New Research: How B2B Content Marketers Are Impacted and Pivoting During the Pandemic

Professionals Wearing Masks and Bumping Elbows

Professionals Wearing Masks and Bumping Elbows

Each year, Content Marketing Institute releases a new version of its B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report, providing a timely contextual snapshot of the discipline at large and its ever-shifting landscape.

Needless to say, this year’s edition hits differently. While there is always change and evolution afoot in the annual study’s findings, 2020 has been a year of unprecedented upheaval for our profession, along with most every other.

The impact of COVID-19 on B2B content marketing is a direct and prevalent focus in CMI’s latest report, which helps leaders and practitioners in the field understand how their peers are reacting and adapting to a disruptive global event.

B2B Content Marketing in the Age of COVID-19

You can find the full report here, but today I’ll share five particular stats and insights that struck me as noteworthy in the 11th Annual B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report.

  1. Content strategies are changing, both short-term and long-term

Slowly but surely, we’ve been making progress. Forty-three percent of respondents this year reported having a documented content strategy, which is a bit disappointing on its own, but encouraging when you looking at the running trend:

  • 2020: 43%
  • 2019: 41%
  • 2018: 39%
  • 2017: 37%

That’s remarkably steady and consistent growth! I might argue we’re still lagging behind on the whole, but progress is progress. Having said that, it is a bit ironic that at a time where more B2B marketers than ever have gotten their strategy down on paper, we’re being forced to crumple it up and rewrite it.

[bctt tweet=”“It’s a bit ironic that at a time where more B2B marketers than ever have gotten their strategy down on paper, we’re being forced to crumple it up and rewrite it.” — @NickNelsonMN @CMIContent #ContentMarketing” username=”toprank”]

Maybe that’s a bit strong, but 70% of respondents in the CMI survey said the pandemic has had a major or moderate impact on their B2B content strategy. Two-thirds indicated that the nature of their adjustments are both short-term and long-term.

CMI Image A

With this in mind, if you’re among the majority that still hasn’t developed a documented content strategy, this might be a good time to flesh one out that strikes this balance between the big and small pictures. During times of turbulence (and long-distance collaboration), it’s always good to have a single source of truth. Last year I provided a simple three-point checklist for documenting your content strategy, and the guiding principles still apply.

  1. Adjustments to messaging and targeting are the top reactive priorities

Asked about the specific changes their organizations have made in response to COVID-19, the top answer – selected by 70% of B2B marketers – was “Changed targeting/messaging strategy.” The most common answers after that were “Adjusted editorial calendar” and “Changed content distribution/promotion strategy.”

CMI Image B

Nothing too surprising about this. It goes without saying many marketing messages and campaigns that were conceived before the pandemic became irrelevant (if not blatantly tone-deaf) when the world was flipped on its side. Brands everywhere have been forced to fundamentally rethink what they’re saying, and who they’re saying it to.

For that reason, I’m a little surprised that responses like “Reexamined customer journey,” “Increased time spent talking with customers,” and “Revisited customer/buyer personas” were all so low on the list. This does feel like a good time to get back in tune with the preferences and pain points that guide people toward our solutions.

  1. Measurement methods have mostly remained stable

Another finding that stands out to me in the chart above is that “Adjusted key performance indicators” and “Changed content marketing metrics” were at the very bottom. For better or worse, it appears that most teams are sticking to the same yardsticks now as they were a year ago.

Maybe that’s a good thing! If you’ve truly locked down your measurement strategy in a way that accurately proves out results and fosters constant refinement and optimization, it probably shouldn’t change based on outside circumstances. However, according to the 2020 Marketing Measurement & Attribution Survey from Demand Gen Report, 40% of marketers said their company’s current ability to measure and analyze marketing performance and impact “needs improvement,” while only 13% said they felt they were “excellent” in this regard.

So perhaps reporting and analytics simply aren’t viewed as a priority at this time. I find that troubling, because in a time of widespread budget cuts and resource drains, the ability to demonstrate the revenue impact of marketing activities is arguably more important than ever.

  1. Content creation challenges, not pandemic-related issues, are holding back success

Among those who rated their organization’s overall level of content marketing success in the past year as “Minimally Successful” or “Not at All Successful,” CMI broke down contributing factors in order to identify the most prevalent barriers. While the fairly broad “Pandemic-related issues” was available as an option, this was actually among the least common responses. At the top of the list, cited by 63% of laggards, was “Content creation challenges.”

These challenges can take various forms (some of which can be doubly categorized as pandemic-related issues).

“Our company needs more content. We serve a deep niche and few people understand our industry well enough to pop in and do small projects for us,” said one anonymous respondent quoted in the report.

Said another: “Clients are getting bombarded with electronic information—especially now since in-person meetings and events are on hold. How do we create compelling content that gets distributed in a way that stands out from the clutter?”

  1. Virtual events and live-streaming increased — but not THAT much

Among content types used by B2B marketers over the past 12 months, the biggest risers from last year are those you would expect:

  • Virtual events/webinars/online courses increased from 57% to 67%
  • Live-streaming increased from 10% to 29%

These are hefty jumps … but they still don’t point to ubiquity, by any means. There remains untapped opportunity on the frontier of online experiences, although clearly it’s getting crowded in a hurry. The second quote shared in the previous section points to this challenge, which is at the same time both new and old.

Break through the clutter and earn attention: Amidst so much transformative change, this eternal edict of content marketers stays the same. We’re currently just seeing it play out in a new environment.

[bctt tweet=”“Break through the clutter and earn attention: Amidst transformative change, this eternal edict of content marketers stays the same.” — @NickNelsonMN @CMIContent #ContentMarketing” username=”toprank”]

Virtual events and live-streams have much potential for engagement and interactivity. We might receive some inspiration on these fronts when the folks behind this report bring their anticipated annual event, Content Marketing World, into the virtual realm this year for the first time. It’s going down on October 13-16, and our own Lee Odden will be delivering a presentation: Influencer Marketing Unleashed: Top Tactics for Success from Global B2B Brands.

As Lee will illustrate, influencer marketing should be a piece of the puzzle in forward-looking B2B strategies. Many of the other trends outlined here will converge and shape the future of content marketing.

The post New Research: How B2B Content Marketers Are Impacted and Pivoting During the Pandemic appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.


Source: SEO blog

New Research: How B2B Content Marketers Are Impacted and Pivoting During the Pandemic

Professionals Wearing Masks and Bumping Elbows

Each year, Content Marketing Institute releases a new version of its B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report, providing a timely contextual snapshot of the discipline at large and its ever-shifting landscape.

Needless to say, this year’s edition hits differently. While there is always change and evolution afoot in the annual study’s findings, 2020 has been a year of unprecedented upheaval for our profession, along with most every other.

The impact of COVID-19 on B2B content marketing is a direct and prevalent focus in CMI’s latest report, which helps leaders and practitioners in the field understand how their peers are reacting and adapting to a disruptive global event.

B2B Content Marketing in the Age of COVID-19

You can find the full report here, but today I’ll share five particular stats and insights that struck me as noteworthy in the 11th Annual B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report.

  1. Content strategies are changing, both short-term and long-term

Slowly but surely, we’ve been making progress. Forty-three percent of respondents this year reported having a documented content strategy, which is a bit disappointing on its own, but encouraging when you looking at the running trend:

  • 2020: 43%
  • 2019: 41%
  • 2018: 39%
  • 2017: 37%

That’s remarkably steady and consistent growth! I might argue we’re still lagging behind on the whole, but progress is progress. Having said that, it is a bit ironic that at a time where more B2B marketers than ever have gotten their strategy down on paper, we’re being forced to crumple it up and rewrite it.

“It’s a bit ironic that at a time where more B2B marketers than ever have gotten their strategy down on paper, we’re being forced to crumple it up and rewrite it.” — @NickNelsonMN @CMIContent #ContentMarketing Click To Tweet

Maybe that’s a bit strong, but 70% of respondents in the CMI survey said the pandemic has had a major or moderate impact on their B2B content strategy. Two-thirds indicated that the nature of their adjustments are both short-term and long-term.

CMI Image A

With this in mind, if you’re among the majority that still hasn’t developed a documented content strategy, this might be a good time to flesh one out that strikes this balance between the big and small pictures. During times of turbulence (and long-distance collaboration), it’s always good to have a single source of truth. Last year I provided a simple three-point checklist for documenting your content strategy, and the guiding principles still apply.

  1. Adjustments to messaging and targeting are the top reactive priorities

Asked about the specific changes their organizations have made in response to COVID-19, the top answer – selected by 70% of B2B marketers – was “Changed targeting/messaging strategy.” The most common answers after that were “Adjusted editorial calendar” and “Changed content distribution/promotion strategy.”

CMI Image B

Nothing too surprising about this. It goes without saying many marketing messages and campaigns that were conceived before the pandemic became irrelevant (if not blatantly tone-deaf) when the world was flipped on its side. Brands everywhere have been forced to fundamentally rethink what they’re saying, and who they’re saying it to.

For that reason, I’m a little surprised that responses like “Reexamined customer journey,” “Increased time spent talking with customers,” and “Revisited customer/buyer personas” were all so low on the list. This does feel like a good time to get back in tune with the preferences and pain points that guide people toward our solutions.

  1. Measurement methods have mostly remained stable

Another finding that stands out to me in the chart above is that “Adjusted key performance indicators” and “Changed content marketing metrics” were at the very bottom. For better or worse, it appears that most teams are sticking to the same yardsticks now as they were a year ago.

Maybe that’s a good thing! If you’ve truly locked down your measurement strategy in a way that accurately proves out results and fosters constant refinement and optimization, it probably shouldn’t change based on outside circumstances. However, according to the 2020 Marketing Measurement & Attribution Survey from Demand Gen Report, 40% of marketers said their company’s current ability to measure and analyze marketing performance and impact “needs improvement,” while only 13% said they felt they were “excellent” in this regard.

So perhaps reporting and analytics simply aren’t viewed as a priority at this time. I find that troubling, because in a time of widespread budget cuts and resource drains, the ability to demonstrate the revenue impact of marketing activities is arguably more important than ever.

  1. Content creation challenges, not pandemic-related issues, are holding back success

Among those who rated their organization’s overall level of content marketing success in the past year as “Minimally Successful” or “Not at All Successful,” CMI broke down contributing factors in order to identify the most prevalent barriers. While the fairly broad “Pandemic-related issues” was available as an option, this was actually among the least common responses. At the top of the list, cited by 63% of laggards, was “Content creation challenges.”

These challenges can take various forms (some of which can be doubly categorized as pandemic-related issues).

“Our company needs more content. We serve a deep niche and few people understand our industry well enough to pop in and do small projects for us,” said one anonymous respondent quoted in the report.

Said another: “Clients are getting bombarded with electronic information—especially now since in-person meetings and events are on hold. How do we create compelling content that gets distributed in a way that stands out from the clutter?”

  1. Virtual events and live-streaming increased — but not THAT much

Among content types used by B2B marketers over the past 12 months, the biggest risers from last year are those you would expect:

  • Virtual events/webinars/online courses increased from 57% to 67%
  • Live-streaming increased from 10% to 29%

These are hefty jumps … but they still don’t point to ubiquity, by any means. There remains untapped opportunity on the frontier of online experiences, although clearly it’s getting crowded in a hurry. The second quote shared in the previous section points to this challenge, which is at the same time both new and old.

Break through the clutter and earn attention: Amidst so much transformative change, this eternal edict of content marketers stays the same. We’re currently just seeing it play out in a new environment.

“Break through the clutter and earn attention: Amidst transformative change, this eternal edict of content marketers stays the same.” — @NickNelsonMN @CMIContent #ContentMarketing Click To Tweet

Virtual events and live-streams have much potential for engagement and interactivity. We might receive some inspiration on these fronts when the folks behind this report bring their anticipated annual event, Content Marketing World, into the virtual realm this year for the first time. It’s going down on October 13-16, and our own Lee Odden will be delivering a presentation: Influencer Marketing Unleashed: Top Tactics for Success from Global B2B Brands.

As Lee will illustrate, influencer marketing should be a piece of the puzzle in forward-looking B2B strategies. Many of the other trends outlined here will converge and shape the future of content marketing.

3 Digital PR Tenets for Excellent Outreach

Content creation and promotion is our bread and butter at Fractl, but most of the questions we get are tied to the promotions side of the process.

People ask us: How are you able to secure media coverage on sites like CNBC, USA Today, and more?

It’s not easy, I’ll tell you that. It takes a lot of time and resources, and over the years we’ve established a set of tenets that guide our digital PR process.

I hope sharing them with you will help you refine your own strategy.

1. Research and relevancy are non-negotiable

When we surveyed 500 writers in 2019, we asked them about their biggest pitching pet peeves.

PR pros and journalists have a mutually beneficial relationship. We provide them a source for their posts, and they share what we produce widely with their audience.

Why is it important to avoid peeving off journalists?

The thing is, journalists receive dozens of pitch emails a day.

That’s why it’s so imperative that you craft the best possible email to them every time. You’re competing with tons of other content providers for the same spot on their editorial calendar.

As it turns out, they’re most annoyed when pitches aren’t relevant to them.

While this is great insight into how to surpass many of the other pitches that land in these writers’ inboxes, it’s still tough to know how to tangibly put this into action.

Based on our experience, here are our tips for making sure your pitches are relevant to the person you’re pitching:

  • What is the person’s beat? It’s often more specific than it may seem. For example, instead of digital marketing, they might only write about social media. Or instead of general health, they may write about health but only in conjunction with psychology. Make sure you’ve studied exactly what they cover so you’re not pitching something useless to them.
  • Do they ever cover external studies or the type of content you’re pitching? If they stick to opinion or investigative journalism, whatever you’re sending them might not be up their alley.
  • Can their website or platform support your content type? Not every site can embed interactives or videos. Or maybe the publisher is just sick of posting a certain content type like infographics. See what’s been published in the past and if your content fits in with what they’re regularly writing about.

While you’re doing this research, it doesn’t hurt to see how often that particular writer publishes. If it’s once a day, you have a much higher chance of getting coverage than if they’re a contributing writer who only writes for that publication once a month.

2. Personalization matters

People appreciate being seen, and recognizing that you’ve done your homework to make sure they’re actually a good fit to write about your content (as discussed in the previous section).

Adding a touch of personalization can go a long way in making it very clear you’re taking the pitch seriously, and also that you’re just two people having a conversation. (Wouldn’t you rather reply to someone you get a good first impression from?)

In a recent study, we sent 100 pitch emails, half with personalizations and half without them, asking for quotes to include in an article. We found that personalized emails received a higher rate of positive-sentiment responses.

Replies to personalized emails were 83.3% positive compared to replies to non-personalized emails, which were 60% positive.

We had a feeling this was the case because we get responses like this one from writers at Bustle and HubSpot, respectively:

“I have to commend you for great PR tactics here. I open so few of these, much less respond, so mentioning my cat AND sending a pic of yours AND including info that’s relevant to my beat gives you an A++. “

“Thanks for reaching out and showing OutKast some love. This is actually the only time I’ve ever responded to a pitch email.”

The media relations specialists knew that the former writer loved cats and the latter writer loved Outkast because they followed them on Twitter.

If you have a list of target publications or writers you’d like to reach out to, make sure you’re:

  • Following them on social channels to start building connections and getting a sense of who they are as people
  • Keeping tabs on their recent writings, not only for research purposes but to see if anything personally resonates with you that you can remark on

There’s no need to dig up stuff they’ve posted in the past — that’s when things start to get weird. Do your due diligence, but don’t make it an investigative mission. Remember: The goal here is to simply connect with another human being, and to show them you put in the work to pitch something they’d actually appreciate.

3. Emails should be short and straightforward

Some PR specialists worry that personalizing will make their emails too long and detract from their succinctness.

But personalization only needs to be a sentence or two, so it doesn’t put a huge dent in your overall word count, which, according to that same survey of publishers, should be about 100-300 words.

After leading with a personalized intro, it’s important to get right to the meat of what you’re pitching and why.

Make sure to include:

  • A link to the full content project (don’t ask if they want to see it — just provide everything they need)
  • Why you think the project is a good fit for their readers
  • Bullet points explaining the key relevant takeaways that would appeal to their audience

Take the guesswork out of it. A writer should already be intrigued by the time they click to read your full project, which ideally will sell them on including your information in their stories.

Conclusion

Perhaps the most important point of all doesn’t even relate to the pitching itself but to what you’re pitching. The truth is, no amount of excellent pitching can salvage a subpar piece of content. It’s why we don’t often offer our digital PR expertise as its own standalone service, unless we’re confident the content being provided to us is up to par.

You need high-quality content, well targeted outreach, concisely crafted emails, and a personalized approach, but with this winning combination, you can be earning top media coverage and backlinks for your brand.