We cover 5 examples of powerful B2B content machines, 7 core elements every content machine must have, and 15 tools and tactics to help you build your own content marketing machine.
Content marketing is a powerful growth engine. Content drives traffic and sales leads and, if done well, increases business revenue.
According to HubSpot, businesses with content machines generate more traffic, inbound sales leads, and higher conversion rates than those that don’t invest in content. Whether you’re running a B2B or B2C brand website, content should play a pivotal role in your marketing activities.
But we all know that too many companies are atrocious at content promotion.
If your company isn’t creating or promoting content well, you might be wondering:
How do we build a content machine to drive website growth?
We have the answer.
In this article, we take a closer look at why you need a content machine, including 5 powerful examples of B2B content machines. We also cover the tactics and tools you can use to achieve similar results.
What is a content machine? Plus, the 7 core elements of every content machine
When building your content machine, it must align with the buyer’s journey — also known as the marketing or sales funnel.
Your potential customers are seeking a solution to a particular problem.
For example, a buyer may be looking for new project management software. They’ve tried several Software as a Service (SaaS) products, but none were suitable, and they need a solution that’s more aligned to their business needs.
Whatever your business does, remember that all web traffic starts with someone looking to resolve and avoid problems — also known as a “Job to be Done” (JTBD). Your customers have a job that needs doing, and your company can do that job (solve the problem).
Every content marketing campaign starts with understanding why people — what potential customers are searching for — and what problem they’re trying to solve. This is their “search intent.”
Search intent is represented by the words and phrases entered into Google (and other search engines) when people look for something online. Your customers are doing this right now.
Once you know what your customers are searching for, you’re one step closer to creating content that captures some of that traffic, and drives new web visitors and leads into your sales funnel.
Creating high-quality content using relevant keywords helps you attract new traffic from searchers at the top-of-the-funnel. Once you’ve captured this traffic, you need the means to nurture those leads. This is your middle-of-the-funnel content.
Middle-of-the-funnel content should engage and encourage visitors to sign-up to your databases (newsletters, lead magnets, automated drip campaigns), and follow you on social media where you can cultivate them as potential sales leads.
The last step is your bottom-of-the-funnel content. This content is purposefully designed to drive conversions like subscribing to a free trial or making contact to ask about your products and services. Case studies are an ideal format for this stage in the buyer’s journey.
Landing pages are equally significant. At every stage of this journey, we recommend linking to your business’s core landing pages (product, service pages, etc.) to ensure that every web visitor is turned into a sales lead.
An effective content marketing machine includes seven core elements:
- Keyword research — actionable keywords, rather than a database of thousands, to drive your organic search engine optimization (SEO) campaigns
- Top-of-the-funnel content: Engaging, high-quality content designed to capture search-intent-driven web traffic
- Middle-of-the-funnel content: Designed to nurture sales leads
- Bottom-of-the-funnel content: Turns web visitors into sales leads (at the point of conversion)
- Landing pages: Each one should be an effective conversion tool
- An active automated lead-nurturing solution, integrated with your sales and marketing pipeline
- An active content promotion campaign, including social media, email marketing, and a backlink and PR strategy (to further enhance your rankings in search results).
Why your business needs a content machine
Content is a key piece in your revenue generation puzzle.
If you bypass investing in content and SEO, then you’ll miss out on web traffic and sales leads. It’s that simple. Businesses that aren’t active online will lose customers to competitors who are easier to find.
Hubspot research shows that:
- SEO is a worthwhile investment, with 69% of marketers investing in SEO in 2021.
- An increase in organic traffic and keyword rankings are the top measures of SEO success.
- 71% of marketers focus on strategic SEO keywords to generate more traffic and sales leads, and this means creating high-impact content to pull in traffic from a target audience.
- 82% of marketers say content marketing is effective, and the top 10% say it generates the biggest return on investment.
- 60% of marketers can measure the success of content marketing through an increase in sales leads and sales/revenue.
- One sign of the effectiveness of content marketing: 54% of decision-makers (business owners, CEOs, etc.) spend at least 1 hour per week reading thought-leadership content.
Content marketing generates traffic to your site, and a percentage of that traffic should convert into customers.
Content gives you visibility in the search results — where your potential customers seek solutions to their problems.
Decision-makers read online so publish the type of content that gets their attention. Once you’ve pulled these people into your sales funnel, you have a far better chance of winning them as clients.
If you aren’t investing in content, your competitors are.
Below, we take a closer look at 5 businesses with powerful content marketing machines.
5 market-leading businesses with powerful B2B content machines
Many of you create B2B content as an integral part of your marketing and sales funnel, or you manage a marketing team responsible for creating and promoting that content.
Let’s look at how 5 brands use content to generate high traffic volumes and sales leads.
1. A B2B content resource ecosystem for marketing, sales, and customer service teams and leaders
- Company: HubSpot
- Content Type(s): Engaging top of funnel, nurturing middle, resources, and conversion-driven landing pages
- Examples: HubSpot Blogs (Marketing, Sales, Service, and Website); ebooks, guides, and more; and the HubSpot Academy
HubSpot needs no introduction. HubSpot coined the term “inbound marketing” in 2005, and built an entire content marketing strategy to draw customers into their ecosystem.
And it works brilliantly.
HubSpot launched in 2006 and was founded by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah. It’s become the market-leading inbound marketing software solution worldwide, with revenues in excess of $880 million.
HubSpot lives and breathes inbound marketing. One of its core growth channels is providing useful, free resources to marketers. HubSpot’s main product, a customer relationship (CRM) platform for startups and small and medium businesses (SMBs), is also free. Their other SaaS-based products include a suite of marketing, sales, operations, website management, and customer service solutions.
How could you do the same?
HubSpot is a tech giant — with hundreds of marketing professionals working on a multi-region content creation and promotion machine. Few companies are capable of replicating the scale and size of HubSpot’s content business.
But every business with the budget, tools, and team is capable of producing high-impact content. HubSpot offers hundreds of resources to help you achieve that aim.
At a minimum, you need the following to build your content machine:
- A clear understanding of your audience/customers and the pain points your product or service solves
- A database of actionable keywords to use within the content you create — as a starting point for creating topic clusters, and from that, a content calendar
- An action plan to create content for the top, middle, and bottom-of-the-funnel; to pull in web traffic, nurture leads, and increase conversion rates (in other words, an inbound marketing funnel like HubSpot’s)
- Consistently produce and promote outstanding content (ideally weekly). SEO-based content is a long-term investment. It takes time to generate web traffic and sales leads that have an impact so consistency is crucial. But once potential customers start flowing in — a trickle will become a flood.
2. Engaging and inspiring: A B2B content ecosystem for 2MM+ professionals
- Company: The Hustle (owned by HubSpot)
- Content Type(s): Inspiring and engaging top-of-funnel content (News, Newsletter, Podcast)
- Examples: “Why a small candy company is Warren Buffett’s ‘dream’ investment”, and “Why free stuff makes us irrational”.
The Hustle is the outlier on our list.
It started life as a newsletter but evolved into a content ecosystem — “keeping 2M+ innovators in the loop” on business and tech topics. The Hustle now encompasses a news website, a newsletter, and a podcast.
The Hustle clearly has value in terms of generating sales leads because it’s part of HubSpot’s wider content marketing structure. The lesson is that, even when content marketing activities aren’t directly connected to a product or service, they’re an effective means to engage your target audience.
How could you do the same?
There are several ways to implement a similar approach — dependent on your budget and the size of your target audience. If you have the resources, you could allocate a portion to buy or sponsor a small media company. This might be a niche media website, a newsletter, or a podcast.
This approach is a worthwhile investment, providing that the asset you purchase benefits from an engaged, niche, and highly-targeted audience.
Alternatively, you could build your own content site.
Sponsoring a newsletter, or podcast is equally valuable, especially if that media brand has an active and engaged audience.
Let’s look at three additional examples from BuzzSumo, Ahrefs, and CustomerCamp. All three are produced by companies that have impressive content machines, generating SEO-driven keyword traffic, organic backlinks, and most importantly, sales leads.
3. Engaging top-of-the-funnel audience to attract a wide audience
- Company: BuzzSumo (a content marketing platform and suite of search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing tools)
- Content-Type: Engaging top-of-funnel content
- Example: “100m Articles Analyzed: What You Need To Write The Best Headlines “
In the article above, BuzzSumo used data from its own software to analyze 100 million articles. The resulting post provides the perfect format for writing headlines that generate clicks.
How could you do the same?
The beauty of this article is that it’s unique. It’s impossible to replicate the content because the source material comes from within BuzzSumo.
SaaS businesses — and any product-based business that collects stores, and processes vast amounts of data — can do the same. Articles like this should not identify individual users (without their permission), however, it’s possible to leverage the data your product generates to create powerful research-driven content for your brand.
Data-based articles are ideal assets for link-building and PR campaigns because so few companies produce exclusive and original research.
When writers in your sector are researching for articles they’re writing, data-driven content such as this is a gold mine, giving you a good chance of picking up loads of organic links, further boosting your website’s search engine rankings.
An informative research-driven article will reach a wide audience because it pertains to an issue that content marketing professionals face daily: “How do I write an engaging, click-worthy headline?”
This article shows readers how to write the best headlines, and points them towards the desired solution — a subscription to BuzzSumo. Software companies anywhere could take a similar approach. You may only publish three to four similar articles per year, but they will be invaluable to your sales funnel.
4. Data-driven lead generation content
- Company: Ahrefs (a market-leading SEO software company)
- Content-Type: Top-of-funnel lead generation content
- Example: “90.63% of Content Gets No Traffic from Google.” And How to Be in the Other 9.37% [New Research for 2020]“
Ahrefs took a similar approach to BuzzSumo, including an eye-catching headline for their research-based post.
Ahrefs used data from their suite of tools to analyze millions of articles. They identified an industry-wide problem and came up with a set of solutions for their readers. Naturally, one of those solutions is to use Ahrefs.
How could you do the same?
Not every business has access to proprietary data. But don’t worry.
Surveys and questionnaires are an effective way to produce an original article founded on fresh and original research.
You could conduct this research in-house or work with a third-party survey and research company to gather your data.
With data-based content, your goal is to create a handful of remarkable, one-of-a-kind pieces that generate traffic, backlinks, PR, and sales leads. Make sure you include impressive design assets and a clear call-to-action and then promote these articles across multiple channels.
Businesses that invest $2000 to produce a standout content piece (a ballpark figure), plus a further $5000 on a public relations campaign (PR), could generate 5 to 6 figures in new revenue. It’s an investment worth making.
5. Coining a term, and building content to own your market
- Company: CustomerCamp (a buying trigger solutions service provider)
- Content-Type: Foundational (top and mid-funnel), pillar piece, coining a term
- Example: “How Crafty Marketers Use Buying Triggers to Outsmart Their Competition”
In this example, CustomerCamp coins the term “buying triggers”, and uses content to own that market.
CustomerCamp isn’t the first company to execute this tactic. Take a look at HubSpot’s success with the term ‘inbound marketing’, or Brian Dean from Backlinko, who coined the phrase ‘Skyscraper Technique.’
CustomerCamp takes the same approach. Their post explains the term “buying triggers”, showcases examples, and then sells readers on why their software delivers the most effective buying trigger solutions.
How could you do the same?
Coined term content helps to establish your company as an authority in your sector, and will support your efforts to elevate your Founder-CEO as an industry thought leader. You may not realize it, but you could be sitting on a vast amount of unrealized potential.
Think about your products or services, and the unique approach your business takes to solving your client’s problems. Come up with a catchy solution-oriented phrase to describe this process, and then create content assets to promote the term to your target audience.
In 2001, Joe Pulizzi coined the term ‘content marketing’ and paved the way for a multi-billion dollar business sector. He founded the Content Marketing Institute and the Content Marketing World event to generate interest in this new marketing concept.
Remember, when you first coin your own term, people won’t search for it immediately. It won’t have any SEO value at the start.
Begin by incorporating your newly-coined term into your content, and ensure that your publishing efforts are consistent. Think of this as a 12 to 24-month project; one that will pay off huge dividends over time.
Now, let’s dive into the tools, tactics, and resources you need to build a powerful content machine.
15 tools, tactics, and resources to build a content machine
A content team — or a skilled writer
Outstanding content doesn’t write itself. In most cases, a busy marketing team won’t have the time or in-house skills to do this either.
If your goal is to publish high-quality content, you must build a team of content specialists. Whether you recruit in-house or outsource (outsourcing is often more time and cost-effective), these specialists are a necessity.
When building a content marketing team, aim to bring on board the following experienced team members (depending on your budget):
- A Head of Content or Editor: This person leads your writing team, provides editorial direction, and manages the entire publishing process.
- Content Writer(s): Attract top talent by paying as much as you can afford. This might be anywhere from $200 to $1000 per article, but if you find talented writers — and pay them well — they’ll reward you with consistently top-quality content that generates results.
- An SEO Specialist or agency: Working with an SEO specialist or team helps to boost your content in search rankings, and drive inbound traffic to pull in more sales leads and customers. Many writers have the skill to handle this aspect of content creation, while others prefer to receive a list of keywords within a content brief.
- A Graphic Designer(s): Exceptional content demands high-impact graphics and images. Once again, don’t set your budget too low for this service. It will pay dividends in traffic and clicks.
- Social Media, community management, email marketing, and even paid advertising promotion specialists: Your options are to manage your social media in-house — tasking one of the marketing team — or work with agencies or freelancers.
SEO, SERP keyword tools: Ahrefs, Google Search, Google Trends, Keywords Everywhere & Semrush
Every content marketing campaign requires a suite of tools to facilitate content production. Your writers need to research keywords, the search intent, and your competitors, to pull insightful data from the search engine results pages (SERPS). We suggest the following:
- Ahrefs includes ‘everything you need to rank higher & get more traffic’, with a suite of SEO tools at various price points.
- Google Search Console: Previously known as Google Webmaster Tools, this Google service helps website owners check which pages and articles are indexed in Google SERPs, and then implement tactics to improve your visibility in Google.
- Google Trends: Launched in 2006, Google Trends is another Google service that helps SEOs and website owners track trending search queries, keywords, and search volumes.
- Keywords Everywhere is a browser add-on for Chrome & Firefox that shows search volume, cost-per-click (CPC), and the level of competition on multiple websites.
- Semrush is a SaaS-based keyword analysis and ranking platform. It helps SEOs and website owners audit websites, measure keyword volumes, and create content marketing campaigns.
Content marketing, project management, and publishing
- Content Calendar: CoSchedule
CoSchedule is a SaaS platform that helps you “Organize All Of Your Marketing In One Place. From Any Place.”
This tool is particularly handy for Heads of Content who oversee these processes.
- Project Management: ClickUp
At the same time, you need a project management (PM) tool to track your articles through the content production and promotion process. ClickUp is a tool that helps teams “Get more done”, and “save time automating your work.” It’s easy to use, brings dozens of productivity and collaborative apps into a single suite of tools, and it’s affordable too.
- Publish to WordPress: Wordable
Once your articles are signed-off and ready to publish, you need a simple method to transfer them from Google Docs and into WordPress — while retaining your formatting, links, and images.
We recommend Wordable, which is an easy-to-use SaaS-based plugin for WordPress. This software is also compatible with HubSpot and Medium, and will soon integrate with Ecommerce platforms like Shopify. It makes uploading content (especially in bulk), faster and easier.
Social and email marketing promotion: Hypefury, ConvertKit
Finally, you need an efficient way to publish and promote your content across your social channels and in your email communications.
It’s best to have someone proactively managing this task so that your content is promoted multiple times after publication. A single piece of great content will provide you with numerous opportunities to post relevant snippets of text, but this tactic only works if your promotional activities are planned and ongoing.
- For social media scheduling and management, Hypefury is worth a try. It’s a simple, powerful, and cost-effective solution to automate your social media .
- When it comes to email marketing and automation campaigns, ConvertKit is a popular choice.
These are our picks, but every tool option above has a dozen decent alternatives — and your choice is a matter of preference.
Building a content machine is a major challenge.
Each of the companies we highlighted has invested copious amounts of time, money, and resources into constructing their content machine.
It also requires patience to generate a return on that investment.
Still, once you start generating traffic and sales leads, the effort will pay off.
The beauty of an active, quality-focused content machine is that your ROI compounds over time. Articles published a year ago will rank better than those published last week. When you select the right keywords, and/or create evergreen articles, your content will have a longer and more productive impact on your business.
Congratulations on making it this far!
Here’s a quick recap of the essential elements of a content machine, and the tools and tactics you need to build your own:
- Keyword research
- Top-of-the-funnel content: To pull in new web traffic
- Middle-of-the-funnel content: To nurture sales leads
- Bottom-of-the-funnel content: For the conversion point
- Product or service landing pages
- An automated lead-nurturing campaign
- A content promotion campaign (social, email, linkbuilding, PR, and advertising)
Building a content machine means investing in:
- A content team, or an experienced writer
- A suite of SaaS-based SEO, and SERP Keyword Tools
- A Content Calendar
- Project Management
- A Publishing Tool
- Social Media and Email Marketing Promotion