B2B Marketer Stephanie Tilton On Creating Content That Stands Out

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By Susan Johnston Taylor, Freelance Writer  


Voice of Choice

Founder and principal consultant at Ten Ton Marketing Stephanie Tilton specializes in business to business (B2B) content, working with brands including Akamai Technologies, Compuware, LinkedIn, and others. She also has over 20 years of experience in the marketing trenches.

We talked to Tilton about why she loves writing B2B content, how effective thought leadership helps companies close deals, and more. The following conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.

The Beat: What do you love about writing B2B content?  

Stephanie Tilton: It’s an opportunity to help companies stand out in a crowded market. Those companies that can produce useful and thought-leading content will become the voice of choice, which is the precursor to becoming the vendor of choice. Today’s B2B buyers are struggling through the research and purchase process. They have to work their way through a slew of vendors and solutions and try to narrow down a long list of seemingly similar options. The companies that can ease the buyer’s journey by providing thoughtful, helpful guidance and insights – and motivate a buying committee to depart from the status quo – are the ones that win.

Obviously, it’s not easy to develop that content or everyone would be over the moon about the payback on their content marketing. According to an Edelman-LinkedIn study, 45 percent of B2B decision makers have lost respect and admiration for an organization because of its poor thought leadership content. And more than 30 percent removed companies from their consideration list as a result. So not hitting it out of the park with thought-leadership content can actually backfire in a big way.

Is there a project you’re especially proud of?

When Jason Miller was Head of Content Marketing for LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, he invited me to collaborate with him to write the first edition of The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn in 2014. I’ve helped update the guide every year since. It’s become the most downloaded content asset in LinkedIn Marketing Solutions’ history and has helped drive millions in revenues. Since then, I’ve also helped LinkedIn write a number of ‘spin-offs’ (e.g. The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to Thought Leadership and The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to Content Marketing).

I also wrote the chapter for B2B companies in the best-selling book on content marketing, Content Rules by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman.

What have you overcome to get where you are now professionally?

I used to work in technology companies. I realized how much I love to write and how much my colleagues hated it, so I saw a great opportunity. I thought it would be wonderful if I could make writing the focus of every day, and so I embarked on my own. I'm really glad I took a leap of faith in early 2002 or 2003, but having said that, as we all know, 2009 was a tough time with the downturn in the economy.

But there ended up being a real silver lining there for me and my business. Like so many other people who run their own businesses, we often neglect to do the basics and what we're advising our own clients to do. You need to be out there and making connections. You can't ever turn that off. But I had neglected all those things, so I became part of a group blog with five other freelance writers who happen to be all women. I also published my own e-book and really worked on better connecting with folks in the industry. In the end, it helped my business make tremendous strides. When the economy picked back up, it created real momentum for me. I am glad that I took that as an opportunity rather than letting myself feel like woe is me.

What writers do you admire?

Ann Handley, Doug Kessler, Mary Oliver. I greatly admire the voice of Katie Martell, self-proclaimed unapologetic marketing truth-teller. I also find inspiration in The Atlantic and Fast Company.

What do B2C writers need to know about writing for B2B clients?

Keep in mind that when you’re selling a business solution, you’re selling a departure from the status quo. And most people hate change! It doesn’t matter if you’re convincing someone to abandon their outdated, ineffective way of doing something or a competitive solution – you’re asking a lot. You’re asking the buyer to agree to change and drive consensus for change within their organization.

The first step is convincing a prospect that evolving from the status quo is essential and urgent for their company and worthwhile for them personally. Your content needs to get the buyer thinking differently, nodding in agreement, and emotionally invested in committing to change. In many organizations, this comes in the form of the thought leadership content I mentioned earlier. Help your buyer champion, then build the business case for change and you are well on your way to helping the sales team close a deal.

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Susan Johnston Taylor, Freelance Writer

Austin, Texas-based freelance writer Susan Johnston Taylor has written for The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and many other publications. Learn more.