This blog features research from NetLine’s annual State of B2B Content Consumption and Demand Report for Marketers. To learn more about the buying behaviors of B2B professionals, download the 2021 Content Consumption Report.
When we encounter the unknown, we usually do so very cautiously.
In March 2020, when “The Pause” came upon us, the expectation was that things would, “return to normal” within a few weeks, maybe a month or two at max. I don’t need to tell you how wrong we all were.
Putting all of the unknown COVID presented to us as a species aside, perhaps what impacted us the most was the sense of limbo we all felt in the early days of lockdown. For many, this period of purgatory extended into every aspect of their lives, allowing everything they experienced to be called into question.
In the course of all this questioning, we realize how little trust we have in so much of what’s before us.
“In a post-Covid world…trust is everything.”
In her 85th edition of her brilliant fortnightly newsletter, Total Annarchy, my Instagram BFF Ann Handley wrote those words. While the context was different, the statement remains correct.
Regardless of whether your company is based on in-person foot traffic or a cloud-based service, everyone felt COVID’s impact. The behaviors of consumers and how they evolved during 2020 forced businesses back to the drawing board. As Jay Baer said last Summer, it was important for everyone to disclose the state of their operations. Questions as benign as, “Are you open?” became incredibly relevant to customers who genuinely didn’t know.
Research from McKinsey highlighted how consumer shopping behaviors changed during the height of The Pause. I wouldn’t be burying the lede to say that trust influenced quite a bit of these decisions.
While there was a considerable push to drive local economies during the Spring and early Summer of 2020, consumers eventually returned to big brands they knew and trusted in a big way. According to the article, “large consumer-goods manufacturers represented ~50% of sales in 2018, they accounted for only 16 percent of the growth in 2015–18, that share of growth rose to 39 percent in 2018–19 and reached 55 percent in the first three weeks of April 2020.”
McKinsey’s analysis projects that the scale of a brand will once matter again. “Big brands are again winning consumers’ trust.” The reason that big brands seem to be winning greater market share now is because what they deliver is often (or has a larger chance of being) more predictable.
While this research only talks about B2C businesses, the same lessons can be applied to B2B organizations, too.
Why Successful B2B Content Marketing Requires These 3 Elements
In analyzing more than 40 Petabytes of B2B content information, our research surfaced three key elements that, when used correctly, give B2B Marketers the best opportunity to build tangible success through content. Naturally, there is connective tissue that binds all of these elements together: Trust.
While trust has always been a pillar of every business relationship, COVID revealed just how crucial it truly is. To achieve success moving forward, your Content Marketing must convey to prospects and clients that your business is not only a trustworthy partner but also reliable enough to depend on you.
COVID took everyone by surprise and impacted revenues across the board. Moving forward, businesses are going to do everything they can not be caught off guard again.
To do this, organizations will do their best to build strongholds, not only for themselves—like the increased interest seen in database management content—but as a means to identify and align with allies who can accommodate seamlessly without introducing any kind of doubt or volatility, within their own ecosystem.
While safety offers a degree of expectation, predictability raises these expectations. Sure predictable might sound boring, but in reality, after a year plus of, “who know what’s next,” certainty is sexy.
To confirm this, we need look no further than the surge in consumption from professionals in the Legal, Insurance, and HR fields. Their desire to better protect and predict the hurdles their employees and employers/clients/businesses will encounter lead them to consume as much content associated with COVID, remote work, and every human resource implication imaginable as they could. These pros knew that they would be the ones expected to answer questions regarding these topics while simultaneously acting as a calming and reassuring presence. (No pressure, guys.)
Hundreds of thousands of businesses claim to cover ABC. Unfortunately, most of the time they can only handle R, K, and sometimes C. How on earth can prospects figure out what you do well if you’re not even sure?
The Pause gave companies a chance to reinforce what you offer customers starting from the ground up. Things like your FAQs, About section, and the homepage of your website (the cornerstones of your messaging) were easy candidates for pieces that needed a good hard look. Take a look at them now; is what you do to help businesses understood and expressed clearly and simply? If not, you’d be well-served to revisit this and try to boil it down into the simplest terms possible.
The basics are the basics for a reason. Businesses are looking for content that gives them a foundational path forward: “What do I need? What do I do?” Sweat the small stuff—because your potential customers are, too. This is especially true when their backs are against the wall.
Root Your Content in Trust
We all know that without trust, we have nothing.
As we’ve highlighted through this blog, trust means way more today than it did just 15 months ago. If you’re able to convey why your business is an expert worthy of being trusted in your industry, you stand to outperform your competition.
By focusing on Simplicity, Predictability, and Security, you’ll better anticipate the needs of your clients and prospects and in turn have the opportunity to win something just as prized as their business: Their trust.
The full 2021 State of B2B Content Consumption and Demand Report for Marketers is now available.