Look, everyone’s doing content marketing. Or, at least, everyone is trying.
But if the numbers are anything to go by, hardly anyone is getting it right.
According to the 2019 B2B Content Marketing Report by our pals over at the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, only 27% of B2B content marketers rate their content marketing strategy as “extremely” or “very” successful.
Maybe the following scenario sounds familiar:
You’ve spent months fighting for a content marketing budget and researching dozens of growth tactics you can’t wait to try out.
Fast forward four months later, and you still can’t see any of these “epic” benefits everyone seems to be buzzing about. And, to make matters worse, your CEO has already started asking where the leads are.
Due to the sheer amount of hype around content marketing, some part of you may have expected to see a flood of organic traffic as soon as you hit publish on that very first blog article.
If only it were that simple.
At the end of the day, the real magic of B2B content marketing has nothing to do with paying 10 cents per word so you can hit publish on a high volume keyword. Like anything else in life it’s about grit and commitment. In fact, the same CMI report found that 93% of the most successful B2B content marketers were either “extremely” or “very” committed to content marketing at the organizational level.
Bottom line? Success in content marketing can’t happen unless you care enough to stick with it.
So, if you’re here looking for quick wins, you’re probably in the wrong place.
But if you’re ready to qualify and capture more leads (for fewer dollars) by putting some real skin in the game, welcome aboard! We’ll help you avoid the biggest B2B content marketing mistakes most of your competitors are making to bring you better results over time.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Mistake #1: Creating mirage content
- Mistake #2: Over-optimizing for top-of-funnel content
- Mistake #3: Poor customer-content fit
- Mistake #4: Writing for search engines only
- Mistake #5: Forgetting to strategize
B2B Content Marketing Mistake #1: Creating mirage content
The Cambridge online dictionary defines the word mirage as “an optical illusion or unattainable hope or wish.” And that’s precisely what ‘mirage content’ is to your blog visitors.
The term was coined by Benji Hyam, co-founder of Grow & Convert in 2018 to describe content that looks good on the surface, but upon further inspection, is revealed to be nothing but high-level fluff. These pieces lack the important nuances that define your niche or industry and leave readers with the feeling that the writer is intentionally glossing over the details, because they don’t actually know what they’re talking about. (And in many cases, they don’t.)
Mirage content may be successful in winning short term organic traffic, but over the long term, it can hurt your sales and kill your credibility.
Today, 70% of B2B buyers cite company reputation as the most influential factor when choosing who to do business with—and the quality of your content absolutely has an impact on your rep as a brand.
Producing mirage content ranks #1 on this list of content marketing mistakes for a reason. Not only does it turn potential prospects off, but if you’re not careful, you can end up wasting a ton of time creating and promoting content that erodes any trust and credibility you’ve already built with your audience.
When B2B brand marketers fall into the superficial content trap, it’s usually due to one of two reasons:
- They hire writers who lack the right research skills
- They aren’t close enough to their target customer
So, how do you ensure you aren’t creating mirage content?
The fix: Hire experienced B2B writers
Okay, we admit this is a bit cheeky given that we’re a B2B copywriting agency, but hiring the right person for the job is always going to be the first and most straightforward fix for any quality issue.
That may mean you outsource to an agency like ours, but it could also mean that you bring on an expert freelance copywriter who has real experience with whatever problems you’re aiming to solve with your content. For instance, you might strike gold and find a writer who has experience in product management for your blog targeting product managers.
Alternatively, you could partner with an influencer or subject matter expert (SME) in your industry or niche and offer them a monthly column or content series on your site. Both of these can be great ways to tap into the kind of high-credibility content that builds a real connection with B2B buyers.
But there are drawbacks to hiring subject matter experts:
- Sometimes, there simply aren’t enough SME partners to choose from in your field.
- SMEs tend to be in a higher cost bracket.
- Some SMEs may deliver insights or opinions that don’t align with your brand’s values.
Occasionally, you can get team members who qualify as industry experts to write your content. But let’s be honest, your team barely has time to tick off the top three items on their own to-do list, asking them to pen a 1,500-word blog post every week just isn’t feasible.
A more scalable solution is to hire or assemble a team of content creators adept at researching B2B markets. With the right processes in place, they can do the heavy lifting of interviewing customers and distilling insights from subject matter experts into detailed ebooks, blog posts and lead magnets to make sure the entire content journey is relevant for your readers.
And because you own the content (not an external freelancer or SME), you are the expert. You can grow and evolve that content as you wish, without anchoring your business to another person’s brand.
B2B Content Marketing Mistake #2: Over-optimizing for top-of-funnel content
We love organic traffic but in today’s flooded content marketing world, targeting a high volume, high competition keyword can often manifest in mirage pieces that are meant to be comprehensive articles but, by trying to cover every angle for every reader, come off as broad or generic.
And while linkable assets and skyscraper articles are often great at delivering evergreen traffic, they can easily fall short on nurturing and converting that traffic into leads.
Here’s a quick example.
Let’s say you’re marketing HR software and you want to appeal to B2B buyers responsible for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in hiring initiatives at their companies. You decide to write a blog post on ‘diversity equity and inclusion’. Do you think it’s possible to condense all the critical insights on this topic into one blog post?
Let’s just say, it’s going to be a looong article.
And why not, right? After all, doesn’t Google favor longer content?
Yes, creating the #1 most comprehensive blog article on a high-impact keyword is absolutely a great way to bring in traffic.
But what about leads?
For B2B buyers at a more advanced stage of awareness, a good 75% of your 3,000 word article may be completely irrelevant. In this example, we’re not targeting people who are looking to get started in a Head of Diversity role. We’re talking to qualified buyers—people who have been in this role for years and are looking for a new solution to a perennial problem. Explaining to them in broad terms ‘What is DEI?’ or ‘What Does a CDO Do?’ is an insult to their intelligence and experience.
Even if the content is good, those prospects (your target prospects!) will feel that it lacks depth because they already have an expert-level understanding of the topic.
So, how do you strike a healthy balance between top-of-funnel content to fuel your pipeline and high-intent content to help move readers through it?
The fix: Balance scope with depth
Being vague never works in real life, and it doesn’t work in content marketing either.
If you discover a long-tail keyword that is in 100% alignment with what you offer as a brand, commit to dedicating a detailed article to that topic specifically. Alternatively, you can take a high-intent approach to a broad topic keyword and use your headline to screen the right leads in.
For example, ‘Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: 10 Actionable Formulas to Measure Your DEI Initiatives’.
If your target buyer already knows what DEI is and just needs a tool to help them track and report on this topic, you can accommodate their specific needs using the right angle in your headline. Remember, there’s no point fighting for unqualified leads. Your reader already knows what ‘diversity’ is, now they just need to know how to approach it and why they should trust your brand to help them do that.
Alternatively, you can always go long-tail, for example:
- Why is diversity equity and inclusion important?
- What does diversity equity and inclusion mean?
- In the context of diversity, equity, and inclusion, how is privilege defined?
This is a great strategy for all types of brands, but especially for those that already have a significant library of top-of-funnel content or brands that rely more on direct distribution (via email, sales team, CS team, PR, etc.) than organic SEO. For example, brands with an ABM approach targeting an exclusive list of enterprise buyers.
But what if it’s traffic you want?
There’s nothing quite like 50K+ monthly blog visitors to make you feel secure, even in the most volatile market conditions—and skyscraper content is a great way to build the kind of domain authority you can access any time when you need to re-allocate your marketing spend or bring in leads overnight.
Just make sure your content goes beyond the surface by asking yourself.
✅ Does this article solve our target customer’s pain points?
✅ Does it address the right audience?
It’s totally ok to target a broad topic and high volume keyword, while tailoring the content itself to the specific questions your buyer has.
This way, even if your content attracts clicks from readers who don’t fit your target persona, those who actually opt in to your lead magnet or newsletter will understand the deeper nuances and will therefore be more likely to become viable leads for your business.
For example, Breezy’s high volume curated articles on the ‘diversity job boards’ is the #1 result for that search term.
While this article is likely visited by thousands of hiring managers who fit Breezy’s buyer persona, some of the traffic may also come from mainstream job seekers outside Breezy’s target market. By offering a high value lead magnet, Breezy can capture just their most qualified leads while still benefiting from the boost in traffic and authority that comes with being in the top three in the SERPs for a high volume, high relevance search term.
🌟 Content Insider Pro Tip: Long-tail keywords—those high intent three and four keyword phrases—are great inspirations for creating specific content. Most of the time, when a prospect uses these keywords, they are already further along in the buyer journey.
B2B Content Marketing Mistake #3: Poor customer-content fit
Regardless of your keyword and distribution strategy, the fundamental principle of your content marketing efforts should always be to answer your customer’s questions, challenges, or pain points.
Or as Jay Baer, founder of Convince & Convert puts it in his book, Youtility, “help not hype.”
Unfortunately, following a customer-centric content strategy is easier said than done.
A recent Forrester Featured Insights article by Laura Ramos and Matthew Camuso showed that B2B marketers still struggle to produce content that matters to buyers.
The cause of this “uselessness” may be linked to the fact that 60% of B2B marketers say they simply don’t think they have the right insights and information on their target audience.
While building out their content marketing strategy, some content marketers will speak with sales development or customer service reps to learn about their customers. Others may make their hypotheses based on direct experience with the customer. And some may even spend hours poring over Google Analytics data.
In each of these common B2B marketing scenarios, marketers are failing to go straight to the source: the customer.
No matter how close you think you are to your customer, be wary. If you miss the opportunity to take content direction straight from your customers, you may end up with the exact sort of content Doug Kessler of Velocity Partners warned about in his 2013 seminal piece, Crap; the single biggest threat to B2B content marketing.
Eventually, this leads to wasted efforts, a pipeline full of worthless leads, and some seriously bad blood between marketing and sales.
The fix: Don’t make assumptions, do your customer research
Achieving customer-content fit means that you completely understand your customer’s pain points and can speak to them in every blog piece you publish.
While it can sometimes feel like an uphill battle, spending time understanding your prospects is worth it in the long run. You can only create content that resonates with the customer if you know their pain points and exactly which questions they think about as they make their buying decisions.
🌟 Content Insider Pro Tip: If you want insightful answers from your customers, think like a journalist. Every great reporter knows that to get to the essence of a good story, you need to dig below the surface by using WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY, and HOW questions.
B2B Content Marketing Mistake #4: Writing for search engines only
Content marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) are like two peas in a pod. And both your audience and search engines will penalize you for content written solely to rank.
Search engines are critical to the success of your content marketing campaigns. But your prospects are even more essential. Trying to force too many keywords into your content usually results in a horrible user experience.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan for SEO in your content marketing strategy. It is vital. Just don’t do it to the detriment of everything else.
The fix: Write as you talk, like a human being
Write sentences that sound close to something you would say in real life. This keeps your writing relatable, simple, and easier to understand. It also helps you automatically remove unnecessary phrases to keep your writing clean and concise.
Remember, your bounce rate, time spent on your webpage, and social shares also impact your search engine rankings. These metrics improve when you write in a way that helps your prospects easily digest your content from the first to the last word.
B2B Content Marketing #5: Forgetting to strategize
We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again.
Content without strategy is a waste of time.
But if you’re making mistake #4 then you’re probably making this mistake, too. Here’s what typically happens. The marketing department gets pressure from the CEO to get traffic and leads NOW. (Like, now now.)
Rather than giving the team space to build a brand people trust, then nurture and convert that trust into real relationships (relationships that of course, drive revenue and profits), the leadership team essentially paints the marketing team into a corner. Now they’re chasing their tails over every new growth hack or tactic that hits their inbox, rather than focusing their time and energy into a consistent, workable strategy.
There’s a reason 61% of marketers don’t believe their strategy is effective. And we suspect it has something to do with this kind of short-termism.
The fix: Assemble a team you can trust
This mistake is probably the most expensive of them all. Instead of blowing your budget on shiny-object marketing hacks, map out a strategy you can stick with—even if only for the next six months. Then, give your team the time and support they need to work that strategy. Choose a KPI that makes sense for what you’re trying to achieve, measure your results and then make a call about your next move.
Marketing is equal parts art and science. But the Sistine Chapel wasn’t painted in a day and Einstein’s relativity theory wasn’t proven overnight. If you don’t give yourself time to develop and test a hypothesis, you simply can’t expect to see results.
Work with a team you trust, then sit back and let the magic happen.
About Pointed ✌🏻
We’re a done-for-you content marketing agency that produces high-quality content that drives qualified traffic, leads and sales. If you’re ready to take your SaaS or business brand to the next level but aren’t sure where to start, we can help. Schedule a chat today!
Brittany is the Founder and Content Chief at Pointed Copywriting. She’s also a copywriter, expat entrepreneur, and ‘90s pop culture addict based in Nicosia, Cyprus. Brittany and the team at Pointed Copywriting are proud to serve quality copy and content strategy to groundbreaking SaaS, B2B and enterprise brands in over three countries and countless industry niches.