Cloud storage, big data, manufacturing, healthcare, banking, pharmaceuticals — these aren’t exactly the types of industries that lend themselves to gorgeous Instagram posts, viral YouTube videos or laugh-out-loud listicles. For serious businesses selling to other serious businesses, the B2B space often leaves marketers scratching their heads about the best way to convey their brand’s value and make the message appealing. While the B2B Marketing 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America report showed content marketers know what successful content marketing is, only 30 percent said their organizations had an effective content marketing strategy. The proliferation of content on the web isn’t helping, since that percentage of effectiveness is down from 38 percent last year.
B2B brands need to remember what the businesses they’re marketing to are made up of: humans. Living, breathing humans who love to laugh, read things that are engaging, watch captivating videos and learn new things about their industries. Content marketing in the B2B space doesn’t have to be serious and boring to be viewed as credible. Here are three ways a “boring” brand with little immediate mass consumer appeal can make its content marketing efforts a little sexier.
1. Make your content accessible to a wider (read: mobile) audience
Before you even focus on the content itself, make your content accessible to the largest audience possible. That means you must create content using responsive design, so mobile audiences can read it with ease. The total amount of time spent with digital media in the U.S. grew 49 percent from 2013 to 2015, with digital media usage on smartphones growing 90 percent and usage on tablets increasing 64 percent, according to the online data firm comScore. Much of the growth is attributed to mobile apps, which claimed 54 percent of digital media usage.
No one wants to have to pinch and zoom on a smartphone or tablet to read your content. They will get frustrated and leave, thinking your brand isn’t as current as your competitors. Responsive design is good for search engine optimization, too, since Google announced in 2015 it’s rewarding mobile-friendly sites with better rankings in mobile search engines. Making sure your content can reach potential customers/clients while they’re on the go should be your first content marketing priority.
2. Look to your stakeholders for new writers and fresh content
The masses may not be thrilled by your industry, but your customers and employees are. Look to them to build up your content marketing efforts by empowering them to write, create videos and host Twitter chats for your business. Look through your current customer base for a few industry experts who would love an opportunity to contribute content and drum up excitement for your business.
One company that’s not particularly sexy but is doing meaningful things in the content marketing world is Kinaxis, a cloud-based supply chain solutions provider. The firm boasts nearly a dozen bloggers who regularly share their thoughts related to the supply chain industry as well as general business tips. The benefits of letting your biggest fans — your customers — help with your content marketing efforts include:
- Increased exposure. Contributors get a byline and a piece of content to share with their own audiences, which can increase referrals to your business.
- Spiced-up content. With a diverse array of topics provided by your team, your blog won’t run dry of content ideas and will attract readers with a wide variety of interests.
- Regular posts. Blogs that are updated only once every few months won’t garner the engagement to incentivize people to return on their own to see what’s new. By staying on the pulse of what’s happening in your industry, it reinforces your business status as a trustworthy source with content to look forward to.
You probably have people working for you who would produce stellar content if given the chance. Look to employees, other brands you partner with or respect, and your customers for content ideas and informative pieces.
3. Inject humor and emotion into your content
General Electric recognizes that not many people have a grasp on its impact on technology. The company created the funny, self-deprecating “What’s the Matter With Owen?” video series to attract developers to the company. The videos poke fun at the fact that getting hired as a developer for the company might make your friends and family happy for you, but they’ll still have no idea what you do.
As GE attempts to attract intelligent young minds to its workforce and solidify its position as a top manufacturing and digital company, it uses social networks to increase its appeal. GE houses its online magazine,Txchnologist, on Tumblr, a site whose majority of users in 2015 were ages 18 to 29, according to Pew Research Center. The magazine makes scientific topics appealing to audiences of all ages through GIFs and relatable, easy-to-understand copy. GE shows how its work fits into people’s everyday lives, making it a company that transcends the B2B space.
Every brand, even one that seems mundane at first glance, has the potential to spark interest with a thoughtful strategy and some engaging content. If you don’t know where to start when it comes to engaging an audience, here are a few tips:
- Help your audience solve problems — don’t just focus on selling to them. Think about the problems your brand solves and how that relates to better living, and create content around that.
- Make your content relatable and actionable. Offer tools, resources and examples from your own experience.
- Mix things up by creating a variety of types of content, such as infographics, videos and Slideshares.
- Speak to an everyday audience, even if it’s for people who know your industry inside and out, so it can reach more diverse demographics. Engaging others with generally useful content can lead to referrals and boost the brand’s reputation.
Finally, invite employees outside of the marketing department to join your brainstorming sessions and ask your current customers and social media followers what type of content they want. By involving others in strategy and working diligently to evolve your content marketing, “boring” B2B brands have just as much potential to become the next viral sensation.