It wasn’t easy, but with some caffeine coercion (ie: bribery), we managed to wrangle a few members of our Content team – Head of Content & Social, Shawn Low, Social Media & Content Marketing Specialist, Matt Sprague, Content Producer, Natasha Sidiropoulos, and Senior Editor & Content Strategist, Caroline Leslie – to share their secrets to creating great B2B content.
What comes first, content or strategy?
Shawn: It might seem a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many organisations don’t have a defined content strategy. In our latest B2B Marketing Research Report, 42% of our respondents said they don’t have a strategic approach to content. Blindly churning out content without a strategy isn’t effective: you need to understand your objectives and your audience (and their needs) and marry them up with effective content. But as with any endeavour, start with a strong coffee.
Tash: Definitely strategy. Of course, it’s possible to write without direction, but your content should always be serving a greater purpose. Whether that’s for entertainment, or in our case, nurturing target audiences for our customers, every piece we produce has an end goal.
Matt: Strategy, for sure. But what comes before that? Data. It’s impossible to put together a great social strategy without first understanding who your audience is, what they currently think about your service or products, and what they value.
Caroline: I agree with Matt. The very first consideration is the needs of your target audience. Next, the communications strategy, which is founded on giving your brand a voice and includes content. Finally tactics, which include the different types of content you need and how you’re going to deliver them.
What sorts of content should your organisation produce?
Matt: I live in the social space so maybe I’m biased, or maybe it’s because I have the attention span of a gnat. But I want my content spoon-fed to me in 15-second videos, alongside short punchy chunks of copy and tl;dr (too long; didn’t read) summaries. And the data clearly tells me I’m not the only one out there. Video almost always beats static content on social. No matter if your objective is brand awareness or lead generation, make it move! It doesn’t have to be pro (though it helps) – try shooting some video on your phone, stitching together some images into a slideshow video or making a simple animation.
Shawn: I think many organisations are guilty of churning out copy for the sake of it (anyone who has written or commissioned yet another listicle, raise your hand?). It’s important to map out the sorts of content your audience wants to consume at every stage of the funnel/buyer journey. I’ve found it useful to audit your existing content and ensure that you’ve got enough content to cover the gaps. For example, you might need more case studies if you don’t have enough ‘consideration’ content.
Caroline: As Shawn suggests, an audit is essential. At the awareness stage, are you asking the business questions your audience may be asking or are yet to realise they need to ask? Further along, are you answering the questions they’re asking about the solution they’re considering, and about you as a delivery partner?
Tash: It really depends on what the goal of that organisation is. Most often in B2B, we create content that demonstrates their position as an industry thought leader and answers people’s questions. That being said though, it’s important not to forget to throw in some fun topics every now and then.
There’s so much content out there. How do you cut through the noise?
Tash: Be creative and bold! I can’t stress enough how crucial this is for a piece of content to cut through the cacophony of millions of voices. Maybe all your content is written by an imaginary persona, or all your blogs are written in iambic pentameter. Whatever it is, do something with them that sings to the reader!
Shawn: Don’t create content to tick a box on your KPIs. Invest in quality content, make it easy to find and make sure you get the content out there…throw some paid spend behind it. The worst thing you can do is to tuck your blog on a hard-to-find spot on your website (say, under the About Us section or in the footer where no one can find it). Invested in a report or case study? Spend some money amplifying it on social channels and targeting people who would be most likely to get some value out of it.
Caroline: I second Shawn on this. Quality over quantity, but that’s just about numbers. I’m a bit traditional in feeling that true quality (and value) don’t often come in 140-character or even 500-word packages – making me a fan of in-depth long-form content. My way of cutting through all the masses of pretty ordinary content out there is to bottle the wisdom of your experts – while making it easy for them to contribute.
Matt: Be brave, be different. If everybody else is zigging, try zagging, or even better – try zixxing! There is a lot of noise out there, especially in the social space and your content needs to stop thumbs in their tracks. Make sure the first few frames of that video really pop, that your brand is clearly displayed within the first three seconds, and your value communicated in fewer than ten. Make sure that your first line of copy really engages the reader and don’t be afraid to experiment and test. Every audience is different and it may take a while to find out what really ‘clicks’ with them.
How and where do I get ideas for content? It’s so hard.
Caroline: In B2B, I feel it’s best to go straight to the coalface. Talk to your Sales team, your support people, solution architects – they have their fingers on the pulse of your target audience. Go out on appointments with them to espy the lay of the land, and actually talk to their clients. Most business buyers are more than happy to tell vendors about the challenges which keep them awake at night and the information they need from partners to do their jobs.
In B2B, I feel it’s best to go straight to the coalface. Talk to your Sales team, your support people, solution architects – they have their fingers on the pulse of your target audience.
Shawn: Don’t go at it alone. Invite your colleagues out for a coffee or have regular brainstorming sessions (preferably off-site or outside the usual office environment). When brainstorming, agree that no idea is too dumb/silly/bad. Just get it out there, and then you can refine it.
Tash: Boy, is it hard! I feel this on a dangerously personal level every time I write a new piece of content. But really, it’s about taking a step back from it all and trying to look at it with fresh eyes. Maybe there’s a story hiding under that eighth blog post, or behind those whitepapers. Just take your time with it, and let the idea come to you instead than wringing the neck of it.
Just take your time with it, and let the idea come to you instead than wringing the neck of it.
Matt: One sure-fire method is to go straight to your customer! If you’re looking for some great copy that sums up your USP but communicates it in a simple way that appeals to potential leads, there is a chance it’s already been written. Read reviews, dive into comment threads, or research what potential leads are writing online about similar products or services. Then simply turn those exact phrases into headlines, social copy or let them fuel bigger content ideas.
Shawn: Fan of single-origin coffees with fruity, floral flavour profiles. Black. Filter/Aeropress/drip.
Tash: I’ll admit, I’m probably one of the only writers in the world who detests the taste of coffee. They got me here with lots and lots of chocolate!
Matt: Don’t hate me. I’ve done my fair share of work in hospitality, worked as a barista and have fond memories of sipping single-origin espressos on Tuscan hillsides. But there is one coffee that gets me up and going every morning: Nescafé Blend 43, two sugars and milk.
Caroline: I’m afraid I’m a serious fan of tea and never drink coffee. But, in case you’re offering, robust rich Assam black tea from North-Eastern India with a characteristic ‘bacon’ aroma and luscious reddish hue; milk, no sugar.
Need help with a content strategy or content creation? Drop us a line!