One of the biggest issues in content marketing is determining what you should write about. In fact, the development of engaging content is one of the top challenges reported by B2B marketers. I recently wrote a blog post about why writing is a critical skill for B2B marketers, but being a great writer won’t help if you don’t know how to develop content that will catch and keep your prospect’s attention.

One of the things marketers learn when they choose to deploy a marketing automation system is that it takes a lot of content to fuel the engine. This means you need to shift how you think about content development in order to generate the right kind of fuel without overwhelming limited marketing resources.

First – disabuse yourself of these notions:

• Content is defined by big, heavy-production pieces such as white papers.

• Marketing content must focus on your company and products.

• Calls to action in marketing content must be sales offers.

Instead, consider the following:

• Prospects are busy, time is scarce – short content pieces can be used effectively.

• Choose to write about what prospects need to know, not what you want to say.

So, what do you write about if you don’t write about your company or products?

This is actually easier than you may think. There are three focuses for content that will serve you well:

• Educational content focuses on what buyers need to know to be able to think strategically about how to solve problems or take advantage of new opportunities to move their companies ahead.

• Expertise content showcases the business value your company brings that your customers can’t get anywhere else—even if a similar product is available down the street.

• Evidence content proves that your company walks your talk. It’s focused on the results your customers have achieved in partnership with you. Not feeds and speeds—business results.

[excerpt from eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale, page 96, 97]

If every content asset you develop fits into one of the above buckets, you’ll see engagement levels rise. One practice I use to develop content marketing programs is to focus on answering the questions prospects have at different stages in their buying process.

In the beginning, educational content that answers the question about why they should care about solving the problem or what will happen if they don’t solve the problem can be effective in moving your prospects to take action.

Think about what you can tell them that they don’t already know or may not have considered. For example, if they’ve created a workaround to keep from having to formally solve the problem what might they be giving up because they haven’t embraced change? Talk with your salespeople to learn what your customers’ existing situations were when they chose to buy from your company and what other issues the problem was causing. Write about those.

Consider creating a series of articles focused on answering the progressive questions your prospects have. If they just read your content about why they should care (and you swayed them) what question would occur for them next? Answer it. Repeat the process to create a series that strings together.

Aim for a length of 700 – 1,000 words each. Put them on web pages to reduce production time and cost.

Use your marketing automation system to monitor engagement and respond accordingly.

Oh, and that point about not mentioning your company or products? When the content is on your website they know who you are. It’s likely your logo is in the header. They can see your products if they want to as they’re only a click away. So take a flyer and write content just for them.

When you create contagious marketing content you can actually pinpoint your prospects’ interests based on which answers they’re reading. And, short content is much faster and easier to create than longer-form content. Think 4 articles instead of one white paper. Sure, toss in a longer piece every once in a while, but creating content as fuel means you need to look at it a bit differently to keep up with the volume requirements. Short can be meaningful as well, maybe even better than long.

The author has over 25 years of business management and marketing experience to help B2B companies with complex sales create eMarketing strategies that use contagious content to turn prospects into buyers. Her book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale, was released in October 2009 by McGraw Hill.