It must have been about June when Linda called. “Do you know a good B2B writer?”, she asked. I did but not one I was willing to hand over to Linda’s nasty content factory. A few weeks later it was Alex with this observation: “Every decent writer in this city is either on maternity leave or hates me.” Not true. Linda has at least some of them locked in a closet. Even at last week’s CMA event, the talk at the table was how hard it is to get agencies to write anything more profound (or much longer) than a toothpaste disclaimer.
It would appear that the demand for content has finally outstripped the supply of designers and writers required to produce it. Which brings me to the third reason I think most B2B content is never used by sales: it sucks.
We all know that content isn’t a new tool for B2B marketers. We’ve been cranking it out for years. But when our Corporate Overlords stopped clapping on about Return on Marketing and discovered content, things got out of hand. Suddenly, corporate marketing departments lost control of the means of production (sorry, Karl).
Suddenly, we couldn’t spend an entire quarter carefully constructing, honing and decorating a white paper. Our days of lavish production values on corporate videos ended in a Songified mush of video for its own sake. Insightful research has been reduced to poorly illustrated placemats, where vaguely connected factoids are presented along side clever line drawings of cement mixers and sea sponges.
This is the result not of a sudden lowering of standards, but of a critical lack of talent when it comes to content creation. Once upon a time, corporate marketing departments were chock full of people who knew how to write things and other people who knew how to make them pretty.
Somewhere along the line, we outsourced that stuff to agencies and filled our marketing departments with demand generation pit bosses and brand evangelists who filled in briefs and managed agencies.
Agencies, for their part, were a bit bewildered about the new deliverables. Their writers and designers are the kind who know how to create pretty campaigns and buy media on commission. One look at most agency blogs will reveal they haven’t got the slightest idea how to produce meaningful content that anybody wants to read, let alone use as an inducement to buy something.
Heck, we don’t even need to look at agency sites. A quick tour through your inbox will reveal countless links to stale, incomprehensible and just plain bad content. Blogs that haven’t been updated in months, Slideshare sales pitches, webinars featuring interviews with company spokespeople and tired, terrible newsletters with data of dubious provenance. Content, mind you, that someone paid to have created, spent time reviewing, waved in front of a lawyer or an executive, and, yet that nobody thought was a bad idea to publish.
Is it any wonder that sales won’t use it? Does that even matter in a time when marketers are rewarded for word counts and not lead counts?
Where did the competent content creators go? They went freelance. They went to work in magazines, and a few stuck around in marketing. The problem is, about the time we started removing vowels from our words, we also stopped hiring people who could create content, and we stopped nurturing people who wanted to create content.
Perversely, even in the face of a shortage of content creators, we seem to think it should be priced liked a packet of ramen noodles, instead of the difficult, skilled trade that it is.
If we want to build our houses of content, (I don’t think we do) then we need to figure out how to pay for it. I promise the talent will follow the money and we will once again have content our sales people will use.
Is Content Marketing Killing Sales?
Hook, Line & Whitepaper: Why Content Marketing Needs to Know Its Place
Why You Need to Stop Publishing Your Newsletter
Helpful Hints for The Clydesdales of B2B Content