Roundup: How to Drive Revenue With Content Marketing in 2021 and Beyond
Use the table of contents below to navigate this article and learn what industry experts think about what it takes to drive revenue with content.
Table of Contents
1. Your Content Strategy Should Have a Clear Path to Revenue Growth
1.1. How B2B Content Strategy Is Different From B2C
1.2. Mapping Out Your Content Strategy
1.3. Attributing Content to Revenue: Challenges and Opportunities
2. Your Content Marketing Engine Needs Fuel From Sales, Product, and Customer Success Teams
2.1. Brainstorm Content Ideas With Multiple Teams With Marketing as the Lead
2.2. Get Feedback From Sales to Inform Your Content Strategy
2.3. Customer Success Plays an Increasingly Important Role in Content Strategy
3. Types of Content to Include In Your Customer’s Journey
3.1. Marketing Content
3.2. Sales Enablement Content
3.3. Post-Sale Content for Customer Success
4. Future of Content Marketing: Where Do We Go From Here?
4.1. Shifting Emphasis Towards Improving the Customer Experience
4.2. Long Term Content Strategy
4.3. Content Is a Team Effort
Your Content Strategy Should Have a Clear Path to Revenue Growth
So how do we cut through the noise?
Content should generate revenue for your company, both indirectly and (even better) directly.
The how and what types of content will be different for each company, industry, and target audience, though.
With perspectives from industry leaders and experienced content marketers, this article will focus primarily on B2B, particularly for tech industries and SaaS.
How B2B Content Strategy Is Different From B2C
There are similarities and differences in content strategy for B2B and B2C.
When asked how content strategy for B2B SaaS differs from that used in other markets such as ecommerce, Bridget Poetker of Bigtime Software says: “I’ve worked in both B2B and B2C. I would say the majority of B2B—specifically SaaS—is just way more sophisticated. More tools, more flows, and more value props.”
“This leads to new, innovative placements and channels. B2C is still kinda stuck in the social, promo email, one value prop land. It’s usually a want over a need for the product, and nobody impulse buys software,” Poetker explains.
One thing they B2B and B2C have in common, however, is that they involve people and relationships, so improving relationships between your company and your customers always leads to positive results—and in the case of SaaS, higher retention and less churn—leading to more advocates for your band.
Mapping Out Your Content Strategy
While it may not always be easy nor possible to directly attribute revenue to a particular piece of content, content should be a central part of your revenue growth strategy.
These days, at least in B2B, the “SEO-plus-engagement” content strategy seems to be doing well, with 75% of marketers making either SEO or engagement (or both) a priority at their companies.
Our content strategy guide outlines three phases to help you draw everything out from A through Z:
- Laying the groundwork by defining your audience and their core set of problems
- Plan your strategy through keyword research, content structure, and goal setting
- Execute by using an editorial calendar to guide content creation and promotion
Potential customers will have a certain set of questions when they’re at the top of the funnel (or flywheel, if you prefer).
But as they traverse through their journey towards a buying decision, they will come up with different sets of questions. Some of these questions will require more in-depth and thoughtful answers.
You need content to answer questions for each and every stage of the customer’s journey, not only from beginning to purchase—but also after the sale.
It’s important to remember that the customer’s journey is not linear as the traditional sales “funnel” portrays it to be. Buyers don’t necessarily go from A to B to C in a neat straight line.
For this reason, we will call it a “customer’s journey” with three parts: 1) marketing, 2) sales enablement, 3) customer success.
Attributing Content to Revenue: Challenges and Opportunities
To drive revenue with content, you ideally should be able to attribute revenue to it. But as we mentioned earlier, it’s challenging, sometimes almost impossible, to directly attribute revenue to content. Nevertheless, there is increasing pressure on marketing teams to attribute revenue to the content they create.
The reason content attribution is so difficult is that, like we said, the customer’s journey is not linear. A potential buyer might visit your site a few times, read this article and that article on your blog, and wait 2 months to come back and buy.
How would you know which piece of content persuaded that buyer to buy?
A newsletter email? A friend? A facebook ad?
Your site appearing (again) on their question-based google searches?
Poetker adds, “It can be tied to the middle of the funnel, it just gets trickier to track that way. This is where you need to make sure you’ve got your preferred journey locked down so that you can infer a path the prospect took.”
Despite these challenges, there are ways to attribute the overall contribution of your content to your company’s revenue:
- Reverse engineer your vision of success to quarterly and weekly targets.
- Align sales and marketing through both content and sales enablement.
- Prioritize revenue generation, not lead generation.
- Create enough content for the buyer and the customer.
- Measure and attribute what you reasonably can, but don’t force it.
Bridget Poetker also offers one more way: “Here’s a crazy idea. Build solid relationships with customers and then ask them.”
Yes, attribution is difficult and can be messy. But Steven Macdonald, an expert on social selling, says to not let that stop you from doubling down on what’s working for you: “If you’re doing specific activities on a consistent basis and sales are increasing, keep doing them—regardless of attribution or not.”
Your Content Marketing Engine Needs Fuel From Sales, Product, and Customer Success Teams
Before you even put pen on paper, you need to brainstorm your content ideas.
And when you brainstorm, don’t just sit in your comfortable chair bouncing a ball off the wall.
Do involve other people in your company. Not just your marketing team, but also other teams and even the customers you do already have or are trying to acquire.
Brainstorm Content Ideas With Multiple Teams With Marketing as the Lead
The Head of Content at The Predictive Index, Erin Balsa, says “you never want to create content in a silo. You want to make sure your content maps to not only your marketing department goals but also the broader company goals. You also want to create content that enables people across the company to reach their goals.”
As far as content for potential customers, Balsa poses some questions to help inform your content strategy. “What do customers need to feel comfortable renewing, taking your upsell offer, or signing a contract? How can content play a part in those? What does the product roadmap look like? How can we align the content roadmap to it?”
When asked how Balsa brainstorms ideas for her content strategy, she explains the process and structure for each brainstorm:
“I follow a structure for each brainstorm session. And that structure begins with communicating the goal. It’s different each week. In one session, we brainstorm only one type of content for only one audience persona to meet only one goal. So it’s not a free-for-all, but instead it’s a structured brainstorm that results in ideas of content that will actually move the needle.”
Get Feedback From Sales to Inform Your Content Strategy
When your goal is to drive revenue with content, your content must move the right leads to your sales teams.
While the Director of Content Marketing at StorySlab, Kate Erwin, finds the right stories to capture interest from potential customers, she “works with the sales team to discover the blockers they’re encountering when closing deals so we can refine our messaging accordingly.”
She adds: “The ultimate goal is to get the right people to sign up because once they see it, they’ll want it.”
Erwin also created a concise and actionable summary of how to get sales teams to use marketing content. On the same token, there also needs to be a strong feedback loop between sales and marketing in which marketing gets their due credit, advises Donny Dye, the VP of Sales at StorySlab.
Not only does there need to be close alignment between your marketing and sales teams, but your content also needs to enable your sales representatives to build trust with your potential customers, making it easier to bring them aboard.
In a B2B scenario, when we create content that does the following:
- Generate initial interest among potential customers
- Educate them while facilitating discovery
- Move pricing discussions forward
- Demonstrate the value your customers are getting
You enable your sales teams to use marketing content to drive revenue growth. This process is known as sales enablement.
Customer Success Plays an Increasingly Important Role in Content Strategy
It’s not just marketing or sales that need to make up your content strategy. Particularly for B2B technology or SaaS businesses, your customer success team should play a larger and more active role in planning your content marketing strategy.
Steph Greaves, the Digital Marketing Manager at Bespoke adds: “It’s hugely important to feed from customer services, too. Depending on the size of your business, customer success teams can hold a lot of insight into topics that you can create as pillar content to help others at the MOFU stage.”
In the context of a SaaS tool like Teamup, Jenny Zhan makes a distinction between “success” in terms of business success and customer success, and recommends leaning on customer success in your strategy.
“Where is the balance between making sure our customers succeed with our tool, and the success of our business? We see that more customers and more revenue mostly as natural side benefits of our increased focus on customer success,” says Zhan.
The challenge facing SaaS businesses is to create content that truly reflects the usefulness of their products, showing how they solve problems in countless scenarios.
Zhan emphasizes the need to do more and better with customer success. “We focus on creating two types of content: one is inspirational, the customer success stories that illustrate the kind of scenarios where our product helps make life easier for the customers; the other is practical, the tips that guide the customers to make the best use of relevant product features to achieve their goals,” she explains.
Not only should content educate prospects and nurture potential buyers, but also address the needs of existing customers. The next section lists the specific types of content for each purpose.
Types of Content to Include In Your Customer’s Journey
In this section, we list some content types to fulfill your strategy towards creating a complete buyer’s journey not only from awareness to purchase, but also post-purchase customer success and advocacy.
If done right, you will not only increase revenue by retaining more customers and reducing churn, but also create more evangelists out of your customer base who will do a large portion of marketing on your behalf, adding even more trust and social proof.
Although there will be a lot of overlap, we’ll split up the content into three groups: marketing, sales enablement, and customer success.
Content used for the first part of the customer’s journey usually fall within SEO, PPC, and social strategies whereas their goals are to get more traffic, generate qualified leads, and increase click-through rates.
Such marketing content can include but is not limited to the following:
- Insightful blog articles
- Long-form pillar content
- Social media posts to drive engagement
- Visual content (videos, infographics)
- Audio content (podcasts)
- Landing pages for PPC campaigns
Creating TOFU content can be challenging in some cases, especially if a lot of content is based on one’s own experience and is therefore heavier on the BOFU side.
Steven Macdonald, in his case, notes that “each new post is essentially a case study, which is more MOFU/ BOFU type content. TOFU is challenging, at least to me, because it can get very preachy on social media: ‘do this’, ‘don’t do that’ and so it usually goes.”
However, there are ways to demonstrate authority and educate readers while avoiding the preachy tone. In most cases, it may take a simple, yet profound adjustment in mindset towards transparency and generosity in terms of helping our potential and existing customers. Having proven results and feedback from the customers themselves almost always helps.
Sales Enablement Content
Towards the middle and later stages of the buyer’s journey, content will need to be more detailed and thoughtful while moving potential customers along their journey. They also need to enable sales teams to have productive conversations with potential customers, and thus shorten long sales cycles as is custom with B2B.
Here are some examples:
- Email newsletter campaigns
- Long-form content including how-to guides, product comparisons, industry studies, etc.
- White papers
- Interactive content
- Case studies
- Pitch decks
The objectives of such content include building relationships through email or social, filtering prospects to those most likely to convert, and informing them before getting them in front of sales so that they are more likely to convert.
According to Poetker, MOFI is the most challenging part to create content for, yet you can get more creative with it. “It’s like a sandwich. The TOFU tactics don’t change all that much from campaign to campaign. BOFU content will get you the desired action. So you know you need two pieces of bread, but you can play around with the middle.”
“There’s so much you can do there, including different types of content and changing up the frequency, the tone, and format,” Poetker adds.
Post-Sale Content for Customer Success
As I said, content marketing doesn’t stop at the sale. It is far easier to sell to existing customers than acquire new ones. Your content marketing strategy also needs to have content targeted toward existing customers, including:
- Knowledge bases and FAQs for basic support
- Long-form content for in-depth support
- Resource content (or a collection of content on a resources page)
- Support videos, livestreams and webinars
- Customer success stories
- Use case summaries and examples
Even though these are primarily targeted toward existing customers, they can be quite useful to your prospects and move them closer to becoming new customers.
Future of Content Marketing: Where Do We Go From Here?
For one, the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting push to work from home has accelerated many changes that were on track to take place over a longer period of time.
Shifting Emphasis Towards Improving the Customer Experience
For one, there has been a growing emphasis on search intent and user experience as more people go online while businesses accelerate their own digital transformation initiatives.
Google has explicitly said that faster site speeds and schema markups will become more important ranking factors, if they haven’t already.
To get some quick wins, however, you could update old content to make them relevant today by rewriting snippets and filling in your schema markups. This way you can improve both the searcher’s experience for certain keywords and the digital experience visitors get when they land on your website or blog.
Long Term Content Strategy
A longer-term strategy should include using content to serve customers rather than their own companies. “Content marketing must connect to the core business purpose: serve customers and affect the bottom line,” says Stephanie Stahl in a comprehensive industry report from the Content Marketing Institute.
To do that, companies must first get closer to their customers and have a pulse on what they are saying.
“Smart companies will encourage employees to build personal brands on social media. They will create Slack communities and host more virtual events. Marketers will hopefully get better at building story brands. We need fewer cheesy ultimate guides and more thoughtful research-based thought leadership,” says Balsa.
Standalone blogs won’t be enough anymore, adds Poetker. “The best thing you can do is create content that can be repurposed. Marketers should have that intent in mind from the very beginning. I’ve already seen it start happening, but in the next 3-5 years, content will be more like full-blown lead generation campaigns than they already are now.”
But you shouldn’t wait much longer to get your strategy planned out. “Start building your audience now. Even if you don’t have a product right now. It’s much easier to sell to an existing audience than to sell to people who have never heard of you or your brand,” advises Macdonald.
Content Is a Team Effort
Finally, content marketing will involve more and more departments. Or even the entire company. “When all departments are aligned and there is good communication, the ability to help your target audience is increased,” says Greaves.
Not only is it about getting buy in from the executives or founders, but also it’s about making your content more customer-centric. That requires feedback from teams closer to the customer, such as sales and customer service teams.
With the economy looking for a strong rebound in a post-COVID world, what is a better time to plan your content strategy with your team than now?