3 easy ways to help your B2B content cut through the noise
B2B copywriter David McGuire shares some tips to make your content stand out to busy decision makers.
It’s a boom time for B2B content. With face-to-face channels out of the window, marketers have diverted budgets into writing, creative, videography and design – making all sorts of new assets to carry their messages to market.
But that deluge means your content needs to work harder than ever. Content fatigue is a real issue, as B2B stakeholders have so much more to wade through.
It’s no wonder that the introductory roundtable for the Propolis Brand and Content Hive included “How do you make content compelling?” among the leading challenges facing its members. There’s a lot of noise, so it’s difficult to be heard.
If you’re wondering how to differentiate your content, here are three simple suggestions. They’re not foolproof, but in most B2B markets they’ll go a long way towards setting you apart from the crowd.
1. Make it more targeted
Your reader is most likely to engage with content when they know it’s speaking just to them. So you can make your content stand out among a set of similar pieces by being that little bit clearer about who you’re writing for.
The trick is to zoom in one or two steps further than your competition. So if they’re writing about how a technology or approach is used in a vertical market, you can focus on the benefits for a certain job role within that sector. Or for the person doing that job within a certain size of company. Or for the person doing that job, in a certain size of company, facing a specific challenge.
(Heck, you can even target by psychography. I once wrote an eBook targeted at people in a particular job role, at the early stages of making a certain decision, and feeling a certain way about that situation. It went on to become the company’s top-performing piece of content.)
It’s an extension of the principle that makes ABM so effective; by being more selective and targeted, you can speak more powerfully to your reader’s real concerns, challenges, pain points and state of mind.
And your audience knows it’s more relevant too. It’s the reason you’re reading this blog post on B2B Marketing, and not browsing a general site about all-purpose content.
2. Make it more helpful
If you’re focused enough to know your reader’s challenges, you’re well placed to actually try to solve them in your content. And a surprising number of B2B assets don’t do that.
If you look around your market and see bogus “thought leadership”, sales-focused product messaging, and advice that amounts to “buy our stuff”, then you can create a powerful point of differentiation just by publishing content people can actually use.
There are all kinds of ways you can bring that value. You can engage your subject matter experts to answer real-world questions or troubleshoot common problems. You can help your reader to learn something (in my experience, titles starting “How…” always perform well). You can review your data and publish useful statistics they can’t find anywhere else.
The point is, if your content can help your audience to do their job better, work faster or more easily, or get more recognition in their business, that value will shine through. They’ll be more likely to share it, link to it, and refer back to it. And the effect is cumulative, as they’ll probably pay more attention in future.
Look at each piece from your reader’s perspective, and ask what’s in it for them – what value will they get for their time? Because your competitors often won’t bother.
3. Make it easier to read
It sounds such a simple thing, but in most B2B markets your content can stand out a mile simply by being readable.
Between technical jargon, business buzzwords, and academic writing styles, the chances are most of your competitors’ content is a massive pain in the arse to read.
And that means you don’t have to go overboard – just do the basics well. A Flesch-Kincaid grade level of 10 is roughly as complicated as a broadsheet newspaper, but it’s still easily more readable than most B2B assets.
That makes a real difference because B2B decision makers are invariably busy. So when you give them content that’s faster and easier to read, it shows you understand their world. It also demonstrates you have the confidence in your expertise, so you don’t need to dress things up.
Don’t patronise your reader, of course. I’ve written at length here on B2B Marketing about how to simplify your copy without dumbing it down. The point is to mimic language they actually use every day – which is usually very specific about technical points, but structured in plain, simple sentences.
For instance, this blog post has a Flesch-Kincaid grade of 8.1. Hopefully you don’t feel it’s oversimplified; it’s just how I’d talk to you over coffee if live marketing events still existed.
Your secret weapon? Empathy
None of this is rocket surgery. No secret copywriters’ methods you can use to supercharge your content – besides, if I told you those, I’d have to kill you.
Usually, to differentiate your content, you just have to see it from your audience’s point of view. What information do they actually want? How relevant is it to them? How would they phrase the problem? And what would be a convenient way for them to consume it all?
Clear, engaging content, that answers a real problem, for a real person. In B2B, it’s still incredibly rare. And that means it’s all you need to stand out.
(Oh, and one final word to the wise: you might want to build a slightly longer lead time than usual into your content project. Every good B2B writer I know is swamped.)