One of my favorite memories at HubSpot was watching our email marketer’s eyes go wide the first time she used our new email dashboard. Her reaction was was unrelenting, overflowing, and wholly genuine. Her expression mirrored the type of excitement typically reserved for iPhone launches and new seasons of Netflix series -- but it was caused by software she used every day at work.
Those who think B2C companies have locked down all the truly interesting marketing angles have forgotten how passionate people can be about their jobs. For every B2B product, there are users out there looking to expand their knowledge or get inspired by their peers. All of which is to say: Nothing is uninteresting if you look at it the right way.
Done right, B2B content marketing can rival the creativity and appeal of the best consumer campaigns. Every once in a while, we like to recognize those companies breaking the mold in B2B content marketing and growing fervent, dedicated audiences as a result. Here are a few of our favorites.
10 Examples of Exceptional B2B Content Marketing
1) InVision's Inside Design Series
InVision is a prototyping platform that helps companies collaborate on designs. Since its launch in 2011, InVision has built a user-base of more than 700,000 and a fervent audience of blog subscribers.
Looking at InVision's blog, you won’t find many mentions of the platform itself. What you will find is one of the best publications available on the design strategy and culture. That's because InVision’s content marketing strategy recognizes one very important thing: Designers are passionate about their work. Focusing on that passion, rather than the product they offer, will make InVision a magnet for their precise target audience.
What they do well: Focusing on rare content.
What stands out about InVision's content is how unique it is. In a time when a lot of content marketing shops are creating cookie-cutter posts, link-bait listicles, and keyword-stuffed content, InVision gives you a view into design that you can't easily find elsewhere. One series in particular goes behind the scenes at a range of companies to interview their design teams about their design principles, workspaces, and culture. The Inside Design series has featured unique looks at the inner workings of Netflix, Prezi, and other notable teams.
2) Adobe's 99U
In 2012, Adobe acquired Behance (a portfolio site for creative work) and its "educational arm," 99U. To call 99U a blog would be a gross understatement. Aiming to offer the “missing curriculum” on making ideas happen, 99U has grown into a highly trafficked and oft-cited destination for current and aspiring creative professionals. Beyond the blog, it has expanded its content strategy to include a conference series, a collection of books on creative productivity, an engaging podcast, and even a print magazine. You heard me right: print.
What they do well: Preserving the line between sales and content.
There was a bit of fear and speculation when Adobe purchased Behance and 99U that it would signal the end of journalistic content for the sites. As Communications Director Russell Brady put it:
When Adobe bought Behance in December 2012, some folks -- ok the lily-livered naysayers that commentate negatively on every tech announcement, no matter who the company -- predicted doom and gloom for the world’s leading social community for creatives. Adobe would come in and stamp a big red “A” over a vibrant space where creatives showcased their work and looked for inspiration from their peers. It would soon become a bland corporate wasteland or some such. Somehow this didn’t happen."
Both Behance and 99U operate as wholly independent content hubs with dedicated followings. Does Adobe have a presence at 99U events? Certainly. But the content remains as focused, as it always has, on the creative professional -- no strong sales pitches or overt marketing.
3) MYOB's End of Year Financial Hub
MYOB is a provider of business management solutions in Australia and New Zealand. It helps companies manage their finances and connect with bookkeepers and financial services professionals. MYOB has two main audiences: small businesses that are just learning the ropes and more established companies that need greater insight into all facets of their operations. Each audience has its own set of concerns and corresponding hub of information on MYOB.com.
What they do well: Understanding their customers.
In its content strategy, MYOB recognizes that many businesses are figuring out accounting and financial decisions as they grow. They work to be the resource that helps those businesses navigate each stage of their development. Their Hub is angled to fit the needs of each customer group well, providing tips for just starting out and guides for breaking through new stages of development.
4) Unbounce's Page Fights
Have you ever seen a growth marketer coming off of a successful optimization experiment? They are electric. Unbounce, a landing page software company based in Vancouver, understands that excitement first-hand and has some fun with it on their microsite Page Fights. In collaboration with Conversion XL, Page Fights streams live landing page critiques by marketing optimization experts.
What they do well: Expanding beyond written content.
Unbounce has run a successful blog for years now, but saw Page Fights as an opportunity to expand beyond written content. As the volume of content rises in industries like marketing and web design, diversifying the format of that information can keep your audience engaged and learning.
5) Deloitte's Expertise
Deloitte is a Boston-based consultancy firm with services that include auditing, consulting, financial advisory, risk management, and tax. The company works with a massive cross-section of industries, from government agencies to life sciences. At Deloitte, their knowledge is their selling point, so creating informed, useful content is core to their marketing strategy. Deloitte has long-published how-to guides and helpful resources based on their expertise, but recently they've upped the strength and gravitas of their analysis.
What they do well: Developing specialized hubs.
Working with organizations from the financial services industry to government offices, Deloitte's audience is broad. Executed poorly, trying to please a wide-scale audience like that could lead to an unfocused content strategy. Instead, Deloitte uses topic tags to create focused content hubs on topics from cyber security to corporate citizenship. Deloitte also has a content discovery tool built-in to their website so viewers can easily navigate between topics.
6) First Round's Magazines
Picture "venture capital firm" and you may conjure up images of board rooms and freshly pressed suits. In recent years, however, a number of venture firms have started to demonstrate a different side of venture capital. From Flybridge to NextView, firms are growing loyal audiences of entrepreneurs by developing original content and empowering their VCs to publish their perspectives on personal and firm blogs. Notable among venture capital firms using content marketing is First Round Venture, which has developed the wildly popular First Round Review, a collection of nine online magazines targeted at the different aspects of building a business.
What they do well: Flexing their network.
Led by Head of Content and Marketing Camille Ricketts, First Round's content strategy doesn't just pull from the minds of their VCs, it also taps stories from a network of businesses they fund or otherwise support. Ricketts, a former journalist, understands the value and appeal of learning from businesses that have gone through similar experiences. The magazines are full of rare and useful first-hand accounts like: "Bureaucracy Isn't Inevitable -- Here's How AirBNB Beat It" and "Here's How SurveyMonkey Cracked the International Market."
7) FireRock's Visual Content
FireRock, a HubSpot customer that manufactures pre-engineered masonry products for contractors and home builders, has one of the best Pinterest accounts I've seen from a B2B company. It helps that they create really beautiful stone fireplaces, so the imagery is captivating, but they also know how to optimize Pinterest for their business.
What they do well:
- Clearly understanding the channel. Instead of taking pictures of the raw materials, FireRock recognized how people actually use Pinterest to get inspiration for their own designs and projects. Thus, FireRock pins pictures of their work in context of the home so people can envision the finished installation.
- Using geographic labeling. Many of the pictures are tagged by geography, so viewers searching by region can find them more easily.
FireRock has also learned to evolve their content strategy as new channels and media emerge. Recently FireRock expanded its content strategy to Houzz, a visual community for homeowners and home professionals. In Houzz, FireRock recognized the opportunity to reach the ideal audience for its content -- people actively considering redesigning portions of their homes.
8) Wistia's Original Content
You'd expect video hosting company Wistia to be good at getting the angles and lighting right for its educational and product videos, but that's not what landed them on this list. What landed them here is their consistent, uncanny ability to make viewers giggle uncontrollably at each video.
What they do well: Embracing humor.
Wistia has been making videos for several years with the same small team of people. It could be easy to take the same approach or let their content grow stale, but Wistia keeps each new video fresh, engaging, and most importantly, funny. They've created videos starting dogs, unique music videos, video time capsules, and even videos featuring Zack Braff (no idea how they pulled that last one off).
9) GE's Instagram Account
With 337,000 followers on Twitter and 65,601 YouTube subscribers, GE certainly knows how to engage their audience. From my perspective, though, their Instagram is where they really stand out. Like InVision, GE uses social channels to express their awe and fascination -- not with their products, but with science and innovation as a whole. GE has accumulated a massive Instagram following of 185,000 followers, many of whom are highly engaged. Each post pulls in thousands of likes and scores of comments.
What they do well:
- Giving their followers a nickname. It may not work for every company, but GE Aviations refers to their followers across all social media networks lovingly as "AVgeeks." They've even turned it into a hashtag that their followers can use in other contexts. Injecting community into their content makes their social media presence about more than just the company, helping it spread farther and wider than it may have otherwise.
- Not taking themselves too seriously. Having a history as long and storied as GE does might have made them more conservative when it comes to their social channels. But GE takes risks in their content. They add humor, demonstrate their own passion for the subject matter, and engage openly with their followers. Those risks pay off in a social following that is as engaged as any B2C brand.
10) GoToMeeting's (Citrix) Twitter Content
A webinar and remote meeting provider, GoToMeeting (run by Citrix) does a really nice job of making sure their Twitter stream is filled with valuable content. They have multiple team members dedicated to the channel, and their investment in content has paid off in more than 50,000 followers.
What they do well:
- Sharing content other than their own. Just like GE, GoToMeeting is another great example of a B2B company acting as a curator of valuable content. Below, you can see an example of that in action.
- Widening their focus (but still keeping it relevant). Beating the same drum again and again about online meetings can get old. Instead, GoToMeeting's Twitter content focuses on the larger theme of working better. They include tips for productivity, working from home, and office humor.
The list doesn't stop here. Asking for input on Twitter surfaced HelpScout, KISSMetrics, Groove, Sidekick, and a number of other strong B2B content marketing efforts. There's a world of content opportunities out there just waiting for creative B2B marketers to take on.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in August 2012 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.