The past few years have been a wild ride for marketers. Depending on your industry, you might have seen budgets slashed, then increased – or only increased. Now, many budgets are back on the rise: The Content Marketing Institute’s annual Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report found that 43% of marketers say their 2021 budgets were higher than the previous year, and 66% of those expect further increases.
There were other, lasting effects on B2B and ABM content marketing in particular. The rise and staying power of remote work and virtual events meant budgets shifted to digital channels. Like Bumblebee turning into a Volkswagen Beetle, B2B content marketing is transforming. So what’s next – and where should you put all that new budget?
1. Interactive Content
Interactive content is useful for more than passing your lunch break with a fun Buzzfeed quiz. It can be used at every stage of the buying process to pique interest, engage prospects and communicate your message in a fun way. Yes, quizzes and assessments are part of it. But so are games, clickable tours, interactive infographics, choose-your-own-path videos, calculators and solution finders.
2. Augmented Reality
Augmented reality (AR) is often grouped with interactive content, but it deserves its own category. Unlike virtual reality (VR), the totally immersive experiences that require headsets, AR simply adds digital elements to an experience you’re already having. Think of apps like IKEA Place, which lets you point your phone at your living room and see what it would really look like with that mustard-yellow Strandmon chair you think you love.
B2B content marketing could use a similar app to show a prospect how a piece of equipment would fit into their facility or create 3D, 360-degree catalogs of their products. There are plenty of possibilities, and while we’re pretty excited about Web 3.0, the metaverse and all the opportunities for VR experiences it brings, AR requires considerably less investment for businesses.
3. Even More Video
The CMI report found that 69% of marketers expected their investment in video content to increase in 2022. It’s easy to see why – no matter your product, service or audience, video is effective. Many prospects prefer snackable videos they can watch on their lunch break to long, in-depth whitepapers.
Video isn’t just video anymore. There are tons of channels, from the venerable YouTube to Loom videos embedded in emails to TikTok and Instagram. Social media proves to be one of the most engaging channels, and some B2B brands are even participating in the challenges and parodies that are popular on TikTok. Just don’t forget to include your call to action!
4. Audio Content
OK, you know your prospect doesn’t actually have time to read that whitepaper, so you create a video they can watch on their lunch break. But what if they don’t even have time for that? This is why many brands have podcasts – in fact, it seems like everybody and their brother has one.
Podcasts can be effective if you have the budget and brand authority to get people to listen. But you can also create audiobooks (or audio e-books) or short-form clips about frequently asked questions or product features that you send to prospects based on their needs. In audio format, they’ll likely be able to open and listen to it no matter where they are.
5. New Platforms
Personalization has always been essential to B2B content marketing and especially to ABM – and what’s more personal than an actual human employee, talking directly to prospects? This time, we’re not talking about podcasts.
Employees can build followings on any number of new apps, like Clubhouse, where audiences join rooms to talk – with their voices! – in real-time. Clubhouse audiences choose their own rooms, or “clubs,” so they’re already engaged with the topic, and you can sponsor a room, create your own and host events or interviews. It’s a great way to raise brand awareness, gain credibility and access prominent individuals as part of your ABM strategy.
Substack is another platform on the rise. It allows you to start a newsletter or blog that can be easily discovered by those interested in your niche. Substack has tens of millions of visitors per month and has even racked up 500,000 paying subscribers. Start your own or have your employees contribute to existing newsletters to get your expertise out to a wider audience.
By now, everyone’s heard of influencers. Many are even predicting the beginning of the end for this “occupation” spawned by the social media age. But influencers are just beginning to become a B2B content marketing trend. It might surprise you that the category “Business & Utility Services” outranks personal goods, restaurants and other popular categories in terms of the number of followers on Instagram.
You can also leverage influencers’ impact on your blog, by paying them to write a guest post or by sponsoring a post on their blog. However you choose to use it, remember that follower engagement is more important than total number of followers – a “micro-influencer” with 5,000 highly engaged followers will likely produce a better result than one with a million disengaged followers. (They’ll be cheaper, too.)
7. Events (Kind of)
It’s probably not surprising that after years of lockdown and travel restrictions, events are making a comeback. According to the CMI report, 52% of B2B marketers said their investment in in-person events would increase this year, and 39% said the same of hybrid events. Virtual events aren’t going anywhere either: 58% said they were a top performer last year.
For many B2B industries, there’s no substitute for actual, face-to-face, human interaction. That’s why, while in-person events may be smaller, or held in hybrid formats, it seems they are back on the rise.
8. Retention Marketing
B2B marketers have always known that retaining customers costs them much, much less than earning new ones – but for many, the pandemic put this into even more perspective. It became even more essential to keep the customers they had, because gaining new ones was simply more difficult.
Content that makes onboarding easier, responds to common questions, helps customers solve issues with functionality and educates them on updates and features they may not know about can help keep them happy and engaged. That not only improves your word-of-mouth marketing (one of the oldest trends in the book), but can mean your customer service team has more time to focus on larger issues.
As Ferris Bueller might say, “Content moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss these top B2B content marketing trends.” OK, we paraphrased a bit. But he’s right. Working with an experienced B2B content marketing agency like BusinessOnline can help. Check out our Content Creation capabilities today and drop us a line to learn more.