Stop creating content.
Yes, you read that right.
- If you’re hitting some of your marketing KPIs but failing to generate enough qualified leads, stop creating content.
- If you’re not attracting the right customers and applicants, stop creating content.
- If your sales, marketing, and product teams describe your company differently, stop creating content.
- If your content feedback rounds feel like the Tower of Babel because nobody is speaking the same language, stop creating content.
- If onboarding new marketing talent feels like teaching your dog to skateboard, stop creating content.
- If you don’t get a few butterflies before a campaign launches, stop creating content.
Stop creating content, and hear us out for a second.
The Battle of Building a B2B Brand
Growth-stage SaaS companies are facing a brutal uphill battle.
There’s a tremendous amount of pressure (by boards, investors, and the C-suite) to invest the majority of precious company resources into product development and sales.
Meanwhile, marketing teams are expected to hit increasingly ambitious goals to support hockey-stick revenue growth (despite often shrinking marketing budgets), and every decision is scrutinized under a microscope.
This pressure and panic has fueled an explosion of marketing content that has left consumers overwhelmed and exhausted. It’s no surprise that the average person’s attention span currently sits at 8 seconds—or that 71% of B2B decision-makers find less than half of the thought leadership they consume valuable.
Worse, cutthroat companies across every industry are copying each other in everything from product features to campaigns, making differentiation increasingly harder.
Standing out has never been more important—and doing it well has never been more challenging.
Now, marketers find themselves in a tough position. They’re scrambling to churn out content, desperately struggling for relevancy, with a due date that was yesterday. And the truth is…they have all been misled.
The B2B Marketing Myth
For the last decade, marketing thought leaders have been spouting the same tired mantra: Content Is King. They’ve framed content as some catch-all silver bullet based on simple logic:
- Marketing has the problem of needing to generate more sales pipeline.
- Creating more content is a marketing solution.
- Therefore, to generate more pipeline, we should create more content.
But the formula—that more content equals more leads equals more revenue—is a fallacy. So is the assumption that more work means you’re being more productive. Does aggressive output always garner aggressive results? We’d bet there are one, or two, or ten marketing campaigns you’ve worked very hard on that prove that theory wrong.
The amount of content you generate, and how hard you work to generate it, has little to do with success. If you’re not thoughtful about the type of content you create, the purpose it serves, or how it communicates your brand’s story, ramping up content production won’t make things better.
In fact, you’ll make things worse, wasting time on content that reaches the wrong audience and delivers a diluted message, all while struggling to manage a never-ending conveyor belt of content.
What we’ve learned by doing this work for ourselves, and for hundreds of clients over the last 15 years or so, is that there is a better and less painful way to get the results you want; we call it Strategic Content Marketing.
Content < Strategic Content Marketing
The approach is simple.
First: Stop creating content.
When your marketing isn’t “working,” when leads aren’t converting, and when teams are misaligned, you think you’re dealing with a marketing problem. Wrong. It’s a brand problem that you’re trying to fix with marketing.
Your brand is your story: who you are, what you believe, and why people should want to buy from you or work with you. You can’t tell people what to think about your brand, but the more effectively you tell your story, the more effectively you will pull the right people in.
However, if you don’t actually know who you are, or if you’re trying to pretend you’re something you’re not, creating more content is like trying to fix a cavity by brushing your teeth, when what you really need is a filling.
A brand problem can’t be solved by a fresh ebook or eye-catching explainer video.
No amount of marketing budget can help misaligned messaging. No clever campaign can connect if you are promoting values you don’t practice. No single piece of content can stand out if it doesn’t reflect what it is that makes your company different and deserving of someone’s attention.
So the first step in correcting the course is to stop spending your marketing dollars on a brand problem. So go on, tab over to your Asana window and pause those project statuses.
Second: Get your house in order.
Once you’ve stopped sinking money into content that isn’t aligned to your brand, you need to assess your brand itself: Who are you, and what is the exact story you want to tell?
A friend once shared that many startup leaders view their brand as a gazebo: nice to look at but not serving a specific function. The stakes are too high to treat something so important so flippantly.
Brand perception is more important than ever. People don’t just make purchasing decisions based on product features that solve their problems; they buy from companies they believe in, that they feel connected to. This is why, as SaaS products and platforms become increasingly technical and complicated to explain, brand plays a bigger and bigger role in whether or not a company succeeds or fails.
A strong brand with strong content and an unoriginal product can still win in a crowded market—and, yes, that should scare you.
When you don’t take brand-building seriously, you leave yourself vulnerable to copycats and opportunists. They will cannibalize market share by building better brands with similar products. With more precisely articulated brand positioning, more captivating messaging, and more interesting visual expressions, they will dazzle your audience and outshine you. Meanwhile, you’ll be churning out boring, forgettable, and unprofitable content.
The only way to break through noise, meet people where they’re at, and build relationships with your community is to tell your brand story effectively. It’s your secret weapon and the last remaining opportunity to sustainably differentiate. (This is why our tagline is Best Story Wins.)
The brands with the best stories will best their competition and win in their market.
And while it’s up to your customers and employees to perceive and make judgments about your brand, you can shape their experience by investing in brand-building to define your brand’s story. Of course, this takes deep work. Luckily, after over a decade, we’ve done this dirty work already, having defined an elegant framework to build or update brands. This includes:
- Brand Foundation
- Brand Heart
- Brand Strategy
- Goals and Objectives
- Product and Services
- Market Positioning
- Brand Architecture
- Brand Heart
- Brand Expression
- Customer and Employee Value Propositions
- Visual identity
- Illustrations and Iconography
- Photography and Videography
With this single framework, we give brands the tools they need to effectively communicate the value of their business and tell a brand story that speaks not only to customers but also investors and employees in meaningful ways.
It is only once you have this foundation, and a team that is aligned, that you can take your story to market via content marketing, to see if people give a rip about what you have to say.
Third: Take a “less, but better” approach to content production.
We’ve gained invaluable experience in helping many of the world’s fastest-growing SaaS companies build content marketing programs that get measurable results. But here’s one of the most shocking things we’ve noticed time and again: Even when clients have a defined brand, many don’t have a content strategy at all.
This means less than half of all B2B marketers have an actual game plan for how they’re going to win hearts and minds. Without a clear goal and plan, it’s incredibly difficult to reach the right people. You end up winging it with scattershot content that isn’t consistent or cohesive—and you waste tons of resources in the process.
For the sake of this exercise, ask yourself now: What is your content strategy? Could you explain it in one sentence?
Better yet, during content reviews, how often do stakeholders refer back to the underlying strategy as grounds for their feedback? Would the central team even know where to find it?
We’ve seen clients invest 3x more for a piece of content simply because they didn’t have a strategy in place prior to starting the project. Without a plan, they hit speedbump after speedbump: The team is misaligned, more and more stakeholders get added, and the feedback, rewrites, and redesigns all pile up.
It doesn’t take many projects like this to find yourself wasting more money than it would have cost to just stop everything and create a strategy. So, once you’ve hit pause and defined your brand, you need to restart by building a strategy that will allow you to create quality content—and scale up from there.
Patience is key as you get to this step because after the lift—and time spent—during the previous work, you may be eager to get back to creating tons of content. Fight this urge and realize that content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint.
We approach this in three phases:
- Content Strategy: How and where you will share your brand (with what systems and processes)? This is also the stage at which we define what parts of the broader brand story you’ll want to tell at various points, with various content formats, and for various purposes.
- Content Production: How will you produce content that aligns with and reinforces your brand story?
- Content Distribution: Where will you publish and promote your content?
Think about content marketing as sharing and reinforcing your brand story.
Remember: Every single piece of content you create should serve a purpose, and you should have a way to measure its success.
Based on how this new content performs, you’ll continue to make adjustments to your strategy, but these changes should be iterative. Create, test, tweak, and adjust. (When you approach things in this order, you can ensure you’re focusing on doing the right things at the right times.)
Most importantly, keep experimenting with new things, because there is always a possibility that things you have not yet tried will outperform things that are already getting results.
Bring Your Brand Story to Life
Change is scary, especially if you’ve been churning out the same content for months, quarters, or years. But we’ve seen client after client transform their marketing with these three simple steps. Not only is their vision clearer, and their content stronger, but the results are a laundry list of benefits every brand wants.
- Differentiation: With a strong brand identity and consistent brand storytelling, people can pick your business out of a crowd and rely on you as a trusted resource.
- Effortless conversion: A strong brand with a strong story has resonance and pull; it makes your marketing simpler, more effective, and more impactful, moving people along the path to purchase with every piece of content.
- Aligned teams: Intentionally building a brand and defining a content strategy together keeps teams united, aligned, and rallied around the same purpose. Creating content and other market-facing assets is more streamlined when teams are aligned.
- Loyalty: With a well-positioned, strong, and comprehensive brand, people know who you are, what you offer, and what is unique about how you work and think. This attracts like-minded communities of people who want to buy from you (customers) or work with you (future employees).
- Long-term success: With these clear guidelines and strategies, you can work methodically, wisely, and consistently—instead of manically.
Ultimately, we’re in the business of helping our clients grow, win, and become the category leader within their market. If you want to share your brand story effectively and capture the hearts and minds of the people you’re trying to reach, strategic content marketing is the way to get your house in order, align your team, and get the results you want—without wasting time.
If you’re ready to dive in, here are a few steps you can take right now:
- Re-examine your brand. Download our free brand strategy toolkit to get back to basics: identify your brand heart, create aligned messaging, and build a visual expression that reflects your story.
- Align your brand and content strategy. Once your brand is established, find out how to craft a content strategy that tells the right stories.
- Audit your content. With an aligned brand and content strategy, you can assess the state of your marketing and identify how to improve. Start with our free template to audit your own content, as well as your competitors.
- Focus on value. Above all, if you want your brand story to connect with your audience, you need to create content that is relevant, interesting, and value-driven. Try these tips to tell fresh content marketing stories.
But if you’re struggling with bandwidth, or simply stuck on what to do next, you may need a partner to help you write the next chapter of your story. If so, let’s talk about how we can get your brand back on track.