This month’s B2B content question comes not from one of our lovely listeners, but from us here at Radix. And if you’re looking for content marketing inspiration, you’re in the right place – because we asked you: What was the best B2B content of 2021?
In our quest to find the answer, we invited you to vote for your favourites among eleven great content examples, in three semi-final categories:
- Best short-form or standalone content
- Best long-form white paper or report
- Best B2B content programme or hub
The winner of each category went through to the grand final. But who did you vote as your overall champion?
In this podcast, we reveal the results – with expert analysis from our shortlisting panel: Atlassian‘s Content Strategy Lead for Software Teams, Ashley Faus; Nadya Khoja, Head of Content Strategy at Boast.AI; and me, David McGuire, Creative Director here at Radix Communications.
You can listen to the podcast in full now, or read the transcript at the end of this post.
Inspiration and ideas: what can we learn from this year’s best content?
Both Nadya and Ashley had some interesting thoughts to share based on the best content shortlist, which could be useful for anyone planning their content for 2022.
Great content starts with humanity
Content needs to speak to the individual if it’s going to work. “Maybe a few years ago, B2B was focused on clunky data reports and heavy text,” says Nadya. “Not a lot of focus on engagement, or thinking about your audience as an individual human. So it was refreshing to see how creative this content was.”
Ashley agrees: “I feel like the tide is finally starting to shift where people remember that B2B does not mean you’re selling a faceless brand to a faceless brand. There’s humans behind the brands, and humans on the other side of the screen. What we’re seeing with the shortlist this year is, hey, if you’re going to do B2B content, and you want to be competitive, you have to think about those humans behind the screen. Because there’s some pretty stiff competition.”
Credit the audience with some intelligence
In B2B, your reader is often an expert in their job, so recognise that in your content. But that doesn’t mean your content shouldn’t be easy to digest.
Ashley says: “All of these finalists treat their audience like they’re smart. They know they’re not going to trick anybody into buying anything. And so they make it very clear and very easy for the reader to consume content, get educated, and get empowered.”
Copy and visuals need to work together
It’s no longer enough for your content to be just well written, or well designed. Words and images need to work together. “You have to be able to really marry the type of story you’re telling to the design and create that visual narrative,” says Nadya.
This is even the case for traditionally less-visual formats. “You wouldn’t normally think of a white paper or report as having visually engaging elements,” Ashley adds. “But all our finalists in that category were really well designed.”
White papers and reports need a story to tell
As well as presenting factual information, the best long-form content helps the reader by offering a clear narrative structure or angle.
“When you think about white papers,” Nadya suggests, “You think about a faceless, gated piece of content. But the finalists were really interesting; they provided a unique angle on the data, rather than just a bunch of numbers. The purpose of the white paper is really telling that story.”
Don’t overlook the power of a strong title
Without giving away too many spoilers, both our experts recognised the impact of a strong title in the voting. “Having really good copy and an engaging title can do a lot more than really great content alone,” comments Nadya.
Ashley concludes: “There’s a lot to be said for surprising and delighting the audience.”
In this episode, you’ll find…
1:00 – We welcome our guests, Ashley Faus and Nadya Khoja, to B2BQ&A
2:20 – What does this year’s shortlist tell us about the state of B2B content?
4:10 – Best short-form or standalone content
8:10 – Best white paper or research report
12:10 – Best B2B content programme or hub
18:40 – Ashley and Nadya share their key takeaways. What can we learn?
20:30 – The Grand Final: we reveal the best B2B content of 2021, as voted by you
Have you got a question for B2BQ&A?
We can get you the answer!
How to listen
- You can download the episode here (right-click and select “Save As” to download)
- Or you can subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts
- Alternatively, add our RSS to your preferred podcast player
- And don’t forget you can follow us on Spotify
- Firstly, a big thank you to our expert panellists Ashley Faus and Nadya Khoja, for all your help collating the shortlist, hosting the voting, and sharing your wisdom.
- Thanks to Doug Kessler, Luan Wise and John Espirian for telling us your favourite B2B content of 2021 – you’ve given us some great inspiration.
- And last but not least, thank you to everyone who nominated and voted this year! We can’t wait to see what you come up with in 2022.
Podcast editing and music by Bang and Smash.
Transcript: B2BQ&A 103: What was the best B2B content of 2021?
David McGuire: What was the best B2B content of 2021?
Ashley Faus: That’s a great question. Let’s ask the audience!
David: Hello, listener; you are extraordinarily welcome to a special end-of-year edition of B2BQ&A. Usually, this is the podcast that goes in search for an answer to your question about B2B content. But this time, we’re asking the question, you’ve provided an answer, and in the next few minutes, we’ll crown 2021’s best B2B content. We’ll discuss the nominees with two brilliant guests and hear some content nominations from friends of the show. But before all of that, some introductions. My name is David McGuire, I’m Creative Director at Radix Communications, the B2B tech writing agency. And I’m delighted to say that I’m joined by the wonderful panellists who selected the shortlist for this year’s best B2B content. We have Ashley Faus, Atlassian’s Content Strategy Lead for Software Teams. Hi, Ashley.
Ashley: Hey, good to be here. Excited to talk content.
David: And we have the Head of Content Strategy at Boast.ai, Nadya Khoja. Hi, Nadya.
Nadya Khoja: Hey, how’s it going? Excited to be here as well.
David: It’s amazing to have you both here. Thank you so much for dialling in from across the Atlantic and different time zones. I imagine the weather’s very different where you both are at the moment as well. Listener, if you want to have your say on the shortlist, or if there’s any great content you think we’ve missed you can, as always, find Radix Communications on LinkedIn or you can tweet at us @radixcom. Or if you want us to answer your question on a future episode, record a quick voice note and send it by email: email@example.com.
Okay, so let’s get on with it. So before we get into the first category, let’s talk about the shortlist overall. This has been another bumper year for B2B content in terms of quantity. All the experienced writers I know have been really busy. But has that translated into quality? What do you think of the shortlist and content in general this year? Nadya?
Nadya: I was pretty impressed by the shortlist of content. I think typically when you think of B2B content, or at least maybe a few years ago, this was more of the case. But a lot of B2B was heavily focused on, you know, the clunky data reports without like, heavy text, not a lot of imagery, not a lot of focus on engagement, or actually, you know, thinking of your audience as an individual human that’s reading it, and it was very targeted towards like, the bigger brand itself. So it was refreshing to see the shortlist and see how creative some of the B2B content and just like the content structuring itself was, a lot of really great stuff came out of that.
David: Sure. And what do you think, Ashley?
Ashley: Yeah, I agree. I feel like the tide is finally starting to shift where people remember that B2B does not mean that you’re selling a faceless brand to a faceless brand. There’s humans behind the brands. There’s humans on the other side of the screen. And so I think that what we’re seeing with the shortlist this year is really starting to show, hey, if you’re going to do B2B content, and you want to be competitive, you have to think about the humans behind the screen. And there’s some pretty stiff competition. And I also think that putting these things into more of a hub, not just oh, here’s one experimental piece of creative content, but it’s really a mindset shift to focus on the audience. I think that’s what this year’s shortlist demonstrates.
David: Amazing. Well, let’s jump in then, to the first of our three semi-finals. It’s the best short-form or standalone piece of B2B content. We had four nominees in this category: Assure Hedge’s blog post, “The Chicken McNuggets’ secret ingredient is not what you think…”, Postmark’s digital comic “Postmark Express: Journey to the Inbox”, Telenet’s interactive piece “Faites le test: Quel type d’entrepreneur êtes-vous en matière de wifi?” and Venngage’s infographic “8 Graphic Design Trends that Will Define 2022”. Ashley, what stood out in this category for you?
Ashley: Oh man, so many things. I actually really enjoyed walking through this category. I think that all of them had really great visuals, they were all connected, even if they were a standalone piece of content in terms of like a blog post, but it was very clear that it was part of a larger strategy. The Assure Hedge blog post, you would never think that, you know, a hedge fund would have an interesting read. And you would also never think that it would be about a chicken nugget. And so I think that the surprise of that was just really delightful. And then obviously serves their audience really well and helps them tell their story about their clients. Same thing with the Postmark Express, like, why would you make a webcomic? How fascinating. And then obviously, Venngage, you know, everything, the infographics really step up the game for data clarity and data storytelling, not just from a design standpoint, but really making it clear.
David: Absolutely. Nadya, was there one or more that stood out to you or anything that you kind of took away from the shortlist?
Nadya: Yeah, I think the really interesting thing about this shortlist is even the one piece that was a blog post didn’t really, like, it was a very unique blog post. And I think when we think of a short-form piece of content, it’s rare that people will create, you know, a comic, for instance, like that’s not the first thing that comes to mind. Quizzes, sure enough. But I think yeah, more interactive, more kind of these smaller snippets of engagement that tell a bigger story, let the audience pull away something that they can draw their own conclusions from is something that came across from this section. Especially, yeah, the chicken nugget piece like a hedge fund talking about that, but even so, it wasn’t really about the recipe behind the chicken nugget, right. They were connecting it back to hedge funds. And I think I referred to this in the past as what I called mashup content. It’s like taking this trendy theme or something that’s a little bit more pop culture and tying it back into an adjacent theme is really useful in content. So I’m not surprised that they stood out in this category, too.
David: Yeah. So I think, you know, Nadya, you might have hinted at it there. But I mean, Ashley, you hosted this semi-final on your LinkedIn feed. We also added in the votes that were emailed direct to Radix. So would you care to confirm that the winner from this semi-final?
Ashley: I believe it was Assure Hedge – the story of the Chicken McNugget.
David: It absolutely was. Congratulations Assure Hedge goes through to the grand final. Now, let’s hear who Doug Kessler of Velocity Partners thought had the best content this year.
Doug Kessler: Favourite piece of b2b content this year. I like to book Ask Your Developer by Jeff Lawson. It’s called Ask Your Developer: How to Harness the Power of Software Developers. And when in the 21st century hardcover book people don’t think of that as B2B content. But it is and it’s excellent. It’s really well done. I also really like, second is the MailChimp, presents shows they do a whole series of shows that are really well made, and you got to envy that – it’s good shit.
David: Thanks, Doug. All the best to you for the new year. Our second semi-final is for the best long-form white paper or report. This one had three contenders: “Polarised perceptions of corporate health and wellness” by Aetna International, “The Electric Opportunity” by Kalibrate, and “Customer data breaches: when will you find out” by Skurio. Nadya, I know white papers are not always your favourite content. But you kindly agreed to host this poll for us on LinkedIn. I hesitate to ask, but what did you think of the nominees?
Nadya: Um, I was surprised. You know, I feel like when I think about white papers, I think about the faceless gated piece of content that no one is allowed to see unless you give an email, and then you’re really surprised by what you get. Luckily, in this case, at least for me, all of these pieces were ungated so I was able to actually take a look at them. And yeah, I was impressed with a lot of them. I think they were really interesting. And they provided a unique angle on the data rather than just presenting like a bunch of numbers to an audience. Which I think is the purpose of a white paper report is really presenting that angle and telling a bit of a story with the data that you collect. In most cases, these are the purposes behind white papers and reports. I think they all did a good job in doing that. I don’t know what you what your opinions were on them.
David: No, I agree. I’m biased because embarrassingly enough for the nominations, I had nothing to do with it, but I did write one of these. Ashley, can I ask if there are any that stood out for you though?
Ashley: Yeah, I actually thought this category was really strong. I think that you know, first having them on gated so people can actually get the story and speak to the humans I think is huge. This is another shift that I’m seeing in content, which I personally support a lot, which is the shift in mindset that just because somebody fills out a form, they are not necessarily a lead. They are not an MQL if they fill out ten forms, and so instead really empowering the reader by giving them the data in an actionable way. The other thing too, all of them were really well designed. And so it’s funny, you wouldn’t normally think of a white paper definitely, in some cases a report, as having some visually engaging elements. And so yeah, I was really impressed by everything in this category. I was having a hard time picking.
David: Sure. And that was something that we didn’t have to do that our audience did, by emailing us here at Radix and also voting on the poll on Nadya’s LinkedIn. So Nadya, could you confirm the winner for us, please?
Nadya: The winner was Kalibrate’s “The Electric Opportunity”.
David: Yeah, absolutely was, so congratulations to Kalibrate who join Assure Hedge in the final vote. But who did Marketing Consultant and Social Media Specialist Luan Wise think should have won this year?
Luan Wise: Hi, my name is Luan Wise. I’m a Marketing Consultant and specialist in social media, my favourite B2B content this year? Well, I think as the most downloaded app of 2021, Tiktok, it’s taking the world by storm. And at the same time, it’s presenting this whole new challenge to marketers who are questioning how they might get involved, and if they need to get involved. So I’m nominating Tiktok’s own in-app resource, the business Creative Hub, which shares the latest trends, advise best practices, it’s a really good quick cheat sheet for brands to get all the information that they need to build business cases, make decisions, and get inspired.
David: Thanks, Luan, we appreciate the nomination. So we come to our third and last semi-final, the best B2B content program or hub. There were four strong contenders here, the “Animalz blog”, Atlassian’s “Team Playbook”, Canvas web content “What will you design?” and “Realise Your Vision” by Sohonet. Ashley, Atlassian are in this category, of course. So perhaps I’d better ask you first, what stands out for you here?
Ashley: Sure. So I actually, this is another really strong category, I’m very glad I did not have to vote in the semi finals, because this category is great. So obviously, I have been a huge fan of Animalz and the team over there for a while. I think that they write smart content. It’s very intelligent. It has a direct path into sales without being salesy. They educate, they empower their audience. And then that makes you say, man, I need to work with these people. So they’re an agency. So love Animalz, I highly recommend people check out their work. Obviously, Atlassian I am a huge fan of the content that we create. The thing that’s so cool about the Team Playbook is that it’s really meant for teams and everything is actionable. And it’s completely ungated. And so we are very passionate about empowering teams. And so if you go to the Team Playbook, there’s a ton of stuff to help you run better retros, there’s great information about roles and responsibilities and helping teams work better together. So I love that. And then Canva again, I think that their whole experience to go from SEO into templates and then a very smart conversion path into product, without it being overly salesy. I thought they did a great job. I was actually not as big of a fan of the Sohonet hub. It was very…it was visually beautiful. But I was struggling a little bit to kind of see the tie ins that I think the rest had in this category. So again, I think that it’s strong, but I from my perspective, the other three were much stronger.
David: Yeah, I think that’s probably fair. I was personally I think a big fan of the way Sohonet just curated stuff with a very defined target audience and just curated stuff that would just be really really interesting for them. Nadya, what stood out for you about this category?
Nadya: Yeah, it’s funny because I mean, I’ve having been a part of with clients or with teams, rebuilding and redesigning the resources hubs or the content hubs for a lot of different sites, these are usually the ones that are my go to reference points. So I’m not surprised that in this category, I think yeah, I like the Animalz, blog. Animalzs have done such a great job with becoming a thought leader in content, through content. Because I remember when they first kind of were starting out, and they were kind of doing a little bit of guest posting here and there. And then just like kind of exploding into the leaders of how to do content. Same with Atlassian, like I referenced the Atlassian Content Hub and various different products through Atlassian as a resource as well. I have my own, like, my own biases around Canva versus Venngage. So I won’t speak too much to that. But yeah, I think I do agree with you, David on Sohonet. I think that it was extremely, it was very specifically curated, you could tell that they were targeting a really, really specific audience. I mean, I didn’t necessarily I’m not the right audience, for them. But visually appealing, I watched the video was really unique, like really showed the, they’re talking about the soul of a story. And I think they kind of captured that with the video. I think maybe in terms of like the technical element, it would be cool to have like a snippet of that play automatically so that people don’t have to click in and watch it, and they can just see that unfold. So there may be like some technical changes I would have made on there. But this particular page, I wouldn’t, I don’t know if I would call it a content hub, seemed more like a page. So I don’t know if it was in the right category. That just kind of highlighted the different partners are people that they were giving a shout out to. So that’s the one piece where I’m like, I don’t know if it made sense in the same category and if it really competed in the same way.
David: As some of the others. Yeah, absolutely. Well, this poll was fought out on my LinkedIn page, as well as in the Radix inbox, so I can officially congratulate Animalz whose blog has been awarded this year’s best content hub. And congratulations Animalz, you complete our lineup in the Grand Final. Before we move on, and see who won the winner of winners, who did the relentlessly helpful LinkedIn guru, John Espirian back as having the best content this year?
John Espirian: My vote for B2B content of the year would be for Gong, which is a revenue intelligence platform, firmly in the B2B market. And they are non-boring, and they really stand out on LinkedIn through their relatable posts. They do a lot of text only content, which, if you look at a lot of B2B tends to be very image focused or document focused. But this is very much text based. And it really works well. Their engagement is just off the scale, there’s no one particular post that I would pick out. It’s their consistency of presence, and the light heartedness of tone that really gets them a lot of attention and a lot of business. And surprise, surprise, they’ve now got almost 100,000 followers, they’re doing a really good job, and a great example to follow.
David: Thanks, John, and season’s greetings to you. So we have our grand final line up. We have Assure Hedge. We have Kalibrate. And we have Animalz. Voting was underway for a week on LinkedIn. And by email, I can confirm it closed a little while before we recorded this. Before we reveal those results, can I ask each of you for a final thought, something that the listener can learn from the shortlist this year? Nadya, can I come to you first?
Nadya: Yeah, I think there’s probably a few different elements here. Because we’re looking at different parts of content and different functions of content. I think the thing that stood out is, again, design and copy comes back to everything. So a lot of people say like copy is everything. I don’t think that’s it designs, not everything. I think you have to be able to really match and marry the type of story you’re telling to the design and create that visual communication, visual narrative. And that’s really the example behind everything that stood out here across each category. So that’s my takeaway.
David: Absolutely. Ashley for you, what can the listener learn from the shortlist this year?
Ashley: I think that the biggest thing is that all of these finalists treat their audience like the audience is smart. They know that they’re not going to trick anybody into buying anything. And so they make it very clear and very easy for them to consume content, get educated, get empowered, and oh, by the way, if you do need our services, or you do want to buy something from us, it’s very clear how you do that. But they’re not. It’s not a thinly veiled sales pitch. There’s no hard selling in any of the content, it’s basically just saying, we know our stuff so well and we respect you as an audience so much, that we know that when you’re ready, you’ll come to us and we can help you solve your problem. So I think that’s the biggest thing is just respecting the audience, and moving away from such a hard sell for content.
David: Amen to that. Thank you. Thank you so much both for the takeaways there. And for all the help you’ve given us in putting the shortlist and the vote together this year. It’s very much appreciated. So it’s time to reveal the final results. So the combination of the email vote and the LinkedIn poll. I think we could probably agree that all three of the finalists would have been a worthy winner. But this is the bit where they’re on tenterhooks, so according to the audience, in third place, we have Animalz.
Ashley: I’m like.. I thought.. I would have put Animalz as like first or second. Again, Kalibrate was great, but I’m surprised.
Nadya: I’m surprised too
David: Well, it’s comes down to the vote. In second place, we have Kalibrate with “The Electric Opportunity”. Which means that the winner, and this year’s best b2b content as voted for by our audience is…
Assure Hedge with their blog post, “The Chicken McNuggets’ secret ingredient is not what you think…” There you have it. It’s a surprising one. But that’s officially the best content of the year, according to the audience. What do you think? Happy surprised? How do you how’s that make you feel?
Nadya: I’m not surprised that they won. Especially when you give people like a short list of titles, people are going to click – it’s clickbaity, right to so people probably clicked on that first, they probably read it in its entirety, eventually get through the rest of the list. And they’re like, so that’s part of one of the reasons I think that you know, having a really good, really good copy and a really engaging title can do a lot more than just having a really great piece of content.
David: Oh, a title is so important. You know, so much of the of the time of a copywriter should be spent on the title and the first few lines. Ashely, how about how about you?
Ashley: Yeah, I agree with Nadya, I think I think the fact that the title was so quippy and the story was so unexpected. I think the other interesting thing is that because it was very unexpected, like the other two, you can kind of see the thread of what their goals are and how they’re positioning themselves as thought leaders and how that directly ties to business. And so I think that Assure Hedge all the way around. It was just kind of like, oh, this is how interesting. And so I think there’s a lot to be said for surprising and delighting the audience.
David: Absolutely. I don’t think that ever gets old. And there you have it. The best B2B content of 2021 is Azzure Hedge. Huge thanks to you, Ashley and Nadya for your time today and for all that you’ve done to bring all this together. Thanks also to everyone who nominated to everyone who voted and to all the nominees. There’s so much good stuff to learn from in this shortlist. Please remember listener it could be your question that we answer in a future episode.
If you have a question for B2BQ&A to answer, email, a voice memo to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or find us on social media.
David: I’ll see you next month for another B2BQ&A, when we’ll be trying to answer the eternal question: how would you keep your content fresh when you’re writing about the same subject all the time? Until then, make good content, have a wonderful festive season, whatever and however you celebrate, and remember, winning is a bit like old age, it isn’t everything but it’s certainly better than the alternative. Nadya, thank you so much. And goodbye to you.
Nadya: Thank you so much for having me. It was nice to be here. Take care.
David: Absolute pleasure. And thank you to Ashley. Thank you ever so much.
Ashley: Yeah, this was super fun. I’m glad we crowned a winner for this year’s best content.
David: And thank you listener Take care. Bye bye.