B2B Content Strategy
10 mins read
How to Build B2B Owned Audiences? Write for One ICP at a Time
Eager to to build B2B owned audiences you can more easily monetize? It starts with writing for one ICP at a time. Learn how below.
Lead Strategist @ VEC
All odds seem stacked against B2B Marketers.
The rising use of ad blockers. Google’s unpredictable ranking factors. The coming of a cookie-less internet. Privacy issues and the soon-illegalizing of 3rd party data. Unreliable social media algos.
I could go on and on, but the point is obvious.
Reaching an audience of B2B prospects on marketing channels you don’t own is becoming a futile game. And it’ll likely get worse. For instance, a recent study showed organic results on Google’s 1st page have reduced to as low as 5.
Unsurprisingly, the fewer results there are, the more sessions are ending in zero-click searches to keep people on Google:
It’s also getting worse on the social media end.
LinkedIn, and particularly, Facebook and Instagram are further shrinking organic reach, meaning one must pay to play:
Amidst these hurdles, Adam Schoenfeld is finding a way out.
His team knew their target ICPs —GTM Leaders. But given today’s many odds stacked against B2B marketing, reaching this specific audience required thinking differently.
And different, they thought:
Let me break this approach down.
Through their PeerSignal media arm, Adam’s team used content to build an owned audience with their target ICPs —GTM Leaders. On a platform they own (a newsletter of over 14k subscribers). By owning the audience, they reached and nurtured them with content without ranking on Google or spending a dime on social ads.
We’ll get to how these efforts generated demand.
The key question, for now, is:
As they did, how can your team build owned audiences of target ICPs, so you can reach them on your terms across the entire customer journey?
Write for One ICP at a Time
“Write” is a placeholder in this context.
Replace it with create or produce, one point holds. Executing marketing that build B2B owned audiences of prospects starts with creating content for one ICP at a time.
Adam’s team did just that.
Most people find their data-rich content useful, myself included. But it generates demand because they create it to attract who they want to serve into their owned audience platform.
Says John Steinbeck, the Nobel Prize winner:
First Round Capital also exemplified this.
They built an owned audience of over 130k email subscribers. To achieve this, their media arm, First Round Review, focused on who they wanted to reach from day one.
Hear it from their Fmr. Head of Content:
As these examples have shown, if your B2B marketing team wants to build a demand-generating owned audiences…
Writing for One ICP Does the Trick
Look at this illustration:
👆🏼that happens when you try to create content for an audience. SaaS Marketers often do so to make a piece appealing to as many readers as possible or to drive more traffic. The problem with these good but self-serving intentions is that it misses the fact that only one person reads your online content at a time.
So when your ICPs find this content, they won’t read it because the generic info aimed at an ‘audience’ won’t feel specific to their needs. And they won’t know who to share it with because they didn’t read it in the first place.
Compare that to this:
The litmus test for all B2B marketing assets is getting ICPs to read them. Nothing else will happen if they don’t. They won’t learn the unique ways your product solves their problems, join your audience for more content, or imagine why they should choose your product over competitors.
Writing for one ICP at a time solves those.
It is also an antidote to claims that people have short attention spans and, as such, don’t read long-form content. Here are two examples to prove why nothing could be further from the truth.
One, First Round Review’s articles are above 3,000 words. Yet, on average, they get shared 2,000+ times. Scratch that. Hundreds of busy tech founders actually read and share them.
Two, VEC pieces go beyond 2,000 words on average.
But because we craft every piece for one ICP at a time, those ICPs, when they find our content, read, join our audience for more, and share them with their friends (who then join our audience, too).
Don’t take my word for it:
I’ll show you how to achieve the same to begin building owned audiences of your target ICPs by writing for one person at a time.
But while you’re still here:
Building B2B Owned Audiences, Writing for One Person
Crafting content for one person at a time is in VEC’s DNA.
In short, our vision is built around this:
And it may sound counteractive.
How can writing for one (and not an audience of people) lead to building an owned audience of people more likely to convert?
Nathan Barry answered:
Here are the steps your team can take.
1. Create ICP StoryScripts
Consider these personas:
They represent why your marketing team shouldn’t depend on either personas or JTBD (jobs to be done) if you must produce content more likely to compel target readers to convert.
Let me explain.
Imagine you focused solely on demographics (i.e., buyer personas). Your content won’t resonate with either King Charles or Ozzy Osbourne because when you zoom in, they’re entirely different persons.
JTBD emerged to help marketers solve this issue. But, as the name goes, they omit personas entirely and focus solely on the jobs a target reader wants to solve, which isn’t helpful too.
A Senior User Experience Specialist at NN Group, the Global Consultancy, explains:
Here’s how we made sense of all these.
For someone to actually read your content, the stories in that piece must resonate with their person (i.e., you need personas for this). To compel action (join your audience or sign up for a free trial), the piece must also show (not just tell) them how your product solves the jobs they want to do (i.e., you need JTBD here).
In other words, you need buyer personas AND JTBD, not this or that, as either proponent of these concepts have taught all along.
And that’s where creating ICP StoryScripts comes in:
By combining buyer personas and JTBD, you get detailed insights into WHO your target readers really are and WHAT problems they want to solve. And WHY they want to solve those problems (i.e., the outcomes or transformations they desire):
It doesn’t end there.
Unlike either of the former, ICP StoryScripts are more practical for crafting personalized, story-driven content. You get scripts for ensuring the storytelling in each piece your team craft resonates with specific ICPs, making every content more compelling.
Take this piece you’re reading.
I wrote it for one person—Johannes, VEC’s CMO ICP:
Observe closely, and you’ll notice I crafted the storytelling in this piece to resonate with the realities of a B2B Marketing Executive.
I didn’t end there.
It’s not enough to craft appealing stories. Johannes, like all CMOs, is busy with serious jobs to do. So to increase the chances that he’ll find this piece worthy of his time, I need to solve his pain points.
From the ICP StoryScript Doc we’ve created for Johannes, I picked two scripts —an internal pain and a desired transformation, to address and anchor the storytelling on:
That’s why from my intro up to this point, I’ve approached the idea of writing for one ICP from the angle of building owned audiences Johannes can reach and nurture across the customer journey.
I’ll let you be the judge.
Have I done a decent job up to this point?
If you think so, creating ICP StoryScript Docs helped.
If your team learns how to create them, they’ll take the first step in using storytelling to craft content target ICPs are more likely to read, share, and join your owned audience.
I call it the first step for a reason.
To effectively leverage ICP StoryScripts, you need something else to action them. And that’s the next subtopic.
2. Build StoryBriefs & Outlines
For so long, B2B content marketing was a mere spin on the SEO dial. The focus was mainly on dominating search rankings. Propelled by the rise of SEO content tools, getting keywords into as many sections of ‘SEO briefs’ as possible became the goal.
Target readers were relegated to the backseat. Publishing original ideas with storytelling ICPs will resonate with got replaced with ‘SEO content.’
Imagine I wrote this article for SEO.
It may rank high and get found when anyone types the keyword, ‘write for one ICP,’ into Google. But what are the chances that my target readers (B2B Marketing Executives) will read, share, join our owned audience platform for more content, or buy our services?
It’s why I designed StoryBriefs & Outlines to action ICP StoryScripts and help B2B content teams focus on target readers, not SEO:
A StoryBrief & Outline guides the crafting of story-driven content personalized for one ICP at a time. There’s room for a keyword per piece, but the goal isn’t to tick SEO boxes. It is more about using storytelling to address target readers’ beliefs and pain points while painting a picture of their desired outcomes.
It has two sections as the name goes.
The ‘StoryBrief’ part aligns each piece’s goal with your marketing (and business) strategy. The target reader (i.e., the one ICP you’re creating the content for) also gets defined here. Essentially, this section creates room for the ICP StoryScript, but does so in the context of why creating a piece makes sense for your business.
Here’s the sample for this piece:
The 2nd section, as the name suggests, uses the queries and related search terms from the 1st part to ‘Outline’ what the storytelling in an article must address. This section has nine steps.
And they’re for outlining how a piece should flow logically from the intro to the last subheading, where you call the reader to action.
Again, here’s it for this article:
3. Make Content Actionable
Thousands of target ICPs don’t read and share First Round Review’s long-form articles by chance. Neither do they accidentally subscribe for more of such content that has built First Round’s owned audience to over 130k newsletter subscribers.
From the get-go, the VC firm decided to make each piece they publish as actionable as possible:
Here’s how your team can do the same.
Obsess over giving ICPs you’re writing for a reason to act. To achieve this, go beyond addressing keywords and queries recommended by SEO tools when creating content. Use stories they’ll resonate with and unique angles that subtly project your company’s narrative.
Last, but not least, at strategic points within each content’s body, weave in your product and customer testimonials or reviews. These crucial additions make target readers visualize (not just be told) how using your product to solve problems addressed in each piece transformed the lives of someone like them.
Making content actionable via the steps above can funnel readers to act favorably. And that’s where Product-Led Storytelling shines:
Product-Led Storytelling is the art and science of weaving SaaS products and relatable testimonials into content pieces. This makes pieces actionable, so target ICPs are inspired to act. Executed by combining ICP StoryScripts and StoryBriefs & Outline, as shown above, this unique approach transforms each piece into subtle sales funnels with a goal to persuade and convert target readers attracted and engaged down each piece.
Mind you, it differs from product-led content:
Making content actionable and inspiring with the Product-Led Storytelling approach is possible if you (and your team) can:
- Create (and use) ICP StoryScripts,
- Build StoryBriefs & Outlines for each piece,
- Combine both for crafting story-driven, product-led content.
I teach all three, go deep into details on each, and even have frameworks you can start applying today in my online course.
Here’s the sneak peek:
4. Distribute for Native Value Delivery
I must admit.
Creating content for one person at a time has trade-offs.
The first is that your team will laser-focus on the needs of specific ICPs at the expense of generating more traffic from wider audiences. Second, there’s no guarantee those target ICPs will find your piece.
To solve both problems, bake consumption-focused distribution on external channels into your content creation workflow. It is with this mindset we produce valuable excerpts for distributing and amplifying each piece we craft on channels target ICPs hang out:
Mind you, this isn’t the regular kind of distribution where you dump links on random social media platforms or Slack groups.
Distribute for native value delivery.
Start by finding (and choosing) platforms where your target ICPs hang out. Then, wherever you distribute content, deliver enough value without expecting them to click through to your website.
Amanda Natvidad calls it zero-click content:
Again, it may sound counterintuitive.
But the reality is that delivering native value when distributing content works. It increases the chances of target ICPs finding it on their feeds. As a crucial step in the Owned Media Funnel Framework, two things can happen when this happens:
- ICPs who consume the content will engage (and may even follow you). This increases the chances that your content will reach more people like them, growing your social following.
- Some will even join your owned audience platform for more of such valuable content, increasing your subscriber lists:
SaaS companies are doing this to build their growth loops:
Write for One, Build Monetizable Audiences
The real benefit in writing for one person is two-fold.
One, you increase the chances that they’ll actually read your content when they find it, which earns you their mindshare. Two, it makes getting them into your owned audience platform easier.
And from there, your marketing team can more easily generate and capture demand directly from the owned audience you’ll build.
But it all starts with writing really good content:
And you can rely on VEC.studio for that.
Lead Strategist @ VEC
Founder, Lead Strategist @VEC. Thinker, reader, words-crafter, and husband to Omosede. Besides crafting product-led stories, I love scouting and grooming rare marketing talents.
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