Editor’s Note: Next Level Creative is a blog series that explores the artistic side of B2B content creation. We offer ways to level-up your marketing by unpacking the attributes of great storytelling across different media and channels.
This one’s for all you wordherders out there.
We writers know that B2B marketing content has a rep for being bland and buttoned-up. Most of us contribute to this ongoing stuffiness because we’re tasked with educating and persuading buyers in the most straightforward, corporate-speaky, risk-averse way possible. It’s practically tradition!
And who can blame us for playing along? We’re actually getting paid to write — holy moly, it looks like that English degree actually came in handy, after all — and we want to keep our jobs, so we color inside the lines.
But when taken to its extreme, there’s not much “best” about this best practice. This approach to content creation can lead to unimaginative, toothless copy that fits this predictable — and predictably bland — mold:
- Endless proclamations about “challenges,” “opportunities,” and “value”
- Statistics, presented in hand-wavey ways, to bolster our specific points of view
- References to at least two third-party sources (to check the “yes, we did some research” box for our editors)
- And somewhere within the content — no matter what it might be about — we link to web pages that shill our solution because B2B
The Problem With Predictability
It’s a reliable, if boring, storytelling approach – and it has its upsides. For starters, narrative templates demystify and accelerate the writing process. B2B readers expect stories to follow this format, too.
But the downsides are insidious. Somewhere along the line, the expectation of what digital B2B copy should be ossified into what digital B2B copy must be: no-nonsense, all right angles, jacket required.
These rigid expectations eventually breed problems for creators and their content, such as:
- Blog posts and ebooks wind up feeling “samey” and closely resemble all other pieces written on the topic
- It squeezes the spontaneity out of the writing process, leaving writers (and readers) sleepy-eyed and unchallenged
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Let’s take a closer look at why.
Don’t Be a Content-Marketer Lemming
Typically, ideating topics for blog posts and ebooks is informed by SEO keyword strategies, campaigns on the marketing calendar, and other business factors. This is totally appropriate; after all, we’re on the hook for contributing to our teams’ revenue goals.
But there’s a big difference between being a slave to convention and merely being its servant. The former eventually undermines creativity, content quality, and customer trust. The latter empowers us with the autonomy to craft stories that are truly tuned to our readers’ needs — which is, in fact, what we should be doing all along.
This independent thinking represents the difference between phoning in ho-hum content and crafting revelatory content.
Confessions of a Content Marketer
Doggedly following content-creation trends leads to trouble. Take that B2B content “sameyness” we mentioned earlier. Any seasoned writer knows why this kind of content plagues the web:
1. We’re Revved to the Red
Creators are under tremendous pressure to produce material quickly, often at scale, with scarce resources.
2. We Go for Easy Wins
Lacking a clear content strategy and desperate to publish content that’s timely, relevant, or SEO-friendly, we often seek out common or trending topics to write about.
3. We Join the Herd
The coverage on these topics is often already widespread on the internet, making research easy … which seemingly validates our decision to write about the topic.
4. We Get Lost In the Crowd
But this is a mirage. Instead of covering topics that build up our brands, we bumble into a content “echo chamber” where few — if any — of these stories have distinguishing information or value.
5. Welcome to the Content Quagmire
Here’s where things go sideways.
- Creatives take the low-effort route and write about what everyone else is writing about
- Since no one’s contributing anything new to the topic, everything goes Thunderdome
- Writers start ripping off each others’ content
- Implicit and explicit plagiarism is rampant
- A wave of paint-by-numbers blogs pour forth, all linking back to same three or four information sources
- The result: Hundreds of posts parroting the same talking points over and over and over
This practice isn’t just lazy — it’s radioactive. It blunts your creativity, brings nothing new to the conversation, impacts your brand’s reputation, and does no favors for your readers.
March to the Beat of Your Buyers’ Drum
There’s lots of ways to sidestep this unimaginative minefield. Here’s one: Instead of barfing out bandwagon posts powered exclusively by keywords, write content that celebrates specificity.
For instance, try writing blogs and ebooks that are precisely crafted to speak to:
- A specific buyer persona’s concerns…
- …within a specific vertical…
- …at a specific stage in the buyer’s journey
When you do this, you’re not broadcasting to the masses anymore; you’re communicating with the people who matter most. This requires a geeky deep-dive into understanding your prospects and their challenges. But the upside is enormous because it brings relevance and resonance to your content.
More on Specificity
Tightening this narrative lens requires a thorough knowledge of your Ideal Customer Profile — or better yet, your Ideal In-Market Customer Profile. And having access to miles-deep, rich buyer intent data can take your craft to the next level.
Regardless of how you obtain the knowledge, this intimate fluency flips the script on your content strategy. Suddenly, you’re not writing for an algorithm. You’re writing for real humans who need real help in making big decisions about real business matters. Now you’re doing worthy work.
Best of all, this content makes buyers feel seen and understood. When your content pulls off this magic trick, you look like a mind reader. Your brand knows your buyers … and your buyers know it and appreciate it. This is what trust looks like.
Don’t Be a Pontificator — Be a Revelator
Here’s a pro tip. Never think of yourself as a marketer. Try not to think of yourself as a writer, either. You’re an educator. You get paid to find data and info, digest it, synthesize it, and present it in ways that deeply resonate with readers. Your job isn’t to regurgitate information.
Your job is to deliver revelation.
Readers continually crave revelation, even though they don’t know it. They want to be surprised by new information. They want to think, Aha! or Now that’s a new take or I gotta tell someone about this. They want their minds to gasp with discovery.
We all want to feel smarter. When our brains detect something even slightly out the ordinary, our synapses go nova. The mind does a little dance. Finally, something new!, something different!, something that makes us say huh. This is revelation, and it’s a vital storytelling practice to master.
Think back to the list above that outlined the many downsides of following the content crowd. You’ll find no newness there, no surprise — and your readers won’t either. Take the path less chosen.
Be a Champion for the Reader
So what might this new North Star mean for your own content strategy and B2B copy? It means continually providing curiosity-inspiring, truly helpful information. It means getting out of your own head and assuming the role of the reader. What interests them? What pains them? What inspires them?
Don’t write what you want to write. Write what they want to read.
Stop with the algorithmically optimized blog posts. Find topics that actually mean something to your readers, or ask trusted SMEs to lend you a hand.
Get real. Break the mold. Deep dive on niche topics. Write a 1,500-word blog post about writing blog posts. Just do whatever it takes to spark curiosity and revelation in your reader. Dazzle them with your expertise and fluency in their concerns.
Make them feel seen. Make them say Aha.
So to recap:
- Don’t contribute to the B2B content echo chamber
- Take your topics beyond commoditized SEO edicts and trending hashtags
- Invest genuine effort into understanding your buyers
- Double-down on grokking the concerns of specific personas within specific verticals at specific stages of the buyer’s journey
- Relentlessly cater to readers’ needs
- Continually strive to deliver new information or new perspectives in your content
- Create memorable revelatory moments, which spark a sense of satisfaction in the readers’ minds
It’s not mission-critical that readers remember every word of your blog post. But it’s vital that they remember the experience of reading what you wrote — the fresh topic, the delight of revelation, the unique perspective, the magic trick of making them care.
If they remember those things, they’ll be back for more content. And that means you’re doing the most important part of your job: standing out and earning their trust.
Special thanks to Vic Bloyer, 6sense Senior Content Marketing Manager, for kickstarting this post with an insightful and inspiring conversation.