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10 Ways B2B Content Marketing Goes Bad

Content marketing can help firms share their expertise online to build visibility and credibility among prospective clients, industry influencers, and other important audiences. More and more research demonstrates that successful B2B content marketing is tremendously effective from a business standpoint, driving growth and profitability for its practitioners.

Still, many firms struggle to make content marketing work for them.

Typically, firms run into a common set of problems. They may be pursuing the wrong strategy, using inadequate resources, or simply executing their strategy poorly, among other challenges.

So how can you avoid these stumbling blocks in your own B2B content marketing? Let’s get more specific and explore the top ten points of failure:

1. The wrong resources

For a B2B content marketing program to succeed, you’ll need a range of resources and skill-sets. At minimum, an effective program will require subject matter experts, SEO and marketing specialists, writers, and a project leader.

The importance of diverse skill-sets and clear leadership is underscored in the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs’ recent survey of B2B content marketers. The most successful firms had a leader in place to direct diverse talents toward a carefully thought-out end.

2. Misguided targeting – or no targeting at all

Maybe you know someone like this: the genius who has trouble explaining their thoughts or work to anyone but another genius.

When you’re talking about a point of unique, innovative expertise for your firm, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the technical. Sometimes, your blog posts might get so arcane that only other experts – or only your team! – could possibly understand what you’re talking about.

Remember: You’re targeting prospects, not peers. Make sure you stay accessible to prospects and write with their interests and needs firmly in mind.

3. Only one level of content

You can represent a thoughtful B2B content marketing program as a staircase, with different types of content targeting buyers at different stages in the buying process:

Webinars, for example, target a more closely engaged prospect than blog posts. Yet many firms miss a step in the stairs. Sometimes, they miss multiple stairs. It’s important to remember that content marketing is an organic process, with one stage leading naturally to the next.

4. Missing offers

The B2B content marketing process might look like a staircase, but audiences tend to need some guidance to move from step to step.

Clear, engaging, targeted, and visually appealing offers for the next stage of content lead blog readers to your premium content, or from premium content to a closer engagement like a webinar.  A content marketing program without a clear offer strategy leaves audiences adrift.

5. Inadequate promotion

These days, audiences find content through a variety of channels. Online search, social media, recommendations from friends and colleagues, and more. That means your content promotion has to target all the channels that matter.

Remember to promote your content robustly via social media and email. And remember that promotion takes many forms. Optimizing your content for search engine visibility is a must, and paid advertising can create new opportunities for your content to be seen.

6. Building a wall over your content

Remember the steps of the buying process? If you don’t attract an audience through content that’s free and easy to access, prospects can’t move up the steps.

But some firms get a little too eager to collect registration information and put too much content behind the registration wall. Alternatively, they ask for too much information – or simply make the process appear too complex, foreboding, or time-consuming.

When audiences hit this wall, they simply turn away – the hassle is more “cost” than they’re willing to pay.

7. Jumping on leads too soon

Some firms jump on leads before they’ve been properly nurtured. Like the previous problem, you could call this “skipping up the stairs of the buying process.” The temptation might be understandable, but skipping up the stairs means you’ll often land on your face.

A prospect downloading an ebook probably isn’t sufficient indication that they’re ready for a conversation. A prospect who has accepted an offer for a free personal consultation, by contrast, is further along in the process. Be patient and nurture thoughtfully.

8. Inconsistent timing and quality

Content marketing programs take time to achieve “critical mass,” accumulating an audience and credibility. Consistency and quality drive this process, and you can’t let either characteristic slip.

An inconsistently updated blog, for example, will not hold audiences’ interest. A shoddy one won’t grab that interest in the first place. Readers want to know what to expect and how regularly to expect it.

9. Generic, recycled content

You’re probably not interested in listening to someone say the same thing over and over again – especially if it’s something you’ve heard a hundred times before. The same goes for your audiences.

This is a major problem with constantly “syndicating” content from others – it leaves your firm with no character of its own. Speak in your firm’s unique voice about a diversity of matters relevant to your prospects and industry. Make your content specific, dynamic, and unique.

10. Content that sells rather than educate

This can feel counterintuitive, particularly to firms just starting out with content marketing. But it’s absolutely essential – in fact, it goes right to the heart of what B2B content marketing is and how it works.

Your content isn’t sales or marketing copy. It isn’t even about you, not in the traditional sense. It’s about your knowledge, your expertise, and because it’s offered freely, it helps earn the trust of your audience.

When a firm’s content is a thinly disguised advertisement, it stinks of dishonesty and condescension. Audiences see right through it, and they may begin to distrust the firm. By contrast, a sincere effort to inform and educate can form the backbone of a powerful ongoing relationship.

The difference between these outcomes illustrates something of the power of B2B content marketing. It’s an ongoing communication between a service provider and their audience, one that shapes brand perception and trust. When you avoid the worst mistakes of ineffective content marketers, you have the opportunity to secure your reputation as a leader in your marketplace.

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Lee Frederiksen, Ph.D. Who wears the boots in our office? That would be Lee, our managing partner, who suits up in a pair of cowboy boots every day and drives strategy and research for our clients. With a Ph.D. in behavioral psychology, Lee is a former researcher and tenured professor at Virginia Tech, where he became a national authority on organizational behavior management and marketing. He left academia to start up and run three high-growth companies, including an $80 million runaway success story.

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