In Praise of Non-Obvious Content

Occasionally it happens that somebody else’s writing ties together a few ideas that have been on your mind for some time. A week ago, it happened while I was reading the excellent Justin Welsh’s Saturday Solopreneur, one of the most insightful newsletters about marketing and related topics.

The blog entitled “Your content is obvious. It shouldn’t be” uses clear examples to illustrate the difference between content that gains engagement and content that makes money. It’s an important distinction and one that—as Welsh argues—most companies appear to be missing.

As social media, particularly LinkedIn, has become an increasingly important distribution channel for B2B content, companies and individuals have developed strategies to drive engagement. But the metrics that tell us we’re doing well on LinkedIn are not as aligned to sales success as we might suppose.

Beware of the Obvious

At the heart of Welsh’s observation is what he calls “obvious content.” He cites several examples of the kinds of fortune cookie wisdom and motivational slogans that we see all the time on social media channels. They often attract a lot of impressions, clicks and supportive comments because that’s what their authors design them to do. But they don’t sell.

The problem is that social media platforms exist to drive engagement, and their algorithms serve up the content that keeps people on their websites. It then becomes a marketing tactic for contributors to post the content that the algorithm will reward with higher visibility, impressions, likes and—if you’re lucky—clicks. The trouble is that the resulting content tends to be similar to everybody else’s or—as Welsh puts it—obvious.

Companies make more money from their content when it is non-obvious. As Welsh once again demonstrates, the same underlying facts can create completely different posts. In skipping business clichés and instead developing a contrarian teaching point, he challenges his audience. Most content creators get to the punchline that attracts engagement but miss the opportunity to persuade.

It’s an observation that I would broaden to other digital marketing channels. For example, most popular wisdom on blogging seeks engagement, as defined by Google Analytics and other analytical tools. I see companies all the time whose digital marketing strategy follows their agencies’ tracking tools, starting with keywords and working backward. 

SEO is important, but it should never be allowed to dominate B2B business development content. B2B should educate and persuade professionals—i.e., time-poor people already familiar with what you do. To earn a potential buyer’s attention, you must offer insight that makes them think differently. You need to be non-obvious.

Insight and the Multifamily Executive

So what to do about this? One challenge is that creating non-obvious content is hard, but it’s easier if you start from the right place. Instead of thinking about engagement first, focus on persuasion—you can sort out promotion after you’ve created great content. 

I’ve worked with many marketing departments working to engage buyers of multifamily technology solutions. Where they struggle is with extracting insights from the innovators in their organizations. That can be hard to do: it requires a deep understanding of the business problems and—critically—the context in which your prospects and customers operate and make decisions. 

To avoid the obvious, you need to devote far more energy to understanding, for example, the thing that the industry is doing wrong or thinking about in the wrong way. When you can articulate a unique and insightful perspective on your prospects’ problems, they are likelier to pay attention to your proposed solutions.

It is not hard to see how non-obvious content influences sales. It positions you as an actual thought leader in the industry with people who perform their functions at a professional level. And by truly understanding the business problem and what is unique about your perspective on it, you grasp the opportunity to change the way that people think about their businesses. And changing the way prospects think is far more consequential than the impressions and the clicks. 

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash



Subscribe to Our Blog