3 Ways to Get Great Content From Your Boring Business

by Shannon Paul on January 23, 2011

Many creative types get frustrated when they work in a B2B situation, or any other industry that may be much less sexy than consumer technology, fashion, sports, or entertainment. Everyone wants to focus on creating the right content — content that will attract positive attention, better SEO and social media viral goodness. But what if you’re selling network cables? dumpster covers? toilet seats? the sticky stuff that keeps rugs from unraveling? What do you have to work with?

Plenty.

Solve a Problem

Get back to basics — you’re probably in business because your product solves a problem, or makes something else better. Write about the challenges and solutions that will benefit your potential customers — not just the problems and solutions that involve your product, but the other unique challenges your customers face with everything from supply chain management, logistics, global networking, web conferencing solutions, etc. This is what is meant by becoming a resource. Yes, it will take work, but there should be plenty to keep you juiced up creatively, get your foot in the door with prospects and retain your most valuable customers.

Get Relevant, Get Creative

Anytime you’re just focused on your own product or service you will have a relevance problem. This type of navel gazing can often be fascinating for those who devote their day-to-day activities on this product or service, but the rest of the world could often care less. For this, I like to play a game — write down the 10 most prominent pop culture influences that are prominent right now. Then, force yourself to write headlines for each that combine the pop culture reference (no word play) with your product/service/issue. To be relevant in a way that will still drive business value for your organization, you need to get creative. Connect the dots between what the world cares about and what your business cares about — realize they’re rarely the same things. You don’t necessarily have to use these headlines, but you must break through the notion that your business is boring.

Be the Media

Not mass media, of course, but your own little hyper-niche, hyper-focused version of the media. Publish interviews with industry leaders, government regulators and experts that your potential customers look to for guidance. Tip: it’s often a lot easier to ask the CEO of a prospect company for an interview than an appointment for a sales pitch. Just make sure to follow up with thank you notes that include links — arm your sales force with the links to the interview to send their contacts within the organization. Make sure they’re the first to know what you’re doing and how it can help them.

What Does the Audience Say?

I know many of you are doing great work in boring businesses. How do you move your organization to begin thinking of the audience first?

Photo Credit: phoenixdailyphoto

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{ 23 comments }

January 23, 2011 Eric Brown

Good Morning Shannon,
Creative folks make boring businesses fun everyday, there just aren’t enough that won’t settle for mediocrity. Not sure why that is, but it goes for both the businesses product and how we write about it and market it.

We can’t all be Apple, but we can emulate their thinking!

January 23, 2011 Shannon Paul

Eric – no surprise I totally agree! And, you’re right — the real enemy is mediocrity.

January 24, 2011 Hubert Sawyers III

Shannon, as someone that isn’t traditionally schooled in the business of content creation, it is to good to see the work I put together for my clients is being used on higher levels. While I am subscribing to the content strategist mission, I know that it is hard to make content engaging if your client’s work is not that sexy. It has been fun coming up with ideas to help my clients market themselves in ways that aren’t annoying and actually enriching.

I scrambled to find something new to add, but your three ways kind of umbrellas all my ideas! Great post!

January 24, 2011 Jessica Owen

Thanks for bringing up the boring. Most of my clients wouldn’t be considered sexy… but as a mrkt copywriter that’s the challenge (and appeal), right?

You’re dead on with #1. I find the easiest way to find a problem that can be solved is to ask sales reps (or other people within the org. that have face to face time with customers) what FAQs they have to answer most often. What they tell me always surprises me – and makes for excellent, relevant (new definition for sexy?) content for customers.

Great #2… I haven’t tried that, but have added it to my bag of tools. :)

January 25, 2011 Shannon Paul

Let me know how #2 goes — people might look at you like you’ve lost it, but if you push through the discomfort with throwing ideas out there, it’s totally worth it!

January 24, 2011 Nikki Stephan

Great suggestions, Shannon! I would add “tell a story.” This could easily go along with your “solve a problem” suggestion. Share stories about how current customers have benefited from your product/service. Better yet, let the customers tell the stories through guest posts on your blog, or through videos that you add to your YouTube channel. Testimonial stories are powerful, but they have to be told in order to make an impact.

January 25, 2011 Shannon Paul

Yes and no — testimonials can be tricky — sometimes they work, but I’ve seen plenty of stinkers.

January 25, 2011 Denese Bottrell

Great post, Shannon! I’ve had to create communication platforms for fiber-cement siding… Interviews with architects, developers, and homeowners told me that they were using the product in ways we weren’t capitalizing on in marketing messages – green (before “green” was the thing), new urbanism /smart development, etc. So, that created an opportunity for the fiber-cement company to produce all kinds of educational, non-product content about these movements to “create better places to live.”

When I needed to connect the same fiber-cement product with architects in the midst of a down economy, I appealed to the designer inside their heart. I created content that encouraged them to apply their creative mindset and “see possibility where others see chaos.” I got my best content from interviewing seasoned architects, asking them what skills they would encourage young architects to learn for success in today’s market.

January 25, 2011 Shannon Paul

Great example, Denise — it sounds like a great approach to content for a rather unsexy business :)

January 25, 2011 Nicole Yelland

Great post Shannon,
That’s one of my favorite games too! Thanks for a refreshing 1,000 foot view reminder of how to play it:)

January 30, 2011 Kate

Thanks for this post! I think most people who are blogging for business struggle from time to time to come up with something “WOW”. Great tips – anxious to try them.

February 2, 2011 Vibha

It was a great read. I work for mostly B2B clients, so I know how tough it is to0 be creative for them and make content. It was a good read. Will surely let you know if this benefits.

February 7, 2011 Davina K. Brewer

I was going to add “tell a story” but Nikki beat me to it. Yes there are some stinker testimonials, you have to go after and use the best ones. I like using trends or pop culture or anything fun and interesting as a lead into a story, a way to put those toilet seats in context that more readers can understand and appreciate. As you think of the audience first, think not only about the problems your “boring” products and services solve, the ways they use them that’s relevant to them. Best way to do that is ask them. Per your being your own hub suggestion, find those forums, those other posts about the cables; if there isn’t a network, create one. Become that one go-to spot for all things toilet seat .. go vertical and horizontal, curate the best content, develop more your own that your own customers tell you they want to hear. FWIW.

February 8, 2011 Blog Towkay

I like the 2nd tip “Get Relevant, Get Creative”, and I think readers will like to see and will appreciate the effort put in by the businesses to make the latest pop culture influences relevant to the product/service. In fact, this approach may also help to capture some traffic through long tail key words that the businesses would not have originally thought of.

February 17, 2011 InspiroHost

Hello there,

This is an awesome blog and very well thought content. I may say I was amaze of how you were able to do such things.

Anyways, glad to find your site. I’d surely be back to check out more.

March 4, 2011 Social Media

Hi, Its a interesting blog. Its very helpful for me as it provides me new ideas.Thanks

April 14, 2011 Terje Sannarnes

Great contnet is considered to be a good way to attract attention of people. It can be effectively used both for generating more traffic to website and raising a deep interest of people in online business.

June 25, 2011 Janay Dolloff
August 10, 2011 ethical seo

I think one of the best things a local business can do is offer valuable advice. Take lawyers, a lawyer could post free legal advice from time to time, a realtor could post home buying advice. This would not only create a valuable blog, it would also be a great way to network.

August 29, 2011 Souk Oun

Some great suggestions. Sometimes people overwhelm themselves by trying to think of the best content when they should be thinking of the simple basics like you suggested. Great article, one to reference again later.

January 15, 2012 Lorenzo Gonzales

I love how this article brought light upon some of the, so accurately stated, “less sexy” businesses or industries because I feel that it can be hard to get around the block of improving marketing capabilities or customer experiences in business that may not be, at least on the surface, very exciting. I work currently as a project/production manager for a residential remodeling company and I find myself constantly asking how I can improve the experience my customers have. It can often be a world filled with technical specifications but I have, as of recently, become obsessed with the thought of finding ways to creatively show how we are able to solve even the most technical of problems. I am currently working on putting together a simple questionnaire for our customers to provide feedback designed to highlight our appreciation and genuine interest in the ability to help us do our job better. The next step being a monthly newsletter that serves to educate and ideally illustrate our desire to involve them in whatever processes go into a specific job with the aim of making it more than a technical solution to them. Just a few hours ago I listened to a marketing smarts podcast that featured you and it really stimulated a lot of thought with regards to how I can go about really engaging customers and potential leads on different more genuine levels.

April 19, 2012 Haroon Rashid

Hi Shannon,

I’m in the UK. Great post! I had this exact thing happen yesterday with a ‘boring’ business who came to me because they were struggling to create content.

Love the post!

November 22, 2013 paintfly

I like vining everyone

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