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April, 2020

Why design matters in B2B content marketing: Q&A with Nick Farrar

For many B2B marketers, the most important aspect of their content marketing is the nuts and bolts, the content itself. The words, the stats and the insights that persuade their prospects and customers to make their way along the sales cycle.

But in adopting this attitude, they often neglect a crucial element: visual appeal i.e. that special something that catches your eye. The path to purchase is long (and bumpy), how content is presented from a visual perspective can make all the difference when it comes to maintaining engagement all the way along that cycle. One boring long-copy article or dry whitepaper is all it takes to send somebody off on a different path – straight to your competitors.

This is especially true for tech-based businesses. How can you expect people to believe that you’re truly at the forefront of technology, when your content design lacks any semblance of innovation? It’s time to up your game! And luckily, we know exactly who to call…

Our director Nick Farrar knows this better than anyone. With over twenty years’ experience in the creative industries, he’s seen the good, bad and ugly of content marketing for tech businesses, and worked with the likes of Nutanix, VMware and many more to help make theirs more visually appealing.

So, our marketing executive Jaz Freeman sat down (virtually of course) with Nick for a chat about it all:

JF: Why should B2B businesses (particularly tech-focused ones) take content design seriously?

NF: I want to caveat this answer by saying that creative content doesn’t replace written content so please don’t have a pop at me copywriters. But personally, I feel the best content is a collaboration between great writing and great design.

There are so many reasons why visual content is important.

It’s the way we’re made – we’ve been responding to visual cues since the dawn of man recognising danger or opportunities in an instant, writing is a relatively new kid on the block (around 5000 years old) so it’s inevitable we’re hard-wired to recognise visuals.

From a business perspective, companies are facing so much competition online and people’s attention spans are increasingly short – so you need to grab their attention as soon as you can. Good visuals allow you to do that.

Finally, it’s a great way to build the visual identity for your organisation.

JF: What do content marketers need to consider in relation to this issue as far as the current Covid-19 situation goes?

NF: There are two elements here that spring to mind. The first is that we are in a crisis that nobody really understands the long-term impact of, but life will get back to some form of normality – whether that’s reverting to how we were or people adapting to longer term changes in how we live. Businesses will still need to do business so it’s important that they continue to plan for the long-term as well as the short term. This means it’s still vitally important to consider your business development post crisis.

In the short-term, there is a lot of information on how you should be marketing in the current climate. It’s obviously entirely different for each organisation but it’s necessary for everyone to stay in tune and adaptable to the everchanging market while remaining sympathetic to the hardships that so many are facing right now.

JF: What types of content are typically neglected when it comes to good design?

NF: If you’re in the business of marketing tech – there’s a good chance, you’ll know that 60% of a purchasing decision is made before a customer speaks with you directly. Any ill-conceived piece of content in that awareness and consideration stage of your path to purchase could be curtains for new opportunities.

With this in mind, there’s a big risk for ill-conceived content to fall down the back of the sofa. Take a look at your customer journey from a neutral perspective and challenge yourself to find something online that doesn’t look great and act on that.

Another thing which is often overlooked are pieces of content that other members of your organisation can be in charge of – proposals and presentations are often something that are neglected from a design perspective.

JF: What stages of the purchasing cycle can be affected by better content design?

NF: All of them – it’s really important to consider the stage each of your potential customers is at. There are different formats which work well for each stage of the journey, with different levels of content that appeal to the level of information needed at any time. For example, the awareness stage is likely to be the first time that people will have looked at your company with any real interest – this information needs to be light in content, easy to understand and engaging – infographics or infobytes are ideal, as people move towards buying from you, they’ll be looking for more in-depth information, proof-of-concept content – whitepapers or case studies.

JF: Let’s say I’m a marketer who’s really happy with the copy, insights and general quality of my content. It says exactly what I want it to say. Why should I care about how it’s presented visually?

NF: Because you’ll get noticed and remembered. We remember 80% of what we see, 20% of what we hear and 10% of what we read. That means your marketing efforts need to be visually impactful if you want your brand to be remembered.

Ready to set sail? Find out more about the visual voyage and download the presentation here.