Forestville: March 7, 2019

A father bear, mother bear, and their baby bear arrived home yesterday afternoon to find that a young girl had broken into their home and was sleeping in the baby bear's bed. Investigators said the girl, whose name they disclosed is Goldilocks, was last seen running from the site of the break-in after jumping out a bedroom window after having been awakened by the bears. Prior to falling asleep, Goldilocks ate all of the baby bear's porridge and broke his chair, authorities alleged.

An elective course Allen took in college was an introduction to news journalism. Among the assignments in courses like this is to write a lead paragraph (the "lead" or "lede") using a well-known children's tale as the news item. Lead paragraphs are written to provide the reader a preview of the story to come, summarizing it with only basic facts—the "who, what, when, and where." The objective of the lead is to prompt readers to continue on to get the details.

We led this article with that thought to make the point that if you want your business-to-business (B2B) marketing content to gain readership, the first thing you must do is think like a news journalist.

In this age of information overload, it's critical to be able to quickly grab your reader's attention with the key points you want them to take away. That way, even if they read only the first few lines of your marketing message, they'll immediately grasp the most critical things you want to communicate. And, hopefully, if you've done a good job setting the stage, they'll continue reading to pick up more of the specifics in your marketing content.

Content marketing is used by over 91% of B2B marketers; but only 37% of marketing organizations have a documented content marketing strategy and only 20% describe their approach to content marketing as "very successful," according to a survey by MarketingProfs and Content Marketing Institute.

That's because, as the survey noted, over 83% of those on the receiving end of online marketing messages reported being overwhelmed by both the amount and the length of communications. They want the content shorter, to the point, and prescriptive—as in "just give me a solution."

Solution in mind, and aside from thinking like a news journalist as you take on marketing content initiatives, what are four other surefire ways to optimize your efforts?

Stop, look, and listen

Make sure that what you communicate is relevant to your intended audience. Don't speak your mind until you've clearly determined what's on their mind.

Do not underestimate the importance of research. What are your customers' pain points? What keeps them up at night? What can you reliably and credibly offer to overcome the challenges they face? What are your competitors in the industry doing and how can you differentiate your offering in a way that is meaningful?

If you don't create content that matters to the people you want to attract, nothing else you do will matter.

Try writing the headline before you dive into the body copy

David Ogilvy, the Father of Advertising, famously said, "On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar."

I have two favorite headlining techniques that have proven successful in grabbing reader interest. One is to use specificity, or numbers, as in "Five Surefire Ways to Boost Readership of Your B2B Marketing Content." The second is to pose a provocative, but relevant, question rather than just stating what you think, as in, "Why Is Your B2B Marketing Content Failing to Generate Leads?" A question will prompt readers to look for the answer.

Or, you can take a trick from the movie-making trade: If you don't have a powerful one-line pitch to potential producers, you'll never get the green light. (As Albert Einstein famously said, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.")

Another good test for success? If you posted your headline and a website address as a classified ad, would it generate inquiries?

Don't put all your chips on one bet

Content marketing is not a one-and-done effort. Think of it as a journey with various points of interest along the way. Create a map of where the most critical customer interactions occur, then craft and place your messaging accordingly, appropriate to the type of interaction. Make it an ongoing story, the segments of which your customers look forward to, appearing when and where they are most valuable for them.

Play up visual interest

Businesspeople are consumers. As consumers, like all of us, they've become skimmers and scanners. Content that is shorter and pithier is better. Visually engaging is best. Think People magazine, not Harvard Business Review.

Make your content easy to consume. Use a typeface that's simple and large enough to read. Use captions, infographics, pictures, and videos whenever possible—but only when it makes sense, because eye-candy is distracting and downright annoying.

* * *

If you've gotten this far, we've achieved the objective set up by our headline and lead paragraph. We've introduced you to five surefire ways to boost your B2B marketing content readership.

Our final bit of advice is not to create content for content's sake. What you are putting out there must be of real value to your audience so that it engages them, engenders trust, and encourages sales.

The only question left unanswered? What did become of Goldilocks after she ran from the bears' house?

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image of Allen Adamson

Allen Adamson is a co-founder and managing partner of Metaforce, a disruptive boutique consultancy specializing in branding as well as activation.

LinkedIn: Allen Adamson

Twitter: @adamsona

image of Chip Walker

Chip Walker is the head of strategy and a partner at StrawberryFrog. He is also a co-author of the new book Activate Brand Purpose. He's an expert in brand creation and reinvention, having led the charge in transforming brands such as Goldman Sachs, Lexus, Bank of America, Jim Beam, and Heineken.

LinkedIn: Chip Walker