Monday, April 15, 2013

B2B Content Marketing - Quality Matters

The Need For Quality Content 

It seems a good thing to me that the world is moving on from SEO tips and tricks to get company websites found and focusing on content marketing i.e. the notion that if you produce good quality content Google will find you and people will share it. On the downside this has led to a huge volume of poor content being produced by companies and marketing agencies, so much so that you can’t move for articles starting ’10 Top Tips..’, white papers, ebooks, slideshares, podcasts and videos. I am still a sucker for these headlines and yet almost every time I click on a set of top tips or download a white paper I am invariably disappointed. In my view a key challenge for everyone involved in B2B marketing is producing high quality content. In my view this is the content that will win out, the content which will be shared and establish brand authority.

What Is Quality Content? 

There are many different definitions of quality content, in my view it must embody the following characteristics.

Expert insight – There is a myth that you need to be a subject matter expert to write quality content, this is not true but you do need to provide expertise. If you are a writer and not an expert you will need to immerse yourself in the content. This means interviewing the experts, and sales and account managers to explore customers concerns. It also means interviewing customers to gain their perspective and understand what keeps them awake at night.

If we look at elearning companies, which I know well, the instructional designers and writers are not subject matter experts but they know how to work with such experts. They know how to draw out key information from them with good questioning and listening skills. They will use various techniques to draw out key points, case studies and stories to exemplify issues. In this way you can integrate this expertise into your content.

Original – The content should be original otherwise you are not adding value. The originality can stem from a piece of research which highlights trends, new insights gained from interviews with experts or an opinion piece which brings a new perspective to the issues.

User orientated – it should be focused on what matters to the audience. It is not about the company’s solutions or what they can do but how they can solve customer issues. You are competing for their time with a million other things, why will they spend time with your content? You have to earn the right to their time by addressing what’s in it for them.

Engaging – this is a real task for elearning writers who often have to keep their learner engaged for a long elearning module. The engagement might take the form of stories, animations, video or interactions. Interactive content might even take a game like approach. However, you don't need interactive content; articles and white papers can be equally engaging if they are well written and address audience concerns in practical way.

Appropriate tone of voice – The content should adopt and follow the appropriate tone of voice for the audience. It will also need to be in line with the company’s brand guidelines.

Well written – in all cases it should be well scripted and easily understood. This includes being well structured with clear signposts so they can easily get to the content they are interested in.

Visuals and other assets that add value – visuals, audio interviews and animations are all examples of assets which can add value to the content. You need to decide where an asset adds value to the content, for example, an animation to help explain or build a complex content or an expert interview that brings to life a key point through a story.

Once you have produced your quality content you can then focus on promoting it. This task will be made so much easier if your audience actively shares the content because it is valuable.

The Benefits Of Quality Content 

Quality content provides a range of benefits, for example it:

Establishes brand authority – well written, original content that address issues faced by the audience will establish the company as an authority in their area and will elevate brand perceptions.

Provides differentiation – quality content will always rise to the top even in a sea awash with white papers. Quality content says something about your company and your approach.

Enhances brand awareness – quality content is much more likely to be shared and distributed which will increase brand awareness.

Builds trust – the fact a company is prepared to spend time to produce high quality content and to share it builds trust and respect.

Generates leads – potential customers are more likely to follow you, to approach you when they have a requirement and to refer you to others.

For an example of quality content, see Hargreaves Lansdown. I have written up a brief overview of their content marketing approach.