6 Content Marketing Trends in the New Normal
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we work, communicate and do business. This still rapidly evolving business landscape and market fundamentals have compelled businesses and marketers to stop relying exclusively on conventional marketing channels and strategies to succeed. Instead, organisations are now turning to more experiential strategies such as content marketing.
Does it make sense to invest in content marketing in the new normal?
Absolutely! As we’ve seen in previous recessions and market downturns, companies tend to slash their marketing budgets and workforce size and defer new investments to reduce overhead. However, multiple studies have demonstrated that companies which maintain their marketing budget will enjoy a long-term boost in sales and market share.
Investments in content creation during the COVID-19 recession (or the Great Lockdown, as IMF calls it) is even more important since experts remain uncertain about the timeline for growth and recovery. Cuts in marketing spending could wreak havoc on your bottom line further down the road.
As it is now, the lockdown and other COVID-19-related safety measures have compelled consumers to spend their hard-earned money online. Certain sectors, such as fashion (23%) and luxury goods (21%), are reporting healthy growth in weekly sales. Digital goods companies are also posting phenomenal numbers. Adobe, for instance, recorded $82.5 billion in sales in May, which is a 77.8% year on year growth. In fact, Adobe’s sales in April and May were higher than the $140 billion posted during last year’s holiday season.
These figures are in line with e-commerce revenue projections for 2020. According to eMarketer, global retail e-commerce is still expected to record a respectable 16.5% growth this year – a remarkable achievement considering the turmoil the retail industry has experienced this year.
If you still need further convincing, consider this: content marketing costs 62% less than traditional outbound marketing and generates three times as many leads! Further, 57% of businesses reported that their company blog helped them to acquire new customers. There are just so many reasons why you should invest in content creation.
Did coronavirus change content marketing?
Yes, it did. The content marketing landscape has changed, and along with it, most of the old practices and approaches have become obsolete. Businesses now have an opportunity to develop stronger engagements with their customers. However, organisations must ensure their engagements appear nurturing instead of being salesy and pushy. Otherwise, they run the risk of alienating their customers as well as potential customers. There will be a fair amount of trial and error involved, since no one has a blueprint on the perfect post-pandemic content creation strategy.
To help you navigate and better adapt to the changes, we’ve compiled below six of the most important content marketing trends in the new normal today.
1. Post-pandemic Philosophy: Sensitivity, Empathy and Compassion
The coronavirus pandemic is a once in a generation event, and its full impact will be felt for decades to come. For many customers, COVID-19 represents more than just statistics and face masks. Their loved ones could have been directly affected by the disease, and dwindling revenues could have led to retrenchments and souring of relationships.
Some may have even been emotionally overwhelmed or scarred by events such as lockdowns and quarantines, triggering a wide range of psychological and physiological conditions, as well as other mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety and shock. These effects might even manifest inside your own workplace.
Under such circumstances, the onus is on business owners, leaders and decision-makers to set the tone. They must place a higher focus on empathy and compassion. Not as a sales, marketing or public relations tool, but because it is the right thing to do.
A visible, compassionate and empathetic management philosophy will help to mitigate the psychological and emotional impact of the pandemic and help in the healing process. It would also help to reduce stress, improve employee retention and improve morale (but this isn’t why you’re doing this).
Place humans first. Gear your organisation to serve your customers and stakeholders ethically and kindly. Offer commiserations and assistance whenever possible. Be helpful, be honest and avoid any attempt at opportunism. Over time, this philosophy will trickle down across your entire workforce.
Your customers and stakeholders will be thankful and appreciative of your compassionate leadership, even if they don’t say it out loud.
In the end, you will end up with a caring and genuine organisation that is respected and trusted in your industry.
2. From What to How and Why
Remember the old copywriting adage – sell the features, not the benefits. A great example of this is when Apple introduced the iPod to the world. Instead of focusing on the storage and memory size or its tiny size, Apple’s tagline was ‘1000 songs in your pocket.’ The tagline eliminated all the jargons from the selling process. Customers buy iPods because they can carry around a thousand songs everywhere they go.
Many organisations and even marketers sometimes take this rule for granted. Well, they shouldn’t. New research shows that consumers have moved away from buying brands to buying utility. In fact, one study revealed that consumers couldn’t care less if 74% of brands in the market today suddenly disappear tomorrow.
Organisations must embrace this trend by figuring out their core deliverables and market themselves as such. How should they go about this? Motivational speaker Simon Sinek spoke about this ten years ago, and his three-step advice remains as relevant as ever.
The first step is, ‘What’? What is it that you and your company make?
The second step is, How’? How is your product or service made?
The final step is, ‘Why’? Why are you and your company making this? Is this a purely profit-driven enterprise? Are you taking advantage of market inefficiency? Do you have a purpose, ideology, cause or belief?
When an organisation has a sense of purpose, it has a role to play in society. It becomes a socially-responsible entity, whose values and contributions are aligned towards the greater good. So instead of tasking your marketing department to promote peanut butter that is fractionally cheaper than your competitor, you reverse engineer the process using content marketing. Tell your customers that you are using organic peanuts planted and harvested by fairly-compensated workers to ensure they can live comfortably (why), and processed inside sustainable, green energy factories (how). So customers can enjoy healthy peanut butter that have negligible impact on the environment and without taking advantage of poor communities in third world countries.
You have now transcended benefit-driven marketing to a purpose-driven one; your peanut butter is now nobler than Apple’s iPod.
For consumers who are still reeling from the pandemic, products from a trusted and socially-responsible company will stand out from the crowd.
And guess what? A majority of customers do not mind brands advertising their products during the pandemic. In fact, McDonald’s Brazil creative campaign of distancing their arches was generally well-received, because the focus (why) of the campaign was on customer safety (social distancing).
3. Focus on Building Long-term Relationships
Content marketing is all about building long-term relationships. While it can trigger call-to-actions, we generally use traditional marketing strategies such as direct mails and PPC ads for short-term conversion goals.
Oh, don’t sound so surprised! We did mention early on that the business landscape and market fundamentals have changed. To paraphrase Albert Einstein, repeating the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result is insanity. So cast aside your traditional strategies and dive in headfirst into the new normal.
Your primary content marketing aim is to build brand awareness. You do this by creating content geared for your target demographic. Needless to say, your content must be unique, engaging and educational. Remember, the content is not limited to just articles – you can deliver your message using videos, podcasts and infographics, among others.
Once an engagement has been made, fine-tune your process to improve the engagement rate. Whenever possible, reach out or respond to them directly.
Do not use traditional cost-benefit analysis to track your progress. Remember, this is a long-term process, so your ROI may take time to improve. However – and this is the best part – content marketing can generate perpetual and continuous leads/revenue on autopilot! This is the reason why content marketing has such phenomenally low acquisition costs relative to PPC campaigns or search engine marketing. Trust is hard to earn, but the payoff is exceptionally lucrative.
A great way to speed up trust-building is by getting the customer involved in content creation. Get them to join in brainstorming sessions and solicit their feedback on content. You can even ask them to write content, if they have the aptitude for it.
Treat them as equals, and share your SEO or backlink strategy, it’s beneficial for both sides. Before you know it, not only will you have developed trust and loyalty, but you might even be making new friends.
4. Educational Content is King
One of the by-products of the pandemic is the entry of new actors into the online marketing scene, such as venture capitalists, institutional investors and previously silent investors. Digital meetings will also allow a larger number of participants. Previously brick-and-mortar staff and stakeholders will be compelled to embrace the new normal.
These will necessitate a lot of new training, briefings and reading as everyone frenetically try to master how to use video conferring software and devices, presentation software and other collaborative tools.
Companies which take the effort to prepare educational materials for them will be able to attract new visitors (prospects) from a hitherto unreachable demographic. With the right approach, the educational content will be able to generate and nurture leads. Make sure your content is available freely – opt-ins and especially paywalls will defeat the whole purpose of the exercise.
Ensure that you produce in-depth and comprehensive articles that will address all potential queries. For SEO reasons, try to create articles in excess of 3,000 words – they generate three times as much traffic, four times more social shares and three and a half times more backlinks compared to shorter articles.
Obviously, you need to ensure that the content you produce is of high quality and contain relevant keywords to ensure they appeal to both humans and search engine bots.
The time and resources placed into this project will generate far greater yield compared to traditional ads, so focus on delivering the best content you possibly can.
5. Virtual Events Are Now a Key Element of Content Marketing Strategy
Perhaps the greatest impact of the pandemic is the immediate end of face-to-face meetings and events. However, their absence has not been really felt as companies transitioned to virtual events using conferencing technologies such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Zoho.
The setup is easy, and the number of participants can go up to several hundred. Many companies actually love virtual events, since they are massive cost-savers. This is particularly attractive to small and medium-sized enterprises as they can increase the number of events they can host.
Some of the largest companies around, such as IBM and Adobe, have already held big-tech virtual conferences. A few alcohol brands like Budweiser and Remy Martin have taken the concept further and organised virtual clubbing experiences for their customers.
In the absence of personal touch and charismatic public speakers though, the main thrust of virtual events lies in the content. This is where companies with a cohesive and well-planned content marketing strategy will have a clear advantage.
6. Customer Centricity and Hyper-Personalisation
Back in the old days, great salesmen knew practically everything about their clients, from birthdays to favourite meals and even the name of their family members. Every sale made by these master salesmen was tweaked to appeal to individual clients. This helps them to maintain customer loyalty. At times, the departure of such salesmen to rivals could spell the end of companies.
The advent of mass advertising, particular via TV, radio and newspapers, gradually shifted the balance of power back to companies. However, it came at a cost – marketing efforts can no longer be tailored to individual customers.
The advent of content marketing changed all that. Customer centricity and hyper-personalisation are making a massive! Businesses and marketers now have the technology and tools to once against create customer-centric marketing models which can hyper-personalise every single one of their customers.
By using retargeting ads, registration data gleamed from opt-ins, historical buying data, demographic buying data, and much more, companies can now personalise content marketing for their customers and ensure higher conversion rates and improved customer experience.
You now have all the basics needed to make a leap into the world of content creation. In case you need a helping hand along the way, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We’re always ready to lend a hand. Good luck!