Content is the fuel of every marketing campaign. You know that already. But creating content can be time-consuming and, for resource-strapped startups, that’s a problem. You don’t have an infinite capacity to create content, so what should you do?
Through our work with B2B tech startups, we’ve identified the five types of content asset that reap the best results. Each of these assets should work hard for you and be well worth the investment.
It goes without saying that any content you create needs to map back to a content strategy. You need to identify the topics you want to be known for (and rank for in search) based on audience and keyword research, and create clusters of content around those topics. Then you’ll analyze how that content performs and adjust your strategy accordingly. That’s all the subject of another content marketing post. Here, we’ll focus on how to choose which types of content you’ll produce first – the must-haves for any startup.
Map to the buyer’s journey
Since the purpose of content is to educate buyers and help them find you when they’re in-market, you need a piece of content that maps to each of the key stages of their journey. There are different theories about the buyer journey, but we like Gartner’s B2B buying journey, published in 2018, which outlines the six jobs of buying: problem identification, solution exploration, requirements building, supplier selection, validation and consensus-building. These jobs are often done simultaneously or in a non-linear fashion, and by committees. Content plays a role throughout (according to a 2020 FocusVision survey, buyers consume 13 pieces of content during this process). So, when thinking about your five main content assets, you should have one for each of the buying steps (except consensus building, which leverages all of your content). For optimal SEO performance, try to base all of these assets on the same topic, make one of them your anchor piece and link the others back to it.
Content startups need
The five content assets every B2B startup needs are as follows:
1. Insights piece – This asset will highlight the current challenges your customers face. It’s intended to engage buyers right at the start of the buying process. Make it topical – identify a problem that buyers are likely to be experiencing right now. You can use research (your own primary research or, more simply, collated data points from credible sources or anecdotal evidence based on your own experience) to highlight the problems they encounter. Don’t dive into your solution here: your objective is to show your expertise. A straightforward blog post will work well but, if you have enough research, you can also consider an infographic. For example, a security company might create a blog post with new insights into ransomware trends.
2. How-to guide – This asset provides tips, tricks or steps to solving the problem identified in your insights piece. It’s educational and pragmatic and should become a reference point for your buyer. Again, this isn’t the place to go deep on your product – you want to focus on helping the buyer understand best practices and acquiring new skills. Time and time again it’s been proven that this is what buyers want from their content. An ebook is the ideal format and you can consider making this a gated asset, given the value it provides. For example, the security company above might create a guide to what to do in the event of a ransomware attack. If you have the resources, you can also consider doing this in the form of a webinar and then provide the how-to guide in written form as a follow-up lead nurturing tool.
3. Buying guide or FAQ – Once your buyers have established the need for a solution, a buying guide helps them frame their requirements. With this asset you’ll provide valuable information about the factors buyers should consider when evaluating solutions. This gives you a chance to highlight the factors that make your product stand out and to influence the buying process. The format can be a downloadable pdf or a page on your site, but it doesn’t need to be gated. Our security company’s version of this would be a guide to selecting ransomware protection.
4. Product documentation – When the buyer is evaluating specific vendors, they’ll need more product detail. A datasheet or white paper, depending on the nature of your solution, is essential. Think about the format that best suits the advantages your product offers. For example, if you want to highlight a beautiful UI or workflow, an explainer video can be the most effective approach. But if your product requires more detailed explanation, a white paper might be the best format for you.
5. User story – Validation is an important part of the buying process and so one of your must-have content assets should include a user story. You could do this in any format – a blog post featuring a Q&A with a customer, an anonymized case study, a customer video. You might also find that customers are already posting reviews on peer review sites such as TrustRadius or G2 Crowd and, if so, you can highlight these on your own site. For some sectors, user stories are hard to come by – no one likes talking about the security products they use, for example. But, if you’re creative you can still show validation: our hypothetical security company could invite a friendly CISO to provide a guest post on its blog and the association alone will provide credibility.
So there you have it: the five essential content assets for any B2B startup. Of course, you can and should create more content to support these assets (such as additional blog posts) and the more quality content you have, the more traffic and conversions you are likely to see. But, as a startup, it’s all about the minimum viable plan. If you aim to have one of each of these assets in place as soon as possible, you’ll be well equipped to take prospects through their buying journey and, hopefully, to a closed deal.
Lucy Allen is a Principal at Firebrand with two decades of technology communications experience. Lucy leads client operations, from executing programs that help clients grow their business, to developing Firebrand’s team and services. Prior to joining, Lucy held leadership roles in global agencies including US tech sector chair and Bay Area GM at Edelman and chief strategy officer at LEWIS.