After Covid-19, the broader task of creating engaging content will remain the same. The old rules — clarity surrounding your audience, customer-centric content and distinction in your positioning — still apply, but there will be subtle differences. Here are my five top tips for creating engaging content in a post-pandemic world.
1. Be More Human
After lengthy lockdowns and social restrictions, people are starved of simple human connection. Marketing-focused content, of course, isn’t going to replace this, but informal ways of communicating are more acceptable. Everyone knows what their colleagues’ homes look like (or at least the bit they can see in a Zoom window) and any residual dress codes have been relaxed.
To create more engaging content in this context, marketers need to place empathy and rapport first, and production values and perfect lighting second. Don’t worry about the polish. The beauty of this is it makes a marketer’s job decidedly easier.
2. Drop The Gates
It’s something that many are OK with but rankles others.
Gating content behind forms is infamous for its significant negative impact on engagement, and often the data that comes back is very poor because people find ways around it (i.e., entering false information).
It is better to drop the gate altogether or place it within the content itself toward the end. After all, most marketers would prefer more people to see their content than to simply farm emails.
3. Grow Demand
The lead-obsessed mentality of content marketers has been engaged in a race to the bottom of the funnel for some time. This is fine(-ish) when there are a lot of leads available from in-market buyers. But as we head into more uncertain economic times, the number of available leads in many sectors is likely to reduce with customers being more risk-averse with their money.
It will then become more important to focus on motivating buyers into the market than simply maximizing the conversion rate. This will change the type of content marketers need to create.
Marketers should look at how they can remove friction from the sales process and make it easier for prospects to buy from them and not a competitor. Messaging and content must be psychopathically focused on customers' real-world problems and pain points and not the organization’s service or products. In other words, marketers should reconnect with the traditional role of brand-building and creating and nurturing long-term demand, which is very different from short-term leads.
4. Maximize Reach
Targeted distribution significantly expands content’s reach. Recent work by smarter people than me (Bennet, Field, Ritson, Sharp) has clearly shown that despite all the focus on 1:1 and personalized content, the key to success is to get in front of as many potential buyers as you can.
However, with the shine coming off the Facebooks, Twitters and Googles of the world due to a manner of issues (coronavirus denial, antivax propaganda and eye-watering levels of click fraud), gaining reach is not as simple as throwing money at networks and programmatic buys.
In many ways, marketing teams need to start looking back to the old ways of media planning that focus on specific sites where we can get in front of real live people and not fake Russian bots.
5. Be Distinctive
There is too much content in the world. Or, at least, too much self-serving, bland, SEO-over-optimized rubbish that almost no one notices (and those that do quickly forget).
Too many brands create content as if they face no competition for peoples’ attention. A search for “digital transformation E-book” nets more than 21 million results and yet, next week, another tech vendor will publish another version that’s pretty much identical to all the others. We’re likely to see even more of this repetition post-pandemic as event budgets carry on being repurposed into “content.”
To truly engage, content needs to stand out in as many ways as possible. This means finding a distinctive angle, discovering ways to get closer to customers, using clear brand triggers to boost mental availability and more. This is now the price of entry. If content marketers can’t be distinctive, it’s time to pick up the ball and head home.
Jason Ball is the founder of B2B marketing agency Considered Content, whose clients include Google, Oracle, AT&T, EY and Microsoft. Ball is also behind Prolific, a first-of-its-kind managed content service created for the B2B sector. He helps ambitious marketers differentiate their brands, generate demand and reduce friction from the buyer journey.