There is a lot of good B2B content marketing out there. (Admittedly, there’s even more crappy B2B content marketing but let’s skip past that for the purposes of this article.)
Good content stands out by being insightful, customer-focused and genuinely useful to its target audiences. Where it is created for a differentiated product or a brand with an existing presence and faces relatively little serious competition, it can deliver results like a crazy-mad-results-delivering-thing.
But when it’s up against more serious competition, it can struggle to get traction.
The problem with so much B2B content is that, even when it gets a lot of other stuff right, it still fails to differentiate itself (or the brand it serves). It can quickly take on a worthy, scholarly tone – we will teach and you will learn.
Now, while we enjoyed school, we’ve got no plans to go back anytime soon. And while we want to learn new things about our industry that will make our business more effective and more successful, we don’t want to be preached at or talked down to.
Of course, if we only have access to one useful piece of B2B content, we might suck it up and still plod our way through. But with the explosion in B2B content marketing, chances are that a better alternative is just a quick search away (and will probably be ranking higher anyway).
While we don’t want to be talked down to, we do want someone to be on our side. We do want someone who sees the world in a similar light. And we do want someone committed to helping us meet and overcome the challenges we face in our business.
And the best way for B2B marketers to demonstrate this? Find a common enemy.
Now, just to be clear, this shouldn’t be a competitor. This will only make you look weak, desperate or a bully.
But it can be about a perceived wrong in the market – eg waste, bureaucracy, slowness, complexity, cost.
It can be about bigger things – eg IBM’s Smarter Planet’s enemy is, in many ways, the past.
And it can be the status quo – eg Salesforce.com’s enemy was, and still is to a degree, installed software.
Once you have this common enemy with your customers, you can attack it with impunity. You can create manifestos calling for its abolition. You can author rants and rail against its injustices. And you can deliver ebooks and other content that contrasts the problem with a far better way.
The result will be B2B content that has a clear focus and which is more entertaining to consume. You’ll produce material that has passion and chutzpah and which is more memorable (not to mention more shareable). And you’ll clearly stand out from the competition.
So next time you’re creating some B2B content, ask yourself: What are we against?
Jason Ball is the founder and managing director at Considered. With a multi-decade career in B2B marketing, he’s worked with world-leading brands such as Adobe, Google, EY and Cisco together with niche specialists in technology, manufacturing and professional services.