How to Develop Fresh Ideas for Your B2B Content Marketing Program
In B2B marketing, it can be difficult to think of content topics to write about on a monthly, or even weekly, basis, especially if you’re in an industry that has a lot of regulations or limits the type of information that can be shared (e.g. the financial services industry).
But having some challenges when it comes to creating effective and engaging content for B2B organizations doesn’t mean that your content should cover the same topics over and over. In fact, simply revising or rewording what has already been said can be more detrimental than not saying anything at all.
For instance, covering the same topic of “greenhouse gas emissions” in three different articles that essentially take the same approach is not going to hold your audience’s interest. If they pick up on the fact that all your articles are going to say the same thing, they aren’t going to come back to read more. They may move on to competitor content or seek out other publications with more variety.
For these reasons, it’s important to consider whether your content focus is too narrow and what you can do to overcome stale articles, blogs, or other pieces that don’t drive (and keep) audience interest.
Below are some of the issues that come with up with content that is too narrow, as well as tools, tips, and resources to breath fresh air into your topics:
How Knowledge Bias Affects Content Marketing Efforts
One of the primary reasons why content gets stale or stymied into one angle is because all of us are experts in our own business. Because we work in our organization day in and day out, we become familiar with the lingo, procedures, and information that goes with our work and industry. However, just because we know a lot about our industry or business, we shouldn’t assume that our customers, clients, or target audience knows the same information.
This challenge is called the curse of knowledge. It is a cognitive bias, which is a psychological term that means we operate according to our own experiences and beliefs, even though reality doesn’t always match up to what we believe to be true.
In the case of content creation, many marketers assume that because we know a lot about our industry, others looking to buy from us are just as educated on a topic. However, that simply isn’t the case, and the opposite is often true. Our target audiences are looking to us for insight and information about industry topics that they aren’t well-versed on.
Because there is a disconnect between what we know, what we think our audience knows, and what the audience actually knows, our content can come across as stale and uninteresting, simply because we haven’t been challenged to think of it in a new way.
Below are some questions and resources to help B2B marketers approach content marketing differently:
How and Why It’s Important to Broaden Your Horizons
To get past the curse of knowledge, we as marketers must think beyond the industry we are in as we know it. All of the normal activities we do within our job and organization – from trade shows to handling customer service requests – must be set aside to begin to think about how we can change our perspective on what we have to give our audience. Once we learn how to fold in new viewpoints, slants, and filters, we can layer on our regular experiences to see them in a new light.
Here are some of the areas to look at first:
Bring in Different Viewpoints
Does the same person (or team of people) write all of your blog content? Because each person has their own unique writing style and process, it can be easy to get into a rut of doing the same types of content over and over. Bring in new writers, guest bloggers, freelancers, or people from other departments to write content that offers more varied perspectives and opinions.
For instance, someone who works in sales, and therefore talks to clients and prospects directly, is going to have a different thoughts on a topic from someone in marketing, who rarely speaks with clients one-on-one about their concerns, challenges, and interests.
Consider International Perspectives
If your business is international, or has offices globally, consider tapping into those colleagues’ perspectives. To reach international employees, send out an email to a few colleagues that you know would be good writers or contributors to your website. If you aren’t sure who could be a good contributor, consider asking managers if they have someone in mind or send out a company email, or message on the internal network asking if anyone would be interested.
Try to frame it as low-involvement and low-pressure and highlight the benefits of contributing, such as writing pieces for their portfolio, a new way to share their expertise and contribute to educating buyers, and a way to shake up their existing routine.
How to Find What Users are Searching For Online
Beyond getting some fresh perspectives and viewpoints into your published content, you can also fight the curse of knowledge by figuring out exactly what and how your target audience is searching to find your website. We’ve discussed this approach in the past with other content marketing articles, but it bears repeating since assuming that you know what your audience wants to read about doesn’t always lead to successful content marketing.
There are several tools available for finding keywords and key phrases users are searching for in your industry. Some of the top tools for researching are:
- Answer the Public
- Paid search tools, like SEMrush, Moz, and Raven Tools
- Word clouds
- Hashtag tools, such as Hashtagify
Use these tools to help you understand how (and what) users are searching in your space and develop insights on how you can provide better answers for them.
Tracking Key Phrases
Once you uncover what phrases users are looking for, you can start tracking them to get content ideas. Keep a spreadsheet of phrases you want to review regularly. Some tools, like the paid SEO tools mentioned above and social media tools like Sprout Social, will allow you to save phrase searches so you don’t have to manually type them in each time. You can also set up free Google Alerts to get emails when new content is indexed that contains your tracked phrases.
Social Mention is a good manual tool to track phrases across social media and discussion boards (like Reddit). Buzzsumo can also show you what content is popular on social media for particular phrases, so you know what angles and topics are popular.
If your B2B industry isn’t very popular on social media, you can still use your SEO tracking platforms to see when new content is being published, as well as the tools mentioned above to see what people are actually searching.
Look at Paid Search and Site Queries
Data from the aforementioned tools are great, but don’t forget your own data as well! If you are running paid campaigns, ask the paid search team for a list of top-performing keywords. This can show you what keywords have the highest click-through rate, which can correlate to user interest.
Additionally, if you have a search option on your website, ask your developer if they can pull that query data on a monthly basis. This data is often surprising and may unearth a few content options that marketers didn’t consider before (or know visitors were interested in).
What Your Existing Audience Really Wants to Know
All of the data we’ve discussed thus far is largely from potential buyers, which is important, as you’re trying to engage them. But, you should also be leveraging your existing audience to see what got their interest in the first place, as well as what has kept their business during your relationship. There are a few ways that you can tap into your audience’s “hive mind” to see what they like in terms of what you have to offer.
If you regularly hold research or focus groups as part of product development, see if you can work with that team to have a session to focus on gathering insight about your content and what users want from you.
It’s also fairly easy (with some planning) to hold your own focus group if it’s not something your company does regularly. You can ask clients specifically what content they expect to see from you, as well as topics they’ve always wanted to know more about but haven’t had the opportunity to research. The direct, honest insight you’ll receive from a focus group can give you a detailed look at just how much clients know about your industry.
Existing Audience Surveys
If you don’t want to do something as in-depth as a focus group with one-on-one time with your clients, consider something less intensive, like an audience survey. Sent out to your email list, this survey can offer an incentive, perhaps something as simple as an entry to win an Amazon gift card. Be transparent, let recipients know how much time the survey will take and how the results will be used. Saying “Take our 5-minute survey to win a $100 Amazon gift card!” sounds a lot more enticing than “You could win a gift card by taking our survey.” Be specific with prizes and involvement requirements to increase your click-through rate (and stick to your promises!).
Consider asking questions that address existing customers’ experiences before, during, and after their experience with your company, including:
- What do you wish you knew when you became a client of ours?
- What did you have the hardest time finding answers on?
- What topics would you like to learn more about? (multiple choice might be helpful here if you’ve researched options using the tools mentioned earlier in this article)
Be grateful for any feedback you receive, no matter how small or simple it may be. The answers will help you put yourself in the customer’s shoes and bring new perspective to your content development efforts.
Utilize User-Generated Content
Surveys and focus groups can also be a great way to gather user-generated content, which can help you discover out what they see as the advantage of your company, as well as what users find the most interesting or useful. It may not be what you think!
Here’s an example that illustrates the importance of gathering customer feedback.
Let’s say you are a scientist that has spent the last two years developing a new commercial quick-drying spray paint. Your team has allocated significant time and resources to develop a quick-dry spray paint, which you’ve decided will be your star product over your “normal” commercial spray paint, which you have sold for the last 25 years. Your original product has a solid reputation and receives good reviews on its consistency and shine, so you have faith that all the time spent on this new product will have the same appeal.
Because you are excited about your new product, you start to only focus on what’s new about it. It’s easy to forget that what customers originally liked about your spray paint was how even the coats were, and how shiny the paint was once it dried. Since you’ve put energy into the new “quick dry” focus, you may not have ensured that the new paint is just as consistent and shiny as the normal product line.
As a result, for a product launch that you think will help your company double its profits and become the leader in commercial spray paint, it backfires because people weren’t looking to your brand for quick-drying paint. They wanted consistent coverage that looked professional. As a result, customers are now upset and feel like you have changed for no reason other than innovation.
This is why getting customer feedback about what they want, instead of what your team feels they should want, is so crucial for brands.
Here are some ways that customer feedback is helpful specifically for B2B content marketing:
- Reviews and Testimonials: Utilize your focus groups or customer surveys to gather reviews and testimonials about your products or services. Ask customers what they love and what they hate. It may be the opposite of what you were expecting. Take what they struggle with and turn it into tutorial content. Take what they love and promote content about that topic (once it’s created) since you know customers are already pleased with it. Creating content about polarizing topics (hate versus love) is always good for social media, website traffic, and engagement.
- Ask Your Audience for Tips: In addition to their love and dislikes of your offerings, they may be using your products or software in a completely new way. Ask for their feedback on what they use your company for most and then create content around those new suggestions. Just because something isn’t used the way it was intended, doesn’t mean it doesn’t work, as long as it’s still safe and legal!
It can be uncomfortable to admit that your content is stale. After all, acknowledging it means that you’ll have to do something about it. But consider getting customer feedback, researching how people really search for products in your industry, and letting other colleagues pitch in can help you take content from boring to useful, fresh, and worth the read.
Images from Pixabay.