What a year it’s been! Many of us have been working from home, and marketers have needed to adapt almost overnight to massive changes in consumer behaviour.

As 2021 approaches, marketing teams will be trying to plan next year’s activity in a tough economic climate that few would have predicted this time last year. Many will be asked to do more with less budget, and possibly a smaller team.

When you’re looking at a list of marketing activities and weighing up which are ‘nice to have’ vs ‘must-have’, you might be tempted to put content marketing in the optional column.

I believe that cutting your content marketing budget right now would be a big mistake (No surprise there!). Let me tell you why.

Is content marketing a nice to have or a must-have?

I guess the answer to that question largely depends on how you’re using it and what content marketing means to you. If your content marketing is purely about getting some likes on social media, or pushing out product promotions, then the chances are it belongs firmly in the nice to have pile.

All marketing is about turning strangers into people who know, like, and trust your brand. Done well, content marketing can be a powerful and cost-effective way to achieve these goals.

Changes in consumer behaviour thanks to Covid-19

We’re all aware that consumers (B2B and B2C) are conducting more and more of their research in the lead up to a purchase online, whether the actual purchase is eventually made online or not.

Thanks to the Pandemic this behaviour shift has been put on steroids. Potential customers will need to find more detailed information about your product or service online than ever before if you expect to win them over.

If you don’t provide everything they need to make a decision online, you could be losing out to a competitor who does.

Building a loyal, engaged community around your brand is a solid investment

Many consumers want more than just a product or service that does the required job. They want to feel a genuine connection with a brand. They’re drawn to brands with values that align with their own.

They also want to feel like they are part of something bigger when they make a purchase. When I say, ‘something bigger’, that’s not always about social responsibility or your charity work – although that could be a part of it.

It could be about feeling accepted, or proud to be associated with a brand. For some it may be as simple as the natural human desire to be part of a tribe – to be in the club, surrounded by like-minded people.

This sense of community, shared interests and values build loyalty. This loyalty keeps people coming back, and it also turns them into brand advocates. But just like any relationship, it takes time and regular, meaningful communication to build.   

Throwing money at traditional forms of advertising where you repeatedly tell people how great you are isn’t building a long-term relationship or community, even if it does drive some immediate sales.

Content marketing provides you with the opportunity to communicate so much more than just product information – to tell your story, show your personality and reinforce your values through multiple channels and touchpoints, gradually building the emotional connections that ultimately lead to loyal customers.

The key differences between product marketing and content marketing >>

How do you stand out, when everyone is ramping up their digital marketing?

In a digital-first world, brand proliferation was already a problem for consumers. Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, things have got even more crowded as brands rush to reinvent themselves online.

But standing out is not necessarily about offering a different or even a better product, as we’ve already discussed.

Many brands have not fully grasped the concept of content marketing. Simply throwing more money at digital channels doesn’t guarantee success without a proper strategy in place and the correct execution.

In a world of content overload, it’s more important than ever that brands aren’t just producing content for content’s sake. Content needs to be engaging and have genuine value. This requires a deep understanding of your audience, which will help you plan content that they actually need, at the right time, in the right format and which is delivered via the right channels.

Content production also needs more care and attention than ever if you’re going to cut through the noise. Keeping up with the never-ending demand for fresh content is easier said than done while keeping the quality high. You need to consider the psychology of how audiences consume content, and then apply this to the execution of multiple formats including editorial, graphic, video and audio. 

Results take time

Successful content marketers are able to see the bigger picture and ‘play the long game’. This doesn’t mean you need to wait years to see results, and you will see opportunities for quick wins which will give you confidence that you’re on the right track.

Of course, this relies on you tracking, measuring and evaluating performance effectively against a pre-agreed benchmark (ideally multiple benchmarks) of what success looks like, which is a topic for another day!

It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it

So in conclusion, if you’re planning next year’s budget with one eye on where to make savings, and content marketing is one of the first things you put in the firing line – it might be time to look at what you’re doing rather than if you should be doing it.

If you’re not sure where to start in evaluating your current activity, comparing it against your competitors, and planning a new strategy for 2021, the team at Q are always on hand so please get in touch.

Ben Hollom

November 10, 2020