Content needs to be a lot of things. It needs to be attention-grabbing. It needs to be relevant to your buyer personas. It needs to generate leads.
But in order to achieve all of the above, content really only needs to be one thing: It needs to be meaningful for your audience.
I’m going to drop a bit of semiotic theory on you: Meaning isn’t inherent — it’s created in relation to other meanings and values that have been assigned based on the shared “codes” in a community. For instance, the colors red and blue are assigned a different meaning when associated with, say, a switch on an appliance: blue usually means cold, red usually means hot.
This approach can be adopted to content as it applies to a B2B audience. As Sonia Simone says, the key difference between B2B and B2C is context. Is your content meaningful in relation to your audience’s contextual codes? It doesn’t matter if it’s well-intended, or written in terms that your buyer personas use — does your content adopt meaning that will motivate and empower your target audience?
To quote a recent post on Moz by Ronell Smith:
“If you desire to create a brand whose content is sought-after and, indeed, clamored for, you must bake meaning into your content.”
Unfortunately, not all of us are lucky enough to be members of our audience, and therefore we’re not always “in” with the people we’re producing content for. However, we all have the means to listen to our audience to generate meaningful content ideas.
Here’s how you can start generating meaningful content ideas.
Constantly listen to industry buzz
Understanding what’s buzzing in your audience’s industry is not just about staying “in the loop” or “on top” of industry trends — it’s crucial to understand the context or bigger picture in which your audience lives.
Once you open the window to understanding what is appealing to the masses in your corner of the industry, you’ll not only know how to hook your audience, but you’ll also get a panoramic view of how their efforts are affected by overarching trends, and vice versa.
To take your industry listening skills a dive deeper, you can:
Use BuzzSumo to understand what content is being shared and who’s leading the conversations in your industry. BuzzSumo allows for users to search a particular term (or domain) and see what pieces of content are most shared in a specific time period. It also allows you to identify influencers in a particular industry.
Use Google Trends to find out what people are starting to care about. If a topic is trending upward, it means more people are talking about it, and there are more opportunities to open up new conversations surrounding that particular trend.
Subscribe to influencers’ and competitors’ email lists. This seems obvious, but for those who have yet to go on a subscription spree, use the information you’ve found from Google Trends and BuzzSumo to turn your inbox into a powerful listening channel. Keep your friends close, and your competitors closer 😉
Communicate with your Sales team
We talk a lot about SMarketing here at Uberflip, but that’s because when both teams work together, they reap mutual benefits: Sales receives more and better leads; Marketing gets the information they need to produce better content.
Your Sales team is on the front lines and is constantly fielding questions about how your product can help resolve a prospect’s pain points. One conversation with Sales can lead to buckets of MOFU and BOFU content ideas.
Effectively communicate with your Sales team by:
Scheduling regular “SMarketing” meetings. Put time in the calendar to regularly meet with and update your Sales team. Additionally, if you use an office messaging app like Slack, it’s also a good idea to start a SMarketing channel where everyone can stay in the loop, ask questions, and share experiences.
Ask the right questions to get a line on real prospects. When communicating with your Sales team, ask them the following (and document it — one way to do it is on a Google Form like you see below):
Create a system for “content requests” from your Sales team (and figure out a way to efficiently deliver these requests). This could mean dedicating time to discuss this in your SMarketing meetings, or inviting a Sales rep into your content brainstorming meetings — find a system that works and run with it.
Talk to your customers
The final, most important, and most obvious way you can start generating more meaningful content ideas is by going straight to the source: Talk to your customers.
It’s crucial for a business’ marketing team to understand the key issues and successes that customers are seeing when they use your product or service, so you can provide content that will resolve a particular pain point.
Here are a few ways you can start listening to customers:
Interview a sample of your customers, face-to-face. This is something that Anum Hussain, the Growth Marketer at HubSpot responsible for Sidekick’s crazy blog growth, suggests as a key growth tactic. Understand who your readers are, what they do, what kind of language they use, and what their biggest problems are. Aggregate the insights you find to refine your buyer personas and understand what’s truly meaningful to your audience (learn more in the presentation below).
Build a regular feedback loop with your Customer Success team. Your Customer/Client Success team’s inboxes are a treasure trove of content ideas. Invite the Success team to your next content planning meeting and ask them to bring two or three questions they’ve recently been asked — I guarantee you’ll be able to turn them into two or three blog posts.
Leverage your brand advocates. Encourage customer feedback by implementing an advocate marketing program like Influitive. Synchronize your advocate marketing efforts with your content efforts to get regular feedback, and offer swag or gift cards as incentives to encourage quality.
Bake meaning into your content
Creating meaningful content requires a deep understanding of your audience beyond the bullet points on your buyer personas and thinking, “Ah yes, this is something Marketing Mary would be concerned with.” It needs to be more than a concern — it needs to be something to which Marketing Mary has assigned value.
Next time you’re brainstorming content ideas, keep meaning at the forefront, and the rest of the things content has to achieve are sure to follow.
Want to know what’s hurting your B2B content marketing efforts? Find out in our free eBook.