How to Create Self-Sustainable B2B Content

Travis McKnight

Content marketing is among the most nebulous parts of digital strategy, especially for B2B companies. Most savvy brands invest time, money, and energy to fine-tune their product pages, white papers, case studies, and blog posts by squishing together SEO and paid advertising to fabricate conversion opportunities.

If the stars align, those marketing efforts succeed and it feels glorious. But when the cosmos sneer at your goals and nothing seems to work, even a paltry ROI feels unattainable.

Fortunately, a user-centric content strategy can keep conversions churning when your normal marketing efforts fall flat. This strategy is called “self-sustainable content marketing.”

Self-sustainable B2B content marketing helps your brand market its services by tapping into how people learn and share information within their organization. Compared to lead-generation content marketing, which trots customers down a classic awareness-through-conversion funnel, a self-sustaining strategy provides users with the information they need when they need it to make them reliant on your brand.

This strategy relies on targeting individual contributors with content that teaches them how to solve day-to-day problems, answers their questions, or resolves internal arguments. These contributors then pass the information “up” to a manager, or laterally to colleagues, until the content — and the brand that made it — gets in front of a decision-maker.

At Portent, we call this technique “upwardly mobile content,” and it’s among the best ways to avoid common pitfalls in B2B content marketing while growing your brand awareness and influence.

How to Create Upwardly Mobile Content

Upwardly mobile content isn’t a magical elixir that repairs every content marketing issue you encounter, but the strategy comes close if you execute it well.

The downside is that creating truly upwardly mobile content requires a lot of work, often from multiple stakeholders, and tracking the strategy’s success often comes down to word-of-mouth or assisted conversions.

With that caveat in mind, there are three tenets to self-sustainable, upwardly mobile content that you can use to set yourself up for success.

1. Answer User Questions and Resolve Their Arguments

Your first objective is to research common questions or arguments individual contributors or managers face when talking to their colleagues or superiors, and then provide a clear, definitive answer that they can use to resolve their struggles.

These contributors and their problems should be crafted as a persona of your brand’s ideal customer.

To build this persona and determine what questions or arguments you must answer, you’ll need to perform user research. Here are five types of research to consider:

  • Talk with your company’s sales team to learn the common questions or struggles potential customers discuss
  • Analyze social media comments on your brand’s profiles and your competitors’ profiles
  • Research public forums like Quora, Reddit, and specialized message boards to see what relevant topics and troubleshooting issues people discuss
  • Perform a SERP analysis to see what questions people ask and what content already exists
  • Survey your existing customers

2. Provide Prescriptive, Tactically Actionable Content

After you know what problems your target users have in their day-to-day work life, the next step is to create relevant content that helps them solve those issues. The trick here is to make sure your content always has at least one tactical takeaway that can be executed by the intended audience.

For example, let’s say your brand offers video conferencing and collaboration technology to healthcare professionals. Through your user research, you discovered that users are struggling to share files through similar platforms without violating Electronic Medical Records or HIPAA policies. Fortunately, you know the solution and write a blog post about it. You ensure all of the content in the blog post is relevant to your target user’s problem. Plus, in your content, you also give users step-by-step directions to ensure they can execute on your recommendation.

This effort sears your brand into the user’s mind as a reputable resource for similar problems. When users share the solution with colleagues, your brand’s recognition increases. If decision-makers decide to change platforms, your brand may naturally join the RFP candidates.

3. Be Self-Contained: Don’t Force Users Back to SERPs

The most frustrating part of trying to solve a problem is when you need to explore multiple websites or pages to cobble together a solution. Don’t make your users do more work than absolutely necessary. The actionable answer you provide to their problem must include all necessary information. This empowers the individual contributor to act or deliver that answer to their superiors without additional research.

While you’re making content, a good test to determine if you need to add more resources is ask yourself if the reader can act on your advice without using Google. If the answer is no, then consider expanding on the ideas you present or providing additional resources to the user, like an embedded video or links to a white paper on the topic.

If you want a perfect example of self-contained content, take a gander at my digital marketing guide for nonprofits. The guide contains step-by-step instructions about how to set-up and strategically use every digital marketing channel. When granular instructions were necessary, I linked out to relevant resources so users wouldn’t need to search for that information. It allows users to bookmark the content and consistently return to it while they solve their marketing struggles.

The Final Trick to Self-Sustainable Content

Ultimately, self-sustainable content is a method to help your audience with the challenges they face in their day-to-day work. The better you solve their problems, the more they like your brand and sing its praises to decision-makers.

So, when your content efforts are in a rut, put your conversion goals on the backburner and focus on the user’s problems instead. You may be surprised at how fast those conversion anxieties disappear.

Travis McKnight

Travis McKnight

Senior Content Strategist
Senior Content Strategist

Prior to migrating to digital marketing, Travis spent many years in the world of journalism, and his byline includes The Guardian, New York Magazine, Slate Magazine, and more. As a senior content strategist at Portent, Travis gets to apply his passion for authentic storytelling to help clients create meaningful content that consistently delivers a refined experience for users.

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