Chief Editor, Follow Your Buyer
You might know me as a writer, coach, content marketer, dog lover, editor, golfer, sales strategist, Diet Coke enthusiast, speaker, Allegheny alum, project manager, feminist, networker, or St. Louis Cardinals fan.
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Your marketing team has done the hard part: you’ve earned the budget you need for content. Your sales team is excited for leads to start rolling in, and you have subject matter experts willing and able to help create content.
Now for the really hard part: what should you write about?
It’s one of the most common questions asked regardless of industry, company size, position in the market, or level of experience with content marketing. Even if you think you know the answer, there is always more content to be written, and your content can always improve.
Before you decide what to write about, you’ll need to understand the why for your content marketing. Why are you investing in content marketing? Your answer can’t be as simple as, “growth” or “to get more leads.”
If you’re going down the content marketing path to build awareness, fill your funnel with new prospects, and educate the market, then great. You’ll want to focus on developing content for customers who are in the very early stages of their buyer’s journeys.
If the “why” behind your content marketing strategy is to convert leads to closed sales, then you might be frustrated by your results. Good content builds awareness and trust. It educates your customers. It gives your sales team insight into where prospects are in their buyer’s journey. It does not, however, magically shorten your sales cycle. You can produce all of the content you want for customers in the late stage of their buyer’s journey, just as long as you’re willing to leave tons of money on the table by missing out on the customers who never invite you to the table in the first place.
Once you can clearly explain the why behind your content marketing strategy, then you can start understanding what to write about, how to write it, and who to write it for.
Let’s fast forward and assume that your content strategy is sound and that you’re on the same page with your sales team (you’ll need to know what to do with content leads once they enter your funnel, but that’s another topic for another day). Now what? How do you know what message your content should convey?
Here are a few ways to answer the “What should we write about?” question.
Primary research. You can do this internally using your database of customers and prospects. Or you can partner with a third-party research firm for custom research. Make sure you’re gathering data from a large, diverse sample size of the right titles at the right companies. Make sure you’re asking questions that are specific, have the right context, and are formatted in a way that will give you accurate data to analyze.
Industry events. What topics are on the agenda at the leading conferences in your space? Take advantage of the many months of planning that event hosts spend on crafting a compelling agenda designed to attract the same customers you want to attract. Topics that involve your customers as presenters or panelists are likely more valuable than sessions run by your competitors. Be wary of pay-for-play events that allow event sponsors to fill the agenda with infomercials.
Your customers. Your customers are the single best source of insight when you’re deciding what kind of content to create. Get on the phone with your customers. Go see them in person. Survey them. Follow what they’re posting on LinkedIn. Ask your sales colleagues, implementation managers, and anyone else who is in a customer-facing role what they’re hearing from customers. And don’t just talk to your most engaged customers or the ones with the deepest pockets – make sure you get a representative sample of customers to give feedback.
Getting to know your customers is harder than you might think. First, you’ll need to classify customer companies into very granular segments. From there, spell out which titles/job functions are most important to influence at the companies you want to reach. Then, ask yourself questions like these, and if you don’t know the answers, go talk to your customers to find them.
You’ll need to understand your customers in a much deeper way than how they interact with your products and services. A true understanding of your customers is the best way to know what to write about.
We will not be great by what we accomplish, but by what we help others accomplish.How does this apply to your work as a B2B marketer?
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Learning to follow your buyer is a change in mindset
A transition from selling buyers on what you do to helping them accomplish what they do.