Content marketing is like a race, with companies competing for brand awareness and discovery, first-page search rankings, increased traffic and conversions, and more. As such, the companies that excel in content marketing are those that learn how the game works and how to tip the odds in their favor when it comes to attracting and retaining customers.
Because content marketing is such a make-or-break proposition for brands—small, large, and in-between—every few years a new strategy comes along, promising better outcomes, quicker results, and sustainable success. A few years ago, this led to the emergence of the account-based marketing approach, which prioritizes connecting with high-value leads. As the thinking goes, by doing the right things to attract and convert the high-dollar clients, the others will follow.
ABM enthusiasts cite many benefits to the approach, like improved alignment between sales and marketing, measurable return on investment (ROI), a streamlined sales cycle, and more.
Like anything, though, ABM has its limitations and drawbacks. For example, the intended alignment between sales and marketing can devolve into conflict. It can also be difficult to incorporate existing technologies (like automations) into ABM workflows, reducing overall efficiency. There’s always the possibility of ABM becoming a resources vacuum of sorts, with no guarantee that the increased attention toward signing the “big fish” client is going to ultimately convert. Finally, account-based marketing is a one-way traffic type, mostly centering around outbound marketing efforts.
So, where do we go from here? Great question. We’re not proposing you ditch ABM entirely, but we are suggesting a new strategy to consider adding or prioritizing within your mix. At DemandJump, we’ve been developing a new concept—pillar-based marketing, or PBM. Haven’t heard of it yet? That’s understandable, as it’s virtually brand-new! By the end of this article, most of your questions, like “What is a PBM strategy?” or “How Do I set up a PBM strategy?” should be answered, empowering you to develop a PBM playbook that works for you.
Specifically, we’re going to answer the following questions:
- What is a pillar-based marketing approach?
- How do you implement a PBM strategy?
- How do I run a successful PBM campaign?
- What types of companies are using PBM successfully?
- How do I get started with PBM?
What Is a Pillar-Based Marketing Approach?
First and foremost, pillar-based marketing, or PBM, is a marketing strategy that centers around creating high-quality, informative content. The goal is to drive brand awareness and resonate with potential customers by demonstrating an understanding of the questions they may be asking, or pain points they may be experiencing.
The core idea behind PBM is simple. By developing effective content, geared more toward informing than selling, brands can build trust with prospective customers who are still in the “discovery” phase of their buying journey.
For example, at DemandJump, we sell the world’s first pillar-based marketing platform. We do this by using a pillar-based, content-driven approach. What you’re reading right now, in fact, is part of a PBM campaign. We’re creating and publishing content about what PBM is and how to do it effectively, with the intention of connecting with prospective customers (you?) by providing valuable insights into the how’s and why’s of PBM.
It’s well-documented that customers want to feel known, heard, and understood by companies they do business with. They want human connection, in other words—even in digital content. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about B2B or B2C. Either way, when deciding who to do business with, the organizations that build trust, credibility, and authority are the ones best-positioned for conversion. By writing exceptional content that speaks to compelling pain points, content marketers can establish their brand as the best-in-class company that customers choose to buy from. It builds a foundation of trust that can prove beneficial across the entire customer lifecycle.
How Do You Implement a PBM Strategy?
Despite what you might think, putting a pillar-based marketing strategy into place is relatively straightforward, and it contains three phases:
Let’s briefly take a closer look at each of these phases and what they entail.
Performing Keyword Research
The whole point of a pillar-based marketing campaign is to create a network of highly-informative, professional content to attract the kinds of customers you want. As such, there’s very little to gain by relying on guesswork or intuition—rather, keyword research enables marketers to know exactly what kinds of topics potential customers are researching, the questions they’re asking, and the pain points they’re experiencing.
DemandJump’s platform makes performing robust keyword research a breeze. Simply enter a topic, and then use our in-app tools to not only see the topics and questions being searched, but also the extent to which they’re being searched. This way, marketers can make informed decisions in shaping their website content to maximize conversions. Within the DemandJump platform, you can also see the phrases and questions your competitors are ranking for, so you can make strategic decisions about what you want to compete for.
Defining the Pillar Topic, Sub-Pillar Topics, and Supporting Blog Topics
There’s a reason for the name pillar-based marketing, and it comes down to the logistics of how content is indexed for ranking within search engine results. For example, Google’s search algorithm and ranking system considers over 200 unique factors—many of which are hidden deep within the back end. These factors are constantly being tinkered with and updated (to prevent perceived “hacks” like keyword stuffing), with the intention of providing the searcher with better, more relevant results.
One of the most important factors is site authority, and the pillar-centered approach was developed as a way to identify content opportunities that will improve your site’s authority in the algorithm’s eyes. Interlinking and backlinking are strategies that improve content’s perceived authority, and PBM campaigns are designed to demonstrate authority. They do this by creating an interlinked content ecosystem of sorts, with focused pieces linked together in an intelligent and intuitive way, basically telling Google “We’ve got this topic covered.” While this isn’t set in stone, a sample PBM campaign might include:
- 1x 3,000-word pillar page, a comprehensive piece of content that covers a broad topic.
- 3x 1,500-2,000-word sub-pillars that explore more specific sub-topics related to the pillar.
- 4x 750-1,000 word supporting blogs per sub-pillar, each addressing/answering a specific question.
Within DemandJump’s interactive, visual interface, you can organize keyword research in real-time, seeing how terms and questions relate to one another, what article/topic hierarchies make intuitive sense, and even what types of content your competitors are ranking for. To help you develop a foundational PBM campaign plan, we’ve created a basic pillar-based marketing strategy template to organize your content ecosystem. Download the PBM strategy template below:
Link to basic template.
Creating and Publishing High-Quality Content
Once you have your topics outlined, it’s time to write! It’s advisable to create as much of the content as possible before publishing (in one or more batches). Without getting into the fine details, this method works well with how search engines understand and index content once it’s published.
Whether you have in-house writers to create this content or you need to outsource it, DemandJump’s keyword research and pillar strategy tools remove the guesswork from content creation.
How Do I Run a Successful PBM Campaign?
From our experience creating successful PBM campaigns for our customers, we’ve learned a lot about how to build and execute a PBM strategy that works. Here are a few best practices for succeeding with PBM:
- Ditch assumptions or instinct in favor of concrete keyword research. Even if you’ve been in business for a long time and feel extremely confident in your understanding of customers’ questions or pain points, performing keyword research ensures that you’re going to write about the right things, in the right language, to connect with customers.
- Let keyword research dictate topics and content, not the other way around. You might have certain topics you really want your content to emphasize (and your audience to understand), and that’s all useful. That being said, it’s more effective to outline and draft content around keywords and then incorporate your unique viewpoints or value propositions than the other way around.
- Incorporate a consistent brand voice throughout—and across—content pieces. Keywords should inform what you write about, but they shouldn’t necessarily dictate how it should sound. Most of the time, you can add stop words as needed to help integrate the keywords naturally into the language. Your content should showcase your brand’s unique voice, and that voice should be consistent across every piece within your pillar plan. Do you want customers to see your brand as being casual/conversational, or more formal/academic? For what it’s worth, standard business writing is normally written at a 10th grade level. Use free tools like HemingwayApp to check readability.
- Come up with attention-grabbing titles. Titles matter, especially when you consider the experience of the typical Google searcher. We’ll type in a question or topic, quickly skim through the first-page results for something that strikes us as looking like the best source to start with, and ignore a lot of the content suggestions with underwhelming or uninteresting titles. Generally, pillars and sub-pillars will have short, general titles—like “PBM Marketing Strategy” (you’re reading a sub-pillar right now!)—and blogs will ask/answer a specific question (like, “How Do I Develop an Effective PBM Marketing Strategy?”).
- Don’t over-tax your resources and bandwidth. One of the biggest differences between PBM and other marketing strategies is that PBM requires quite a bit of content to be created. For a “typical” PBM campaign—with 1x 3,000-word pillar, 3x 1,500-2,000-word sub-pillars, and 4x 750-1,000-word supporting blogs per sub-pillar, you’re looking at a total of roughly 12,000+ words. That’s a lot! As you start outlining topics and sub-topics, keep your resources and bandwidth in mind, so that you don’t wind up running out of steam with entire pieces of content still needing to be written. We generally advise publishing as much as possible all at once, rather than trickling content out over weeks or months. If you need to get some content out the door sooner rather than later, prioritize the pillar, then sub-pillars, and then the blogs.
- Include compelling calls-to-action. Assuming you’ve written great content—content that answers relevant questions, addresses specific pain points, and builds value for your products or services—what do you want readers to do next? Each published piece should have a clear CTA, whether that means reading additional website content or signing up for a sales call or product demo, for example.
- Proofread everything…and then proofread everything again. One of the biggest reasons PBM works is that it helps brands position themselves as trusted authorities within their industry or market. Nothing hurts credibility like silly typos. After you’ve written a piece, re-read it with fresh eyes—and don’t let any embarrassing errors slip through. Finally, enlist a second set of eyes to make sure everything makes sense and is ready to publish.
What Types of Companies Are Using PBM Successfully?
We’re currently working with a wide variety of companies looking to develop their own pillar-based marketing campaigns, across a number of industries. The PBM approach has brought positive results for brick-and-mortar and eCommerce retailers, B2B software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies, and more. This underscores why pillar-based marketing is such a compelling option for content marketers, as every business has customers and every business’s customers have to come from somewhere.
In 2022, most of this happens online, starting with basic Google searches. And that’s exactly where the best PBM campaigns begin—with DemandJump’s keyword research tools. Our platform simulates hours worth of human searches in order to uncover the keywords and questions that draw the shortest, straightest line between customer questions and pain points and a company’s products or services that answer those questions or solve those problems.
Because PBM is such a new strategic approach to content creation, there really aren’t many pillar-based marketing case studies available—yet. That being said, though, one company that has experienced successful results, quickly, is Collective[i], a company that provides AI-enabled B2B sales software. Listen to this recent episode of our Page One or Bust! podcast to hear Collective[i]’s co-founder and vice-chairman, Stephen Messer, describe how PBM helped them disrupt the market and see transformative results in growing brand awareness and generating quality leads.
How Do I Get Started With PBM?
If you’re ready for page-one results and increased traffic as well as conversions, we’d love for your organization to become our next success story. Learn more about pillar-based marketing by reading our full guide here. Or, better yet, click the button below to sign up for a free account and test the platform out for yourself! We’ll be happy to answer any questions you encounter along the way, just click the on-screen chat bubble to start a conversation!