Creating great content is hard. As anyone who has tried to create a content hub for a B2B FinTech or SaaS business knows, the norm in these industries is to write short blog content about everything and then pray the clicks come in.
Unfortunately, this approach rarely pays dividends.
Pillar content has become many organizations' go-to resource in these quality content-challenged times. When executed well, pillar content boosts engagement rates and helps you establish authority.
If it doesn't come off, you'll have misused a ton of resources.
Research by the Content Marketing Institute found that 63% of organizations used content marketing to build customer loyalty. However, just 26% of those respondents thought of their efforts as being very successful.
The difficulty of creating great content explains this gap.
Let's look at how you can go about creating robust pillar content as part of your overall B2B inbound marketing strategy.
What is Pillar Content?
There are many definitions of pillar content out there. The most famous one describes it as content that is right at the core of what you do. From a marketing perspective, Shannon Curran, Content Marketing and Comms Leader at Quick Base, puts it best.
"Pillar content is your big bet (or bets) for the year," she says. "It's something you want to get right". When viewed from this perspective, it's easy to understand the importance of taking your time figuring out what you want to talk about.
In the B2B SaaS world, there's a tendency to select a few topics from a list and throw something together or combine a few shorter blog posts into a larger one and call it pillar content.
This approach is often adopted by companies that place more trust in their in-person prospect interactions.
While in-person meetings, product demos, and sales calls are important, it doesn't change the fact that 87% of B2B buyers prefer to self-serve major parts of their buying journey. Content is the only way you can serve them.
If you view pillar content as your big bet for the year or as the thing that sets your marketing tone annually, you're unlikely to adopt a slapdash approach.
Curran mentions that Quickbase collaborates with its research partners to dive deeper into the issues their prospects face.
In addition to partnering with research vendors, listening to your customers on social media and monitoring secondary conversations about your product and niche will help you narrow your audience's pain points.
Correlate these findings back to your buyer personas. This process gives you a great way to measure how relevant your personas are and whether your marketing has been drifting away from your audience.
Figure Out Your Content
One of the most important decisions you'll have to make is choosing the form and structure your content should take.
Ideally, pillar content should be something that you can update over time to keep it evergreen. That's what builds authority.
When done well, such repeatable content creates a buzz in the industry. Curran identifies studies, research reports, and surveys as content that can be generated consistently, multiple times every year.
As great as research reports are, you also want to frame the findings around a relatable story. Everyone loves a good story, and they allow you to form a connection with your audience. Thanks to them preferring self-service methods, establishing a human voice is critical.
A story also allows you to structure a path for your prospects. There's nothing worse than spending all that time creating content without giving a thought to what you want to accomplish at the end of it.
Do you want your reader to contact you? Download content as a PDF? Use metrics from the content to determine engagement?
Make sure you provide your prospects with CTAs throughout your content. Make it as easy as possible for them to take action, even if the action is to exit your funnel.
Pillar content can help you locate your best prospects, and using the right CTAs is the key to achieving this.
The Most Important Question
Before diving in and creating content, Curran points out that it's imperative to ask yourself an important question: Do you have a right to talk about the topic?
Trust is all-important in B2B marketing, whether you're demystifying a technical product or you're addressing a controversial situation. If you haven't built trust with your audience, you're going to come across as insincere or worse.
As a rule of thumb, if you have to ask yourself whether you can talk about it, you probably cannot.
The good news is that you can use content to build trust and still address the issue. Curran points out that podcasts are a good example of how Quickbase addresses audience-relevant topics that they're not experts in.
By interviewing subject matter experts and influencers in a niche, the company manages to build trust and spread the word about the benefits of their platform to their audience.
Your Marketing Pillars
Pillar content backed up by topic clusters that link back to it is a great way to build your inbound content strategy.
However, you need to create it the right way.
Throwing something together and mistaking length for depth is a mistake that you can ill-afford to make.
Get to know your audience's pain points, figure out your content style, and ask yourself whether you have the right to talk about it.
It's a simple roadmap that will pay major dividends in the long run.