Is your B2B content marketing a complete waste of time?

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Published Jun 14, 2013 | Written by Jeremy Knight

It's a truth universally acknowledged: some people just shouldn't be allowed to choose their own clothes, others shouldn't be allowed behind the wheel of a car, and still others shouldn't be put in charge of mixing a decent cocktail. Horses for courses, as the saying goes.

Yet many businesses get wrong- footed every day by trying to “do” B2B content marketing when they are simply not geared up for it. Like a rookie barman seasoning a Bloody Mary, the end product is likely either to be bland, repellent or simply left untouched.

You may think you'd never hear me say this, but some businesses should seriously consider whether they're not wasting their time doing B2B content marketing at all. Here's some characteristics that the quadrupeds in question may exhibit.

The underinfluencers

It's a harsh fact to admit, but if yours is the kind of organisation where the CEO doesn't buy into Marketing's ideas, just don't bother with the content stuff – it's an almost total waste of your (and the business's) time. As the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) reveals, organisations without C-level buy-in are three times more likely to fail at content marketing. Those are not good odds, on any horse.

Want to make the move from marketing underinfluencer to marketing overachiever? Getting senior types on side is absolutely critical. They need to care about B2B content marketing the same way you do. Take a leaf out of Adria Saracino's blog and learn how to “pitch it right.” It's never going to be an easy exchange, but if you want to hit the gallop, you've got to be prepared to dig in your heels.

The slowcoaches

So many companies fail in their B2B content marketing simply because they are too damned slow. This doesn't necessarily mean they are lazy – in fact, it can mean they are over-meticulous. But, when it comes to content creation, as the CMI’s Joe Pulizzi again comments, “As much as I hate to say it, speed beats perfection in most cases.”

So how can businesses move out of leaden and into lightspeed? Well, agile is as agile does – so consider adopting a project management philosophy for your content writing (and, in fact, across your entire marketing mix) that does what it says on the tin. Sprint, scrum, and fall off early rather than getting thrown off later on. If it works for some of the world's most complex software engineering projects, it can work for your content, too.

The monologuists 

This is one for all those businesses who “want to join the conversation” - because the reality is they actually want to dominate it (“oneversationalism”, as we put it in a recent post). Content marketing expert Barry Feldman explains: “...joining the conversation is a commitment. You can’t just talk. You have to listen...Content marketing isn’t about adding words. It’s about adding value.”

Now take a look at your business. Does it have a mechanism for recording customers' feedback and using this to improve the next generation of marketing collateral? Does it practise “social listening” to help drive its content marketing? Does it base its content marketing plan on the themes and “hot topics” that are clearly of interest to its customers (which, as I have paraphrased elsewhere, is the only way you're ever going to get their attention)?

If the answer to these things is no, your business's content is likely to garner about as much attention as the horsey man with the tweed cap and shouty megaphone at the village fete.

The synergy deniers

Content marketing goes back at least to 1900 and arguably a long way beyond that. But because the terminology is new, businesses have tended to treat it as a new discipline and so have somehow accepted that they will have to fumble their way through it with little prior knowledge and few opportunities for current synergy.

Nothing could be further from the truth. As one commentator noted, B2B content marketing is mature enough to draw on a wealth of both established and burgeoning fields like psychology, sociology, behavioural economics, and even, “gawd forbid, marketing...”

But how many times a week does your business actively bring people together for cross-disciplinary discussion? Or even people with different kinds of expertise in the same department? I suspect you could count it on the fingers of one hoof...

From the horse's mouth...

So am I serious about this? Should some businesses seriously just not do content marketing? Well, that's not quite what I'm saying.

B2B content marketing has a place in your business's marketing mix. But much like everything else in life, there are effective ways of doing it and ineffective ways of doing it. More critically still, moving from the first state to the second often isn't just a question of improving the content itself. Instead, it's a question of challenging cultural, organisational and behavioural norms within both your team and others.

Your business's content can evolve into a true thoroughbred. Unfortunately, getting there requires dealing with some stubborn mules along the way.

Image by: Luis Argerich

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Published by Jeremy Knight June 14, 2013
Jeremy Knight