B2B content marketing tends toward common pitfalls. There's often too much industry jargon, too many promotional messages, and too little appeal to the buyer’s emotion.
Though your subject matter may be complex, your content is most effective when it’s simple for the consumer to understand. Websites, blog posts, white papers, and other forms of content must deliver a clear, valuable message – and do so in an engaging way – for potential buyers to pay attention.
At Content Marketing World 2019, a number of B2B marketers led sessions about how to craft more compelling brand stories and thought leadership content. All who I heard speak stressed the need to simplify your message. Venetta Linas Paris, director of global content at Aon even used classic children’s book Goodnight Moon to illustrate ways B2B companies can improve their storytelling.
Bottom line: Buyers are people. They don’t want to be bored, and they shouldn’t have to analyze your content to grasp its business value.
Here are a few tactics to make B2B content marketing more engaging, according to CMW presenters:
1. Be Empathetic
April Henderson, head of Forrester’s Market Impact Consulting, says B2B buyers are becoming more like “consumers,” meaning they’re more anonymous and more emotionally motivated than in the past. She attributes the shift in behavior to buyers’ changing demographics – decision-makers are getting younger – and their expectations as digital consumers.
When B2B content marketing fails, it’s because it lacks buyer empathy, says Henderson. To produce content that converts, you need to share in the emotion of your customers and understand what they want to accomplish – and that’s not always a business objective.
As an example, Henderson highlights a ShoreTel Connect video featuring “A Day in the Life” of a young businessman. The product, a communications platform, allows him to perform pressing business tasks as he overcomes obstacles to a more personal objective: getting his daughter to school on time.
Catering to customers’ content preferences also shows empathy. If they say peer case studies or trend forecasts are most useful in their purchase decision-making, you demonstrate thought leadership and value by providing those requested resources.
2. Translate Experts
B2B content marketers rely on subject-matter experts for credible information, but often fall short in interpreting technical language to make concepts more digestible, says Paris. To “rock the expert interview,” she provides the following tips:
- Set expectations. At the beginning of the interview, share what you’re trying to accomplish and how the interviewee's input will be valuable.
- Start with high-level questions. Discussing broad themes first helps to frame deeper discussion later on.
- Encourage metaphors. They will help you understand new concepts – and will likely help your consumers, too.
- Summarize and confirm. Make sure you’re translating (and condensing) your interviewee’s expertise accurately. Remember that you’re not the expert; it’s OK if you need more explanation.
After conducting interviews, Paris recommends “thinking in sections” as you piece together points of view. Categorize recurring ideas that you identify – these categories provide a natural framework for breaking down complicated concepts.
Interactive elements like diagrams and infographics further simplify the complex, says Paris. Like illustrations in a children’s book, these visuals keep your audience engaged and guide them through your content.
3. Show the Journey
Use a classic story arc to present how your product or service benefits buyers. As in fictional tales, your story should have a hero, a conflict, and a resolution, says Paris.
Just make sure the hero is your client or customer, adds Glenn LaFollette, director of integrated marketing at JLL. The narrative will fall flat if it's all about your brand.
LaFollette advises using a three-act structure centered on your customers’ goals:
- Set the stage – What is the challenge?
- Show the journey – How are you helping the customer overcome the challenge?
- Explain the impact – Why does this matter to the customer?
This story structure is straight-forward, yet engaging – just as B2B content marketing should be.
Leah Wynalek is the senior editor for Publishing Executive and Book Business. She has worked at national magazine publishing companies including Trusted Media Brands and Rodale, where she assisted in digital content creation and strategy for Prevention.com. More recently, she used her multimedia skillset on behalf of clients as a content specialist for Philadelphia-based marketing agency En Route.