This is the first in Vikki Willimott’s new content series.

Last month I contributed to Econsultancy’s upcoming whitepaper on B2B Content Marketing in 2019.  Most of my advice was simply about doubling down on best practice. Good B2B content is – and always has been – about treating people like people. At H+K we use the idea of “B2H” or business-to-human, as a way of helping teams to remember this.

Consider this; no matter your profession, do you exclusively consume media related to that trade during business hours? Do you even *have* set business hours nowadays? Or do you mix your media, reading a myriad of content from all types of people on different platforms and channels throughout the day? I think I know the answer.

Because of this, there’s a greater need for two things; understanding of audience behaviors (what people genuinely care about) and performance of content (what’s working with your specific customers). This is about working in a machine-driven, human-analyzed world.

Back to that best practice. There were five strong topics from my conversations that I found most interesting to revisit:

  1. Embedded structure

When we started building out our Content and Publishing Strategy (C+PS) function at H+K London, we made the conscious decision not to create a separate team. We embedded C+PS within our sector teams, allowing those individuals to truly focus and go deep in to their verticals, while applying specialist expertise when needed. For sectors where B2B is prominent (Finance & Professional Services, Healthcare, Energy & Industrials for example) – this has been particularly impactful.

The added bonus here is that you upskill naturally by doing this. This prevents people from simply outsourcing new skills to a different team, and also stops any arguments over budget split.

  1. Diverse background

My team is a smorgasbord of different skill sets. To be able to deliver content strategies that are reflective of the audiences we try and speak to – we have to have differing points of view. Some are ex-journalists, others worked in digital or social agencies, some are influencers themselves.

Ours is an ever-changing function, so above all I look for people who are hyper curious and want to learn. In a B2B environment this often means recruiting people from the very places our audiences listen to or trust. How an agency operates is something that can be taught; having the knowledge to understand very specific or technical topics isn’t quite so easy.

  1. A unified strategy

Tactical campaigns that don’t ladder up to a strategy are pointless, and churning out content just to be present should be a thing of the past. It’s vital for businesses to understand that content can’t fix everything. Needlessly pouring money into creating more and more assets is not going to fix a bad customer service experience, for instance, and it’s not going to be able to deal with deep-set reputational issues.

What content marketing can do is be an amazing engagement tool, drive loyalty, lead generation and sales, and it can also tell your story in a credible, vibrant way. It sounds simple; but setting objectives and working out what your content has to do first, is still the most important thing of all.

  1. Yay data

As I said to Econsultancy, if I was going to pick anything to put my budget into, it would be data – and analysts to interpret it. But not just data for data’s sake; data that specifically helps me to understand what content people want – and where they consume it. Otherwise it’ll just sit in a spreadsheet of logins, unused and unloved for months on end. And not just an analyst that can crunch the numbers; someone who genuinely loves to examine content trends and performance to help our team build a data-informed strategy.

One of the investments we’ve made is in GlobalWebIndex (GWI), a database of audience information that is based on in-depth panel research. The panel gets asked an incredibly complex list of questions on a regular basis that ranges from media behaviors through to the devices they use, what they expect from brands, what they love and what they’re passionate about. Based on all of that information we can go in and map a persona, whether that’s psychographic or demographic, and pull out a rich picture of how these people behave. We can directly use that, layered with search data, social listening and some common sense, to inform all of our content and publishing strategy.

Customer data such as previous purchases, browsing behavior etc, all help to shape the final output of content. Our Data + Analytics teams works closely with our Content + Publishing Strategy team, to not only provide supporting consumer behaviors as we shape our work, but measuring performance as campaigns go live to help us iterate in real time.

  1. Pay to play

We can’t run a campaign nowadays without paid support. With such an overwhelming quantity of content out there; you have to pay to cut through it. The social platforms are all pay-to-play, media partnerships require a fee if they’re going to be worth their salt and 9/10 times you can expect to pay your influencers (as you should).

Paid amplification is a part of everything, but it doesn’t have to be a hugely expensive operation. The social platforms make it incredibly easy for anyone to learn and use their ad dashboards, providing training support and a world of case studies.  Also, because targeting is now so advanced, at such high volume, you can reach incredibly niche B2B audiences (particularly within Twitter).