The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a new paradigm for the B2B space. While some professionals anticipate a return to a pre-pandemic normal, most believe our business practices have been shaken up, rewritten, and changed for good.
If this is true for business in general, then it’s certainly true for content marketing.
Firms can no longer rely on old staples like face to face selling collateral and in-person events. The way to gain attention in the post-covid world is through polished, targeted content that captures the attention of busy professionals inside their home-offices.
Incidentally, the new demands placed on the WFH-conscious content marketer coincided with pre-existing upswings in trends like video marketing, podcasting, and SEO — enriching the grounds of the fertile B2B content landscape we’re standing on today.
Content Marketing Institute insights
At the recent Content Marketing World conference, one of the more enlightening sessions was “Content Marketing Predictions for 2022 (and how to navigate them)”. What made this particularly intriguing was the basis of their predictions – Industry Dive’s studioIS team works with over 500 brands across 22 industries, and they polled their community of more than 100,000 people to predict the biggest changes they foresee for content marketing in the next year, and how they’ll plan for it. Not a bad foundation to work off of!
First of all, a fun but shocking fact: a whopping 30% of survey respondents said their boss has no real clue what they do, or the value it can create for their customers and brand.
Honestly, this translates directly into the biggest challenge marketers expect to see next year – demonstrating ROI. And yet, according to another study conducted by the Content Marketing Institute, “66% [of survey respondents] expect their 2022 content marketing budget to increase over their 2021 budget.”
So where will this budget be focused?
On a more detailed level, here’s what respondents expect to see next year:
- 49% see a lot less whitepapers
- 60% see a lot more podcasts
- 19% see a lot less webinars
- 48% see a lot more webinars
(Source: Big bets for marketers in 2022)
Evidently then, whether you fall into the less or more webinars camp, the fact is that content marketing is here to stay. However, it will be imperative to approach it with a solid, ROI-demonstrating plan informed by trends and strategies from your industry peers.
5 B2B content marketing trends to look out for in 2022
According to this report by MotionCue, 85% of marketers believed that video will play an important role in marketing in the coming years. That probably doesn’t come as a surprise. Video’s prevalence in content marketing over the last decade has been well noted and well practiced.
So how has video marketing changed as of late?
For one, the cadence and speed at which videos are produced and released has accelerated sharply. In many industries, clients are expecting solid video content. It’s not the nice-to-have it was five years ago.
What’s more? Due to the increasing prevalence of high quality video production resources, it’s easier than ever to launch a high-quality video campaign. You no longer even need to touch a camera to produce great content, due to the availability of professional stock video and animation resources at your fingertips.
Therefore, any brand can produce a polished video in house or via outside assistance. What’s going to be more important in 2022 is the story you’re telling.
Like video, SEO is not a new concept for any content marketer, but it’s importance only continues to grow.
SEO is a particularly challenging beast because of how quickly the rules change. With each update to Google and other search engines, large chunks of the old rulebook can be ripped out and kicked to the curb.
A good example of this is the introduction of MUM, Google’s latest AI driven search technology model. As Pandu Nayak, Google VP of Search, explains:
Eventually, you might be able to take a photo of your hiking boots and ask, ‘can I use these to hike Mt. Fuji?’ MUM would understand the image and connect it with your question to let you know your boots would work just fine. It could then point you to a blog with a list of recommended gear.
How’s that for a new challenge to adapt your SEO to? Because MUM is still in development, we don’t know exactly how this is going to affect search results. But we may expect even more importance given to authority signals (EAT), and an answer-centric approach to content if the previous model, BERT, is any indication.
Also an old favorite with an ever-expanding impact, podcasts are the sleeper format of the savvy Content Marketer who understands how a more generalized trend can be applied to a B2B audience.
You’re not going to be seeing every B2B brand jumping on the podcast bandwagon, but those with the right product to tout (and more importantly, the right audience) are going to find success in this format.
Why? For one, podcasting in general has become mainstream. As the link from Statista shows, “Forecasts suggest that the number of podcast listeners will surpass 160 million in 2023 after increases of around 20 million each year.”
Moreover, busy professionals are searching for ways to stay informed on industry news and trends in a way that fits inside the nooks and crannies of their schedules. In certain situations, they may not have time to read through an entire ebook, but they might be able to throw on a podcast while finishing up some quick emails or cleaning up their calendars.
Augmented Reality Marketing
Unlike the old staples listed above, Augmented Reality Content Marketing is an emerging trend only beginning to establish itself as a go-to tool for the savvy marketer. The ways AR can be applied are diverse and only growing. And while many notable AR marketing campaigns have been in the B2C space — think Sephora using AR to allow customers to sample different types of makeup — there are many good reasons why B2B firms can join the fun as well.
One of the use cases is creating engaging sales presentation content. This is of utmost importance in a business landscape increasingly turning to remote work, where the client was once able to view a physical product in person, but must now rely on technology to deliver the same message.
Collaboration among two different vendors (or a vendor and client) iterating on the final version of a product can be aided by AR as well. By bringing a physical product into an AR environment, stakeholders can explore the design and features of a product in three dimensions even if the real-life version of the product is thousands of miles away. A sense of space can be achieved by AR as well. Check out this interactive platform built by Aircards for Nutanix’s virtual conference.
Eye-catching visuals aiding the delivery and retention of your messaging. What’s not to like?
Virtual Events and Webinars
Of course, with practically everything possible being pushed online over the past couple years, events were sure to follow suit.
According to a study by the Content Marketing Institute, virtual events and webinars were among the types of content marketing that yielded the best results over the past 12 months. In fact, 64% of content marketers employed some sort of virtual event or webinar in that timeframe, and 58% of survey respondents agreed that those efforts were a success.
Now, that doesn’t mean that bringing an event online is a seamless transition when you’re used to holding them in-person. There are certainly growing pains involved, especially when many of your attendees will already be suffering from Zoom fatigue. But there are some clear advantages as well.
For one, your event will be able to reach a larger audience by sheer virtue of being accessible from anywhere. No planes, no hotels, no time away from family. As an organizer, you’ll still have a ton of prep work to do, but you can pretty much guarantee it’s going to be a lot more straightforward than working with a physical venue plus dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of third party vendors.
Plus, as AR continues to develop, we now have the option of portraying that conference feel without the conference hall itself. There are also a multiplying number of new tools for making online events more interactive and entertaining than before. Those tools also can be used to generate content that can be utilized downstream of an event.
And while there’s been an understandable urge to get back together in person, every new COVID variant makes some companies think twice.
Comin’ at ya, 2022
Content Marketing has been shaken up and transformed — in a lot of cases for the better — by the pandemic and subsequent shifts we’ve seen to the broader business landscape. Existing trends like video, podcasts, webinars, and AR accelerated their already-in-progress climbs towards content marketing preeminence with a little boost from the massive digital transformation we’ve seen over the past two years.
What’s at the heart of it all? Make sure you can justify why you’re using a certain format. Whether you decide to try a podcast for the first time or experiment with hosting a quirky webinar, your format should suit your content, your story and your audience. Focus on being relevant and consequential, with your audience in the center of your content. You could be on the hottest platform, but if your content isn’t valuable, it’s not likely to succeed.
2022 is poised to be a solid year for content marketing, and we look forward to hearing from you on a video, podcast, or even live from a virtual conference hall soon!