November 9, 2020
I’m going to throw this out there: B2B content marketing is uncannily similar to SaaS onboarding.
I’m the Head of Growth at Userpilot, which is a product marketing platform.
We enable SaaS providers to build onboarding experiences into their products that get users up to speed, achieving their goals and becoming paying customers.
We also do a fair amount of content marketing.
So in this blog, I’m going to share six top B2B content marketing ideas that come from a product growth and product adoption perspective.
You’ll probably have come across at least some of them before, but I’m aiming to present them in a new light.
One of the best types of content you can produce is original research. In fact, this survey found that marketers rate it as THE most effective content type:
Because it provides value that a reader can’t get anywhere else.
And providing value fast is the key to successful content marketing. You’ve drawn somebody in with the promise of your content - now you have to deliver it.
One of the most important concepts in product adoption is “Time To First Value” (TTFV). By focusing on reducing TTFV, we aim to move SaaS users along the user journey:
An activated user is feeling the pay-off of using your service. B2B content marketers need to be thinking about activating their online audiences.
Coming back to the “can’t get it anywhere else” factor, original research is also great for generating backlinks - because other people will want to cite it.
Original research about your audience is also valuable market intel. As well as being great for traffic, our 2020 State of SaaS for Product Onboarding report told us a huge amount about the needs and interests of the people we’re trying to service.
Similarly, Microconf’s State of Independent SaaS report was really useful to me in understanding the people I’m marketing to.
But what if you don’t have the budget or time to produce it?
In my experience, the best substitute is to present what’s already out there in a new form.
So collect up groups of stats and industry insights that haven’t been shown together before.
Put your own angle or take onto someone else’s research.
Create something new out of the materials available.
The goal, as always, is to provide value to your audience.
A lot of content marketers think only in terms of Top Of Funnel (TOFU).
That is, content marketing as a means of:
Every piece of content you release should lead the reader or viewer to the next step on the journey (and of course, that won’t be the same step for everyone).
As well as TOFU content, you need to provide more focused, more practical and more specific content to allow engaged users to deepen their engagement - content that leads people towards the Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU).
HubSpot has a nice diagram to illustrate this:
Content marketing should help buyers at every stage of their journey with resources that support that progress from TOFU to BOFU.
In our case, we have a Product Adoption School email series that blog readers can sign up to.
Once they've found the Userpilot blog to be a valuable source of information, we offer them the next step up in terms of that value - a detailed free course explaining the fundamentals of onboarding and adoption best practice.
Educational content of this sort not only deepens our engagement with prospective customers, but it also gives them the tools to realise value faster when they do come to try out our service!
One-size-fits-all is an approach to marketing that no longer works for most businesses.
It certainly doesn’t work in SaaS onboarding.
The old idea of making every new user sit through a thorough product tour has been consigned to history by forward-thinking companies in favour of interactive, contextual, user-led onboarding.
You can’t expect people with different needs, different expectations and different priorities to onboard or to interact with you via a one-size-fits-all approach.
Content marketers need to take this insight on board too.
People get value from content when it speaks directly and closely to their interests and needs.
So it’s vital that you understand the different groups that make up your audience, and tailor your content to cater for their needs and use cases.
A great example of this was Wistia and Buffer’s “Built to Last” audio conference.
As well as thinking about what will provide maximum value to each segment of your audience, you need to consider the best moment to deliver it - that is, the context.
When a user is logged in to an app, it’s easy to deploy contextual prompts and offer useful content on the basis of the behavior patterns they display.
For example, if somebody starts a task but navigates away before completing it, a simple reminder, tips for completion or stories about other user successes can help put them back on track.
This isn’t quite so easy on a website or on social media, but it’s still possible to a degree.
We’ve all seen long-form blogs that show a pop-up offering a free trial or a white paper that’s triggered when a reader hits a certain scroll percentage.
And we’ve all seen chatbots that activate and ask if you need help after you’ve stayed in one place for too long.
How much more value could content marketers be providing if they got even more contextual?
It never ceases to amaze me how many companies still don’t put case studies at the centre of their content marketing.
Case studies provide the proof that backs up all your other sales materials.
They show your service delivering - and as every Hollywood screenwriter knows, when you want to make an impression: show, don’t tell.
And you can get creative with them.
Case studies don’t have to look like the same old PowerPoint or PDF downloads.
We turn a lot of ours into blogs, for example. We’ll explore the problem that one of our customers was experiencing before trying Userpilot and then set out a narrative of how our solution addressed that problem.
Telling the story in this way is great for creating empathy and helping readers to put themselves into the shoes of a successful user.
Video testimonials are ideal as well, because the happy customer can be seen putting their story across in their own words.
And of course, customer success can inspire other types of valuable content.
A lot of SaaS services have to deal with what we can the “empty state” problem. That is, when a new user logs in, they are confronted with a blank slate and don’t know how to get started.
Successful customer examples and use-case templates based on them can be incredibly powerful for bridging the gap between Aha and Activation.
Canva uses templates brilliantly in this way, helping new users get off the ground and providing incentives for freemium users to upgrade at the same time.
Short-form content is making a comeback.
It went out of fashion with content marketers a few years ago - mainly because it wasn’t great for SEO.
But if the goal of B2B content marketing is to provide value to users when they need it, where they need it and as quickly as possible, then less can sometimes be more.
Take a look at LinkedIn.
Some of the most successful content on there is under 200 words of text or under 30 seconds of video.
If you can make a point quickly and effectively, you’re lowering TTFV and earning a hearing for your next piece of content.
This is obviously something we have to be very mindful of in onboarding, where we don’t want the help content to get in the way of action.
That’s why contextual tooltips and other little UX elements with just enough content to get the message across as so valuable.
What may have begun as a social media trend is making its way back across the channels.
You can probably tell that I’m a fan of collaborative content marketing, as I’m here writing a guest post for Cognism!
The benefits of working with other marketers are:
Collaborations are also great ways of pooling resources to generate original content.
That’s why so many research projects are sponsored or carried out by more than one organisation.
And the best case studies are often collaborations too.
What better proof of customer success is there than the customer themselves being involved in presenting the evidence?
One of the benefits of working for a company like Userpilot is that I get to collect and apply insights from our product adoption work to our B2B content marketing, and vice versa.
Viewing your marketing as an extension of onboarding processes can be a really helpful way of making sure that your content is well targeted and plays a clear role in guiding your audience to the desired destinations while delivering on their expectations.
And that's a wrap! Six B2B content marketing ideas to level-up your strategy. If you're after for more content marketing insights, download our playbook below. 👇🏼
Based in Munich, Germany, he's a rising star in the B2B content marketing space and recently featured in Mailtastic's Marketing Rebels series.
He also loves biryani and burgers.