When it comes to creating effective B2B marketing content, these three traits arguably rank as the most essential: credible, authentic, influential.
- Credible: Does the content position its author or brand as a knowledgeable and authoritative expert in their space? Enough so that it aids in justifying a decision to invest in their solutions?
- Authentic: Is the content reflective of what that person or brand is really about? Does it instill trust through truth and transparency?
- Influential: Does the content actually shift perceptions and drive the reader or viewer toward some sort of action?
These three qualities, in a nutshell, differentiate marketing content from plain-old “content.” When all three are realized in the hearts and minds of your audience, a piece of content is almost guaranteed to achieve its objectives — provided you have the right promotion plan in place.
I’ve written on this blog in the past about ways to infuse credibility, avoid authenticity pitfalls, and bolster influence through co-creation. The possibilities hardly end there, and the best practices are forever evolving.
That’s why I was thrilled to dive into the new 2022 B2B Influencer Marketing Research Report. It’s filled with timely data, insight, and guidance from top voices in the industry. The profiles, interviews, and survey findings within can inform a framework for developing reliably credible, authentic, and – above all – influential content in today’s B2B marketing environment.
Here are three big things I took away:
1 — Credibility Comes With Connection
There are many “proof points” for credibility that are weighed differently by different people. One theme that came through in the report was that, in terms of influencer effectiveness, connection to the audience is a crucial driver.
In her profile interview, Ann Handley, chief content officer at MarketingProfs, cited these top qualities of a great influencer:
- Have a rapport with an audience
- Feel accessible
- Be relatable
- Be likeable. (Do you listen to recommendations from people you don’t like? I don’t.)
Sure enough, Ann embodies these traits herself as an influencer through a bold, memorable personality, and the knowing way in which she communicates with fellow writers and content marketers. She conveys that sense of ‘talking with,’ not ‘talking at.’
Ann also said that, as an influencer, she looks at potential brand partners through the same lens. Her top priorities, after using and/or respecting the company’s product, are “Feel rapport with the brand and with the people behind the brand,” and “Have a sense that we see the world in a similar way. (Not exact, maybe. But similar.)”
These are wise questions to ask yourself when devising B2B content and aiming to build credibility. How can you develop a sense of rapport, and give that sense that you share a similar worldview with the people you want to engage?
Our survey found that the three influencer qualities deemed most essential by respondents are:
- Relevance of audience (98%)
- Audience sees them as trustworthy (87%)
- Subject matter expertise (78%)
For relevance and trust to outrank subject matter expertise is telling. It’s all about connection.“The #B2BIMReport from @TopRank found that relevance and trust outweigh expertise in terms of essential influencer qualities. It’s all about connection. #B2BInfluencerMarketing.” — Nick Nelson @NickNelsonMN Click To Tweet
2 — Authenticity is Earned Through Actuality
“Actuality” is defined as “actual existence, typically as contrasted with what was intended, expected, or believed.” It’s the best way to describe the function of authentic content – building confidence that your actual brand matches up to the intentions, expectations, or beliefs that it puts forth.
This, by extension, helps people gain confidence that your actual product or service can deliver on what it promises.
There are several dependable methods for adding an authentic touch to content. It begins with taking a clear stance and expressing a distinct point of view. The content has to have an actual purpose.
Another key factor is bringing out real voices, faces, and personalities. Buyers don’t trust brands, per se – they trust the actual people associated with brands. It’s a proxy effect. Elevate those people to magnify it.
For example, nearly two-thirds of respondents (65%) in the B2B Influencer Marketing Research Report said that internal executives have been effective at increasing the influence of their brands.
The report also revealed a possible area of untapped opportunity. While internal execs were the second-most common type of B2B influencer, behind industry experts/analysts, we found that only 42% of brands are featuring employees in this way, and only 12% are featuring their prospects.
If you want current and future prospects in your audience to see themselves in the content, why not feature others who might be in their exact same position? And if you want these prospects to see what your brand is actually about, why not feature the human beings who comprise it?“The #B2BIMReport reveals a key opportunity for authenticity-building content, with only 42% of brands positioning employees as influencers. #B2BContentMarketing.” — Nick Nelson @NickNelsonMN Click To Tweet
3 — Influence is Unlocked by Initiative
Do you have the power and penchant to act or take charge of something before others do? That’s initiative, and it’s what marketers should always be aiming to project with B2B content.
Brands need to lean into the second part of the phrase “thought leadership” by presenting an adaptive, proactive, forward-looking front. The stories we tell with our content and the people we partner with to tell them can be extremely powerful in this regard.
“I believe storytelling will gain prominence in B2B marketing as brands seek to connect to their audience in new and different ways,” shared Unconventional Ventures founder Theodora Lau in the B2B Influencer Marketing report. “And we have a unique opportunity to help shape the stories through a lens of shared purpose and vision of the future.”
Buyers have a wide range of differing priorities, but they all want to work with companies that are a step ahead, ready to help them meet the emerging challenges of their industry head on. B2B content marketing can make this case, when done well.
It’s one reason co-creating with established and recognized influencers continues to gain popularity: these folks have a finger on the pulse of their respective niches. The impact of these partnerships is proven out by example after example shared in the report.
When your B2B content connects with its target audience, conveys what your brand is actually about, and demonstrates the initiative of a leader ready for what’s next … you’ve got the recipe for credible, authentic, and influential content.