If there is one thing B2B content marketers mustn’t do, it’s this

Posted by Andrew Rogerson | 29-11-16
It’s the original sin of B2B content marketing, and according to The Value of B2B Thought Leadership Survey many firms are still guilty of committing it today.

Let’s consider the three ‘Ds’ of digital – disruption, democratisation and disintermediation.

It’s easy to forget, two decades on, how the emergence of the commercial internet in the early/mid 1990s changed the rules of communications. The means of content creation and distribution became universally accessible to everyone for the first time. No longer would the message be mediated. Dialogue between supplier and client would be direct.

The problem, as it turned out, was not one of opportunity. Rather it was about execution. With direct access to their audience of senior executives and decision makers on a broadcast scale, too many firms insisted on talking about themselves. It was “Me, me, me” when it should have been “You, you, you”.

It’s tempting to think that the era of self-serving, navel-gazing content marketing is over. It’s not.

The frustrations created by its presence are evident in the findings of our recently published Value of B2B Thought Leadership Survey. In this, we sought to understand how the C-suite view and use content marketing. What turned them on to – and off – thought leadership.

First, what turns people on. These are the top three reasons why people access thought leadership:


  1. To keep informed of emerging trends (66%)
  2. To enable me to be better informed to make better decisions (60%)
  3. To help me understand best practice (52%)


Note that nowhere on that list is a wish for suppliers to explain how great they are.

And now the top three content marketing turn offs. Senior executives are left cold by content that:


  1. Is too generic and not directly relevant to me (63%)
  2. Lacks in original insight or ideas (58%)
  3. Promotes the advisor, rather than addressing my problems (53%)


They are all good reasons for avoiding content but it’s worth noting that over half of respondents are explicitly turned off by displays of self-promotion.

The research is very clear about what a B2B audience wants. Asked to describe the qualities they found most valuable in thought leadership the top three responses were these:


  1. Fresh thinking that explores issues or challenges from new and different perspectives
  2. Forward thinking that analyses important or emerging trends
  3. Evidence-led content that contains robust data


This all points to the utility of content, not to advertising dressed up as content. The content marketing mantra ‘be useful’ has never been more applicable. And the results are paradoxical – the more you talk about your firm, the more you alienate a target audience. Explicit expressions of your capabilities are less effective than implicit signals of competence and expertise demonstrated through useful, relevant, forward thinking content.

No, it’s not about you. It’s about them.

To find out more about ‘The Value of B2B Thought Leadership Survey: How the C-suite view and use content marketing’ and to download a copy, click below.

The Value of B2B Thought Leadership Survey
Andrew Rogerson

Written by Andrew Rogerson

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