Newsflash: B2B Content Doesn’t Have to Be Boring

Maeghan Ouimet is a content marketer specializing in storytelling and a journalistic approach to content marketing. As the Director of Editorial Strategy at content agency Original9, Maeghan partners with companies to help enhance their content efforts—from strategy to execution to amplification. Before joining the world of content marketing, Maeghan spent time as a reporter at Inc., Boston Magazine and Rolling Stone Australia. Follow her on Twitter and connect with her on LinkedIn.

Before I joined the world of content marketing, I spent a few years at Inc. covering emerging tech companies in Silicon Valley. It was a fun time: Uber was just getting started, Facebook was IPO-ing, Square was changing the way small businesses accepted payments. I quickly got the start-up bug and realized soon after that instead of telling stories about these companies, I wanted to tell stories for them.

What I found when I shifted my career was that the content most companies were producing for themselves was pretty dry. They were relying on the media and journalists like me to tell a more compelling company story. I wondered why this was the case and began challenging the idea that a whitepaper or a blog post could have the elements of good journalism like narrative, character or color.

It became clear—quickly—that the journalistic-type story was actually resonating more with audiences. Sure, there is still a place for content focused on product announcements or more direct marketing, but it turns out most audiences also want to connect with the company before they make a purchase. In fact, according to a study commissioned by Google, 71 percent of B2B buyers purchase when they see personal value in the business and nearly 70 percent are willing to pay a higher price to do business with a brand they believe in.

Of course, today, most companies understand the need to connect more emotionally with buyers. Consumer expectations have changed—and so have content efforts. But there are a few keys to creating B2B content that will stand out in a crowded space: Take a journalistic approach by advancing a story, shine a light on the people of that story, and be a true expert on your subject matter.

Reveal A-Ha Moments

Whenever our team pitches a story to a client, we make sure to express how we’re adding to the conversation. We’ve found some success in commenting on newsworthy events as it relates to the company we’re working with, but if we’re going to say what’s already being said elsewhere, we’re not really going to move the needle. A good piece of content finds the “a-ha moment,” revealing a nugget for the reader that’s inspiring, actionable and—most importantly—new. We want to give our readers something they can take to their next team meeting or board meeting. Once we are seen as a trusted resource, readers will come back for more, and as a bonus, share our content with their networks.

Insert a Human Element

Every good story has a hero, and that shouldn’t change just because your subject matter is software. After all, there are people making the software, people using the software, people who are experts in that industry. Finding the human connection in a story helps readers better identify with your company. The human element covers one of my favorite phrases: show, don’t tell. With people you can show your readers how the product works rather than telling them how it works. There’s emotion and there’s often a problem being solved, both elements required to engage your readers.

Be Credible and Authentic

Your customers (or potential customers) are smart. They can spot jargon or thinly veiled marketing messages easily, and because they have so many options, they’ll move onto another one if you don’t hook them with your story. This is where credibility and authenticity come into play. It’s important to establish yourself as credible expert in your field, and you can do this by sharing real-world experiences (the human element) and adding to the conversation (the “a-ha moment”). Authenticity is more about being concise and to the point. Most B2B audiences don’t have a lot of time in their day, so get to the point and provide them with the information they crave, so they can spend more time engaging with you all the way to the buying cycle. No CTAs or gated content required!

Our team constantly returns to these three pillars in our work. Our clients are delighted by the approach because they see the results. And I am so proud that our team has been able to tell (and continues to tell) meaningful stories for companies that are genuinely changing the world.