B2B content – 7 best practices and 10 common issues

Content marketing has become an essential strategy for B2B companies looking for an effective way to generate qualified leads, reinforce their authority and stand out from the competition.

It also generates the trust and legitimacy that are essential in the B2B sector.

However, while content marketing can offer many benefits, it is not without its challenges.

Many B2B companies face obstacles when it comes to implementing an effective content marketing program. One of the main challenges is to create content that is relevant and interesting to a demanding B2B audience.

B2B content needs to be informative, technical and demonstrate real expertise in the field. In addition, it’s essential to find the right balance between promoting your products or services and sharing useful tips and information.

The other major challenge is to find the resources needed to produce and distribute quality content on a regular basis, while ensuring close coordination between marketing teams, technical experts and sales representatives.

In our day-to-day work at Toast, and through the various mandates we complete with a wide variety of brands and organizations (both B2B and B2C), the 3 biggest challenges we see for content teams are:

  • The need for content cost efficiency
  • Content production capacity and scaling
  • Notions of content performance and effectiveness

In a recent discussion for the B2B & Go podcast, I had the opportunity to chat with Simon Deschênes about the major trends and currents in B2B content marketing. The full episode can be found at the bottom of the page.

7 keys to successful B2B branded content

Here are the seven most important lessons for a content marketing team manager in a B2B organization, drawn from my discussion with Simon:

Importance of trust and value

Content marketing should be about building trust with the audience. It’s not just about promoting products or services, but providing content that adds real value. This can translate into a gain in knowledge, time and efficiency. At Toast, we often say that content can inform, inspire or entertain. In the case of the B2B sector, we very often turn to informative content, which will find its value in the minds of the buyers and stakeholders targeted by a product or service.

Content as a sales tool

Content should be seen not just as a marketing expense, but as an investment in sales tools. Well-structured content can help prospects to self-qualify by validating certain aspects of the product or service against their own reality or need, thus improving the effectiveness of sales teams.

Developing a content library

Building a sustainable content library is crucial. Rather than constantly creating new content, existing content should be optimized and reused to maximize its impact.

Cross-departmental involvement

Content creation should not be isolated to the marketing department. Sales and customer service teams need to be involved to provide valuable insights into current objections and customer needs.

Medium- and long-term strategy

An effective content strategy must be aligned with the organization’s medium- and long-term objectives. Thinking beyond the short term is essential to ensure the relevance and sustainability of the content created.

Quality over quantity

Instead of producing content in large quantities, it’s better to focus on the quality and optimal exploitation of each piece of content. High-quality content that is well promoted can have a much more significant impact.

Measurement and optimization

It’s essential to measure the impact of content through KPIs such as reach, number of contacts generated, and engagement (viewing time, reading rate, shares, comments, etc.). These measures help evaluate effectiveness and adjust content strategies accordingly.

Workshops for B2B teams

The most important thing for teams is to grasp and understand the current state of affairs, and to be able to make a frank assessment of it (it’s not always easy to be self-critical!). This way, we know where our strengths lie, but also where we need to work.

We often work on projects that are realistic and relatively small-scale. Why small-scale? Because our aim is to enable everyone to see progress and improvements quickly, and to break down everything that needs to be done into manageable “bites”.

The list below is intended as inspiration for what could be different workshops for a content team (B2B in the context of this article, but it can also apply to any content team!) that wants to improve and optimize its content operations.

Establishing a long-term content strategy

  • Aligned objectives: Define clear medium- and long-term objectives aligned with the company’s strategic objectives.
  • Content plan: Create a detailed content plan covering at least 12 to 18 months, including themes, formats and timelines.

Building a content library

  • Content audit: Perform an audit of existing content to identify what can be reused or updated.
  • Content management: Set up an efficient content management system (CMS) to store, organize and easily access the content library.

Involve different departments

  • Cross-departmental meetings: Hold regular meetings with sales and customer service teams to gather information on common objections and customer needs.
  • Collaboration: Encourage collaboration between departments to ensure that the content created meets the needs identified by other teams, for example, but also to avoid duplication of effort in some cases, as a common need will have required two separate content productions when they could have been combined, in order to seize every opportunity for operational efficiency.

Creating quality content

  • Validation process: Set up a validation (and rejection!) process to guarantee content quality before publication. In some cases, the reality and lack of upstream validation means that every content request is produced, and the content team loses its perceived value internally and becomes a “service” for other departments.
  • Ongoing training: Train the content team in the latest trends and best practices in content creation.

Optimize content exploitation

  • Content promotion: Develop a culture of content promotion. And by promotion we’re not just referring to paid amplification. We’re also referring to socializing content internally within the company, so that it becomes known and used by as many relevant people as possible. For example, content that might seem rather “marketing” could also be an excellent tool for the direct sales team!
  • Content reuse: Set up processes to rethink, reuse and refresh existing content. Far too much content is produced and only exploited to a tiny fraction of its potential. Whether using the RRR approach or thinking in terms of 10×1, every opportunity to exploit existing content should be explored.

Set up KPIs and measure impact

  • Define performance indicators: Identify key KPIs to track (reach, engagement, number of leads generated, etc.).
  • Measurement tools: Use analytical tools to track and measure content effectiveness.
  • Regular reporting: Produce regular reports that combine discoverability and content consumption aspects to assess performance and adjust strategies accordingly.

Integrating storytelling

  • Storytelling training: Train the team in the art of brand storytelling to make content more engaging and memorable.
  • Incorporate storytelling: Integrate storytelling elements into different types of content to humanize the brand and captivate the audience.

Use artificial intelligence for ideation

  • AI tools: Integrate AI tools to help with idea generation, content planning and finding relevant topics.
  • Avoid “same old, same old” content: Use AI to structure and plan, but ensure that the final content remains unique and personalized.

In the world of B2B marketing, content cost efficiency is a major issue. It’s crucial to ensure that the investments you make in content creation are optimized, in order to maximize your resources and achieve a significant return on investment. This may involve streamlining creation processes, developing partnerships with writers or content specialists, or automating certain repetitive tasks.

Another issue often faced by B2B content teams is the ability to produce content on a regular and consistent basis, while ensuring scalability. It’s essential to have a strategy in place to manage the increasing amount of content needed to feed your various distribution channels. This can mean setting up editorial calendars, using content management tools and hiring additional talent to your team.

By following B2B content best practices and addressing the challenges of cost efficiency and scaling, your marketing team will be able to create high-quality content that achieves your goals and delights your audience.

Pitfalls, obstacles and challenges to an effective B2B content program

These are often related to organizational, cultural and structural aspects.

How many of the 20 obstacles below apply to your organization?

A. Change-resistant corporate culture

  • Traditional mentality: A conservative corporate culture may resist new approaches, preferring traditional marketing methods.
  • Lack of flexibility: A reluctance to experiment with new strategies or technologies can hinder innovation and the adoption of best practices.

B. Lack of leadership and vision

  • Lack of sponsorship: Without strong executive support, content marketing initiatives may lack resources and strategic focus.
  • Fragmented vision: If executives don’t understand or share the vision of an integrated content strategy, efforts can be haphazard and ineffective.

C. Inadequate skills and training

  • Skills gap: The absence of in-house skills in content marketing, storytelling and data analysis can limit the team’s ability to effectively execute a content strategy.
  • Inadequate training: Failure to invest in ongoing team training can lead to skills stagnation and an inability to keep up with trends and best practices.

D. Internal communication problems

  • Lack of communication: Communication problems between departments can lead to misunderstandings and inconsistencies in content initiatives.
  • Information siloing: Critical information can remain siloed, preventing effective collaboration and a common understanding of objectives.

E. Budget and resource constraints

  • Budget restrictions: Tight budget constraints can limit the investment needed to develop a robust content strategy.
  • Limited human resources: An undersized marketing team may not have the capacity to manage the full range of tasks required for a successful content strategy.

F. Competing priorities

  • Competition with other projects: Other projects or strategic initiatives may take priority, relegating content marketing to the back burner.
  • Changing priorities: Frequent changes in strategic priorities can disrupt the continuity of content efforts.

G. Process complexity

  • Cumbersome processes: Complex, bureaucratic internal processes can slow down content production and distribution.
  • Procedural rigidity: Overly rigid procedures can prevent the agility and responsiveness needed to seize content opportunities in real time.

H. Market and competition

  • Rapid market change: Rapid changes in the market can render content strategies obsolete before they are fully implemented.
  • Intense competition: Strong competition can make it difficult to differentiate and establish a single brand voice.

I. Inadequate technology and tools

  • Outdated tools: Using outdated or inadequate technological tools can limit the effectiveness and reach of content marketing efforts.
  • Technology integration: Poor integration of technology tools can lead to inefficiencies and data loss.

J. Unrealistic expectations

  • Pressure for immediate results: Unrealistic expectations in terms of results can lead to frustration and premature reconsideration of content strategies.
  • Misaligned objectives: objectives that are poorly defined or not aligned with the team’s capabilities and resources can lead to scattered and ineffective efforts.

These obstacles are not synonymous with failure. They must give rise to changes, awareness-raising and concrete actions that can unravel certain factors that have a major impact on the performance of the content produced.

Looking ahead

Looking ahead, the future of B2B content marketing is about to get even more dynamic and innovative. As technology continues to advance, marketers can expect to see new trends and strategies emerge.

One such trend is the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to optimize content creation and delivery. AI can analyze user data and behaviour to provide personalized content recommendations, enhancing the customer experience. What’s more, interactive and immersive content formats such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are gaining in popularity, enabling companies to engage their audiences in unique and unforgettable ways.

What’s more, as buyer preferences continue to evolve, B2B marketers will need to adapt their content strategies accordingly.

There is a growing demand for authentic, transparent content that builds customer trust. This means focusing on thought leadership, providing valuable information and establishing an emotional connection with the audience.

Video content is also becoming increasingly popular, as it enables more engaging storytelling and better communication of complex or technical ideas.

Finally, with the rise of remote working and virtual events, we might think that everything will take place online, but in reality, humans have that urge to meet, to shake hands, and so face-to-face events are coming back into vogue. It’s in this context that B2B marketers will need to leverage digital channels and social networks to effectively reach their target audience, whatever form pre-, during- and post-event content may take.

How we help

Over the past few years, we’ve helped many content teams and organizations of all sizes tackle these issues and elevate their practice in a holistic way.

During our audits at the start of a mandate, we quickly grasp the state of play and the biggest gains that can be made by a content team, and the impact these improvements could have on the organization as a whole.

Globally, content needs to be seen more strategically by many organizations, and we support team leaders and managers in their role within ever more effective brands.

Complete episode of the B2B & Go podcast

You can watch the episode (in French) below, or discover the whole series via the show page available here.