Content marketing has already transformed so much over the last few years. What started as one-off articles has evolved into an entire marketing department. Sales, marketing, and customer success have never aligned as much as they do now, and a lot of that has to do with content marketing and distribution. As we look ahead to the second half of 2020, we’ve put together five predictions on how content marketing will continue to evolve.
1. Socially-Conscious Content
For all of us, 2020 has been a year wrought with unexpected challenges, unparalleled crises, and overwhelming uncertainty. It’s also been a year of adaptation — for individuals and companies alike. Under heightened economic and social pressure, many American companies have adopted socially-conscious business initiatives, marketing messages, and internal policies regarding public health and racial justice. Let’s just say, these were all long overdue.
Regardless of how tasteful or authentic this type of outreach feels to you, it reflects an underlying shift in our expectations for corporations. Prior to 2020, companies that practiced corporate social responsibility (CSR) and “conscious capitalism” were outperforming their competition in sales, brand loyalty, and employee satisfaction. In fact, a corporate social responsibility (CSR) survey published in 2015 found that 91 percent of millennials would switch to brands associated with a cause. The same study revealed that the majority of millennials were willing to make sacrifices to support CSR-driven companies, including paying more for a product, sharing with friends, or taking a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company. When you consider the fact that millennials make up a quarter of the U.S. population and account for nearly $1.4 trillion in U.S. consumer spending, those statistics gain even more significance.
If these benefits weren’t alluring enough before 2020, renewed public pressure has made ignoring them a liability. A report published in June of this year revealed that 85 percent of Americans expect companies to help address racial inequality. And simply talking the talk won’t cut it — brands like Nike faced public backlash for publishing anti-racist messaging on social media but failing to follow up their “For Once, Don’t Do It” messaging with concrete anti-racism policies. Get creative with your socially-conscious content. Consider making collateral for specific groups of people, like Enneagram 3, who are most likely to be entrepreneurs and thus your target audience.
In the second half of 2020, we’ll continue to see companies create content that addresses social issues and engage in socially-conscious conversations on social media.
2. User-Generated Content
If we’ve learned anything from the past, it’s that B2C customer expectations drive B2B sales trends. In the B2C realm, user-generated content has proven to be a powerful tool for earning brand credibility and generating sales. In fact, 70 percent of consumers trust peer reviews over sales calls or brand-generated content. In the B2B sales world, pursuing user-generated content strategies often means thinking outside the box. Along with encouraging customers to share photos and videos to social media, more B2B companies are publishing customer surveys and testimonials as a means of driving engagement, providing value, and building trust.
Remember that user-generated content isn’t limited to customers. As companies face more pressure to practice corporate social responsibility, employee-generated content (such as photos from company culture events) will become a more popular means of building brand identity and enforcing brand values.
Many companies have leveraged user-generated content in the form of support forums and FAQs. In addition to providing helpful information and engagement opportunities to customers, encouraging user-generated support content can take some of the heavy lifting off of your customer support team.
3. B2B Podcasting
When it comes to creating meaningful content, don’t underestimate the power of the podcast. While an average user spends under a few minutes on a webpage, podcast fans consume over 3 hours of content a day on average. In addition to being entertaining and informative, podcasts are an incredibly versatile medium because they can be consumed with ease from anywhere. Whether you’re on a busy train, at your desk at work, taking a trip out of town, or working from home for the millionth day in a row, a podcast is the perfect companion.
Although branded content still makes up a small percentage of the podcasting community, that’s already begun to change. Companies like Salesforce, ZipRecruiter, Basecamp, Slack, and Linkedin have created recurring podcasts as a way to engage different customer segments, attract and engage leads, boost brand authority, and build stronger relationships with their user base.
It’s also worth noting that podcasts have continued to thrive in a remote work world. Compared to other content mediums, podcasts are relatively low-cost and low-production — thereby allowing producers to be more agile in their response to evolving public needs and interests. In the last few months, there’s been a steady stream of “podcasts for the pandemic era.” As podcasts continue to attract new listeners from every generation, it’s no longer a trend or medium that B2B markers can ignore.
4. Video, Video, Video
Did we say video? Our attention spans may be getting shorter, but some content is still capturing our time and imaginations. As of 2020, video has surpassed blogs and infographics as the most commonly used form of content marketing. And for good reason — people spend more time on pages with videos and retain more information from watching videos compared to text.
Based on current trends, Cisco predicts that online video will make up 82% of all internet traffic by 2022. In the second half of 2020, we expect to see more brands invest in video marketing and leverage live streaming video on social channels to engage with customers.
5. Dynamic Content and Content Customization
In a world where the majority of a buyer’s journey is completed online, content is king. Online content is the primary medium through which buyers research their problems, search for solutions, discover brands, compare products, and ultimately make purchasing decisions. Each piece of content you create — be it web pages, blog articles, social posts, e-books, videos, etc. — is a stepping stone along that journey. If one stone is missing or ineffectual, you lose influence over how that journey will progress and risk losing prospects altogether.
When you consider the stakes, it’s easy to understand why 70 percent of marketers are actively investing in content marketing. But creating a seamless buyer’s journey isn’t as simple as it sounds — especially if you have multiple products, services, or customer segments. In addition to creating quality content for each customer segment, you need to ensure that prospects are given the right piece of content at exactly the right moment in time.
That’s where dynamic content comes in. Dynamic content, or adaptive content, is content that changes based on a specific user’s data, such as their engagement behavior, preferences, or interests. For instance, when you visit a webpage to look up your local forecast, the website may use your computer’s current GPS location or a previous search to serve up the weather forecast for your area. In such a way, dynamic content anticipates a user’s needs and creates a more seamless experience. Dynamic content can also boost page conversions by ensuring that visitors see content that is relevant to their experience and juncture in the buyer’s journey.
In the same vein, content customization is becoming the rule rather than the exception. More and more customers expect brand communication to be tailored to their needs and experiences. For instance, if you add items to your shopping cart on a website and don’t make a purchase, it’s not uncommon to receive a follow-up email reminding you of what items you’ve left in your cart and when a promotion will expire. This type of content customization has raised our expectations for brand engagement across the board and made non-customized content feel even more impersonal by comparison. As dynamic content and data capturing tools continue to evolve and drive consumer standards, you can expect this trend to continue well beyond 2020.
Need Some Help Getting Started?
Building an effective B2B content and sales strategy can be difficult if you’re unsure where to start or don’t have the time to dedicate to content creation. The good news is, we’ve got a team of experts who are ready to help you reach your marketing goals without making unnecessary tradeoffs. Contact us to get the conversation started.