Top-of-funnel B2B content marketing is a lot like chili. Every chef has a secret ingredient or method that makes his or her’s “the best this side of the Mississippi.” Despite the thousands of recipe variations, you'll find a handful of ingredients in almost every pot: tomatoes, onions, cumin, etc. (and no, I’m not getting into the beans vs. no beans debate!).
The same is true for content marketing. A handful of prerequisites are necessary to write compelling content, and once you have those down, you can customize content to your liking. With that in mind, here’s a piping-hot bowl of tips for cooking blue-ribbon, top-of-funnel content.
Identify your audience
This suggestion seems obvious, but unfortunately, many companies write B2B marketing content without considering who will read it. Target your content toward the people who can decide to buy your solution and those who will influence the purchase decision. It’s essential to learn as much as possible about the people you’re writing for—their concerns, what makes their jobs more difficult, how they talk about what they do, etc.
When you know a topic inside and out, it’s easy to spot content written by someone who doesn’t. The wording is off, and the suggestions aren’t applicable. Get the audience personas down pat, and you’ll earn your readers’ trust and increase the likelihood that they’ll seek you out for more insight.
Identify and implement your priority keywords
Developing good content is half art and half science. The art—writing the content—is the creative part. The science—SEO optimization—requires a little more detailed legwork. Before you draft a single sentence, identify the keywords your audience uses to try to solve their problems. Your master keyword list should guide your chosen topics and how you write about them. Without this due diligence, the best-written content may never reach the people who need to see it.
Respect the content marketing funnel
Potential customers at the top of the sales funnel aren’t looking to make a purchase today. So top-of-funnel content shouldn’t be sales-y. Your content should be empathetic and let readers know that you understand what they’re going through.
This isn’t the time to promote your solutions. That’s not where your readers are at this point in their journey, and you’re more likely to drive them away. It’s OK to include a “To learn more about how we can help” call-to-action with a link after the article, but it should never be a central point of the content. You might also want to link to other content that’s likely to interest the reader, such as a webinar, podcast or e-book.
Prioritize empathy and guidance
When you boil it down, companies are all trying to do the same thing: Solve their customers’ problems. That’s it. Your audience wants to know that you understand their challenges and the myriad details associated with them, so you should anchor content around that theme. You want to convey that you know what they’re going through and have some ideas to help.
With that general framework in mind, consider using the following outline for content:
Intro: Begin with a general overview of a challenge the audience faces and explain why those problems impact the goals they’re trying to accomplish.
Challenge identification: Identify three to five subsequent challenges that prevent them from solving the overarching problem.
Prescriptive measures: For each of the subsequent challenges, share suggestions for solving them based on your organization’s specific expertise. While you shouldn’t be inserting product selling points, you can take a more generalized approach. For example, instead of saying, “Security Window 9000 offers complete visibility of all network activity,” you could position it like this: “Complete visibility of all network activity is critical to your overall security posture. Here’s why.”
Perfecting top-of-funnel B2B content marketing takes time. Still, with the essential ingredients in place, you’ll reach the right audience and increase the chances of guiding those readers toward a potential partnership. So get cookin’!
Check out the Look Left @ Marketing podcast for more content marketing insights.