Peeling Back the Layers: The Onion Approach to B2B Content

September 13, 2023

The onion is a simple, yet powerful ingredient found in countless cuisines worldwide.

It is also a very popular metaphor for just about anything that has layers—like your B2B content strategy, for example.

In the content analogy, each layer of the onion reveals a different perspective, a different story, and a different opportunity to connect with your target audience.

If coming up with B2B content topics is making you cry, this model could be for you!

Let's examine this content onion together and see what we can cook up.

Contrary to many onion metaphors, I’m going to assume our pungent bulb has already been deconstructed because, as you’ll see, it makes sense to start in the middle and work outwards.

Along the way, I’ll give examples for a fictitious industrial company called GearCo to help illustrate the points I’m making.


The Innermost Layer: Insider Knowledge

The core of the onion represents the most intimate and niche knowledge within your company.

This layer is where you showcase expertise, values, processes, and selling points.

Since these elements are unique to your team, they afford the greatest opportunity for differentiation, controversial points of view, and leadership.

However, they should be tempered with some humility and customer centricity—some balancing flavors, if you well—because a steady diet of onion isn’t many people’s idea of tasty.

Your prospects want to know not just what you do but how you do it.

By giving them a glimpse into your insider knowledge, you can position your business as an authority in its field while showcasing authenticity and transparency.

Be careful not to over-share, cross any confidentiality boundaries, or give away trade secrets. If in doubt, run the content by your leadership team or corporate counsel before publishing.

For our fictitious business GearCo, examples might include:

> Case studies on how their specific manufacturing process saved a client thousands of dollars.

> A behind-the-scenes look at their research and product development processes.

> Employee spotlights, celebrating the people that make the magic happen.


One Layer Out: Market Knowledge

Moving one layer outwards, we explore the immediate market in which your company operates.

This layer is about sharing your insights on market trends, customer needs and pain points, and opportunities to deliver value with existing products.

Demonstrating market knowledge assures prospects and customers that you understand their environment and the challenges they face.

It establishes you as a well-informed partner, capable of evaluating their situation in a broader context and likely to know how other companies have tackled similar challenges.

Examples for GearCo:

> Whitepapers discussing the current state and near-term future of the industrial equipment market.

> Infographics detailing key metrics and trends, or product comparisons in their sector.

> Blogs discussing common challenges in their industry and how their products and services help to address them.


Another Layer Revealed: Broader Industry Topics

Here we broaden our horizon to the wider industry landscape.

This is less about your specific business and more about your industry's overarching themes, challenges, innovations, and narratives.

We all love to debate forecasts and predictions made by recognized leaders. Over time, this layer of content can bring your company’s name into that conversation.

Engaging with broader industry topics places your company within a bigger picture in the prospect’s mind.

You’re no longer just a player; you become an influencer, a thought leader, and a part of the bigger conversation.

Prospects and customers will consult your website and team members for advice and insights before making important decisions.

Examples for GearCo:

> Opinion pieces about the future of renewable energy in industrial manufacturing or the impact that AI is going to have on the manufacturing workforce.

> Podcast interviews with industry thought leaders discussing the next industrial revolution.

> Reports on the impact of global trade policies on the industrial sector.


Each layer further away from the core signifies content with broader significance

The Outer Intersection: Business & Other Markets

As we get close to the outer skin, it's time to explore how your business might intersect with other markets.

This content is about understanding ripple effects and the interconnectivity of today’s business world.

No business operates in isolation. By discussing the interplay between your industry and other sectors, you can highlight your holistic understanding of the business landscape.

Although this content may have very little to do with your company’s current solutions, it helps to position your brand as one that is thinking big, planning for the future, and tapping into external ideas in its search for step-change developments.

GearCo might publish:

> Articles on how advancements in IoT (the Internet of Things) are revolutionizing industrial equipment monitoring and maintenance.

> Content authored in collaboration with partner companies in the logistics sector, exploring sustainable transportation options for industrial goods.

> Exploring how technologies developed by the tech sector might impact industrial manufacturing processes, such as computer vision and robotics.


The Outer Layer: Macro Topics

We have finally reached the outer skin, which looks very little like the other layers we’ve discussed.

It’s where we zoom out the furthest to explore macro topics affecting not just your business or industry, but the global business ecosystem.

Some companies never stretch this far, considering it a waste of their resources to publish on topics so far removed from lead-generating marketing and sales.

That’s probably a fair argument for an early-stage business, where resources are limited.

However, as the business grows, so will its influence and external stakeholders’ expectations.

Expressing an opinion about global events and trends can become a requirement rather than a luxury once your leadership team are recognized as thought leaders by customers and the media.

In an interconnected world, macro events can have micro impacts.

Being engaged in wider global conversations shows your business' awareness and preparedness for an ever-changing world.

For a company like GearCo, this might mean:

> Articles on the impact of global economic patterns on manufacturing industries.

> Debating the ethical responsibilities of industrial companies in the face of climate change.

> Exploring how geopolitical events (such as the COVID pandemic) are influencing supply chains.


Wrapping It Up (Else Everything Will Taste of Onions)

Just as every layer of an onion contributes to its overall flavor, every layer of content offers unique insight into your knowledge and a distinct engagement opportunity for your audience.

As a B2B company, structuring your content across these layers will provide a well-rounded view of who you are, what you stand for, and the value you bring to the table.

So, the next time you're brainstorming content topics, remember the onion.

Peel it back layer by layer, and let the creativity begin!


Sign Up Today for Our *Free* Substack Newsletter

Stay in the know. Our weekly newsletter delivers the latest blog content, a selection of B2B content marketing insights gathered from across the web, and quick, actionable tips for taking your content marketing to the next level.

Sign up here!


Image credits: Adobe Stock

View all Posts