Recent and rapidly evolving global circumstances have forced marketers to hit pause and completely rethink their investments. Hefty budgets previously committed to conferences, roadshows and other in-person events are suddenly being reallocated toward digital initiatives.
The pace of change is overwhelming. The feeling of constant uncertainty, coupled with the need to be equally nimble and optimistic, is daunting to say the least. But enough about me and my feelings.
At the B2B Marketing Exchange in February, we heard about the need to balance digital and physical experiences, and how more buyers are gravitating to face-to-face events and interactions. In an instant, the tides have turned.
Scroll through your LinkedIn feed, and you’ll likely see companies and their leaders rising to the occasion. They’re executing annual team meetings through Zoom, wearing costumes and running special segments of “Cribs” to welcome colleagues into their homes. (Mega props to the folks at InVision for turning the model on its head.)
Others are shifting their time and money toward direct mail campaigns and digital events. Across the board, B2B organizations are watching the scales tip in favor of digital. As a result, digital content experiences are more critical than ever.
You know what that means: A content surge is coming.
So that got me wondering: What untapped opportunities do brands have to stand out? What underutilized formats could actually deliver big value to buyers and big results for brands? After some digging and asking a few of my trusted Content4Demand colleagues, these are some that really got my creative wheels spinning:
As part of our typical content creation process, we have conversations with sales leaders to walk through their interactions with buyers. Our goal is to understand the pain points and how they guide prospects through a typically linear decision-making process.
That led me to an aha moment when I discovered a flowchart from Shane Snow: Flowcharts are the perfect format for a buyer enablement tool. This could be something buyers navigate through on their own, share with their stakeholders or walk through with sales reps. Ideally, they should be interactive experiences (check out this fun example from Ceros), but they could certainly be repurposed as static printouts.
Authenticity has earned marketing buzzword status, but this one has merit. More than ever, B2B brands need to speak to buyers not at them, and social videos are a great way to do it. You can create them simply using your iPhone, or you can use Instagram Stories and LinkedIn to share quick insights from you and your subject-matter experts.
If you follow Carlos Hidalgo or Sangram Vajre, you know they both have pretty stellar LinkedIn video game, while Ann Handley is always a joy to watch on Instagram. They’re not super polished, and they’re intimate and thoughtful — the three keys to powerful social video.
Talking-Head Video Series
These are a bit longer and can be a bit more polished, but it’s certainly not a requirement. They hit on a specific trend or topic and ladder up to a much larger theme, which can be broader thought leadership. The TalkingSense series from 6sense is a great example. It’s extremely evergreen and gives their team plenty of flexibility to build out the interview library over time.
They can also be more product focused. I’m a huge fan of Uberflip’s What the Heck Is Uberflip? series, which delves into specific product capabilities in a compelling way.
With so many people clamoring for clear information amidst the crisis, data visualization is reaching a fascinating tipping point. The Washington Post published a fantastic example. The interactive visuals play just as much of a role as the written content, with fascinating triggers and animations to draw people in.
As you scroll, you see the different impacts of different contagious outbreaks, which paints a powerful picture of COVID-19’s rapid acceleration. You’ll see that the creators of the experience are graphic reporters, which proves that sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words. (Shout out to our content design manager Pam Ravetier for the example!)
We’ve seen influencer marketing reach a whole new level of adoption. Companies are partnering with authors, experts and analysts to share valuable thought leadership and insightful best practices with their audiences. The goals are clear: to build authority in a specific category, to build credibility by partnering with well-respected figures and, of course, to boost content downloads, views and shares.
Influencer E-books, podcasts, blogs and even infographics are fantastic for top-of-funnel lead generation and prospect engagement, but what happens when buyers get further down the funnel or decide to make a purchase?
Messaging expert Tamsen Webster notes that one of the biggest buyer “red lights” is buyer’s remorse. User-driven and post-purchase content that incorporates real customer experiences and input helps build confidence, boost conversions and even drive further adoption and optimization of investments.
Augmented & Virtual Reality
Industry sources predict that VR experiences in B2B will account for 40% of all experiences by 2022. While I’m not sure how that data will shake out, I do think AR and VR present a host of opportunities for marketers to completely reimagine their content experiences. Mailing a headset to your target customers is certainly not the most budget-friendly option; however, it would be a powerful vehicle for a highly targeted direct mail campaign.
For AR, B2B brands can take cues from their B2C counterparts, who are investing in mobile apps with AR capabilities and are even testing Instagram and Snapchat filters. The most powerful use cases are the AR-powered mobile apps, which are allowing companies like Panera to offer more extensive product content to interested consumers.
We’re certainly living in very uncertain times, but content is a clear constant in our worlds as marketers. Our professional worlds may be different, but they’re not stopping. We still have budgets to spend, goals to accomplish and people to reach. The onus is on us, however, to find new and compelling ways to connect with our prospects and customers while demonstrating empathy, entertainment and value.
For more insight into the formats that resonate with buyers, be sure to read Brenda Caine’s recent post about results from the 2020 Content Preferences Study from Demand Gen Report.