With the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) reporting that 66% of UK marketers expect that their organisation’s content marketing budget to increase in 2016, content marketing is an essential piece of the B2B marketing puzzle.
What’s more, buyers are more connected and more self-directed than ever before, which makes incisive, engaging content an important part of the buyer journey.
Here are eight top tips to help your content hit the mark.
1. Make sure you've got a plan.
Billions of pieces of content are published every single day on a multitude of channels. Having a plan that answers the what, who, where, when and how is the single most important thing you can do to make sure your content reaches the right people with the right messages in the right way and at the right time.
2. Take aim before you fire
Who are you writing for? Whether it’s the CEO, the CIO or the CFO, know your target audience and make sure your story talks to them and their pain points. You need to figure out what makes your reader tick, understand their needs and frustrations and find out what problems keep them up at night.
3. Be useful.
With so much noise online, it’s important that your article is genuinely useful, timely and relevant. It’s even better if you can tackle an issue that’s causing your reader a complete headache. For example, are their industry changes afoot that may have implications for your reader, let them know – well in advance – and make recommendations. Help them way up the pros and cons of two different products and services or tell them about a hot topic in the industry and why they might be missing out. If you can bring something new to the table, you’ve got more chance that your target audience will want to like, comment on or share your content with colleagues – all of which is crucial for gaining that head of steam with Google and your SEO.
4. Do your homework
If your article features research from a reliable source, journalists, data aficionados, thinkers, movers, and shakers are more likely to pounce on it. Statistics, pie charts and bar graphs give your article credibility and help it to pack a punch. Further, good research will lead to more click-throughs, better opt-in rates, more social media shares, better SEO results and more conversions.
5. Get to the bottom line
Every B2B reader has one thing in common – an interest in bottom line. Whether you’re talking about a new product, service, opportunity or risk, decision makers will want to know about cost and the implications for their budget. You might not have the exact figures, or indeed you might not want to give them out readily to customers or competitors. Nevertheless, it’s important to give some indication of value to address that all-important question of return on investment.
6. Use a subject specialist
If your client has an expert in the building, they’re probably using that expert to do great things, not just to write about them. That’s why, as a content writer I’ve become an office-chair expert in niche fields ranging from cloud security to digital distribution of Hollywood movies. Nevertheless, no matter how good your story-telling ability, that precious ten-minute phone interview with an in-house subject specialist can be worth its weight in gold. It’ll help you to develop an authentic, credible narrative that showcases the expertise of the business your writing for.
7. Apply the so what rule
One of the fundamental rules of writing compelling copy is to focus on benefits, not features. In other words, you have to go beyond selling a particular product and sell what it allows customers to do, because that’s what will spur prospects on to buy. This is particularly important in the tech sector which is awash with gigabytes, gigahertz and pixels. For example, people don’t want to buy web hosting; they want their websites always accessible to online visitors. They don’t want to buy cloud services they want to buy an infrastructure that can grow with their business. As the saying goes – features tell, but benefits sell.
8. Know the rules to break them
When it comes to grammar and punctuation, while not every reader will subscribe to the zero-tolerance approach to punctuation of the book ‘Eats Shoots & Leaves’, you’ve got to know the rules to understand the impact when you break them. Therefore realise that to deliberately split an infinitive, use full stops instead of commas or start a sentence with ‘but’ might annoy the grammar police. But, don’t let it get in the way of a good story or narrative flow. Never.
That said, increasingly, in my industry the craft of the proofreader or sub editor is becoming a luxury that clients don’t want to afford. Further, with spell checkers that often default to US spelling, at the very least you should ensure that you’ve got someone with a fresh pair of eagle eyes to read your piece before you press ‘publish’.