You don’t have to spend a fortune (or work the weekends) to see a huge return on digital marketing

Digital marketing can be hugely exciting. Getting comments on your blogposts, welcoming new Twitter followers and seeing your email subscribers soar. It can also be frustrating – there’s so much potential there to grow your client base, but no time and no definitive place to start.

However you feel about it, digital marketing is THE best, most efficient way to regularly reach out to your customers and generate new leads.

What is digital marketing?

Digital marketing is anything online that promotes your business. Your website, blog and videos. It also includes social media platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Digital adverts fall under this heading too but in most situations they work much better for B2C than they do for B2B (so we’ll leave them on the backburner for now).

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is any type of digital marketing that allows you to tell a story. People can learn from content, interact with it and share it. A blogpost is a good example, you can explore ideas through it and share your opinions. Content marketing doesn’t feel like advertising. It feels useful and inspiring – because it is.

Through content marketing, you can establish yourself as a B2B thought leader.

3 things we want you to take away from this guide: 

  1. Great results don’t cost a fortune

    Marketing agencies don’t want you to know this, but you can make a massive impact with a modest budget. Large enterprises have the cash-flow and time to wait for long-term, highly customised strategies to pay off – SMEs don’t.There are a lot of non-essential investments people will try to convince you to make. For example, you do not need a custom-built website. A WordPress site is free and easy to use. You know who has a WordPress site? The New York Times.

  1. You can achieve three impressive results in just 10 steps

    The results you should be aiming for are:

  • 4,000 unique visitors to your website a month
  • 2,000 email subscribers
  • 1% conversion rate for website visitors to email subscribersWe call this the ‘4/2/1’ strategy. These 10 steps should get you there in 12 months (although we’ve seen clients get there in anything from 6 – 18 months).
  1. Get out there and start!

    The beauty of digital marketing is that it’s all about constant optimisation. Don’t worry about getting things wrong, just test them. You can over-invest in strategy as a small business, when you could be out there attracting new business.Once you’ve ticked off your 10 steps, you’ll be operating a great, best-practise digital marketing strategy. Only then will you need a more customised approach.

Stage 1: Define your expert positioning

  • What do you want people to remember you as an expert in?

  • Your expert positioning is the foundation for digital marketing success

  • You can only be remembered as an expert in one area (so be specific)

Why it’s important to do it now

Thought leadership gets returns because your prospects remember you as the go-to expert. So when they have a problem, you’re the first person they call.

This means that getting a return is pinned on your positioning. The way you describe your expertise and the problems you help solve defines the kind of clients you will attract.

Getting your expert positioning right is a critical piece of every stage of this strategy, because ultimately it’s essential to the return that you’ll achieve.

Getting your positioning right here is the foundation that everything else builds upon. Thought leadership (or inbound marketing as it’s sometimes alternatively known) is only as good as your ability to match your content with what you’re ultimately going to be selling.

What you need to do at this stage

  • Take some time to describe the problems that you solve (from a client perspective). It’s worth a few minutes of thinking because these small pieces of copy will get used so many times over the coming months.
  • It’s important to get out of your head. How do your clients describe your expertise? It’s worth asking for third party validation.
  • Write a fantastic ‘about’ page and your elevator pitch. How should people describe you? “[Name] is an expert in …”

You can use the TLP thought leadership framework to get started. This is a great step-by-step resource in defining how you want people to remember you. Find the framework here:

What it’s not worth doing

  • Don’t spread your expertise too thin.. This is an often fatal mistake for small businesses. People will only think about you as an expert in one field. So make sure they remember you as their go-to expert in a field aligned to the products you want to sell.

Stage 2: Get a great-looking Wordpress website (with analytics)

  • Your website is your virtual shopfront. So make sure it sells!

  • Using WordPress now will save significant time and money later

  • Web analytics are easy and important in tracking success

Why it’s important to do it now

Your website is your virtual shopfront. It’s where you attract and sell your prospects. It’s the basis for all your digital marketing efforts. So it’s important that you’ve got a great-looking and functional website.

But it’s also important that you’ve got a highly flexible website that will allow for fast and frequent changes at a later stage.

What you need to do at this stage

  • Use WordPress. The WordPress framework makes sure that you’ll always be using a cutting-edge content management system. There’s a bunch of great-looking templates that you can find using Themeforest.
  • Install Google Analytics to track visitors (and where they came from). There’s also a range of more advanced measures you can track at a later stage.

What it’s not worth doing

  • Professional appearance is important, but don’t overinvest. Your site will change frequently as you trial a range of plug-ins.
  • Don’t build too many pages right now, keep it simple. Make sure you’ve got a great-looking and professional homepage, about page, contact page and some detail on your current product offers. Using WordPress means you can add more pages quickly at any stage.
  • Don’t let a developer talk you into a custom site. It’s not worth it and will slow you down longer term. You need the flexibility of WordPress to add plugins that will manage lead capture and acquisition.
    If someone is trying to talk you out of WordPress, we’d encourage you to go and have a look at all the brand name sites that use the platform here (Hint: the New York Times, CNN and Time Magazine)

Stage 3: Activate your existing contacts

  • The cheapest prospects are the contacts that you already have

  • Front-of-mind expert awareness comes from being helpful, every week

  • Positioning and frequent contact will drive thought leadership

Why it’s important to do it now

To get started it’s important to take advantage of the marketing resources that you already have. One resource you most likely have is a list of email contacts that you never touch base with.

Because these people are already familiar with you at some level, they’re the easiest prospects to engage. Once they’re highly engaged, these people will provide a great base to share your content and broaden the reach of your subsequent content.

But first, it’s critical to get these latent contacts engaged. As we talk about throughout this guide, you build

engagement by being genuinely helpful, and doing this frequently. The easiest way to start providing value is through a curated thought leadership newsletter. In a world of so much content and so little time, you’re helping your prospects figure out what’s really worth reading (and at the same time reinforcing your expert positioning).

Thought leadership relies on you being front of mind. Getting to this position requires frequent contact. And thought leadership newsletters are one of the easiest ways to get into the habit of hitting the inbox on a weekly basis.

Don’t underestimate just how many of your contacts will call you just because you’ve popped up in their inbox again.

What you need to do at this stage

  • Build a mailing list of all your current contacts. Make sure you use LinkedIn as well to identify contacts who you might not have email addresses for (make sure you get marketing permission).
  • Sign up for MailChimp and use this to manage your weekly email distribution. MailChimp is the market leading platform and is incredibly easy to use.
  • MailChimp has professional looking templates that you can update with your logo, but we recommend spending a few extra dollars to get a custom template matching your corporate theme
  • Collect 5-7 articles each week that you know professionals in your space will find valuable. It’s critical that you distribute every week – you want your prospects to rely on you for their weekly expert update

What it’s not worth doing

  • Focus on adding value before you start spamming your contacts with any “special offers”. We recommend valuable content : sales content ratio never exceed 4:1

Stage 4: Start capturing leads with an email sign up form and pop up

  • Now that you’ve got a thought leadership mailing list, make it easy for prospects to sign up

  • Make sure you clearly state the value proposition (with a call to action)

Why it’s important to do it now

Almost everything we do in B2B Digital marketing strategy is focused on capturing the email address of the prospect. Email addresses are by far the most valuable B2B marketing asset.

Once we’ve got the email address, we build an ongoing relationship through frequent, valuable content. But all of that comes to nothing if we don’t get the email address to start with.

There’s two ways to capture the email address that we’re going to focus on at this stage (and then one more in stage 9). We do the pop-up and sign-up form at this stage because they’re quick and easy.

The aim here isn’t to force every visitor to sign up – it’s to make sure that every visitor is aware of your newsletter and the benefits that they’ll get from subscribing.

What you need to do at this stage

  • Write a brief pitch for your weekly newsletter. Why should people sign up? Save some of the great pieces of feedback you’ve had about the newsletter and use these as testimonials.
  • Because you’re using WordPress, it’s easy to install a simple email sign up form and pop-up. We recommend you install and activate MailChimp Signup and PopupAlly. Both are free (PopupAlly also has a pro version) and have simple step by step guides for activation.
  • Take your pitch and include this in both the sign-up form and pop-up. Make sure it’s clear what benefit they’ll receive on a weekly basis.
  • Make sure you include a call to action, such as “Subscribe now” or “Click here to subscribe”. This language can dramatically boost sign-up rates.
  • New subscribers will receive an email from MailChimp asking them to confirm their subscription. Do write a nice thankyou note that tells them about some of the great content they’ll be receiving soon.

What it’s not worth doing

  • Make sure you use a pop-up that remembers your visitors. We want to give them a nudge, rather than an aggressive push every time they enter the site. Your pop-up should reappear for each visitor once every 10-14 days.

Stage 5: Build content to support your expert positioning

  • Content = credibility

  • Write down your three most powerful, differentiating opinions

  • Write the way that you speak. Keep it conversational

Why it’s important to do it now

Content is time consuming and does take real effort. But it’s also the way that you’ll build most expert credibility with people you’ve never met or worked with before.

Content doesn’t make an appearance in this strategy until stage 5, because we needed to get some fundamentals in place first (positioning, mailing list, sign-ups).

At this stage it’s time to start putting some of your expert positioning down on the page. In this stage it’s important you build some base pieces that really set out your core opinions on your professional space.

These pieces should focus on your differentiating opinions. What is it that you believe that other people in your industry don’t? Over time, you’re going to link back to these key pieces time and time again.

What you need to do at this stage

  • Write in the first person. Write the way you talk – keep it conversational and interesting. Write in the first person, use ‘we’ to refer to your company, or even ‘I’, and use ‘you’ rather than ‘our clients’ or ‘HR professionals’
  • Write three pieces. Don’t worry about writing on keywords, or writing around any core theme. Write three pieces and try to make them as distinct as possible. Crossover of ideas between the pieces will confuse you and your reader..
  • Do focus on visual readability. Use images and headings to break up your copy and make it friendly for a reader to scan.

What it’s not worth doing

  • Don’t try and sound academic, or too professional. Let your expertise come through in your content, not in your language. Your readers just won’t persist if you write like it’s a textbook.
  • Keep each piece to 500 words. This is often a key challenge, given that this is a space you know deeply. Resist the urge to include more that one key opinion per piece.
  • Don’t worry about perfection. Worry about clarity. You can always come back and tweak later.

Stage 6: Pick one theme and five keywords

  • Build all your content around one theme and 5 keywords

  • One theme means you can repurpose later (and get 10x leverage)

  • Use MailChimp analytics to identify topics that your prospects love

Why it’s important to do it now

A few hours of structured planning at this stage can mean you get a 10x better return from your content down the track.

By planning around themes and keywords, you make sure that you can recompile all of your developed content into an e-book (that will act as a strong acquisition driver) and you will naturally build articles that are optimised for SEO.

Because you’ve already deployed the thought leadership newsletter, you’re not guessing blind at this stage. We have serious analytics from MailChimp on what your prospects find the most valuable (it’s one of the reasons that we wait until stage 6 to do content planning).

What you need to do at this stage

  • Define one core theme. This is what your content will be built around. This theme will become the title of your “e-book” compilation in stage 9. Make sure it’s a great and attractive title for an e-book that YOU would want to download and pay for.
  • Consider these four criteria for creating a great and topical core themes:
    1. Is there a broad interest in the space? (can it be purposed into mainstream media)
    2. Is it valuable as a compilation (such as a newsletter or e-book)?
    3. Can it be controversial?
    4. Is it useable across multiple platforms? (themes that are too complex won’t work on social media)
  • Within this theme define up to five keywords. These are keywords where you’d ideally like to come up in the #1 position on Google when a prospect searches.
  • Use the analytics from MailChimp to understand what your list finds most valuable. Make a note of what type of articles get the strongest click through rates. Feel free to test topics and keywords in your weekly subject line.
  • Write at least 10 headlines upfront that build on this theme and your five keywords. It’s important you think practically about the kind of articles you’ll be writing

What it’s not worth doing

  • Don’t try and plan all of your content upfront. Once you start developing a few articles more ideas will come.
  • Don’t worry too much about search engine optimisation right now. We’re building a bunch of the basics into this strategy (and you can worry about more advanced techniques at a later stage).

Stage 7: Deliver original content, every week

  • Consistency delivers results

  • Your existing email list is the most important distribution channel

  • Your content is a long term asset (with increasing search engine value over time)

Why it’s important to do it now

It’s time to start producing your own content every week. This is the content base that will really make you a thought leader (and you’ve now got all the fundamentals in place to make it worthwhile).

Content is the core of your strategy, it does the heavy lifting by making your leads come to you. When they’re looking for an answer, your content is ready and available to help them out.

Over time, your content will become more valuable, as search engines direct more and more traffic to your most valuable pieces. The key to making content pay is to deliver it consistently over an extended period of time.

What you need to do at this stage

  • Write conversationally. Don’t fall into the trap of writing in a manner that is different to the way that you speak.
  • Do draw on personal experience. Your product is your experience. So don’t be afraid to talk about stories and experiences that highlight this.
  • Test good headlines by watching your open rates on MailChimp, and trying a variety of headlines on Twitter (see stage 8).
  • Be consistent. When you say you’re going to publish a blogpost every week, make sure you do it. Before you hit the 4/2/1 threshold a weekly frequency is the best balance of attention and effort.
  • Link MailChimp to your blog. As soon as you publish a new piece, it should be mailed to your subscribers (make sure you use “RSS to mail” to make this happen)
  • Keep a Trello list of new content ideas (Trello is a great and free lists app). It’s an easy way to make sure you’ve always got things to write about.

What it’s not worth doing

  • Don’t give up. It takes time and effort to generate attention. Most blogs don’t last past 6 months (which is just when people are starting to pay attention).
  • Don’t fall into the trap of generating familiar opinion pieces (that everyone’s read before). To build a following you need to offer different and sometimes controversial perspectives.
  • Don’t feel you need to write content that’s too long. What you need to do is build additive content. For B2B this may be longer or shorter. Target 500 words per blogpost (but don’t worry if you end up producing at 1000 words). It’s most important to make sure you’re consistently producing content that your clients are finding valuable – not of any specific length.

Stage 8: Engage with influencers to drive traffic

  • Twitter and LinkedIn can quickly boost your expert credibility and community standing

  • Twitter and LinkedIn are great traffic drivers – but don’t expect to go viral

Why it’s important to do it now

Social media is a fantastic way to boost your reach once you’re producing content. You will not see return on social media unless you’re actively producing content – it’s critical to support and add depth to your opinions.

For B2B businesses, you should focus your attention on Twitter and LinkedIn. You’re unlikely to see a return using other platforms (at least at an early stage).

There’s also real search engine benefits to having active conversation around your content. We’ve seen articles move from the third or forth page to #1 on Google just based on strong social media conversation.

What you need to do at this stage

  • Set up your Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. Make sure these are personal accounts rather than for your business (people prefer interacting with people rather than an anonymous logo).
  • Include friendly but professional headshots (again, people prefer interacting with people rather than an anonymous logo).
  • Share the content of other influencers. It’s a compliment and will encourage them to share yours. We recommend you adopt a 80:20 ratio of other’s content : your content
  • Start by targeting local influencers. It’s much easier to get attention, and they can still have a big impact on sharing of your content.
  • Do use a social media management tool (such as Buffer) to program some regular posts about your content (both new and old).
  • Do be part of the conversation. Add comments and add value.

What it’s not worth doing

  • You need to be consistent and persistent with social media. It may feel like banging your head against a wall early on, but over time your profile will build. And so will your traffic as a result.
  • Don’t talk about your own content exclusively. If you want others to share your content, you’ve got to start by sharing theirs.

Stage 9: Turn content into a valuable resource pack and landing page

  • Use your existing content to develop a quick resource pack around your core theme (and dramatically boost sign up)

  • Prospects give their email in return for a valuable e-book

Why it’s important to do it now

Landing pages are guaranteed to boost your signups. It’s a page with only one purpose – and that’s to get your prospects to sign up for your list. But it’s also important that you’ve got something to give away in exchange that’s worthwhile and valuable.

This is one of the core reasons that it makes sense to plan your content around a core theme. Because when you reach stage 9, it’s as simple as packaging up all of this content into an e-book and giving it a professional title.

The massive benefit of this approach is you’ve written a book without even trying! And all just through your weekly blog efforts.

What you need to do at this stage

  • Use Unbounce to create a simple landing page that describes your e-book, and the benefits that the prospect will get from reading (you should be able to pull from your existing blog articles)
  • You don’t want to be creating any new content for this compilation. It’s all about repurposing existing content that you’ve written. But you will need to write a great introduction and potentially add some graphics.
  • Make sure the pack looks professional (it should be a pack that you can get professionally printed and give to your clients as a present)
  • Make sure you make it clear that people are consenting to get more helpful resources and blogposts from you on your area of expertise. You’re not trying to hide this (it’s a valuable thing that they’re getting). But also make it clear that they can unsubscribe at any time.
  • Set up an brief autoresponder using MailChimp to welcome them to the list.
  • Link to your new landing page from across your website. Use HelloBar as a tool to drive traffic to your landing page.

What it’s not worth doing

  • Don’t think that your resource pack needs to be too long. Remember that you’re giving this away. So anything that feels weighty (from c.50 pages up) is enough to be substantial.
  • Don’t fret about making it overly pretty (professional is enough). People care about your expertise, not your graphic design.

Stage 10: Repeat and optimise

  • You’ve got all the fundamentals

  • Now it’s time to study the analytics and figure out what’s working and what needs further tuning

Why it’s important to do it now

At this stage you’ve got all the fundamentals of the strategy in place. Now it’s about tuning the process to make sure results are starting to accelerate .

Focus incessantly on the three metrics, keeping your targets in mind:

  • Monthly page views (greater than 4,000 unique monthly visitors)
  • Email subscribers (over 2,000 email subscribers)
  • Website conversion rate (greater that 1%)

We focus on these metrics because they make sure you’ve built a real client magnet, that will attract, capture and convert.

As long as all the pieces in your funnel are working together, slowly but surely you’ll see an exponential effect and growth on all of the critical metrics.

What you need to do at this stage

  • Maintain consistency. Remember that content is an asset that builds in value over time. Getting to the scale point is all about consistency, and giving your content the ability to do the hard work in client acquisition over time.
  • Keep these three metrics on a dashboard, and track them each week. By watching the week to week changes, you’ll start to notice what’s working (and what isn’t).
  • Try different wording on your opt-in forms and landing pages. It’s funny how small changes to text can make big changes in human behaviour (focus on headlines and your call to action for biggest results).

What it’s not worth doing

  • It’s important not to get impatient. Focus on making constant improvements in the three core metrics. This is an optimisation process, where you’re working out what the right intersection is between your content and your target market. It can take time to perfect and build attention.
  • Don’t fall prey to short term thinking and try advertising before you’ve optimised. Advertising (either search engine or display) pre-optimisation is a waste of money if you haven’t optimised for conversion.

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