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Brad Smith

3 Reasons Your B2B Content Falls Flat

Brad Smith
3 Reasons Your B2B Content Falls Flat

B2B content has the unfortunate responsibility to be both interesting enough to grab attention, yet useful enough to drive some business KPIs.

While most consumer-facing companies can get by purely on entertainment alone, B2B companies have to stick with some fact-based information to be able to persuade and eventually get their readers to take action.

And therein lies the problem.

Because while intentions might be good, most B2B content is either dreadfully dull to readers, or utterly unhelpful to your business.

You can have inspiring and entertaining content, but you’ll need to try and avoid the following 3 pitfalls many B2B content creators make.

Reason #1: You’re Moving Too Fast in the Relationship

Many corporate blog posts top out around 300 words.

And while it seems like they’re trying to be concise at first, you quickly realize the real reason is that there’s simply nothing left to say.

They rush straight into the punch line, without setting the scene first. There’s no buildup, no seduction, and no foreplay (you know, in a purely professional, consensual sort-of-way).

The problem is that many times, the punch line doesn’t resonate with new casual readers. It doesn’t grab their attention, or get them interested, because they can’t empathize with what they’re reading.

When you think back to 3rd grade for a minute, you’ll remember the storytelling arc that builds drama and tension before climaxing (again, nothing kinky) into the resolution.

All content marketing – whether we’re talking about advertisements, emails, social updates or blog posts – should follow the same storytelling arc.

Instead of rushing straight to the punch line and losing half your readers, you should follow an old copywriting formula: PAS (Problem-Agitate-Solution).

This means you start first with identifying the main problem that these people might be struggling with. Then you bring up examples, anecdotes, statistics, and other evidence to agitate that problem and get readers to buy-in. Last but not least, you can solve or relieve this tension by explaining how to defeat this problem (and subsequent pain points once and for all).

And subtly position your company as the best possible version of that solution.

Reason #2: You’re Selling the Product, Not the Result

Only 1-2% of people are going to buy something from your website (roughly speaking).

That means MOST of the people coming to your website have no intentions of making a purchasing decision that day.

Many of those people visiting your site for the first time have likely never heard of you before and have absolutely no idea that they even need you in the first place.

Which means all of that content on your website about your company or your products, is going to be largely ignored.

If your website visitors aren’t problem-aware, or even brand-aware, then what makes you think they care to hear about your sales pitch yet?

So what are you supposed to write about and sell, if not your products?

Sell the holes, not the drill.

Although it’s a consumer example, Lowes Creative Ideas does this literally with a rich, content-driven site highlighting all the various projects and solutions that their products enable.

A great B2B example is Wistia, which regularly pumps out insanely practical, easy-to-follow guides and in-depth information to help marketers get the most out of their video production.

One of the most valuable things about this type of content is that it gives your readers a compelling reason to come back to your website again and again and again. In marketing-speak, that means more returning visits, more chances for re-purchases, and the greater opportunity for more referrals.

Now content goes from being a commoditized, line item expense to being an asset building tool that increases in value over the long-term.

Reason #3: You’re Using the Wrong Bait for the Wrong Fish

Most people can instantly tell whether the information on a website is written by (a) marketing people or (b) technical people.

In the first case, the page will be filled with endless clichés and fluffed-up business jargon that somehow manages to be both meaningless and exactly the same as every other competitor’s site.

In the second case, the page has to be decoded by an algorithm and translated with the help of a dense manual.

Obviously, both examples aren’t ideal. And they highlight one of the trickiest problems that many B2B organizations have to deal with.

Many times, you might be trying to attract or sell to multiple people within the same organization. That might include a Marketing Manager, the CTO, and the CEO – all of which are looking and judging your work based on very different criteria.

And what usually happens as a result is that there’s mismatch in messaging. The marketing manager wants to hear about tactics and other leading indicators. The CTO wants to hear about security, uptime, and functionality. And the CEO only cares about cost vs. expected return.

Each customer persona has different goals and worldviews. Which means they’re going to be interested and responding to different things.

It’s only after researching, testing and refining these personas that you can begin to figure out exactly how your messaging should work. And thus, what your content should reinforce.

Because a messaging mismatch is the Achilles' heel of understanding (1) which problems to agitate, and (2) how you uniquely solve them.

And if you don’t sort this out in the boardroom first, then your blog authors and copywriters will never stand a chance.

Does your B2B content solve problems, or does it fall flat? Let us know in the comments!

Brad Smith is a digital marketing strategist and Partner at Codeless Interactive, LLC, a digital agency specializing in delivering personalized customer experiences.

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