WHAT WE THINK Adventures in research, content, B2B and technology
5 steps to creating B2B content that counts
Research used to be synonymous with long, boring questionnaires and massive slabs of data tables. Fast forward a decade or so and research, dare I say it, has become a bit sexier and a lot more accessible.
Much of the image overhaul of research has been due to the explosion of content marketing and the role of insight in defining personas, as well as the value that buyers put on evidence-led content when researching brands and products.
Add to the mix the resurgence of behavioural economics and the advent of big data and predictive analytics and insight is increasingly seen as a core business discipline. Data visualisation shows that data is anything but dull and, thanks to the inherent shareability of infographics and animations, is readily accessible to everyone.
Today we operate in an insight economy, where data is currency, but where it is also easy to be distracted by market noise, irrelevance and confusion. To navigate this exciting and sometimes overwhelming landscape, it’s good to get back to basics and so here are 5 tips to help you:
1. Know thy customer
Customers are the reasons why businesses exist yet often B2B brands, in particular, don’t actually know who they are selling to. Getting to grips with the who makes working out the why and the how a lot easier. Developing personas is a great way of formalising this process.
2. Know thy brand
Sometimes the reverse is true and in the quest to be everything to everybody, brands can lose sight of who they are and what they represent. Using messaging workshops to be clear about what you actually do for your customers, what the ultimate business benefit is that you deliver and getting this down to a single paragraph can be powerful and liberating, whilst giving everyone something to check content and conversations against.
3. Plan your content
Think about your personas, think about your brand and plot out content for a year. Think about different channels and remember that whilst content may be king, context is queen and knowing your customers' information watering holes and how they prefer to consume content avoids waste and maximises reach and impact.
4. Build empathy through research
Think about any upcoming campaigns that build on customer pain points and use research to explore how and where these pain points are felt by customers and what needs to happen to challenge that status quo. Use this insight to position yourself as being on the side of the customer, attuned to their needs and offering content that is ultimately helpful for them in their day-to-day lives.
5. Create content that cuts through
There is a lot of bad content out there, content that is self-serving and that purports to be thought leadership but is anything but. Think about how research can be packaged up in many different ways – anything from stats for use on Twitter, to animated infographics to keep people on your website longer to diagnostic tools where customers can see how they rank alongside peers and access tailored content based on where they are at. Think big and think bite-size, there is a time and place for both.
By using research to deliver insight and using numbers to tell stories, we’re here to help you make your B2B content count for both your business and your customers.
How to use numbers to give your narrative more impact
We often consider ourselves to have more of an affinity with numbers (Maths) or words (English). Some are lucky enough to be equally comfortable with both. Marketing was once considered to be primarily about creativity – words and ideas. Now analytics often takes centre stage as ROI, click through rates and conversion stats form part of the daily lexicon and to-do list for content marketers everywhere.
Useful and interesting discussions abound about whether the focus on analytics is detracting from creativity, what this means for the quality of ideas, the industry generally and for the skillsets required to succeed in this shifting content marketing landscape.
High quality market research today marries numbers and narrative. The same is true of high quality content. When deluged by numbers, we know that people will default to the metaphors in their heads and will use their own stories to makes sense of data. Better perhaps to provide meaning first and then use numbers to support that meaning.
Numbers help to elevate stories from a place of rhetoric and wordsmithery to something that is sometimes surprising, but that is certainly more grounded and believable. Numbers enhance credibility and help inspire trust.
In the age of big data, we’ve never had so many numbers at our disposal so you don’t have to commission your own research to come up with your own numbers, although it certainly can help. It is what you do with these numbers and how you use them in the context of stories that counts.
Here are five ways to think about using numbers to help tell your story and breathe life into your content and communications.
1. Get attention with big numbers
Whether you’re talking about 85% of CIOs worrying about keeping up with digital transformation, or extrapolating the potential money that a business can save by investing in productivity tools, this is often the stuff of headlines and the hook to get audiences interested
2. Inspire action with small numbers
If only 5% of companies are currently in the best practice group for how they manage an aspect of their business whether this be aligning their sales process to their customer journey or how they ensure their employees don’t become their biggest security threat, what does this mean for the other 95% - do something or get left behind competitively usually
3. Add context by comparing numbers
Looking at how two sectors or countries compare on key metrics can help paint a picture of industry or regional performance and attitudes in a number of areas that goes beyond mere stereotypes and stops content becoming too generic
4. Boost credibility by tracking numbers
Analysing numbers year-on-year can tell a story over time and pinpoint emerging (and waning) trends. Furthermore, having a branded “barometer” of some kind in any sector helps you to “own” that space and get closer to thought leadership status
5. Look clever by thinking beyond stats
We know that if Facebook was a country it would be the most populous on Earth but what about thinking in terms of time. How long does a company have before it starts to struggle to hire people if it doesn’t adequately support flexible working? When will IoT dramatically change how companies market themselves? What age will we have children if we live till 150 years and what does this mean in terms of an ageing workforce for businesses?
There is magic and depth in numbers. We need to look for it and unlock it to tell better stories that engage audiences. Numbers and narrative don’t need to vie for attention, they can and should work in harmony.