B2BQ&A 107: Which kinds of content work for which B2B audiences?

Claire Drumond of Atlassian and B2B Unleashed's Maureen Blandford tell us how to find the best content types for the complicated B2B decision-making unit.

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In this episode of B2BQ&A, we answer a great question from Richard Hatheway, Senior Manager for Ezmeral Marketing and GTM at Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

He asks: “I have influencers, decision-makers and end-users that I have to engage, so how do I determine what type of content to use for those different target audiences?”

And as you’d expect, we’ve put together an all-star podcast to answer.

First, we put Richard’s question to Claire Drumond, Head of Marketing, Jira Software & Agile Solutions at Atlassian. But that’s not all; you’ll also hear from our guest co-host for this episode: Maureen Blandford, Managing Director of B2B Unleashed.

Meanwhile, Matt Binny brings an assortment of tried-and-true copywriting tips, and we get more inclusive writing advice from Ettie Bailey-King.

You can read a full transcript of this episode at the bottom of this page.

Want to figure out what content works best for your audiences?

Briefly, here’s what Claire recommends:

1. Ask your audience

If you want to know what kind of content your audience wants, Claire suggests you simply ask. Not only can you get insights into your content, but it’s also a chance to connect with your customers.

“We have a really robust community,”  Claire says. “Sometimes we will just poll the community and ask for feedback on the content before we actually publish it. And people love to give their feedback; they love to have been mentioned, and they love that we ask.”

2. Tie metrics to outcomes

Monitoring general traffic can help you see how well your content is ranking in Google, and to see if it’s reaching a wider audience. But an even better way to know that content is working is to see if your audiences are inspired to do something.

“If there’s an action that we’re asking that audience to take, we can measure if they’re actually taking that action – whether it be sign up for something, or if it’s just to read the next article,” Claire explains.

After all, you publish content for a reason. If your audience aren’t inspired to act, it’s not doing its job.

3. Think about the person at each funnel stage

If you have the time and resources, you can map what you know about your audience at each stage of their buying journey, and create content to help. But rememeber it may be a different person reading each piece.

“We like to create content for basically every stage of the funnel, and there is a different person that will find that content useful at every stage in the funnel,” says Claire. “We think that buying our products and using our products is a team sport so we make sure that we’re targeting the whole team and not just the buyer.”

What you’ll find in episode 107…

3:11 Matt Binny shares his favourite copywriting pro tips.

3:55 – We pose Richard Hathaway’s question to Claire Drumond.

16:54Maureen Blandford shares her wisdom on content for influencers.

22:35Ettie Bailey-King reveals the importance of affirmative language.

Got a question? B2BQ&A will find the answer.

To get your burning B2B content question answered, just send us a voice memo at podcast@radix-communications.com. And if there are any other thoughts you’d like to share, you can find us on Twitter @radixcom.

(The same channels work if there’s a copywriting pro tip you’d like to share.)

How to listen: 


Podcast editing and music by Bang and Smash.

Transcript: B2BQ&A 107 – Which kinds of content work for which B2B audiences?

Announcer: “I have influencers, decision makers and end users that I have to engage. So how do I determine what type of content to use for those different target audiences?”

Maureen Blandford: I love that question. Let’s ask Claire Drumond from Atlassian.

David McGuire: Hello, listener; you are exceptionally welcome to B2BQ&A, the podcast where we go in search of an answer to your question about B2B content writing. This is episode 107.

Maureen Blandford: In a few moments, Claire Drumond will tell us how Atlassian match different kinds of content to a broad set of audiences. We’ll also get copywriting tips from Matt Binny, and some inclusive writing advice from Eddie Bailey-King.

David McGuire: Before all of that though, some introductions. My name is David McGuire. I’m Creative director at Radix Communications, the B2B writing agency. And I am thrilled to welcome a brilliant guest co-host for this episode. Dialling in all the way from Chicago, it’s the Managing Director of B2B Unleashed, complex sales superfan and stakeholder whisperer par excellence. Maureen Blandford. Maureen, welcome.

Maureen Blandford: Always delighted to be with you all. Thanks for having me.

David McGuire: Thank you for being here. So I think possibly – I have to check this – were you B2B Unleashed last time you were on here, or is this new to the listener?

Maureen Blandford: I think I was in my last role. So this is new. So I launched B2B Unleashed a little over a year ago.

David McGuire: Cool, okay. So if it’s a new idea to the listener, what is B2B Unleashed? I’ve got to ask that before we start.

Maureen Blandford: Well, and I appreciate it. So it kicked off as a management consultancy focused on helping B2B organisations get off legacy mountain. So we’re all drowning in legacy, legacy tech, legacy processes, legacy mindsets. So focusing really on the gaps between product marketing, sales and success. Both the siloed humans and the siloed tech stacks, and soon to be unleashing some tech to support that hopefully later this year. So a lot of wins for functional area leaders within B2B to be slaying, if they just talk more to their compadres and other functional areas.

David McGuire:That sounds much needed. I can’t wait to see the tech as well. Maureen, before we answer this month’s question, would you mind telling the listener how they can get in touch with the show?

Maureen Blandford: Absolutely, you know I can. So listener if you have any comments or suggestions you can find Radix on LinkedIn, or Twitter @radixcom. Or if you want us to answer your question on a future episode, record a quick voice note and send it by email podcast@radix-communications.com.

David McGuire: Perfectamundo! Thank you.

Matt Binny: I’m Matt Binny, freelance writer from Falmouth in Cornwall. My copywriting tips are as follows. When I’ve finished writing, I like to let it rest for a while; I go make lunch, a cup of tea, probably then another cup of tea. Then return with fresh eyes and improve. I always read copy out loud, very common tip for a reason as it’s very, very effective.

I also like to reread copy if I was someone with sort of no knowledge on the topic, or the product or service, and ask myself a few questions: “Does it tell me what I need to know?”, “Would I buy?” And also “Am I bored out of my mind?” is always a good one too.

Maureen Blandford: Thanks, Matt. Some things are classic for a reason and tips like that are popular because they really work. Now, who’s asking the question this month?

Announcer: Richard Hatheway, Senior Marketing Manager at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, asks: “I have influencers, decision makers and end users that I have to engage. So how do I determine what type of content to use for those different target audiences?”

David McGuire: Thanks, Richard. That’s something we content writers get asked a lot. So it’s great to have an opportunity to answer it on the show. B2B tech in particular has lots of potential audiences and big squiggly buyer journeys. So I caught up with Atlassian’s Head of Product Marketing for JIRA Software and Agile Solutions, Claire Drumond. And I started by asking her Richard’s question: just how do you figure out which content works, for which audience?

Claire Drumond: The best way to identify what content works for specific audiences is to ask your audience. And I think that we often forget in the digital world when we’re creating content that we actually can talk to customers and see what they think. So that’s one perspective on it.

Another way that I know that it’s working for a specific audience is, if there’s an action that we’re asking that audience to take, we can measure if they’re actually taking that action – whether it be to sign up for something, or if it’s just to read the next article, or if it’s just to scroll through the article. We create a lot of long-form content and I know that it resonates based off of some of those metrics.

And I also have the luxury of seeing content that I create resonate with a specific audience when it gets tweeted, and I get @ mentioned on Twitter or on LinkedIn. And if I’m lucky, it’ll spur a pretty awesome conversation in social media. So I hope that answers the question. It’s mostly just about tracking and seeing if there’s a specific action that you wanted the user to take, and if they’re taking it, then you know that it’s resonating. And if they’re not, then you need to tweak the content.

David McGuire: That’s interesting, because your metrics that you track are outcome-based then. They’re to do with the next thing, the next action, rather than just traffic or something like that.

Claire Drumond: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, I think traffic is not indicative of the success of the content itself. It just shows if you’ve been successful at distributing that content and getting people to it. So I think that traffic is an interesting indicator for if your content is going to rank in Google, or if it’s going to reach a wider audience. But I don’t think that it’s a great indicator of if the content itself resonates.

David McGuire: Sure. You were saying about asking your customers. What does that look like? I mean, do you literally call them up? Do you have a poll? How does that work?

Claire Drumond: So we have a really robust community and sometimes we will just poll the community and ask for feedback on the content before we actually publish it. And people love to give their feedback, they love to have been mentioned, and they love that we ask. And so it’s a nice two-way conversation.

And it’s a nice way for us to connect with our customers. And just make sure that whatever it is that we’re publishing, not only resonates with them, but it’s helpful, because we like to create a lot of content that actually helps people do their jobs.

David McGuire: Do you have a sense then of when you look at different audience groups, different people in the decision making unit – or maybe you’ve got decision makers over here and you’ve got budget holders over there, and you’ve got users somewhere else – do you see that different kinds of content resonate for different kinds of audience?

Claire Drumond: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So an example of that is we create a lot of content around Agile best practices, for example. And I know that this content isn’t for our primary buyers, because the buyers that are purchasing our products are looking for more specific details about the actual tech specifications, or the product or features. They’re not really looking for best practices.

However, the people that are the end users of our products need the best practices, because that will help them be successful with our products. So we know from talking to customers, that best practices are a really useful way for the end users to understand how to do Agile and how JIRA can help them. But you wouldn’t get a lot of tries, “try” clicks, from that content because those aren’t the buyers. They’re enabling it.

So I think we have to target different areas of the funnel with different types of content and that brings you closer to trying the product and being successful in the product. But it’s far beyond just a landing page that gets you to try the product as soon as possible. So we like to create content for basically every stage of the funnel, and there is a different person that will find that content useful at every stage in the funnel.

Something that I think is unique with Atlassian is that we think that buying our products and using our products is a team sport and so we make sure that we’re targeting the whole team and not just the buyer.

David McGuire: I think that’s really good advice for anyone. There’s so many complex – sales and kind of distributed decision making units going on in B2B, especially in tech. So when you’re thinking about different stages of the funnel, is that always different roles at different stages of the funnel? Or is it sometimes one person moving through a buying journey? Or is there a mix of those things?

Claire Drumond: I think it’s a mix. It can definitely be one person, especially in smaller teams, where they become aware of us because of maybe an ad or because we published Agile best practices, and they were looking to do some new Agile rituals within their team. And they come to us, and then they end up touching all of the content through every stage of the journey until they finally try the product. But I find it more common that it’s multiple people who are touching the content in the funnel.

David McGuire: So you’ve got all of these people, you’ve got all of these buying journeys, all of these funnel stages. How do you make sure you have every angle covered? I mean, is it even possible to do that?

Claire Drumond: I think it’s possible. And we rely really heavily on SEO research to see where there are gaps. So if you pull branded keywords, or associated keywords, non branded keywords that are associated with our product, like say “scrum boards” or something like that – that is related to the product, but not directly. And we realise that we aren’t ranking for those keywords, then I think there’s an opportunity there.

So we know that we should have content in this category, we know that there’s a decent amount of search volume for it. And we are being outranked by maybe a competitor, or maybe by scrum.org, or something like that. So it’s possible if you’re looking at your SEO research on a regular basis to see where the gaps are, and to continue to create content to fill those gaps.

And sometimes it’s your own content that’s ranking that you didn’t intend to rank for those keywords, and you wanted something else to be there, you want your customers to reach something that isn’t accessible. Then you have to basically try and figure out how to compete against yourself and rank over what is there – which we do a lot. We do a lot of that.

David McGuire: Yeah, that sounds like an interesting challenge. So if the marketer that’s listening to this has maybe limited resources for content or don’t have the luxury of producing the big mountains of content that you can produce at Atlassian, where should they focus? Would you say – is there one part of the audience or one funnel stage or something else? Where should they start?

Claire Drumond: I think that if you are just starting out, and you don’t have a lot of resources, I think you need to look at two areas of the funnel. One is, what are you creating content around to be a thought leader in that will help customers understand the concepts that are related to either your product or whatever it is that you’re trying to create a funnel for.

What is that category? What does it look like, from a competitive perspective? What does it look like, from your own perspective? What are you blogging about? And are you ranking for those related keywords? If you’re not, who is? And I think if you look at that competitive landscape for that theme or subject, you can pretty quickly understand where you need to start developing content, thought leadership content.

And I’m talking about evergreen content that’s going to stick around for a long time, not blog posts that are about what’s the latest thing in the news and are going to be irrelevant in a week. I don’t think that’s worth anybody’s time if you’re just starting out and you have limited resources.

So I would say look at that evergreen landscape and start there. And then of course, you also need to make sure that your branded keywords are also SEO optimised and that you have links to those pages so that you can continue to create some domain authority around your branded stuff because that’s the most critical. So I think, top of funnel thought leadership content and very bottom of funnel branded keywords. Those are the two places that I would focus your attention.

David McGuire: That’s great. That’s so helpful. Thank you. Is there anything else on this topic that you wanted to say to the listener that we haven’t already covered?

Claire Drumond: Sure, I think the only other piece of advice that I would give from a content strategy perspective is, if you only have 10 chips, and you need to figure out where’s the best bet, make sure that it’s what is the most useful for your customers, and not the most useful for you.

Because if you create content that is useful for your customers, you will always reap the benefits of that, versus what you think you want to write about. I guess just put your customers first, put yourself in their shoes, and I think your content strategy will follow.

David McGuire: Amazing. Amen to that. Thank you. Claire, if the listener wants to hear more from you, or from a content team at Atlassian, and get more kind of wisdom from you, is there somewhere they can kind of find you online?

Claire Drumond: Sure. You can follow me on LinkedIn at Claire Drumond or on Twitter, @clairedrumond. And I definitely post stuff on LinkedIn and on Twitter, sometimes. You can definitely keep up with us there. And I do podcasts and stuff like this pretty regularly, too. So if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll be able to see what I’m up to.

David McGuire: Oh, thanks again, Claire. That is a really helpful response to Richard’s question. Maureen, there is a lot to dig into there. Did Claire say something that resonated with you?

Maureen Blandford: Yeah, you know, that was really great. A couple of things for me in particular that I love her shining the spotlight on is – the first one is that remembering that we can actually talk to customers and see what they think.

I actually love when we see copy directly from customers, whether it’s quotes, or whether it’s you were just lifting their language and using it because I think the most attractive copy is the stuff that’s going to resonate the most with customers. And that’s a great way to get it is by actually talking to them.

And the other thing I think it can’t be said enough is outcomes. So when thinking about all the different folks you’re trying to connect with, keeping in mind their outcomes, rather than your stuff. I thought that was brilliant for her to cover.

David McGuire: Yeah, absolutely. So you can kind of measure the outcomes that you’re looking for. But also think about being helpful and the end game that your customer has in mind.

So I think part of the thing in B2B and part of the thing I wanted to talk to you about in particular is quite how complex the decision making unit can look like in a B2B organisation. I know this is something you have experience of. So are there particular audiences that you feel are more important than others – if you’re trying to move someone through your funnel?

Maureen Blandford: Yeah, one of the areas I think we miss as B2B marketers, and we partly miss it because it’s hard and we partly miss it because we’re drowning. And that is B2B influencers. So not Kim Kardashian style, not who we’re mostly seeing on TikTok, although those people are all great, too.

But when you think about growing your reach, and your influence, B2B influencers are huge for that because they have a trusted network of their own, that if they buy into what you’re promoting, or what you’re advancing, they will, often unpaid – I don’t think I’ve ever paid an influencer – they will scale that message. So you’re really able to grow your unpaid reach.

So, for instance, one of the strongest B2B influencer communities that I’ve seen on Twitter is kind of the CIO or the transformation influencer community. And boy, those folks are generous. And if you can be a valuable part of their conversation, you’re included and you’re scaled and they are then more likely to look at articles you’ve written or be willing to publish or cite your folks as trusted sources. So it’s complicated to get there. But once you do, if you put the work in, how they grow your unpaid reach is just, it’s phenomenal. And I think it’s an underused channel in B2B today.

David McGuire: That sounds amazing. So, where would the listener begin to find those people and begin to build those relationships?

Maureen Blandford: So for me, Twitter for B2B influencers is the best. I kind of think of Twitter as where the influencers live and LinkedIn is where kind of the real people live. So it’s not work I do on LinkedIn, I’m sort of active. But on Twitter, just start by listening to the conversations, and start to jump in as who you are, as opposed to your brand, although I suppose you could. I’ve always started kind of with the humans, and that’s what I recommend. And sometimes people will engage with you, and sometimes they won’t. And that’s not the point. The point is just to start planting seeds, and hearing what they’re talking about. Because then speaking of outcomes, you can then approach them based on the outcomes that you know they care about, because you’ve been listening and watching the space. So I would start on Twitter, and I would start by listening.

David McGuire: That sounds great. And obviously, you know, the buyer journey in B2B. I mean, it can take months and more sometimes. How do you keep your audience’s attention? How’s their attention span over something that long while they’re going through that process? If you have kind of only limited resources for content, how can you possibly cover that?

Maureen Blandford: Well, it is for me, the resource is time as opposed to money. And that can be hard when you’re juggling the 50 million things that marketers are expected to juggle on the regular.

So for me, the thing you have to think about influencer relations – it’s kind of like learning a new language – is if you invest the time to understand it at the beginning, the payoff is just exponential in the end. Once you know how to engage with influencers, you just do it as you breathe, it takes very little time during the day. But it does take time to get immersed in the short term. And I’m not sure how to quantify that really, except to say it takes time.

David McGuire: Time – the thing that we all have so much of. Thank you, that is really insightful, kind of adds another layer to the conversation. And insightful as ever, I’d have expected nothing less. So, thank you so much. Before we wrap up, though, there is time for some more inclusive writing advice from Ettie Bailey King.

Ettie Bailey-King: Use affirmative language. So affirmative terms are words and phrases that are very clear, specific and positive. It’s words and phrases like saying “disabled person,” “has paraplegia,” “has schizophrenia,” “deaf person,” “autistic person”. This affirmative language is distinct from the kinds of negative and shaming language that you might have heard, potentially in the recent past, or when you were younger.

So negative and shaming terms might be a phrase like “retarded,” or using euphemistic language about someone’s disability and saying that they are “confined to a wheelchair,” for example. Well, it’s not true and it’s not accurate. Wheelchairs typically liberate people. So use affirmative language to make sure that you’re being accurate, and celebratory about difference.

Maureen Blandford: Thanks so much, Ettie. That’s definitely something we all need to keep in mind and, listener, you can hear more inclusive writing advice from Ettie next time. Thanks, also to Claire Drumond and to Matt Binny for sharing your advice in this episode. And thanks to Richard Hatheway for the question. We hope you found the answer useful.

David McGuire: And thank you, Maureen for being such a brilliant guest co-host, as ever. I hope it hasn’t been too painful an experience this time.

Maureen Blandford: It’s always a pleasure, David. Always a pleasure. Thank you.

David McGuire: Oh, bless you – cheque’s in the post. Remember listener, it could be your question we answer in a future episode. If you have a question for B2BQ&A to answer email a voice memo to podcast@radix-communications.com. Or find us on social media.

I’ll see you next time for another B2BQ&A. Until then make good content, and remember Sun Tzu said: “If you know your audience, and you know yourself, you need not fear the result of 100 blog posts”. But then again, he also said: “Don’t believe every quote you read on the internet”.

David and Maureen: Goodbye!








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