Time to Get Real in B2B Content Marketing

We Don't Need More Mediocre Content

I've been saying for some time now that mediocre content isn't worth producing. Up until recently the SEO benefit alone of producing high volumes of keyword-driven content has made it worth the effort. And there are ostensibly still topic areas and industry verticals where it still holds true. But these are becoming few and far between.

At the same time, Search Engine ranking algorithms have evolved beyond keyword density and backlinks. Google has for some time now penalized overuse of keywords, or keyword stuffing. Relevance is the name of the game, and technologies like AI and semantic search have moved the game toward user intent. The goal? Weed out low value content. 

Moreover, the pervasiveness of poor quality, low value content has driven down consumer engagement.

As Dalius Wilson points out in his recent article, Uncovered: The Diminishing Returns for B2B Content Strategy in Sales & Marketing, B2B consumers are becoming smarter, especially in discerning self-serving and low quality content.

And should this surprise anyone? We've all experienced selling oriented white papers cleverly disguised as thought leadership. And I don't need to mention the overwhelming amount of content flowing across our feeds and inboxes. 

Consumers have no choice but to become skilled at filtering out the noise. 

Inbound Marketers Losing Their Way

Inbound Marketing methodology was birthed out of the realization that consumers no longer have the need or desire to be sold to. Today consumers expect that everything needed to make a purchase decision is available on demand, online, 24x7. It's this reality behind the transformation of the marketing function from principally advertising and promotions to education and insights.

Thus, the cardinal sin in inbound marketing is to be salesy and self-serving. And yet all too often that's exactly what we see. 

B2B consumers have learned to tune it out.

So what does all this mean for your content marketing? 

In short, here are three best practices you can employ to ensure your original content continues to generate business value:

  1. Have a content strategy. Every B2B company needs to understand the buying cycle and product content that answers important questions at each stage. Top of Funnel content is more educational and should strictly avoid any branded or promotional references. Middle of Funnel content evaluates different ways to solve problems. And Bottom of Funnel content gives you the opportunity to talk about your products and brand and what differentiates them. Find out what the key needs are at each stage and build your content strategy around those topics.

  2. Shift your focus to quality over quantity. Your definition of quality should be well-written, engaging content that delivers value and insights. Don't just write opinion pieces and product apologetics. Do research. Add something new to the collective conversation. I recommend your content strategy starts with conceptualizing long-form premium content (ebooks, white papers) that are backed by research, then work back from that to create smaller excerpt posts, infographics, checklists and the like. You'll find when you do this your content production process becomes more efficient, and ungated content will more naturally flow into your more valuable premium content.

  3. Use a balanced scorecard. Don't be obsessed with form completions, or any one metric. There are many other important behaviors your content can impact that are valuable. Here again consider where in the marketing funnel your content sits. Top of Funnel (TOFU) metrics might include visits and engagement metrics. These are sometimes referred to as micro conversions, and including things like 3+ page views, visitors to pricing pages, shares, comments, or follows, etc. Visitors to pages on your site that show intent can be used to create remarketing campaigns focused on lower funnel content and messages. Middle (MOFU) and Bottom of funnel (BOFU) metrics will focus more on behaviors that show intent and urgency, and can more aggressively drive lead capture. 

Have you experienced declining engagement on your content? Maybe it's time to recalibrate your efforts toward quality over quantity.