Why should B2B marketing content be long

Why should B2B marketing content be long?
(And how do you write it?)

There are good reasons to avoid long content like ebooks, big reports, and white papers.

They can be resource-intensive. They can take a long time to develop, publish, and leverage. Your team might not have the bandwidth or skill set.

But you already know we’re not going to tell you to get rid of them, don’t you? 

Why long-form is smart for B2B

With care, long-form can do magical work for your brand: 

  • Its length allows you to say a lot and develop ideas richly. 
  • Its flexibility lets you play with formatting and structure, reaching people in interesting ways. 
  • Its depth allows you to draw readers into an immersive, memorable experience they’ll remember well past the current buying cycle.

Long-form is well suited to B2B marketing, in part because the decision-making time scales involved tend to be longer, and discovery is a natural part of the buying cycle. 

Practical factors for choosing long-form

A few factors tend to push a publication into long-form territory. Here are the most common ones our team sees: 

Consolidation: The piece needs to bring together a few concepts, product lines, or topics. You usually can’t just jam these things together in a glitzy document and call it a day: You need to show the reader why the parts belong together and weave them together in a way that makes sense. 

Depth: Many of our clients are thought leaders who routinely introduce new innovations or need to discuss technologies in depth. Addressing the physics of pulsed lidar for a multinational energy company takes a little more than a listicle. 

Up-leveling: Long-form writing often connects product-level information to a higher brand conversation. When your audience can see that your products are in service of something bigger, that earns you trust, affiliation, and interest.

How long-form gets built

Once you’ve imagined a long piece of content that might serve the situation, you need to build it. But don’t just start typing and see what happens. Plan.

Step 1: Be clear about why this thing needs to be long. 

This involves understanding all the moving parts that need to be woven together, considering alternate formats, and confirming with your team or the client that a long-form piece will do the work that needs to be done. 

Sometimes you’ll discover that your long publication doesn’t really need to be long. Other times you’ll discover that your short publication should really be longer and fuller.

Step 2: Do the background work and organize.

The best way to end up with fluffy, aimless long-form is to start writing too soon. Long pieces are often research-oriented and must bring together lots of different information, so you’ll spend time gathering background materials, interviewing SMEs, reviewing past content that has a similar format and has worked well, and outlining. 

Also, remember that long content pieces can be great for repurposing. We’ll often suggest to clients that certain chapters can be pulled out and reused as stand-alone pieces, for example. Even old long-form content can be given new life in the form of an infographic adaptation, etc. 

Step 3: Figure out what kind of story it is.

Although this might be invisible to the client, we’ll typically establish a story/narrative approach that will hold the publication together. Sometimes this is a three-act structure, like we covered in an earlier post. Once you have your structure, the writing takes off. 

Step 4: Revise and get buy-in.

At last, you can send the draft to the client, inviting their input. If you’ve set the project up well, the draft won’t arrive as a surprise. They’ll know (roughly) what format and result to expect and will find it easy to jump into the document and participate. 

So, yes: Go long! 

If you’ve been smart with your strategy and research, your longer content pieces can do a lot of work for you. They can provide real value to the people who actually make buying decisions, and they can be endlessly repurposable. 

Most of all, they can make you look like the adult in the room in a crowded marketplace.