Are you a B2B marketer who’d like to say “thank you” to the busy, distracted, time-starved professionals who somehow manage to consume your content?
Would you like to show them how much they mean to you, and how much you care?
For starters, aim higher. Give them the quality content they deserve.
As a consumer of B2B content myself, I take time out of each workday to read and curate fresh insights, anecdotes, wit, and debate—the kind of content I not only want to share, but can’t wait to share. Finding that one-in-a-million surprise—be it informative, quirky, or scintillating —is a real joy, because it momentarily lifts me out of my stressful daily routine.
That’s how your prospects should feel when they read your article, paper, infographic, social media post, or blog post. You’d like to think they do, because you’re creating content just for them in a spirit of selfless service. (Right?)
Regardless of your content past, ’tis the season to commit to giving the gift of great content in 2015 and beyond. Here are 10 items you’ll most likely find on your audiences’ wish lists.
1. Don’t try to impress. Be humble and helpful.
Are you creating content just to seem smart or relevant? If so, please stop.
Crowing about your next-generation, industry-leading awesomeness will only leave your audience feeling like a third wheel next to you and your ego.
Ditch the ego, and let your audiences decide your worth. Share knowledge and ideas freely—with your prospects at the center of your subject-matter universe—and you’ll demonstrate your passion for helping people expand their knowledge and improve their game.
2. Be transparent.
I understand the temptation to hurry your prospects through the sales funnel by promoting your brand in your content. Everyone wants to see a return on the content they produce. But here’s the thing: B2B content is a crummy vehicle for sales.
Most business professionals are slow and deliberate about making purchasing decisions, they recoil from aggressive marketing, and they have a keen nose for B.S. The last thing they want is bait-and-switch content (a sleek headline, the promise of useful or entertaining information without strings, and a sales pitch at the end).
If you want to earn your audiences’ respect and trust, don’t try to close the deal too early. If you do, it will backfire on your brand.
3. Communicate clearly and error free.
Writers like me aren’t the only sticklers when it comes to grammar, spelling, syntax, punctuation, and sentence structure. Your prospects are a nitpicky bunch, too. They see silly mistakes, confusing verbiage, and disorganized thought as a sign of carelessness and/or incompetence. They’ll make the unfortunate association with your brand. In an instant, the damage will be done.
“Write drunk and edit sober,” that famous line frequently attributed to Ernest Hemingway, is about the best (and most succinct) advice you’ll ever read. You’ll want to write without fear or shame, but you’ll need your feet firmly planted when you edit. And you’ll need to edit on multiple levels—everything from spelling and readability to organization and visual presentation. You can’t afford not to.
4. Serve ice cream, not whipped cream.
Your audiences want to digest something that’s hearty and satisfying—something that sticks with them for a while. Weightless and fluffy won’t do the job. It’s useless and forgettable.
Do anything you can to avoid rehashing well-worn topics. If you do, offer readers a unique perspective. Don’t just regurgitate facts; take a position. Provide credible support to shore up your material.
If you invest a little more thought and effort, you may wind up creating less content. But your content quality—the bigger concern anyway—will no doubt improve.
5. Make your content a two-way street.
Content writing isn’t copywriting. It’s conversation. Think of it as a running dialogue rather than a static presentation.
Make sure you’re speaking directly to your buyer personas in an easygoing, relatable way, as though there’s no one else in the room. Invoke shared knowledge and experiences. Ask for feedback and perspectives. Convey your desire to learn from your audiences, too. And mean it.
6. Take an intellectual risk.
The rest of your industry may be thinking or doing X, but you’re tired of seeing X. You’re bursting to do Y.
So do it.
Show what makes you a leader: confidence, expertise, and the courage of your convictions. Boldly go where others in your industry won’t. Welcome resistance and debate. Field questions and counter challenges like the happy warrior you are. Your audiences will appreciate it.
7. Take a creative risk.
Your prospects are getting buried in a growing heap of boring, uninspired, conformist content. The risk-averse B2B marketers creating it feel bound by current industry practices or perceived standards and expectations.
The best gifts, however, are the ones we least expect.
Give your audiences a happy surprise: an off-the-wall graphic, an intriguing hook, or a dash of self-deprecating humor. Trade in your corporate voice, your stuffy suit, and your torturous heels for passion, empathy, and authenticity—you know, the stuff that makes people laugh and nod in agreement and start to think of you as a trusted friend.
8. Emphasize good design.
Your content needs to be as user friendly and aesthetically pleasing as it is well written.
- Choose your image(s) wisely—no stock photos, unless you can haul them into picmonkey.com and add your own distinct touches.
- Pay close attention to colors, fonts, and white space.
- Be on guard for potential distractions, and eliminate them.
- Make your content easy to scan and easily digestible by breaking up monolithic paragraphs and using subheads and bullets.
9. Provide real value—every time.
Content that serves as a handy, useful reference has a good chance of easing your prospects into a closer relationship with you. If done and marketed well, an eBook or white paper may just be the incentive they need to trust you with their contact information.
When your prospects do sign up, continue to treat them with respect. Don’t flood their in-boxes. Only send them emails that are worth their time and attention. Your continuing purpose should be to lead your prospects down the path to improving their own lives.
10. Be your audiences’ biggest champion.
Work hard to understand your prospects. Be empathetic. Respect their feelings, concerns, and reservations—particularly when it comes to making leaps of trust (i.e., reaching out to do business with you) with their brand reputation and career aspirations hanging in the balance.
Ultimately, your content success depends on whether your audiences feel valued. If you show them the best side of your brand and make clear they are your raison d’être, they may just become ambassadors or clients. And these are the gifts that keep on giving.