Let’s face it – content marketing is hard.
It may be true that more B2B companies than ever are investing in content marketing these days (nine out of 10, according to some research), but that doesn’t mean all those organizations are doing it well.
Lots of articles have been written in the past about the most popular content challenges facing today’s businesses. You’ll hear marketers talk about the need to generate enough resources to keep up with demand or the time it takes to keep up with various social media channels for promotion and audience engagement.
These are valid problems for sure – particularly for small and mid-sized organizations – but they mainly affect those who already have a relatively strong strategy in place. As I see it, for B2B companies to be truly powerful with content marketing, there are bigger “high level” challenges to overcome first. These are the types of areas that will serve as the foundation for future success, but can also be the most difficult to get right.
With that in mind, here are three of the most challenging content marketing issues facing B2Bs today.
#1. Setting aside that “me first” attitude.
In my opinion, the first rule of content marketing revolves around one simple concept: content marketing is not about you; it’s about your audience. This means that oftentimes your product, service and even your brand will take a back seat to the needs and concerns of potential customers.
This may sound great in theory, but in practice, it can be a heck of a challenge for traditional B2B marketers to get used to. The inclination to talk about themselves is just too strong.
The problem, of course, is that customers don’t really care about you; they are mainly interested in their own problems. To truly engage these new audiences, you need to check the sales pitch at the door. An active blog is great, but if it’s mostly filled with press releases and product updates, it won’t get you very far.
Great content marketing should be informative and insightful. It should help audiences answer burning questions, understand market trends and develop trust with your business. Ultimately, it should educate customers to the point where it’s easier to sell to them.
This isn’t to say that promotional content doesn’t still have its place – it does, particularly later in the selling cycle. But from an inbound and demand generation perspective, it’s no longer your bread and butter.
The best B2B content marketers understand that these days, helping – not selling – is the best way to market online. But it can still take some businesses a while to get there.
#2. The ability to think like a publisher.
This is one of the old mantras of content marketing, and one of I’ve heard Content Marketing Institute founder Joe Pulizzi mention many times over the years. The challenge for B2Bs, unfortunately, is that traditional marketing departments don’t function at all like publishing companies or editorial teams.
It doesn’t take long to realize that great content marketing requires lots of planning and organization. This means editorial calendars. It means freelance writers and designers. It means different content formats to be shared across multiple promotional channels. It means effective search engine optimization practices and a strong social media presence.
It means, simply, thinking more like a content publisher.
Re-focusing marketing efforts in this way can present a sharp left turn for many B2Bs, and one that they aren’t always prepared to take. Fortunately, the right people can help, but that’s a whole other challenge on it’s own…
#3. Making the right hires at the right time.
A lot of B2B companies realize pretty quickly how difficult it is to build a content machine from within. To really grow your strategy, you need to look elsewhere when putting together your content team.
The question is, who are the right people to target?
Believe it or not, journalists and other editorial professionals have become valuable assets for B2Bs. After all, these are people who have experience writing for target audiences, managing content resources, growing websites and other functions involved with effective content marketing.
Dedicated web developers, social media professionals and freelance writers/designers can also help take your content efforts to the next level. The problem is that not all B2Bs know what they are looking for, and have difficulty making these key hires (or they’ll simply opt to hire an outside agency to do it for them).
Those are three critical challenges facing B2B marketers, but there’s certainly more to consider. What other content marketing challenges have you run into? Sound off in the comments and let us know!
About the Author
Brendan Cournoyer is a content manager at Brainshark, a sales enablement platform provider that helps companies more effectively prepare employees, engage with key audiences, and advance business opportunities. For more musings on the world of content marketing, SEO, and more, follow Brendan on Twitter @brencournoyer.