The Innovative Marketer's Blog

On Content: Boring Business, Enjoyable Content

Posted by Matthew Cook

boring content“Most people don’t think about us until they need us.”

I’ve heard that line dozens of times from dozens of content marketing clients, most of them in the business-to-business (B2B) field. The truth is that there are only a handful of industries that people who aren’t direct participants in that industry follow: Hollywood, for example, professional sports, and of course, whatever’s going on in the board rooms and R&D departments of the top tech players like Apple and Facebook.

If your business or the business you’re writing for doesn’t fall into one of those categories, you’ve probably already come to this realization on your own: No one cares.

Ok, that’s not entirely true. While the Internet isn’t abuzz with speculation about the upcoming tweaks to your business accounting software and your consulting services don’t lend themselves well to “unboxing” videos, there are some people out there who might be interested in you have to say.

There is a reason the word “solution” has been turning up so often (too often, in my opinion, and that of many others) in B2B taglines and website copy. Businesses realized that it’s often not the specific features of their products and services that buyers are interested in, but how they can solve their buyers’ problems.

To outsiders, what most B2B businesses do is deathly boring. Most people would rather read almost anything than articles about your industry—that is, until articles about your industry are exactly what they need.

It’s Nice to Feel Needed

B2B content doesn’t have to go viral to be successful. In a manner of speaking, you already have a captive audience: those people and businesses that are looking for information that will help them solve their problems. That doesn’t give you license to be boring, however.

I’ve noticed that many of those in B2B feel compelled to carry their staid, “serious” image over into their online content. Here are the excuses I hear:

  • “We’re in a technical field. People expect us to use technical language.”
  • “We don’t want to be flip. These are serious issues.”
  • “We have a professional image to maintain.”
  • “Ours is a close-knit industry. We don’t want to upset anyone.”

My response to all of these excuses is this: Your industry is boring. No one actually wants to be reading your content. The only reason they are is because they’re having some problem they think you might be able to help them solve. The best way to hold their attention and convert them to customers down the road is to make it easy for them. Making it easy means providing clear, understandable answers to their questions, but it also means making the learning process as painless—dare I say it, enjoyable—as possible.

Put yourself in your readers’ place. You’re stuck researching a bland, technical field in hopes of solving some problem your business is having. You find yourself checking your Facebook feed and celebrity gossip every five minutes just to alleviate the boredom. Finding an article that answers your question and is actually somewhat enjoyable to read is like a breath of fresh air. Naturally, you’ll be coming back to that blog when you have other questions. A prospective customer is born.

So, how do you not be boring when you’re writing about a boring industry? Here are a few tips:

Answer the questions no one else is answering (even if the answer is obvious)

You might be an expert in your field and you might be used to talking to other experts in your field, but that doesn’t mean your readers are experts. Explain the basics and explain them clearly. Don’t condescend to your readers or lecture them for not knowing what you know. Consider the approach taken by the wildly popular “For Dummies” series of books; acknowledge that everyone has to start from the beginning at some point and reassure your readers that you’ll guide them to understanding with patience and clarity.

Use real-life examples

Real-life specifics are infinitely more interesting than generalizations. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. You know what you know because you’ve learned it through experience. Share those experiences with your readers. Tell them about a time you solved a problem similar to the one they’re having. Walk them through how you did it.

Be honest

Whether it’s now or it’s later in the sales process, it’s going to come out eventually. If there are drawbacks or uncertainties to what you do, don’t be afraid to talk about them. If your services don’t come cheap, explain why. Break down the price and talk about why it’s worth the investment. Honesty is refreshing. Honesty is human. And honesty will set you apart from your competitors.

Have fun with it

When you’re creating content, unless you’re an undertaker, it’s useful at times to take a step back and remind yourself what you’re writing about isn’t a matter of life or death. (Actually, check that. Challenge accepted. Any undertakers looking to have fun with their online content, feel free to email me.) Allowing your sense of humor to come through in your content, no matter what you’re writing about, is always a good thing. Don’t be afraid of sarcasm or zaniness. Can you make a pop culture reference when you’re writing about corporate IT security? By all means. You talk about pop culture from time to time with your coworkers and even your customers, so why not in your content?

Don’t be a B2B robot. Treat yourself and your readers like human beings.

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Matthew Cook is content manager for Innovative Marketing Resources. His “On Content” series for content writers will continue to appear on Fridays.

Topics: Blogging, Content Marketing