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A few weeks ago, I took part in a Zoom roundtable for B2B marketing executives. In reality, it was more like a therapy session.
One marketing leader at the roundtable had bet over 80 percent of his budget on in-person trade shows prior to the pandemic. Now he was scrambling to put together a digital-first marketing plan. Another participant bemoaned anemic conversion rates on direct response ads sent via Facebook and LinkedIn. A few others noted that display was proving even more useless than usual.
Every question centered around the same theme: How are you adjusting? How are you going to change? What are you going to invest in now?
The answers had a common theme: content. People were creating more webinars and livestreams, publishing research reports, investing in better blog content to build their newsletter lists and nurture prospects. Best of all, it was working better than before.
Economic downturns are when the most dramatic changes in the market happen. Budget cuts force people to work in new ways. Behaviors change. Strategies evolve. And when budgeting rolls around again, people make different investments.
Right now, the pandemic is accelerating even bigger changes to how we do our jobs, forcing us to reexamine what actually works. One big realization has been that digital marketing just doesn’t work without great content.
According to LinkedIn, a whopping 78 percent of marketers expect to increase their content budget next year.
When I say “content,” I’m not just talking about top-funnel blog posts or infographics. For years, the way we defined content was arbitrarily limited, perhaps because people like me felt squeamish about overstepping their roles when they left full-time journalism for full-time marketing in the early 2010s.
I’m talking about content in all its glory. Content that impacts just about every part of an organization. Product videos that stop you in your tracks as you scroll LinkedIn and Instagram. Case studies that make you imagine new possibilities. Customer newsletters that make you think “I’m renewing no matter what.” Webinars that miraculously don’t suck.
When you make it your marketing team’s mission to create great content, you don’t just boost the top of the funnel. You build trust with people that lasts. You don’t just abandon them after they fill out a form. You keep delivering helpful content—when they’re a qualified lead, when they’re a customer, and when they get a new job somewhere else. Because great digital marketing means that you never stop being helpful.
Skeptical? Just look at how much content the average exec B2B. buyer consumes before—and after—she talks to sales.
For some, this is intuitive. Great content has always been the key to doing marketing that’s worthwhile. But now, it’s impossible to ignore. The pandemic is laying bear companies that haven’t prioritized content. Their virtual events are boring and unoriginal. Their paid media performs poorly, and they give you little reason to stay on their websites for more than 15 seconds.
Last year, Shawna Dennis, who leads marketing for MD Financial, said: “No one questions a brand’s need for a website. Content should be non-negotiable, too.”
I love that quote because it conveys the simple idea that content is at the core of all digital marketing. For years, content was derided as this superfluous side project, separate from the serious work of marketing. But now, marketers across the globe are realizing what many of us have known all along: There’s no separation. Content is the essential element of marketing.
Content is everything now.
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