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Data centers are not sexy. The same goes for cloud computing, DevOps, and virtualization. But these topics are some of the core parts of business technology that underpin all organizations around the world. There’s a reason why the IT industry is worth over $5 trillion.
The discourse around tech—specifically B2B tech—often comes in the form of thought leadership content. What does the future have in store for us? And how can new technology help us solve big problems?
It’s vital that we ask these questions, but there’s a disconnect in the way B2B marketers are answering them.
According to 2020 joint study from LinkedIn and Edelman, 89 percent of B2B decision-makers believe thought leadership enhanced the perceptions of an organization, while nearly half (49 percent) claimed that thought leadership influenced their purchasing decisions. However, the results “show that 85% of decision-makers feel that current content under-delivers on quality.”
When I started freelancing for a billon-dollar B2B tech giant, I saw this problem firsthand. My role consisted of writing and editing, but after three months, I was asked to put together a training session to help the internal team, based on all the press releases, blog posts, case studies, and site copy they’d created.
Here are the three biggest mistakes that crept into the content along with advice I offered for how to fix them.
Good writing should be engaging. But marketers shouldn’t prioritize entertainment value over relevance. When sifting through my client’s work, I noticed that some content creators were throwing in references to exciting consumer technologies like driverless cars when the topic of choice was, say, cloud computing.
These mentions were clearly added to make blog posts more appealing, but they didn’t really tie back to the point of the piece. By attempting to improve engagement this way, the writers actually got the opposite result. B2B decision-makers are usually knowledgeable in their fields, so incorporating unrelated topics will turn them off.
As a journalist, I receive dozens of thought leadership bylines every week via email, so I understand that it’s difficult to stand out, especially with technical subject matter. But your audience might walk away with a negative perception of your brand if you just shoehorn in trending topics.
What you should do instead:
Thought leadership content is meant to be strategic, so stay focused on the topic at hand. Unique advice can stand on its own. Plus, a niche audience will probably geek out over the specifics.
I’m glad marketers are pushing to be more creative, but analogies and cultural references work best in small doses. If you find a relevant example that can provide a new way of thinking about complex technology, go for it. But make sure the connection is clear.
Some of the strongest blog posts I’ve reviewed began with a strong narrative like a news hook or an anecdote. Over time, though, the narrative thread disappeared as the piece went on. By the conclusion, the initial story was almost completely forgotten. This is a structural problem that plagues a lot of B2B content marketing.
If you don’t follow through with your story, the piece won’t flow as well—or leave as strong of an impression.
Endings are often the hardest part to write. You’re almost across the finish line, you’ve developed a clear thesis, and now you just want to get the article up on the site. I see this as a planning error. If you create an outline before you start writing, you can map out a conclusion that ties together everything that comes before it.
My client’s best pieces of content continued the narrative. In some cases, all they needed to add was a few words or a single sentence that alluded to the intro. To see this in action, check out this link to an article about content fluency on The Content Strategist.
When trying to appeal to a senior audience, there’s always a temptation to use flowery language and longer sentences. Also, thought leadership content tends to be littered with jargon, especially in B2B tech. These articles articles read more like press releases than insightful opinions.
One phrase I encountered a lot with my client was “in this fast-paced digital world.” Frankly, this term doesn’t really mean anything, so I advised them to stop using it.
Iron out the unnecessary words from your content. Concise writing is more effective for the B2B audience. If decision-makers believe their time is valuable, then make sure every creative choice you make delivers something of value.
I try to address this before I start writing by asking a basic question: What do you want to achieve with this piece? That way, when you’re done working, you can refer to the answer as you’re proofing. You’ll almost always catch some fluff before it goes back to the editor, manager, or in this case, back to the client.
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