What is the key to an effective B2B content marketing strategy in 2021?
She said: “In marketing we spend a lot of time trying to break through the clutter. I think that’s the wrong way – you want to build trust and scale it by being a resource…”
The key question, said Handley (pictured above), is “How can I earn your trust?”. And to this, we will return!
B2B content marketing – a 2021 trend?
Though B2B content marketing is not new, it still features in discussion of “B2B trends” for 2021. Michael McNicols at Oracle’s Modern Marketing Blog cites the popularity of video, webinars and podcast, infographics and surveys but also the ongoing value of the “written word” via thought leadership blog content and email.
However, there are obstacles to overcome when planning your content marketing:
Sales enablement company, Seismic’s “Content clutter” infographic paints the daunting picture of 500 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, 128.8bn emails received daily and 70m posts published monthly on WordPress.
Volume of content marketing alone isn’t the problem. The infographic quotes Forrester in that “57% of content buyers receive from vendors is useless”. Which is why – according to the Content Marketing Institute – 88% of successful B2B marketers “prioritise the audience’s informational needs over promotional messaging”.
Which, as promised, takes us back to earning and building trust in B2B marketing.
Content marketing is what the customer wants or needs to know
While technology has accelerated and expanded the potential for B2B companies to engage in content marketing, the concept of delivering valuable information rather than just product specifications to customers has been around a while.
Ann Handley referenced the US agricultural machinery company, John Deere (established 1837) that started publishing its magazine, The Furrow, in 1895 as “a journal for American farmers” which “tells stories that people enjoy reading and provides them with knowledge they can apply in their operations”.
Looking at its latest edition 126 years later (online, obviously), the company holds true to that aim and is a case study in “prioritising the audience’s informational needs over promotional messaging”. Informing, educating and supporting is emphatically its approach to earning and building trust with customers.
Standing out with content marketing
If you’re in B2B marketing, then you’re expected to actually help sell something at some point, right? However, taking “product” as your starting point in content marketing is likely to be a less effective strategy.
As Handley says, “You need to think from a customer standpoint and what it does for them;
what is useful/valuable to your audience and how what you provide makes their lives better.”
So, what are some valuable tactics Handley suggests for making your content marketing stand out?
- Storytelling with the customer as hero
Tell the story about how you help your customer, with the customer as the hero of your story.
It’s also important to show who you are as a brand/company by putting your people front and centre in your content. Handley said: “People don’t buy what you do – you need to sell them on who you are and that’s where a lot of B2B content falls down. There’s an opportunity to be a little quirky, fun and think outside the box.”
- Humanising your writing
There’s an opportunity on your website and in email to humanise content marketing by applying a more natural and personal tone of voice rather than corporate.
Thinking about e-newsletters, they are a way to connect one-to-one with a person in another business. Therefore, it’s about focusing more on this opportunity to communicate with one person at a time.
- Content marketing and SEO
Handley’s recommended approach to SEO is to “write in an authentic, relatable way” based on thinking about what the customer truly needs before overlaying it with other SEO techniques.
An inspiring content marketing example
Shifting your strategy from marketing and communicating “brand to target” to “peer to peer” is what US restaurant software company, Toast, has done during the Covid-19 pandemic.
This began by creating a microsite which gave restaurant customers the ability to buy gift cards for their favourite restaurants during lockdown restrictions (essentially, providing a micro-loan to restaurants).
The company has since continued to evolve the site into a resource of knowledge and information for restaurants to help them navigate the issues caused by Covid-19.
As Ann Handley points out, the “pandemic accelerated their story and made it more about partnership than product”.
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