A father bear, mother bear and their baby bear arrived home yesterday afternoon to find that a young girl had broken into their home and was sleeping in the baby bear’s bed. Investigators said the girl, whose name they disclosed is Goldilocks, was last seen running from the site of the break-in after jumping out a bedroom window having been awakened by the bears. It is alleged that prior to falling asleep, Goldilocks ate all of the baby bear’s porridge and broke his chair.
Among the elective courses I took in college was an introduction to news journalism. Among the assignments in courses like this is to write a lead paragraph using a well-known children’s tale as the news item. Lead paragraphs are written to provide the reader a preview of the story to come, summarizing it with only basic facts – the “who, what, when, and where.” The objective is to have the lead paragraph prompt readers tocontinue go on to get the details.
I lead with this thought to make the point that if you want your business-to-business marketing content to gain readership, the first thing you must do is think like a news journalist. In this age of information overload, it’s critical to be able to quickly grab your reader’s attention with the key points you want them to take away. That way, even if they read only the first few lines, they’ll immediately grasp the most critical things you want to communicate. Hopefully, if you’ve done a good job setting the stage, they’ll continue reading to pick up more of the specifics in your marketing message.
Based on a 2018 survey conducted by the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is used by over 91 % of B2B marketers. It was reported, however, that only 37% have a documented content marketing strategy, and only 20% of organizations describe their approach to the tactic as “very successful.” That’s because, as the survey noted, over 83 % of those on the receiving end of online marketing messages reported being overwhelmed by both the amount and the length of communications. They want the content shorter, to the point, and prescriptive, as in “just give me a solution.”
Solution in mind, aside from thinking like a news journalist as you take on marketing content initiatives, what are the four other surefire ways to optimize your efforts?
1. Stop, look, and listen
Make sure that what you communicate is actually relevant to your intended audience. Don’t speak your mind until you’ve clearly determined what’s on their minds. Do not underestimate the importance of research. What are your customers’ pain points? What keeps them up at night? What can you reliably and credibly offer to overcome the challenges they face? What are your competitors in the industry doing and how can you differentiate your offering in a way that is meaningful? If you don’t create content that matters to the people you want to attract, nothing else you do will matter.
2. Try writing the headline before you dive into the body copy
David Ogilvy, the Father of Advertising, famously said, “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” I have two favorite headlining techniques that have proven successful in grabbing reader interest. One is to use specificity, or numbers, as in “Five Surefire Ways to Boost Readership of Your B2B Marketing Content.” The second is to pose a provocative, but relevant, question rather than just stating what you think, as in “Why Is Your B2B Marketing Content Failing to Generate Leads?” This will prompt readers to look for the answer. Or, you can take a trick from the movie-making trade; if you don’t have a powerful one-line pitch to potential producers, you’ll never get the greenlight. (As Albert Einstein famously said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”) Another good test for success? If you posted your headline and a web address as a classified ad, would it generate inquiries?
3. Don’t put all your chips on one bet
Content marketing is not a one-and-done effort. Think of it as a journey with several points of interest along the way. Create a map of where the most critical customer interactions occur, then craft and place your messaging accordingly, appropriate to the type of interaction. Make it an on-going story, the segments of which your customers look forward to, appearing when and where they are most valuable.
4. Play up visual interest
Business people are consumers. As consumers, like all of us, they’ve become skimmers and scanners. As I said earlier, content that is shorter and pithier is better. Visually engaging is best. Think People magazine, not Harvard Business Review. Make your content easy to consume. Use a type font that’s simple and big enough to read. Use captions, infographics, pictures and videos whenever possible, but only when it makes sense. Eye-candy is distracting and downright annoying.
If you’ve gotten this far, I’ve achieved the objective set up by my headline and lead paragraph. I’ve introduced you to five surefire ways to boost your B2B marketing content readership. My final bit of advice is not to create content for content’s sake. Make sure that what you are putting out there is of real value to your audience, engages them, engenders trust, and encourages sales. The only question I’ve left unanswered? What did become of Goldilocks after she ran from the bears’ house?
Less Is More: Content Marketing In The Age of Information Glut
by Mitch Ratcliffe
by Andrew Salzman