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, Noname Security, Rubrik and many more to help make theirs more visually appealing.

So, we sat down with Nick for a chat about it all:

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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?

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.

Our Work

Matt Price
Senior Director, Creative

Matt Price is a creative leader with a career that has traversed award-winning agencies, high-performance brands, and innovative start-ups.

Fueled by a deep passion for cultivating dynamic creative teams and crafting distinctive brand experiences, Matt has earned a reputation for shaping and evolving brands across diverse industries. He currently leads creativity at TravelPerk.

Melissa Rosenthal
Chief Creative Officer

Melissa is an award-winning marketing executive and the Chief Creative Officer at ClickUp, focused on making the world more productive through best-in-class SaaS marketing.

Previously Melissa was the CRO/Executive Vice President at Cheddar, a live video media company at the intersection of business news and culture. For her brand work, she was named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30, Business Insider’s 30 Most Creative People Under 30 and as one of Digiday’s “Changemakers.”

Prior to Cheddar, she led BuzzFeed’s Global Creative Team. Joining the staff in 2010, Rosenthal was a key contributor to the creation and early success of BuzzFeed’s branded content native advertising model.

Melissa Rosenthal
Chief Creative Officer

Melissa is an award-winning marketing executive and the Chief Creative Officer at ClickUp, focused on making the world more productive through best-in-class SaaS marketing.

Previously Melissa was the CRO/Executive Vice President at Cheddar, a live video media company at the intersection of business news and culture. For her brand work, she was named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30, Business Insider’s 30 Most Creative People Under 30 and as one of Digiday’s “Changemakers.”

Prior to Cheddar, she led BuzzFeed’s Global Creative Team. Joining the staff in 2010, Rosenthal was a key contributor to the creation and early success of BuzzFeed’s branded content native advertising model.

Ari Yablok
Head of Brand 

Ari Yablok is the Head of Brand at Island, the Enterprise Browser. Before joining Island as its first marketing hire, Ari was the Head of Brand Messaging at Atreo, a B2B tech branding and marketing agency, where he crafted the strategic narratives, end-to-end messaging, corporate and investor decks, and brand identities for 50+ leading tech companies including Taboola, Similarweb, Gloat, JFrog, and Panaya. Originally from New Jersey, Ari lives in a suburb of Tel Aviv, Israel with his wife and six children.

Ling Koay
Chief Brand Officer

Ling is a fearless B2B marketer and a purposeful leader with almost two decades of experience driven by growing businesses through creativity, art, and science. Recently, she was named “CMO to Watch in 2022” by CMO Alliance. She has also led the Oneflow brand to be one of the “B2B Brands to Watch in 2022” alongside brands like Slack, Gong, and Tiktok Business.

Ling’s mission is to inspire humans to find and embrace their superpowers so that we can transform mediocrity into magic in our lives. Marketing to her is using ideas to change minds. Move the needle. Make sales easier. Being a mom of two kids under 6, marketing is essential to win day-to-day negotiations. Recently she gave up her CMO title to focus on the brand. Call her crazy, but marketing is the puzzle she needs to solve every day to make her life complete.

Buck Choate
VP Brand

Buck Choate is a distinguished brand and marketing leader that thrives at the intersection of strategy, stories, and ideas. As VP of Brand at Lacework, he spearheads brand management, activations, social and editorial content, and brand design. Buck has spent his 15+ year career working with iconic global brands like Microsoft, Intel, Fender, Walmart, Ubisoft, PepsiCo, and 7-Eleven.

Damien Correll
Creative Director

Based in NYC, Damien Correll is the Creative Director at Figma where he leads their Brand Studio. Over the past 20 years, he’s worked on both the brand and product sides (and some of the places in-between), Whether it’s running his own practice or working in-house at one of the largest companies in the world, he’s in the pursuit of great design by making the expected surprising, the strange familiar, and the accessible abundant.

Ben Long
Creative Director

Make fun stuff for people to enjoy. That’s why we all got into this in the first place. And if you can do that while delivering strategic and purposeful creative that meets brand goals? Now you’re on to something.

That’s what Ben Long has been aiming at for the last six years at Rubrik, leading the global brand team as Creative Director. Ben loves nothing more than when a team comes together to pull off something that’s a little risky and a lot unexpected.

Ben lives in the Bay Area with his wife, two kids, and a giant dog that’s way too big for his house

Steve Stone
Head of Zero Labs

Steve has over fifteen year’s experience in threat intelligence and event response with positions in the US military, intelligence community, and private sector. Steve held a number of roles to include threat intelligence, service delivery, and various leadership positions at Mandiant, FireEye, and IBM in the private sector. He is a frequent contributor and presenter in a variety of industry forums/conferences.

Wei Kee
Client Services Director
Shaped By

As Client Services Director at Shaped By, Wei Kee leads the team to deliver on the promises they make, working closely with clients to kick personal, team, and business goals.

A true advocate of good design and innovative creative solutions, she works hard to ensure a strong, unified dynamic between internal/external creative, and wider teams.

Wei subscribes to an empathetic and human-centric approach to developing deep relationships with clients near and far, always ensuring that the process to achieving business success is collaborative and enjoyable.

Outside of work, she loves to cook, eat and feed.

Tom Ovens
Creative Director
Shaped By

An ambassador of embracing the art of simplicity, Tom enjoys ripping things apart to delve deeper and explore meaningful ways to create authentic and impactful visual communications.

He loves leading the talented Shaped By design team to push boundaries, build recognition and make a difference for our clients. He is passionate about collaborating with his team, partners and clients to land on creative solutions that help fulfil personal, team and business objectives.

You’ll often hear Tom swooning over a new typeface he’s discovered, or discussing ‘Tittles’ (Google with care). In his free time he loves to disappear on his bike.

Jessica Bognar
Creative Director – Brand

Jessica is an award-winning creative leader at Salesforce with a track record of transforming teams and brands through strategic storytelling, humanity, and humor. For the past eight years she’s been an integral part of building the Salesforce brand. Her current role is leading Brand & Partnerships creative.

Aaron Poe
Head of Creative

Aaron Poe is a strategic Creative Director with over 17 years of experience branding and launching natively digital companies. His passion is building brands that are simple and timeless, striking the right balance of emotional connection and functional design. Currently, in his role as Creative Director at Zapier, he leads a multidisciplinary team of brand and digital designers within the global brand studio.

Jessica Rosenberg
Director of Brand Design

Jessica has 17+ years of experience helping brands tell their stories in differentiated and breakthrough ways.

Jess’s skills as a designer, creative, and leader have been shaped by working across notable companies in advertising and tech: Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Twitter, Cloudflare, Mural, and Webflow. She’s just as passionate about coming up with the big idea as she is executing it. Jess recently joined the Design org at ONE finance leading the brand design function.

Jess lives in Austin, TX with her husband and four kids.

Rachel Gogel
Independent Design Executive

Rachel is a Parisian creative director, graphic designer, educator, and speaker based in San Francisco. She runs her own consultancy where her approach is informed by experiences both in-house and agency side. As a fractional design executive and queer leader, Rachel believes in fostering inclusive spaces that unlock human potential. She is committed to designing teams that build brands — with a focus on culture and technology. Over the last fifteen years, Rachel has led major initiatives at GQ, The New York Times, Meta, Godfrey Dadich, Departures, Airbnb, and Dropbox.

Currently, you can find her shaping employee experiences, coaching design leaders, building TV show pitch decks for public figures and media executives, and developing brand identity systems for academic institutions and startups.

Kaite Rosa
Senior Director of Brand 

Kaite Rosa is Senior Director of Brand at Axonius, where she leads the award-winning team responsible for creating a $2.6 billion brand in less than five years. Cited as one of the fastest-growing cybersecurity brands in history, Axonius has been named one of the most valuable private cloud companies in the world by the Forbes Cloud 100, along with numerous industry accolades.

A life-long writer, Kaite is passionate about using storytelling and creative concepts to define and build exceptional brand experiences. Her work on the campaign “Controlling Complexity”, starring the most decorated gymnast of all time, Simone Biles, has earned her two Telly awards.

Nick Farrar
Shaped By

Nick is the founder of Shaped By and has spent the last 20+ years in working with B2B brands. He has an in-depth understanding of what makes brands work, live and breathe and knows exactly how to maximise ROI for clients.

He is a passionate advocate for the use of creativity in strategic business thinking, and is well-versed in helping others tell their own story through design in a way that engages their audience.

Nando Costa

Nando Costa is a Brazilian-American artist-turned-designer with a wealth of experience spanning branding, motion graphics, and user experience design. As a design leader at Microsoft, he explores the confluence of traditional 2D UX, immersive three-dimensional environments, and the realm of generative AI technology.

Prelini Udayan-Chiechi
SVP Global Marketing

Prelini leads demand, growth, performance, operations, partner and regional marketing at Zendesk. Her responsibilities include driving all demand and growth for the company’s business in more than 160 countries globally across the entire demand funnel.

As well as being an accomplished public speaker, she is also a passionate advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion. Her role as executive sponsor of Zendesk’s Mosaic employee community helps people of colour and allies at the company to embrace and celebrate their differences.