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You’ve probably heard this phrase ad nauseum: “No one ever got fired for buying from IBM.” It speaks to one of the greatest challenges for most startups: Winning the trust that comes with having an established, recognized brand.
If you’re not convinced content marketing is for you, here are four reasons it’s important for businesses of all sizes — especially startups.
B2B buying habits have changed
B2B buyers now demand a purchasing experience that minimizes their direct interaction with brands and maximizes their reliance on digital channels for information.
A recent study by Gartner found that B2B customers spend approximately 5% of their total purchasing time interacting with a supplier, with the majority devoted to independent research.
New buying behaviors favor established brands by virtue of their name-brand recognition and perceived authority. Yet startups can compete by producing high-quality, relevant content. Studies show that 47% of B2B buyers say thought leadership made them discover and purchase from a company not among the established leaders of a specific niche.
To ensure your content reflects the needs and journey of your buyers:
- Survey existing customers. Try to understand their unique journey and the dynamics of their buying team.
- Download sales team insights. Regularly gather and document sales-team insights from interactions with prospects.
- Perform an audit. Audit your existing content, research, and knowledge bases.
- Get third-party validation. Use credible third-party research specific to your niche.
- Tailor content to audiences. Develop detailed buyer personas and map your content to their journey.
Content only works if it speaks to your customer. To help guide you, always start with voice-of-customer data to drive content strategy and messaging. Their feedback should drive everything, with industry research and empirical evidence providing support.
Analytics make it possible to better understand your target customer
Today, analytics tools enable businesses to learn more about their target customer than ever before. Still, data analytics need content to drive value.
The more than 100 data points that Google Analytics tracks offer nothing if you can’t attract audiences to your website. All those social media metrics? They’re meaningless too without posts that drive impressions and engagement.
Content facilitates a learning process that enables your startup to survive and win. The more you produce, the more you find out about your target customer and what motivates them to take profitable action. This is important for any business, but especially startups.
To get the best insights from your content:
- Set a regular publishing schedule. Establish a consistent cadence for publishing your various content offers (e.g. weekly blog posts on Tuesday and Thursday).
- Make content cohesive. Cross-reference and cross-promote your content offers.
- Learn and apply. Update your content strategy regularly with gained insights.
This last bullet matters most and surprisingly receives the least attention. If you capture analytics but never apply them, what’s the point? So, set weekly team meetings that evaluate content performance and focus on improvement.
B2B buyers use large and diverse teams
As technology-based products and services become more common, B2B buyers are increasingly using large and diverse teams to make a decision.
Buying groups tend to:
While these attributes favor established brands, startups can get more consideration. How? By developing thought leadership that attracts attention, demonstrates authority, and makes buying teams smarter.
To improve the chances your content resonates with diverse groups:
- Develop different functional decision-makers. Develop content that targets the specific interests of different decision-makers, such as content focused on business value for executives and technical design for software engineers.
- Develop full-funnel content. Produce a balanced mix of content that focuses on each stage of the buying journey (i.e. awareness, consideration, decision).
- Target different learning styles. Diversify the format of your content offering to suit your buying team’s learning styles and preferences (e.g. audio, video, graphic, written).
- Enhance your visibility. Make your content available where your buying teams go for information.
The above activities depend on factors specific to your business and niche, including your buyer’s product awareness and sophistication levels. Your buyer, and what drives them to convert, should drive everything you do.
Startups are building recognized brands — fast
Brand recognition is an inherent weakness for most startups. Still, that doesn’t mean they can’t become a recognized name for their niche fast — with content marketing as their rocket fuel.
The fintech company Mint famously adopted a content marketing strategy that contributed to its rapid success. Before ever launching a product, it started a successful blog catering to its target customer and built an email list of 20,000 subscribers. It took them only three years to get acquired by Intuit for $170 million.
Building brand awareness is most important in the startup phase, and content marketing is the most cost-effective tool to accelerate the process.
To accelerate your brand building, leverage content marketing that can scale:
- Leverage third-party outlets. Tap into channels that maximize your reach and authority (e.g. byline articles in credible publications, speaking engagements, guest podcast appearances).
- Engage influencers. Leverage influencers to help market your brand and content (e.g. guest blog post, guest podcast appearances).
- Collaborate with partners. Partner with existing customers and/or partners to develop and cross-promote content (e.g. case studies, co-branded whitepapers).
- Gate content intentionally. Balance ungated and gated content to drive brand awareness and leads.
The exact content strategy you pick depends (again) on your buyer. But you should also take into consideration your internal strengths. If you’re a charismatic founder who naturally shines on stage, a keynote speech or video interview might offer the highest ROI.
Bottom line: Invest in a content marketing strategy
All signs point to one big takeaway.
Content marketing is a reliable (and much-needed) vehicle to convince customers to take a chance on you.
So take a chance on it. Show the world why you’re better than all the job-saving IBMs out there.