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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.

Define yours

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.

Doug Kessler

Published 13 March, 2012 by Doug Kessler

Doug Kessler is a founder and Creative Director of B2B marketing agency Velocity and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

19 more posts from this author

Comments (9)

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Nick Stamoulis

"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"

Excellent point. It's ok to reach outside your realm every now and then as long as the topic is still relevant to your audience, but you need to find a way to tie it back to your core strength. This might be easier said than done depending on what you're trying to talk about. You don't want to stray too far; you'll be in over your head.

about 4 years ago

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Amie Marse

Best line "...bound to backfire because now you're writing a thin piece on a topic that matters. So you look like a featherweight."

This is a great piece because companies spend so much time on branding and reputation management and then forget how it overlaps into their content marketing. Or, they only think their branding is a starting point whereas it should be the boundary. Great thoughts :)

about 4 years ago

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CSRWeb

Write what you are good at writing about, otherwise it may seem that you are either blagging it or you have nothing really to write about but are writing about it anyway.

about 4 years ago

Ashley Friedlein

Ashley Friedlein, Founder, Econsultancy & President, Centaur Marketing at Econsultancy, Centaur MarketingStaff

The other reason to focus on your sweet spot is SEO. One of the benefits of 'content marketing' should be an improvement in organic search rankings due largely to the increase in links to your site if you're publishing good content worth linking to (and marketing it properly).

However, I always caution people to try and 'pick the right battles' with SEO. Not everyone can rank top for the big head-end search terms. Most companies have to pick out more niche search terms (often two or three word phrases) and focus on those. So you need to focus on a domain space which you can (in Google's eyes) be credibly seen as authoritative on. Hence the sweet spot focus.

about 4 years ago

Ashley Friedlein

Ashley Friedlein, Founder, Econsultancy & President, Centaur Marketing at Econsultancy, Centaur MarketingStaff

p.s. and actually CRO (Conversion Rate Optimisation). To convert well you need to know what your value proposition actually is (your sweet spot). The truth is that many businesses don't really understand what value they are offering that is different/unique. The internet will expose these businesses over the medium term and they will fail.

about 4 years ago

Doug Kessler

Doug Kessler, Director at VelocitySmall Business Multi-user

Definitely -- both SEO and CRO are boosted when the content is in the sweet spot.

I think I feel a new eBook coming on...

about 4 years ago

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Oyster marketing hampshire

There is a huge gap between good copywriting and the kind of copy that totally suits your readership and followers. It's almost a personality that people either like or don't I suppose. As for SEO, any relevant content is good, but is it possible to write for both seo and the reader - I mean fully?

about 4 years ago

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Robert Feller

What a great article Doug, highly enjoyable. I am highly interested by Thought Leadership as you mention in your article. I feel that this highly valuable and is the way for the future in terms of employment. It does appear that B2B orientated businesses are already embracing this as seen by Vodafone here - http://www.vodafone.co.uk/business/perspective/ This shows that several big companies are already using this to further their business. Whether it will work is another question but it will be interesting to see. Back to B2B Content marketing, some very interesting points there which I shall try to remember for future.

Robbie

about 4 years ago

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David

Thought leadership is the key, what I would call market leadership. You can't be all things to all people and you don't need to be. Create brilliant content regularly (and by regularly I really mean daily) that educates your market and grows their belief, trust and loyalty to your brand.

about 4 years ago

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