Business-to-business is boring. Or so B2B content creation would have us believe.

According to Jeff Baker, Director of Digital Marketing Strategy at Brafton, the problem is one of perception.

“Too many B2B marketers think they’re talking to business entities, not people,” he said. “There’s this misconception that you have to talk to a B2B audience differently, that people aren’t still human beings with personalities when working in a B2B environment.”

While some industries may certainly lend themselves to more formal tone and style, such as legal services or insurance, it’s vital to remember you’re still speaking to flesh-and-blood prospects.

Boring is bad in B2B content marketing.

Guideline goofs

While it’s smart strategy to create B2B content marketing guidelines, if you’re following a faulty plan, it will impact every level of your efforts.

“People create guidelines that are super stuffy because their audience is professional and polished, but you have to figure out who is actually consuming the content and what they want,” Jeff said. “Nine out of 10 people probably want content that’s more human and personable and maybe entertaining. I’m also willing to venture a guess B2B marketers often have a similar problem we’ve run into – a disconnect between visitor personas and buyer personas. They assume they have to write content for a middle-aged man when really it’s a woman in her 30s who’s influencing purchase decisions.”

When creating content marketing strategy guidelines, it’s easy to assume you are your target audience. You end up creating content for yourself.

But the truth is, you don’t know your audience until you have the data to back it up.

B2B blood, B2C heart

The walls separating B2B content marketing from its business-to-consumer counterpart have been removed to a large degree thanks to the internet. In many ways, B2B marketers are now forced to play catch-up with B2C colleagues who have one hell of a head start.

A lot of B2B marketers are still basing everything off personal contacts and face-to-face meetings. Except now everyone is empowered to research businesses and learn more about product offerings online than wait to meet people at a conference.

Sixty percent of B2B marketers cited producing engaging content as a challenge, far outweighing obstacles such as lack of budget and measuring return on investment. On the bright side, it doesn’t have to be this way. B2B content marketing professionals can easily take a page out of the B2C handbook.

It all starts with your voice. By adopting a voice that resonates with your target audience and using it consistently during B2B content creation, you can build a connection with potential customers and develop your brand. Unsurprisingly, talking like a human being instead of an automaton is more likely to produce positive results.

That said, your voice should be crafted based on hard data. Research not only who’s buying your products and services, but who’s visiting your website and consuming your content. Align your visitor and buyer personas and create content accordingly.

Don’t forget the power of storytelling. Keywords and searcher intent are essential, yes, but so is guiding visitors down the sales funnel through the use of interesting, engaging content that maximizes emotional impact. There’s a reason campfire tales remain a popular pastime even in the age of flatscreen televisions and virtual reality video games. Human beings are hardwired to appreciate a good yarn.

Finally, remember the importance of presentation. Walls of text are out. Easy-to-scan web pages featuring rich media, including custom images, videos and social media embeds, are in. Content marketing is visual marketing. This is a lesson B2C marketers know all too well. It’s time for the B2B crowd to catch up.

“Your voice should be crafted based on hard data.”

Trust remains a must

Now, all this said, keep in mind that building trust with prospects is still the single most important part of B2B content marketing. If B2C customers purchase a subpar product, they’ll feel frustrated and leave a nasty review. If B2B customers do the same, they could cost their companies a lot of money and ultimately lose their jobs. If your salary and benefits were on the line, you’d be wary, too.

While speaking to your target audience in a warm, human way can definitely help you engender trust, also remember that some industries may require a more staid approach to develop confidence.

If you’re positive that’s your audience, then create content with a more highbrow tone. But don’t think that technical or complicated has to mean boring and stuffy. Tax law may sound boring as hell to a lot of us, but not necessarily to tax law professionals. If you’re creating content that’s relevant and valuable, it won’t be boring to that audience.

The moral of the story? No, you shouldn’t trade in your business suit for a tie dye shirt just yet, but it’s probably time you start loosening your tie.

B2B audiences want to trust you. They desire demonstrated expertise and established proof of concept. They crave quality content that’s bursting with value and relevance.

They also want to talk to a fellow human being.

Eric Wendt is a writer and editor at Brafton. He discovered his love of words after realizing he was terrible at math. If he's not updating his Tumblr with poetry he's too embarrassed to share, there's a good chance he's out in search of the perfect pale ale.