In B2B marketing, there’s almost always a vague urge to create a piece of content just because. Just because we need to fill out our blog. Just because one of our competitors is talking about this, and we’re not. Just because we’ve got a bit of budget left to see off before the end of the quarter.
It’s a hard temptation to resist. Often, businesses write something on the fly, and fill their websites with the content equivalent of used kitty litter. And that’s because creating content that’s actually valuable – something that hits a certain KPI, answers a burning question, or starts a promising conversation – takes work.
With that in mind, here are a few nudges to help you ensure every piece of content you produce offers value to your reader, and your business.
Define what “value” really looks like
The work starts with defining what “value” actually means. And it may feel a bit philosophical, but judging every piece of content by the same generic measure of value isn’t going to do you any favours.
Some content is designed solely to convert a reader into a prospect. Other pieces work best as an opportunity to raise your profile and show your company’s expertise in a particular area. Sometimes you want to share a new perspective on a current news item from your industry.
There are so many different ways content can function, and all of them bring a different kind of value. But if you know what you want a piece to achieve from the start, you can tailor it to that purpose.
Revisit your personas
Here’s a tip: the content with the greatest business value usually offers a lot to the reader too. If you’re giving them content that’s interesting, useful and compelling, they’re much more likely to follow your call to action.
But those needs vary. So to produce content that’s valuable to your business, you need to be certain you’re offering value to the right audience personas.
When you’ve had an established set of personas in your strategy for a while, it’s wise to go back and check on those profiles. If you haven’t revisited them for a few months (or even years), it’s easy to drift away from the key messages you want to communicate. In some cases, you might find those profiles just aren’t as relevant as they used to be.
Make sure you’re focusing on the right pain points and priorities and responding with something useful.
Align your priorities
In an ideal world, the Venn diagram of your internal stakeholder interests and your customers’ priorities would be a single, neat circle. But in reality, it tends to look more like two amorphous blobs that barely overlap – and that can make it difficult for your content to satisfy both.
It can be a fiddly business, but making valuable content relies on finding that sweet spot where the two blobs meet, and identifying the content opportunities that are hiding in that precious inch of overlap.
Stakeholders are far more likely to sign off on content – especially bigger pieces – if it reflects their requirements (and it’ll often benefit from their input too). On the other side, your audience won’t even consider spending their time on something that doesn’t talk about their challenges. By meeting them in the middle, you can get enthusiastic engagement from both sides.
Look for the unanswered questions
It’s getting more difficult by the day to create original content. When you’re looking at content put out by others in your market, it may sometimes feel like they’ve already answered every question or filled every niche.
But sometimes, all they’re really doing is papering over the cracks – answering top-level queries and offering generic responses. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll often find unique opportunities to add your own expertise, opinions and answers.
Primary research is your friend here; there’s no better way to identify your audience’s real, burning unanswered questions. A simple starting point is keyword research, to see which topics and queries people are plugging into Google, but you might want to dive into polls, surveys and social media too, for a more detailed overview.
Appease the gods of SEO
Once you have an idea that’s tailored perfectly to your readers’ expectations and interests, it’s time to pay your respects to the mighty SEO gods of the internet. By convincing the search engines that your content has value, your piece is far more likely to turn up in the top results, so you can see some real-world value in turn.
This is where that keyword research from earlier comes in handy – and an understanding of how latent semantic indexing (LSI) works.
Be warned: keyword stuffing is not the way to go. It’s ugly and doesn’t rank well with search engines anymore. With LSI, search engines also look for words that are contextually related to a particular topic. It’s rare to search using full, sensible sentences; we all use fragments and idiosyncratic phrasing, but by using words that frequently appear together in a sensible way, the search engine will recognise that you’re writing about a subject in depth.
So, you no longer have to squeeze an awkward sentence like “how to move to cloud” into your copy just because your audience types that into the search bar. The algorithm can also spot a combination of related terms like “public”, “hybrid” and “migrate”, which show you know about the subject.
Know where to share it
Getting that sweet, sweet ROI from your content means sharing it in the right places, so the right people read it. (Or hear it. Or watch it. I’m not the format police.)
Consider what you’re creating carefully. Does it work best on your own blog? As a guest post on someone else’s site? Are there industry publications that can lend your content an extra bit of heft? Is this a piece that would lend itself to being printed on heavy-weight paper stock and handed to your prospective customers in person?
Write copy that sings (very quietly)
Great ideas get lost in bad copy. Once you’ve identified your message, who it’s most valuable to share it with, and how to get it in front of them, you’ve got to write it well.
And if the idea of actually doing that writing after all your prep work makes your fingers ache… Well, I know a few good writers who could help you out.