If the upheavals of 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we have to be ever-ready to respond to change, whatever it might be. That’s a lesson that business-to-business (B2B) content marketers certainly have learned, and it’s one they’ll apply in the year ahead.
“Stop waiting for the new normal—we’re already in it,” Robert Rose, chief strategy advisor for the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), wrote in CMI’s B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends: Insights for 2021, a survey of over 1,700 global B2B content marketers.
“Look at all the things that evolved this year that you want to keep, change or stop doing,” Rose continued. “Then ask yourself how you might want to change to prepare for whatever comes next.”
To prepare for whatever “next” might look like, B2B content marketers will see greater investments in two top areas, according to the CMI report: content creation (70%) and website enhancements (66%). But what exactly will that entail? Here’s where B2B marketing will take content and websites in 2021.
Digital-first isn’t just a buzzword. It’s now a key to survival. In the year ahead, marketers will accelerate their adoption of a digital-central approach. And a big part of that will continue to be video creation. Last year, viewers doubled the amount of time they spent watching user- generated online videos, to four hours per week, according to Limelight Networks.
Digital-first also will mean looking beyond the usual suspects, like social media and Google, to communicate through more channels, predicts one marketing advisor. That could mean making short videos and posting them on YouTube, contributing to the question-and-answer site Quora, or blogging on the open-platform site Medium.
We often think of “content creation” and “online advertising” as two separate things, but more and more, they work hand in hand. Digital ads on social media, as well as paid search ads (so you show up at the top of internet searches), should all drive awareness of your content and brand. And pay special attention to native ads, or ads that look and sound like another site’s content: Studies have shown people look at them a lot more than they do banner ads.
Conversational marketing: B2B marketing shouldn’t just talk at potential customers but with them. That could mean interactive content, like surveys and quizzes. It might involve the increasingly popular chatbot, which saw a 426% increase during customer service sessions early on in the pandemic. It can even happen on LinkedIn, where a connection request can turn into a dialogue.
And that relates to another growing trend: buyer enablement, or providing the information needed to complete a transaction. Through buyer enablement, a B2B firm can become the go-
to resource for invaluable product and industry information. So you earn your clients’ trust and ultimately make the sale.
Search engine optimization (SEO): We all know about SEO, don’t we? Well, it’s more than keywords. It’s about improving your user experience (like whether your site is secure or mobile- friendly), which Google considers when ranking sites. It’s also about search intent: the reason people conduct a Google search. Your site has to speak to that intent, so that when people search with it, they find you. Google is getting smarter in its analysis of search intent, so you need to get smarter, too. For instance, long-tail keywords (more specific, longer phrases) will deliver a bigger boost to your rankings than short keywords.
Make sure some areas of your website target the B2B market. That will show you have the authority and expertise to speak to businesses in their own language, professional to professional. Deliver the right message to the right audience.
Finally, B2B content marketing will get more agile. Agile, or iteratively developing and releasing a product, first came about in software development. But marketers are finding that by taking an agile approach—experiment with and test an initiative, quickly get it to market, see how it does, and then improve it along the way—they don’t have to wait until a campaign is just-so before rolling it out. Eighty-five percent of marketers plan to increase their adoption of agile in the next two years, according to research from Merkle.