The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on businesses everywhere. We’ve had to adapt, understand a new environment, and create new ways of collaborating, communicating, and strategizing across our organizations.
Content is an integral part of this strategy. When it comes to planning your content marketing investments, it helps to have consistency. COVID-19 and the 2020 U.S. election threw all consistency out the window, and marketers have had to adjust and plan for the future through a constantly changing landscape.
However, as we head into the new year, we explore some emerging trends that can help you drive awareness and growth.
Top 10 Content Marketing Strategies
Content marketing is a critical aspect of any marketing strategy and is only becoming more and more important now that field marketing has declined due to COVID-19. Billboards, outdoor ads, and in-person events have taken a major hit, and companies are investing heavily in content (visual and long form) and thought leadership to drive traffic to their website.
As consumer buying behavior changes, the marketplace in all industries becomes more crowded. Companies need to embrace the creation of rich content to stand them apart from their competitors. Setting up and scaling a consistent content marketing program should be a critical piece of your 2021 strategy. So, here are our top marketing trend predictions for 2021:
Content communities will drive growth and engagement
Ever wondered why Netflix uses an alternate YouTube handle for its stand-up specials – @NetflixIsAJoke? The streaming platform shares and syndicates all promotional content for its stand-up specials through its corresponding social accounts to drive engagement. This is just one example of how brands use content marketing to build a community for their brand’s customers. Content communities help brands reduce content costs, drive engagement on social, and tap into community conversations to gather feedback around new product strategies.
With customer feedback fueling marketing success in 2021, we predict content communities will become even more important. In addition to providing social validation and a sense of belongingness, content communities also serve as a stellar A/B testing platform. Marketers who leverage communities in 2021 will stand to benefit from real-time customer feedback and word-of-mouth marketing.
The visual economy will be leveraged
We’re in a visually-driven marketing environment today. Research states that aesthetically pleasing visuals help engage and convert audiences. In a world where failure to deliver immersive visual experiences can result in lost consumer loyalty and disappointment, marketers must double down on their video strategy in 2021.
The old cliché – ‘a picture says a thousand words’ still holds. An early study by a team of MIT neuroscientists found that the human brain can identify images seen for as little as 13 milliseconds (that’s 13 one-thousands of a second). That means there is virtually no latency between the transmission, receipt and crucially — comprehension — of visual messages. To succeed in 2021, marketers will need to leverage visual content, particularly videos to drive engagement and customer loyalty.
Content experiences will be topmost priority
With a myriad of tech and analytics tools at their fingertips, marketers are more in control of the B2B buyer journey than ever before. Unfortunately, there’s often a disconnect between the experiences they deliver and what buyers expect. Poorly targeted email blasts fill buyers’ inboxes with irrelevant messages, while buyers search in vain for useful content on vendor websites. The result: wasted marketing resources and frustrated buyers.
The content experiences marketers deliver aren’t living up to B2B buyers’ expectations, but the gap isn’t insurmountable. Marketers can overcome the experience disconnect by:
- Personalizing based on buyers’ problems, not just basic data like name and company.
- Prioritizing short form, visual content and engaging experiences that buyers can digest quickly.
- Surfacing highly relevant content that aims to educate on your product more than sell.
Closing the experience disconnect aligns with marketers’ broader goals. Recent research by Uberflip(1) suggests that less than a quarter (23%) of marketing professionals said reducing costs/streamlining operations was a top strategic priority despite budget cuts. Instead, marketers are focused on improving customer experience, acquisition, and retention. Building a better buyer experience in 2021 will support all three of these goals—and set your company up to build deep, lasting relationships with your customers.
Influencer marketing will become more mainstream
Influencer marketing’s effectiveness is becoming increasingly evident to a greater number of marketers. Data from SocialPubli(2) indicates that a whopping 89.2% of marketers believed that influencer marketing was effective for them in 2020. This represents a 5.2% increase since 2019. Marketers also said that the biggest benefit of using social influencers in their marketing strategy was representing the brands more naturally and personally. Going forward, we could expect to see marketers experimenting with influencer strategies and the way they position their products.
Podcasts will witness massive growth
There is something about the human voice – we convey a lot more through our tone and inflection than printed words. It is the reason why we saw a resurgence of podcasts in 2020 – a year where most of us were able to truly value human connection.
Podcast is particularly well suited as a content marketing channel because it allows marketers a clear and concise way to communicate their value proposition to a captive audience. Podcast’s on-the-go nature allows brands to share their story with audiences anytime anywhere, establishing authority and creating brand advocates along the way. We expect podcast to go mainstream in 2021 as content marketers look to make their marketing dollar go farther.
Brands will double down on SEO
Google released three major search algorithm updates in 2020 – promptings marketers to reassess how they approach search. While SEO is an evergreen content marketing strategy, in 2021, we expect brands and marketers to focus on optimizing their content for new and emerging search channels like voice. Additionally, trends like intent-driven search are also gaining traction and marketers will need to devise strategies that helps users derive greater value from content.
Voice search will play a role in SEO
As voice-activated search captures a larger segment of search, the keywords marketers deploy and track are also changing. Marketers are increasingly opting for long-tail keywords and natural language to optimize for voice-activated search. In 2021, we’ll see more brands create dedicated voice-search touchpoints like FAQ sections, responsive website design, and geographical proximity.
Content will focus on solving problems and drive users to brands’ product and services
As intent-driven search becomes a driving force for SEO in 2021, we expect brands to focus on building trust and credibility by providing valuable content around how their products and services will alleviate customer paint-points. Product-driven search is also becoming increasingly popular as user-generated content and reviews gain more prominence for users as they progress through the purchase funnel. A product-driven content strategy will help brands showcase their offerings and grab a larger share of search traffic which would otherwise have been diverted to review platforms and competitors.
Repurposed content will drive new and reoccurring website traffic
Content repurposing remains a popular strategy for marketers as they look to reduce content development costs and optimize performance over time. In 2021, brands will need to repurpose a lot of their pillar content to reflect the new product/service landscape as a result of the pandemic.
AI-created content will become more popular.
As marketers are compelled to do more with less – we’ll witness increasing application of AI content creation. Tools like API GPT-3 and Contentyze will become a critical component of martech stacks across the board. However, AI content creation is still in its nascent stage – marketers might need to spend more time editing AI-powered copy than typical blog posts. That said, cost efficiencies realized by deploying AI-powered copy will promote rapid adoption across industries.
Content marketing in 2021 will be more evolutionary than revolutionary as marketers fine-tune and tweak their existing experiential content strategies to better meet their customers’ needs. According to HubSpot, 47% of marketers witnessed a spike in website traffic since COVID, indicating content consumption has increased. Customer behavior in 2020 gives us a glimpse of what awaits businesses next year.
However, to succeed, marketing leaders will need ways to encourage their teams, come together organizationally, and find ways to synchronize their content and design strategies. In 2021, we are predicting more online growth and team alignment as a core metric of success. Here’s to delivering exceptional value through content in 2021!