Since 2008, we have seen B2B companies approach their content in three ways:

  1. They Deny that the new content and social rules of engagement apply to them.
  2. They Copy what B2C companies are doing but are frustrated with the results.
  3. They Invest in developing a content-centric ecosystem.

Only one of those approaches yields positive results. This post is about that one winning approach.

Content: More than words and pretty pictures

As you can see from the mind map image at the top of this post, content is not just a “marketing thing” or a bunch of words and pretty pictures on a website. It’s much bigger, more complex, and much more important, especially today as more decision makers use mobile devices to get information in simple, bite-size chunks.

In fact, if you take a closer look, you will see that content is a strategic business initiative that spans the entire organization. It’s a critical component to the future success of any business. Take it seriously because right now, leaders in your industry are being defined by the quality and usefulness of their content, not just their products or services.

So how does a B2B company create a content-centric ecosystem? Here are three steps to help lay the foundation:

1. Develop a Content-Centric Culture

In a recent post on the 5 Insights About the Rise of Content, Lauren Goldstein (@LaurenOnDemand) makes two very important points that I want focus on specifically for companies that may be struggling with this beast called “Content”:

  1. Everyone in an organization needs to be content-centric.
  2. The new content strategist should be second in command.

First, everyone has to be on the same page. C-level managers must first mandate a corporate culture that can support a content-centric organization. It has to start from the top otherwise it will fail. Secondly, qualified content thinkers and creators must lead the charge.

Honestly, what good is a content strategy if you don’t have qualified people or a corporate culture to support it?

2. Climb the Two Content Mountains

For the B2B company seeking ways to create a content-centric ecosystem, Education and Resources will be the two biggest challenges. Why? Because most B2B companies are traditionally focused on R&D. Since many SMBs do not have internal marketing resources, there is a natural inherent lack of “content knowledge” and a lack of skilled “content creators”. No wonder content is almost always an “after-thought”, or in some cases, a “no-thought”. This is why B2B marketing is traditionally bland and boring.

To be successful at generating useful content for your potential customers, you have to be committed to making your content work for them (not you!), so get educated and ramp up by integrating your company with skilled people that have the know-how your market demands.

Start by creating your own mind map like the one above. Doing that will clarify what talent and knowledge you need.

3. Learn from Successful Companies


If you’re going to copy, copy what successful B2B companies do. SAP, Intel, and Cisco, have been advocating content-centric communication within their organizations for years. They have fostered a content culture where everyone is considered a voice of the company and therefore a potential publisher of content that supports that voice.

Take SAP, for example. Notice how every touch point in their buying process – from video, to social, to collateral – is fresh, consistent, connected, and unified. It all hums along like a fine tuned machine because SAP’s content experts put serious thought into planning how to best communicate SAP’s unique value. It’s what we marketing people call being “On-Brand”. Being On-Brand is good.

Think about it. SAP is a complex organization with complex products. They could have easily done what everyone else does: copying and pasting reams of technical mumbo-jumbo onto their website leaving it up to their visitors to figure out. But B2B companies like SAP are simplifying the complex by producing unconventionally engaging and useful content – content that simplifies the purchase journey and creates supply chain love.

It’s not rocket science. It just takes effort and commitment.

Good News & Bad News

First the bad news: There are no short-cuts. There is no secret sauce. B2B buyers are now being influenced by social, mobile, and video content to help them make procurement decisions. At some point, B2B firms will have to deal with their lack of knowledge and lack of resources in order to accommodate their audience’s content-centric mindset. It’s not going away, so change or be changed.

Now the good news: You don’t have to be a large enterprise like SAP with massive marketing budgets to create a successful content-centric ecosystem. It’s actually much easier to create it before you get that big. What’s important is that you start to develop it sooner than later because you will need it to compete in today’s content-centric business world. In fact, why not start now?

Your turn

How does your company approach content? Is content marketing changing the way your business gets noticed in your industry? Let us know below or on Twitter (@SterlingKlor).