B2B Content Marketing has a ‘cry wolf’ problem

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Consider the facts: 78% of CMOs think custom content is the future of marketing; 82 percent of B2C marketers and 95 percent of B2B enterprise marketers use content marketing. The numbers aren’t surprising given the content explosion we see around us. The C word has entered common parlance of all marketers and agencies. B2B marketers, especially have taken to content marketing in some form. The belief (rightly so) seems to be that marketing to their prospective customers and influencers, especially in the enterprise segment, is different from consumer marketing. Carpet bombing of ads on TV and other mass media is not an option for many B2B marketers. The bets are on what is referred to as inbound marketing – defined by Wikipedia as ‘promoting a company through blogs, podcasts, video, eBooks, newsletters, white papers, SEO, physical products, social media marketing, and other forms of content marketing which serve to attract customers through the different stages of the purchase funnel’. Fundamentally, such marketing activities thrive on providing content which is of use to the prospective customer. The operative words being ‘of use’. In B2C consumer marketing, content need not necessarily be of use always – it could be pure entertainment too. But B2B marketing has little scope for entertainment – hence most content set out to provide something useful.

When crafting content for B2B companies, the most common objective seems to be to position that company as a ‘thought leader’ in the category. Such an objective is reasonable as being knowledgeable about one’s domain (or at least creating that impression) evokes a lot of positive feelings: trust, credibility and reliability to name a few. So one naturally sees a lot of ‘voice of authority’ articles in the B2B segment. Therein lies the potential ‘cry wolf’ problem.

In my view, in this quest to come across as domain experts, companies have unleashed a sea of articles & blog posts trying hard to establish that voice of authority position. Unfortunately, the emphasis is more on quantity rather than quality. So we end with ‘5 tips to improve office productivity’ type of articles which frankly, do not offer anything earth-shatteringly new. Such articles are commonly found across categories in company blogs and sponsored posts. In my experience, a majority of them have been run-of-the-mill, plain obvious stuff with very little genuine value addition. In any case, online media is full of such content (through listicles primarily) attempting to increase page views. Many of us have begun to take such articles with a pinch of salt or completely ignore them as they almost always are seen as ‘flaky’.

B2B content marketing is going down a similar path. In online media, the objective of such content is page views. With B2B content marketing, such content is inter-linked with a business objective. The articles are written for company promotion, lead generation, positioning it as a voice of authority and so on. So if the content is not truly valuable, the disappointment is that much higher. Worse, when a genuinely good content which truly adds value to the reader (be it a company prospect or otherwise) comes along it maybe clubbed mentally with the ‘flaky’ stuff and be ignored. An unfortunate ‘cry wolf’ moment.

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  • Good articles aimed at a specific business audience or need generally tend to be relevant for longer timeframes. Sometimes articles/posts written a year ago will continue to start conversations or provide leads. Perhaps it is time to look at how one measures relevance of such posts. The company needs to study what is more important: leads generated over a longer time frame or posts shared on social media.

    The tendency to be popular on social channels overtakes the need for relevance to the specific person who has a question a company can answer. Good B2B articles may be relevant to maybe just 1 person or even a number that is within double digits. Reaching them is not about just social but actually understanding what they need. Such articles may well be hidden in plain sight but when they are found, they are priceless to the reader and very valuable to the business.

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