content marketing - the secret sauce of successful b2b sales

Question: How can young startups raise awareness and signal credibility to potential B2B customers? Answer: Through smart content marketing!

Content marketing can be applied on the operational and strategic levels. The former is about producing immediate impact, e.g., new sales leads. The latter focuses on creating long-run value, e.g., expert reputation building. Whitepapers are one form of content marketing that connects both.

Caution: Whitepapers are not about advertising your product – they are about educating your (potential) customers. Here are three key learnings to maximize the business impact of your whitepapers.

1. identify your customers’ concerns and proactively address them

First, take your prospective customers’ point of view: What are their core needs, what are recurring concerns and obstacles to buy your product? Consider that these obstacles may be different depending on individual departments (e.g., marketing, finance, operations). For a structured assessment of your customers’ needs, check out the value proposition canvas that you can find online.

This tool matches the value-add of your solution to the requirements (pains and gains) of your customers. If you are unsure about customer pain points, engage with them and listen to their struggles.

Second, identify a suitable topic to address the identified pains and concerns. Ideally, your whitepaper should mitigate a critical roadblock in your sales cycle and give customers more confidence that your product is a must-have.

Third, define an approach to reach out to your customers.

CRM tool Hubspot leverages content marketing to boost sales, without directly advertising their products. Their approach: Hubspot uses different resources such as blogs, e-books, webinars, and templates to inform potential customers about best practices in customer relationship management and sales – free of costs. At the same time, Hubspot offers its tools to put the learnings into practice. Through this strategy, Hubspot builds a positive reputation and creates an initial customer lock-in effect.

In a nutshell: Understand your customers core buying barriers and use whitepapers to proactively mitigate them. Be a gain creator and/or a pain reliever.

2. grab your target group’s attention and quickly optimize your communication strategy

Do you know how long social media ads are viewed on average? A mere two seconds! This means: Standing out is key to grab your customer’s attention.
How to generate outstanding content?

- Use short, engaging headlines (e.g. try using references to music/films or adaptations of proverbs)

- Use visuals or graphics to make your content appealing and easier to understand

- Provide readers with short and concise take-aways

Try different approaches of presenting your content and iterate quickly. That way, you will find out which strategy resonates best with your target group.

In a nutshell: Make your content stand out and easy to grasp. Iterate quickly to find your sweet spot.

3. use hacks to reach your target group

Identify hacks to raise awareness among potential customers. Attract the attention of opinion leaders in your target industry by tagging them in your LinkedIn post. Remember that your customers are most likely also active on non-professional social media networks such as Facebook or Instagram – advertise your whitepaper in these channels as well. Leverage your network and send your whitepaper proactively to potential customers – always together with a creative and individualized message.

In a nutshell: Use the power of social media and leverage your network to generate awareness

here is the final check list for your whitepaper:

1. Do I address the right target group?

2. Does the whitepaper eliminate a critical blocker in the sales cycle?

3. Does the content relate to my product, without being too intrusive?

4. Do I have a clear approach to push the whitepaper to my target group?