Simplify and focus: key questions for B2B content marketing

Simplify and focus. That’s been my mantra lately. When I joined Twitter and started blogging early last year, I felt like a sponge, wanting to consume as much as I could.

While I still love to learn and I read as much as I can, I also find myself really focusing on certain things while tuning out others things that may have caught my attention a few months ago. Your prospects are doing this, too.

So, as I was reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, I was struck by one of his conclusions.

“We have virtually unlimited amounts of data at our fingertips at all times, and we’re well versed in the arguments about the dangers of not knowing enough and not doing our homework. But what I have sensed is an enormous frustration with the unexpected costs of knowing too much, of being inundated with information. We have come to confuse information with understanding.”

The ramifications of this statement are practically limitless, but it made me think about a number of things in terms of B2B content marketing. More content is not what are prospects want, is it? What they want is to understand. This may seem obvious, but in the fervor to create content, I think it is easy to lose site of this.

Of course, that begs the question: what can we do to help our prospects understand? I have a number of thoughts on this, but the first thing I think we need to do is get back to basics. It sounds simple, but even the basics can be complicated: where do you begin? While there are a lot of things you could do, I like focusing on these four questions.

Who is your ideal buyer (or buyers)?

I sound like a broken record on this issue (especially with my clients), but I think it is absolutely critical to understand who your prospects are. I’m not talking about grasping their industry or rattling off titles, but rather it’s imperative to understand what makes them tick. (Of course, you may have multiple prospects, and you need to understand each thoroughly.)

As a starting place, here is a list of 20 questions I use to get to know my clients’ audience. You probably won’t know the answer to all of these questions, but it gets you thinking in the right direction.

Once you have the picture of your prospect, you should create everything with this person in mind. Ask yourself: “Will this person care about this information?” If yes, you’re likely helping them understand. If no, the content is likely extraneous or it needs to be re-framed in a way that makes it meaningful to your audience.

What motivates them?

For each of your audiences, you need to identify what motivates them to act. If you have more than one audience, you need to recognize that different things motivate different people, and you shouldn’t try to make one-size-fits-all message.

As an example, I am working with a client who has three distinct audiences. I knew we would get along quite well when when she went into detail her three audiences and what matters to each. For instance, prospect A wants to find the cheapest solution whereas prospect B isn’t concerned about cost but wants full service. As you can see, if you start talking about saving money to prospect B, they’ll immediately tune you out.

How can you help?

Let me be clear: this question is not, “What do you do?” Rather, it focuses on how you can help your prospect, which should tie in to the previous question.

Looking at the same example, if your client is concerned about cost, your “how you can help” statement needs to focus on how you are the most inexpensive solution or how you save costs. If you talk about how you will save someone time or how you have the most features, you’ll lose your audience.

And, taking this a step further, you need to be able to explain what exactly you can offer your potential customers — in words that are meaningful to them. If you find yourself using buzzwords, start again. It”s a good bet you aren’t talking in a way that makes it easy for your prospect to understand what you do. (Not sure if you’re using buzzwords? Check out this list of gobbledygook, as coined by David Meerman Scott.)

How are you different?

This question seems to be the most tricky, but it is imperative: what makes you unique? Do you serve a certain type of customer or geography better than someone else, or do offer a service that no one else can? Again, whatever this is, you need to say it in a way that makes sense to your prospect.

These four questions are not always simple to answer, but once you think them through and always your prospect in mind, you’ll be well on your way to creating meaningful content.

I’d love to get your thoughts. Are these the questions you think are critical or are there other basics you focus on?

Michele Linn is a B2B content strategist and as such passionate about content because she thinks it is the cornerstone to B2B marketing.
She is also a founding member and frequent blogger at Savvy B2B Marketing.
Her website is Linn Communications.
You can follow her on Twitter here.