When it comes to B2B content marketing, we live in a free world. Or if not 100% free, at the very least a freemium one. Between old media trying to capture our eyeballs for advertisers and file sharers circumventing the sticky point of actually having to pay for stuff, we've been collectively conditioned to expect something for nothing. It's true for music downloads and it's just as true for B2B content.
For many of us of course, this is a jolly good thing. For example, I know that no matter how technical the subject I'm writing about, I'll be able to find a wealth of background material online for free. When I look back to the early part of my career, this would have been unthinkable. I would have been at the mercy of my client's resources and people, and everything would have taken so much longer.
THE CURSE OF SEO AND THE DELUGE OF CRAP CONTENT
Of course, if I can find this stuff, so can everyone else. The SEO arms race has, over the years, driven more and more Google-optimised B2B content marketing which, while meeting the needs of their algorithm, hasn't served the rest of us that well. The result is that there's been a deluge of crap B2B content marketing that ticks all the boxes except the one that really counts: delivering value to customers.
Now with the Panda updates the pendulum is swinging back towards quality. However, we shouldn't kid ourselves that all the dross will be neatly removed at the flip of a switch within the Googleplex. Sadly, it doesn't work that way.
VALUABLE B2B CONTENT MARKETING – WHAT DO THE ANALYSTS KNOW THAT YOU DON'T?
As an industry, we need to set the bar higher. We shouldn't simply be thinking: if my customer stumbled upon this content, would they read it? We need to be thinking: If there was a price tag on this content, would a customer pay for it?
Now I know what you're thinking: Are you nuts?!
Maybe. But before you consign me to a nice padded cell, remember that buyers still regularly pay for B2B content marketing (it just doesn't look like the content we're rapidly coming to despise). Look at the price tag on most analyst reports and you'll quickly see the kind of content your customers value. So what is their secret?
- They've invested in creating content brands (unsurprising as it is their business to a large extent)
- Their content has authority – their people really do know their stuff and this comes through in everything they produce
- They're well researched, often using primary research and interviews to offer something buyers can't get elsewhere
- On the whole, they're not trying to sell anything – sponsored reports step up to (and occasionally across) the line, but most reports offer a reasonably impartial view of a market and business issues it faces
- They simplify based on deep knowledge (rather than dumbing down because they have no other option)
- And they present clear recommendations about what readers should do next
A RECIPE FOR B2B CONTENT MARKETING SUCCESS?
It's a far cry from the painfully transparent – 'Here's 5 reasons why you should buy our product' – and the desperately irrelevant – '7 ways supply chain management is like Led Zeppelin'. While analyst reports are not always the easiest, most entertaining read, the value is clear an unequivocal. Now, imagine the results if you'd get if you team up this level of value with a more engaging, more accessible style of delivery. Then we'd really be onto something.