Unparalleled. Strange. Scary.
These are some of the words that content marketing managers and B2B founders alike are probably using to describe the times we’re currently living in.
In his new ebook, Corona Marketing: What Marketing Professionals Need to Do Now to Survive the Crisis, Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute and four-time Amazon best-seller says marketing professionals are now divided into two camps:
“The first camp plans to survive until we return to the life we used to know. The second camp thinks of the pandemic as a gift. A chance to create or do something amazing. They also think this may be the new normal for a while.”
While there are obviously no prewritten rules for content marketing during and after COVID-19, it’s clear that B2B content marketers need to adjust and develop a content marketing strategy that is both mindful of the times and ready for the future.
In this piece, we had experts and business leaders such as Ann Handley, Ahava Liebtag, Doug Kessler, Joe Pulizzi and more share their thoughts on how B2B content marketers that are looking to thrive can “prepare for the new normal”.
Here’s what they had to say.
Top Content Marketing Tips for 2021
- Empathize on an emotional level – Ahava Liebtag
- Watch your tone – Doug Kessler
- Understand your community – Samantha Stone
- Stay consistent – Joe Pulizzi
- Use storytelling – Ann Handley
- Keep your customer front and center – Michael Brenner
What Content Marketing Tips Will Help SaaS and B2B Marketers Thrive in the New Normal?
#1. Show you care about the emotional needs of your audience – Ahava Liebtag
“B2B content marketers have a fantastic opportunity to reach out to their prospects and create value by sharing content around how their industry is affected by the pandemic,” says Ahava Liebtag, President of Aha Media Group and author of The Digital Crown: Winning at Content on the Web.
“Think prepared slide decks with data. Think original research. Think how to help them do their jobs so they see you as the go-to resource,” she explains.
The types of content you choose are important, but it’s the ability to empathize with your audience that matters most.
“Acknowledging how hard it is to do your work right now, and the challenges that exist are important. For example, WebEx by Cisco offers tips on how to move toward remote work using their social media and web channels. By showing you care about the emotional needs of your audience, you create that brand affinity and trust.”
#2. We’ve all just been reminded of what’s really important in life – Doug Kessler
In his viral 2013 SlideShare piece, Crap: Why the Biggest Threat to Content Marketing is Content Marketing, Doug Kessler, co-founder and Creative Director of Velocity Partners, posits that content marketing has taken off. He then asserts that the companies who will win in the new era of rampant content marketing are those building great content brands.
Doug believes nothing has changed about that assertion, despite the pandemic.
“Everything that was true about content marketing before the pandemic is just more true today. A fresh, thoughtful perspective on a timely, relevant issue. Delivered with some energy and attitude. That can’t be bad in any normal,” Doug explains.
He continues, “One change: if your content tends toward hype or exaggeration, it might be a good time to tone that down. We’ve all just been reminded of what’s really important in life. Your latest software release? Put it in perspective.”
#3. Understand your community – Samantha Stone
After driving go-to-market initiatives at high-growth companies such as SAP and Powersoft, Samantha Stone, author of Unleash Possible: A Marketing Playbook that Drives Sales and founder and Chief Marketing Officer of The Marketing Advisory Network, knows all about leading through ambiguity.
“The good news is that the foundation of any good content marketing program remains the same even during pandemic recovery—an in-depth understanding of your community/audience,” says Samantha.
“The challenge lies in understanding exactly how the needs of your audience have evolved. Unless your offering relates to a pandemic specific need, such as endpoint security or personal protective gear, it’s likely you are seeing some buyer behavior changes.”
She continues, “specifically, purchase cycles are elongating, and additional checkpoints (and sometimes people) are involved in approving budget allocation. And if that wasn’t enough, it isn’t the only change driver.”
Samantha also thinks that the renewed calls for diversity and inclusion should be viewed as change drivers for B2B brand marketers.
She explains, “a global cry for social justice should make each of us more sensitive to the language and imagery we are using.”
#4. Focus matters – Joe Pulizzi
One theme that echoes throughout Joe Pulizzi’s new ebook, Corona Marketing: What Marketing Professionals Need to Do Now to Survive the Crisis is the need for focus and consistency.
The four-time Amazon bestselling author reiterated that when responding to our question.
“Consistency matters,” says Joe. “You have to show up when you say you are going to show up.”
He continues, “focus matters. You can’t spread your content all over the place expecting to do great things. Pick one and be exceptional.”
“Lastly, your audience also matters. Be the one that solves the informational needs of your customers…and stop feeling like you have to be selling all the time.”
#5. Storytelling is still the best strategy – Ann Handley
Everyone has a story to tell, no matter the industry. And Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs and Wall Street Journal best-selling author, asserts that storytelling is even more important now than it has ever been.
“The best strategy in marketing, always but especially now, is a story,” Ann explains.
“Why do I think that? It’s because stories put your products and your services into context, a context that shows what your customers care about.”
She continues, “stories make your big ideas a whole lot smaller and human-sized. They feel accessible to the people you want to connect with.”
Here are Ann’s best tips for crafting stories that build trust in the COVID era:
- Create a sense of trust and affinity at scale with your readers.
- Focus on deepening existing relationships.
- Focus on short-term actions to reflect the new realities your prospects and customers are facing.
- Think long-term instead of focusing on serving your own business.
- Add an element of the unexpected to keep your clients engaged and connected.
- Aim for meaningful, manageable relevancy while creating content.
- Put a human hero (your customers, your team or your community) at the center of your stories.
That last one is especially critical. No matter how your goals have shifted or how hectic your content planner starts to look, always take a moment to sit back and ensure there’s a human hero at the center of your strategy.
#6. Create customer-focused content – Michael Brenner
For Michael Brenner, Chief Executive Officer of Marketing Insider Group and best-selling author of The Content Formula, the “new normal” means blogs can upstage events and paid media.
“The biggest opportunity for B2B content marketing in the new normal is something too many brands have forgotten about: their blogs,” he explains.
“It doesn’t cost anything to publish thought leadership blogs on your own website.”
He continues, “the cost to create the content is minimal, but the opportunity and the ROI can be huge. I see more brands shifting their marketing budgets from ads and events to creating consistent, customer-focused blog content on their website.”
Here’s to the Future
The world isn’t going back to what we used to know as normal.
And while COVID-19 will be gone at some point, these tips are relevant no matter the time or season.
As our pal Doug puts it:
“Meaningful and relevant content will win in the new normal, creating great B2B content brands in the process.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
About Pointed 👇🏾
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Dozie Anyaegbunam is a copywriter and content strategist specializing in B2B and ecommerce marketing. As a Cannes Lions certified storyteller, Dozie has crafted compelling content for brands like Ciroc, Johnnie Walker and more. He’s also Dodo’s dad, a proud flâneur and a Felix Baumgartner wannabe. Don’t miss his newsletter, Much Ado About Content Marketing.