If content marketing weren’t already a big enough challenge — between the hours spent creating and distributing great content and carefully testing and measuring how it drives profitable action — imagine what it’s like for B2B technology marketers specifically.
Sure, they’re tasked with many of the same responsibilities as other B2B content marketers. But the difference is they’re often educating an audience about deeply complex tech systems and software and nurturing leads through what tend to be pretty lengthy sales cycles. That’s not easy.
And as more B2B companies begin integrating proprietary technology into their service offerings (and as the Influence & Co. team continues to learn firsthand since we introduced our own software, ICo Core), the ways content marketers at those companies communicate with audiences will need to adapt. The best way to prepare and improve is to understand the field.
So how are B2B tech marketers faring?
In March, Content Marketing Institute released its annual B2B Technology Content Marketing 2016 Report, and while some takeaways reflect what we saw in an earlier report on B2B content marketing trends, the state of content marketing isn’t exactly the same in both categories. Here’s what we learned:
Despite the reported increase in content marketing practice and in strategy documentation, B2B tech marketers still don’t see high levels of success. Aside from the fact that content marketing success takes time, especially when marketing technology, what else could explain the lack of effectiveness?
B2B marketers of all types indicated a struggle with consistently producing content that’s engaging and with measuring content’s ROI. But in his analysis of this year’s trends, Joe Pulizzi cited a few potential reasons that B2B tech marketers, specifically, continued to report low content marketing efficacy, and as I read his analysis, two reasons stood out to me.
This misunderstanding plagues content marketers in every category, but it tends to hit tech marketers particularly hard. When it comes to tech, the smallest details about functionality, experience, usability, security, etc., can be what makes or breaks a deal, and marketers don’t want to risk missing the chance to cover all the great aspects of their technology by forgoing promotion in content for a longer-term strategy of audience education and value.
Your story — who you are, where you come from, and what you stand for — is often as important to your audience as what you actually sell to them. Especially in the tech space — where it’s easy to lose your voice, your story, and your unique brand in the complexity of what you do — your story is what will set you apart and identify you as a thought leader.
These two reasons in particular stand out because they don’t have to equal death sentences for content marketing efforts; in fact, overcoming these challenges is completely within your control.
After taking a closer look at the processes our account service and editorial teams use to help our tech clients create effective content and after analyzing content projects and strategies of other tech marketers, it’s clear to me that the solution to these content marketing challenges requires individual expertise.
By “individual expertise,” I’m talking about the specific insights and experiences you can share, in your voice and tone, that are unique to you.
Your expertise is just that: yours. Yes, you exist in an industry with other leading experts, and maybe you share some ideas with them. That’s OK. But your own experiences, practices, stories, and voice can help set you apart, and your ability to communicate new or bold ideas bolstered by that personal information can make a difference.
And when you share your expertise with your readers in a way that educates them, adds value to their lives, and helps them solve their own problems, you’re shifting the focus of your content to your audience, not your products and services — and that can dramatically improve its effectiveness.
Look no further than Zapier (a former company that has worked with Influence & Co.) and its content strategy for a perfect example of this audience-focused, expertise-driven content in action.
Zapier is a tech company powered by “humans who think computers should do more work,” and this unique story guides every aspect of the team’s content. From articles on its blog on tech and productivity to its e-book on remote work (compiled from older, repurposed blog posts), Zapier’s content is committed to building a true community and delivering value to its niche audience. The company doesn’t do this by aggressively selling its own technology but by focusing on its audience’s needs, communicating its expertise, and telling its own story.
B2B tech marketing can be challenging, and while there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to the problems that disproportionately plague its practitioners, your team’s expertise and focus on your audience will always be central to your success.
I love cloudy days, office supplies, and rewatching the same sitcoms I've already seen a dozen times. When I'm not looking for ways to elevate content, I'm looking for opportunities to tell stories about my dog.