By Neil Patel published September 10, 2014

7 Signs Your B2B Content Marketing Is Doomed to Fail

grim reaper image with scytheI’m just going to say it: B2B content marketing sucks.

I understand. I really do. It’s tough to blog about small niches that nobody cares about. It’s hard to sell to tight-fisted businesses. It’s tough to write about stuff that only four people on the planet understand.

But does it have to be this way? No. It does not.

What I’ve observed is that many B2B content marketers are in a rut. They cling to old practices, refusing to let them die, perpetuating the plague of boredom. 

Here are some top signs that your B2B content marketing is doomed to die a slow, painful death:

1. You’re not sure why you’re doing content marketing

When I work with B2B companies on their content marketing, I sometimes ask them, “Why are you doing content marketing?

I usually get blank stares or muttered clichés.

If you want it to be effective, your content marketing has to be tied into the core marketing efforts of the company as a whole. Before you can expect to nail B2B content marketing successfully, you need to know why you’re doing it. If you don’t know why you’re doing it, you won’t know how to do it.

What are your goals in content marketing? Lead generation? Sales? Define it. Write it down, and then roll out a content marketing plan that supports those goals.

2.  You subconsciously feel a need to be boring

There is a ghastly trend among B2B content marketers to be as boring as possible. Some people have remarked that B2B stands for “boring to businesspeople.”

Why does B2B have the boring reputation? And why does it carry over into content marketing?

I don’t know, but it’s time to kill this unnecessary trend. B2B content marketing can be just as awesome, exciting, and edgy as the best of the B2C content marketing. Maybe you won’t have the same vast audience, but you can still have the same viral content and creativity.

Let me give you a killer example.

Cisco. What business hasn’t bought from Cisco? Okay, maybe there are two. Check out what they’re doing with content.

the network-cisco's technology news site example

The screenshot above comes from the content-focused site, newsroom.cisco.com. Here, the company features articles like 6 Ways Tech is Changing Travel. Content like that has wide appeal and popular engagement. But there are also articles like, Mean Time Between Failure, which helps to engage the tech-head readers.

Cisco’s content is intentional. It conveys a clear awareness of its audience and its entire purpose in doing content marketing.

And it’s not boring.

Please, don’t feel like you have to be boring just because you’re a B2B business. 

3.  You’re being too guarded about company information

Many B2Bs are extremely protective about their company’s practices, plans, initiatives, failures, successes, or lessons.

Is there a reason for this? The more transparency a company or individual has, the more it will engender trust among its audience. No, you don’t have to spill company secrets; but why don’t you share a little bit more information about your company, to give your audience something to engage with and/or relate to personally?

For example, if there’s one kind of information that B2B companies love, it’s hearing about what other companies in their niche are doing — studies, tests, data, etc. This stuff is fascinating.

The Buffer Blog has one of the best blogging strategies on the planet. And it’s working. Thousands of businesses are purchasers and avid users of Buffer’s social media platform. To serve this clientele, the Buffer blog features helpful articles that are exactly what social media managers need — i.e., the content is chock-full of stats, graphs, studies, metrics, and more.

One of the things that make Buffer’s content so helpful is that they are actually doing this stuff themselves. They don’t simply tell readers how to host a Twitter Chat. They write, “We did this, and now you can, too.” And then they show you how to do just that.

buffer social example-twitter chats 101

They share a lot of inside info, which increases its readership, intensifies its engagement, and enhances its authenticity.

The more information you share, the more your audience will trust you.

4.  Your content doesn’t include any calls to action

Ah, the elusive CTA! Why, why, why would you not include a CTA on your blog posts or other content?

People expect a request for them to take some action after reading content. That’s the whole idea behind marketing — you want people to do something based on the information that they just received. Yet still, I see it all the time: B2Bs avoiding CTAs like they carry the bubonic plague or something.

I realize that “the sales cycle is long” and “the purchasers are C-level executives” and “we cut million-dollar sales deals.” Right, but why do any of these things mean you can’t direct your readers to the next step in your purchase process?

Start asking for action on your blog posts and other content forms. The CTA does not need to entail a million-dollar deal agreement. It just needs to be a mailing list sign up, or a link to another resource, or whatever.

HubSpot’s blog is a gold mine of CTA examples. When you read content on HubSpot, you are highly likely to convert on one of their CTAs. Why? Because there are a lot of them, and they are very appealing.

Like this CTA, positioned on their right sidebar:

CTA example-hubspot

And this one, positioned a little lower down on the page:

CTA example-inbound 2014-rand fishkin

Any given blog article on the HubSpot blog has at least nine CTAs.

You won’t get action unless you ask for it.

5.  You focus on “just doing it” instead of “doing it right”

This is a quantity vs. quality issue. It’s not enough to do content marketing; you have to do it right.

Content marketing demands quality. As you publish information, real people are reading it, critiquing it, judging it, and acting upon it.

It’s crucial that you keep the content quality as high as possible.

Often, B2Bs do content marketing just for the sake of doing it. Unfortunately, that’s not going to cut it. You need to focus on the quality of your content rather than just ensuring that it exists.

6.  You imitate your competition

I hate to say it, but there are very few businesses in the B2B space that are doing content marketing really well. Rather than develop an obsession with what the competition is doing, I recommend that you focus on what you’re doing. If you give yourself the benefit of your undivided attention, you will improve.

I’m not saying you should stay ignorant of the competition — you certainly need to be aware of what they’re up to. But that doesn’t mean you need to imitate what they do. For all you know, they might be doing things wrong. You need to do things right.

GoToMeeting is an example of a B2B that has zero need to imitate its competition. Sure, the company follows some of the standard content marketing best practices, but they do the whole “leader” thing, not the “lemming” thing.

Check out this innovative SlideShare for proof:

meeting is believing-gotomeeting slideshare example

I’m pretty sure none of its competitors thought to feature an infographic with a hula dance image.

7.  You’re doing what everyone else is doing

This point is similar to the point above, with an important qualification. A lot of people are doing the same things with their content, or are using the same old stand-by tactics time and time again, and it’s not working. Let me point out a couple of these common B2B marketing mistakes that everyone keeps repeating:

  • Publishing more white papers: There is an assumption that white papers are a linchpin of B2B content marketing success. This isn’t necessarily true. Focus instead on what works for your niche — and here’s a hint: It might not be white papers.
  • Just doing a blog: The blog is a great content format, but that doesn’t constitute successful content marketing. A blog is only one component of content marketing. There are some niches, believe it or not, in which a blog might not be a good idea.

Find what works for you. Don’t swallow the line that B2B content marketing must involve A, B, and C. Invent your own alphabet. Don’t look for patterns to follow; look for your own unique path to success.

Conclusion

I’m expecting a revolution in B2B content marketing. I don’t care how unsexy, corporate, or stifled you feel right now. That can change.

Take your spice shaker in one hand, your content marketing in the other, and start cooking up something amazing.

Transform your content marketing from a subservient service to a strategic, enterprise-wise partnership for greater business success. Download Launch Your Own Content Marketing Program

Cover image via Bigstock

Author: Neil Patel

Neil Patel is the co-founder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar, and KISSmetrics. He helps companies like Amazon, NBC, GM, HP and Viacom grow their revenue. The Wall Street Journal calls him a top influencer on the web, and Entrepreneur Magazine says he has created one of the 100 most brilliant companies in the world. You can connect with him on Twitter @neilpatel.

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  • http://www.internetviz.com/psjblog/ Jarod – PSJournal

    Had a good laugh when I got to reason number 2 when you talked about B2B meaning “boring to businesspeople”. Good article with great info!

    • Neil Patel

      Jarod, thanks for reading and glad I could make you laugh :)

  • XYEYE

    this is GREAT thank you.

    • Neil Patel

      Glad you liked it. Thanks for reading!

  • http://annejanzer.com Anne Janzer

    Good article — #8 might be “You can’t stop talking about yourself” – but that falls under boring, too.

    • Neil Patel

      Anne, glad you found it helpful. As to your point :)

  • Katie Moss

    Awesome article! Thanks for the insights. :)

    • Neil Patel

      Katie, glad you liked it :)

  • http://www.tempocreative.com/ charmon stiles

    Great article! I experience B2B marketing as generally unsexy. It depends on how you approach it though. Cisco is a great example. Like you said, you have to make it fun. Remember that all those businesses are still made up of people that have hobbies, likes and interests and a sense of humor!

    • Neil Patel

      Charmon, I think B2B marketing can be made interesting and fun. It’s all about how you position things. Thanks for the feedback :)

  • http://www.RobToth.com/ Rob TheGenie Toth

    Neil, good to be reading your content over here at CMI.

    • Neil Patel

      Rob, Thanks for reading!

  • http://www.irissignals.com/ Kostas Chiotis

    This is great Neil. I think the bottom line is that we all need to have a little more fun with content – regardless of who our audience is the key is to engage them and that means coming up with fun and interesting content ideas.

    • Neil Patel

      Kostas, engagement is key. That is the metric that will ultimately guide all of your efforts and provide the most ROI.

  • Vik

    Great article Neil. Just shared it with my team!!

    • Neil Patel

      Thanks Vik!

  • Jolene

    Neil – you articulated my pain points perfectly in your opening paragraph. Thanks for posting.

    • Neil Patel

      Jolene, glad I could help. Looking forward to hearing much more from you :)

  • Alex Aguirre

    I just read a couple of your blogs on Slideshare. Have to say, I am an instant fan! Thank you for sharing your content.

  • Tine

    Great article – I actually found myself laughing at several of your inputs :) This is a “sharer”!