It’s been a while since B2B marketing found a new breakout content format. Look at this year’s CMI/MarketingProfs benchmark report; the tactics used are virtually all on the equivalent list from 2014. Nothing – aside from maybe streaming media – stands out as really new.
And that’s not a problem, as such. It means B2B content marketers have a good handle on what works, and which formats to use when. But it does make it hard for content to stand out, and really command your audience’s attention.
It’s no coincidence that marketers are increasingly asking us to go beyond copywriting, and come up with creative content ideas. And that’s cool.
But for each of us, there’s that dream job – that cherished, holy grail of a brief which we secretly hope will arrive, but somehow never does.
B2B content marketing – for the geeks, by the geeks
I asked some of our writers about the B2B content marketing asset they’d most like to work on, if they had the Bruce Almighty capability to just make it happen.
The results were enlightening, occasionally weird, and – just maybe – useful, too.
You see, getting up every day, motivated and keen to write something new about virtualisation, or enterprise mobility, or vehicle-to-infrastructure communications… that takes a special kind of nerd.
Arguably, the same kind of nerd who gets up every day to actually work with those technologies.
It’s just possible our copywriters – gamers and music geeks and sci-fi aficionados all – have quite a lot in common with the some of the target personas we write for. And maybe the kind of brief that would send one of our writers wild, would result in content that grabs a development engineer or head of IT in the way your everyday explainer video might not.
Either way, it’d be fun to find out…
Brief #1: the “Choose Your Own Adventure” story
Surely everyone who grew up in the 1980s or 1990s remembers “Choose Your Own Adventure” books – where the plot depends on choices you make as a reader. Over a 19-year period, they sold more than 250 million copies. They’re exciting, and fun.
And like every pop culture phenomenon, the internet is awash with blog posts about lessons you, as a B2B marketer, can learn from the genre. Readers like interactive content, with tiered calls to action that put them in control.
But actual interactive B2B content, where your reader can choose their adventure? That’s something you don’t see every day. And my colleague Steve feels it’s a shame.
It’s not just written stories. Clickable calls-to-action in YouTube videos have given rise to a whole wave of choose your own adventure style videos – from fun stories to interactive explainers – to the extent that the fact I can’t think of an obvious, standout B2B marketing example verges on bizarre.
Brief #2: the dry-as-hell sitcom / mockumentary
There are two universal truths about humour in B2B content:
- it works brilliantly when you get it right, and
- most people who try it, get it wrong.
People know their content is going to be filtered through ten layers of management and compliance, who’ll make all the jokes lame… so by and large they don’t bother. Which is a pity.
Because – as our new copywriter Nick pointed out – how amazing would it be if there were a B2B Alan Partridge, getting over-excited about the finer points of enterprise tech in an earnest-but-incapacitatingly-funny way?
It’d take a lot of judgement, and a hard-headed willingness to send up your own organisation and industry… but by heck, would it get results.
Brief #3: the Casiotone concept album
OK, bear with me – because this one sounds completely mad, but the more Kieran explained it to me, the more he convinced me it’s total genius.
Say you’re a data centre architect. And you discover a whole album full of jaunty, satirical pop songs – kind of a cross between Tom Lehrer and Brett Domino – and they’re all about your job. Maybe there’s one using virtualised infrastructure as a metaphor for love (or the other way around).
There’s no way you’re not listening to that. On repeat. And probably sharing it with your mates, too.
2017 is the year of concept albums about B2B buyer personas. Mark our words.
Brief #4: the shiny tech magazine
This one’s less madcap, but no less ambitious – because it takes real commitment, and proper editorial openness. I’ll let Fiona explain:
“My ideal project would be to produce a magazine (physical or digital) that feels like WIRED or Fast Company, looking in a pop-science kind of way at various innovations, their impact on the world, and the stories and people behind them – with stylish photography and typography and infographics, etc. I’d love that.”
I reckon c-suite buyers and technologists would love it too. And now content marketing and media are converging, it’s surely only a matter of time.
Brief #5: the Dr Seuss story
I confess this idea’s not entirely mine,
But it’s true things are memorable when they rhyme.
And subjects that are maybe dull, boring or sour
Perhaps can be pepped by rhyme’s pep-it-up power.
A B2B book that’s quite hard to digest
Would be better with Seussian text, I’d suggest.
So next time you’ve a topic that’s tricky to chew,
Try some Dr Seuss words (and some Seuss pictures, too).
B2B buyers are people… and sometimes, they’re nerds
It’s understandable when marketers want to go for the biggest possible audience, and so commission content with a broad appeal. But good marketing – especially good B2B marketing – is often about finding a niche, and giving them something that really, really resonates.
Of course, if you’re going to start borrowing themes and formats that people hold dear, and using them in your marketing, you need to do it right – or they’ll hate you for it. But that’s another blog post entirely.
Hopefully, though, there are enough ideas here to get you thinking – if you have any more inspiration, there’s a comment box below.
(And if you want us to write you a Casiotone concept album about the daily life of a data centre architect, please do give us a call. You’ll make Kieran’s day.)
- An immensely complicated tabletop roleplaying game (ideally with lead miniatures);
- A Stranger Things spinoff where Shadow IT is basically the upside-down;
- (Alternatively, Shadow IT through the medium of shadow puppetry);
- An affectionately self-referential Magic: The Gathering tribute;
- Bring Your Own Device: The Musical (live streamed to the audience’s devices);
- A Joss Whedon-style, sardonic kill-the-baddies troubleshooting romp, with added quips;
- Tim Burton-style gothic cartoonery in the world of big data
- A rhythm-action flash game, using B2B tech phrases to keep the song going
Need B2B copy that’s different?
We’ve got a team of copywriters waiting to work with you, so get in touch.