GoPro has it easy. Kitten rescues, crazy stunts, and swims with whales—the company is awash in content with incredible appeal. For B2B companies in seemingly “boring” industries, however, creating awesome content can be daunting.
Whether you’re a highly technical software company, a company that cuts pieces of string, or the people that make sure sewage stays sewage, you have a story to tell. B2B marketing strategies don’t need extreme mountain biking or base jumping to be effective. All companies—even those in boring industries—have the potential for great stories. It’s just a matter of teasing them out.
B2B content is expected to increase significantly in 2016. According to a Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs study, 76 percent of B2B marketers expect they’ll create more content this year than they did in 2015. Budgets are following suit, and more than half plan to spend more on content.
The reason behind the content increase is simple: Content works. Content marketing achieves important objectives for 89 percent of companies, according to an Ascend2 study.
Not all B2B industries have the overt content appeal of a GoPro, but that doesn’t mean the seeds of awesome content aren’t there. For every boring-industry myth out there, there’s also a path to great content generation.
Myth: Our industry just isn’t that interesting.
Tip: Think like a journalist.
On its face, a company that produces widgets to count thingamajigs might not be that interesting. But look a little deeper. Maybe the thingamajig counter CEO got the idea for a company while on a self-discovery trip in the Himalayas. Maybe your team includes an expert who has a knack for explaining how things work in easy-to-understand language. Maybe it turns out your thingamajig counter is better than the other thingamajig counters on the market because of an interesting engineering feat.
It’s a marketer’s job to put on a journalist’s cap, dig into what a company does and why, and think creatively about how to tell that story. Payson Petroleum, an oil and gas investment company, uses history to bring to life its current and future operations. Readers can learn about “the little oil well that could,” the oldest producing oil well in the world, which dates back to the Civil War. Through video content, the brand explains confusing oil industry jargon, like the meaning of a “Christmas tree” (a valve system at the base of a pump jack). Content like this intrigues and informs, much more effectively than the usual “About Us” page.
PrecisionLender, a company that provides commercial loan pricing software, focuses on helpful content. The company’s software solves a specific banking problem—how to better price commercial loans. But its content strategy transcends the pricing issue, explaining how to be a better lender and how to enhance customer relationships. Blog readers and podcast listeners get a taste of the company’s philosophy on key industry topics.
“If you engage with our content and say, ‘That makes sense to me,’ then you’re likely going to be a good customer for us,” says Jim Young, PrecisionLender’s director of communication.
Helpful content can also be highly visual. On Pinterest, email marketing company Constant Contact targets small business owners with a board filled with pithy, inspiring quotes from famous voices. As the company notes on Pinterest: “We could all use a little Monday morning inspiration to get the day started from time to time (or maybe for you it’s Friday afternoon motivation?). Which quote will be your motto this Monday?”
Constant Contact doesn’t clutter the message here with sales pitches or calls-to-action. Indeed, some Pinterest users might see the content and repin just because they like the quote. But the target audience—small business owners—might see the feature, like the company’s helpful vibe, and want to learn more. The helpful, inspiring seed might grow into a lead.
Myth: Our industry is too technical for good content.
Tip: Use analogies.
Even industry experts want a break from technical jargon sometimes. By using relatable analogies, marketers can help explain complex subjects in more interesting terms and win over subject matter experts and novices alike.
As a non-bank guy in a sea of bank nerds, PrecisionLender’s Young finds that asking company experts to explain topics to him helps him come up with creative analogies. Instead of charts and numbers, he’ll look to the The Wire or Seinfeld to colorfully describe banking practices.
Highly visual analogies have a strong impact, too. In one blog post, PrecisionLender’s CEO Carl Ryden described Stephen Covey’s famous “big rocks” illustration. Taking out a jar, Covey places big rocks in the jar first, adds smaller pebbles, and finally pours in sand. Covey then explains that the contents only fit in the jar when the largest rocks are added first. The CEO suggested that the analogy works for banks, too. Failure to tackle the most important issues first could hurt banks in the long run.
This approach doesn’t spell things out for the reader—you may not get the technical specificity you’d find in a whitepaper. But that’s the idea.
“You don’t quite connect all the dots for the reader, but you connect quite a few,” Young says of the analogy approach. “When readers make the last connection themselves, I think it has more impact.”
Myth: Our industry is too conservative for creative content.
Tip: Know your boundaries.
If you’re a business in a more conservative industry, avoiding BuzzFeed-like irreverence is probably good thing.
“What you put out there has to reflect what you want your company’s image to be and the culture of the market you’re trying to reach,” Young says. “You want to make yourself approachable but not too casual. You want to make yourself interesting, but you don’t want to lose gravitas in the process.”
That said, companies in more conservative industries can still push for more “fun” at the margins. General Electric usually keeps its content focused on the science behind its products, eye-opening stats, and interviews with excerpts. But occasionally, a tweet or Facebook post will break ranks and take a quirkier angle. For example, a recent tweet aimed at recruiting talent involves orcs and elves “trolling” their friends to get an in.
Your brand may never produce GoPro’s adrenaline-pumping content, but you don’t need to. By focusing B2B marketing strategies on what makes your company interesting and compelling, you can create the kind of content that forms the cornerstone of successful content marketing.