In this article, you’ll learn about what’s next for content marketing, especially within companies that sell and service infrastructure (IaaS), software (SaaS), and financial technology (Fintech).
As the world has become more digitally-centric and hundreds of millions of people have become even more content-addicted and content-starved than they were a year ago, it’s only natural that to wonder where we’re headed next.
Q: Did content marketing become more important during the pandemic?
Yes! During the later part of the 2010s, buyer preferences had already dramatically shifted to more self-service, more eCommerce, more virtual/digital interactions, and less human interactions with salespeople and intermediaries.
In this kind of environment, content marketing replaced many traditional offline sales interactions and shifted control from sellers to buyers. In many industries, it's pretty common to find as much as 60% to 80% of the buyer's journey, and the decision-making process is over before a person wants to engage with a company's sales team.
The 16+ months on pandemic lockdowns accelerated that trend even further and made content marketing investments even more mission-critical for educating and building trust with modern buyers.
Q: Will content marketing become even more important?
Yes, even more so.
Content marketing will become even more critical post-COVID-19 as businesses began to see that
(a) their buyers demand a better customer experience that removes all human-induced sales friction
(b) the massive cost-savings involved in staffing up a content marketing team vs. traditional marketing and sales investments such as business travel, lavish conferences, and field sales teams.
As technology giants like Amazon continue to devour entire industries, content marketing helps companies build their brands to insulate their core business models from hyper-competition and disruption from intermediaries.
As so much of the global economy moves to subscription models, content marketing and branding will be joined at the hip from churn prevention and customer retention.
Q: What changed with how content is developed, created, distributed, and measured?
So much more content development now starts with a video-first mindset. During the pandemic, companies became much less obsessed over production value and much more concerned about delivering valuable content to the right people as quickly as possible.
Before the pandemic, small businesses would often only create video content a few times a year (at the most) because it always involved big investments with professional videographers and multi-week or even multi-month timetables. Today, it's way more common for even small businesses to be super-comfortable recording and editing video that originates on smartphones, webcams, and Zoom meetings.
Companies are also now very focused on content repurposing. A single 30-minute video podcast is extracted into a 30-minute audio podcast, several short video excerpts for various social media formats, image quotes for social media, blog posts, and email marketing.
Q: What types of content marketing get the most interest?
We've seen great success with video content, audio content, and text content -- including both long-form and short-form content assets.
Different people learn in different ways. However, any content that allows someone to self-address their own goals, plans, and challenges from the privacy of their own home, on their timetable, has been a huge win.
Content personalization -- for specific buyer personas and buyer's journey stages -- also has performed very well when paired up with precise ad targeting or email list segmentation.
Q: When people were staying home, did they favor more long-form content or shorter bursts of content?
TikTok and the new YouTube Shorts formats were created to help people consume content in short bursts. However, as a full-funnel content strategist, I'm typically using the short, snackable bursts of content to drive to the long-form content asset. So people that want to learn more have a logical next step -- to watch the full 30- or 60- minute video.
Q: How will the re-opening of the economy and life impact content marketing
As the economy and life re-opens, companies and social media influencers will be
(a) sharing all of their reunions on social media and
(b) figuring out how to provide great hybrid user experiences to appeal to the different categories of customers:
those that crave a return to 2019 offline customer experiences and
those that prefer to retain the digital experiences they've grown accustomed to during the pandemic.
Q: Will brands need to distinguish themselves with innovative content marketing formats like animation and 3-D TV?
Brands and their content strategists face never-ending challenges around differentiation and competitive positioning.
To the extent that animation and 3-D TV gives their company an advantage in the marketplace, you'll always see early adopter brands continuing to push the envelope on what's possible with digital buyer's journeys.
In context, as recently as ten years ago, it was incredibly complex to stream video from a live event. Today, everyone's smartphone has a built-in live streaming studio. (And twenty years ago, Mark Cuban became a billionaire because he figured out the business of commercialized streaming video first.)
Q: Do you think brands will increasingly build their own media companies?
Yes! However, I don't think it's a quasi-media arm.
I think all global brands will have a fully-staffed media team that gradually absorbs more and more budgets away from traditional, interruption-based marketing and sales tactics.
With every company in every industry facing intense pressure to create a technology component, huge media and branding investments will be needed to create moats to keep out intensely disruptive marketplace forces.
Q: Was any particular content marketing especially effective during the pandemic?
Yes! While they're not exactly bleeding edge, my team has found podcasting (video-based) and webinars still highly effective during the pandemic.
Both allow human-to-human connections that people crave during lockdowns.
Q: With regards to content, what can we expect more of in the future?
You can expect to see B2B technology companies positioning themselves more like B2C brands and media companies going forward.
What does the future hold for your content marketing strategy? Let me know in the comments section.