Planning Your B2C Content Strategy: How to Create Content That Attracts and Engages Customers
A wise grandpa once said, “failing to plan is planning to fail.”
And while the mysterious author of this quote probably wasn’t talking about B2C content marketing, failing to have a plan in place for your content sets you up for wasting time, money, and resources on content that isn’t successful.
And if that’s not a content marketing fail, then I don’t know what is.
Below, you’ll find all the information you need on why having an effective B2C content strategy will help you bring in more of the right types of buyers for your products and services as well as tactical advice for creating your own strategy.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
Benefits of Effective B2C Content Strategy
Here at WriterAccess, we spend a lot of time talking about how to create great content. Our audience of SMBs (small and medium businesses), dynamic agencies, and members of the liberated workforce all strive to develop and execute content marketing programs that really hit home with their specific target audience.
But behind the “how” lies the sometimes even bigger question of “Why?”
- Why should I invest the time and effort into following best practices for content creation?
- Why should I bother educating prospects and customers when they already know about my business?
- Why should I spend money communicating through all of these marketing channels when I could use those funds to build my business in other ways?
- Why do I need to sustain a long-term content marketing strategy when my business is doing just fine right now?
These are all extremely good questions, and they are particularly important for B2C companies that rely on everyday consumers for their success. It is not just the mega-companies like Apple, Ford, Kellogg’s, or Coca Cola which need to build strategies to communicate more directly to consumers.
These are also the mom-and-pop shops, the e-commerce companies, and the small businesses that rely on a consistent stream of business from potential customers to sustain their operations.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, economic uncertainties, and “new normal” of doing business, it may be more critical now than ever before for strategic B2C marketers to definitively communicate their ability to address consumer pain points.
These companies must find better and more efficient ways to increase traffic and sales, and that success will rely on their ability to create an effective B2C content strategy.
While a B2B content strategy focuses on decision-makers, a B2C marketing strategy focuses on communicating directly to the end consumer. Its purpose is to build familiarity, solve problems, and drive sales.
While some of the content delivery mechanisms may be the same for both B2B and B2C companies, the tone and substance can vary substantially. Businesses are more focused on their ability to drive profit and satisfy their customers, while consumers are interested in satisfying their own needs.
What is a B2C Content Strategy?
In its 2020 B2C Content Marketing Guide, the Content Marketing Institute unveils some excellent research on the topic of B2C content marketing. Although it shows that B2C marketers are already getting some serious traction with their content marketing strategies, many companies still struggle to settle on their content marketing approach.
Today’s B2C brands are definitely making strides in achieving the goals of creating trust, providing education, and building brand awareness, but fall short on motivating sales, building a sustained audience, and nurturing relationships.
Instead of just a “one and done” strategy of promoting quick sales, B2C content marketing focuses more on the best way to build long-term relationships for a continuous stream of revenue.
The main characteristics of a B2C content marketing strategy include:
Speaking to a Consumer’s Motivation
As noted above, a consumer’s motivation is different from that of a businessperson’s motivation. Consumers are more interested in knowing how a product or service can benefit them or their families.
Buying decisions are far more likely to be driven by their emotions than by profit or money motivation. They want a purchase that can entertain, make their life easier, or help accomplish their goals. They love stories, social media, and video content.
The B2C content marketer should focus heavily on the digital marketing side of the equation. Rich website content, informative blog posts, and relationship-nurturing social media outreach can help make those crucial emotional connections.
Focus on the Consumer Buyer Persona
As with the B2B market, the B2C target market includes many types of buyer personas. To be effective, the type of content used may need to appeal to family types or singles, Millennials or seniors, health enthusiasts or sedentary personalities, and so much more. SEO will have to focus on the keywords important to each persona to enhance search results.
Shorter Sales Cycle
Today’s consumers are likely to be much quicker to make a decision than those in the business world. They have a need, do their research, and make a purchase without the need to go through layers of budget and approval processes.
That means that B2C marketing efforts need to be more focused on quick turn-around. Searchers need to be fed pertinent information quickly, so they will feel an immediate desire for the product or service in question.
How Can a B2C Content Marketing Strategy Help You Grow Your Business?
We actually will answer the “how” question in a little bit but, for now, that brings us back to the “why” question. How will having a content strategy benefit your B2C brand?
Here are just a few of the most important benefits your business can achieve with an effective B2C content strategy:
1. Drive inbound marketing and organic traffic.
Sometimes a business is lucky enough that a prospective customer will just come right to the website. If you have a useful product or service, and quality content on the site, your conversion rates should be quite high.
However, most of the time you have to be sure your business remains top-of-mind for future purchases, or that you have the right type of content online to generate a strong inbound marketing response.
2. Increase brand recognition, visibility, and loyalty.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have the brand recognition of an Apple or a Google?
Sure it would. But most companies are not Apple or Google.
That means that for most companies, there is still a strong need to let consumers know what your company offers and how you can be of benefit to them. Your B2C content strategy should focus on creating marketing campaigns that bring your brand to mind as easily as those of the “big” names.
3. Further consumer education.
Believe it or not, every possible consumer of your product or service is simply not aware of your business.
It is your job to use the proper marketing tactics to let them know your company exists in the first place, and to tell them why you can perform better than your competition.
4. Improve quality of leads.
Anyone can generate leads, but quality lead generation is a challenge.
If you are bringing leads to your site who either aren’t right for your brand or aren’t ready to buy, you may not see the results you are looking for. A marketing strategy that reaches out to your buyer persona at the right time through the correct channels with the perfect content will generate outstanding results.
5. Boost conversions.
The end goal is to find new customers, keep current customers, and create a reliable stream of sales. You can use quality B2C content to speak to each target group at each stage of the sales cycle, and constantly move them towards a purchase.
6. Help nurture relationships.
One of the biggest complaints about “big” business is that they don’t seem to really care. An SMB or local company can use its content to drive home the benefits of community knowledge and nurture those relationships through active social media channels.
As a B2C content marketing strategy grows and evolves in response to consumer trends, B2C companies will begin to notice there is definitely an increase in the number of leads and the number of new customers for your business. Now, let’s take a look at some of the key elements of a B2C content strategy.
Key Elements of a B2C Content Strategy
While B2B content marketing is similar in some ways to content marketing for B2C businesses, there are some important differences that impact the way you create a B2C content marketing strategy.
There are seven basic elements of a B2C content strategy that you should consider when you start to create your own. Most content marketers will agree that all of these elements are necessary to create a strategy that will help guide your content creation and ensure that potential customers are getting what they need from your content.
These essential elements include:
Let’s take a look at each of these elements of content strategy for B2C brands in a bit more depth as they will be guiding your marketing tactics and content marketing campaigns moving forward.
1. Audience: Who are You Attracting?
Your content is only going to be as good as your understanding of your target customer. You need to know their motivations, dislikes, pain points, goals, and habits before you can write content that’s personalized and targeted toward them. The more you understand your target consumer, the more you can effectively create content for them.
If you attract the wrong consumer, you will have a crowd that doesn’t make purchases. This can happen when you attract those who don’t have the buying power or they may not be the decision-makers when it comes to making the purchasing decision.
To understand your target consumer, you need to establish buyer personas that help you identify real, top customers that purchase from your brand. The more you can put a real person into the persona, the less you will assume about your ideal buyers. Make as many personas as you need to capture the essence of the various top consumers purchasing from your brand.
Need help getting started? Use this guide to building a buyer persona for expert tips.
2. Format: What Types of Content?
There are so many types of content that might offer unique opportunities for your brand in your content strategy. Don’t get stuck in thinking your content strategy should only include blogging and social media marketing.
Here are just a few types of content you should consider including in your content strategy:
- Blog posts – long-form and short-form articles covering a variety of topics
- Images – visual aids to draw in your audience
- Videos – another form of visual aid that can be highly engaging and influential, using moving images, text and sound
- Guest articles – articles written by influencers or professionals to bring in new leads, or creating a post for another blog, so your brand increases reach
- Memes – short and quippy text with image (usually funny or catchy)
- Infographics – a combination of visual aid and facts
- Social media posts – typically short posts that encourage action or engagement
- Email newsletters – content for segmented parts of your audience, includes articles and links
- Ads – social media, search engine, website banner, billboard, TV, radio or print ads that target a specific group and call for a particular action
- Magazines – printed or digital publications with a collection of articles, ads, and images from various sources
- Case studies – in-depth analysis of a problem, action, and solution with a real-life example
- Podcasts – verbal long-form dialog in a sound-focused format
- White papers – long-form articles that cover topics in a very detailed way with a series of sections
- Ebooks – digital books covering a lengthy topic with several chapters
- Slide presentations – visual aids combined with text in a kind of bullet-visual content
- Checklists – actionable content in list format
- Reviews – customer perspectives on products or services
- Interactive tools – estimation calculators, virtual preview editors, and other tools customers can use to support their buying process or increase interaction
- Games – interactive activities or tools that help keep the audience engaged and invested
- Presentations – digital or in-person events for the community, stakeholders, company, customers or employees to increase awareness, deepen relationships, entertain or inform
All of your formats should evolve with consumer trends. You will need to spend time researching what competitors, industry leaders, and consumers are doing to discover those trends and keep abreast of the ever-changing nature of the content.
3. Character: What Determines Consistency?
Character is the voice, appeal, and appearance of the brand. It shows your values and expresses your vision as a company. From visual aids to video script and text, your brand character is going to be a large part of your branding. When you are creating your content, you need to establish how that character is going to be realized.
In a previous blog, What is a Content Marketing Strategy, we discussed how you could create a template for the character:
You can create a brand voice chart or mood board to help ensure consistency with future content. To clarify your content direction:
- Describe your brand character (creative, quirky, passionate, authentic, charming, etc.).
- Give a short description of what each brand characteristic means. For example, “grounded” might be described as, “we care about our neighbors and environment in an authentic way.”
- Create a do and don’t list that defines how those characteristics will play out in the content. This may include if you use slang, if things are written in the first/second/third person, if you attempt humor or casual pop-culture references, etc.
- Establish style guidelines that define specifics like formatting, colors, fonts, boilerplates, CTA buttons, and more.
4. Message: What are You Trying to Say?
When creating your B2C content marketing strategy, you will need to think about how your messages support your brand (character) and how they appeal to your audience.
This message isn’t just a linear journey where everyone starts in the same place and heads to the same conclusion. It really isn’t even a funnel–though the “sales funnel” is often used to describe how you can attract and convert customers.
Instead, your marketing strategy should be a vortex or flywheel that is continually rotating, drawing in leads from wherever they are and pulls them to purchase.
The funnel is problematic because, in theory, it acts as a one-way stop and often the point of purchase is seen as the end of the journey. But what happens to the customer after purchase?
Retaining customers is far cheaper than acquiring new ones, and delighting customers can lead to brand loyalty and advocacy, which both help you get referrals for new leads and customers.
The customer is no longer the endpoint, the customer becomes the central focus. There isn’t a push towards a singular point of exit, but a continual draw from any point of the vortex towards that center area of another purchase.
A good B2C content marketing strategy will use the vortex imagery to create a content message or focus that:
- Appeals to consumers at any point in the flywheel or sales vortex
- Uses content that isn’t “salesy,” but keep drawing them towards that center focus
- Supports your consumers, whether they are new leads or regular customers
- Always uses CTAs to help provoke an action in the right (customer-centered) direction
5. Timing: When Should You Publish?
Fill out your content calendar, starting with time-sensitive dates first. Do you have a brand challenge or event coming up? Content may need to go out for that on certain days leading up to the big day.
Consider the kinds of content that might be defined as time-sensitive on the content calendar:
- Product releases
- Grand openings
- Community events
- Industry events
- Challenges and games
- Brand milestones
These content pieces are not evergreen, they are time-sensitive and will hold immense value for a certain period of time. Some content, like fall winterizing tips or Christmas crafts, may come back around each year. Other content, like event speakers or product releases, will slowly fade to a point of non-relevance. So, if you wait too long to post these time-sensitive pieces, they won’t be effective, so they are the first ones to start filling out in your calendar.
But don’t stop with due dates for content publishing. Time also refers to due dates for content approval, campaigns to push the content, CTA nudges, and assessment.
6. Goals: What Should be Accomplished?
Don’t start your content strategy until you’ve established specific goals. Your content marketing strategy should align with your overarching company goals to support the direction of your brand. Without goals, your content won’t truly have a strategy.
To determine content based on your goals, ask questions like:
- How does this help my business?
- What impact is this making?
- How will this affect my customer?
- How will this support my target audience?
- What is this fixing or addressing?
- What business problem does this solve?
7. Metrics: How are You Defining Success?
Every good B2C content marketing strategy will have a measurement system in place to determine if the efforts were a success or failure. Don’t be afraid to fail, be afraid to fail without knowing it.
A test that shows a lack of effectiveness simply helps you know where you should focus your efforts next time. As you change your content marketing strategy, you will be able to more accurately pinpoint successful content strategies because you will have a clearer understanding of what works and what doesn’t.
Not all metrics are equal. Watch out for vanity metrics (like social media followers) that look good and don’t mean much at all. Go for metrics that show your audience is engaging or appreciating your content in the way you planned.
As you are defining your goals for your content marketing strategy, it’s important to decide what success is going to look like. If your goal is improving the service part of your flywheel (because maybe you previously stopped with the sale), then your metrics are going to be focused on measuring customer satisfaction, retention, and repurchase rates.
How to Create B2C Content That Wows Your Audience
Now that you understand the elements of the B2C content marketing strategy, let’s talk about creating a strategy to drive your content marketing efforts. You probably have a lot of ideas based on the elements alone. We mentioned content calendars, audience, and branding, so it makes sense to review this first, but there are more important steps to follow.
Set Content Guidelines
A content strategy isn’t actually a strategy unless you have thought through your approach and defined the rules. Set those guidelines and feel free to update them as needed!
Let’s boil down some of the guidelines you will want to get in place:
- Define your consumer’s goals and priorities.
- Create guidelines for your brand character to keep your content cohesive.
- Reiterate your own brand’s immediate goals and how they can be supported by B2C marketing.
- Determine content formats and platforms that seem to have the most impact on your audience.
- Complete an audit of your existing content to identify strong and weak areas.
- Establish a content calendar with a plan for content production, publication, distribution, and assessment.
This helps you get your thoughts, perspectives, and preferences into writing. It helps keep B2C marketers, content marketers, and writers on the same page as they create new content. Establishing these guidelines gives you strategic direction and cohesiveness. There is no point in creating high-level content if it isn’t improving revenue, engaging your customer, and improving brand awareness.
Focus on Products
Okay, this may seem contradictory.
We said the B2C customer is the center of your B2C content marketing vortex, right? So how can we now tell you to focus on products (or services)?
Well, we all know your bottom line is going to be the driving force behind your content marketing strategy. Revenue shouldn’t be your main goal (because it’s broad and typically an inaccurate measurement), but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it.
The underlying motivator for every piece of content should be to sell a product or service. If you want to sell a pair of shoes and are working to appeal to a customer that needs attracting, you might write an article about how working on your feet all day can hurt your lower back. Ultimately, the goal is to sell your ultra-comfortable pair of shoes, even if the article never specifically mentions your brand or shoes. (Pro tip: Link to the shoes on one of the keywords anyways.)
You aren’t being sneaky or manipulative, you are recognizing how your product will fit the pain point of your customer base and addressing that pain point so they see it too. Then you are guiding them closer to the solution.
If you are only sending out shoe ads and pushing blog posts about your newest shoe line, then those customers with long days and back problems aren’t going to even notice. But, when you appeal to something they identify with, they will stop and pay attention. You offer a solution and you also need a sale, so customer-centered content marketing should still have a focus on specific products.
And what about those shoe customers that already bought?
You can still focus on supporting them until they are ready to purchase their next pair of ultra-comfy shoes. Use content to give them tips for stretches they can do and ways to ease their feet pain. Keep coming back to your product as one of the solutions.
Remember, the purchase is not the end of the journey. It’s just a new point in the vortex or flywheel to engage your customer.
Avoid the Copycat Train
It’s great to do competitor and industry research, but not at the expense of your brand identity and leadership. If you are too caught up in what your competitor is doing, you will forever be the follower.
Look at other industries for inspiration too, but always look for an angle or edge that sets you apart. You probably spent a lot of time differentiating your business, so make sure that you continue to do so by looking for gaps or areas of improvement.
When you are watching what other brands are posting, or using Google to help you find top searched SEO keywords, you may really struggle to find that unique angle. You need to offer something different in your content marketing so your brand voice holds value on its own.
Once you find points of differentiation use them to create content that provides value for your B2C customers. And when other brands copy you, see it as the flattery it is and don’t get distracted from pursuing that leadership spot. They might copy you, but they can’t take away your creativity and insight as a leader.
Use Grabbing Headlines
This can be a tricky one, but you really need your article headlines to stand out. The headline is what entices someone to click. You will need to know your audience well and understand what motivates people to visit the article. Sometimes this takes trial and error. Often, evoking strong emotions (humor, anger, inspiration, joy, sadness, love) is what makes people identify with the content.
The title needs to align with the content message so visitors aren’t disappointed with their click. Use visual aids and subheads to draw them into the content.
Consider the “Next Step”
If the content is a vortex, then there is always somewhere for them to go next. Think out who will likely be reading specific pieces (think buyer persona) and think about what point in the funnel they would be qualifying for. If your customer is looking or basic information on a common pain, then they are in the awareness state and their next steps would be towards convincing them of the valuable solution you offer. The step after that might be to help them see why you are an authority they should trust.
See how these steps don’t bounce straight to purchase? Sure, there are links and buttons that offer product purchase opportunities along the way, but that “product-focused” content is moving the target audience towards the next step that is right for their place in the journey. This may be an unpopular opinion, but sometimes purchasing shouldn’t be the immediate next step in the marketing plan.
Watch out for Accuracy
Grammar, spelling, and correct information are huge when it comes to B2C content creation. It might be a good idea to hire a writer if you aren’t personally comfortable with researching and writing. A few typos and wrong statements without real sources can hurt your business by turning away visitors and even hurting your search engine rankings.
You should also take time to update old or outdated content that’s valuable with accurate information. Consumers can find old blog posts while looking for answers to their questions or information about a topic on the search engines. You don’t want them to land on an old blog post that no longer offers accurate information about the topic.
A freelance writer or writing team can help you come up with content ideas to fill your calendar and then help you research topics to create professional content. With the help of a writer, you can achieve a consistent voice and research needed to fill the gaps. Stick to your strengths and delegate writing if that isn’t one of them!
Fresh Ideas for B2C Content Marketing
Now that we’ve covered the reasons why B2C marketing is essential for your customer-facing business and how to develop a robust B2C marketing strategy, it’s time to learn from the best with solid examples of B2C content marketing.
When it comes to marketing, it’s not usually a good idea to completely reinvent the wheel. There’s at least one good reason that you tend to see the same sorts of ads on social media (or even on TV): they work.
If you’re looking for a little inspiration for your B2C content marketing efforts, here are a few B2C content marketing examples that have been pretty successful. Not every one of these B2C content ideas will fly for every business, but you should be able to at least get some content creation inspiration from these killer examples of quality content.
3 Ideas from MVMT: Product Pages, Influencer Collabs and User-Submitted Content
MVMT is a new-school watch, eyewear, and jewelry company that markets directly to consumers. No mall shops or costly retail outlets means the brand cuts out a lot of overhead and markup. Some of that savings surely goes into their B2C content marketing budget.
MVMT uses its blog in a variety of ways. Some “blog posts” are nothing more than links to new product pages. I know, that doesn’t sound all that exciting. But check out how they did it: visual-forward with eye-candy image links leading to purchase pages. For an image-conscious brand like MVMT, it works.
Some of their other B2C content examples include partnerships with multiple influencers in a series MVMT has dubbed Disruptors & Dreamers. This isn’t one of the zero- or low-budget B2C content ideas, but it can be a highly effective one if your brand is in the lifestyle or fashion realm. Flashy, graphics-heavy posts from poet entrepreneur Orion Carloto, athlete Nyjah Huston, and artist-entrepreneur Jeff Cole bring personality and (some level of) celebrity acclaim to the brand.
Another B2C content marketing strategy we see from MVMT is creating polished advertainment videos from user-submitted content. That One MVMT Campaign II features stunning footage that fans of the brand sent in willingly. Smartly, the company tapped one of its existing influencers, #thatoneblondkid, to edit the video, further strengthening the public and private connection.
Squatty Potty: The OG Viral YouTube Ad
If you haven’t seen Squatty Potty’s original ad with its rainbow soft-serve unicorn poop, have you even used the internet in the last 5 years?
This video practically created its own genre of YouTube ads: videos so preposterous, yet so interesting, users choose to watch the whole thing. It also more or less reinvented the way people advertise products with an embarrassment factor, especially as it pertains to video marketing.
The B2C viral video marketing approach for personal products has been successful enough to get copied numerous times. Lume, a new deodorant brand, has ratcheted up this approach by several orders of magnitude, as has (sorry) Manscaped.
Executing this strategy requires some good ideas and good execution, not to mention a bit of luck. But it has worked marvelously for numerous small, disruptive, independent B2C companies.
Moleskine and Airbnb: Create a Digital Magazine
Moleskine creates durable, high-quality notebooks that appeal to creatives and travelers, among others. So their decision to launch a digital magazine, Fold, that centers on creativity and travel, makes a lot of sense. Airbnb is similarly geared toward travel and experiences, and their digital engagement efforts match well with those end goals.
These B2C brands seek to become a digital destination for their customers. By offering great, inspiring ideas to their customers through high-quality content, they increase brand loyalty as well as association and recognition.
If your business doesn’t have the budget to create a digital magazine, that’s OK. You can still learn from the business to consumer marketing approach you see in Fold and similar properties, and incorporate them into your own types of content like email marketing. You could also forego the ongoing expenses of regular digital releases and focus instead on a highly creative eBook that you use to convert visitors to subscribers.
McDonald’s, Gizmodo and Onion Labs: Create a Limited Podcast
The idea of creating an ongoing podcast is hardly a fresh B2C content idea (though it’s still a highly effective one). While podcasts, in general, may be a bit tired, there’s a subcategory that’s intensely popular. Limited, investigative-style podcasts a la Serial are hot, and you can create interest in your brand just like McDonald’s did with The Sauce.
The Sauce was a “serious” investigative series that looked at the crazy circumstances surrounding McDonald’s’ limited rerelease of Szechuan Sauce. The sauce had been referenced in a Rick and Morty episode, and the subsequent re-release was poorly executed. But, somehow, McDonald’s turned a potential small PR disaster into an interest-generating podcast.
Hopefully, you don’t have a PR disaster to salvage. But you can still consider hunting for something relevant and interesting that you could investigate in podcast form as part of your content marketing campaigns.
Dick’s Pro Tips: Go Long and Deep
If your content marketing efforts look less like high-end video production and more like simple blogging, here’s a fresh B2C content example for you. We’ve covered this elsewhere on the blog, so you may already know that Google’s preference for longer, more authoritative content continues to intensify. To stay on top of search engine results, you need to publish longer, SEO-focused pieces than you used to, and those pieces need to go deeper than before.
Dick’s Sporting Goods is a prime example of doing this right. The company’s blog, Dick’s Pro Tips, goes long and deep. Content covers a wide range of sports-related topics, from yoga to hunting. And it takes a variety of forms.
In-depth, authoritative how-to guides help novices understand a sport and polish their skills. Training, checklists, product guides, “best of” lists — you name it, they’re doing it. And the long-form content they’re delivering is quite high in quality, positioning them as the brand leader they are.
Their blog content is also full of tie-ins and linkbacks designed to keep you on the site for as long as possible. Related and “you may also like” titles populate every post, and there’s a “Shop related gear” sidebar as well.
It takes time and resources to develop a B2C content strategy. That’s probably why many B2C brands skip over this part of the content marketing process.
However, not developing a documented content strategy for your B2C marketing efforts can end up costing you a whole lot more in the end.
Starting with a strategic look at who your customers are, what pain points they experience, and what types of content and topics appeal to them most will give you a better idea of what your content should look and feel like. (And a much better starting point for creating content that achieves your marketing goals.)
Sarah Jane Burt is Sr. Content Strategist at WriterAccess. For the past decade, she’s helped brands big and small, from tech giant IBM to the local plumber, tell their stories and create strategies for customer-driven content. When she’s not working on developing and implementing our content strategy, she’s writing blog posts that help demystify content marketing and strategy for entrepreneurs, small business owners, and enterprise content teams.