Surveying a range of B2B marketers from different industries including financial services, banking and insurance, the 11th Annual B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends: Insights for 2021 report found that 94% of respondents had changed their content marketing strategy in 2020 because of COVID-19.
The majority said their organisation had pivoted quickly, they felt the changes were effective and they expected at least some of the changes would stay in effect for the foreseeable future. While COVID-19 is certainly a catalyst for change in financial marketing, the quick pivots financial content marketers are making are only the beginning of a new dawn.
Financial marketing moving with the times
70% of B2B marketers said they had changed their targeting/messaging strategy, while 64% adjusted their editorial calendars and 53% changed their content distribution/promotion strategy.
Reasons for the changes aren’t explored in the report but numerous factors are likely at play here for financial services, starting with shifts in customer behaviour. We’ve seen a wholesale shift to digital, even for customers of asset and wealth management firms – a development that otherwise might have taken years.
This shift may be felt profoundly in B2B circles, where digital has traditionally been viewed as a second-line measure for the masses.
A gentler touch as economic events unfold
Changes in targeting and messaging may also have resulted from marketers recognising the need to switch from pushing products to educating consumers and giving them the confidence to navigate through the crisis. Take note that if your customers have had to digitally transform their own organisations, they may still be dealing with the implications of that.
“ Content can help reassure customers and help them make sense of disruptions.”
Content can help reassure customers on that front and help them make sense of disruptions. It might also be refocused on retaining relationships and strengthening brands.
Virtual events to the fore
Social distancing restrictions have prompted some of the biggest changes this year, namely:
- Use of in-person events decreased to 42% from 73%
- Use of virtual events/webinars/online courses increased to 67% from 57%
- Use of livestreaming content increased to 29% from 10%
When asked to nominate the best overall content marketing results for their organization in the last 12 months, survey respondents identified blog posts/short articles as equal in effectiveness with virtual events/webinars/online courses.
Like virtual events, short-form content allows marketers to remain agile in turbulent times. White papers take a long time to write and approve; short blogs are an opportunity for quick wins.
While many respondents have pivoted quickly, the 2020 B2B Content Marketing report makes clear that few have gone the extra mile to rethink their entire marketing approach. As a financial content marketer, you might ask yourself:
- How has the pandemic affected the customer journey and consumer behaviours? This includes the preference for researching products through digitally-enabled sales interactions and self-service channels across every stage of the decision journey. Look at every touchpoint for your B2B customer and re-examine it based on the new expectations by which customers will judge you. Are you showing speed, transparency and expertise? Is the experience seamless, fluid, compelling? Can AI or machine learning help you predict what your customer needs, and help you personalise your messaging?
- How has the pandemic and economic fluctuations affected personas? Your customers have new attitudes and emotional responses in 2020. Might there be new personas emerging for your business post COVID? The previous B2B Content Marketing 2019 report had already flagged a failure to create well-researched personas: only 42% of content marketers in 2019 were talking with customers to understand their needs and build out personas. According to the latest CMI report, only 30% of respondents had increased time spent talking with customers in 2020.
- So how can you increase the time you spend talking with customers? Monitoring social media (LinkedIn, Twitter) helps you see what your audience is posting about and engaging with. Also, those people within your organisation who are in direct contact with customers on a regular basis can provide valuable insights here. This could be a big differentiator in your space.
- And finally, how are you updating key performance indicators or metrics? You’ll only know if your post-pandemic changes have been effective if you’ve updated the way you measure that success.