Content marketing became many organizations’ must-have marketing strategy in the past few years, especially in B2B. Buyers, in both personal and professional contexts, have become immune to paid advertising and other traditional marketing strategies, and with B2C leading the way, B2B marketers made creating engaging content the top priority for 2016.
This is great for a number of reasons: It means we, as buyers, are able to consume relevant and informative content rather than sift through kitschy commercials and poorly veiled sales pitches; it means our purchases become more personalized and tailored to us as individuals; and it means we, as content creators, have more job opportunities than ever before. But for those of us who are creating, managing and distributing content on behalf of our organization, the content boom brings with it a number of challenges, especially in terms of reaching and engaging your target buyer. Here are four I struggled with as Seismic’s content marketing manager, and some tips I received on how to overcome them.
Creating original content
Do you ever just feel like an imposter? I did, especially when I first started out. I had this desire to seem like a subject matter expert in a field I had minimal experience in. I knew my writing chops would hold up, but would executives at the huge organizations my company was targeting trust or even believe me?
I consumed all of the content to try to catch up and learn as much as possible in a short amount of time. This is a catch-22: I, of course, needed to learn everything I could from this content, but it felt like all of the good ideas were taken. The content boom has definitely led to many iterations of the same, or similar, content, and it can be hard to feel like anything you’re creating is original.
I like to combat this by starting each month or quarter with a list of the topics I wanted to cover on our blog or in our gated content. I write short abstracts—so I don’t go back and forget what the message or takeaway was from each topic—and include a few supporting links if necessary. This allows me to revisit the topic when it’s time to write without having the original source for that idea top of mind. I find that this keeps me from wanting to simply copy the greatness of the original source.
Cutting through the clutter
Another challenge that arises from the content boom is the clutter—or as Jay Acunzo calls it, the “suck.” Yes, there are multiple iterations of the same content, especially blog posts, and some of that content is simply poor quality. And while you may think your content is infinitely better than the suck, it can still be hard to make sure it’s reaching your buyers quickly and easily.
Cutting through the clutter requires a balance of thoughtful, quality writing and SEO chops. There is so much to say about SEO that I couldn’t possibly boil into a few bullet points, but luckily for us B2B content creators, this is a topic that’s been covered extensively. Here are a few sources I’ve used:
Some of the common themes include creating content with a purpose and a key takeaway, favoring longer-form content (over 500 words), linking to other content internally, and focusing on keywords and meta descriptions. These tactics, coupled with thoughtful, quality content, will help make sure you can cut through the clutter.
Meeting buyers where they are
Buyers today are consuming content through a plethora of mediums. Sixty percent of content is consumed on mobile, and social media, search engines, and vendor websites are some of the top places buyers go to find content. But buyer preferences vary from one company to the next; it depends on the product, its price, its targeted buyer and many more characteristics, making it challenging to really meet buyers where they prefer to consume content. Further, getting the intended action out of that buyer (e.g. filling out a form, requesting a demo, signing up for a trial) all depends on the channel, the medium, and the buyer’s familiarity with your company or product. Figuring out the optimal balance of mediums and channels, while cutting through the clutter with your original content isn’t a simple task.
B2C content creators typically have to adapt faster to the different channels available for content distribution, but B2B content doesn’t always fit in certain mediums—take Snapchat as an example. So in addition to the typical website channels (such as blogs, social media accounts, and gated content), it’s important to consider external channels such as the analyst sites and news publications, for byline or contributed articles, your buyers may frequent as part of their day-to-day tasks.
Measuring content success
Even if you’ve created high-quality content that will efficiently and effectively find your buyer, how do you measure the success of that content? Gone are the days when blog post views, retweets, and followers show content marketing success. B2B marketing executives are now looking for the best ways to measure content ROI and its contribution to revenue. Marketing automation tools like HubSpot and Marketo do help measure the effectiveness of content, from downloads to conversions to sales, but that doesn’t get down to content’s direct contribution to revenue. Typically, content creators lose sight of how their content is used once leads are passed onto the sales team.
I’m lucky to work for a company whose sales and marketing teams are very aligned around content—that is, the content that salespeople want and need to use during buyer conversations once they’re passed from the marketing team. We use our own software to track and analyze how salespeople are using content in different interactions with buyers, which helps us see how successful and helpful our content is during every stage of the buyer’s journey—all the way to becoming a customer.
B2B content creation goes much deeper than just quality writing. Some B2B marketing teams may have the resources to help content writers plan, strategize, distribute, and measure content, but those who don’t will likely run into the challenges above. I hope these tips help you navigate the ever-changing landscape of B2B content this year!