Content marketing crash—it's that inevitable decline in engagement and conversion after you've gained huge ground. Even the best B2B content marketers can get mired in these muddy fields and question their effectiveness and leadership.

The hustle to suppress our competitors' content volleys with overbearing amounts of our own has been exciting. We have earned trophies in the form of engaged followers, increased conversion, and general awesomeness. Content has been good to us.

But the easy victories are over.

Most top content marketers are now facing an uphill march to earn new victories for their companies—and that's tough on us because we're a bit spoiled by having won so big in the last couple years.

Fortunately, there are some stratagems that the most elite content marketers are executing today; we can apply our best R&D (rip off and duplicate) to incorporate those moves in our own content strategies.

Before we dive into the how-to waters, let's take a look at how our battleground is being redrawn:

  • Thanks to five straight years of media layoffs, publishers are now operating with barebones staff, and the number of talented freelance content creators has skyrocketed. Their numbers will continue to go up this year and next.
  • Publications like Forbes and Bloomberg no longer need to create most of their content in-house; they can curate what's already out there... and they have infinite (Web) pages with which to do so, as well as the top-ranked content sites to do it with. To see which publications get the most actual eyes, check out my tech PR firm Write2Market's Top 50 US News Sites. Those are where most people are doing their reading online.
  • Meanwhile, all readers have battle fatigue from the content onslaught. As a coping mechanism, readers filter out any voice they don't find trustworthy or interesting. In response, content platforms, advertisers, and data companies are developing more sophisticated methods of segmenting audiences and pitching harder.

Four Things You'll Need to Do to Produce Content That Creates Marketing Victories

1. Think like a Navy SEAL

The Navy SEAL program website says, "You were born to be elite. Permission granted." That's how you market an incredibly tough product to a terribly specific audience today: a sense of inside camaraderie and exclusivity.

It almost goes without saying, then, that quality matters more than ever. If you're creating content for a company, project a SEAL team-like exclusivity and insider advantage.

Today's distribution networks are large and unwieldy, so you can no longer be all things to all people. Instead, you need to identify a targeted audience of key influencers and speak exclusively to them. This means actively jettisoning a broader audience to better serve your niche.

Consider B2B software startup InfoTycoon, for example. This multifamily-housing software startup competed at the NMHC OpTech exhibition. Instead of playing to the entire audience there, it developed a very specific presentation on maximizing asset value through the lifecycle of the property. It appealed mostly to the powerful few with actual experience in the issue of buying and selling millions of dollars in apartment real estate.

Although that wasn't a hot topic for the entire audience, it was definitely a pain point that judges and market leaders in the room had identified. InfoTycoon won the Apartment Technology Innovators Award, thus opening doors to more high-level industry decision makers.

2. Take a stand

With so many voices competing for attention online, the content creators who are heard are those who are solving a real problem for their audience—and aren't afraid to claim that position powerfully.

Consider the B2B startup software company Engage.CX, a new kind of CRM. It launched at the National Retail Federation annual convention, competing for attention with 10,000 attendees and some of the largest exhibitors on the planet. It honed its larger message at NRF to appeal only to the unique frustrations of Fortune 250 retail CMOs struggling with their multimillion-dollar CRMs. The company's bold claim is that it is reinventing CRM. The approach works.

The week after NRF, Engage.CX closed its first round of funding and was featured in VentureBeat, CMO, and several other influential publications. The company's voice—disruptive, well researched, laser-like—is being heard despite the cacophony around retail technology today. How do we know? Its pipeline is suddenly full of Fortune 100 opportunities signing up for their software trial.

The difference between the retail tech startups that went to NRF and came back empty of leads, and those that got covered like Engage.CX did, was how specific their message was and how actionable it was for the audience. Lots of companies are still trying to say they "do it all."

3. Make intelligent—not brute force—content marketing attacks

Credibility is currency, and the best (credibility-inducing) content (with the greatest branding power) is collaborative, objective, and intrinsically true.

If striking a balance among those elements sounds complicated, don't worry: Just let your product and your audience speak for themselves. If you don't do that, you risk sounding generic. And if you sound generic, you better have a big ad budget because the content itself won't slice through all the blubber out there.

Intelligent content shows itself like this:

  • Surveys of real people in your industry. Here's an example of research my firm conducted among B2B Marketers; we used our platform of b2b marketers to uncover their perspective on the Top Trends in B2B Marketing 2015.
  • Case studies that measure the impact your product has had on actual clients. Here's an example; it doesn't have to be fancy.
  • Video testimonials of customers and fans speaking about what it's like to work with you in their own words. Here's another example; again, it's the content—not the "beauty factor"—that makes it work.
  • Insights from your supplier or distributor network that showcase your company's depth in the industry.

4. The ultimate content marketing power move... is to create owned media

In the face of rising advertising costs, owned media can be a great way to guarantee yourself a place in the spotlight of your target market. Invest in webinars, newsletters, publications, or even a video program that you create and manage.

Creating your own media can work brilliantly on a small level: I started a Web magazine for female entrepreneurs that engages dozens of female CEOs daily. In its first week, over 100 CEOs engaged with the content.

Owned media also works on the macro level, such as with Adobe's (yep, owned content!), or The Agency Post, owned by HubSpot, or Baker Seeds Heirloom Gardener magazine.

If an entire magazine or conference is too much to start with, begin by launching a supremely focused industry-relevant blog and newsletter. See which topics get the most clicks. Offer your most engaged content in another form, such as webinar or video. Depending on your audience, you may even decide to host your own conference around your most engaging content (as Write2Market does, inviting B2B CMOs to join us annually at the Industry Leadership Summit.)

Make Yourself Immune to the Content Marketing Crash

In many ways, 2014 marked the end of an experiment: In the past few years, social media has reached "peak chaos" and the Web is bloated with "good enough" content. As a result, the conversation can sound like noise, and for many content marketers the tracking numbers reflect that.

This media environment of hand-to-hand combat means you need a honed edge to your message. A continuous stream of relevant content still connects today's smart companies to tomorrow's top opportunities—now you just need to do it more Ninja-style to keep gaining conversion victories.

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Overcome B2B 'Content Marketing Crash' in Four Moves

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image of Lisa Calhoun

Lisa Calhoun is founder of tech public relations firm Write2Market, recently recognized among the Top 100 Agencies in the US. She blogs at How You Rule the World.

LinkedIn: Lisa Calhoun

Twitter: @lisa_calhoun