By Brian Hansford, Director of Client Services, Heinz Marketing, Inc.

Heinz Marketing hosted Ann Handley in Seattle for our 3rd annual B2B Fast Tracks event.  We ran two special sessions with Ann including a special executive session for CMOs and a broader presentation for B2B marketers.

Ann consistently shares great content marketing ideas and she’s a driving force with MarketingProfs.  Her presentation focused on effectively engaging customers through well-developed content.  Ann shared many of the great ideas and practices in her brand new book “Everybody Writes – Your Go To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content” which I highly recommend adding to your content marketing reference library.

Everybody and I mean everybody, produces content

Content is everywhere.  Sales reps produce content to in emails and presentations.  Executives develop content for analysts and investors.  Even customers produce content.  Content is published through email, social media, billboards, tradeshows, NPR, and books.  The most successful companies will engage customers most effectively with the best written content.  Content isn’t left up to a single marcom writer.  Even in 2014, every single person still needs to write.  It doesn’t matter if we live in a world of abbreviated text messages and chatting in 140 characters or less.  Ideas are shared rapidly and broadly from writing.  Writing is takes practice.  Even so, writing is incredibly important and B2B marketers need to do it well.

Pathological Empathy

Ann’s presentation was loaded with fantastic information and practical guidance for doing content marketing better. However, even though B2B marketers are making positive advances in content marketing, the quality of content must improve.  There is still way too much focus on “content is king” which places more emphasis on quantity, and less on customer engagement.

Great content needs “pathological empathy” – I love this.  Not just empathy but pathological empathy.  Good writing requires understanding the audience and their perspective. To be truly empathetic means talking with customers and listening. Learn their perspective. Identify what emotionally drives their decisions.  Ask customer how and why they do the things they do.  Don’t lecture customers with features and functionality. Don’t just shares statistic, tell stories that customers relate to.  Remember, interested is interesting!

The Formula for Great Content

B2B marketers can follow a formula for creating great content.  It’s an elegant solution we can all follow.

Utility x Inspiration x Empathy  = Great Content

Imagine content that is a zero with empathy or usefulness.  Multiply anything by zero will give you…zero.  We all consume content that is useful and inspired by experiences and facts.  We love a great story that shows how peers overcame a challenge and achieved success. Instead of telling customers how great you are, tell them how great they are and how much greater they will become!  Appeal to the imagination.  Find the content that helps customers, has inspiration and supporting data, and shows understanding.  Avoid the zero in any one of the categories and great content will emerge.

For a detailed review of the event, I invite you to read Margaret Dawson’s review on the RivalIQ blog.

Why We Run the B2B Fast Tracks Program

Heinz Marketing started the B2fasttracks pngB Fast Tracks program to share innovative ideas for marketers to test and implement through their efforts. We have brought great thought leaders like Ann Handley and also featured colleagues from great local companies like Avalara, Payscale, and DreamBox Learning.  We are heavily focused on making the B2B Fast Tracks program a high-value event series for the B2B community. Stay tuned for details on the 4th event coming in the spring of 2015!