What Is The ROI Of Content Marketing For B2B Brands?

Ross Simmonds

Whether you’re the founder of a new B2B startup, in charge of the marketing side of an enterprise-level B2B company, working at a high-growth startup, or just riding solo as a freelancer, one question will inevitably come up when you think about investing in content marketing:

What’s the actual ROI of content marketing in B2B?

Sure, you’ve heard all the talk about content marketing and how great it can be. All your marketing friends are shouting from the rooftops about the value of content, your competitors are already dabbling in the content marketing game, and you’ve heard that 93 percent of B2B marketers use content marketing, but you’re still wondering…

What am I going to get if I double down on content marketing?

If you decide to invest your time and money into content marketing, it shouldn’t be because a few of your competitors are, or because a marketing buddy told you to. It should be because content marketing aligns with the unique goals of your business—otherwise, why would you bother wasting those hours and dollars?

Here’s the thing:

When B2B brands decide NOT to invest in content marketing, it’s not because they don’t think it aligns with their goals.

It’s because they don’t know what the real ROI of content marketing is.

Am I saying content marketing is for everyone? Perhaps not. Before you hire a bunch of writers and designers or start searching for a content marketing agency, you should know what to expect from that content marketing investment.

Here are four key results that B2B brands, startups and freelancers can expect from a well-designed and -executed content marketing plan:

1. Increase In Leads

In a study by Kapost comparing content marketing to paid search ads, content marketing produced three times the leads per dollar spent as paid search tools like Google AdWords.

And by month five of the study, the cost per lead dropped 80 percent compared to the beginning of the study.

On top of that, content marketing also generates three times more leads than outbound marketing and costs 62 percent less.

To put it simply, good content marketing is one of the best ways to generate leads.

That said, far too many marketers miss a key word in that sentence: good. Just because you ship content doesn’t mean you’ll automatically triple the size of your sales pipeline. Your content has to be high-quality, and your strategy has to be sound.

If you want to reap the B2B lead generation benefits of content marketing, you need to make sure your content marketing strategy is built for success.

What To Expect: More leads for less dollars with fewer headaches so you can live more life.

2. Increase In Brand Awareness

Building brand awareness in B2B is about more than just increasing the number of people who recognize your logo. Even if people know the logo, they may have no clue what you actually do.

Quality content that resonates with your target audience is the key to building brand awareness. By creating in-depth, value-packed content in your brand’s area of expertise, you’re establishing yourself as an expert in the space.

Proposify, a B2B SaaS startup that makes proposal software for sales teams, has used valuable content about topics like proposal best practices and how to generate more leads to establish themselves as a leader in the industry. By becoming the go-to for valuable insights on proposal creation, Proposify has ensured that businesses will look to them when they’re ready to invest in a proposal-building tool.

The same goes for a freelancer offering, say, social media management services to B2B brands. If you’re consistently creating valuable content about Facebook best practices and how to grow a presence on LinkedIn, you’ll be top of mind when a company needs help with social media.

The key is this:

In order to build your influence, the first step is to identify who makes up your target audience.

This will help you analyze what exactly they’re looking for content-wise. Build detailed customer personas with everything from what topics they like to how they prefer to consume their content, be it video, audio, or text. Use these personas to better understand how you can bring value to the table.

If you’re shipping content your audience will never care enough to click on, high-quality text won’t be enough to establish the brand awareness you’re hoping for.

Take the insights you gather about what your audience wants and how they want it, create what they’re looking for, make it way more than they’d expect to get for free, and start building that influence.

What To Expect: Greater brand value, meaning more leads coming in and less work required to win over potential clients and customers.

3. Shortened Sales Cycle

A study from the Corporate Executive Board found that 60 percent of a B2B purchasing decision occurs before any communication with the supplier. That means more than half of the decision-making process happens before your potential client talks to a sales rep.

No calls.

No email threads.

No wining and dining.

Before any of that, every B2B buyer is investing some serious time in one major step in the process. What might that be, you ask?

Research.

Before giving you a call, they want to know what you’re all about. What’s your primary value proposition? What are your clients and customers saying about you? What do you bring to the table that no one else can?

This is the perfect opportunity for you to provide serious value before they even reach out to you. If you’ve published a collection of high-value content pieces related to the needs of your target customer, they’re going to associate your brand with value—making one less hurdle for your sales team to jump over.

What To Expect: A shorter and easier-to-manage sales cycle, freeing up your sales team to up their output.

4. Improved Media Relations

Securing a feature in Forbes, Business Insider, VentureBeat or any other top publication is something every brand would love to pull off—there’s no denying that. Of course, getting the media’s attention is not the easiest thing in the world to accomplish. There are a number of factors involved, but one thing in particular is sure to help your cause:

A high-quality content marketing strategy.

If you consistently create valuable content designed to help your audience, your credibility will increase. As your credibility increases, your access to media will increase as well.

If you reach out to an editor at Inc.com asking them to publish a guest post of yours or do a feature on your company, first they’ll want to know what you and your brand are all about. Having a deep collection of high-value content will speak to your expertise on the topic you’re pitching.

Still, a great content strategy shouldn’t be built with the goal of getting a single mention in Inc., Forbes or VentureBeat. As you create value-packed content and tell interesting stories, you’ll establish something just as valuable:

Authentic relationships.

In the early stages, it’ll be relationships with lesser-known journalists and smaller publications. These relationships alone can be invaluable to your brand’s long-term growth, as they’ll open doors to media coverage that would otherwise cost you a hefty sum or simply be out of reach.

Over time, you’ll have a network of media contacts who recognize you as a brand that’s committed to delivering value, and eventually you’ll build connections with more well-known journalists and larger publications.

What To Expect: More cost-effective media coverage and an avenue to build quality connections with journalists, contributors and major publications.

Wrapping Things Up

If you’ve gotten this far, you probably believe in the value of content marketing. That said, I want to make something clear:

Content marketing is a long-term game.

If you’re looking for a silver bullet to quadruple your growth by next Friday, a great content strategy isn’t it. If you think you can create one “Beginner’s Guide To _________” blog post and land a mention in Forbes by cold calling every contributor you can find, I wish you the best of luck with that.

The true ROI of content marketing in B2B takes time.

Establishing a presence on social media, ranking on the first page of Google, and building a network of active journalists and media personnel doesn’t just happen overnight. The first blog post you create won’t bring in 10x more leads than you have in the pipeline right now. Content marketing takes commitment, and it all starts with having the right content strategy from the jump.

Here’s a quick recap of the four key results you can expect from executing a solid content strategy over time:

  1. Increase in leads
  2. Increase in brand awareness
  3. Shortened sales cycle
  4. Improved media relations

If you’re planning to invest in content marketing, you’re making a great decision. The power of content can completely change the course of your business for the better. I’d love to help you build the perfect content marketing strategy for your business, so get in touch and let’s dig in.

If you’ve already invested in content marketing, what kind of results have your efforts been driving? Drop a comment down below or hit me up on Twitter (@TheCoolestCool) to let me know what content marketing has done for you so far.

About Ross Simmonds

Ross Simmonds is a digital marketing strategist who has worked with everything from Fortune 500 companies to startups to drive results using digital marketing and technology.

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James Brighton

Love this piece. A lot of people underestimate the role of content marketing in the overall picture but you cover it well here. Thanks for sharing!

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