Vision fatigue in B2B tech content marketing

One of the things I love most about B2B tech content marketing is how brutally simple the challenge is – create something good enough to attract the attention of your ideal prospects. Or they’ll continue to ignore you.

There are no shortcuts.

Sure we can use paid media and distribution tactics to make sure our stuff is made available in the right places. But if the content sucks, there’s no amount of sponsored tweets that’ll convince someone your company’s worth dealing with.

It’s why, typically, the content marketer’s hardest job is at the top of the funnel. Because even though we might sometimes treat ‘raising awareness’ like it’s just another objective – it’s actually a near-impossible feat.

One of the most common ways to solve this top-of-the-funnel problem is to create content evangelizing a trend (preferably a Mega-TrendTM) that:

  1. Your prospects already care about and
  2. Your products exist to enable.

So if you’re selling personalization software, you evangelize customer experience. If you’re selling data management, you evangelize big data. And if you’re selling chocolate, you evangelize diabetes*.

But here’s the thing. (There’s always a thing.)

Sometimes, just evangelizing the trend isn’t enough. In fact, sometimes, evangelizing the trend might actually be counter-productive.

In B2B tech, reality moves slower than the vision.

Despite clichéd claims about the ‘fast pace of business in these competitive times’**, the reality for most companies is that things take time. Even the companies that ‘move fast’ realize they need to be careful about big decisions.

So when you’re evangelizing a vision to attract your ideal prospects, you have to take into account how long that vision’s been around.

For instance, if you’re selling something like dynamic display ads, you might be tempted to evangelize personalization. But the vision of personalization’s been around for an incredibly long time. Even worse, it’s been hyped beyond recognition by just about everyone selling marketing software.

So while you’re likely to find a lot of people who are interested in the general concept of personalization, you have to accept that the vast majority of them are going to be sick to death of hearing the same god damn vision all over again.

In which case they don’t want more content about how dandy the vision is – they need content that’ll help them get there.

This is vision fatigue.

And if I had to bet (no one ever has to bet when they say they have to bet), I’d bet it’s only going to become a bigger problem in B2B tech content marketing.

Because the big Mega-TrendsTM so much B2B tech content’s been able to evangelize over the last few years – the cloud, big data, Internet of Things, mobile, digital transformation – are all reaching crucial points of maturity.

We’re at the point where people are talking about these things more than they’re implementing them.

So even though we’ve got to sell more solutions to make these trends real, if we keep trying to sell them the way we used to – it isn’t going to work. More important, if we keep screaming the same vision in a tone-deaf way, we’ll also lose credibility amongst the people who already get it.

Dealing with vision fatigue

So how do you tout a vision everyone’s sick of? You don’t. In my experience, there are three (non-mutually exclusive) ways to combat vision fatigue:

  1. Get real
  2. Go niche
  3. Pivot
  1. Get real.

Instead of starting your argument by trying to convince them the trend matters, take for granted that they get it matters and move on to the issues preventing them from making it real.

If they’re still on the fence about committing to the vision, it’s likely because they still aren’t convinced they can make it work.

Talk about why it’s hard and cut to the practical advice they need to get this right.

  1. Go niche.

Instead of targeting the biggest, broadest trend with the most search action, get specific and target the precise area your solution helps with. If big data’s too broad, can you focus on analytics self-service instead? If mobility means too many different things, can you focus on field workers only?

Instead of aiming for everyone who cares about Mega-TrendTM, start smaller and get everyone who cares about Sub-TrendTM.

  1. Pivot.

If the trend you’re championing is so broad and so widely adopted even practical content won’t help, abandon it. If there’s no specific, strategic value in any niche worth pursuing, change tack.

In these cases, you’d likely need to get creative and start evangelizing a new approach or targeting different issues. This is a re-prioritization of your message so it’s obviously going to be tricky. But if you want to stay in your sweet spot and attract only the right prospects, it’s probably worth doing.

Content marketing vision fatigue

In the same way vision fatigue is bound to be hitting a number of tech categories, it’s also something we should probably think about in terms of our own discipline of content marketing.

The vision of useful, intelligent, entertaining content has been around for ages. And while it’s still a compelling one, we have to accept most of the people we’re talking to have already heard this song.

This isn’t to say we should stop talking about why this discipline matters amongst ourselves. On the contrary, one of the best things about the discipline is that everyone’s trying to learn from each other.

But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about how much we’re progressing the discipline when we talk about data and customer experience and personalization and all the other big trends we’re wont to talk about.

I hope (and think) that at Velocity we aren’t espousing the same bullshit you guys have been hearing for years (I’m even counting on you dear reader to inform us if all we’re doing is saying things you already know).

But I know I’ve been guilty of flogging dead keywords for the sake of it in the past. And I know that under the pressure of a deadline I may be tempted to do so again.

All I can really do is come to terms with the fact that any time I do it, I’m neither helping my reader nor furthering my client’s (or my own) cause. It’s bad enough that it’s boring. But most important – it just doesn’t work.

*I may not be cut out for B2C content marketing.

**Please promise me you’ll never use these words in your content. They just don’t mean anything.

Image credit: Metal fatigue by Andy Maguire

Comments

Great post and another important reminder that things are constantly changing. If you get too comfortable with one message over a long time it’s going to get old – and you’re going to get boring

    Cheers, Omri.

    Always worth rethinking where your prospects are at and how that might have changed since the last time you thought about it.

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