The 4 Pillars of B2B Content Writing — the Beacon Way
At Beacon Digital, our team engages monthly in what we call “Lunch N’ Learns,” during which members from different teams give presentations discussing strategy details, trends in their areas, and ideas about how we work. Most recently, Content Writer Caitlin Weiner delivered her Lunch N’ Learn about the 4 pillars of B2B content writing — the Beacon way.
Formulaic, not a factory
There is a misconception among some content marketers that if you have too much of a formula for B2B content writing, it removes any semblance of authenticity and the content becomes stale, boring, and a copy of every other piece out there.
But it’s okay to have a system. Even preferred.
And we’ve got a really good one here at Beacon Digital. Continuously honing a process that positions our clients as a resource in their industry and converts to revenue — that’s good content.
Especially in B2B content writing where search results are saturated with regurgitated stats and generic cookie-cutter advice, our clients need a B2B content strategy that creates something different and effective. We’re going to talk about the four pillars of content writing at Beacon Digital: the client, the research, the experts, and, of course, the writing.
1. The Brand: Who Are We In This Space?
Let’s start with understanding the brand. We can’t very well write from the perspective of industry experts in a given area without first understanding the company, the individuals, and who they are in the space. We take a step back and examine some essential elements about the client, the brand, and the needs of the intended readers.
Voice & Tone
We need to be fully immersed in the client’s voice and tone. In a nutshell, this means we need to embrace both the company’s personality as a whole, as well as how they would approach this specific topic as it pertains to their industry. We’ll ask ourselves:
- What’s our client’s personality in general? Friendly, funny, academic?
- What’s their attitude toward this topic?
- How should our tone shift according to the purpose of the piece?
Brands may have a very well-established voice that we can hone and run with, or they may have no idea how they want to sound, and we have to try some things before finding a sweet spot. Regardless of where we start, we try to end up with a picture of the company’s position on the topic, spoken clearly within the parameters of a distinct voice.
The reader for one piece of content may be a very small segment of a client’s total potential audience, and it’s important for the audience to feel as though our content is speaking directly to them. That means it’s essential to use vocabulary within readers’ working industry knowledge, while also answering certain questions they might have. Consider:
- Who is our client’s audience as a whole?
- What segment of that audience is the target group for this piece?
- What level of industry knowledge does the target audience have, and how can we adjust our language to ensure we’re not confusing or boring the readers?
- What is that unique audience looking for in a piece like this one? How can we give it to them, but still be different from what they have read before?
Often, one piece of content may be read by several different audience groups. For example, when researching a new product, the employee responsible for the research may be a junior buyer, but they’ll need to pass content along to C-level decision-makers and who have the final say. We keep this in mind, understanding the needs of multiple readers, providing the right resources for every step of the decision-making process.
This part of the content writing process needs major emphasis. In many cases, companies will write about a topic simply because a keyword is appealing, even if they have nothing relevant or different to say about it.
This approach will fall flat every time. The reason we create a piece of content shouldn’t solely be because it’s trendy or because we have a schedule that says it’s time for another blog. Content for content’s sake is a waste of energy. Instead, decide what new, different, or important ideas you can share, then create content around it. If you’re not sure whether you have a unique angle to a topic, ask:
- What does the reader need to know about this topic that only we know?
- What about this topic hasn’t been explained well by anyone else?
- What is commonly misunderstood about this topic, that we often have to correct when we speak to prospects?
2. Research: What’s the Landscape?
Next, we conduct meticulous research that will inform how we move forward with a content topic, including its impacts for SEO, the industry’s landscape, and the company’s contributions to the topic.
One crucial step in the content creation process is conducting SEO research to help us understand what audiences are searching for in relation to our topic area. Remember, keywords aren’t everything when it comes to the topics we write about — we still have to have something meaningful to say. But our laser-focused SEO team helps ensure our content process is aligned with the most relevant topics in the industry.
We’ll ask questions like:
- What is our target audience searching for? How do they search for it?
- What impactful things does our client have to say about these keywords?
- Is there other high-ranking content for these keywords? And if so, how do we one-up them?
- What kind of content is this topic best suited to? Is this just a standard blog? Or is this more robust and better suited for a pillar blog or thought leadership article?
Regarding content types, SEO is only one factor in that decision; we’ll also consider what your goals might be with the piece, such as increasing brand awareness or content downloads, as well as what your company’s specific angle is for the topic. Certain topics may lend themselves to multiple formats like ebooks, white papers, or webinars.
Technology industries are constantly evolving, which is why it’s crucial that we analyze any content topic from the lens of the industry landscape. We’ll ask questions like:
- What is going on in the industry right now? Any major trends or new legislation?
- How does the global landscape impact this topic and our client’s audience?
- What resources are audiences in this industry looking for but can’t find or are insufficient?
It’s important that we come back to the client angle, but this time with a research hat on. Given the SEO and industry landscape research we’ve collected, we now need to analyze what the client brings to the table regarding this specific topic. We’ll work to understand:
- What elements of our client’s service or product solve the problem of this topic?
- Are there any specific features, offerings, or partnerships that are relevant to what’s going on in the industry right now?
- How do we position our client as a credible resource in this field?
3. Experts: What’s Our Take?
In an answer to one of the questions from the previous pillar, we need to position our client as a resource in this industry by speaking with thought leaders within the organization and relaying their knowledge to audiences in an accessible way.
The phrase “thought leadership” has become something of a buzzword in content marketing, but we don’t stray from its real value. We work with our clients to determine the best internal experts for the topic by asking questions like:
- Who are the kinds of experts that audiences are looking to hear from on this topic?
- Who are the most relevant internal subject matter experts (SMEs) to gain insights from?
- Are there any relevant external voices that would further inform the direction of the content without detracting from internal expertise?
In many cases, the most knowledgeable experts on a topic are not necessarily experts at expressing that knowledge to their audience. Our tried-and-true interview process helps SMEs find their words and answer the most important questions circulating in the industry. We go in asking:
- What questions are audiences most interested in having answered?
- What questions are audiences not even thinking about but need answers to on this topic?
- What questions will spark educational conversation, valuable insights, and specific examples from the SME?
After completing an SME interview, it’s important we compare the level of knowledge we spoke with against the level of knowledge to which we’re directing the content. The audience for this piece may be well-versed in the industry lexicon, or their knowledge may be much more high level. We thoroughly analyze our interviews and ask along the way:
- What insights have we gained from the SME that can guide the direction for the piece?
- Are there valuable quotes that showcase the client’s knowledge and expertise?
- How can we transform industry jargon into accessible messaging for the audience?
4. Writing: Obviously.
Here’s where you can get a real glimpse into the Beacon Content secret sauce — the writing process.
Before content writing finally begins, we’ve gathered extensive amounts of SEO data, industry research, and interview transcripts that can inform the piece. The outline phase is where we take all of that juicy information and begin to structure it in a way that will be easy for audiences to read, digest, and take action.
This outline phase is also crucial from the client perspective. It helps us communicate to the client early on that everything they are looking to say with this content is thoughtfully integrated — before we even start the first draft.
During the research and expert interview phases, we’ve read and heard a lot of industry jargon about this topic. That information is only effective, though, if the readers understand what it means and its impacts on their business. The writing phase is where we can pare it all down to ensure we’re communicating that expert knowledge to the audience effectively and accessibly.
One strategy our team likes to take with the initial draft is to start with what we call a “crappy draft.” No first draft is ever perfect, so a low-stakes crappy draft helps to get everything onto the page and refine it from there.
All the while we draft, we’re also keeping in mind the client’s voice and tone from Pillar #1. With every sentence, we’re asking ourselves, “How would our client and SMEs communicate this? Does this sound like our client’s brand and personality?”
Naturally, we intend to deliver our best work to our clients the first time around. But while we’re the experts in writing and marketing for your industry, you’re the experts in your company and what you offer to your audiences, so there is often important feedback we’ll receive after the first draft is delivered.
Many writers forget that being able to understand a client’s feedback and make adjustments appropriately is nearly as important as the writing itself. Our writers work to understand our clients’ unique perspectives and make them clear throughout the content.
Our revisions analyze each piece of feedback and effectively translate it into impactful changes for the content, the client, and the reader.
We’ve Got the Blueprints for Your Content House
We know the best content is authentic and original. We also know authentic and original content is better when it’s created according to a strategic content development process. Without a strategy for your content writing process, it’ll be challenging, at best, to tailor it to your target audience, distribute it thoroughly, and measure it effectively.
At Beacon Digital, we write content that does much more than check a box and fulfill a keyword — we stimulate audiences to drive engagement, traffic, and leads.
Posted In: Content Marketing
An experienced content creator and storyteller, Caitlin is passionate about everything she writes. As a Content Writer at Beacon Digital Marketing, she crafts the narrative of our clients’ brands by creating long-form content, such as blogs, thought leadership articles, whitepapers, eBooks, and more. Before joining the team, Caitlin worked as the Assistant Director of Marketing at Marist College, performing web editing and copywriting and managing content strategy for the college brand. With a bachelor’s in English with a concentration in Professional Writing from SUNY Oneonta and extensive career experience in web and marketing, Caitlin’s educational and professional background creates the perfect blend for her work at Beacon Digital. When she’s not writing, she’s reading copious amounts of speculative fiction, consuming equally copious amounts of coffee, and exploring her beloved Hudson Valley.