The year is 2012 and B2B content marketing is in its infancy... Back then any B2B organisation that managed to produce high-quality content was able to differentiate itself in the market and drive tangible business outcomes.
At the time I was a video product specialist at Fairfax Digital. Ad networks had not gained a lot of traction at that stage, Google and Facebook weren’t as dominant as they are today.
Our clients were interested in what we had to say simply for the fact that there weren't a lot of expert sources providing them with advice and market intelligence.
Only three years later the landscape had completely changed. Not only did the number of competitors increase exponentially but also the volume of content they published to attract, educate and convert clients.
Welcome to the new world
I found this out the hard way. While we still maintained previously successful communication channels to engage clients, the impact was notably reduced. The revenue of my product portfolio grew but it was well behind the market growth rate.
My team did extensive analysis to understand what the issue was. Was it the audience? The products we offered? The sales team?
We were able to eliminate all of these factors after speaking to clients that we had long-term relationships with.
It crystallised that as the media landscape grew more complex, there was an over-supply of channels and products that achieved the same outcomes that we delivered.
What became the differentiator in the marketplace was expert knowledge communicated through content explaining trends, operational stumbling blocks, and ways to make the most out of the solutions we offered.
It’s safe to say that this realisation blew my mind. What a wasted opportunity! The people I worked with were some of the most knowledgeable people in the Australian media landscape. Yet we didn’t manage to capitalise on this expertise.
"68% of B2B buyers value specialised skill and experience the most when engaging vendors" - Inside the Buyer’s Brain (2019)
Pressure creates diamonds
Of course, changing the ways of the entire organisation at a flick of a button wasn’t realistic. We had to start small.
The only way forward was to change our approach and give the market what it wanted, preferably delivered at scale through content.
At this point in time, our senior executive leadership were still dominating most of the content that was created to address the marketplace. While I knew what we had to do to engage the market more effectively, it was a challenge to change the ways of a large organisation like Fairfax Media.
After a lot of conversations with our marketing team and ultimately the senior leadership team, we started making incremental improvements to the level of specialised knowledge (and value) we were able to engage the market with.
We went from engaging market stakeholders infrequently with high-level information to a laser-sharp focus on content value and scale.
We created more educational content that we shared through presentations to larger audiences, started speaking at niche conferences, actively sought out media interviews, and started producing educational on-demand video content.
The results of this focused approach to sharing highly specialised knowledge were astonishing...