Make Your B2B Writing Persuasive and Engaging

When is a movie like B2B writing?

When the movie is Lois Lowry’s The Giver, which turns the idea of a Utopian society on its head. Built on the ashes of the Ruin, this Community eliminates suffering and strife by converting to “Sameness.” Unfortunately, Sameness bleeds out every shred of color, memory, creativity, and emotion.

Sort of like some B2B writing.

Don’t write like the Sameness. Write like the Giver.

In the story, the Giver is the single Community member who can see color and who retains everyone else’s collective memories from before the apocalypse. Sort of like a computer archive except with a beard.

The best B2B content writers are Givers too. We understand what marketing execs are going through. You strive to help your clients hit their marketing objectives and sales goals. You position and focus and create the content that reels in the leads. You don’t stop until you fill that sales funnel — in fact, you don’t stop at all.

We lighten your load by taking on your strategies, messaging, facts, logic, and stories. We build them into persuasive and engaging content, and analyze the analysis so we can adjust and improve. Then we do it all over again, as long as you need us to.

Sameness puts your customers to sleep. Giving wakes them up.

Is the White Paper Dead… AGAIN? Nope.

The head of a marketing agency wrote this. I’m not going to name him because he’s probably good at what he does, and I don’t want to get into a pissing match.

While the era of the lead-gated white paper as a key step in the demand cycle may not be over, it’s definitely on life support. You need to think engagement first.

I shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose. The author owns an ad agency whose tagline is “Easily Create Interactive Content Experiences to Generate Conversations with Your Prospects.” So white papers don’t exactly benefit his business.

You know who white papers do benefit? B2B technology vendors. Why? Because white papers persuade, and work for both technical and business prospects.

Frankly, I’ve been hearing the “white paper is dead” crap for years. It’s dead to the agencies who don’t like to write them maybe. In the B2B tech space? Engagement works at the awareness stage here. But in the interest/purchasing stages, please. IT and execs need practical guidance on how your thing works, and how it’s going to help them. Good white papers are a critical piece of that.

There is also the matter of sharing: interesting, practical content — like white papers — get shared.

 

Need said good white papers? Let’s talk.

 

Content Marketing: Developing a 4-Part Blog Series

content marketingA big fat key to content marketing is creating lots of content. The other big fat key is making good strategic decisions on what that content should be.

To that end, Copyblogger has some good advice on creating 4-part series i a gues post by Stefanie Flaxman, Rainmaker Digital’s Editor-in-Chief. The title is “How to Turn One Content Idea into a Fascinating Four-Part Series.”

A good idea that I plan to adopt immediately.

The blog goes into detail. Here’s the idea:

 

Installment #1: Establish your authority

Choose the content idea and post an introductory (but really good) how-to. You are building anticipation and your authority in your reader’s mind.

Tell them at the end of the post that you’ll be publishing a tutorial with complete information on how to the Wonderful Thing, and that the very next post will prepare them for success with the tutorial. If they subscribe to your blog via email, they’ll be sure not to miss it. Link back to #1.

Installment #2: Educate with a simple, relevant background lesson

Prepare your readers to follow your advice. Link to the how-to post #1 and write more background info. Tell them that the tutorial comes next.

Installment #3: Share your tutorial

Now post a tutorial, a nuts-and-bolts “here is now to do it.”

It should be a standalone — it shouldn’t require the first 2 posts to do — but link back anyway because once again, it builds authority and useful background.

Stick the links to the first two blogs with an “Additional Reading” subtitle, and a CTA to subscribe to your blog to get the next piece of content via email.

Oh, and don’t be boring.

Installment #4: Add extra value and advanced tips

Now you encourage your readers to experiment with your tutorial and share their questions and results. If you’re adding more tutorials, then tell them so and encourage them to subscribe via email. Link to all the other posts in the series, and add forward links to all of the remaining series posts.

Like I said, good stuff.

 

Close the Dreaded Content Marketing Gap

content marketing gapYou might have great content coverage in the awareness stage, good coverage in the purchasing stage; and zilch at the interest stage. This is not good.

Find out what content you already own, then leverage it and create new content to fill that content marketing gap.

The Audit: Know What You’ve Got

You can hire a company to do a great big content analysis for you, or you can do it yourself. Do a simple gap analysis by sales cycle, which will tell you what pieces you need to fill in.

Once you’re completed your audit and know what you’ve got, you ready to roll.

It’s Miller Time: Filling Those Gaps

Now it’s time to analyze what you have from your content library and match it to your sales cycles and sales goals. Draw your conclusions based on what you know about your own sales cycle and customers, and on your competitors’ resources.

Know your customers’ pain points, where your offerings intersect to solve them, and your market differentiators. Write it all down and match customer needs and sales cycle location to the most relevant content.

Now you can plan your content creation. For existing pieces, you will need to decide to keep it as is, to update it, or to retire it. Also decide if the piece can be leveraged into different pieces. It’s entirely possible that a white paper was great in its time but has aged. You might still be able to leverage parts of the white paper to build new resources.

For example, it’s a pretty good bet that the IT guy who is actively looking to purchase backup software doesn’t need a colorful infographic. He does need case studies, product briefs, and data sheets. But that cool infographic will exactly suit prospects who are early in the awareness stage, because it attracts positive attention. And that business-of-technology white paper suits the interest stage very well, especially since you can gate it for customer contact information. Or if you’re light on the awareness stage, consider creating a SlideShare presentation or a thought leadership article in an industry trade journal.

Give Your Customers the Content They Care About

If you publish content that your customers don’t want, what good does that do anyone?

It’s tough breaking through a lot of content noise, and you’re never going to get 100% buy-in from everyone who gives you a view. But if you’re consistently writing marketing content that your customers don’t care about, you’re not going to get very far.

1. Know your audience. I know, everyone talks about the importance of this and they’re right. But even though you know your audience backwards and forwards, does your marketing writer? Do a creative brief with your employee or contractor and make sure they know who they’re writing to, and what the pain points are.

2. Match content to sales stages. Writing light technology to a technical audience at the purchase stage isn’t going to convince them to make the jump. Either is writing heavy technology to business executives at the interest stage. The former problem occurs with marketing writers that don’t have technology chops; the latter with engineers tasked with writing early stage content. Match tone and content to the audience and to their stage.

3. Use a voice that the customer wants to hear. Believe me, I can be an offender – my favorite thing to read has a lot of practical information delivered in a breezy voice with some humor. When I’m writing for my clients, they rarely want that because their customers don’t. Not their problem, mine; so I adapted to writing in various voices.

4. Let’s get real: you’re trying to sell something here. Ultimately content is about sales, and you need promotional content at the purchase and serious interest stages. Selling without being promotional is trickier at the awareness and early interest stages. These stages need content that clearly defines their pain points, and the solutions they should be looking for. If you’re good and they’re ready, they’ll sign on to your mailing list… and eventually, you will share with them that, miraculously enough, your solution clearly meets the customer’s pain points.

5. Appropriate catchy headlines. Yes, they’re important; headlines are the hook that draws readers in. A lot of the online advice out there is for very marketing-intensive emails, not technology B2B. For example, “9 Simple Ways You Can Absolutely Own Your Backup Appliance” seriously isn’t going to fly. But “Simple Tweaks Increase Backup Appliance Performance 10X” will.

6. Provide transcripts with your word-heavy videos and podcasts. Not exactly a critical tip, more a preference that might impact your response rate. Some audiophiles are great with video/audio only and no text, but visual learners like me (and there are a lot of us) don’t want to listen past a minute or less. We want to read. It’s not a big extra step to transcribe, and adds so much to your longer videos and podcasts.

Want more practical advice on creating content that sells? My pleasure.