A chat with John Ozuysal about BoFu, ToFu content, marketing funnels, content promotion, and other advanced tactics
When it comes to putting together a B2B content marketing strategy, startups often fall into one of two traps.
The first is thinking that they don’t need content marketing because their product or service sells itself. The second is attempting to go big or go home with an ambitious content strategy that quickly fizzles out due to a lack of resources.
You're not alone. Only 43% of marketers have a documented content marketing strategy.
The truth is, content marketing can be a powerful tool for startups in the B2B scene—if it’s done right.
In this article, we'll discuss some advanced tips for creating effective content that will help you reach larger businesses (so, no, don't expect a “what is SEO” section here).
We'll also be joined by John Ozuysal, a marketing expert specializing in generating marketing strategies for early-stage startups. He will drop interesting insights on B2B content creation and beyond.
- A chat with John Ozuysal about BoFu, ToFu content, marketing funnels, content promotion, and other advanced tactics
- How to Implement a Profitable Content Marketing Strategy from Day 1
- 5 Content Marketing Ideas & Tactics to Grow Your Startup
- ToFu Content Marketing: How to Get it Right
- Best Practices to Building a Great B2B Content Marketing Funnel
- Promotional Stage & The Power of LinkedIn for B2B Content Marketing
- Time to Setup Your Content Marketing Machine
How to Implement a Profitable Content Marketing Strategy from Day 1
Starting a content marketing strategy from scratch is tough.
You might be tempted to jump right into creating lots of ToFu content. If the first title that pops into your head starts with a “How to…” then hold on to your keyboard.
ToFu content is the shiniest marketing tactic that feels like the best use of your time—but in reality, it’s a huge time suck with very little ROI.
So, how do you achieve the right balance?
Let's find out by building a solid, revenue-oriented content marketing strategy for your B2B startup.
1. Focus on BoFu content first
Majority of marketers say that creating content that generates quality leads is their main challenge when building a marketing funnel. Yet, “only” 76% of marketers create BoFu content (compare that to 95% who create ToFu content and 86% who create MoFu content).
So, why not start with BoFu and see results right away?
This is what John recommends:
Your content should aim to educate prospects who are at the end of their buyer's journey. They are already aware of their problem and want to know how your offering can solve that.
Here are some BoFu content ideas:
- Target branded keywords in your blog posts or PPC campaigns
- Build comparison articles around “ABC company” vs. you
- Publish case studies
- Record and publish a DEMO
- Add plenty of testimonials to your website (in text, audio, or video formats)
- Set up a presence on a peer review site (try G2, TrustRadius, or Gartner Digital Markets)
Note: Starting with a BoFu content strategy assumes that you are generating traffic some other way, such as social media, PPC, sales outreach, an SEO-optimized website, or via 3rd party websites (think peer review sites, Product Hunt, or other product listing platforms).
2. Conduct pain point SEO
Your B2B startup is probably awesome. It's also possible that it's very niche. Therefore, people won't be searching for a specialty they don't know about.
Sure, your primary source of SEO-driven topics for ToFu articles should be volume or long-tail keyword-based. At the same time, don't forget to talk to your customers, either.
How do you go around that?
Enter “pain point SEO.”
Here's John to explain the term:
Your customers can be a goldmine of information when it comes to content ideas.
They can tell you what problems they're facing, what kind of content they consume, and what would make them convert.
You can do this through surveys, interviews, or even just informal conversations.
Here are some sample answers you may receive and how to convert them into SEO keywords:
- Customer answer: “Too many users abandon their carts in my store and it’s affecting my revenue.” → SEO keyword: reduce cart abandonment rate.
- Customer answer: “I'm not getting enough leads from my website.” → SEO keyword: optimize website traffic.
- Customer answer: “I'm not converting enough of my leads into customers.” → SEO keyword: improve conversion rate.
Once you have a good catalog of BoFu articles, you can start your venture into ToFu with the same tactic. This way, you can be 100% sure that the content you're creating is exactly what your target audience wants to see—and get some SEO juice, too.
3. Research audience personas and job titles
Developing buyer personas goes hand-in-hand with content strategy. Creating a few detailed profiles will give you a better understanding of their needs, wants, and fears.
All of the above should revolve around job titles, and more specifically, the jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) of your persona.
For example, a persona's JTBD might be “to manage inventory.”
Your content should be focused on helping them do that job better.
A great way to find out details about your personas' JTBD is by conducting customer interviews and surveys. You can also look at social media (think: LinkedIn), forums, and review sites to get an idea of the issues people are dealing with.
My job-to-be-done is to create killer content marketing strategies!
Once you have a solid understanding of your audience and their JTBDs, you can start writing your articles with them in mind (and even return to older posts and update them).
4. Create a defined buyer journey
Once you know your audience and what they're looking for, it's time to put together a buyer journey.
Source: Christopher Penn
John explains the right approach the following way:
What does this look like in practice? Here are some tips for setting up the right buyer journey.
- Stick to the traditional B2B journey formula of Awareness-Consideration-Decision.
- Don't write below the expertise level of your audience. For example, if your persona is “senior marketing managers”, then avoid including a section on “top x benefits of marketing.”
- Create content that caters to each stage and each persona of the buyer journey. Most marketers use heavily segmented email campaigns to shepherd their audience through the desired journey.
- Segment your blog or website by categories (think: stages of the buyer journey) and even tags (personas).
5 Content Marketing Ideas & Tactics to Grow Your Startup
Now that you’ve got some inspiration for a killer content strategy tailored for the B2B scene, it's time to get tactical.
Here are some content ideas and tactics you should consider to keep your framework fresh and interesting.
1. Align content assets with your business strategy and model
Use a “reverse-engineering” approach to sync your content assets to your business strategy and model.
For example, if your goal is to acquire 5,000 customers within two years, then you need to have content that's focused on lead generation.
On the other hand, you also need to be mindful of your budget, existing resources, and your short-term priorities.
What does it mean in practice?
- Not committing to too many pieces of content per month (keep it 10 or less)
- Personally asking your top customers about issues they're facing then writing content around their topic suggestions
- Hopping on podcasts as a guest instead of starting your own
- Re-purposing existing content (like blog posts) into new formats (like an eBook)
- Outsourcing some of the work to freelancers with subject matter expertise to free up your own time
Pro-tip: The foundation of a well-aligned business strategy and content marketing strategy for B2B companies assumes you have a good product-market fit (PMF).
2. Use free tools or the freemium model
Free tools can be a great tactic to employ either as part of a product-led growth strategy or as a standalone offering. For example, in apps, the freemium model brings in the second-most revenue out of all the methods (the first being the direct subscription model).
You'll need two ingredients to make your freebie-based marketing a success:
- Lots of relevant traffic
- ToFu content
There is no “build it and they will come.” You need to make sure that you create content that is relevant to the tool.
For example, if you have a marketing automation tool, then your content should be focused on topics like lead generation or email marketing.
But if you're selling an enterprise software solution, then your content should focus on things like scalability, compliance, or integrations.
All in all, make sure your content is high quality, relevant, and focused on the right topics for the freebie you want to “sell.”
3. Leverage your competitors' proven topic ideas
You don't need to reinvent the wheel. If you are unsure what topics to write about, just look at your competitor's blog.
Or as John puts it:
Use SEO tools like Ahrefs to understand their main topic or keyword buckets, then build your own article based on these findings.
You can also use a tool like BuzzSumo to understand what kind of content is getting the most social engagement.
This will help you add your own spin on a proven topic and help you stand out among your competition.
4. Integrate actionable content with tactical content
Actionable content is content that provides the reader with specific, practical steps to solve a problem.
Tactical content, on the other hand, is content that helps the reader understand the big picture and make high-level, strategic decisions.
Generally, you can make your blog have a healthy mix of both actionable and tactical content. This is especially true if you're targeting both economic and user buyers at different stages in their buyer journey.
If someone is in the awareness stage, they're going to be looking for tactical content that will help them understand the problem and all of their options. For example: “Is ABM worth it for B2B marketing.”
But if someone is in the decision stage, they're going to be looking for actionable content that will help them choose the right solution. For example: “Steps to implement ABM marketing.”
If you're unsure whether to implement actionable or tactical content, let your marketing personas, and the buyer journey dictate your choices.
5. Make your content interactive
Embedded media elements are not direct ranking factors in SEO. However, they can still help to improve the engagement and overall experience for your readers.
John has first-hand experience on how well this approach could work:
Some examples of interactive content include:
- Audio recordings
Interactive blog posts are a great way to increase time on site, decrease your bounce rate, and keep people engaged with your content.
Just remember not to use these media elements as the sole focal point of your piece. They work best when presented as an accompaniment to your existing content.
ToFu Content Marketing: How to Get it Right
Creating conversion-ready ToFu content marketing is a process.
You need to start with basic awareness and education pieces, then move on to more advanced content once you've established a readership.
In this next section, you'll learn about advanced techniques for ToFu content creation.
Conduct community research
Look at popular forums and social media groups to see what kind of questions people are asking.
You can then create content that answers those questions or amplify existing content with pieces of info.
Here's how to find the best communities online:
- Google your niche's main keyword + “forum” or “community” or “slack channel” (for example, B2B marketers' slack channel)
- Search for your niche's main keywords in the search engine of social channels (in the search bar of LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.)
- Ask your customers and followers where they hang out online
- Do a Twitter search for popular hashtags in your niche + “community” (for example: #automation + community)
- Join communities of your competitors to monitor conversations there for tips
Once you've found some active communities, take some time to read through them. Get a feel for what kind of content is popular and consider how you could create something similar.
Here are some ways you can make the most of these groups:
- In Facebook groups, they sometimes have a list of topic hashtags on the side – look through them to see if any one of them is housing a topic of interest for you.
- Peep through the “recent” and “top” sections of forums to see what kind of content is getting attention.
- Check out the “General” section of relevant Slack channels to see what people are chatting about
- Sign up and participate in live events and take note of the questions submitted
In the below example, you can gather topic ideas from this member’s question (i.e.: “how to set goals for your business”) and also review insightful recommendations in the comments section.
Source: B2B Sales & Marketing Secrets for Agency Owners group
You can also use these communities to build relationships with other industry thought leaders.
Use Ahrefs for content ideas
Looking for more proven content ideas? Ahrefs' Content Explorer is a powerful content research tool that allows you to see what kind of content is popular in your niche.
You can then use this information to create similar pieces of content that are more likely to be successful.
Here's how it works:
Go to the Content Explorer and type in your main keyword. For example, “conversion rate optimization.”
Filter results by language, date range, traffic, etc.
Look through the results and take note of any topics or ideas that stand out to you.
Other useful Ahrefs ideation features:
- Use the “Content Gap” feature to see what kind of content your competitors are ranking for but you are not
- Try the “Top Pages” feature to your competitor's top performing content
- Discover content that had a great social traction via the “social shares” filter in Content Explorer (set the minimum shares to 1,000+ for best results)
- Use “Site Explorer” to see the backlink profile of competitors and gather even more content ideas
Watch or participate in industry webinars
You can learn a lot by watching webinars from other thought leaders in your industry, and you can also use them as content fodder for blog posts, social media posts, or even create an entire webinar series yourself.
Try to find webinars where your target audience hangs out. For example, if your startup sells a subscription to an SEO tool, then SEO-related webinars are an obvious choice.
Source: Search Engine Journal
Here are some tips for getting the most out of webinars:
- Check out webinars that have already happened and see if you can get access to the recording
- Take note of any particularly interesting topics that come up during the webinar
- If there's a Q&A session, take note of the questions that are being asked
- See if you can get in touch with the presenter and ask them follow-up questions
- Participate in live webinars by asking questions or engaging in post-webinar discussions
Put your own unique angle into your content
Even if you're covering popular topics, it's important to put your own spin on things and make them interesting.
Think about what makes your company or product unique and make sure that it comes across in your content.
Here are some ideas for inspiration:
- Have an engaging, fun tone of voice
- Build a personal brand around someone in your company and get them to author some pieces
- Create relevant videos of your topic
- Create infographics
- Use your own data as examples (you can refer to your case studies or other internal practices)
- Feature memes where appropriate (or even make up your own)
Example of how you can add some personality to your content
Your audience is more likely to engage with content that feels fresh and new, so don't be afraid to experiment with different formats or ideas.
And lastly, don't forget to have fun with it! The more passionate you are about your topic, the more likely it is that your audience will be engaged as well.
Best Practices to Building a Great B2B Content Marketing Funnel
In the next section, we'll touch on some unique aspects and best practices of working with a B2B content marketing funnel.
The funnel takes time
According to Dr. Jeffrey Lant, it takes 7 touchpoints before a lead converts. Marketing professionals like to think that funnels are these neat, linear progressions where a lead goes from total stranger to raving fan in the blink of an eye.
The reality is that most conversion paths are far messier, and more importantly, slower than you think.
Leave time for your own funnel to show itself. To do this, ensure to track every conversion meticulously, especially in the early days. Where did they come from? How did they hear about you? Why did they decide to convert?
All of this information will feed into understanding and shaping your future funnel.
Optimize your funnel for the “prospect-first” technique
No matter the type of funnel you're building, it'll need a strong, conversion-based foundation.
Enter the prospect-first technique.
It's not just about writing a BoFu article and popping it into the blog. It's about having a well-defined customer journey path that's laser-focused on prospects in the “aware” stage.
John Ozuysal often uses the prospect-first technique which usually brings immediate conversions for his clients while building a clear path to long-term results, too.
Do regular content audits
…especially if you already have a portfolio of blog posts on your website.
So, you've been diligent and created content left and right. Finally, you decide to put a more serious B2B content strategy behind the whole brand. What do you do with the existing posts?
“Assess your content portfolio as if you were a financial advisor,” says John, “Evaluate what percentage of your content is ToFu, BoFu, and MoFu. The results will give you an idea of what you need to go after.”
Pro-tip: Even low-traffic posts can get a new lease on life with a quick update. Prolong their shelf life by updating stats, images, or by adding a new section or two.
Promotional Stage & The Power of LinkedIn for B2B Content Marketing
Every piece of content needs a little push out into the world. As a B2B company, LinkedIn should be your best friend.
If you haven't put a content promotion strategy behind your sharing habits on LinkedIn, it's time to start.
It's not only an excellent place for doing 1-to-1 outreach, but it can also help you build your brand's and your key players' industry presence.
“The biggest problem is not that companies don't use LinkedIn,” says John “it's HOW they use it. Being active on LinkedIn is NOT just publishing a link from your company blog.”
He goes on to explain that you need to treat LinkedIn as a platform on its own. This means…
- Writing an interesting introduction about your latest blog post
- Adding the link of said blog post in the comments section
- Increasing the character count on your LinkedIn posts (almost as blog posts on their own)
- Interacting with posts other than your own
- Using 1-3 hashtags
- Creating clever engagement posts (see Lemlist example below)
Lemlist was built on the back of LinkedIn. It's a success story of how B2B SaaS companies can use a community setting to fuel their growth.
In Lemlist's case, they went from 0 to over $250K ARR in less than a year by leveraging the power of LinkedIn outreach and content promotion.
Here's an example of a LinkedIn post by CEO, Guillaume Moubeche.
This post works on a few different levels:
- Presents a networking opportunity
- Prompts for engagement
- Builds brand perception
Today, Lemlist keeps LinkedIn at the heart of their content promotion strategy. They continue using LinkedIn as a way to reach out to new prospects and as a platform for thought-leadership content.
For example, part of the onboarding process for each new hire is to post about Lemlist on LinkedIn.
Time to Setup Your Content Marketing Machine
B2B content marketing is a challenging but rewarding area of digital marketing.
Done well, it can help you connect with your prospects and potential customers in ways that other strategies simply cannot.
Do you have any questions for John about B2B content marketing? Reach out to him on LinkedIn and tell him you saw his expert tips on the Mediaberry blog!
Who are we, you ask? Mediaberry helps established companies take their business to the next level one backlink at a time. AKA, we're a link building company! Feel free to try our instant quote generator or drop us a line.