Content | October 12, 2020

B2B Content Should Never Be Boring

Too much content in the B2B world is bland, uninspiring, and fails to engage the target audience. But if you ignore the organization and instead talk to people and their passions, you can break through their busy schedules, grab their attention, and inspire them to act.

This talk will explore why you need a B2C approach to content marketing. I then look at a few ways of generating exciting content ideas and finish on an example of where this method has generated great results in a pretty dull market.


Hi, everyone, thanks for coming to the talk today. My name is Paul Hunter and I’m the Head Of Innovation at Liberty. Liberty is a 45 person digital marketing agency in Cardiff, and we specialise in SEO, PPC, content, social, and insights and strategy as well. My job as the Head Of Innovation is to do a lot of research to move our services and products forward, ensuring that we’re offering the best solutions for our clients. And as you can imagine, it’s been a pretty busy six months in working out how we do that in such a volatile climate.

So, it’s really hard to start talking about 2020 without committing the mortal sin of saying something like unprecedented, disrupt or adapt. So apologies in advance if I do that. But I think it’s fair to say that marketers have had to deal with a very different set of circumstances than we’ve ever had to before. And certainly, that is the case in B2B; the loss of events, face-to-face meetings, and product demos. Of course, these are significant challenges and I think they’ve put a lot of weight on marketer’s shoulders. However, as marketers, we’ve had to adapt and adapt we have.

So over the next few slides, there’s a lot of data and a lot of graphs, so apologies for that. But I won’t dig in too much. I just want to kind of talk about the overall narrative of where we’re heading and where we possibly are with digital and content at the moment.

The next few slides are from McKinsey’s global B2B decision-maker COVID-19 survey, which they’ve regularly updated through the pandemic, and it has been a really useful resource to see how things are shifting. So this graph is from April, and it shows the initial shift into the importance of digital. Now, look, that’s not a surprise, we’ve all had to deal with that, even in our personal lives you know the shift to digital, but I think the interesting thing for B2B; one, is the sheer acceleration of it, how quickly we’ve had to jump, and also moving from digitally integrated marketing, sales to digital-first marketing and sales.

Now, digital, of course, it’s such a broad term. But again, this is from April, and it is broken down digital and traditional tactics and channels, which is really interesting. And like I said, won’t go too much into this. But based on this data, a website visit is deemed more beneficial than an in-person meeting with a sales rep. And the importance of Google Search has seen a sharp increase, so it is now as important or more important in every traditional self-serve interaction, including referrals, trade shows, and industry publications.

And I think we’re quite well aware of this now; but this digital transformation is here to stay, even though we don’t know what’s going on with returning to work, you know, with the current situation I think it’s fair to say that there’s going to be a little while until we see us returned to trade shows, until we see a return to in-person meetings, and product demos and things like that. And that’s not just because of safety concerns or health concerns, obviously, but because of the increase in productivity, efficiency, and of course profits. And interestingly, this chart is the most recent one, from their most recent study, and B2B decision-makers believe that this current model we’re working in is more is as or more effective than those who said it was less effective.

So when looking at this digital transformation, I think it’s largely been driven by content. And the figures here from a survey by a company called Powerfactory – we have no affiliation with Powerfactory, we don’t use it, but they’re a B2B content platform – and what they did was look at all the content that their clients had created through the platform and just looked at what’s changed. And you can see here that they’ve had 70% more visitors, they have more unique assets viewed, more total pages, more time and more sessions. And so really content consumption has rocketed.

Now in the same study, they’ve said that it was 124% increase in new content assets created during COVID-19, then the period directly before the lockdown. And whilst the value of assets in the content libraries have increased by 61%, the cost per asset they believe has gone down from $3,700 to $2,600, a reduction of 30%. And what this means is marketers have produced more content faster by shifting to less expensive assets to produce. Now, I think that presents some problems for the marketplace but as I go to hopefully show you some also some opportunities.

Apologies for another chart, I promise there’s only one left.

This chart is from the Content Marketing Institute, they released their B2B content survey a few days ago. And I’ve digested everything. And this one stuck out to me as an indicator of how content is and possibly could be in the future. Now, it’s obvious, you know, through everything I’ve said that there’s going to be more money invested in content creation. But what stuck out to me is the areas that had less investment, and that is getting to know the audience better, and spending money on earned media, which includes PR.

Last graph.

Now, this is again from that Powerfactory content engagement report. But this is a really interesting one. And it shows how engagement by content-type has changed during lockdown. So you can see if you’re used to producing guides, the engagement time has gone down by 10%, whereas reports and webinars are up.

So if you’re not assessing, or not spending time in looking at your user, i.e. how they’ve changed, and how they’re reacting to content, you could well be creating content that they’re then not really engaging with at the moment. And to invest a resource in audience research and how they react is going to help you create better content, which is, I think, much more important than it being fast or cheap.

The other thing is, while in terms of looking at your audience/investigating the audience and content, is I feel that we’re all a bit less formal now; especially in B2B. We’re used to seeing cats and dogs come on calls, or having kids run in. And I think there’s a new type of tone evolving, one that’s a lot less formal and a lot more helpful and friendly. And again, during my research, I was looking at different types of companies and how they’re reacting. And I’ve got a quote here, one I read from a fortune 500 software firm, and he said,

“We’re moving specifically away from pushing out specific solutions, to being present and helpful and providing information and resources to help audiences deal with the high levels of complexity and uncertainty that they like the rest of us are facing.”

And with that, they produced new guidelines based around responsible messaging and they reviewed and edited their current content calendar in line with this new way of speaking, with this new tone. I think that’s really interesting for B2B brands. Sometimes I think it’s quite difficult to be human or be emotional, or connect with people on that emotional level in B2B, but we do perhaps have an opportunity here to do that.

And lastly, before I move on to the next section, I just want to talk about the lack of investment in earned media and how I think that in B2B is perhaps an opportunity for brands to capitalise on. I’ve got two examples here, apologies for the humblebrag, but we have two examples of how we’ve looked at Digital PR during this crisis. So we had some great company news that we were ‘The Best Company To Work For’ in the UK, so obviously that is worthy of a press release to get some attention and get some eyes on the brand and build awareness. But that is something that is press-worthy. So, if you don’t have something as press-worthy, then create it with content.

An example here is something we did, it was a bit of content where we looked at search volumes, right at the start of the crisis around survival terms, like toilet roll hand sanitizer, and then we looked at how that was affecting sales in shops and retailers. And we did this bit of research, we outreached it, and we got a load of links; including one from the BBC, which if you’re an SEO is the holy grail of links. And that’s what I’ll talk about now is how this isn’t just great for getting eyes on your brand that you might be missing from not being able to do trade shows or events, but how it’s going to impact you in the long term in terms of SEO as well.

So to finish up, I’m just going to talk you quickly through a case study about how those three things come together, creating good content,
investing resource and understanding of your audience, and also investing time and resources into outreaching through digital PR.

Just before I run through the case study, I’m going to take you through a whistlestop tour of things that are really, really important to SEO, especially considering how important Google is now compared to what it was before for B2B companies.

So fundamentally, SEO will come down to two things which are relevance and importance. So relevance is the things on your site; is your site and is your content relevant for the terms that people are searching for on Google, and things that will indicate relevance? So that is the quality of the content, the engagement, i.e. are people actually spending time reading it and navigating through your site. And also the keywords that’s in your content, and those include specific keywords that are related to those services, and also longtail keywords that perhaps answer kind of those broader questions that people are asking. And then secondly, is the importance, and this is off-site SEO.

So off-site SEO, is things like backlinks. So are you getting website links from other sites to your website that are one from an authoritative source, so are they reputable? And secondly, are they relevant to your company and your industry?

So the case study in question is a company called Pure Property Finance, we’ve worked with Pure for a number of years now, and what’s really quite interesting in their sector is the cost of traffic in terms of PPC has rocketed in recent years, you’ve gone from perhaps a couple of pounds per click to now £30 per click for some of their core terms. So for them, investing in content and looking to rank organically was going to be a key strategic move to grow that business. So when they first come on board, you know, we looked at the whole site structure, we optimised everything from that point of view in terms of the pages they should have, the type of keywords that they needed to be optimised for, and we were writing regular content for them, things like advice and working with the financial advisors there to make sure that we were creating good content for them.

Now, one thing we did from the start as well, was to make sure we were driving those links to get attention on the brand. So again, using digital PR, we got out to several different publications, and you can see here two publications that we’ve got Pure featured in, the one, was Bridging and Commercial, where we talked about an article about regulating bridging finance. And so of course, it was very relevant; relevant for the target market and they’re very much likely to be on that website and reading. And then secondly, you can see here, we provided a comment for a large article in one of the main news websites.

So digital PR really has been quite important to Pure for a long time, whilst we’ve always been looking at their SEO and content to get attention on the content we’re creating, as well as providing content for the sites. But one of the things we wanted to do is really start to attract some bigger attention, and we did that through content campaigns. And again, this is a really good case study of how we considered those three really important things to create success.

What we did was looked at who the audience was, now not to pigeonhole the average UK property developer, but mainly the clients Pure were serving were men in their 30s or 40s, and they were into sport. And we can get a lot of that information through directly through working with the client but we can also get that type of information from Google ads as well. So, just a really nice bit of advice there in terms of looking at who your audience is. And so then what we wanted to do was combine their love of sports, with their love of property and making money, so we created a content campaign that looked at how the regeneration of stadiums and how not just the stadiums themselves being built, but their whole area was affected; in terms of house prices, and all the other developments that come with that as well. Then we did an investigative piece into that, found out some interesting findings, and then produced a series of follow-ups to look at where the best places to invest were. And, this was something that was very different in that industry, it stood out a little bit more than the usual just advice around regulation and finance.

Now we produced that content, we had some interesting findings, and we invested in that earned media that digital PR. You can see here some fantastic links to that content and features from websites that are both extremely relevant, and also extremely authoritative. So that’s a huge boost both for that brand awareness but also that SEO element we need. And again, thinking about the current state we’re in with less events, less trade shows, getting featured on relevant sites should be really, really important for that.

Now, this graph shows organic traffic to the blog pages from over the last couple of years. You can see this approach really has worked for Pure, you can see there’s some nice steady growth and we know from working with them that we’ve attributed conversions to the website and the ranking increases we’ve had. And even this year, you can see right at the end of the graph, we’ve had that dip, but a few months in now we’re back up to perhaps on the strongest level three have ever seen. So we had some great short term wins from that content, a lot of nice attention. And the MD was even invited onto Talksport to talk about this research. So again, a really great way of getting your brand out there, you know, perhaps while there are not many events, but also there’s that long term bonus of increasing your rankings, getting some more content out there, which people can find you with, and all contributing towards that long term business growth.

I hope that’s given you an idea of perhaps how taking a real holistic approach to content can help give you those short and long-term goals. And I think, you know, thinking about that data I talked about the start of the presentation, you know, we’ve had to adapt, and we have adapted well, but it’s very likely that this space is going to get a lot more crowded. There’s already a lot of wastage in content, unfortunately. And there’s also it’s also very, very crowded, but by taking this holistic approach should give you some really good results.

So again, thanks ever so much for listening, please visit Liberty or connect with me on LinkedIn and it’d be great to chat. Thank you.

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