B2B content doesn’t create a sum of knowledge as one-off random acts of content. That’s just a recipe for confusion about your brand; frustration and a turnoff for your buyers; and putting loyalty in question for your customers.
To create influence, your B2B content needs oomph, conviction, and purpose. And let’s not forget the beauty of relevance dialed in to match the context of your ideal buyers. I’ve written about the need for B2B content to have a point of view. That’s a great first step on the path to creating a sum of knowledge.
So, let’s define what a sum of knowledge means:
A sum of knowledge is the heft and focus you put behind your content achieving a goal that drives a business objective. A sum of knowledge is characterized collectively as having shared meaning and purpose with a level of depth that’s perceived as valuable and additive by your intended audience.
Examples of sums of knowledge can include:
- Category creation or support/expansion – along with your place within it
- Providing a depth of clarity on the value of solving a problem (for all involved)
- Sharing a distinct perspective on a topic your audience is passionate about
- Uniting soundbites into something rational to make it useful for a specific audience
- Deep dives into the what, why, who, and how for a problem-to-solution journey
You’ll notice that specificity plays a role in creating a sum of knowledge. There’s no randomness. When content works together to build a sum of knowledge, each piece adds depth to, and expands, on the others.
But here’s where a lot of content goes wrong…
Creating a sum of knowledge is not about trying to be smarter than your audience. It’s about serving and helping them find valuable information to make progress toward gaining the outcomes they want. It’s about relevance and—importantly—staying power. Audiences need to know you’ll be there when they need to do their own discovery with the most relevant take on answering their questions.
3 Worthwhile Outcomes from a Creating a Sum of Knowledge
Help B2B Buyers Think & Learn
Creating a sum of knowledge can also be focused on thinking leadership. As I define it, thinking leadership is a group of content focused on helping potential customers think through their systemic needs as they decide whether or how to solve a problem. Thinking leadership is about helping people to understand and simplify addressing all the concerns that arise along with a problem and the decision to fix it. It’s a form of buyer enablement content designed to get them from A to Z with your help.
It’s important to follow the thread here from helping your buyers think and learn to driving demand. One precedes the other.
Build Customer Loyalty & Advocacy
Once buyers have become customers and solved the original problem, you’ll need a sum of knowledge that fuels their ongoing relationship with you. Forward-looking content that distills the trends you see coming and identifies the challenges they’ll bring (along with how you’ll help them pivot) can serve to help customers continue to gain value from working with you. And, with today’s business models that rely on subscription renewals, this is a never-ending need. Being known as the voice of reason who helps clarify real impacts—separating them from hype and myth—the more value is realized in their ongoing relationship with your brand. Let’s face it, change is continuous and coming faster. Help seeing the forest for the trees is a welcome assist.
Differentiate & Strengthen Your Brand
Creating a sum of knowledge means taking a stand. When done well, your intended audience will recognize your brand based on the ideas—even if your logo isn’t present. At the pace of change with technology and the fluctuating world conditions (pandemics, politics, climate, economic, etc.) it’s more important to stand for something or risk blending into the blurred background of sameness that permeates most categories.
Think about the Marketing Technology Landscape compiled each year by Scott Brinker – now up to 8,000 solutions. It’s mind boggling. Solution saturation makes marketing and selling even more challenging. It’s hard to rely on technology to differentiate your brand, therefore it’s prudent to focus on thought leadership that builds a sum of knowledge to standout and earn the attention and engagement necessary to drive demand.
Building A Sum of Knowledge is About the Ideas
To gain the above outcomes, your ideas need to resonate with and trigger the curiosity and engagement of your audiences. You can create a sum of knowledge on navel gazing, but if your audience doesn’t care, you’ve wasted your time. (Which is the litmus test, or should be, for all content.)
Building a sum of knowledge is about being (becoming) the top of mind, go-to resource for that subject.
When you set out to build a sum of knowledge, it’s important to ask:
- What does our audience value and want that they aren’t finding elsewhere?
- Where’s the white space or a confused space we can clarify and reorient?
- Which of our SMEs can help us generate new ideas we can use to approach target markets?
- What stake in the ground can we commit to for the long haul?
The reason most companies fail at building a sum of knowledge is because they don’t really know and understand their buyers and customers. This is one approach where having well-done personas is a criterion for success. It’s not about the construct of a “persona” as much as it’s about the depth of insight and understanding you can gather and interpret to drive the initiative.
Another reason brands don’t succeed with the initiative is because they can’t commit for the long term. I see it all the time when companies change their go-to-market based on quarterly themes. This doesn’t mean you have to only talk about that idea, but it does mean that what you talk about should at the least tie to it or be tangential.
Tamsen Webster’s book, Find Your Red Thread, is based on this concept. She defines the red thread as, “the throughline that connects your idea to your audience’s hearts and minds.” Instead of only applying this concept to a keynote or campaign, the concept can be adapted to a body of work that becomes your sum of knowledge.
So, make sure your idea and the foundation for your sum of knowledge is big enough and persistent.
The most important question to answer is, for what do you want to be known?