How to write awesome B2B content when you know nothing about the topic
Nervous about your article on *rocketscience topic* due next Monday? I am!
And, no pressure, but it has to be very good because you cannot get away with something shallow in b2b content marketing.
As a marketer at a web development agency, I have to cover and edit a lot of topics that seem like rocket science to me. And I don’t have all the time in the world to master each subject before producing the content, which really takes me out of my comfort zone.
If you are also struggling with creating expert-level b2b content like articles,
Let’s dig in.
- What is B2B Content?
- Tips to Make You an ‘Overnight Expert’
- Know What Your Reader Knows
- Get a Feel for the Industry
- Interview Experts
- Fill in the Gaps and Find Your Sweet Spot
- Get Early Feedback
- How to Apply This in Your Work
What is B2B Content?
It is any kind of content you create to attract business clients. Thus, content marketing is the process of creating, distributing and promoting content for the same purpose of generating leads and turning them to clients.
The best b2b content marketing examples are:
- Blog posts
- eBooks and whitepapers
- Case studies
- Industry reports.
Since 62% of b2b buyers are ready to make a decision based solely on online content, it has better be good! Content plays a key role in b2b marketing and this trend is not going to change in the foreseeable future. So let’s see how we can make it great with a thorough research.
Tips to Make You an ‘Overnight Expert’
1. Know What Your Reader Knows
To give you an example, recently, I had to write a series of articles about machine learning, so I was wondering what exactly our reader wants to know about it.
In our case, the reader doesn’t know and, what’s more important, doesn’t want to know how to create mathematical models for machine learning. Thank God!
But what he does want to know is how he can use machine learning to improve his eCommerce website. This means that I don’t need to learn HOW this thing works, I just need to understand how it can be applied to businesses, including marketing (yay!). Thankfully, that just saved my brain from exploding.
So, let me ask you, what does your reader know and want to know?
Maybe you are not so ‘lucky’ and your readers are engineers (this happens to us, too). In these cases, you won’t be able to get away with general explanations, as they will expect all the dirty details from you.
I won’t remind you of the importance of personas. There are already tons of great information on buyer/reader personas out there.
Knowledge level on the topic you are writing about is just another crucial thing to include in the profile of your persona. This determines the angle of your research and your story.
2. Get a Feel for the Industry
In b2b content marketing you have to research the hell out of your
I usually perform desk research in two rounds. In the first round, the goal is to get a general feel for the industry so that you could formulate your questions to the experts (see next step).
At this point, there are usually two important things I need to find out:
- What are the most popular industry challenges?
- What are the most popular solutions to these challenges?
The industry is roughly comprised of your potential clients and competitors (sorry if that’s stating the obvious). So, industry challenges are the problems of the clients you are marketing to with your content. The offering (product or service) that you write about should somehow address one of those challenges and be different from other solutions.
For instance, when I researched the corporate education industry, I found that learning and development professionals (our potential clients) experience the following challenges:
- Low engagement (of trainees)
- Low motivation
- Lack of time, etc.
It just so happens that our custom eLearning and mLearning solutions address all of these and some other challenges. So do our competitors, of course, but determining the sweet spot is the subject of the next round of research.
I also have to mention that it is very important to be picky regarding the sources you use to gather your information. I prefer solid, well-rounded industry reviews from HBR, Gartner, and even scholarly publications from Google Scholar or Science Direct. In some cases, I even read some of the best books or book summaries on the topic (based on Amazon reviews).
These kinds of resources will give you a bird’s-eye view of your topic, rather than showing you separate trees in one big forest, as most blog articles do.
3. Interview Experts
Since you are not an expert, you should consider talking to one.
I cannot stress enough the importance of expert interviews for generating high-quality b2b content. This can really make all the difference between very good and mediocre article. Without them, you’ll just be rewriting what’s already written by others, and that’s no way to stand out.
There are six types of people you might want to take advantage of at this stage:
- A friend
- A visionary
- A salesperson
- An Account Manager
- A product/service geek
- A client.
You may not be able to connect with everyone on this list, but even one of them will be a good place to start.
Let’s see what information you can ‘extract’ from each expert.
Have an informal conversation with your ‘friend’ (can be a colleague, acquaintance, or an actual friend) and squeeze out all the knowledge you can from this person (you’ll find a way to pay back later).
A product visionary is anyone who sees the forest behind the trees. They know the situation in the industry, and where the offering fits in. They can tell you about any competitive advantages or weak spots of the product or service in question. This person might be a CEO, Business Development Manager, or CMO.
Then, there is the sales star. This person speaks to your audience on a daily basis. He/she knows what your audience is looking for, their pains and concerns that stop them from buying.
An Account Manager or Project Manager also speaks to your readers daily, but on different topics. This person understands their business and how the product/service is working for them.
And, needless to say, you should always consider talking to the biggest product or service geek in the company. Ask what makes him or her proud of the product/service.
Finally, it will be invaluable to talk to a client. After all, the client’s opinion matters the most.
One of the best ways to get input from all these different people is to get them all (or most of them) in the same room, at the same time, to discuss a common project. In this way, you will trace the entire customer journey of a particular client which will allow you to later use it in your content to (carefully) draw generalizations and illustrate with examples.
Hot Tip: audio-record everything! (With permission, of course).
If you don’t, you will miss a lot of valuable stuff. I record all interviews and then find myself listening to them over and over (finding new things each time). Recordings also come in handy later, when I am writing another piece on this or similar topics.
4. Fill in the Gaps and Find Your Sweet Spot
This will be the last round of your research. This step is mostly about defining your knowledge gaps and filling them in, as well as finding the competitive edge for your content.
Gap filling usually involves revisiting previously studied material and posing follow-up questions to the experts.
The second part of finding your edge involves studying competitors. By competitors, I mean any content on the same topic, not necessarily the content of the direct competitors.
For instance, I had to spend a lot of time to find the ‘edge’ for my blog post on Minimum Viable Product (MVP) development. It turns out that everybody has read the same book and was summarizing and quoting it as a way of writing an article.
So, I had to dig for some alternative resources on the topic that were not on the surface. As a result, I actually found the gap in the ‘holy’ book. It described different types of MVPs, but it didn’t help entrepreneurs in deciding what type of MVP suits best for them. So that’s what I concentrated on in my article.
5. Get Early Feedback
This is so obvious, but I had to learn it the hard way. If you are anything like me, you don’t like to show your raw work. But, unless you discuss your first ideas with an expert, you will lose a lot of time fixing it up later.
So, get out of your comfort zone, once again, and get the feedback early on.
How to Apply This in Your Work
The bottom line is that you can create quality b2b content on topics you are not an expert in.
Being focused and resourceful is key. The five steps in this article help me navigate the information ocean and find the golden nuggets I need to create stand-out content.
Also, note that these steps are not exactly linear. You might find it useful to switch the order, go back and forth between them, or even do some simultaneously. Everything depends on your project and available resources.
And what techniques are you using?