In B2B content marketing, what you write about can be as important as what you write.
But there's a hell of a lot of so-called 'thought leadership' out there that isn't leading anyone's thought at all. That's because it isn't written from the company's true sphere of authority -- from the 'sweet spot'.
If you're committed to content marketing (as I'm sure you are) it's incredibly important to think about your sweet spot and keep your content inside it.
Since 'sweet spot' is a metaphor, let's make sure we're all on the same page about what it means. And for that, there's no place like Wikipedia:
"A sweet spot is a place where a combination of factors results in a maximum response for a given amount of effort"
Ooh. That works for me.
It goes on, "In tennis, baseball, or cricket, a given swing will result in a more powerful hit if the ball strikes the racquet or bat on the latter's sweet spot."
That's a good one too. Picture your content as the bat or racket. You want the most powerful response from an easy, smooth swing.
Back to B2B content marketing.
In content marketing, your sweet spot is the exact area of your company's expertise. It's the thing that you are uniquely positioned to talk about. The thing your company knows better than -- or at least as well as -- anyone else in the world.
You might have more than one sweet spot (around each product or for different target audiences) but each is a discrete zone.
The sweet spot is three-dimensional: it's important to know the exact size, shape and depth of yours.
Size –your sweet spot should be a focused area; as tight a focus as possible without leaving stuff out. If it's too big, you're writing from the Planet of the Generalists, where almost anyone can write (including other specialists who got their sweet spot wrong).
An example: Reevoo, is the undisputed expert on the roles of ratings, reviews and user-generated opinions in the purchase journey. No one knows more about this than they do. But if they claimed 'Ecommerce' as their sphere of authority, they'd look like lightweights. Too general.
Shape – you need to know exactly where your expertise reaches and where it stops. Just being adjacent to a topic or issue doesn't mean you're the authority on it. If you pretend to be, you'll be exposed.
Marketo's Definitive Guide to Lead Scoring is just that - definitive. Because Marketo is the DADDY of lead scoring. But if they did a Definitive Guide to Twitter, it would be just another guide to Twitter.
Depth – your expertise goes as deeply as it needs to go; you don't have to pretend it goes deeper.
When Salesforce.com writes an eBook on the Social-Powered Enterprise, it means something -- they've transformed themselves into a social business and help lots of other companies do so, too. But if they were to write about social media APIs in the mobile protocol stack, they'd be out of their depth – and needlessly so.
Identifying and capturing your sweet spot(s) is one of the most important things you can do as a content marketer. It tells everyone on the team exactly what it is that you need to be seen as experts in.
How do you find yours? Well, you know when you're in your sweet spot when:
- The ideas and best-practice advice just flow – it's not a struggle to find things to say
- People lean forward when you talk about it – (metaphorically or otherwise) - they know this is your zone
- It's what you do every day – not just the latest bandwagon
- You've got lots of data and exepriences to support your views
A lot of content marketing tries to chase whatever is new out there; or to hop on to an issue that is important to the target audience but not in the brand's sphere of authority. This is bound to backfire because now you're writing a thin piece on a topic that matters. So you look like a featherweight.
Reaching beyond the sweet spot
Do you have to confine every single piece of content to your sweet spot? No, but it's important to know when you're straying away from it so that you can build bridges back. Marketo can write about social media as it relates to the lead nurturing process.
Econsultancy can write about Attention Deficit Disorder as it relates to digital marketing attention spans.
If you stray too far without building these links, you're out of your zone and it will show.
How to extend your sweet spot
When you really want to become thought leaders in an area that isn't yet in your sweet spot, you can use outside experts to help carry you into the new zone.
So an interview on your blog with the guy who invented the Slinky is a great way to start positioning yourself as experts in spring-based retro toys.
Write it down
Okay, give it a go. Capture your sweet spot in a single sentence. If you've got more than one, capture them all.
Then send this around to the team for comment and buy-in. When you get your sweet spot agreed, Krazy Glue it to your cubicle wall.
And when someone proposes the next eBook, hold it up to your sweet spot statement and ask yourself: Are you uniquely positioned to write about this? Is it coming from a place where you'll get 'a maximum response for a given amount of effort'?
[Disclaimer: Reevoo, Marketo and Salesforce are Velocity clients -- I used them as examples because I know them]
The B2B Content Marketing Best Practice Guide provides a framework for evaluating your current content marketing process and will help you make the most of your content in the future.