B2B content marketing: Selling without the sell

Photo by Joe Yates on Unsplash

Do you read adverts? What about advertorials and promoted content? How about an article that helped you solve a problem or from which you learned something?

It is getting increasingly hard to sell to people. Ads are a turn-off, and content that whiffs of marketing can quickly lose the attention of a target audience and potentially damage the author’s credibility.

The problem with content marketing is it’s a long game. Building brand awareness, trust, and respect takes time and patience. It’s a subtle, slow-burn sell by positive association.

And that can be hard for those in the business used to ‘closing the deal’. Is it selling if it hasn’t got a direct sell or direct references to products and services?

The answer is yes, but measuring the results of content marketing can be tricky.

What good content market is

Good content marketing is at the top of the sales funnel. It’s about building a relationship and trust with potential clients, demonstrating your expertise and experience by offering something useful and valuable to them without seeking anything in return.

Put yourself in your potential client’s shoes for a moment:

💻 What can your content give them without you getting anything in return?

💻 Will they learn or discover something

💻 Will it make them think about something afresh?

💻 Will it change their mind on a familiar topic?

💻 Does it answer specific questions or solve a problem?

💻 What will they think of you and your business as a result of reading your content?

It’s about association rather than direct selling. Decide what you want to be associated with through your content: In-depth market knowledge, interesting insight on current topics, being helpful, thought leadership, learning etc.

A positive association, built over time, is the sell.

One common mistake I see companies make with thought leadership and content is shoe-horning in references to products or services.

It’s natural to want to shout about what you do and sell, but content is more powerful if you are sharing useful information rather than obviously selling.

You can reference work you’ve done but make it relevant to the specific topic. Results achieved for a client can make good examples to support an argument if carefully framed.

Another common mistake

Another mistake, particularly in thought leadership, is to gloss over anything challenging or negative.

Highlighting where an idea might fall short, some disadvantages or mistakes made is honest and demonstrates integrity.

Addressing the elephant in the room can be powerful too.

Rather than pretending challenges don’t exist, think about how you will be perceived if you present a more balanced view.

If you are talking about well-known market challenges, remember to offer potential solutions.

Solutions not problems

Highlighting common problems – such as under-resourced planning in the built environment – might win lots of agreeing nods but moving the conversation on with fresh ideas will make you stand out.

B2B content marketing is an opportunity to show how you think and what you know and understand, not just tell people what you do.

Be accessible; include a contact email or telephone number at the end of the piece.

When done well, content can help build your brand and visibility. Think of it as starting a relationship with a potential client, that initial networking conversation, rather than the step immediately before getting the sale.

Bonus benefits of good content

Building a reputation as a knowledgeable and thoughtful expert can open the door to speaking opportunities and good press relations.

Conference organisers are always on the lookout for experts to speak or appear on panels.

And similarly, journalists will look for people who are well-placed to comment on particular topics.

If you publish good quality insight regularly and promote it well, people will notice.

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