As the world starts to come to terms with the profound impact of COVID-19, businesses are now either resetting or focusing on business continuity. That’s why our expert content marketers Grace MacDonald and Jane Fleming have created Content Marketing in Times of Uncertainty, a new guide designed to help you plan a long-term route to growth that can navigate the trepidation felt by every side of the B2B market.
Why does content marketing matter right now?
The main issue faced by most marketing teams is that their customers’ behaviour has changed – and in some respects it could be permanent.
But if you were to draw a Venn diagram of the current problems faced by B2B businesses and the brand tactics to help you achieve long-term growth, content marketing would sit slap-bang in the middle.
Content marketing’s core appeal is that it is designed to solve your customers’ challenges while nudging them all the way down your marketing funnel towards a purchase decision. Because there are fewer purchase decisions happening at the moment, it makes sense to focus on helping your audience in their own recovery.
By targeting this kind of content at every stage of your audience’s journey, you can build better awareness and interest towards your brand, grow your share of voice and ultimately convert more customers as the economy recovers.
Quality over quantity
A common misconception is that successful content marketing requires an endless stream of fresh words, images and video being pumped out on a weekly basis. This is near impossible for all but the largest budgets and, when done badly, can water down both the quality of your content and how you’re perceived as a brand.
So firstly you need a direction – an objective. What is it you want your content to achieve for your audience and how will it move them towards becoming a customer? Then you need to create a single big piece of content – your Big Rock. This contains all of your expertise on your chosen subject, which both proves your credentials and works as a foundation that you can mine for nuggets of gold over many months.
By slicing your Big Rock in different ways, you can use it to create blog posts, infographics, videos, social media posts and adverts, all designed to add value to your audience and continue the conversation.
Hitting the right notes
According to Orlando Wood, Chief Innovation Officer at System1 Group, times of uncertainty often result in audiences responding better to messages that feature empathy, community and self-awareness. On the other hand, anything perceived to include hard-sell, aggressive or vanity tactics tends to fall flat.
If you already have content prepared or in circulation, conduct an audit to make sure it chimes with the current mood and adjust it if necessary. It might be worth adding an editorial note to older content acknowledging the new circumstances.
Make sure you’ve got a strong process in place to approve existing and new content to avoid putting anything in the public domain that risks a negative reaction. This doesn’t just relate to your marketing efforts – you also need to align your sales teams and back up empathetic messaging with humanity and generosity in your company’s behaviour.
Why this matters for your brand
B2B marketing specialist Peter Field has pointed out that short-term sales activation messages typically don’t perform well during times of recession and that long-term brand advertising is a much smarter investment.
He also says that B2B brand associations created during a period of downturn are likely to bring the greatest sales benefit during the recovery period.
When used as part of a long-term brand building campaign, a helpful, empathetic content marketing strategy can not only drive longer term growth and profit, it can also increase your margins and reduce price sensitivity, with its effects accumulating over time.
Bian Salins is our EMEA lead for content marketing consulting. She says: “Content marketing first rose in popularity with the need to be discoverable in search, engaging on social, and trusted enough to create affinity and loyalty. These are tactics every business should apply given that in the face of an oncoming recession, trust will be a hugely important factor in business recovery and growth.”
Times might be unprecedented, uncertain and extraordinary, but your content strategy doesn’t have to be. It’s just about getting the fundamentals right, planning for the long-term and focusing on your customers’ needs.
And that’s what you would have been doing anyway, right?