Each year, the B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report from the Content Marketing Institute is packed with valuable insights into what content marketers are doing and not doing and how those decisions are paying off.
This year’s report also shows how the pandemic is affecting content marketing strategies. For example, more than 80 percent of respondents said they pivoted quickly, and four out of five said their pivots were effective.
For the purposes of this article, I’m going to focus on a recurring theme that I noticed in the report and with many of my own clients – an increased focus on website enhancements, particularly content.
Fixing Old, Neglected Websites
According to the report, 40 percent of survey respondents changed their websites in response to the pandemic. With limited in-person interactions and live events scaled way back, I’ve spoken with business owners who looked at their websites with increased scrutiny.
Many didn’t like what they found.
Inaccurate or missing information. A message that fell flat. Broken links. Contact forms that didn’t work. Red flags about security risks.
Once summer rolled around and the initial shock of the pandemic wore off, I started getting a bunch of calls about website projects.
For example, a small law firm had evolved quite a bit since its website was built several years ago. They had shifted their focus to a number of niche practice areas but hadn’t updated their website to reflect that shift.
In less than a month, I worked with the law firm and its agency to write content for 11 web pages, each dedicated to a niche practice area. Since then, we’ve added four more pages of new content, bringing the total to 15.
The firm had extra time due to the pandemic and used that time to get its website house in order.
Keys to Content Marketing Success
According to respondents who reported the highest level of content marketing success, the top two factors in that success, by far, were the value their content provides (83 percent) and website changes/new content (60 percent).
The first point has been critical to content marketing success for more than 100 years. Long before the term “content marketing” existed, brands published magazines to convey the value of their products and services.
If you consistently provide clients and prospects with valuable content – the right message to the right people at the right time – you’ll build trust, position yourself and/or your company as a thought leader, and win business or referrals from your audience.
This core principle won’t ever change, regardless of new marketing platforms and technologies that may emerge.
The second point about developing new website content seems like common sense.
Make sure information is current, accurate, and relevant. Strengthen your message. Speak directly to the needs of your ideal client. Feed the Google monster.
New website content can come in many forms beyond words and images on a static web page. When asked what types of content were used in the past 12 months, there was a clear top tier:
- Blog Posts/Short Articles (93 percent)
- Email Newsletters (77 percent)
- Case Studies (68 percent)
- Pre-Produced Videos (68 percent)
- Virtual Events/Webinars/Online Courses (67 percent)
- Infographics/Charts/Photos (65 percent)
Respondents said Blog Posts/Short Articles and Virtual Events/Webinars/Online Courses produced the best overall results for their organization.
Short blog articles are effective because they allow you to engage and educate your audience and address issues that are relevant to them on a regular basis. When done right, blogs are about helping, not selling.
At the same time, webinars and other virtual offerings have helped fill the interaction void created by the pandemic. Again, these are about helping, not selling.
For the record, I place each of the content types listed here under the website content umbrella because they all should live on your website.
Some are available to everyone. Some require you to fill out a form or sign up for an event. But they all should have a home on your website.
Overcoming Obstacles to Success
Respondents who reported the lowest level of content marketing success said the biggest reason involved challenges with content creation (63 percent).
Not coincidentally, content creation (70 percent) is also expected to be the biggest area of investment in 2021, followed by website enhancements (66 percent).
Most companies outsource content creation on some level. The biggest challenge with outsourcing, according to the study, is finding people with adequate topic expertise (69 percent).
I don’t buy it.
I get that some companies have complex offerings that require deep knowledge and familiarity to communicate effectively.
But seven out of 10? Come on.
What do IT, accounting, mortgages, functional medicine, addiction, solar battery storage, commercial railing systems, fog machines, trailer hitches, and dumpsters have in common?
I’ve written about all of them. But I’d hardly consider myself an expert in any of them.
Sure, it’s helpful to partner with someone who knows your industry inside and out. But a good partner will know what questions to ask to fill information gaps and understand your audience.
Being a subject matter expert is your job, not mine.
My job is to communicate your knowledge, your passion, and your voice in a way that matters to your ideal client. My job is to break down complex or unfamiliar concepts in a way the average person can understand.
You’ll be much more likely to overcome the number one content creation challenge cited in this study if you focus less on subject matter expertise and more on the ability to interview and communicate.
There’s more to successful marketing than creating valuable, relevant website content. I get that.
You need the right design. You need a distribution strategy. You need a sales strategy. You need a process in place for cultivating leads. You need to be able to connect the dots between activity and revenue.
But the value of your website content in all forms to growing your business and building loyalty should not be overlooked, especially when face-to-face interactions are limited.
I encourage you to read the B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report in its entirety. See which insights you can apply to your organization. Look for ways to avoid or overcome common challenges.
And if you need help updating and strengthening your message, let’s talk.