Remember The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?
Aside from being an entertaining comic sci-fi read, this novel by the late great Douglas Adams contains valuable content marketing strategy lessons.
No matter how complex your material, no matter how widespread your audience, these five tips can help you hook B2B customers.
In the book, our anonymous narrator notes several times that the “wholly remarkable” Guide sells like gangbusters, easily beating out rival Encyclopedia Galactica. How does a budget ebook, cobbled together from the early-1980s version of blog posts written by a load of unreliable vagabonds, outsell a high-quality, expertly produced, established brand? Grab your towel and take a look at some classic content marketing examples (but be warned—some of these takeaways contain spoilers).
1. Deliver content that your audience wants—or better yet, needs.
Why is the Guide so wildly popular? For one, it understands its audience. The Encyclopedia has an entry on alcohol, but the Guide tells readers what the de facto best drink in the galaxy is, where to find it, and how to make it.
Takeaway: Make sure that your marketing content hits the same sweet spot for the companies you want to connect with. What pains can you help them cure? How can you provide effective, benefit-driven content that provides practical solutions?
2. Don’t hide your hook.
The company behind the Guide knew its main selling point—its primary benefit to users—and put it front and center. With DON’T PANIC printed right on the cover, the guidebook’s most salient benefit statement was never far from readers’ minds. Talk about branding!
(Side note: Elon Musk understands the importance of the hook, too—and of connecting to your target audience. The Guide’s admonition is on the dash of his roadster, launched into orbit on the Falcon Heavy rocket by SpaceX.)
Takeaway: What do you do better than any competitor? What aspect of your service or products do customers rave about (or do you want them to rave about)? Whatever it is that makes you stand out—promote the heck out of it.
Here's an example: Rio Tinto’s 20 Mule Team Borax division owns the world’s largest collection of publicly available research and practical data on the effect of boron deficiency on crops. That’s a huge deal—and a major benefit for farmers and agronomists around the globe. But that content was locked away in PDFs buried several layers deep in the company’s website. When Borax asked us to help redesign that site, we pulled content out of those PDFs and surfaced it as individual, searchable pages, with plenty of graphical elements, interactive use calculators, and multilingual translation options.
3. Deliver content in the right format.
Unlike its less successful competitor, the Guide published its content in a format that users could…well…use: an ebook. (A printed copy would have taken up the same space as several office buildings.) Would-be hitchhikers could simply grab it and go.
Takeaway: Speaking of mobile devices: Are you using a mobile-first web design to optimize viewing on phones and tablets? Are you using titles, images, and banners to help make your message more scannable—and thus more palatable for today’s audience? If all your resources are in the shape of white papers, consider whether other formats (e.g., video, podcast) might bump up customer interest.
4. Be authentic.
Voice matters. Whether you’re selling solar panels or circuit boards, customers want to work with companies that engage their interest and earn their trust. Readers revolted when word got out that the Guide publisher had begun faking its real-life reporting through the use of VR.
Takeaway: Customers will know if you phone in content. And even the most technical of content can offer a great story to the companies who are hungry for that info. GE is often held up as the model of industrial storytelling—with good reason. Other B2B companies that excel at this concept include Cisco, Workday, and Salesforce.
5. Meet customers where they live.
When you’re addressing a galactic audience, you better know how to localize content. The Guide got help from the humble babel fish—but you’ll have to settle on robust localization skills.
Takeaway: If you want customers from around the globe to get the most use from your content and see you as a true partner, provide content that speaks to them in their own language. Multilingual or regional-specific website content is an excellent way to achieve the broadest possible reach.
You don’t have to travel the universe to create effective B2B marketing content. These guidelines can help you deliver measurable results, whether you’re writing web copy, video scripts, white papers, or email nurture campaigns.