Good writing is the foundation of good content that gets noticed, no matter what form that content ultimately takes. But the rules of marketing have changed considerably in the last decade – and maybe even more dramatically over the last few years. Google practically dictates how brands are found online, and so we must have a comprehensive b2b content marketing plan that prioritizes creation and distribution that directly, and routinely, engages with your targeted audience.
It’s time to wage war on mediocre content and be heard. Here are nine unconventional ways to get your b2b content marketing noticed.
1. Know your audience
Get out and actually talk with your customers and prospects. Too many times, marketing feels compelled to stay within the four walls of the office – very often, only customer success or sales talks to the customers. So, get out and ask customers what they think. Watch how they behave. Look for patterns.
I like to use social media to drive conversations. Twitter is a great listening tool, but so many companies only use it to listen for sales leads or (worse) they only use it to broadcast their own messaging.
Pay attention to context, too. Avoid grouping customers in an artificial setting like a focus group or cohort. Instead meet them in their natural habitat so you can get a more realistic perception of how they interact with your content.
2. Simplify your message
No one will ever complain you said something too simply. Find your point and make it. The key is to understand the one thing you’re trying to say. It should only be one thing! You shouldn’t have four or five calls-to-action, and you definitely shouldn’t have more than one idea you’re conveying.
Every piece of content you write should have just one key point. Boil your message down, not only to an elevator speech, but literally a tweet. I like to put the key idea of anything I’m writing in bold at the top of my draft. That way I can check back and I have a constant reminder to stay on topic. Once you have a clear idea about what it is you’re trying to say, figuring out the data, stories and messaging around it and not wasting the reader’s time is much easier.
3. Obsess over your first line
The first line in your content either makes people want to keep reading or stop dead in their tracks. And remember, readers are looking for reasons not to read your content.
Entice your reader by putting them into the story. Ask questions. Share a resource. Be surprisingly helpful. Dish out some crazy data tidbit. Tell an unusual story or anecdote. Whatever you do, make it interesting and absurdly authentic.
4. Appeal to primitive instincts
We are hardwired to look out for danger and problems. Just take a glance at your local newspaper – they’re selling sex and fear because that’s what people respond to. I like to think we’re so engrossed with danger because we’re constantly on the looking to learn how to react in situations. Maybe not.
Whatever the reason, we love hearing about problems – and learning the fixes. So an unconventional way to get your b2b content marketing noticed shifts messaging into a warning. Or highlights a problem in the industry that you may be facing (or might in the future) or emphasize the dangers. For instance, this article from Sigstr founder Dan Hanrahan on MarketingProfs is a warning on how to send your emails into your customer’s trash. He gives standard problems and mistakes people make when sending email and how to fix them.
5. Use keywords in your headlines
SEO and content marketing are BFFs. SEO seeks to create content that attracts love from search engines, where b2b content marketing aims to create content that humans love – or find useful, valuable, surprising or entertaining.
Key in to keywords, search engines and humans will love. But it’s not all about creating content that lets you get found online via search. Instead we all have an imperative to create content worth sharing.
The human brain is constantly on the lookout for keywords or phrases that intrigue us. Skip the overly clever headlines, and instead key into the words people are actually looking for – not just in searches, but while scanning the headlines.
6. Make your reader feel good – appeal to their ego
Good content serves the reader. It’s not self-indulgent. People love content that plays into their own self-interest. And this isn’t some crazy new idea. Publilius Syrus – a Latin writer circa 42 BC – said we’re just more interested in people who are interested in us.
So, swap places with your reader. Ask, “So what?” about each and every piece of content you create. Why does your content matter to your customer? What’s the point? Why should they care?
In Everybody Writes, Ann Handley said in writing, and in business, we tend to put ourselves first. We place our own agenda over the interests of those we’re creating for – and that’s a huge mistake! “Relentlessly, unremittingly, obstinately think of things from your readers’ point of view, with empathy for the experience you are giving them.”
Remember, no one has to read, watch or absorb the content you create. Ask (and answer) what’s in it for them and forge the trek to pathological empathy for your reader.
7. Find the right channels for distribution
Consumer behavior has changed. Customers are online looking for you. The question is, though, will they find you? And if they do, will they be inspired to do business with you?
Good content is only noticed if sharing is a key part of your b2b content marketing strategy. You can’t expect Google to do all the work for you – you’ve got to actively share and engage your audience. But where?
Social media must be a part of your distribution strategy. But no longer can you simply spam your Twitter feed and LinkedIn company page with your own content headlines. The algorithms hide your content from people who don’t regularly interact with your brand. Make sharing, and engaging, and building relationships with your communities, central to your b2b content marketing program.
Email signature marketing is another new(ish) place to put your content to get it noticed. The average American worker sends at least 28 emails a day (give or take a few). That’s more than 10,000 emails in a year, per worker. Which means, your company of 500 employees is sending 5,110,000 emails a year. And every single one of those emails has an email signature – usually clad with some sort of ridiculous disclaimer, made popular when faxes were still a thing, or inspirational quote. So nix the clutter and slide in your content that can provide real value to your recipient – and spread your message to a targeted audience organically.
8. Repackage your content
Reimagine your content. Don’t limit yourself to just one medium. Creating really good content is hard, so squeeze every drop of juice out of whatever you’re creating. Reimagine your content – don’t just recycle it. C.C. Chapman, who co-penned Content Rules with Ann Handley, said to treat each piece of content you create as a piece of a broader strategy. “Recycling is an afterthought; good content is intentionally reimagined, as its inception for various platforms,” he said. “Create content that comes to life in various formats, across many different platforms and that can address multiple audiences.”
In the planning stages, conceptualize all the pieces of content you plan to create as a part of a single, bigger idea. Or, alternatively, if you’re creating a large project, think about how you can create smaller chunks of digest-able content from that single asset. Have a new ebook? Break the sections down into a blog. Have some stellar stats inside of it? Design an infographic. Use the information you already have in a podcast or webinar – you get the idea. Repurpose your content into whichever package is required to reach a larger segment of your targeted audience in the space they live.
9. Go viral
If only it were that easy.
But you can help up the viral effect. Get your content into the hands of your colleagues, contacts, customers, prospects and friends. These are your seeders and sneezers – they’re the folks who’ll start the viral process. Ask people to share, email or retweet out your message. And then tell them why it’s important to share and exactly what they need to do. Make it as easy as possible. Remove barriers like opt-ins and logins and just give them the content and tools they’ll need to share it.
Several years ago, I led the promotions department of a radio conglomeration. I was in charge of finding the most efficient way to give people free stuff. What I learned was people want free stuff, they just don’t want to work for it. If a contest had more than three steps, people would disengage and I’d be left with a drawer full of unused concert tickets, jewelry gift cards and vacation vouchers. So, when we’re trying to give our content away to people who want to get better at what we’re helping with, make it as few steps as possible – one click is best. And make the benefits of sharing obvious. Your readers will take care of the rest.