If marketing is an engine, you might consider its main output to be leads—high-quality prospects interested in buying. But like every engine, it needs a power source to keep running. And that energy comes from B2B content.
Content is a great way to generate demand. In fact, according to Content Marketing Institute research, 77% of B2B marketers reported they have a content marketing strategy in place for exactly this reason.
B2B content marketing for demand generation is all about sharing two simple ideas—that your audience has a problem and that your solution is the best fit. You can avoid the vicious cycle of focusing solely on leads, depleting demand, and resorting to ever more desperate lead generation measures by creating a virtuous cycle that builds demand through content.
In this article, we’ve pulled the most recent research from top-performing B2B companies on what types of content marketing work best to generate demand. You’ll learn how to plan a demand gen content strategy, including tips on targeting a new audience and optimizing content. And we’ll cover the data on what’s working best in B2B this year and beyond.
How to Create a B2B Content Strategy to Generate Demand
Want to know how to use B2B content marketing to generate demand? Start with these top principles to build a content strategy that works:
1. Focus on new audiences.
To reach new audiences, you need to use different channels. Think about where your audience is, connect and communicate with them, and build an organic community.
Knowing who that target audience is can be a challenge—and an opportunity—for demand generation. It’s almost impossible to know which customer touchpoints today will trigger purchase months or even years in the future, but it opens up a world of experimentation.
2. Choose what (and how) you measure.
The question is no longer what we’re tracking but what tracks we are paying attention to. And the metrics you focus on can mean the difference between a digital marketing strategy that works and one that flounders.
So, what should we measure?
According to Gaetano DiNardi, Head of Growth at Aura, if you only focus on backend metrics, you’re flying blind. You need to understand detailed information on average sale size, lifetime value, and profitability for each marketing source. This allows you to decide where the best leads come from and cost-effective ways to acquire more.
3. Prioritize interest, not leads.
The problem with lead generation content assets, like gated material or sales-driven content, is that they don’t educate consumers who don’t know a problem exists. Demand generation combines education and brand storytelling to teach consumers about problems they aren’t aware of.
Robert Rose of the Content Marketing Institute puts it simply: “Successful marketers use content marketing to generate demand from new and unknown audiences—not just to locate demand that already exists.”
Great demand generation content doesn’t try to sell. It introduces a challenge your audience faces and explains why that problem matters enough to invest in your solution.
But even if you have the right focus for demand gen marketing, what’s the best way to use content marketing to achieve your goals?
14 Content Ideas to Generate Demand
It’s essential to create different types of content in your marketing campaigns. Don’t just focus on a single content type: Experiment or even scale blog posts, podcasts, in-depth guides, video tutorials, and more centered around customer pain points. Here are fourteen top content ideas to get you started:
1. Include research, reports, and whitepapers.
Original reports, surveys, and statistics are strong content pieces that give you credibility and build a relationship with a prospective customer.
For example, at Nextiva, we recently published our findings in a report on call center analytics, which worked wonders for our SEO and positioned us as an industry authority.
Another example shows that even if you don’t have a budget for a study, you can cite studies others have done. Aura released a post on how to know if your identity has been stolen, citing third-party research to support their points.
2. Create SEO-focused blog content and pillar pages.
Organic traffic can be one of the best sources for generating demand—if you know how to generate it.
The secret is to publish regular content that follows best SEO practices. It will take time but can generate big results over the long term. And unlike paid ads, organic traffic builds an audience you own.
3. Transform research into infographics.
To reach a wider audience, try transforming your original research from reports or surveys into infographics or timeline graphs. It’s a great way to adapt content to a new format without requiring extra research.
4. Use case studies to build client trust.
Trust is the foundation of any B2B purchase. How can a company know your solution will work as you say it will?
The answer is through the experience of other customers, and the best way to present this is through a case study. Plus, case studies are easily adaptable to different situations. You can include them on your website, share them with prospective clients, and break them into smaller pieces for social media.
5. Host online webinars.
Webinars are one of the best-performing assets for B2B, according to a recent marketing survey:
Webinars offer a few benefits for demand generation. They’re most effective in the middle of the funnel as they help educate audiences about the problems your product solves. Education-focused webinars can be a great way to transition passive visitors into potential customers.
6. Create buyer guides.
A buying guide is a simple way to move prospects down the purchase path. Essentially, this guide is a static version of a salesperson, explaining what plans and paths might be best for a prospect depending on their situation.
Buyer guides work best at the bottom of the funnel when a prospect is most interested in buying. But if they’re easy to access, these guides can also be a helpful resource at the consideration stage—they show prospects the general budget to consider for when they’re faced with the problem you solve.
7. Add personalized B2B videos.
Video marketing is more resource-intensive than written content, but the value pays off. Video receives higher engagement than content and you can adapt it for your blog, video platforms, social media, and more.
8. Introduce interactive content and tools.
You’ll need to move beyond your typical content to start creating interactive pages and tools. But that shouldn’t hold you back.
Consider options that would provide value to visitors and prospects. For example, a simple ROI calculator is relatively easy to develop and can help lead your prospects to purchase.
You can also consider SEO-focused tools such as Moz and Ahrefs to drive new traffic to your site.
9. Host virtual, in-person, and hybrid events.
Events are another strong way to bring new demand to your business. The pandemic has made virtual events the norm, and even if you create in-person events, you can leverage digital tools to attract an even bigger audience.
After the video, events are the biggest projected type of B2B content marketing investment in 2022:
And as with most types of content on this list, you can easily adapt clips from the event for other channels, including video and social media marketing.
10. Produce a podcast.
If you’re not already leveraging audio marketing, now’s the time. There are three basic ways to get into the podcasting space: You can host your show, appear as a guest on other’s shows, or buy ads to run on podcasts that your audience listens to. For example, Ahrefs uses short commercials on relevant podcasts.
Podcasting today is where blogging was years ago—there’s a big first-mover advantage in a space that’s only going to get more competitive. CIENCE hosts its own Enterprise Sales Development Podcast that discusses key trends and topics with top industry leaders.
11. Use long-lasting social media.
Most of today’s B2B social media marketing is focused around a single platform: LinkedIn.
And the types of content that perform well on LinkedIn aren’t the same kind of short-form, clickbait content that does well on other social platforms. LinkedIn users tend to prefer long-form, actionable, or inspirational posts that inform or entertain. These posts tend to live on the platform for days or even weeks.
And this long-lasting social media content is becoming a trend. Research from HubSpot showed that 44% of marketers are planning on increasing this kind of “permanent” social media content, while 37% plan on decreasing “ephemeral” content like stories.
Social media has plenty of value for B2B, if you know how to use it right.
12. Use public relations to increase brand awareness.
There’s a reason major companies are using public relations—it’s still a highly effective way to reach a new audience. News sources have larger audiences than most businesses, and a feature piece lends instant credibility.
But PR is more than just for brand recognition; referral traffic from the news is highly targeted and tends to convert better than traffic from ads or other sources.
13. Continue direct mail efforts.
Physical mail isn’t dead. Its decreasing use makes it stand apart from all the more in the B2B demand generation toolkit.
A research survey found that half of B2B marketing executives still use direct mail for account-based marketing:
If you’re looking for a more unique method to stand apart, direct mail can be the way.
14. Embrace partnerships.
There are a few ways to build partnerships that work. The most obvious is to find industry influencers and non-competing brands and work together. Create content, webinars, guides, and more. You’ll both benefit.
But you can also be a guest. When you show up on blogs and podcasts from other brands and influencers, you create brand awareness, position yourself as a thought leader, and acquire someone else’s audience. It’s also good for SEO.
Use B2B Content to Generate More Leads
If you focus content marketing on generating leads, you’ll soon begin to struggle. Instead, consider a more balanced strategy that includes generating demand by educating potential customers about the problem you solve.
When you pay attention to serving the needs of your audience, you’ll find new and better ways to deliver the kind of content that converts. And you’ll create a virtuous cycle as you listen and respond to feedback.
After all, if your audience doesn’t know they need your solution, how will they buy it?