2B content marketing efforts.
B2B content needs to first convince and then convert. And the first step to that is proving your worth through well-grounded content. This establishes your credibility as a reliable and top resource among your target customers and fellow industry professionals.
3. Easy to consume
The complexity of certain B2B industries can be tough to manage when it comes to content marketing. This is especially so for massive industries like banking and logistics where there’s just so much involved that trying to extrapolate one single aspect of a convoluted process to explain can prove impossible.
That said, it’s very tempting and easy to approach B2B content creation with a “tell it as it is”. But what may appear straightforward to a provider may sound completely Greek to their audience.
B2B content is at its most effective when it is easy to consume and does the job of untangling the intricacies. Though B2B industries can sometimes be dry, that shouldn’t limit your creativity. In fact, that’s an opportunity to create out-of-the-box content that engages.
4. Go beyond product
Though the end game is to get your target audience to buy your product, good content should not revolve around the product and the product only.
For starters, that’s a recipe for disaster because such content only targets users at the bottom of the funnel, meaning you’re missing out on tons of other opportunities to reach and engage with your audience.
Secondly, going beyond the product has more potential to make your B2B content exciting as it moves away from the dry aspects and extends to wider topics. Instead of just honing in on what your product can do, good B2B content relates products to its target audience’s day-to-day needs.
The fresher the content, the more relevant it is. But that doesn’t just mean producing content frequently and updating old content as you go along.
Fresh B2B content refers to content that’s contextualised within the latest developments-be it new research data, global events, or even the latest news from both your and your audience’s industries.
Not only does such content ensure you’re reaching readers with the most pertinent information and knowing that your content provides value to them, but it also shows that you care by keeping up-to-date with what’s happening.
Best B2B content marketing examples
Enough theory. Let’s see these characteristics put into use.
There are plenty of great B2B content marketing examples and we could go on and on about how each one of them is unique.
But in this post, we’ll just focus on two of our absolute favourites at Dear Content: Buffer and Slack, which are without a doubt a gold standard for all B2B content marketers.
Buffer needs no introduction. But we’ll nutshell it real quickly anyway: It’s a social media management and analytical tool.
Targeting businesses, Buffer has one of the most comprehensive and impressive B2B content strategies we’ve seen.
To start, their content is in-depth and insightful. Take, for instance, their “State of Social” reports, which they have been producing over the past few years (since 2016, as far as we can tell).
Why are these reports good B2B content marketing examples? The research data they’ve compiled provides companies with an idea of the direction social media is headed towards, which highlights the practical side of the content.
And instead of just throwing the data at their readers and going, “Hey, these are the numbers,” and letting them figure out what to do with them, they provide actionable tips their readers can incorporate into their social media strategies.
✔️ Practical and actionable: Check!
Buffer’s “State of Social” reports aren’t the only data-based content they produce. In fact, their website’s resources section is filled with such reports:
- We Analyzed 15,000 Instagram Stories from 200 of the World’s Top Brands (New Stories Research)
- What 777,367,063 Facebook Posts Tell Us About Successful Content in 2019 (New Research)
As we’ve all learned in our statistics 101 course (or maybe just some of us), the larger the sample size, the greater the data precision and reliability.
With their analysis of 15,000 Instagram stories, not only do they check the box for a large sample size, but their focus is also on the world’s top brands who supposedly know more than a thing or two about marketing.
As an added plus, they’re always sure to mention their methodology and sources in these data-backed posts.
✔️ Reliable: Check!
Armed with chunks of numbers and data, the Buffer content team needs to make sense of it all and help their readers do the same.
They do that by presenting their data in simple and comprehensible charts that, at one glance, depicts a trend and offers an immediate takeaway.
They’ve even further facilitated the chart’s key takeaway by condensing it into bullet points!
With non-data-based content (and hence not many opportunities for such charts), Buffer ensures their content is easy to understand and consume by using one of the oldest tricks in the content marketing playbook: formatting.
From clearly defined headers and quotes to screenshots, they know how not to overwhelm their readers by providing them with an optimal reading experience.
✔️ Easy to consume: Check!
Yes, Buffer is a social media management tool. But that doesn’t limit the type of content they produce.
Aside from covering topics that are directly related to their product such as when to post on social media and how to navigate certain social media sites, they go beyond their immediate focus.
Their B2B content marketing strategy includes creating content related to the wider online marketing sector, including the skills needed to be a marketer, marketing growth strategies, and more.
But they haven’t just stopped there.
As an online social media management tool that’s fully accessible from any place with an internet connection, their target audience includes remote workers. And they have an entire section dedicated to them.
So not only does their B2B content helps this group of users navigate their product, but by creating content that caters to their remote working lifestyle and challenges, it also expands its reach.
✔️ Go beyond product: Check!
Buffer’s B2B content also stands out for its freshness and timeliness.
Evergreen content is very often the default go-to content type for content marketing teams because they’re timeless. But timely content has the chance to make a bigger impact in a much shorter time.
That’s something the Buffer content team is well aware of and has taken full advantage of.
On their blog, they have entire sections dedicated to trends and news.
They consist of articles like:
- Why social commerce will rule social media in 2020
- 5 Data-Backed Social Media Trends You Need to Know for 2019
- Decoding the Facebook Algorithm: A Fully Up-to-Date List of the Algorithm Factors and Changes
Plus, they’re keeping up with news that may affect their audience and their business. This is evidenced by their COVID-19 post on social media management in moments of crisis.
The article not only empathizes with their readers’ situations, but it also offers ways to cope and provides concrete examples of how other companies are doing so through social media.
✔️ Fresh (and again, actionable): Check!
If you hadn’t already heard of Slack, with most businesses going remote over the past few months, by now, you’ve surely not only heard of the business communication platform, you may even be familiar with it.
Slack’s content encompasses the five characteristics of good B2B content and goes above and beyond to provide their audience with a unique content experience.
Their help centre is filled with articles to guide users having difficulties with their tool or those who simply want to learn more. Cover all aspects, they’ve also categorised it such that each section caters to a specific need and experience level Slack users have.
This allows users to better navigate their platform and fully immerse themselves in the Slack experience. That way, they can make the absolute most of it and incorporate it into their daily work and communication.
By the way, though they do provide tips in their help centre, that’s not the only place they offer tips on their website.
There’s an entire “Tips & Tricks” section on SlackHQ, their official blog, that, in their own words, helps users “get more out of Slack”.
That’s not all.
They also have a separate “Tips” page that has guides related to integrations with other apps and services.
Their extensive production of actionable tips and tricks shows that Slack’s product and content teams are really going all out to ensure users always get the help they need if and when they run into problems.
✔️ Practical and actionable: Check!
Slack’s problem-solving mentality and approach with their content aren’t surprising, considering that it was created by a group of software engineers.
Today, software engineers form a substantial portion of Slack users. Knowing that, Slack often produces B2B content orientated towards software engineers.
That includes this ebook on Why engineering teams love Slack.
It’s B2B content that’s written by engineers for engineers and uses software engineering jargon, which serves two purposes:
- It helps its readers, software engineers, better relate to the content
- It showcases their expertise on the subject
The ebook is also backed with screenshots of its software at work as well as quotes and testimonials from other software engineers.
✔️ Reliable: Check!
Slack’s B2B content also showcases their mastery of understanding and simplifying complex topics.
One clear example of this is their article on workflow builder tools.
Explaining how to set processes up isn’t always easily achieved through text and text alone. Most content marketers are well aware of that and many resort to screenshots to offer clarity.
But even screenshots may not quite cut it sometimes.
In their article, Slack uses not just screenshots but also a video and a gif to clearly illustrate a process that would otherwise be cumbersome to explain and comprehend if it were to be done with just text.
✔️ Easy to understand: Check!
Though Slack’s main features are aimed at improving business communication and team collaboration, its content goes beyond immediately adjacent topics like productivity and remote working.
The scope of its B2B content extends much further than that and comprises wider topics such as business growth, innovation, and digitalisation.
✔️ Go beyond product: Check!
The only way to hold meetings during a global lockdown is via a video (or perhaps just audio) conference.
So as businesses worldwide went remote, taking all communication with them digital, it was only a matter of time before employees started to experience fatigue and productivity issues from working from home.
Slack, a tool many remote workers were already using even before the rest of the world joined them, was well aware of this.
To help their users cope, they took to publishing articles targeting these problems.
Reaching out to their users this way with content that goes beyond their product shows a clear understanding of their audience’s day-to-day problems.
Slack’s B2B content goes one step further with forward planning.
They’ve kept up with news of office spaces reopening and created relevant content in anticipation of these upcoming changes to their target audience’s working life.
One of their articles, titled Opening up: Leadership trends for the post-lockdown workplace, exemplifies just that. It’s a piece that smoothens the transition for business leaders by helping them prioritise their team management tasks.
✔️ Fresh: Check!
March forward with great B2B content
B2B content marketing is an extremely powerful tool that helps to generate qualified traffic and leads and propel you towards achieving your business goals.
But there’s a big difference between simply having a blog and publishing great and effective B2B content.
The latter requires more than having the knowledge and data needed to create content. It’s complemented with sensitivity towards and empathy for your target audience.
We hope that in dissecting these two top examples, you have a better understanding of how to create and execute B2B content and apply it to your B2B content marketing strategy.