Content marketing for B2B companies is now an established route to market. It works when done well. But the problem is that it’s often not done well—not nearly as well as it could be. The result is fragmented experiences that leaves buyers and customers frustrated and disengaged.
Here are five missteps I’m seeing with B2B marketing content:
Doug Kessler was the first to call foul on crap content back in 2013, but he was (and is still) right on the money. And don’t take my word for it; 62% of executive buyers told Forrester that much of the content vendors provide them with is useless. Crappy content is the result of B2B content marketers racing on the treadmill to produce ever more content for the sake of publishing content at some artificially inflated rate that somehow has become the norm.
Or, it’s a case of keeping up with your competitors, trying to win the war for attention by sheer force of volume. We’d be much better off if we stopped and thought about how to make content more useful to its intended audience. While it’s been touted that companies may top the $100B mark with spend on content marketing in 2016, publishing more of the same dreck is not going to move the needle on marketing performance.
Lack of Depth in Relevance
I was reviewing content for a potential project the other day. The content was solid, focused on industry trends that mattered to the company’s prospects, but it felt off. It took me a bit to put my finger on it, but I finally figured it out. The company had taken the idea of journalism to an extreme. They were trying to be so unbiased that their content was dry, it was like straight reporting and it was stiff because they weren’t actually taking a stand or speaking directly to anyone.
The company is actually really interesting and has SMEs galore that are willing to contribute content. But they don’t know how to talk to their prospects with any tone, voice or personality. If you stripped away the company brand, the reader would think the content was provided by an association or news publisher. And that’s not the lasting impression you want to leave.
The problem could be that you have wussy writers, as explained by Barry Feldman in this post that presents 20 signs your web content writer won’t cut through the crap and follows it up with 18 ways to vet for a writer that will get your content above the noise by making it more relevant.
Formats Come First
One of the first things I hear in a lot of content conversations is about the type of content the marketing team wants to create. We need a white paper or an eBook or an infographic, etc. This is the wrong place to start. If you don’t want to lose your audience, you need to move format to the end of the list. It’s not the most important element. The information and the audience you want to engage are far more important than what form it takes. In fact, those two points will inform format choice.
Social is Treated as Broadcast
I think we’ve forgotten how to actually “be” social. There’s a big difference between broadcasting and engaging. The lazy way out is to post title and link…repeatedly. Or to post title and link when channels including LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+ allow you to add much more narrative. Yet, we tend to treat every social channel with the brevity required by Twitter. Why?
What a missed opportunity. Although this would also mean we’d need to think about how to be meaningful – and who has time for that?
No Consistency of Story
One example I’ve seen a lot is a really well done blog paired with a Facebook page that’s about the company’s favorite sports team and silly contests. If you’re a buyer and you encounter a really thought-provoking blog post and then click through to the silly Facebook page, what are you left thinking? It could just as easily be any combination of channels that creates a fragmented experience for your buyers. The problem I see is that in lieu of a strategy, marketers use different channels for different things, quite often because there are different teams managing the different channels that don’t collaborate.
Your B2B Marketing Needs a 12-Step Program
It’s time to fix these issues if we want our B2B content marketing programs to gain traction. It won’t happen without some effort, but no 12-step program worth its salt does. If your company continues to invest in content marketing without fixing the above issues, good luck on proving ROI, because there won’t be any. At least none that’s replicable for consistent results over the long term. Content marketing is a long-term commitment, not a short-term campaign.
This means the way you approach the practice of content marketing will take a concerted effort to do well. I’m picturing seeing effectiveness start to climb in 2016. We need to stop the slide now. Let’s get started!
I’ve packaged up the 12-step Program into a paper. You can download it here to learn more about each of the steps and actions you can take to ensure your marketing performance improves dramatically in 2016.
As a preview, the 12 steps include:
- Get to know your audience
- Map your buyers’ process
- Document your content strategy
- Unify your brand voice
- Create a distribution playbook
- Take a storyline approach
- Put context front and center
- Stop talking about you
- Focus on what’s next
- Go cold turkey on buzzwords
- Hook them fast…and reinforce the point
- Make content easy to use