By: Jim Everhart
There are more channels than ever to place B2B content. But what if you don’t have content to fill it? That’s the B2B content black hole.
You’ve probably seen it happen in your organization. You have a market plan approved. There’s a Facebook posting and some tweets scheduled. Email is planned. Maybe even a date for a PR release. You’re ready to go.
All you need is the content.
Except that there isn’t any.
Oh, sure, there’s the website and maybe some three-year-old (or older) white papers. A few ads. But good, usable content? Not really.
There are no technical pieces that show what you want to show and prove your core idea. No repository of good case studies that will give you the grist you need for your content marketing machine.
This is the moment in time when you discover you have just created a B2B content black hole.
So you go scurrying around trying to scare it up any way you can. You scrounge up bits and pieces here and there. Look at the calendar: Yay, it’s Earth Day!
Maybe you make do a few months. But then the B2B content black hole is back, like an insatiable shark, just looking for more content to gobble up.
We’ve had clients ordering their technical people to do one Twitter post a day, for instance. You can imagine how that turned out.
All of this brings us to a core reality of the new B2B marketing world: Content is king. No, really, I mean it … content really is king.
And having a marketing plan without having a solid core of content is a little like having a wedding without having a bride.
How did we get to this point? There’s no question that it’s a lot simpler in B2C: You don’t need deep technical insight to sell Coca-Cola or even the new Ford Fusion.
And doing a schedule of social media posts is a lot easier than doing the research you need to create that core or foundational resource.
After all, we call social media, email, PR and email “channels” for good reason. They are delivery mechanisms, ways to distribute content. But they are not the content itself, nor do they suddenly create it.
They are distribution methods, with each of them having special needs, special considerations. Like what makes a post go viral. Or allows an idea to capture a follower’s attention. Or is a cool idea.
But your social media activities are not the place to originate the content. Distribute, yes. Create, no.
For B2B marketers, especially those engaged in more technical subjects, identification of that core or foundational content may be very challenging, for a number of reasons.
In more technically oriented B2B industries, understanding the core or foundational content that will drive a 21st century content strategy requires a deep understanding of the technology (or technologies), as well as a sophisticated appraisal of the market opportunities your company is trying to take advantage of.
That usually requires significant amount of effort … as well as access to your technical people, sales reps, market analysts as well as any current research.
The easy answer, of course, might be to say that you could look to white papers, conference presentations or other high-level publications. While these are certainly a place to start, have these communications been generated around market opportunities? Some, of course, have been. But some may simply be the targets of opportunity your technical people were able to identify in conference agendas. And is someone actively creating the content that is needed to take you into the future? Not many B2B companies can confidently answer that question in the affirmative.
As a result, B2B content strategy and the resulting content marketing require more attention – especially compared to B2C content efforts – to the development of that core content, from which all the marketing materials will be derived.
I would suggest tackling this dilemma in the following way:
First, by all means, start with an inventory of existing content, both published and unpublished. Current and legacy. So you at least begin to understand the basics.
Second, conduct brief interviews (30-60 minutes) with some of your leading technical people. This will give you have a full understanding of your company’s role in the development of your industry’s technology … as well as a better understanding of where the technology is going and what role your company hopes to play in that development.
Third, touch base with sales reps and a small group of customers, so you can learn what customers are thinking and what they identify as their needs.
In this way, you can gain critical insight into your target industry’s evolution and future needs, helping you create content that will pique your customers’ interests and motivate them to engage in deeper discussions with your company about how you can help them solve their problems and meet their future challenges.
Content strategy, after all, begins with content. And in B2B, it could well require a major effort to understand the technology landscape and gain the insight that would shape an engaging content marketing program.