The year 2020 will go down in the history books as the biggest global event ever, where the entire world shared a similar experience. While the main headlines will be all about coping with the pandemic, the story for B2B will also focus on the huge pendulum shift to the digital world.
It is safe to say that we can drop the word ‘digital’ from “digital marketing” and just call it marketing. Because we are now officially living in a digital world. So far in 2020, worldwide online transactions in some sectors increased by 135%!
B2B companies that were previously dabbling in digital marketing to drive leads are now going all in. As more businesses invest in online marketing, the competition will be fierce. In fact, B2B paid advertising has increased by 22.6% in 2020!
But advertising is expensive. And, the famous research study conducted by Nielsen found that 53% of people surveyed don’t trust search engines and 52% don’t trust ads on social media.
The big spending on advertising will not be sustainable for most B2B companies going into 2021. Cue content marketing!
B2B content marketing will deliver better ROI and resonate with people’s state of mind
The Content Marketing Institute asked companies what they will prioritize in 2021 and 70% said “content creation’. Content marketing is now the B2B priority because it enables businesses to:
- Tell their brand story, share their values and make that personal connection
- Generate organic traffic and drive qualified leads across different channels
- Manage tighter budgets with cost-effective content options and a desirable ROI
It is also important to note that people’s attitudes have changed about marketing. They want less selling and more connections. Unlike ads, content provides value to people’s lives.
Let’s take a closer look at how people’s behaviors and perspectives have evolved; why content marketing will be the central B2B strategy and some ways you can use content in 2021 to stay ahead of the pack.
How People’s Attitudes and Priorities Have Changed
More people are online for longer periods of time, but that is not the only shift that has taken place. According to a global study conducted by Bain & Co, people want to feel less anxious in every aspect of their lives. They are seeking out positive connections and stories that give them a sense of normalcy and hope.
With this in mind, the typical hard product sell or bombarding people with ads will no longer work. Instead, customers want to know more about your company’s values, how you treat your employees, and your community. A messaging strategy filled with empathy and generosity while providing the relevant information is what people are looking for.
B2B content marketing differs from advertising because its main purpose is to provide value—not overtly sell. Simply put, successful content marketing helps people by giving them what they need. Content can include anything that your company creates to make the world a better place, including blog posts, videos, podcasts, or even web apps.
By delivering content to your potential buyers at the right stages of the purchase funnel, you will attract the right visitors and generate leads. But people also want to interact with your business beyond simply making a purchase. Your goal is to make a personal connection with them and then maintain a relationship through your content.
3 Reasons You Need Content Marketing Now
1. Focuses on Your Current Customers
Acquiring leads has always been the main objective for B2B marketers. Marketing generates leads and the sales team closes the deal. But in 2021, you want to make doubly sure your current customers are happy and staying put. A lot has happened in 2020. Show your customers that they are your number one priority.
Retention marketing tactics, especially things like customer education content, can increase both customer loyalty and revenue from the people that already trust you. According to Harvard Business Review, a 5% increase in customer retention can translate to upwards of a 95% increase in profits.
Customer-centric content includes onboarding, product tips, and training, and appreciation programs — just to name a few. You can also use these content opportunities to ask for feedback about your products and the content itself.
Content marketing is a very effective retention strategy because it allows you to deliver value to your customers without having to pay for content distribution or promotion. You already earned the relationship! Now nurture it with high-quality marketing content.
2. Attracts New Customer With Your Brand Story
The first thing is first, content marketing is proven to drive leads and grow your business. Based on a survey conducted by Semrush in 2020, the best metrics for measuring content marketing are organic traffic (76%), potential customers (62%), and conversion rate (47%).
Your content marketing can continue to attract new customers by using it to share your brand values. As we mentioned, people’s attitudes and priorities have shifted. They want a personal connection.
People want to see transparency, authenticity, and even a point of view on certain issues. In the same way that friends are made by sharing experiences and beliefs, so too will your customers develop a relationship with you based on shared ideals.
Think about your current customers and what about your company resonates with them. Why do they love doing business with you? Share those same qualities with the world through your content.
You can accomplish this through your brand voice (personality), the initiatives you care about (shared values), and what your customers say about you (testimonials).
3. Saves Money With Cost-effective Content
Last but not least, content marketing will not break the bank. Any business can write a blog or use no-code design tools like Canva to create graphics. Over time you can create enough content to distribute across your website, social media, and other communities to get the word out.
Although content marketing is generally considered inexpensive, it can take time to show ROI. So be patient! The longer-term strategy is well worth it when you consider content marketing costs 62% less than advertising and yields 3x more leads than traditional marketing.
Here is one more interesting fact. The returns on your content work like the interest earned in a savings account. You get a compounding return on your content investment which can grow significantly over time.
Your Go-to Content Types for 2021
B2B content marketing starts with your company blog. It is the place where all of your content can live while driving organic traffic to your site. Your blog also lets you speak to your current customers giving them a reason to visit your site on a regular basis. Marketers that consistently add content to their blog see 13-times the ROI of businesses that don’t update their blog.
There are several types of marketing content that you can choose from to help you reach your goals. If you learn that your customers use certain content channels (such as Facebook or YouTube) more than others, then that is the best indicator of what you should be doing.
If you are not sure about the best types of content to focus on, we have included 6 that are especially equipped to address the challenges of 2021 and will help you reach the right customers.
1. Content Powered by Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
While not exactly a content type, SEO is content marketing’s secret sauce. Without it, your content will not be as effective. According to Search Engine Journal, 93% of online experiences start with a search engine (like Google).
Organic search is certainly not new, but the increase in digital activity in 2021 means that more people are searching for your businesses. Make sure your content is optimized for search to seize this opportunity and compete.
Search engines are the gatekeepers to people finding your content, so do your SEO research and create content that matches searcher intent.
2. B2B Buyers are Seeking Out Video Content
Everyone loves watching their favorite videos. But does video work for B2B content marketing? Research from Google has indicated that 70% of B2B buyers and researchers are watching videos throughout the buying journey.
This is an important data point. Are companies in your competitive set using video? For most B2B companies, video is a huge opportunity to get in early. Potential customers are watching videos to research products and companies.
Start simple with product demos, team introductions, tutorials, and client testimonials. Then post your videos everywhere, including your blogs, social media, and even your email newsletters.
3. Virtual Events and Webinars are Here to Stay
Pretty much every in-person conference in 2020 became a virtual event. While we all look forward to the day we can meet our colleagues again in-person, the reality is that virtual events are here to stay.
Marketers learned that they can host events for a fraction of the costs while customers realized they don’t have to spend money and time travelling to get what they needed. A survey found that 75% of B2B buyers participated in webinars and that number is sure to increase.
People are also getting creative and new meeting tools are helping make virtual events more interactive, fun, and dynamic.
4. Building Communities with Content
The rise of Slack has exposed more and more people to the value of communities. Communities are an amazing way to find like-minded people and share all the best content around a given topic.
Whether you join an existing community or build your own community, you can share your content and get feedback to improve. People love being a part of a community, especially now.
5. Content Fuels Social Media Interactions
Use your content to fuel social media interactions and discussions. In 2020, social media users are spending an average of 2 hours and 24 minutes per day. Yes, a lot of that time is spent on personal stuff, but according to an IDG study, 84% of C-level and VP-level buyers are influenced by social media when purchasing.
Social media content can include video, infographics, and short snippets that link to longer-form content. Your goal is to start conversations and listen more than you talk. When you listen, you learn what people are really thinking. This kind of firsthand insight is invaluable.
6. Email Marketing For Free Content Distribution
Finally, do not forget about the power of email marketing. It is your direct line to your most loyal fans. And, it is still the best way to promote your content and maintain a continuous dialog with your customers.
According to OptinMonster, 77% of B2B companies use an email marketing newsletter as part of their content marketing strategy and 79% of B2B marketers find email to be the most successful channel for content distribution.
Believe it or not, Millennials also prefer to communicate with businesses via email so start attracting them to your subscriber list. As they become the next generation of B2B decision-makers, your email marketing list will become a golden rolodex for future customers.
Content Marketing Works, Now It Is Your Turn
Judging from CMI’s yearly study, the percentage of marketers reporting success with using content marketing is increasing every year. They are using content marketing for creating brand awareness (87%), building credibility/trust (81%), educating audiences (79%), generating demand/leads (75%), building loyalty with existing clients/customers (68%) and nurturing subscribers/audience/leads (60%).
Content marketing does a little bit of everything. These benefits clearly make it the central part of your B2B strategy for 2021. To help you make the most of your content, we have put together a comprehensive how-to guide. Find out everything you ever wanted to know about B2B Content in our new guide.