About 6 months back I met with a business whose product was warehouse management software.
They were convinced – unwavering – that their target buyer was really interested in warehouse management.
So interested, in fact, they wanted to hire full-time writer to blog about warehouse management.
Three times a week.
(Because SEO, obviously.)
Immediately, I knew what I was dealing with.
A grade IV malignant case of tumorous content marketing.
B2B content marketing is of a younger lineage than its B2C cousin.
You see the scale of the difference when you compare the search visibility of B2B and B2C firms.
I calculated the average search vis. of the top 10 B2B and B2C firms in the FTSE 250.
The difference is staggering.
The strongest performer in the B2B top 10 is security firm G4S with 2,323.
The strongest B2C firm is ASOS, whose whopping 341,283 puts them on par with some news organisations.
Now, those numbers in themselves are not bad news for B2B firms.
SEO is a lot less relevant when you sell via personal networks and nurture leads over dinner.
It only becomes a problem when you, as a B2B business, decide you want to evolve a new content marketing limb, and go looking for DNA…
Murky gene pool
Operationally, the difference between B2B and B2C content marketing is the trade-off between quality and quantity.
In B2C industries, quantity is paramount to an SEO-first content strategy.
Illustratively: ASOS is fully justified in paying a tribe of fashion bloggers to guest-publish and send back inbound links.
It costs nothing to send an influencer a dress to try on; and with thousands of direct competitors also flogging fast fashion, consumer goods marketing becomes a dizzying game of influencers and search rankings.
Crucially, even if the content is utter drivel (the “influencer” is probably a teenager with 200,000 Instagram followers), Google still records positive customer experiences.
That’s because the end-user – the B2C target audience – isn’t interested in quality content. They just want the dress, and seeing that it’s been worn and approved by their favourite Instagrammer is enough to cause them to:
- click the inbound link and arrive at the brand site/specific SKU page
- browse colourways/alternative products
- drop product into basket
- progress to transactional web space and complete purchase.
These multi-checkpoint user journeys are recognised by Google as a sign of a strong, well-organised website.
On this evidence, it pushes the vendor domain further up the SERP.
And that, folks, is how a B2C domain can deliver great ROI on high volumes of dull, repetitive, unedited product reviews.
In B2C content marketing, quantity is everything.
B2B content marketing is an altogether different animal.
You’re shooting for two or three big sales in a quarter. Maybe only one.
A single hot lead could turn out to be worth tens of thousands or even millions. All you need is for the right C-suite exec at the right target business to pick up the phone and make an enquiry.
C-suite execs do not read trashy blogs by bought influencers.
These people are middle-aged, well-educated and highly-paid.
Their pride themselves in their choice of reading material and they pay for quality.
So how will you compete?
Answer that question.
In your target buyer’s precious five minutes over a coffee between meetings, how will your reputation for quality cause them to set The Economist to one side when they spot your latest post on LinkedIn?
Figure out what your Class A1 piece of content looks like, and publish that.
Don’t settle for less.
In reality, a lot of B2B organisations do settle for less.
Or to be more accurate, they unwittingly splice B2C DNA into their content strategies.
This happens for two reasons:
- a lag in B2B marketing intelligence; and, consequently…
- an unhealthy dependence on quantitative metrics.
First, the lag in intelligence.
Most of the language used to discuss content evolved in the primordial soup of the early noughties, when B2C digital marketing began to flourish.
“Three blogs a week! Influencers! Inbound links! SEO!”
As B2B industries have developed, this same language has leeched across.
As a result, the processes which go to getting B2B content online – i.e., to hire a team, to fill out a job spec, conduct interviews, agree strategy and KPIs and record progress and growth – all take place in an unhealthy atmosphere of B2C language and intelligence.
This, in turn, has created the perfect conditions for bad metrics to proliferate.
Quantitative metrics can be enjoyed in moderation as part of healthy B2B marketing practice.
For instance: you might measure the percentage of your key targets who navigate from your above-the-line advertising content to your transactional landing pages, and how this figure changes quarter-by-quarter.
But this kind of measurement takes time, patience, investment in a decent marketing automation platform, and – crucially – buy-in and understanding from the person reading your reports.
Let’s say your marketing department budget comes under review.
The CFO has heard of content… but he also remembers earning his last million quid chatting shit over golf.
“One blog a month? You’re having a giraffe. There’s a company in Thailand who’ll produce one a day for half the fee…”
Qualitative factors make B2B content successful; quantitative quick-fix metrics keep it financed.
And so instead of focusing on producing Class A1 content, your B2B brand sprouts three ugly tumours a week.
This problem was astutely predicated back in 2013 by B2B content agency Velocity Partners.
Their Slideshare, entitled, “Crap,” warned that a kind of content marketing gold rush was leading to a deluge of worthless nonsense clogging up our newsfeeds.
It ought to be mandatory reading for anyone interested in B2B marketing, but this slide more or less sums it up.
I think we can all agree this has happened.
We’ve all been let down by click-baity headlines on LinkedIn leading to half-finished stumps.
Thankfully, Google taken steps to rectify the problem.
The Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird algorithms saved the day for B2B marketers, as evidenced by the continuing trend towards longer-form content.
To quote Google’s own engineer (and Panda creator) Pandu Nayak:
“…up to 10% of users’ daily information needs involve learning about a broad topic. That’s why today we’re introducing new search results to help users find in-depth articles.”
To write your own in-depth articles, and to nurture C-suite audiences for high-value sales, I’d personally advise investing around 37.5 man-hours in a typical blog.
Remember, you’re trying to convince the CEO of a Fortune 500 company to put down his copy of the Financial Times.
Think about the work this takes, start to finish:
- Finding the story (i.e., starting and burning a couple of bad ideas)
- Research – examples, statistics, quotes, expert contributors
- Writing – Plan for an editing stage and at least two full redrafts
- Design – a couple of nice graphs, diagrams or inset statistics, and the creation of 4-7 pieces of creative to increase CTR and social engagement
- Publishing – formatting, checking on both PC and mobile, ensuring all your links work properly, search optimisation, etc.
- Marketing – social scheduling, maybe some paid advertising, distributing it your network etc
How you resource this really just comes down to budget.
With a fully-fledged content team – a Content Writer, a Marketing Exec, and a Designer, for instance – I’d venture you could produce your Class A1 blog once every three days.
Most B2B content operations, though, aren’t this well-resourced.
You’re more likely to have a Content Marketer who executes every stage in the process.
(And who’s also copywriting, managing your website, producing other content formats, managing social media, plus all manner of irritating distractions because this is business.)
Realistically, if you can publish one, jaw-droppingly excellent, well-marketed piece of content each month, you’re doing well for a B2B organisation.
A lot better than your competitor publishing 3 listicles a week.
A final word on SEO.
B2B Content Marketers: don’t publish for SEO.
Instead, focus on consistently publishing superior work.
If the quality of your content is lacking, Google will detect people showing up at your site, being disappointed, and bouncing off before you can say “audience attrition”.
Your search rankings will suffer accordingly.
If search really is important your B2B business, Google rewards regular publishing of content that holds people’s attention.
And at present, the immature state of B2B content marketing means you can do this at a low scale, with a limited budget, and still successfully outcompete other businesses.
Take G4S, for instance, with its search visibility of 2,323.
Its nearest competitor is Securitas with a search vis of only 21.
This is anything but an unassailable position.
An investment of a few hundred grand and 12 months of solid, well-strategised content marketing could easily put Securitas on a par with their nearest competitor.
This won’t happen by obsessing over SEO – and certainly not by blogging three times a week about security services.
It will happen by publishing great work which cultivates a superior customer experience.
If Securitas starts publish more healthily than G4S, they’ll grow an audience.
Site engagement metrics will increase.
Inbound links will start to proliferate, and inbound enquiries and lead generation will follow.
The business will make more sales.
Better SEO scores will be the icing on the cake.
Are you content marketing tumourously?
Could some B2B marketing intelligence give a health kick to your lead pipeline, and help you perform better in Google search?
(Are you Securitas?)
If any of the above are true I’d be glad to grab a coffee and explain how I can help.
Navigate helps B2B brands make money from superior content marketing.
Click here to get in touch.
 Find out what it means here, https://moz.com/help/guides/moz-pro-overview/rankings/search-visibility, or check your own business’s score here: https://suite.searchmetrics.com/en/research/domains/organic