… and other content marketing myths worth dispelling

This past June, I had the pleasure of being invited to join a CXM tweet jam organized by the fine folks in this publication’s editorial department.

The topic seemed benign enough. But when you think about it, the question is broad and deep — one likely to keep marketers awake at 3 am. How can brands stand out in a sea of content?

I’d be lucky to sit at a roundtable with the people I got to share ideas and experiences with, including Ahava Leibtag, President at Aha Media Group, Andrew Meyers, Director of Content Strategy at Tahzoo, Carla Johnson, President at Type A Communications, Cameron Uganec, Director of Marketing at Hootsuite, Dennis Shiao, Director of Content Marketing at DNN, James Goldman, Digital Consultant at Razorfish, Krista LaRiviere, Cofounder & CEO at gShift and Patricia Mejia, CMO at Siteworx. 

'Aren't You Bored?'

When asked for examples of content marketing success, I mentioned GE – for its ability to get me to follow an Instagram full of photography of infrastructure. 

I always have particular respect for B2B marketing successes or the content marketing successes of non-consumer brands.

It’s tough out there for the B2B marketers and content strategists, not just because they’ve got more personas to cater to and a greater creative challenge.

If my experience is in any way representative, they’re also facing an average of two questions a week regarding how “boring” their job  is. 

I don’t expect this misconception to be addressed overnight, but I’m writing down my responses in an effort to streamline what’s now become a repetitive process.

Constraints drive creativity

How do you maintain a sense of humor when you’re addressing a FinTech company looking to spend millions on an integrated martech ecosystem? How do sell industrial cables in a way that’s friendly, accessible and trustworthy? How do you change office culture with a collaboration app?

The constraints of B2B force us to really examine the goals behind our communication. Narrowing our choice of subject matter, tone, vocabulary —  mean creativity can never stray too far from business strategy. But that doesn’t stem creativity.

And there’s beauty in this sort of creative process. It’s like haiku: when you’re allotted so few syllables, half of the poem’s impact comes from the careful process of selecting those particular words. 

You can’t easily dive into your own life experience

Some truths about quality, customer service and trust in a brand’s reputation and expertise are universal whether you’re buying an aircraft carrier or hair dryer (I presume).

But without undermining the complexity or nuance of powerful consumer marketing, you just can’t often take the shortcuts of anecdotal experience in B2B.

Because it’s rare than an individual makes the decision. Depending on the product there are task forces, committees, departments or boards. 

There are external consultants and analysts. They all play unique roles in relation to one another in the decision-making process.

As a B2B marketer, your creative challenge involves understanding the permutations of roles, challenges and influence of these different stakeholders. Trust me, it’s fascinating.

You’re understanding the politics behind complex decisions

There’s amazing psychology, art direction and strategy behind making me loyal to a particular shoe brand, coffee chain or boutique exercise class that might be going public.

I don’t feel emotionally prepared to do the math and calculate the money that goes into these brand relationships over a lifetime of loyal shopping and brand interaction. 

But ultimately, these are individual purchases in the 10’s or 100’s of dollars. And as an individual, I make many of these decisions impulsively.

With the customer journey of selecting say, an enterprise Web Content Management System (WCMS),  which is ultimately made up of the many customer journeys of various stakeholders, you’re watching a political process unfold. It’s your job to address all these individuals at the right moments. 

You’re engaging your whole organization to address your customer

One of the ultimate B2B marketing quotes (though it’s more universal than that) comes Forrester Analyst Jeff Ernst.

Ernst points out “in the age of the customer, business buyers don’t “buy” your product. They 'buy into' your approach to solving their problem.”

To differentiate, businesses must demonstrate their expertise in addressingthe higher need behind a purchase.

When that higher need is transformative for a multinational company, it’s marketing’s job to harness the knowledge of subject matter experts across departments. 

To those in Boston in early December, I’ll be sharing my experiences in “Lean Content Marketing with Developers” at this year’s Gilbane Conference. From product, to customer service, helpdesk, accounts and sales – each department should contribute to the content marketing agenda with their particular understanding of customers’ challenges and needs.

The slow sell takes finesse

No sales rep likes a long sales cycle. Fair enough. 

But there’s something about developing that customer journey, building the trust of a potential customer company through research and thought leadership that appeals to the nerd in me. When large companies make big decisions, those decisions are slow and deliberate-- and extremely informed.

There’s due diligence. Passing those tests is extremely validating, and a testament to great understanding of customers’ challenges and how to address them with a solid product and great communication.

Bench Accounting’s Cameron McCool offers a few more tips for “boring” brands here — but the short answer is: working in B2B isn't boring — the unimaginative question is

Title image by Lechon Kirb.