Every year, Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs release their latest B2B marketing research. This year the report includes a chart of current B2B content marketing challenges. A few of them surprised me as I thought (or hoped) we had beaten many of these issues.
Let’s look at 4 content marketing challenges and how you can defeat them.
Top challenge for 44% is “Creating content that appeals to multi-level roles within the target audience.”
The first thing I’d say is that trying to appeal to everyone at once—or within one content asset—means your content will be engaging to no one. Either it will be too high level to be helpful, or it will be irrelevant in the parts that speak to people other than that reader.
But, interpreting this another way, it may mean that B2B content marketers are not able to create content that’s relevant for each of the different roles – rather than one asset to address all at once.
I’d wager a guess that it’s because you haven’t created personas or done the audience/customer research to really understand their roles and perspectives in relation to the problem your solution solves. This is usually the case I find in the work I do with my clients.
When I speak with them and probe, they have a surface understanding. They know the basics. But often this understanding includes stereotypical assumptions, as well. Assumptions that, even if close, are too high level to provide the insights that can transform the information you share to engage the audience because they recognize expertise and the words you’ve chosen resonate with them.
If you take the time to do this research (memorialize it in buyer personas) and gain thorough understanding, you’ll find that several other challenges on this list will go away, including:
- Creating valuable content, instead of sales-oriented content (36%)
- Difficulty in reaching target audiences (35%)
Then again, getting to know audiences better is far down the list at 32% (#8) in the priorities for marketing investment, so maybe solving the top challenges B2B marketers face isn’t that important.
B2B Content Marketing Challenge #2: Accessing subject matter experts (SMEs) to create content
I understand this one. SMEs are busy folks. Many of them aren’t content writers—nor do they want to be. If you, as a content marketer, have ever faced that blinking cursor on a blank page and not been able to produce one word, never mind a sentence, you’ll get this point.
But it’s more than that. Everyone is a writer in today’s business world. Communication is a critical part of getting work done. From email to reports to memos and team presentations, and more.
But everyone is not a content writer. That’s a specialty skill that needs translation for SMEs.
So here are some ideas about how to get the information you need from SMEs to either create content based on their knowledge and expertise, or to help them create bylined content that builds their personal brand along with your company’s.
- If they speak at conferences or on webinars, record, transcribe and use their presentations as source information for content.
- Take them for coffee (or book a 30-minute zoom with them) and chat about a topic while recording the conversation or taking notes.
- Send them 3 – 5 questions about a topic and use their answers as the foundation for content. But note that this one is hard because the effort is on their side. Remember, they’re busy.
Getting insights from your SMEs is a matter of being in the same place they are when they are sharing information or perspective on a content-worthy topic and memorializing their ideas.
Also – do not overlook the need to run the content past them and get their feedback on the content before you publish it—especially if it mentions them by name or title.
If you frame the request around helping them elevate their personal brand and expertise within the industry, they may be more willing than you think to help with content—if you make it slam-dunk simple and easy for them to do so.
Tied for Content Marketing Challenge #5: Differentiating our products/services from the competition (36%)
Unfortunately for most of us, the product our company sells is likely not the only one of its kind. And it’s unlikely that the list of features and functions differs greatly from the market or category leaders. So instead of getting mired down in a product bakeoff with your competitors, take a different approach.
Look at outcomes. Identify value that your customers care about. If you’ve done your research and built personas as suggested to address the top challenge above, you’ll have these insights.
It’s not the product, it’s what your customers get that they couldn’t get before they had it. In their words, matching their perspective.
Look across the three pillars of people, process, and technology.
- Where do the most raved about outcomes come from? (For which roles, in what context)
- What impact do they have on your customer’s business? (High level, and in the weeds – drill down. And what does it mean to the different roles involved? For example, end users will value different things than business leaders)
- What enabled your customers to get these outcomes from your product? (Easy adoption, the way the workflows integrate with something else, the Netflix-like interface, etc.) Don’t mistake this for product gibberish, focus on the “why” stuff.
B2B Content Marketing Challenge #7: Consistency with messaging (31%)
Most companies have brand guidelines. These dictate design component use, language usage, positioning, voice, style, and other brand components for the purpose of brand consistency. We need to do the same for messaging.
Messaging guidelines roll down from positioning, voice, and style rules in the brand guideline. They include levels of your narrative from About Us to specific persona messaging to product messaging and sales (conversational) messaging.
Obviously, you cannot document everything that’s said, so think about the most frequently talked about topics and think baseline, rather than bible.
There are many ways to represent messaging guidelines, so I won’t get into that, but it’s important to document your messaging guidelines as part of your marketing strategy. And, as a part of strategy, don’t forget to update them as your product shifts and your buyers change.
The other key point here is socialization to gain adoption. And I suggest you get buy-in from all parties involved for the areas that concern them. Even better, ask for their input. As a case in point, many sales reps don’t use their company’s website with customers because they feel it’s too much “marketing fluff” that’s not meaningful.
(If this is true for your company, stop wondering why sales doesn’t use marketing content with buyers. And perhaps is creating their own content to use with buyers… Just saying.)
If you want consistency in messaging, then it must be messaging that the entire company can get behind. And this means cross-functional negotiation and collaboration. Be prepared to explain why you need to message specific assets in certain ways instead of taking offense at the feedback. I’ve found that there’s often a lack of understanding across functions about why marketers do things the way they do.
Solving this challenge should also go a long way toward answering the #3 challenge for 38% of internal communication between teams/silos. And, if you treat your messaging guidelines as a living document, continuously updating them, you’ll also find your teams will have more agility when there’s need for change (#8 challenge for 30%)
Take a Strategic Tack to Solving B2B Content Marketing Challenges
In case you weren’t keeping track, this post addressed four B2B content marketing challenges identified by marketers in Content Marketing Institute’s latest research report. But by solving these four, you also have the potential to end up solving four more, for a total of eight—almost two thirds—of the challenges identified.
And no, solving these challenges isn’t easy. But it is important…and well worth your effort.
If your goal is to solve some or all these current content marketing challenges in the next year, do you have a plan to make that happen?