Why b2b content doesn’t have to be boring…

May 13th, 2019

I recently read an article on a major content management system platform which gave me some top tips as to how to ensure my content gets shared.

One of its key recommendations was to basically overwrite. The theory is that search engines love longform content as it has the veneer of authority – the more words, apparently the more definitive the article. We are more likely to share longform articles too. There’s possibly some interesting psychology at play here, but I wonder if deep down by sharing longer reads we think it suggests to others we are more considered and smart as human beings.

On the debit side, there’s also a fair amount of evidence suggesting that the percentage of people who don’t finish an article before sharing is very high. A 2016 study showed that as many as 60% of articles are shared based only on headlines. That’s great news if you want shares (and are good at coming up with compelling headlines) but not so good if you want people to read your words and properly engage with them.

I personally think the last thing that b2b content creators need to be advised to do is to write more. This is largely because quite often b2b content has a tendency to be, well, a little on the dull side, and by adding more words you are reducing the chance of people actually reading to the end.

Creating engaging b2b content is one of the issues that the CMA is going to tackle at the B2B Content Breakfast on 28th August. In b2b circles, there are so many issues, from creating effective strategies through to tech-driven tools and content’s relationship with other parts of marketing to discuss, to discuss that we really need more time. In the meantime here are a few examples of things b2b marketers can do to make their content engaging.

1. Double down on thought leadership 

Everyone loves reading about the future of their particular niche, especially if there is disruptive change on the horizon. So creating future gazing articles is a fantastic way of delivering content that is thought provoking and engaging. The key is to be super smart about how much you brag about your company (or worse your own role) and what it does. If your article is too rooted in your contribution you might find a lot of our readers won’t ever make it to the end. Weave your insights in subtly, preferably backed with data. And keep the case studies to a minimum.

2. Take a contrarian perspective

If you use a tool like Buzzsumo you can see the type of content which is produced and shared on a specific topic. Invariably content creators decide on keywords and then construct articles around them. The issue is that you often tend to get a slew of features that say very similar things. One way to stand out is to take a contrarian view. Find a topic that you think will resonate with your target audience, but one in which both sides of the argument haven’t necessarily been explored. This can work brilliantly especially if you can attach some of your own data or case studies to illustrate your point. The best contrarian stories tend to be a response to a news story (the PR world call this newsjacking – adding your take on a breaking story) so it is obviously important to keep up to speed with the main issues that execs in your industry are debating.

3. Be opinionated

The same article that suggested investing more in longform content also made the point that when it comes to clicks and shares strident opinions do better than more objective, balanced pieces. One element of journalism is taking both sides on the story and presenting it to readers so they can make their own mind up. In b2b content marketing, offering both angles is not a necessity and often the more passionate and opinionated an article the more likely it is to be shared.

4. Think listicles

The listicle is a great way of simplifying a lot of ideas and communicating them in an easy to digest manner. What works in the b2c world also works for b2b. Don’t assume that your earnest, extended pieces of prose will automatically keep your readers engaged. The problem could be that your readers never make it through your article. With listicles, they still might not read all the way through either, but the point by point approach might mean they can more easily recall what they have read. Taking a structured approach also helps construct leaner, more thoughtful content too in my opinion.

5. Think visually

Your content doesn’t always have to be words with the odd stock photography image. A video might do the job of communicating your ideas in a much more effective way. The whole topic of b2b video is a fascinating one. How do you make content compelling in a word that is mainly populated by tutorials and talking heads? There are now some really excellent imaginative examples and many of them are story based – see the CMA Award winner The Truck Driver’s Mother – which is a masterclass in telling a b2b story in a human and engaging way.

Ashley Norris, Consultant, The CMA

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