By Michele Linn published January 24, 2013

Why Producing Enough B2B Content is Hard and 3 Tips to Help

Challenges for B2B content marketersIf you are like 29 percent of B2B marketers, your biggest challenge is producing enough content. This may not seem like news, but this is the first time in the Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs B2B Content Marketing: 2013 Budgets, Benchmarks and Trends where this has been identified as the biggest challenge. (In the past, marketers cited producing engaging content as their greatest challenge.)

Why are we seeing this shift and, more importantly, what can marketers do to address this?

Continuing with the B2B research roundtable from Content Marketing World, our CMI consultants Carla JohnsonMichael WeissArdath Albee, and Jay Baer not only hypothesize on why more marketers are struggling with producing enough B2B content, but they also provide suggestions on what marketers can do. Thanks to Steve Rotter, VP of Digital Marketing at Brightcove, for moderating the conversation.

 

 


As our consultants discuss, there are a number of things you can do if you are challenged with producing enough B2B content.

1) Reuse content at the beginning and the end of the sales funnel

While most personas need different types of content in the middle of the sales funnel, you may be able to reuse content that you have created for prospects who are early-stage and late-stage in the sales cycle. Here are some ideas on how to map your content so you can figure out what content you need to create.

2) Curate content

Marketers have been curating content for years, but there are better ways to go about this. Here is what you need to know about content curation:

3) Produce evergreen content

More isn’t always the answer. Instead of continually pumping out original content, publish content that can be used for months, if not years. This is especially important when you are creating content for lead nurturing programs that can last for 18 months or longer. To learn more, read Put Cost Effectiveness in Content Marketing, in which Ardath Albee not only shows how you can use evergreen content, but she also explains why it makes content marketing a less expensive alternative to other forms of marketing.

Do these ideas help you with the challenge of producing enough content? What other suggestions do you have?

Want to learn more from our CMI consultants? See the rest of the B2B research roundtable series or meet many of them at Content Marketing World.  

Author: Michele Linn

Michele is the Content Development Director of the Content Marketing Institute and a B2B content marketing consultant who has a passion for helping companies use content to connect with their ideal buyers. You can follow her on Twitter at @michelelinn or read more of her posts on Savvy B2B Marketing.

Other posts by Michele Linn

  • http://writtent.com/ Sasha Zinevych

    It is a very insightful article. Michele, what do you think about posting too many articles (even if they’re all good quality) at the same time? Isn’t it overwhelming for the customer/reader?

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

      As a general rule, I agree that it is not a good idea to post too much content at once unless it is based on something exceptionally timely. Even if you have a lot of content that is ready to go, I would drip it out as to not overwhelm the reader (as you say). The “drip strategy” is also advantageous to the marketer as it makes their job easier and provides an opportunity to tweak content as they get feedback from their audience.

      • http://writtent.com/ Sasha Zinevych

        So, let’s take a small B2B company. What’s the frequency of blog posting? Per week, for example? Is it going to be any different for B2C companies?

        • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

          Honestly, it depends. I think once a week is a good goal to start with for either B2B or B2C. You can then adjust the schedule to more/fewer posts to see if that makes a difference with social sharing, web traffic, sign ups, etc.

          • http://writtent.com/ Sasha Zinevych

            Thanks, Michele! But at times a really good writing piece can get lost and never be found. What do you think?

          • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

            Hi Sandra. If there is a certain piece to have more visibility, there are many things you can do. A few ideas:

            * You can repurpose all or part of it so it can be shared in multiple channels in multiple ways. Here’s one post on this: http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2011/07/content-leverage/.

            * You can have a section on your website for your best content.

            * You can have a plan to push it out to multiple channels. Here’s a template I use: http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2012/05/content-marketing-distribution-template/.

            * Personally, I’m a big fan of Slideshare for things like eBooks.

            * You can refresh your best content periodically and re-distribute.

            Does that help?

          • http://writtent.com/ Sasha Zinevych

            Michele, thank you very much. I am going to try all these tricks myself and send you feedback for sure.

  • http://twitter.com/RepCapital Mary Ellen Slayter

    We specialize in b2b content marketing, and we don’t really find it to be all that hard. The trick: Create content that meets the full needs/interests of your target audience, not just what is specific to your product.

    • http://twitter.com/goonth Gunther Sonnenfeld

      No, creating or generating content and targeting an audience isn’t hard at all. Sustaining an audience and building a market around it can be very tricky.

    • Alison Wren

      I agree. Too often we think about the messages we want to put out rather than the information our readers want. Produce content that is useful to your target market and present it in a way that’s interesting and engaging. I’d always go for good content over frequent content.

  • http://twitter.com/goonth Gunther Sonnenfeld

    DON’T produce more content. DON’T game search engines with subpar material. DON’T keep “optimizing your content” with a catchy headline and no meat within it. LEARN how to tell better STORIES (in other words, become a real journalist). DISCOVER how to connect with networks of people through shared interests. USE the intelligence you gather to co-create stories and information that are relevant both to them and the market. STOP reusing (subpar) content, when you can create new content based on what the market is telling you. STOP contributing to the FILTER BUBBLE! In fact, don’t produce or curate anything until you really understand your market.

    Marketers (B2B, B2C, C2C, whatever) struggle with creating more content because content isn’t the issue — context is! Context meaning: What is the real market opportunity? (Not assumed, not presupposed, but based on real research and great insight) Why am I even telling a story or disseminating information in the first place? What value am I not only bringing to readers or customers, but the market itself? More importantly, how is my effort sustainable in a way that isn’t interruptive or disruptive, but can actually generate more stories and information that build upon collective INTELLIGENCE? (So that people are compelled to read and share more, not hide out because they are fed too much information…)

    I’m sorry (actually, I’m not sorry), but many (not all) of these “gurus” and “advisors” don’t know what they’re talking about — few of them have spent time in newsrooms, built multi-platform narratives or have any experience building social technologies, nor do they really understand how the social web actually works (which would explain, in part, why they’re contributing to the problem, not helping to solve it).

    Then there’s the planning aspect, which is riddled with debates over tactics, not intentions…

    …But getting back to the point: LEARN HOW TO TELL (BETTER) STORIES. PLEASE.

    • Tenisha Mercer

      Excellent points, Gunther. I’m a former journo (15 years) turned content marketing expert. The same skills we used to develop sources and write stories on deadline are SO transferrable to content marketing. Same skills, different audience. The issue, IMO, often becomes that certain folks have more “marketing” experience and believe they are more qualified to lead content projects. Bullshit! If you aren’t telling a story, then WHAT are you really doing when it comes to content marketing?

      • http://twitter.com/goonth Gunther Sonnenfeld

        Hi Tenisha: great to know! To your experience as a journo, I also think the key is to expand on journalistic disciplines in newer, more experimental ways. A friend of mine recently pointed out that “stories haven’t really changed, but the telling of them has” which is really true, and is an elusive element for a lot of companies who are trying their hand at both an established discipline and new platforms for distribution. Welcome to the new world!

        • Tenisha Mercer

          So true, Gunther. I reinvented myself in 2006 when I took a newspaper buyout, and I have to tell you, it was tough! Folks had a tendency to try to put me in a box. But in content, there is no “box”: A good story is a good story. It took a while,but I’m glad that folks are starting to recognize the value of good content, on different platforms, and that we’re all brand publishers.

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Gunther…nice take. I don’t think you’ll find anyone here that will disagree with you. Most often, when we go into companies, producing more content is never the problem. In most cases, after a content review, it’s about understanding the customer’s pain points, defining the story and picking your spots. Indeed, many times less content is more.

      But I’ve also seen some truly amazing stories that never ever get found because they don’t understand the principles of basic search, title efforts and social media sharing.

      Agreed, context is critical…but often the issues are even more basic than that…often brands rarely start with even a basic content strategy to get them started.

      Here’s the key…this stuff is not easy, continues to get more difficult…and there are a whole lot of marketers that are learning publishing and storytelling for the first time..and it is and will increasingly get messy.

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

      Gunther — I appreciate your comment. We all need to keep striving to tell the best stories we can . . . thinking like a journalist. As you say below, for some it’s not difficult to create content, but the challenge is in doing this consistently and sustaining the relationship. I like what Jim Burns stated above that not only do you need to think like a publisher in terms of writing great stories but you also need to think about that in terms of operations.

      For instance, we created this particular series of posts based on a roundtable we had about the recent B2B content marketing research. The issues and concerns discussed are directly related to what survey participants indicated, many who are CMI readers. Instead of simply reporting on the findings, we asked consultants we highly respect to talk about the findings in context of
      what they are seeing in the work they do everyday. The video provides an alternate way for our audience to get information. While not all of our readers
      are facing the issues in each of these posts, we are trying our best to focus on
      the topics they have identified as challenges and add to that conversation.

  • http://www.feldmancreative.com/ Barry Feldman

    This is a great trio of tips. I’ll add this…

    Do a more thorough job of planning your content to begin with. That is, rather than responding to what’s trending on a week-to-week basis, take research very seriously and think 6 – 18 months forward. For instance, come out of the gate with an ebook covering enough ground such that it can “make beautiful babies” for an entire year. Create highly fertile content, if you will.

    Simply said, create a robust evergreen piece with vast potential to be repurposed across subtopics and media types—A LOT.

    IMO, too many content marketers think blog-first or blog-only.

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

      Barry — This is a good addition to the list. The importance of planning can’t be overstated, and this gets especially complicated in larger organizations. While I think smaller organizations may be thinking blog-first, a lot of marketers from enterprise organizations are challenged with having all of the departments work together. As others have stated, it’s not that enough content doesn’t exist (and some are struggling with the issue of too much content), but there needs to a better way to communicate that across the organization to get it into a singular plan. Once it’s centralized, everyone will see how much there is to work with without feeling the need to continually create new content.

  • http://www.avitage.com/ Jim Burns

    Scale matters. Blogging is a good example. Volume of content is a function of content
    relevance. And relevance IS context. A commitment to producing relevant content
    inevitably leads into the volume game. Relevance is a function of: 1) buyer
    roles (personas), 2) issues you address, 3) buying stages, 4) industry
    verticals, and 5) convenience (formats). Add the need for 3-5 touches in the
    lead nurturing game, and you’re into volume. The traditional “point
    production” process doesn’t scale. People have misunderstood the essence
    of “thinking like a publisher.” This is an operations requirement, not just a journalistic one.

    • http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Michele Linn

      Jim — I like how you break out relevance, and it’s easy to see why the volume of content marketers feel the need to produce has exploded. I agree that any organization that wants to do this well not only needs to think like publisher in terms of the stories they tell, but they all need a process in place to keep the great content coming. It’s something we’re all learning. Thanks for weighing in!

  • http://twitter.com/cfinniewrites Chris Finnie

    I see a lot of companies that have a launch template for content. They don’t really know if anybody is using the stuff, it’s just on the checklist. And the actual content of the pieces is often one size fits all, which rarely does in my opinion.

    I encourage them to think about two things before they have me write content: who is the target for the piece and where do they come in to the sales cycle? An evangelist usually needs different content than a decision maker. In technology sales, where I write, there’s often a function I call a gatekeeper. They may have to be satisfied about technology issues such as security or compatibility before a sale goes through. Again, they need different content. By really thinking through the content, companies can produce more targeted pieces that are more effective, even though there may be fewer of them.

  • http://twitter.com/edbmarsh Ed Marsh

    @juntajoe:disqus says “this stuff is not easy, continues to get more difficult.” True, and very few companies launch with the variety of content required to satisfy delivery channel, persona, stage in buying cycle and target market. As several have noted below strategy is missing – as is the real gut level appreciation for the magnitude of work and commitment required.

    But here’s a question no one’s asking. For SMBs, this is an enormous opportunity to equalize their marketing position with big competitors. And there’s a window available through which they really can make a big difference to their business even if they only are doing 70% of best practices…or even 40%. It’s easy for purists to declare that there are two varieties of content marketing – the right way or the highway – but that’s not reality. Let’s encourage companies to embrace it, understand what’s ideal, commit to what’s at least necessary, and grow their businesses rather than obsessing over whether it’s all according to Hoyle.

    So I say good post @cminstitute:disqus – it’s easy to preach how it should be, but helping folks accomplish more within their real constraints is valuable.

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Ed…good take. Like Jay Baer says, there is more right and less right…but both are still right to some extent.

  • http://gizn.com/ Andres Riggioni

    Combining and reusing content at either end of the funnel sounds like a great starting point to boost our content efforts, especially since we’ve already committed so much time and effort to hone in on the pain points at those two ends and the ideal messages. Thanks for the tip Michelle.

  • Richard D

    This is an extremely informative article Michele, thanks for posting…Its breaks down a number of the main issues facing content marketers…It is imperative in the current economic climate to get value for money by re-purposing content…Have a look at this http://b2bmarketing.net/events/content-marketing-breakfast-briefing…I have been before and learnt a lot of great practices for our own content marketing camaigns…Let me know what think

    R

  • Richard D

    This is an extremely informative article Michele, thanks for posting…Its breaks down a number of the main issues facing content marketers…It is imperative in the current economic climate to get value for money by re-purposing content…Have a look at this http://b2bmarketing.net/events/content-marketing-breakfast-briefing…I have been before and learnt a lot of great practices for our own content marketing camaigns…Let me know what think…