Content marketing has long been considered by many to be the king of digital marketing. In fact, the phrase “content is king” is originally from an essay Bill Gates wrote…in 1996.
But even after (let me do some quick math…) 25 years, many brands in the B2B sector still feel the ROI of content marketing can feel intangible and elusive.
Is content marketing something B2Bs should invest in for 2021? Absolutely. Here’s why:
Content marketing generates 3X more leads than outbound marketing—think commercials, ads, and cold calling—and it costs 62% less.
For B2Bs, the biggest benefit of content marketing is that it attracts and engages your buyers before you ever make contact with them. B2Bs have a longer, more complex sales funnel. Content provides value and information for your buyers. This, in turn, increases brand awareness, engages prospects early in the sales funnel, and ultimately drives more leads.
In 2021, B2B content marketing trends will be shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic. As you think through your content marketing strategy, consider how your customers’ businesses and industries have been impacted and what the coming year will look like for them. Have they shifted to a completely remote workforce? Were they forced to digitize their business operations? Are they working with a smaller budget? Consider how you can adapt your content to help your customers navigate this difficult time.
2021 B2B Content Marketing Trends
Long-Form Blog Posts
The B2B sales funnel is complex. If you sell CRM software, for example, not only would your buyer have to invest quite a bit of money—they’d also have to invest time after the purchase to onboard their entire team. And all that time and money makes it difficult to pitch something like new software to the execs…unless they know for sure that the new software will have some serious ROI.
This is why buyers want in-depth information to assist in their purchasing decisions before they ever talk to a sales rep. Long-form content not only provides value to prospects and customers, it also builds authority for search engines.
In one SEMrush study, articles with at least 3,000 words generated 3X more traffic, 4X more shares, and 3.5X more backlinks than short-form articles. For SEO purposes, the optimal length of a blog post is often more than 2,000 words. Always keep your reader in mind by making long-form content easily digestible with clear headers, bulleted lists, and graphics.
Captivate Your Audience
Ready to differentiate your brand with engaging long-form content? Let’s Talk!
Increased Adoption of AI-Powered Personalization
As a new B2B content marketing trend in 2021, we will see more adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) in content creation and copy. But what does that really mean? With the development of tools like GPT-3 and Contentyze, content marketers will be able to create hyper-personalized content using AI.
This is more sophisticated than just using someone’s name in the subject of an email. AI can allow you to optimize copy and content to individual users. For example, you can choose the perfect email template, tailor copy to individual users, and even allow each customer to see an optimized version of your site based on their browning history and past activity.
Just take a look at what Paul Katsen did with GPT-3. He created spreadsheets that automatically generated city populations and founding dates, people’s Twitter handles, and even employers.
=GPT3()… the spreadsheet function to rule them all.
Impressed with how well it pattern matches from a few examples.
The same function looked up state populations, peoples’ twitter usernames and employers, and did some math. pic.twitter.com/W8FgVAov2f
— 🤖 Paul Katsen (@pavtalk) July 21, 2020
And here’s Carlos E. Perez, co-founder of Intuition Machine, using GPT-3 to automatically rewrite sentences.
Wrote something that we rewrite text using different styles. pic.twitter.com/2XRKqu3flq
— Carlos E. Perez (@IntuitMachine) July 25, 2020
The opportunities are endless. Imagine how easy it could be to scale your email marketing when you don’t have to sit in front of the computer thinking how on earth can I reword this again?!
While AI is a relatively new frontier for content marketers, this technology will likely shape the future of digital content for years to come.
Another B2B content marketing trend along similar lines to AI-powered personalization is database-driven content. Databases used to be the domain of the IT department. Today, any marketer can quickly and easily build databases, and then use them for dynamic insight that can turn your content into something far more unique and authoritative.
Think of tools like Airtable, a database generator used by over 200,000 organizations. With Airtable, building databases with your data is as easy as using Microsoft Excel. The possibilities are pretty much endless. Stratabeat has used this approach in uncovering insight into the most effective websites, for example, and then translated that knowledge into content for our target audiences.
Taking your Airtable database to an even higher level, you can convert the database into a web app, website, or portal using a tool such as Softr. Say good-bye to boring content!
Video is quickly overtaking the content marketing space, with 70% of B2B buyers and researchers watching video at some point in their buying journey. While professional quality video is still important, 82% of people prefer live video from a brand to social posts and 80% would rather watch live video from a brand than read a blog.
While edited video is still a valued content modality on YouTube and other social channels, live video is a great way to give your prospects a personable, behind-the-scenes look at your brand. This has been important in B2C for a long time, but it’s also becoming increasingly important for B2B. After all, even if you’re marketing to businesses, those businesses are still comprised of humans. And humans love personable, authentic brands, no matter what you’re selling.
Live video offers an opportunity to engage with your audience via Q&As and shows that there are real humans behind your business. Plus, the production value of live video is much more attainable for B2Bs as it doesn’t require editing.
The Rise of Communities
With the pandemic and so many working from home, there’s a need for real-time connections. As a result, community-building is on the rise. Certainly Facebook Groups have been very popular. Slack communities are gaining steam, as well. Individuals want to belong, and these communities enable them to do that quickly and easily.
And a new trend is subscription-based communities, in which subscribers need to pay for access to the content. It may seem difficult to believe that so many are willing to pay for content, when free options are practically everywhere around you. But many of these subscription-based communities are thriving.
You can see this, for example, with David Gerhardt’s DGMG (Privy) and John Bonini’s Some Good Content (Databox). In the case of DGMG, the community already boasts more than 2,300 members. And remember, you need to pay to join, so we’re talking about a highly committed group, which is exactly what you want for your content.
Webinars and Online Courses
Webinars, online courses, and gated content are not new. What is a relatively new and increasing phenomena is screen fatigue. The pandemic has forced a massive shift to virtual working and learning environments, creating a higher demand for high-quality webinars and online courses. However, this also means attendees stare at their computers all day with very little in-person reaction. Traditional events offer a variety of activities and networking opportunities. Webinars? Not so much.
In 2021, it will be important to mix up the type of content you offer in your webinars and online courses, create forums or chat rooms to simulate networking opportunities, and offer more interactive activities like Q&As, breakout sessions, and virtual workshops to keep your audience engaged.
Not only are people more likely to engage in a virtual course now more than ever, the workforce is wanting to step up their cross-training. The economic impact of the pandemic has forced many businesses to re-examine their productivity, team workloads, and multi-disciplinary skill sets. Over 41% of Fortune 500 companies leverage online teaching platforms to train their employees.
Consider how your business could offer valuable training to your customers, especially when adapting to COVID-19 restraints. Offering online courses is a great way to meet this timely need (as long as you avoid causing screen fatigue) and it gives you the ability to build your email list or create an additional stream of revenue.
Learn to Develop a Powerful B2B Content Marketing Strategy that Drives More Leads!
Content atomization is essentially repurposing content for a variety of platforms, and it’s picking up steam as a B2B content marketing trend. Creating a single long-form piece of content requires time not only in production, but in research and interviews. Atomization allows you to repurpose the ideas from a large piece of content into several smaller pieces of content.
For example, if we were to atomize this blog post, we could create:
- series of how-to videos for each content marketing trend
- podcast episode interviewing experts on content marketing predictions for 2021
- webinar on how to build a 2021 content marketing strategy
- series of social media graphics with content marketing tips for the coming year
- an informative email sequence
- a case study showing how we helped a client increase leads through long-form content
You can see how atomization makes it so easy to build a consistent, effective, and seamless content marketing strategy around just a few key ideas. Plus, content atomization makes content creation a whole lot more scalable. Need to create unique a checklist for each vertical you serve? Great! Create a checklist that is 70% general and 30% customized, and you can repurpose that 70% across every vertical’s checklist, cutting the time you spend in half. Or more!
Are you ready to strengthen your content marketing strategy? Contact us to learn more about Stratabeat’s content marketing services.