Every creative project, no matter how big, small (or strange) has its unique set of project challenges. B2B content marketing is no exception. In fact, creating B2B content often has more hurdles than your typical creative project—but we’ll get to that later. Now, you might be thinking, “B2B marketing doesn’t seem as important as consumer marketing, so why should I keep reading this article”? Well, perhaps you work in something related to B2B marketing, or your company might have some business-to-business element to it, or maybe you’re just curious because according to research company Statista, the B2B eCommerce market alone was worth about $14.9 trillion in 2020. Which, by the way, is over 5 times that of the B2C market–and that’s just B2B eCommerce!1
So if you and your team realize the value of B2B content, but are struggling to actually create that content, then keep reading!
Recently, we published an article about what makes effective B2B content. And while it’s critical to know where you’re headed, sometimes the process of making that perfect piece of B2B content can be so daunting that many teams don’t even start.
At Cannonball, we’ve collectively developed over 10,000 pieces of B2B content2, so here’s a few content development tips and tricks that may help you develop your next piece of B2B content!
Tip: Figure out your target audience and activation channels first, then what you’re going to make, why you’re going to make it—and then find some great examples!
A tip with this long of a title deserves some explanation, so here goes. When you’re developing B2B content, you typically have a lot of stakeholders. Maybe it’s other folks on your marketing team, but it’s also probably the people who work in sales, and business development, and don’t forget about product (and possible IT, HR, the c-suite, client managers, the list goes on). And there’s a big chance that most of those stakeholders don’t understand the content and creative development process, but you need them to see, understand, and weigh in on (and maybe approve) what you’re proposing to create, before you actually start putting pencil to paper. So having your target audience, delivery channels, what you’re going to make (an infographic, sales deck, demo video, etc) and some strong examples from other businesses of what that deliverable actually looks like BEFORE you start talking to stakeholders will help streamline your creative process.
Trick: Learn what each stakeholder cares about before presenting your creative work.
What does sales need to get out of this new material? What will the product team want to make sure is clearly and correctly communicated? Are there red flags that you could anticipate legal objecting to? Is there anything in your content that conflicts with something the PR or communications team has published? Does your content align with business development’s go-to-market strategy? The more questions like these you can ask about your content before pulling in these stakeholders for review, the better. Why? Because B2B content almost always serves more than one goal, more than one audience, and is often used by multiple teams once it’s approved and live in-market. So the more you can think about all of those requirements and inputs up front, the easier it will be to get your new content across the finish line.
Tip: Give stakeholders clear timelines for when reviews are needed—and if people don’t make those deadlines, don’t wait!
Stakeholders have other jobs and schedules you can’t control, so scheduling time with them for reviews, or giving them deadlines to get you notes back on what you’re working on, is critical. Also, not every stakeholder needs to review every stage of the project. Some may just need to approve the outline. Others want to get granular on the copy edits. For some, the design, look and feel of the content will be critical. Brand and legal approvals will likely need to see the finished work in its entirety. Know whose input is critical, who is required for approval, and whose input is nice to have, and prioritize reviews based on that information. And for stakeholders who don’t have approval status on a given project, it’s okay to move forward to the next step sometimes without everyone’s notes, because you have to balance the timeline of your project and the needs of your own team, with the needs of your other stakeholders. There’s no right answer here, but paying attention to that balance will help give you cues on who to wait for and when it’s okay to proceed without input.
Trick: Beware of the “HiPPO” effect!
In B2B content creation, there’s always the possibility of a high-ranking decision maker changing their minds at hour zero. Forbes’ Bernard Marr calls this the HiPPO (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) effect3, and it can have a real impact on projects. The article explains that a HiPPO’s views are presented as fact, but they are generally subjective in nature. This can be incredibly problematic when marketing plans are derailed to focus on what the highest paid person wants done, even if there is no research or data to back it up. Not only does this change of direction increase costs, waste time and jeopardize confidence, it may simply be the wrong action to take.
At this point, you might be wondering “how do I tame the HiPPO on my project?” The trick is to be prepared with data and research to back up your decisions, make sure your team is prepared and on the same page for all presentations to your HiPPO, and most importantly, to try and understand what they really want—not what they’re asking for at that moment. By looking for a collaborative compromise that satisfies their goal and keeps your project on track, you might just dodge the HiPPO effect.
Tip: Less is more, but it’s okay to include a LOT of content if it’s for the right reasons.
Don’t bury important information for all audiences inside long content only meant for a more targeted audience. In B2B content creation, less is more, but depending on who you’re talking to, sometimes it’s important to include comprehensive information, so that your content provides more value than just a few sales and marketing one liners. First, consider all of the audiences for your piece, and each audiences’ attention span (and the level of detail they typically need from B2B content). For developers, they might need incredibly rich content about how your application functions, while a Chief Revenue Officer may only need a quick case study on how implementing your application can increase cash flow or reduce expenses. In general, If it’s a sales focused message, keep it concise and short. If you’re providing deeper, educational content, it’s okay to include as much content as needed, as long as you make it easy to navigate.
Trick: Plan for version 2. And 2.2. And 2.2.1a, etc.
Everything changes. Especially in the B2B space. Have a plan for how to update your content over time. What is the approvals process for updates? How can you streamline content changes with your creative and design teams? Do you need external agency support to make changes to your content, or do you have in house people who can help, assuming you have all the project files? Are you designing things like videos, brochures, websites, and other graphically heavy content in a way where key dates, statistics, and other text are relatively easy to update? Knowing your content will evolve over time before you create the first version will inform how you develop it, which will pay dividends in the long run.
Tip: Develop a thick skin when collecting notes from stakeholders who don’t typically engage in the creative process.
Most people who review the work are not creative, and they may say blunt opinions about the work that don’t come across as constructive, but they likely have some point or objection that could make the piece better. Learn to have a thick skin in reviews with stakeholders, and push through to try and get to the core of the criticism, so that you can give actionable feedback to the creative team developing the content. If you get stakeholder notes that don’t make sense, or that come across as negative without any instruction, do not forward them on to your creative team. That will only hurt morale, and they won’t know what to do with the notes either. Learning how to triage and dig into stakeholder input is key for successful B2B content development.
Trick: Don’t be afraid to ask your clients, partners, and other trusted business people outside your company for input once your content is live and in market.
Once your content is live, get input on it. You can always improve it and release future versions, and seeing how people outside your company interact with what you’ve published is a great way to develop best practices that will inform future content creation.
Disclaimer: It should be obvious, but never share work-in-progress content outside your company, especially if it contains confidential information.
Thanks for taking the time to read this, and we hope you learned something to help you sharpen your game when it comes to creating effective B2B marketing. If you have a project you’re working on and could use a little help making an impact, we’re here to help! Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org