When I listen to myself speak about B2B content marketing, I hear certain words and phrases over and over.
I realize that they’ve become my stock-in-trade; the motifs and tropes that—I hope—stick in my audience members’ heads and cause them to do something differently afterwards.
Most of what I teach (some might say, preach) can be summarized in one sentence: To succeed in today’s digital world, B2B companies must consistently deliver authentic, relevant, helpful content to prospects and customers at each stage of their buyer’s journeys, on whichever channels those prospects and customers use to find answers to their questions.
Yeah, that’s quite a mouthful. But it’s packed with flavor…
It’s also loaded with words that carry huge amounts of implied meaning; there’s a chapter or more related to each of them in my books.
Swizzling on this idea for a while, I compiled my top 10 words that, on the face of it, sound like buzzwords, but are key to attracting and engaging a B2B audience.
As is always the case with this sort of compilation, there will be other words that you might have added and some you might have dropped. That’s cool; the goal is to make sure we’re focusing on whichever concepts we find most powerful.
So, FWIW, here’s my list of power words and a handful of tips on making each of them happen. (They’re in alphabetical order so as not to imply any ranking.)
Alphabetical coincidence means we’re starting with the end in mind—always end your content with a clear call to action (CTA).
However, there are other characteristics of effective content that make it actionable.
Start by choosing themes, topics, and content that directly address specific pain points.
Then, include practical steps or tools that your readers can immediately use, and provide links to additional resources or tools for them to explore.
And from a stylistic point of view, focus on using action verbs and language.
Passively describing the topic leaves your reader informed but mentally ready for a snack.
Action language leaves your reader in an action-oriented frame of mind, ready to do something with the information they’ve just gleaned.
This one really gets me going—especially now that I’m watching a flood of generic articles regurgitated by generative AI algorithms inundate every possible channel.
Being authentic means actually writing your own stuff—even if you use tools like generative AI for topic ideas and research. (See also: Original, below.)
Producing authentic content is crucial to building trust, fostering a meaningful relationship with your audience, and establishing a credible brand.
Use examples of how your product or service has helped other businesses succeed. This demonstrates the tangible benefits of your solutions and helps to humanize your content.
When prospects see that others in their industry or position have benefited from your solution, it's a powerful endorsement
Include feedback from existing clients. When prospects see that others in their industry or position have benefited from your solution, it's a powerful endorsement.
Be transparent and admit mistakes—nobody's perfect.
Squeaky clean content sounds too good to be true and human beings have a powerful built-in BS detector. Admitting mistakes and shortcomings can make your content and brand appear more genuine.
And in the spirit of this article, avoid overusing jargon and buzzwords.
Overloading your content with industry jargon can make it sound robotic. Clearly explain any necessary terminology and aim for a conversational tone.
Authenticity is also about consistency (see below). Every piece of content you publish should reflect the same values and be consistent with your brand.
The easier your content is to read, comprehend, and ingest, the more effective it will be at influencing your prospects’ and customers’ behavior.
Use simple language wherever possible—and avoid jargon, as I just mentioned.
Make judicious use of bullet points, subheadings, and white space to break up long paragraphs and sentences.
Use visuals—images, infographics, diagrams—to break up the text, explain complex ideas, and provide visual cues to skim readers.
And here’s a doozy: have someone else review your content for clarity.
What’s clear to the author can often be much murkier to a less-informed reader. Be receptive to that feedback and refine your content accordingly.
I use this word in two senses: consistent in time and consistent in content.
In the time sense, both human readers and algorithms like to find new content from the same source in the same place on a regular basis.
So, develop a content calendar and stick to it.
This requires understanding the limitations of your team and establishing a production cadence that they can sustain without requiring a fire drill to get content out by the deadline.
In the content sense, readers learn—and subconsciously come to appreciate—your brand’s voice and style.
Therefore, it’s important to maintain a consistent voice and format from piece to piece. If you don’t, your brand will seem schizophrenic, and readers won’t know which version is going to show up—something that quickly becomes off-putting.
Develop brand guidelines that capture both the design and format you will use (colors, fonts, layout, imagery, etc.) and your brand’s voice, tone, and style.
Train all content creators on your brand guidelines and review your content regularly for consistency, making updates when necessary.
I debated whether to include the word credible or authoritative. For me, they have very similar connotations.
Readers trust content that they associate with a credible (and authoritative) source and will preferentially come back to that source when looking for more information.
Credibility comes from providing information that delivers on its promises
Credibility comes from providing information that is demonstrably correct—in other words, it delivers on its promises—or that is endorsed by other credible members of the community.
Highlight case studies and successful projects—including data, metrics, and real-world results—and cite credible sources and research when referencing the work of others.
Include testimonials, endorsements, certifications, and industry awards (but not the kind you can buy your way into).
Respond to comments in a timely manner, transparently addressing any constructive criticisms or concerns.
Publish pieces that demonstrate thought leadership, showing that you have rational, original ideas (more on that in a moment) about the direction your industry or sector is taking and how it ought to develop in the future.
Attention-grabbing headlines and graphics are a means to an end; you want your readers (and viewers) to stick around while you convey some useful information to them.
Making your content engaging is about holding the audience’s attention from an appetizing intro, through the fact-laden main course, and onto dessert, where you add extra value and spur them into action.
Health Warning: don’t save your best content for the end. Although cataclysmic warnings about human attention spans dropping below that of a goldfish are overblown, your average reader/viewer won’t make it all the way through. Factors beyond your control will distract or divert them.
Generations of our species have used storytelling to engage their communities and convey important information. You would be wise to follow in their footsteps.
Use established storytelling techniques, together with multimedia—GIFs, videos, infographics, etc.—and interactive content like quizzes or calculators.
Keep your content current by reviewing it regularly, injecting fresh perspectives, and updating any obsolete references.
Advice generally falls into two categories: helpful and the rest.
You know helpful advice when you receive it, but do you stop to consider whether the advice you’re giving in your content is helpful to your audience?
Helpful content typically:
· Explains something that the audience is unclear or confused about.
· Provides new data or context that helps the audience assess—and sometimes quantify—the impact and importance of the issue.
· Suggests one or more path forward, with guidance on how to choose the best path (with doing nothing often being the default option).
· Connects the audience with other resources where they can learn more or find additional help.
Content that simply restates a problem or rails against the status quo without offering an alternative is inherently unhelpful. It’s the bastion of low-quality punditry.
If you don’t have something helpful to offer—preferably for free—then perhaps you’re not writing content worth publishing.
Alright … climbs on soap box … I’ll keep this brief.
Publishing content that exclusively recycles existing material—whether assembled by hand or eloquently compiled by an AI algorithm—is of very little value to your audience.
At a minimum, you must include your opinion on the topic at hand.
Share unique experiences or case studies that demonstrate you have first-hand knowledge of the subject and have formulated your ideas accordingly.
Conduct original research and include different points of view from within your organization
Even better, conduct original research—using proprietary data or perhaps a survey—and include different points of view from within your organization.
Either write about an unusual topic or explore lesser-known or unique angles on popular subjects.
Here’s my bottom line: if I can Google the title of your article and find the exact same information in a handful of other places, why should I care to read yours?
Oh, wait. My bottom, bottom line is this: if you aren’t capable of formulating and expressing an original opinion about something, I probably don’t need to read your work. So, I won’t be coming back.
A major component of my work, which I’ve written about before, is helping clients to understand what information their prospects and customers are looking for as they traverse their buyer’s journeys.
Content marketing isn’t about publishing whatever you want to say, it’s about publishing what your audience needs and wants to hear.
This requires researching and engaging with your audience to understand their needs at each stage of the journey, then crafting a content strategy to make relevant information available to them in the places they choose to look for it.
And, since your audience isn’t a monoculture—as a B2B content marketer you’ll be familiar with buying committees and buyer personas—you should tailor your content to different personas and segments.
Marketing is a never-ending game, where the goal posts move with alarming alacrity, so review and update your content regularly to maintain relevance.
This includes regularly reviewing your buyer’s journey maps (or whatever technique you use to catalog the needs and wants of your audience) and replacing pieces that are out of date with fresh, relevant material.
Developing great content is only part of the challenge. For it to become effective, it has to be delivered in a way that gets it noticed by your audience.
In today’s digital world, this means optimizing your content for search engines (including voice search) and encouraging people to share it on social media platforms.
Making content easy to share is an under-appreciated step in expanding your reach
Making content easy to share is an under-appreciated step in expanding your reach and growing your audience.
It requires creating engaging headlines and visuals, including easy-to-find social media buttons, and engaging with your community on social media and encouraging them to share your stuff.
Of course, it also helps if you publish content that solves a common problem or addresses a trending topic.
I mentioned including a call to action, right?
Here are three ways for you to leap into action, right now!
1. Bookmark this article and use it as a checklist while reviewing each piece of content you publish.
2. Pick one word that you feel is least applicable to your existing content and focus on improving that aspect of your content in the next month.
3. Share the list with your content production team and consider including elements of it in your brand guidelines.
Together, let’s raise our B2B content marketing game and create some buzz!
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