B2B content marketing has a huge problem

The B2B tech content bubble is unsustainable - but it’s not because of “content shock”, shrinking attention spans, or any of the usual suspects, says Fiona.

B2B content marketing has a huge problem

Here’s something about content marketing we can probably all agree on: it needs content.

And I think we’re all agreed that these days, it doesn’t just need content – it needs good content. Good content is the baseline, the table stakes, the price of entry.

So now, if you’re in any way serious about being better than everyone else at this stuff, you’re starting to need great content.

There is starting to be huge demand for great content. Running a B2B tech copywriting agency, I feel this huge demand building up. I feel the pressure to deliver more and more great content. I feel it growing every day.

In theory, I see a huge opportunity. I see our direct clients getting more and more into content. I see our agency clients winning huge content creation contracts, from huge global clients. Everyone is down with content marketing. It’s an exciting time. In theory.

Because underpinning all of this is a strange kind of blithe – and almost entirely unchallenged – assumption that there’s an army of great writers in the wings, ready to write all the great content everyone’s going to create.

The mysterious army of great writers

Great writers who, despite the whole B2B sector (which, let’s face it, is quite big) already being in the middle of a massive content marketing bubble, are just sitting around with nothing to do, waiting for this work to descend on them.

So here’s the thing about that: there isn’t.

There is no army of outstanding B2B tech content writers who are just sitting around with nothing to do, waiting for work to descend.

There is no army of outstanding B2B tech content writers at all.

I can count the outstanding B2B tech content writers I know on not-very-many fingers, and I hire and commission B2B tech content writers all the time.

That’s not to say I don’t know lots of writers. I know lots of content writers. I know lots of tech writers. I know lots of B2B writers. I even know lots of great writers.

I know writers who are great at this thing, and that thing. I know writers who can conjure up stunning ideas and metaphors. I know writers who have an intimate knowledge of (for example) emerging M2M standards. I know writers who always turn in copy on time, and ones who never do. I know writers who are creative thinkers but lazy writers, and writers who are enthusiastic and curious in their approach but disappointingly pedestrian in their copy. I know writers who can write like Don Draper but loathe big-corporate tech, and writers who love enterprise tech but write like corporate copy-bots.

From the writers I know, I could scrape together a kind of smallish army. And, to a certain extent, I have. But it’s not the army you want, ambitious and driven B2B tech content marketers.

The army of writers you want

You want an army of enthusiastic and curious writers who can come up with stunning ideas and metaphors, love enterprise tech, have an intimate knowledge of (for example) emerging M2M standards, and always turn in outstandingly creative copy on time.

What’s more, you want these people to be endlessly available to work on your every project. And as your projects get bigger and more extensive and more granular and more ambitious, you want this army to expand into infinity along with you.

And that’s just what you *know* you want. There are other things you – consciously or subconsciously – want everyone in this army to be able to do.

You want them to know your brand inside out: your products, your services, your competitors, your messaging, your outlook, your worldview, your voice.

You want them to understand the roles, motivations, feelings, processes and aspirations of your buyers: not just as a group, but increasingly (as you get more into personalisation) as individuals.

You want them to understand marketing: how it works, what it needs to do, what this campaign or that campaign needs to deliver.

You want them to be great at writing everything: from ad copy to technical datasheets.

You want them to be professional and polished: great at running calls, handling interviews, project-managing their work, delivering on time, and invoicing you promptly.

This is the gamut of skills you need in a writer if they’re going to create great content for you. (I wrote more about those skills here, incidentally.) And that’s fine, in theory.

In the real world, if you find even one writer who has all of these skills, for god’s sake hang on to that person and do not let them go.

Because there is not, and will not ever be, an army of these people.  And if there’s one thing that’s going to burst the content marketing bubble, it isn’t Content Shock, or diminishing attention spans, or the Next Big Thing coming along to displace it. It is this: there are not enough great writers available to create all the great content everyone wants.

OK, so there is no army of great B2B tech content writers. So what’s the next best thing?

There are workarounds, of course. You can go a long way by assembling a team of diversely-gifted writers, and playing each of them to their strengths, Moneyball-style. This works pretty well until you play one of them out of position, and your content flops. Or you can accept that not all of your content will be great, and aim for just a few “home runs”, with the rest being merely “OK”. Or you can create only a very few content pieces, but make them all great.

What you can’t do – unless you have the budget and talent-spotting ability to secure all of the available time of all of the very best writers in the world – is create infinite amounts of great content.

So here’s my advice:  Get to know the writers you have available to you. Know what each of them is great at. Play them to their strengths. Keep their skills in mind when planning your content, and let them know early that you’re going to need them. Don’t over-reach or plan in a vacuum, or you’ll find there’s no one to write the stuff you need when you need it. Use our slideshare below to identify the kinds of writers you have, or need. And go forth and create limited amounts of great content!

Fiona Campbell-Howes

Our founder and original managing director, Fiona was responsible for the strategic and day-to-day management of Radix, as well as working on many client writing projects. She brought long experience of marketing in the tech industry, during which time she worked with many global IT brands, including Adobe, CA, IBM and Oracle.

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