Marketing has its contradictions. As a profession and career choice, it remains very popular. As a discipline, it has long had its opposition.

Now, we’re at a point where we are becoming more respectful than ever towards those we’re trying to influence. With the likes of paid subscriptions to remove marketing/advertising and then our impending challenge around the General Data Protection Regulation – we’ve all heard about GDPR – coming into force next May, we must see these behaviours and enforcements as an opportunity, a chance to make things better for both the people we reach and the brands we represent.

In B2B marketing, the steady growth of practices such as account-based marketing (ABM) and content marketing plays into this more precise, trustworthy future for marketers.

But whether you’re trying to target individuals in a large account with scalpel-like precision, or build up trust with prospects over the long term by being genuinely helpful and informative, you need to be able to stand out from the thousands of others trying to do the same thing.

In short, how does anyone create engaging content for specific audiences?

At Affari, we have recognised this and are partnering with a fantastic content agency, Collective Content. I recently posed some of the burning questions around content marketing to Collective Content managing director Tony Hallett.

So, Tony, how do you create engaging content for an audience that doesn’t want to be spoken to?

It’s interesting that we think about people out there who don’t want to be spoken to. I’m sure we’ve all been one of those people, at times. To that, I’d say two things. The first is that there are times when we absolutely want to be spoken to—companies have traditionally just been bad at engaging at those precise moments. Digital marketing makes that possible, certainly more likely.

The other thing is that this is about the right kind of engagement. In the B2C world, this can mean reviews or other product information—or at the very least being entertaining. In B2B, this is usually about being useful in some way, from a first contact that educates, all the way through to price lists and buying guides.

If you get timing and content wrong, it’s no wonder people don’t want to hear from you.

How do you see creativity and content coming together?

Content used to be neatly categorised. It was the written word, audio and visual, including video. It was produced by the media or specific agencies. Today, everything is mixed up. Not only do various media come together—complete with formats such as podcasts or interactive video that didn’t really exist a few years ago—but the people producing content, and producing it to a high standard, have never been more diverse.

As professional content creators and marketers, we should keep on learning. That can equally mean seeing inspiration and competition from teenage YouTubers as much as from Fortune 100 companies with their own newsrooms.

How can content open up new channels in the future?

In the B2B world, this is a long-term play. Content allows any brand to be a trusted advisor, always there to help. You rarely have to talk about what you do. Would-be customers will ask about that when the time is right. But the best at this will have a seat at the decision-making table that either before wasn’t practical or came at a high cost, typically around expensive pitching for big campaigns.

Do you see any big developments in the landscape of content marketing?

We’ve been talking about content marketing for a few years now. The hype stage seems to be over. To me, it feels like those who are in it for the long term will look to steady improvements rather than fads or betting everything on one approach, be that ‘data’ or hiring a creative guru. We have to be open to developments but—this sounds boring—a balanced combination of approaches wins the race.

How crucial is it to have an automation platform to make the most of your content marketing?

At a certain size of organisation and level of maturity, you just can’t do everything manually. It’s no wonder that marketing automation has become a huge category—ask any analyst. But also watch out for those who promise the world. Again, this is one part of the puzzle and the long-term winners will be organisations that evolve their marketing strategies, partner well and keep on pushing the boundaries over time, never afraid to keep on experimenting and learning.