Life is too short to be boring, and boring content is punishing for an audience.
Ideally, B-to-B content marketing should be as natively thrilling as Tom Wolfe’s excellent exposé on Wall Street. In describing Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, he writes: “No, our man is only 27 years old and attired as a tycoon of our time… His shirt is a gray T-shirt, one of the 30-some gray T-shirts he has on hand in order to make sure he is clad in the same rebelliously fashion-defying teenager garb every day… and over it, a dark-gray sweatshirt with a hood, a garment known familiarly as a hoodie. From this day, May 7, 2012, forward, the hoodie becomes his symbol, his trademark, his battle standard.”
That right there is a B-to-B story with a twist.
Facebook is, of course, a B-to-B and a B-to-C company. It’s not as if Zuckerberg has the patent on hoodies. The point is that Wolfe’s writing is beautiful and exciting, and he’s setting a stage. B-to-B content producers should take notes from their favorite authors, artists, and videographers. Wolfe, age 82, is a master, and all content marketing producers ought to pursue mastery in their fields—or find other occupations.
Thinking Like a Publisher
If content marketers are thinking like publishers, and they should be, they’ll be producing content that is REAL: relevant, enlightening, actionable, and lively. It must be well crafted, easy to find and consume, and engaging.
Consider the following guidelines:
- Use a strong lead to coax the reader into the story and employ subheads and bullet points to carry him along and make the material scannable.
- Use the right voice—a friendly, authoritative tone that bespeaks knowledge and experience but doesn’t take itself too seriously—to deliver professional material that is genuine and fun to consume.
- Combine imagery with words in a manner such that people would be willing to pay for the content because it’s so relevant and high quality. Aim for gold-standard content.
Landing Content in the Right Place
In the digital age, B-to-B content marketers need to use SEO to ensure that their work is easy to find. In “The Evolving Path of Today’s Tech B-to-B Customer,” Google found that 48 percent of technology B-to-B customers discover brands they weren’t aware of through a search engine; 93 percent of these customers use the Internet more than any other source to research business purchases.
Content also needs to be consumable on nearly any device. Companies need to deliver content that matches the way people live, which is, nowadays, through their smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices.
That means businesses need to plan accordingly. This might cost more, but the opportunities lost because of a poor mobile experience are daunting. In “What Users Want Most From Mobile Sites Today,” Google found that 72 percent of consumers expect brands to have a mobile-friendly website, 61 percent of respondents take their business elsewhere if they encounter a poor mobile experience, and 67 percent are more likely to make a purchase if a website is mobile-friendly.
Raising the Stakes in a B-to-B World
B-to-B marketing is a landscape ripe for inventive storytelling. While it may lack the panache of consumer marketing, it makes up for it in scale and relevance. Many people wrongly assume that B-to-C commerce outsizes B-to-B business, but the opposite is true. According to a Forrester Research report, “Key Trends in B-to-B eCommerce for 2013,” the B-to-C market will be $252 billion by the end of 2013 while B-to-B revenues reach $559 billion in the same time frame—more than twice the size of the consumer market.
B-to-B demand is derived demand because in most cases it comes from the demand for consumer goods. For example, hardware manufacturers buy microprocessor chips to operate the devices they make. Here are a few B-to-B facts from Principles of Marketing, a foundational text by Philip Kotler and Gary Armstrong:
- The stakes are much higher in B-to-B markets, and involve more complexities.
- A B-to-B purchase typically involves more participants and a more professional purchasing effort.
- Demand in B-to-B markets fluctuates quickly.
These facts add up to lots of big stories: What is going on behind the scenes? The goal of B-to-B content marketing is to create an environment that clears the way for a win-win situation. It showcases the value proposition of products and services. It puts an honest human face on an organization. It can guide interactions of huge significance.
It’s simple, really, but lively content marketing requires courage. These stories—regardless of whether they are told with words, images, or video—are the battle standards of content marketing.
Image credit: Rama V