By Ardath Albee published December 23, 2013

Why B2B Content Marketing Must Go Beyond Random Acts of Publishing

[Editor’s note: Happy Holidays! This week, the editorial team at Content Marketing Institute wanted to share some of the best content marketing blog posts we’ve seen from the experts who have developed classes for the CMI Online Training and Certification program. Today’s post originally appeared on Ardath Albee’s Marketing Interactions blog on October 14, 2013

random images-b2b publishingThink like a publisher! That’s been the rallying cry for B2B content marketing for the last few years. But, I’d like to submit that content marketing takes a whole lot more than publishing — especially for B2B companies with complex sales.

I’ve been getting a lot of calls lately from B2B marketers who are saying, “We bought into the idea of content marketing. We’ve created great content. It’s getting read. But it’s not moving the needle.”

Quite often, what I find is that they do have pretty good content, but it’s based on random acts of publishing. This means there’s no apparent strategy behind it, and nothing to orchestrate buyer progression and next steps.

People may be reading it, but then they just move on. It hasn’t impacted their perception of the topic enough to motivate action or sway opinion.

Why not? There are a number of reasons, but most often what I see is:

  • Too much focus on the company’s perspective rather than the buyer’s: Does your content show that you really understand what your buyers care about? Or have you made assumptions that leave your content short? Do your products sneak into your content? How about feeds and speeds? Do you use “we” and “our” more than “you” and “your”? 
  • No call to action: What comes after the content the buyer has just viewed? Do you tell them? They are not going to go looking for it, they’ll just move on once they’re done reading what’s in front of them. People are often multi-tasking. You have to give them a reason to spend more of their attention with your content. 
  • Too much effort perceived to take the suggested action: Does your form ask for the kitchen sink? Do you only offer a video link without a transcript for those who prefer to read? Or vice versa? Are you trying to send them to a different channel that they don’t use or a place where they have to set up an account to gain access? Too much effort can manifest in many different ways. 
  • Gaps in the story (aka leaps of faith): 
When I ask marketers when was the last time they experienced their content as if they were their buyers, most of them can’t say they have. They often think they’ve covered all the bases, but they are stuck with the curse of knowledge. Marketers know the whole story. They think it’s reflected in their content. But, often it is not. And, because they don’t have a strategy, they haven’t orchestrated the story, so they may be asking their buyers to leap from one concept to the next without any foundation. This is a problem that costs the company in credibility and in progressive engagement with buyers. Goes to the effort thing, as well. 
  • Not taking ownership of expertise: A lot of content doesn’t take a stand because it’s trying to make everyone happy. But that’s not the point. Sharing expertise must be done with authority and confident ideas that help people visualize what your knowledge will bring to the table that they can’t get elsewhere. Show them you mean what you say and feel strongly about it. Tell them why. Make your case. 
  • Staying too high level: Phrases like “grow revenues” or “cut costs” can mean anything. Content that motivates action must do a deep dive into the specifics applicable to the audience it’s intended to sway. But quite often it just does a white wash across the benefits that does nothing to differentiate your company or your expertise. 
  • Not targeted to a specific audience: This is why a lot of content stays high level. Marketers don’t know their audience well enough to get into the nitty gritty. But, if you don’t get to know them, they won’t go on the journey with you. They’ll go find someone who delivers more value that helps them visualize their problem being solved. 

It’s great to publish content. We need to do this to attract and engage our buyers. But an editorial calendar with a list of random topics you think are interesting won’t cut the mustard. Quarterly themes won’t do it either. All the switching will just alienate people who were finally getting invested in the story you were telling last quarter.

Random acts of publishing won’t get the level of engagement and intention needed to move the needle because you won’t be able to sustain engagement long enough to help buyers learn what they need to know to move to a conversation.

What you need is a content strategy. A method for the madness that is solving complex problems. A plan for strategic storytelling across channels. And, as you can see, there’s much more to B2B content marketing than publishing.

What else should be on this list?

Stay tuned for more details on the CMI Online Training and Development program. And if you are looking for more details on the B2B content marketing landscape, check out CMI’s latest B2B research.

Author: Ardath Albee

Ardath Albee is a B2B Marketing Strategist and CEO of her firm, Marketing Interactions, Inc. where she helps companies with complex sales use persona-driven digital strategies and content marketing to turn prospects into buyers and ensure that existing customers choose to stay. She’s the author of Digital Relevance: Developing Marketing Content and Strategies that Drive Results and eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale. She has been voted one of the 50 Most Influential People in Sales and Lead Management for the past four years and was selected a 2014 Woman to Watch in B2B Marketing by FierceCMO. Ardath is also an instructor for the Content Marketing Institute Online Training and Certification program. Follow her on Twitter @ardath421.

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  • Bruce McDuffee

    Great stuff here, Ardath! I suggest that every single piece of content creation should start with the question, “how will this piece of content directly affect the business goals?” If they can’t state unambiguously how producing and publishing the content will convert to revenue (if that is a business goal), then don’t produce it and don’t publish it. Most of your 7 points above go towards a good answer to that question. May I shamelessly self promote my CMI blog post about converting content to revenue?

    ‘Convert Your Content Marketing to Revenue: 7 Pieces of the Puzzle’

    • Ardath Albee

      Thank you, Bruce! Great points – and thanks for sharing the link to your great post, as well.

      • Sophie Jasson-Holt

        I too was also nodding when I read your entire article. Really good stuff. Your point about taking a position is critical to a successful piece of content. Sticking with corporate speak or fear of sharing too much intellectual property gets in the way of saying something unique or controversial; something that speaks specifically to the challenges of your buyer.

        And I totally second the idea of developing a Content Marketing Strategy. Thanks for your article.

        • Ardath Albee

          Thanks, Sophie! You’re right – it’s really important to speak specifically to the challenges of your buyer.

  • ronellsmith


    My head was nodding the entire time as I read this. I’m finding that too many content marketing are losing sight of the fact that, despite their lofty goals, resources are often limited, making it impossible to be all things to all people–and on all channels, as Joe has pointed out.

    I often suggest companies temporarily pare their expectations, being deliberately focused on one area of content marketing over a prescribed period of time before trying to cover numerous other areas.

    This allows them to get good in the respective area and build a base of support (i.e, internal and external partners) that buoys future efforts.

    Have a great holiday, Ardath.


    • Ardath Albee

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Ronell! I agree with you. Master one aspect and then spread your wings. Sounds easier than it is, but iterative is an excellent mindset for B2B marketers who want to present a consistent story and experience across channels and personas. There are a lot of moving parts to consider.