Service journalism offers a model for the engaging and compelling content B2B marketers must create to ensure their content-marketing campaigns are successful. Practiced in publications as diverse as Car and Driver, American Bride and PC Magazine, service journalism delivers useful content that helps readers take action immediately.
As a content marketer, you can easily adapt the tricks of the service journalism trade to your campaigns. Educational articles can describe how the marketers’ products solve a particular customer problem. You can create pieces on how to purchase your particular type of service. You can even publish papers on how buyers within the organization can convince their manager they need budget for your solutions. By incorporating the conventions of service journalism into your B2B-Marketing content, you benefit from time-tested tools that make content more engaging and compelling.
The following are 9 tips and tricks gleaned from service publications that you can use to make your content more successful.
- Relentlessly focus on your customer. If you follow only one tip, make it this one. Service publications laser focus on readers. These publications constantly perform surveys, organize focus groups, and engage in informal conversations. As a B2B content marketer, you need to get to know your customers as intimately as do service publications to create content that addresses real customer concerns and engages your audience.
- Make content usable. Service publications rarely create articles only to be interesting. Articles must also be useful. If a technology magazine writes about a trend, it will focus on how that trend might impact the reader’s business and what they can do to be prepared. If they write about news, it’s news you can use. If they write a customer story, it will show how other people are solving a problem other readers are likely to face. “How to” articles are commonplace.
- Put content into perspective. Publications of all types explain how stories fit into larger trends. Content marketers should do the same to help readers understand why they should care about your story. For example, start a piece by discussing your customers’ most pressing business issues — and then relate your content to those overarching challenges. This will give context to your content. For example, the recession of 2008 was a challenge that affected virtually every business. Many businesses responded by cutting expenses. A piece written at that time could have described how the product addressed business needs by reducing costs.
- Make your content credible. Information is not useful if it’s not credible. Service and other publications know to back up statements with facts and data. Magazines, researchers, and analysts publish all types of studies that you can use to back up your own arguments in your content—just be sure to cite the source.
- Be surprising. Putting a surprising twist on even the most ho hum topic can make your content memorable. According to the book “Made to Stick,” the first problem of communication is getting people’s attention. The most basic way to get their attention is to break a pattern. Service publications run articles on surprising things you can do with a particular product all the time. This type of article is easy to adapt to content marketing.
- Provide news customers can use. Most service publications provide information and analysis about news and trends to help their readers with planning. Your content can use news to support your marketing objectives. For example, if you’re a vendor of cloud-based solutions, you might use news to engage buyers looking for information that makes a decision to use cloud based phone systems feel less risky. You might include reports showing adoption trends, cloud headlines from mainstream news sources, and non competing blog posts that demonstrate relevant use cases or success in different verticals.
- Be provocative. Service publications often have columnists who specialize in being provocative. For example, John Dvorak of PC Magazine will write controversial opinions—often expressly to provoke a response from readers in the form of letters to the editor. Whether readers agree or disagree, the publication wins because they are engaged. Few B2B marketers are willing to be provocative in the same way as a publication. However, they can be provocative in the sense of providing readers with a new angle on a situation. As Philip Lay, Todd Hewlin and Geoffrey Moore wrote in their article “In a Downturn, Provoke Your Customers,” that appeared in the Harvard Business Review, you may want to consider ways to provoke your customers to think that their current way of doing business puts their business at risk and that to overcome these risks, the prospect must think about their business in a completely different way. This method is particularly useful for attracting attention during severe economic downturns. And in good times, it can lend power and urgency to products or services that are nondisruptive or relatively undifferentiated in their markets.
- Present information in a useful way. Service journals use all kinds of design and layout techniques to make content more useful. A product review will come with a fact file that briefly summarizes the salient points and how to contact the vendor. A product comparison will come with an easy-to-read chart. You’ll often see a checklist summarizing tips described in the article. You’ll find lots of info graphics. All of these devices can be included in your content marketing so people can use the information quickly and easily.
- Have fun. When all else fails—and even if it doesn’t fail—make your content fun. While you don’t want to get cute in titles that must be friendly to search engines, consider clever headings and subheadings—as long as any wordplay doesn’t obscure the meaning. Insert humor if you can. Include a fun turn of phrase where possible.
Service journalism has perfected the art of creating useful content and presenting it in an actionable way to help people learn about and purchase advertisers’ products. By applying some of the tricks these publications have perfected to your B2B-marketing content, you can create content that’s compelling and engaging to your customers.
How do you make your content more useful and compelling?