The response to my previous six examples of interesting content from ‘boring’ businesses suggested that we’d touched on a real challenge for many businesses, especially those in niche markets and in B2B.
So here are some more examples of apparently unsexy businesses that have come up with interesting ideas and executions to turn the story of what they do into content that users can get engaged by…
The Space Company: office movers
The YouTube text is terse: ‘Only three Fitters to build desks in two days, Off Peak Completion with 100% Operational Continuity on Monday AM.’
How is this possible, you ask? By the magic of time-lapse photography, the slick choreography of the Space Company operation is presented in manically speeded-up glory for our rapt contemplation.
The content around the video could be better optimised for conversion. The calls to action could work harder, especially, but basically, you have to believe these people can do the job…
The lesson: Another good example of using time-lapse and YouTube for showing, not telling.
Sometimes letting people see you at work is more interesting than trying to describe what you do. It also communicates transparency and confidence in your service.
Louis E Page: mesh and fencing specialist
The people at family business Louis E Page have forgotten more about fencing and mesh than you or I can ever hope to know. Founded in 1893, they sell everything from your basic garden fencing through to specialised stuff for zoos and smallholdings.
The company’s blog, The FencePost is written in a distinctively courteous, knowledgeable tone, and focuses on providing really in-depth answers to customer’s likely questions and concerns (How high should my deer fence be? or How do I hang a fence gate?).
As well as showcasing the company’s expertise and boosting its brand, the blog has helped to net real ROI too, according to Hubspot: more than 2,000 leads from organic search in one year, and a much wider US national reach.
It’s not afraid to leaven the serious stuff with the odd lighter message too, such as this video of a small dog jumping a big fence and the perhaps inevitable but not unwelcome post on whether fencing can ever be art (yes it can, of course, thanks to extreme sculptor Christo).
The lesson: Write of what you know. Really get to understand and inhabit your niche – that happy place where your domain knowledge overlaps with your prospects’ information needs.
The more granular and specific, the better – often the longer the search string, the higher the conversion rate.
Investec Treasury: FX and treasury risk management
The Treasury arm of the international specialist bank and asset manager is not averse to taking fresh approaches to bringing potentially dry or complex subjects to life.
For instance, it employs a light, colourful comic-book style to dramatise the unending jostling for position that is the global currency market.
Over the last couple of years, a cast of regular characters who personify the key players – Hank Dollar, Charles Sterling, Jacques Euro – have been put through their paces in a range of sporting events and challenge, most recently golf (The Interest Rate Challenge) and powerlifting (Currency Strength Test).
The competition motif, as you’d expect, is elastic enough to squeeze all sorts of monetary facts and factors into sporting metaphor: ‘Welcome to the Investec Interest Rate Challenge, where our competitors are all vying to be the first to sink their ball into the rate-hike hole and begin a policy normalisation cycle. Who will be the first in the hole and begin raising interest rates?’
The lesson: Look at your content market: how are your competitors formatting and executing their ideas, and what can you do differently?
Though the text itself is relatively conventional and compliant, as it doubtless has to be, simply using an unexpected genre to present it is likely to grab the attention of investors weary of staring at white papers and text-heavy analyses.
And a company that packages things in a fresh way promises fresh ideas and perspectives on the issues too.
Vitamin T: creative recruiters
It’s not often I hear anyone say, ‘Here’s some really great content from a recruitment company.’ But in the case of creative talent finders Vitamin T, one of my colleagues forwarded an email and I did just that.
One of the key anxieties candidates often have about such companies, I’ve noticed, is whether the recruiter really gets what they do and what roles would really suit them.
Vitamin T addresses this fear with content that feels suitably creative and informed in its own right. For March 2015, the focus was on UX, for instance, with a selection of articles and resources to support people recruiting in the area, including a download, The Ultimate Guide for Hiring UX Designers
The lesson: Match the look and feel of what you do to your customers and their expectations.
I also like the way the content wears its learning very lightly. One of the headings in the guide is: ‘I know I need UX. But what is UX again?’ – which is itself very smart: there’s nothing clever about content that makes your users feel dumb.
The reader comes away feeling that the authors have done all the hard thinking/research and sorted out the important bits for you, to save you the bother.
As a provider of ethics and compliance software and related services, Navex would fall squarely for many into the ‘boring’ category. B2b? Tick. Software? Tick. Corporate governance? Double-tick.
But Navex has over 8000 clients worldwide, with needs and requirements they clearly know how to address.
Its services certainly don’t seem boring to the HR director looking to drive an ethical culture through her organisation, or the CEO looking to reduce litigation from ex-employees, or the VP looking to increase the reporting of health & safety incidents from across a global hotel chain.
This plain-speaking guide to what to expect when you’re facing an ISO audit featured in Catherine Toole’s talk, Doing a Taylor Swift, at the Festival of Marketing – is a good example of Navex’s ability to think its way into the mindset of a desired audience and empathise with their real-world situation.
The lesson: ‘Think about where your customer’s at.’ ‘Walk in their shoes.’ ‘Identify their pain points.’ Those are all clichéd bits of advice, and we all pay lip service to them all the time, but how often do we actually really make them happen?
Research and insights help, of course, but they’re only half the story. A slidedeck full of data about your users doesn’t magically make for content they might care about: you still have to find a way to cross the imaginative gap between your head and theirs.
This is always hard to do, but it’s always effective when you manage it and it’s an opportunity that’s open to every marketer, of any product or service.