Seth Godin’s infamous quote that content marketing ‘is all the marketing that’s left’ is nearly a decade old. In 2017, it appears that B2B has finally caught up with the trend, with a report by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) finding that 88% of B2B marketers currently use content marketing as part of their marketing strategy.
However, the question of how to inject creativity into a traditionally dry subject matter is still a hurdle many B2B brands are yet to overcome. This is reflected in the CMI’s further finding that 60% of B2B marketers see producing engaging content as a top challenge. In an age of social media and smartphones, where attention spans only hold for eight seconds, the corporate, self-promotional marketing style of yesteryear just can’t breakthrough the noise on the internet.
So, just how do brands with perhaps slightly less glamorous products and services wade into a space that’s crammed with cat videos and hilarious memes? While there’s no fool-proof formula for making viral content, there are steps that B2B brands can take to make their content share-worthy without compromising on core brand values.
Unlike B2C, B2B brands have a defined audience, which actually means that it’s a lot easier to tailor content to suit their interests. However, all too often B2Bs create content that focuses purely on their products or services. Unfortunately, ‘The Top Five Biros of 2017’ is not going to get people talking about you or generate thousands of retweets. The truth is that even the most dedicated of decision makers is not looking for office equipment in their lunch breaks. They are human and in search of something more than a story about the latest franking machine model. Instead, they are reading an uplifting story about entrepreneurs overcoming impossible odds or companies taking action to address workplace stress.
Creating content about your products and services is essential because it helps educate your customers prior to the final purchase, but it is not going to make people remember your brand or what it stands for. Your content strategy needs to be balanced with more general pieces that tap into the personal interests of your audience – remember, they are still consumers.
More often than not, B2B companies have stacks of data that can be spun into interesting stories. Mine your own sales data to see what trends you can find and write about them. Alternatively, tell an interesting story about bizarre interview experiences or unusual working practices – running a survey is a cheap, easy way to gather data and is likely to give you several angles to work with.
Mixing up the form of your content will also help creativity flow – don’t restrict your efforts to written articles; experiment with video, infographics and interactive pieces. Not every piece of content will achieve success, but regularly producing this type of content and utilising it across a variety of platforms will help bring your website out of the lonely, unvisited corners of the web.
Remaining true to your brand’s core values is, of course, essential to any brand looking to strengthen its position as a market leader. Nonetheless, this shouldn’t be seen as a barrier to creativity. B2B brands must look to showcase their brand’s values in a way that maintains authority without appearing too inhuman.
The Xerox ‘Work Can Work Better’ campaign offers an excellent example of a B2B brand successfully incorporating a human touch. The campaign considers specific industry issues, such as HR and business solutions, through a consumer’s perspective. The humorous main video, ‘Everybody’s Talkin’ at Me’, follows a business executive enduring a normal day of being bombarded by ‘big data’, ‘the internet of things’ and similar jargon with the ending message being that ‘Xerox believes that business solutions shouldn’t be so much work’. By telling a story that consumers can relate to, Xerox has shown itself as an authority on business issues and consequently a well-equipped provider of solutions. The value of this type of content is high. The main video alone has received nearly 1.7 million views and the wider campaign has received positive coverage in Forbes and MediaPost. However, this type of content doesn’t just increase brand awareness, it is an excellent tool for developing deeper, warmer connections between brand and consumer – an aim all B2B brands should be looking to achieve.
In an era of social media and competitive markets, a good product is not enough; increasingly consumers are seeking highly personalised experiences with brands, and businesses face the challenge of keeping conversations going with an audience that quickly loses attention. Whether you believe content marketing is all that’s left or not, there’s no question that a piece of content that generates shares is a great conversation starter.