For too long, marketers have been saying that content is “king” without really knowing what that means. Far too many marketers have produced far too much content that largely gets ignored. Far too many marketers don’t produce enough content., and far too few marketers realise the importance of communities in which to distribute their content.
The problem with B2B content is that much of it fails to resonate with its audience. It’s dull. It’s boring, and it’s failing you and your business. Here are my tips for writing engaging B2B content, and ensuring that it gets to your intended audience.
Define audiences, THEN define content
Do you really understand your audience? Have you spoken to them recently? Do you know what their pain points are? Everything starts with knowing your audience, and knowing what they are seeking at each point of the buying cycle.
Content marketing strategies that really work are those based around the buying cycle. They provide prospects with the information they need at each stage of that buying cycle, from first-touch through to deep-delve and short-listing. The key is understand what they need at each particular point of the cycle.
Key takeaway: Do a content audit of what you already have and align it to Awareness-Information-Desire-Act. Where are your deficiencies and where are you strong?
Provide content for users, not for yourselves
A common problem with B2B content is that it’s boring. Boring and internal. Too often, B2B marketers write content that is jargon-heavy, full of acronyms and internal brand names, and is hard to read.
However you view your audience, they are still human beings, so talk to them as human beings. Never present your internal structure as if it’s something your audience is interested in. They aren’t. They want to work with someone who:
- understands their problems
- can provide a solution to their problems
- they can trust with their company’s money & time
They don’t want to work with someone who:
- thrusts a menu of services in their face at the first opportunity
- waffles on endlessly about how good they are
- waffles on endlessly about what they do
Key takeaway: Talk to your audience first, and talk back to them in their language. The level of engagement you will see with your content – measurable in your web Analytics package – will rise significantly.
Get your content “out there”
Now it’s time to start using your networks. Google once said “build it and they will come”, and every writer knows that this is a lie. They won’t come unless you go to them first.
First of all, optimise the content for search engines by using words and phrases that people actually use themselves. You can use the Google External Keyword Tool for this – but you don’t have to be overly scientific. Just think about what people say, how people search, common industry terms, common industry problems and issues – and optimise your content to include those words.
This helps you get the content noticed by search engines, but it’s communities who drive the internet, and communities who will eventually decide who ranks in search engines. Search engines are already taking into account the number of social shares a piece of content receives – so your participation in relevant communities is essential.
- Build up your twitter following and share content with them (not just yours)
- Build up your LinkedIn network and share thought leadership with them (not just yours)
- Share documents on DocStoc and Slideshare
- Answer questions on Quora and other Q&A websites
Key takeaway: It’s not up to you to build a community – it’s up to you to be part of one that already exists, and to leverage it for maximum visibility of your content. Nobody likes people who just push their own content out there, so take the time to build your profile as someone who is an expert in your industry.
Optimise, analyse, diversify
Now you have content, and now you have an audience – it’s time to tweak your content, and your strategy, accordingly.
Web metrics are freely available, and can tell you bounce rates, links that have been clicked on, time spent reading the site, social engagement – all the signs that can inform you whether someone has enjoyed reading your content or not.
Take time to diversify your content strategy. Words alone won’t cut it, so include video and images as much as possible. Include podcasts if appropriate. As you diversify, you will find new streams of visitors to your content – and you can analyse their engagement.
Key takeaway: Mix measurement of social engagement with bounce rates and time on page, and find out which streams of content resonate best with your readership. That’s what the search engines are doing, so why not you?
What’s the bottom line?
You are not a publisher, so ultimately there’s a bottom line in all B2B marketing and that’s sales. Is your content driving people through to that enquiry form? Is your content contributing to the funnel?
There are two things at play here: first of all, making it happen. Secondly, proving it. Let your metrics tell the story – whether they be of decreased bounce rates across your website or an increase in conversion rate from first-time visitors, or an increase in repeat visitors. Your content is a point of engagement for every prospect until they pick up the phone and start talking to you. So prove that it is making a difference!