When it comes to content creation, B2B and B2C are a lot more alike than most publishers think.
The philosophical and practical distinctions between these two types of content developed over decades and publishers have come to view them as being so different that they can’t be managed or marketed jointly. Nothing could be further from the truth. The digital democratization of access to content means that B2B and B2C publishers are no longer targeting different audiences at different times. Instead, all content – regardless of topic – is in competition for the same audience.
The smartest strategy for both kinds of publishers is to reconcile the differences between the two and gain the benefits of learning from the best practices of each. Here are four ways to start thinking differently about the divide between B2B and B2C content so that you can build a content plan that leverages the pros and cons of each strategy.
B2C publishers consider readers to be “consumers” – not only of their content, but of the goods and services publishers are marketing. B2B marketers and content creators think of their audiences as entities: businesses, teams, or departments.
In the age of B2Me marketing, it’s time to start thinking of them – all of them – as people. Everyone who comes in contact with your content is a person with ideas, desires and problems. Content that helps inspire those ideas, stoke those desires and solve those problems will be relevant to all readers – whether they are watching a video on the couch on a Saturday afternoon or in the office reading an article about accounting software.
Luckily, your content is created by people who have a lot more in common with readers than you might think. Regardless of content format or subject matter, the first step in any content plan should be to encourage your writers and editors to focus first on who is reading and why. Thinking about the external impact content will have versus focusing on the internal process of creating it is the first step to building successful content strategies for both B2C and B2B.
Forget Selling. Start Relating
Once you start focusing on your audience early in the process, it will change the way you think about creating and delivering content. B2B content, in particular, has long been focused on marketing or selling rather than informing, educating and partnering with readers. When content is focused exclusively on customer acquisition, it’s a one-way conversation that offers little to the reader, but asks a lot in return.
In this way, B2B content creators need to get better at emulating B2C content strategies. Creating content that is relatable and engaging rather than promotional and focused exclusively on selling, builds relationships with readers first. Once you’ve established a bond with your audience that is based on first offering them something they need, you’ll be in a better position to start connecting in a way that is multi-directional and requires something of them in return.
B2C publishers, on the other hand, have a lot to learn from their B2B counterparts when it comes to creating content that is monetizable beyond traditional advertising and paywalls. B2B publishers have developed multi-stream revenue strategies that allow for content monetization across multiple platforms and at various stages in the buying process. B2C, on the other hand, rarely takes monetization opportunities into account early in the (non-native) content creation process. Too often, B2C sales teams are playing catch up trying to market and generate revenue from content after it’s complete, rather than partnering with content teams during the creation process.
B2B teams have taken the early lead on developing content creation processes that align editorial efforts and sales goals from the outset. The fear that too much input from advertisers will taint traditional editorial processes and impinge on journalistic freedom have resulted in an unwillingness to develop new ways of working together to identify your end-game and develop content designed to get you there.
Open Source Content
The next hurdle for both B2C and B2B publishers will be adapting to the post-expert age of content creation. No longer do readers care who is creating the content they’re consuming. An Amazon review often holds as much sway with readers as a carefully researched professional review. While expert-written, fact checked content is still essential, smart publishers on both sides of the business are finding ways to incorporate user generated content (UGC) directly into their strategy.
Commenting and social interaction are no longer enough to bridge the worlds of expert content and UGC. Instead, both B2C and B2B need to find ways to partner with amateur content creators and provide platforms for them to participate in the content creation process as part of the overall content strategy.
B2B has done that well with community content and crowd-sourced user reviews but struggles with integrating social media and building lasting relationships with outside contributors. B2C has done a great job leveraging social media and integrating it into content. However, building communities around key B2C media brands has been less successful.
In the age of proactive, publisher-driven content distribution we all need to learn from each other. Yes, today’s consumers seek out content they desire. But smart publishers are constantly on the lookout for ways to anticipate their needs and deliver the right content in the right channel. This shift in this content distribution dynamic will drive a continued evolution of digital content away from B2C and B2B distinctions and require both types of publishers to think more broadly by embracing as many of these strategies as possible.
About the author
Jeanette Mulvey loves telling small business stories. From hardware stores in Saskatchewan to fashion designers in Milan, she’s traveled the world learning what makes entrepreneurs tick and hearing their struggles. As VP of B2B Content at Purch, she is responsible for content and social media and for Business.com and BusinessNewsDaily, where she strives to ensure both sites are the go-to destination for small business advice and inspiration. Follow her on Twitter @JeanetteB2B