There is literally no way you can do without content marketing. The consumer wants to be educated before being sold to. Especially when comes to B2B! That is why B2B content marketing is a challenge for many businesses today. They don’t just struggle to put together a plan, but also streamline what works the best for their business.
Today, 89% of B2B businesses are allocating their resources to content marketing. But when it comes to how engaging their content has been so far and how much it contributes to the overall revenue of their company, the number drops to half.
B2B content marketing is boring and we’re to be blamed.
When you take a look at our B2C counterparts, you can see them leveraging content marketing beautifully. They are experimenting with different content formats, using interesting headlines, including rich media in their posts and what not. But when you come back to B2B, all you see are handful of blog posts, case studies, ebook and research papers being published through the year.
I’m a B2B content marketer and trust me when I say this: I have been there too. But you really don’t need to be!
The current state of B2B content marketing
In a research conducted by the Content Marketing Institute, 91% of B2B respondents said that they use content marketing for their business. There are very few who still focus on outbound methods like cold calling and push advertising, today.
But how many of these marketers are really successful at creating a high converting content marketing strategy? Just 9% of these respondents consider their efforts ‘sophisticated’ (adding to the business growth), while the rest are either still taking baby steps or are facing challenges in creating an engaging strategy. And when it comes to how successful their organisation’s content marketing efforts are, majority still fall under ‘moderate’.
So what’s really holding the B2B industry to leverage content marketing entirely?
The challenges of B2B content marketing
I have used this quote a number of times and I’m going to do it again: Content marketing is not a campaign, it is a commitment. While it will not bring you a hundred customers magically in less than a month, it assures you that it will establish your name in the target market in a manner that it sticks – that is, if you get it right.
Here are some of the reasons why most businesses are only just moderately successful at B2B content marketing:
1. Lack of resources
Alright, this is one thing that has kept me on my toes as well while working with startups. Now producing content is fairly easy. But when it comes to producing great quality content, it isn’t really the easiest trail to take.
It takes time and the right skills to craft a piece that is not just informational, but will also keep the readers engaged.
Now most of the startups that I meet, mention that they are handling content marketing on their own. While that’s great, because no one understands your product better than you, how do you remain consistent?
I’m sure the developer who last wrote a behind-the-scenes post for your product, is working on fixing some bugs or adding new features. As a Founder of a B2B product, you’re busy giving demos to target consumers and developing your business. That’s when the approach of ‘handling content in-house’ stops to work for your business.
I know you’re trying to optimize the resources available to you. But to remain consistent at content marketing you need to find a solution that is good, fast and cheap. That’s when you should consider outsourcing content marketing or hiring B2B content marketers who can work remotely for your product.
2. Never ending competition
The B2B target market is fairly limited. With so many products being launched in this space, there is a constant competition to get the customer’s attention.
To make B2B content marketing to work for you, it is important for you to constantly keep an eye on what your competitors are doing. It lets you then learn tactics that have previously worked or failed, and at the same time create something that is much better.
Now this rolls back to challenge #1. Creating something better consistently, requires time, money and effort.
This is where you should including skyscraper content in your marketing strategy. The tactic uses a pre-existing successful framework, that you can quickly use to build over and publish new content, addressing the same audience.
3. Producing high quality content
As a content marketer, I am subscribed to hundreds of newsletters. I even follow some of the sites closely for industry news and to see what has changed in the content marketing industry. I am not kidding when I say this, but even the top notch publications are pushing out terrible content!
To ensure you don’t fall under the same bracket of ‘shitty’, you need to find a balance between remaining consistent and publishing only quality content. If that means publishing just one in-depth post every week, then be it. Set a frequency that is realistic in every way.
4. Paid push for content
The idea of content marketing is to pull the target market towards your business and not force your product down their throats. But with the increasing competition, you can’t just rely on organic traffic to your content or social media posts – especially when you’re in the growth phase.
That’s where you need to plan out your content promotion prior to publishing any content piece. Create a strategy to syndicate your content where your audience is the most active, allocate budgets to promote and expand the reach of your content using advertisements on social media and search.
But most importantly, first define the objective of publishing that content piece. You need to know what you want to achieve even from the $10 that you put into the promotions.
5. Unrealistic expectations
Okay, after having worked with more than 15 startups already, here’s one thing I still struggle explaining: Content marketing takes time! Just how difficult is it to understand?
You can’t just publish one in-depth piece and suddenly expect the world to be at your feet. There are thousands of other companies that are competing for the same market. They are doing similar things. It’s going to take some time to find your footing, create your niche and make B2B content marketing work for you.
The first thing you need to do here, is come to terms with the fact that this is going to take time. You need to be consistent, keep measuring the results of your campaigns and continually optimize your content marketing strategy.
6. The right targeting
One of the most common mistakes that content marketers make, that results in their strategies just performing ‘moderately’ – poor targeting.
When you’re trying to create a demand for your product, you need to ensure that you don’t go too specific nor too broad while addressing the audience. You’ll end up wasting your resources and sometimes, even great content pieces because of this!
Begin by streamlining your user personas and the categories that are relevant to your business. Then further work on the content ideas that you could leverage from and what’s feasible to your business at that point of time.
7. Writer burnout
Okay, this one’s a challenge for both the business and the marketer. Keeping up with consistent content marketing efforts, producing great content and optimising your strategy might all seem rosy – unless you get down to doing it yourself.
Writing 2000-10,000 words a week – blogs, case studies, social media posts, emails and what not, you’re bound to hit a burnout every now and then. That’s when your consistency and quality of content will start to go for a toss!
The only way to not hit a burnout and become BORING, is to remain realistic. Irrespective of what goals you’re setting, make sure you discuss the down times as well.
8. Difficulty measuring ROI
A lot of businesses still face a difficulty in measuring the ROI from B2B content marketing. Should you measure the number of posts you created in a month, your organic search results, social shares or some other metric altogether?
A good answer to this is: List down the metrics that you think make the most sense for your business. Align each content piece with a metric in your customer conversion funnel. For instance, if it is the first post you’re publishing, align it with ‘brand awareness’ and measure the social reach for it.
Similarly, if you’re publishing a ‘why’ post on the industry, it is to create a demand. In this case, you would not just measure the reach, but also the number of clicks it got to your product site and how many of those clicks really converted into customers.
To be honest, you’re going to face innumerable challenges in B2B content marketing. You just need to find your footing by documenting a content strategy prior to publishing even one piece of content.
There are businesses that are already nailing B2B content marketing. While they’re just a few to quote as the best examples, here are some of my favourites that you can take inspiration from.
B2B content marketing examples
Okay, probably you saw this one coming.
But hey, when it comes to offering their readers and customers a variety of content, no one does it better than them.
Apart from the usual blog posts, case studies and researches that they publish, they have a section that is more interactive in nature – podcasts and page fights. In these, experts in the industry get together for a monthly session to tear down the conversion optimisation practices being followed by businesses. They create a build up that lets the viewer understand the backdrop of the conversation, identify their own mistakes and then learn the right practices.
Alright, maybe predictable again. But have you taken a look at their resources lately?
Right from their website copy to their resources section, Intercom has nailed their content marketing strategy. They are not just consistently creating great content, but also experimenting with different formats and breaking the notion of being ‘uptight’ to sell well in the B2B market.
Their recent books are definitely a must-read. Each of them is so beautifully crafted with insights, that you’ll love reading them!
3. CB Insights
CB Insights is a machine learning platform that catches company financing and investment data. Now they’re heavily into market research and pushing out insights across AI and other emerging technologies. You might actually think that all they can do, is push out numbers and make it work, but their newsletters are sure to change your mind.
Right from the subject line to the mail copy and the interesting memes they make use of – engaging!
4. First Round Magazines
The challenge of too broad a targeting and too narrow a one, is addressed beautifully by the First Round Magazines. They focus on getting insights and ideas from industry leaders and entrepreneurs. Their posts are automatically a lot actionable and interesting. But the one thing they understood early on, was that their audience might be at different stages in business growth.
So by creating magazines across the top 9 categories, they created a niche for themselves under each stage of a business. They get the best of people to contribute under each of these categories, making it so easy to follow that you’ll keep going back for more!
What works for them the best here is how they are getting people to share their knowledge with others. It’s more real and actionable!
Now most B2B brands lose their human touch while trying to be as insightful and authoratative in the industry. While the strategy works beautifully for some, it is important to show your human side to keep your customers engaged today.
Wistia does this really well. While on their site, they need to follow a certain theme while publishing content, their Instagram account is a delight to follow. Apart from becoming a little relatable to their customers, use of visual content also increases their brand recall value.
Now I have a long list of B2B examples, so I am going to cap it at these 5. Although, I might just cover more in another post. So don’t forget to subscribe and watch this space for more!
Make B2B content marketing less boring
If the examples don’t state takeaways themselves, here are a few ways to turn your B2B content marketing strategy more interesting.
After all, it’s absolutely sad to bore yourself and your readers at the same time. Right?
1. Give your content a personality
Stop being robotic right away. If you want people to come back to you for more, you need to add a little personality to your content. They should be able to remember you – even if they read just 40% of your long blog post.
2. Add a little sense of humour – wherever possible!
I am not saying that you need to add a meme at the end of a white paper – that will just takeaway all the seriousness from it. But while writing a long piece of content, you can actually add annotations to share your personal opinion on something. Or even better, while communicating on social media and emails, you can actually choose to include some interesting gifs or emoticons to grab the reader’s attention.
3. Share examples too
Alright, most B2B content is authoritative in nature. While you might want to focus on giving the best of tips for one to follow or highlight a use case for your product, the best way to ensure that the reader consumers the information, is to share examples. Be it from your own campaign or experience, don’t be afraid to include the successes and the failures – there’s no better actionable for the reader than these!
4. Tell your story
Your product could be the best in the market. Its features could actually have the power to impact the customer’s life in a big way. But the only for you to get that across, is not a feature list or a comparison chart – you need to tell your story. Make use of storytelling when you’re reaching out to your target market. When they know the vision behind what you’re doing, they are open to listening to what you have to offer.
5. Write like you talk and make it consumable
It’s a fact. I could literally talk to you and get all of the above sections discussed in less than 10 minutes. But because you’re not here with me, I am writing this post out for you. Now I have two choices – make it information packed or write it out like I’m talking to you. Conversational content always does better when it comes to making even the lengthiest of pieces consumable.
6. Leverage interviews and quotes
Don’t just focus on what you have to share. Go out there and find out what others are saying about a topic you covered. Including a quote from another known influencer or professional in your network, or adding a clip from an interview you conducted, is a great way to keep your audience coming back for more.
Stop boring me (and yourself!)
Content marketing is evolving and so should your strategy. As we move more and more towards data driven strategies, it is important to keep in mind why this tactic first came into practice – the need for a customer to learn more about what he needs or is interested in.
No matter what content you’re publishing or what your end goal is, you need to keep the consumer in mind. Think like them, before you actually put down even 250 words for a blog post. Here are a few questions that have helped me create B2B content that isn’t all that boring (I’m still learning to ace ‘engagement’):
- Does this content serve a business goal for me?
- What is it that I want the reader to takeaway from this post?
- Are there more content pieces on this topic?
- Does my reader even want to read this piece?
- Do I want to read this piece?
- Will it add value to the readers as well as my business?
- What can I do to make the content more interactive?
- Is it feasible?
Simple questions. Simple answers. And a highly engaging B2B content marketing strategy that is not going to bore the hell out of you!
Need help in creating your B2B content marketing strategy? Feel free to shoot me an email!