6 Eye-Opening B2B Content Marketing Statistics for 2021

Content Writer Drafting Copy on Laptop

Content Writer Drafting Copy on Laptop“You can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. Forty percent of all people know that.” – Homer Simpson

Homer might be right, generally speaking. But I still maintain that good, accurate, timely statistics from trusted sources can serve as vital guideposts and benchmarking tools, especially when it comes to business strategy.

This certainly applies in my own corner of the business world: the fast-changing and critically important field of B2B content marketing.

Trends in content marketing tend to reflect broader truths, since we’re talking about the ways in which companies and customers interact and communicate. Because of this, I like to keep a close eye on new research and data as it surfaces, filing away nuggets that strike me as especially telling.

Today, I’ll share six new B2B content marketing statistics that everyone should know.

6 Eye-Opening B2B Content Marketing Statistics for 2021

These stats highlight many of the challenges, opportunities, and changes unfolding here in 2021.

#1: Businesses are the most trusted institution for information in 2021. (Source: Edelman)

Edelman’s 2021 Trust Barometer shows that the business sector has risen above government, media, and NGOs in its Trust Index. Edelman also found that business is now seen as the institution that is both competent and ethical.

Edelman Image

Needless to say, this is a big moment for content marketers. Distrust is running rampant among misinformation, uncertainty and anxiety across the globe. People are looking to businesses for credible, clear, and accurate insights and guidance. As marketers, we must harness this opportunity to earn and solidify this trust.

How can we best do so? Edelman’s survey results point to a clear answer: by vigorously guarding information quality and filtering out the noise.

Edelman Image 2

[bctt tweet=”“People are looking to businesses for credible, clear, and accurate insights and guidance. As marketers, we must harness this opportunity to earn and solidify this trust.” — Nick Nelson @NickNelsonMN” username=”toprank”]

#2: 88% of marketers say collecting first-party data is a priority in 2021. (Source: Merkle)

This comes from Merkle’s 2021 Customer Engagement Report, highlighting a key frontier for informing content strategies this year. While third-party data and insights like those we’ve aggregated here are useful, nothing can quite match the relevance and impact of information drawn from your own customers and digital experiences.

Heightening data privacy regulations are playing a major role in motivating these initiatives, according to Merkle’s research. The report also points to a rise in “zero-party data,” which includes “transaction intentions, preference data, personal context, and what the customer thinks about the company.”

Per Merkle: “Marketers don’t have to infer customer preferences or behavior through secondary behavior but are instead explicitly told, straight from the source. The best zero-party data is when the customers trust the brand and are willing to volunteer their data with the understanding that it will improve their experience.”

#3: Mobile device usage rose dramatically in 2020. (Souce: App Annie)

Surely this comes as no surprise. Deprived of the ability to congregate in person, many of us increased our reliance on different forms of connection and entertainment. App Annie’s State of Mobile 2021 report found that mobile adoption saw two-to-three years worth of advancement in 12 months during 2020, with mobile time surpassing live TV.

Substantial increases were seen across the board globally:

App Annie Image

App Annie also shared data around the most-used social networking apps in 2020. No. 1 on the list may surprise you:

  1. TikTok
  2. Facebook
  3. WhatsApp Messenger
  4. Instagram
  5. Facebook Messenger

While these apps tend to be utilized more in the B2C realm for marketing purposes, it’s valuable to note the popularity and traction.

#4: Brands are using Instagram Stories more than ever. (Source: Rival IQ)

On that note, the newly released 2021 Instagram Stories Benchmark Report from social analytics firm Rival IQ casts light on usage and engagement trends around Instagram Stories, a fast-rising channel that holds some intrigue for B2B brands. As mentioned above, Instagram is a traditionally B2C-centric marketing app, but given the growing adoption and the amount of time people spend on it, no marketer should ignore it. I wrote here a couple years ago about why Instagram Stories were generating B2B buzz, and now that buzz is loudening.

For those who are interested in dabbling, Rival IQ offers this advice based on its research findings: “Focus on creating a few really engaging, dynamic frames to start off your Story. If your brand can hook viewers early with great content, it’ll improve your retention and turn your followers into fans.”

#5: Most B2B marketers say the pandemic had a meaningful impact on their strategies. (Source: CMI/MarketingProfs)

The 2021 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report placed a special emphasis on understanding how organizations responded and adapted to COVID-19. Seventy percent of respondents in the survey from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs said the pandemic had a major or moderate impact on their content strategy, with most describing their adjustments as a combination of short-term and long-term.

CMI Image

When asked specifically about the most common changes made in response to COVID-19, these were the top responses from B2B marketers:

  1. Changed targeting/messaging strategy (70%)
  2. Adjusted editorial calendar (64%)
  3. Changed content distribution/promotion strategy (53%)
  4. Changed website (40%)
  5. Put more resources toward social media/online communities (40%)

#6: The top barriers to creating great B2B content are workload and changing priorities. (Source: Radix Communications)

Radix Communications surveyed more than 100 B2B marketers to learn which obstacles loom largest in this year. The most commonly cited barriers in the way of great content were changing priorities and workload, although respondents were more likely to name interference and resources as a “big problem” than workload.

RadixI Image

Another finding in Radix’s research: “B2B marketers who can’t talk to customers are 27% less likely to be happy with their content’s business results.” This ties back to the prioritization of first-party data and gathering direct insight from the audience.

B2B Content Marketing by the Numbers

Homer Simpson wasn’t entirely off base. People can dig up statistics to make almost any type of case. But here, the numbers only confirm trends and realities that most B2B content marketers are already experiencing. Trust hangs in the balance; data is growing both more important and more nuanced; mobile and social media usage have exploded; and evolving priorities create new challenges for planning.

We hope that the context provided by these B2B content marketing statistics helps you as you find your way in the new landscape. For more forward-looking insight to guide your strategy, check out Lee Odden’s post on the Top B2B Marketing Trends for 2021.

The post 6 Eye-Opening B2B Content Marketing Statistics for 2021 appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

How Successful B2B Marketers Integrate Influence in the Marketing Mix

B2B Influencer Marketing Integration

B2B Influencer Marketing Integration

Influencer Marketing is a fast growing discipline for B2B marketers and while many brands view it as a stand alone tactic, mature marketers realize that influence can play a role across the customer lifecycle in virtually any business communication, content type or publishing channel.

There’s plenty of evidence to show that business customers do not limit their information discovery and consumption to single communication channels or content types. Neither should business marketers. That’s why savvy B2B marketers integrate influencer content across marketing disciplines from ABM to Public Relations to SEO to create the kinds of customer experiences that create credibility, reach and engagement.

To truly take full advantage of all the benefits greater influence can bring a B2B marketing effort in 2021, it’s important to understand how successful marketers are integrating influencer content with other marketing, the best practices they use and what a successful influencer content integration effort looks like.

Content Optimized for Findability and Credibility

According to our research from the State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report, the vast majority of B2B marketers integrate influencer marketing with social media (90%) and content marketing (83%) activities. As B2B marketing moves entirely online as a result of the pandemic, another influencer integration opportunity exists: SEO. When marketers integrate the findability of SEO with the credibility of content that is influencer activated, it helps B2B brands become the best answer for  topics they want to be known for and that customers care about.

The Value of Influencer Content Integration

“When brands have trusted experts to tap for insights, content and advocacy, the contribution to customer experience can be significant. More than ever, buyers are pulling themselves through the sales cycle with digital information in a variety of formats and channels.

To meet customer demand for relevant content where they want it, B2B brands that run influencer marketing programs are integrating influencer content with other marketing activities from social media marketing and content marketing to public relations and SEO.

Whether influencer content is customized or repurposed for the different channels where customers consume content, the result is a better experience for the buyer and for the brand.”

Ann Handley MarketingProfsAnn Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs:

So what does an integrated B2B influencer marketing program look like?

Let’s take a look at how Cherwell Software’s integrated influencer content approach helped them reach millions and generate a 342% better click through rate on their content.


The credibility and continuity of a brand’s message can be the difference between marketing success and failure. When a B2B brand needs to pivot its message, building trust and being seen in all the channels where customers are, is essential.

As a tech company transitioning its messaging and focus from ITSM towards digital transformation, Cherwell Software sought to accelerate their credibility within the industry with an influencer marketing campaign focused on helping the target audience overcome obstacles and get buy-in along their digital transformation journey.

To build message credibility and ensure visibility, Cherwell partnered with trusted technology experts to co-create content in formats that would resonate with customers including video, interactive content and blog posts in support of new original research in the form of an industry report.

With the brand and influencer messages coordinated across formats and channels, Cherwell Software was able to drive awareness, engagement and conversions.

By co-creating content with influencers and integrating the message, Cherwell Software’s influencer marketing program achieved reach and engagement goals while building trust in the new brand message:

  • 5.45M in potential reach from influencer shares
  • 90% of all visitors were new users
  • 882 interactions with the interactive content

See the full case study here.

Top Opportunities for Influencer Content Integration

B2B marketers top influencer marketing goals focus on building brand awareness (84%) and lead generation (69%). Achieving both goals with any kind of influencer marketing program requires message integration across channels to create a consistent brand experience.

In our research we found 6 key areas where influencer marketing was integrated with other marketing activities:

  • 89.9% Social media marketing
  • 82.8% Content marketing
  • 55.6% Public relations (PR)
  • 49.5% Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • 43.4% Branding
  • 32.3% Account-based marketing (ABM)

Social Media is where a significant portion of influencer marketing activities happens and in B2B marketing, content activations are a best practice. Integration of influencers with public relations activities or influencer relations, is a longstanding practice.

As more B2B buyers rely on search engines to find information in today’s increasingly digital world, search engines represent an ideal opportunity for B2B marketers to be the best answer for customers at the very moment they need them most. SEO keywords serve as an indication of buyer demand and those same keywords can be used for influencer selection, content planning and promotion.

Branding integration synchronizes with the top influencer marketing goal of brand awareness as B2B marketers seek to gain brand reach and influence by working with experts that already have it. ABM integration is relatively new and represents a significant opportunity to add credibility to content used for targeted accounts.

Influencer Marketing integration means leveraging the credibility of trusted experts in all the channels where customers are looking whether the goal is branding focused or generating new leads.

Customers know authenticity when they see it and naturally trust humans more than brands. Working with credible B2B influencers helps to build brand authority through real, human conversations and interactions. @saritasayso

Sarita Rao AT&T BusinessSarita Rao, SVP – Portfolio Integration & Partner Solutions at AT&T 

Top Considerations for B2B Marketers to Better Integrate Influence in the Marketing Mix

  1. While the majority of B2B marketers integrate influencer marketing activities with social media (90%) and content marketing (83%), integration with SEO (50%) presents a significant opportunity for brands to gain a competitive advantage with content that is easy to find and highly credible.
  2. B2B marketers can partner with influencers to co-create and integrate content messaging for brands that need to pivot or adjust. Cherwell Software successfully engaged influencers to do just that and achieved impressive results with content reaching 90% new users.
  3. Marketers are not handling influencer integration efforts alone. 63% of marketers say they enlist agencies to help integrate influencer marketing programs with other marketing tactics from social media to SEO to Public Relations.

B2B Influencer Marketing Report Preview

Get more insights into where influence can fit in your mix with the State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report.

The post How Successful B2B Marketers Integrate Influence in the Marketing Mix appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

5 Standout Traits of the Best B2B Content Marketers

Traits of the Best B2B Content Marketers

Traits of the Best B2B Content Marketers

My favorite part of playing a sports video game is the “Create a Player” function. It gives me the opportunity to set realism aside and dream up the most legendary, dominant athletic specimen imaginable. On the basketball court, no real-life point guard would be able to match up against “Dimes McGee,” my customized 7-foot-10 wunderkind with 99 ratings for shooting, passing, ball-handling, speed, and defense. Talk about optimization!

What if you could “create a player” in B2B content marketing? Which attributes would you want to max out in order to fabricate the most successful practitioner possible? It’s a fun and interesting question to contemplate, in large part because the answers now are different than even a few years ago.

Which traits and characteristics define the most effective B2B content marketers in 2021?

Optimized: 5 Traits of the Best B2B Content Marketers

Certain requisite skills, such as being creative and a good communicator, are so obvious as to go without stating. But a new set of traits are emerging that differentiate the best B2B content marketers in this reshaped business environment.

If you’re looking to hire a content marketer (or agency), or you’re looking to grow your own skills, these are the traits worth emphasizing.

Curious

The game is changing. New innovations are disrupting the profession and many fundamentals are in flux. In charting the top B2B marketing trends for 2021, TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden envisions a massive shift toward digital-first tactics and practices, citing AI and chatbots as technologies that will help lead the way as organizations zero in on digital customer engagement.

Adapting to this revolution requires a curious and open mind. Those who are rigidly set in their ways, or committed to conventional thinking, will be in trouble. We must be willing — eager, even — to challenge our own assumptions about our audiences’ needs, and how best to meet them.

A great B2B content marketer is not someone who insists they know everything. Instead, it’s someone who readily admits what they don’t know, questions what they think they do know, and shows a fervent curiosity to learn more.

[bctt tweet=”“A great B2B content marketer is not someone who insists they know everything, but someone who readily admits what they don’t.” @NickNelsonMN #B2B #ContentMarketing ” username=”toprank”]

Analytical

This can be a sticking point. Given that content marketers tend to be writers by trade, many of us (myself included) are averse to math. So the idea of crunching numbers and calculating metrics can feel a bit daunting. The good news is that marketing analytics tools can handle most of the math for us; it is incumbent upon B2B content marketers to take these insights and draw meaningful, actionable conclusions from them.

Put another way, being analytical means being scientific in our curiosity. Intuition and instincts are important, but they should never overshadow solid evidence in our thinking. The widespread availability of data today brings a world of opportunities to verify, validate, or revise any theory we might have.

For practical guidance on the subject, I encourage you to check out Annie Leuman’s post on how data insights can lead your B2B content marketing strategy, from benchmarking and goals to audience and personas to content mapping and more.

Bold

A critical caveat: being analytical doesn’t mean content marketers should get bogged down in a chronic state of decision paralysis. While remaining flexible, and vigilantly mindful of analytics, we should be ready to pursue our convictions decisively and take the lead.

The newly released Edelman Trust Barometer 2021 lays out a mandate for businesses and CEOs: “Act first, talk later.” With businesses currently being rated as more trustworthy than NGOs, government, or media, content marketers have a unique opportunity to speak up and solidify the credibility of their brands. Those who boldly capitalize and deliver for their audiences will separate themselves this year.

[bctt tweet=”“Act first, talk later.” – @EdelmanPR on the path to boldly building trust in 2021. #B2B #ContentMarketing” username=”toprank”]

Empathetic

Another key directive from Edelman’s latest report: “have the courage to provide straight talk, but also empathize and address people’s fears.” This is not necessarily an easy balance to strike.

In a recent survey by Singular, CMOs identified empathy as the biggest supertrend in marketing this year after digital transformation. Nothing else came remotely close.

CMO Supertrends - Singular

Content marketers are the primary conduits between a business and its potential customers. They help internal stakeholders understand the audience’s needs and values, and they shape external perceptions of how the brand is serving those needs and values. Empathy is instrumental in ensuring these two sides align.

To an extent, empathy comes naturally, but it can be honed and strengthened through a curious and analytical mentality.

“Experienced marketers are being more strategic about ways to invest in customer experiences to showcase customer satisfaction and retention in addition to complementing customer acquisition strategies,” wrote Brian Solis in a post from Forbes last year that remains highly relevant today. “By measuring the customer’s real-time and aggregated experience, marketers can learn exactly how and where to improve them, in times with-COVID and post-COVID markets.”

Patient

It was almost exactly one year ago that I laid out this top priority for B2B marketers in 2020: slow your roll. From customer experiences to strategy-setting to social media management and SEO tactics, I saw opportunities to take a beat and become more methodical.

As it turns out, we didn’t have much choice. The arrival of a global pandemic soon after forced the business world at large to slow down as budgets were reduced, employees were confined to their homes, and buying decisions were delayed. Distractions and disruptions ran rampant. LinkedIn’s State of Sales 2020 report found 44% of respondents saying their customers’ sales cycles had grown longer in the face of COVID-19.

Now, we just need to adjust. Patience will be a virtue for those B2B content marketers who thrive in the year to come: patience with coworkers, customers, business partners, and measuring results. Keeping a positive and productive mindset through a year of transition and uncertainty projects confidence and stability.

As the old saying goes: “Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.”

Bring Your Marketing ‘A Game’ in 2021

Through curiosity, analysis, boldness, empathy, and patience, B2B content marketers can be prepared for everything that comes their way in 2021. Let these traits shine and your output will do the same.

Ready for more advice on overcoming the challenges ahead? Learn which attributes will drive the most successful influencer marketing efforts this year by clicking over to Lee’s post for tips and examples.

The post 5 Standout Traits of the Best B2B Content Marketers appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Pitfall! Steering Clear of 5 Common B2B Content Marketing Missteps

Woman Jumping Over Pitfalls Image

Woman Jumping Over Pitfalls Image

It’s been almost 40 years since Pitfall!, the classic side-scrolling platformer for the original Atari, was first released. David Crane’s creation went on to become one of the first console video game hits, selling more than 4 million copies, and is now remembered as an influential breakthrough for the medium.

Why did Pitfall! gain such rampant popularity? Because it was realistic and relatable!

I’m not talking about the pixelated 2D graphics or exotic jungle setting. I’m talking about the basic premise of problem-solving. The game is full of traps, hazards, and challenges, but there’s always a way around them. “Oh hey, a giant pit full of alligators. How will I get to the other side? Perhaps by grabbing hold of that swinging vine…”

via Gfycat

Today’s B2B content marketers may feel like they’re navigating a landscape filled with pitfalls — dangers or difficulties that are easily encountered but not immediately obvious. To help you on your journey, we’ve identified five of the most pervasive pitfalls so you can spot them and avoid them.

5 Pitfalls in B2B Content Marketing & How to Steer Clear

From messaging to strategy to execution, these are five of the most counterproductive missteps that are commonly made by modern content marketing practitioners.

1 — Speaking to the Many Instead of the Few

If you’re talking to everybody, you’re talking to nobody. This is a critical guiding philosophy, which may run counter to the way many marketers and writers were trained. (Especially those with backgrounds in journalism or media.)

There’s a natural compulsion to make B2B content as accessible and broadly applicable possible, in order to maximize the potential reach. But with so much information and so many resources at the fingertips of today’s decision makers, marketers need to get more specific and direct. Joel Goobich of Vestorly called out “vague, generalized content” at the top of his recent list of B2B content marketing mistakes shared at Forbes.

“Why would your B2B audience want to consume content that doesn’t speak directly to them and their interests?” he wonders. “Often B2B content is overly generalized and lacks a target audience and specific industry focus.”

What To Do: Narrow your scope. Get a clear handle on the audience(s) you want to reach, and the unique qualities, characteristics, or challenges that differentiate them from other segments. Don’t be afraid to turn away those readers or viewers who won’t find the content useful. Then, make sure your measurement strategy aligns with this selective approach. In other words, de-prioritize vanity metrics like impressions in favor of those measuring business impact.

2 — Strategizing SEO Around Keywords Instead of Intent

Keywords have been the driving force in search engine optimization for many years, serving as a cornerstone in the strategic framework for many content strategies. And keywords still have a valuable purpose. But more and more, achieving success with SEO initiatives is about understanding search intent and aligning with the motivations of searchers. There are several reasons for this:

  1. Unless you operate in a novel industry or vertical, it’s likely that the most valuable keywords you’re targeting are highly competitive. Focusing on search intent lends itself to longer-tail keywords and semantic searches, opening up more topical areas to pursue with your content.
  2. Accounting for intent rather than solely looking at keywords makes the content better. Traditionally, businesses have had a tendency to say, “This keyword has high volume and is relevant to our industry, let’s write blog posts that tie it to our product.” But if it’s not a keyword with transactional or commercial intent, then such an angle will likely miss the mark with searchers.
  3. For this reason, intent-based SEO content is more successful. It moves creators away from outdated tricks like keyword-stacking, and toward methods that actually help content rank today. A recent post from Backlinko notes that “satisfying Search Intent is ultimately Google’s #1 goal,” while pointing out that Google’s latest Quality Rater Guidelines (released in October of 2020) are “OBSESSED with Search Intent.”

What To Do: Make search intent the foundation of your SEO strategy, giving keywords and search phrases the context they need to be meaningful. The informative post from Backlinko above, as well as Google’s report on how intent is redefining the marketing funnel, are enlightening reads on the subject.

[bctt tweet=”“Make search intent the foundation of your SEO strategy, giving keywords and search phrases the context they need to be meaningful.” — Nick Nelson @NickNelsonMN” username=”toprank”]

3 — Failing to Connect with Relevance

One reason Pitfall! was such a hit back in the early 1980s is that it struck a resonant chord with audiences, who were transfixed by its treasure-hunting adventure theme following the 1981 theatrical release of Raiders of the Lost Ark. This same dynamic was at play with early arcade breakthroughs like Space Invaders and Asteroids, which channeled the sci-fi enthusiasm fueled by movies like Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

What do the people in your audience care about? Don’t limit your thinking to their professional interests. One of my favorite case studies from our clients at LinkedIn highlighted a company called SolarWinds, which recognized that its IT customer base tended to share a special affinity for sci-fi and Star Wars especially. So they did a promotion on LinkedIn that involved giving away a multitool in the shape of the Millenium Falcon.

SolarWinds’ manager of demand and marketing later said the campaign’s engagement was “probably the highest I’ve ever seen for any campaign that I’ve run across any platform.”

What To Do: Scrutinize your content hooks — the introductory sentences of articles or the early seconds of a video — to confirm you’re drawing an immediate thread of relevance with your audience. Never put yourself or your solutions first. And, in accordance with item No. 1 on this list, aim to be narrow instead of broad.

4 — Speaking to the Mind and Not the Heart

Business decisions are made on the basis of rational and logical drivers, out of necessity. But they are not made solely through those lenses. Humans are complex and emotional beings, not robots. In our recent round-up of B2B content marketing predictions for 2021, Ty Heath suggested that 2020’s pandemic “will accelerate the shift to a ‘right-brain’ movement,” with greater emphasis on humor, storytelling, and emotion.

Engaging your audience at a deeper level will help you build genuine trust, which is the single most essential ingredient for long-term business success.

What To Do: Challenge yourself and your team to create content that goes beyond dry informational details, specs, features, and product benefits. Cultivate a brand voice that is professional but not overly formal and stuffy. Build trust through storytelling.

5— Failing to Learn from Failure

Although Pitfall! was a bit before my time, I learned much about trial-and-error from my early experiences with 8-bit video games. Back then, it was all about learning from your mistakes — “Oops, I just fell into the lava and died … I’ll remember that was there next time through.”

Content marketing isn’t quite the same, because we’re not just playing through the same level over and over again, but there are always constructive lessons to be taken away from a dead end or disappointing outcome. Learning and growing often requires a willingness to fail. The alternative is constantly playing it safe, which in the end isn’t really all that safe.

In her own prediction for 2021, Carla Johnson cautions against this urge, which may be heightened in a precarious economic environment. She argues that responding to the demands of 2020 left marketers with “no room for trial and error,” and that in the coming year, “B2B content marketing will be about taking smart risks that lead to more innovative work.”

What To Do: Experiment! Make small bets and take measured risks as you seek out fresh ways to engage and connect with your audience. Ironically, one of the biggest mistakes we can make as B2B content marketers is being too afraid to make mistakes.

[bctt tweet=”“Ironically, one of the biggest mistakes we can make as B2B content marketers is being too afraid to make mistakes.” — Nick Nelson @NickNelsonMN” username=”toprank”]

Here’s to Smooth Sailing in 2021

Every marketer is bound to hit their share of snags and setbacks this year. But if we stay vigilant in avoiding the pitfalls we can anticipate —like the five cited above — and embrace the unpredictable hardships as opportunities to learn and adapt, we’ll make it through and come out stronger on the other end.

For more guidance and inspiration to carry you through the new year, check out our top 10 content marketing posts from 2020.

The post Pitfall! Steering Clear of 5 Common B2B Content Marketing Missteps appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Best of B2B Marketing: Get Inspired for 2021 with These Top 10 Content Marketing Posts

Happy business professionals jumping up in celebration image.

Happy business professionals jumping up in celebration image.

Content encompasses nearly everything we read, view, or listen to this pandemic year, and as our CEO Lee Odden said long ago, it’s also part of the reason the need for search began in the first place.

We’re especially proud of the content marketing successes our team at TopRank Marketing have achieved during this topsy-turvy 2020, for a wide-range of major B2B clients. As 2021 draws close, we wanted to share our top content marketing articles of the year — each filled with best practices, research, examples, and the latest trends.

We’re fortunate to have a wealth of talented B2B marketing professionals contributing to the TopRank B2B Marketing blog — which celebrates its 17th year this month — including Lee Odden, Joshua Nite, Elizabeth Williams, Anne Leuman, Nick Nelson, Debbie Friez, Birdie Zepeda, myself, and Alexis Hall, among others.

Collectively this compendium of our top 10 content marketing posts of the year serves as a valuable resource, filled with practical examples and relevant topics for digital marketing professionals from CMOs to copywriters. We hope that you’ll find these articles helpful well into 2021 and far beyond.

Now, join us as we move on to the top 10! These most popular content marketing posts of the year are ordered by a combination of search visibility and social engagement:

Our Most Popular Content Marketing Posts of 2020:

1. 50 Top B2B Content Marketing Influencers To Follow in 2021 #CMWorld — Lane R. Ellis

2020 CMWorld 50 Content Marketing Influencers

In our top content marketing post of the year I share our annual list of the top 50 content marketing influencers to follow and learn from, released during this year’s all-virtual Content Marketing World conference. You’ll learn new lessons from these 50 content marketing influencers throughout 2021 and into a post-pandemic industry landscape.

You can check out all of my posts here, and follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

[bctt tweet=”“@TopRank has a long history with #CMWorld starting at the beginning, with 10 years of speaking and attending along with 7 years of partnering with @CMIContent to develop speaker and influencer content marketing campaigns.” @lanerellis” username=”toprank”]

2. Where’s the Marketing in Content Marketing? 10 Essential Promotion Tactics That Drive Results — Lee Odden

content promotion tactics

Where’s the marketing in content marketing? In our second most popular content marketing post of the year, Lee shares how to overcome content creation imbalances with 10 proven content promotion tactics that have stood the test of time, to make your content promotion a priority.

Check out all of Lee’s 2,600+ posts here, and follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

[bctt tweet=”“An imbalance of content creation and promotion is not only frustrating potential marketing performance, but it’s wasting the investment made in creating great content. What good is that great content if no one sees it?” @LeeOdden” username=”toprank”]

3. 5 Ways to Humanize B2B Content Marketing — Joshua Nite

Humanizing B2B Content Father and Son Cooking Together Image

What does it mean to “humanize” your B2B content marketing? In our third most popular content marketing article of the year, our senior content marketing manager Joshua Nite shares five ways to help your content make a more human connection with a professional audience by:

  • Finding the Emotional Core
  • Earning Trust
  • Personalizing Efforts
  • Embracing Humility
  • Designing a Content Experience

You can check out all of Josh’s posts here, and follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

[bctt tweet=”“Find the emotional stories that your solution makes possible, and make them the star of your content.” — Joshua Nite @nitewrites” username=”toprank”]

4. New Research: How B2B Content Marketers Are Impacted and Pivoting During the Pandemic — Nick Nelson

Professionals Wearing Masks and Bumping Elbows

It’s undoubtedly been a year of much change and upheaval, and in our fourth most read article of the year, our content marketing manager Nick Nelson shows how B2B  content marketing practitioners are responding, and breaks down insightful research from Content Marketing Institute.

You can check out all of Nick’s posts here, and follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

[bctt tweet=”“It’s a bit ironic that at a time where more B2B marketers than ever have gotten their strategy down on paper, we’re being forced to crumple it up and rewrite it.” — Nick Nelson @NickNelsonMN” username=”toprank”]

5. 5 Examples of Effective B2B Content Marketing in Times of Crisis — Anne Leuman

Woman wearing facemark image.

What is a key factor to successful marketing during a pandemic? “Being helpful,” as our senior operations strategist Anne Leuman explores in our fifth most popular content marketing post of the year. In this insightful piece, Anne shows how B2B marketers can infuse more helpfulness in their efforts, including five examples of B2B brands doing content marketing right during the global heath crisis.

You can check out all of Anne’s posts here, and follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

[bctt tweet=”“The true key to success in B2B content marketing is to always come from a place of empathy. The more you’re able to understand and empathize with your target audience, the more likely you are to surface content opportunities.” @annieleuman” username=”toprank”]

6. 5 Steps for a More Powerful B2B Content Marketing Strategy — Lee Odden

Powerful B2B Content Marketing Strategy

How can marketers overcome content attention deficit and stand out? In our sixth most popular content marketing article of the year, Lee shares five helpful steps for building a more powerful B2B content marketing strategy, using:

  • Ideal Customer Profiles
  • Topics of Influence, Search and Social
  • Editorial Plan & Content Mapping
  • Content Promotion
  • Mining Search, Social & Influencer Analytics

This piece is filled with inspiration to begin intentionally and consistently incorporating influencers, social media and SEO in your B2B content marketing efforts, to reach more customers where they’re looking, with the kind of experiences that will inspire more effective engagement, revenue, and retention outcomes.

[bctt tweet=”“Creating useful content by itself is not an effective strategy in a world of brand distrust, content attention deficit and the distractions brought by a global pandemic.” — Lee Odden @LeeOdden” username=”toprank”]

7. 7 B2B Content Marketing Tactics For Long Term Success — Anne Leuman

Man running down an infinite road into the sunset image.

What types of content can B2B marketers utilize for driving long-term success? In the seventh most read content marketing piece of the year, Anne shares seven enduring and powerful B2B content marketing tactics for long-term success, featuring the use of content including:

  • Blogs
  • Social Media
  • Influencers
  • Podcasts
  • Sponsored & Guest Works
  • Digital Advertising
  • eBooks, Infographics, and Larger Campaigns

[bctt tweet=”“For content marketing to be successful, you need those flashy, attention-grabbing campaigns to meet immediate goals. But you also need reliable, consistent, thought-provoking content to compound results over time.” @annieleuman” username=”toprank”]

8. Why Content Marketing is More Important Than Ever for B2B Brands — Nick Nelson

B2B Marketing Content

In our number eight top content content marketing post of the year, Nick explores why content marketing is more important than ever now for B2B brands, and shares three fine examples of B2B brands going beyond mere talk.

By providing ongoing value and propping up your brand values, you’ll see plenty of value in return, as Nick examines in detail here.

[bctt tweet=”“The challenges our world now faces with the coronavirus pandemic and social justice movement create a unique opportunity for B2B content marketing to make an impact.” — Nick Nelson @NickNelsonMN” username=”toprank”]

9. How Authentic Content Builds Brand Trust in Uncertain Times — Nick Nelson

Man Interacting via Virtual Meeting

Being there for your audience, and being real with them, presents a key opportunity to strengthen relationships during difficult times. In our ninth most popular content marketing post of the year, Nick shares how authentic content builds brand trust in uncertain times.

“Content marketing is inherently a long game, focused on building relationships first and foremost. Right now, the best way to pursue this goal is through authenticity and altruism, in the context of your business and its audience,” Nick observed.

[bctt tweet=”“There’s never been a better time to open up and share real, relatable stories. Everyone is going through something, and it can be comforting to learn how others are dealing with these unique circumstances.” — Nick Nelson @NickNelsonMN” username=”toprank”]

10. In Search of Trust: How Authentic Content Drives Customer Experience — Lee Odden

Authentic Content Customer Experience

In today’s uncertain digital world, how can B2B marketers double down on building trust with their customers? Rounding our our list of the top content marketing article of the years is Lee’s insightful look at how authentic content drives customer experience.

To help marketers better understand how brands are winning customer hearts, minds, and trust with authentic content experiences, Lee shares 5 important steps including:

  • Accelerating Internal Credibility
  • Doubling Down on Customer Activation
  • Working with External Influencers to Grow Brand Credibility
  • Creating a Content Collaboration Ecosystem
  • Optimizing Measurement to Customer ROI

[bctt tweet=”“If you want your content to be great, ask your customers to participate.” — Lee Odden @LeeOdden” username=”toprank”]

Thanks TopRank Marketing Writers & Readers

Thanks to all of our top content marketing authors for contributing these top 10 content marketing posts of 2020 — congratulations on making the list!

Additionally, we publish several marketing influencer lists every year, and we wanted to share them here as a helpful way to find and follow some of the leading digital marketing influencers:

Another helpful resource for B2B marketers to learn about crafting a successful B2B influencer marketing program is our recently-launched Inside Influence series, featuring interviews with top industry experts such as the latest episode with Tim Williams of Onalytica.

We published dozens of posts this year specifically about content marketing, and plan to bring you even more in 2021, so stay tuned for a new year of the latest helpful search industry research and insight.

Please let us know which content marketing topics and ideas you’d like to see us focus on for 2021 — we’d love to hear your suggestions. Feel free to leave those thoughts in the comments section below.

Many thanks to each of you who read our blog regularly, and to all of you who comment on and share our posts on the TopRank Marketing social media channels at Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

The post Best of B2B Marketing: Get Inspired for 2021 with These Top 10 Content Marketing Posts appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Top B2B Marketers Share their Content Marketing Predictions for 2021

B2B Content Marketing Predictions 2021

B2B Content Marketing Predictions 2021

Even in the steadiest of times, content marketing can be a difficult field to project forward. The craft is fluid and fast-changing by nature. When customer preferences and behaviors are evolving, which is always, so too must the ways we reach and engage them.

Needless to say, predicting what lies ahead for content marketing is especially tough right now, as we wrap up a chaotic year of 2020 and stare into the uncertainty of 2021.

That doesn’t mean we won’t try!

As organizations lay out plans and strategies for the coming year, it’s vital to get a bead on trends and threadlines that will shape the terrain. Where should content marketers and strategists be setting their sights? Which challenges and opportunities stand out? What will be the keys to success?

Content Marketing in 2021: What Top B2B Marketing Influencers Foresee

To help you gain some well-rounded insight, we reached out to several leading B2B content marketing experts and influencers with a firm grasp on the discipline and its ongoing evolution. Here are their predictions for 2021:

1 — Ardath Albee: “Interactive Content will Become a Mainstay”

Ardath Albee
@ardath421

I wrote recently here that digital experiences will be a top priority for content marketers in 2021. Veteran marketer Ardath Albee, who currently serves as interim VP of Marketing at Modus, also sees this as a pivotal frontier for content marketers:

B2B has gone digital and it’s not going back. Buyers are relying on self-education more than ever. Engagement and experiences are critical for company growth. Interactive content will become a mainstay in Demand Gen and Sales Enablement programs in 2021 and beyond.

From virtual product tours to 3D virtual experiences, to value assessments and Digital Sales Rooms – marketers who want to facilitate the end-to-end buying experience with outcomes that prove contribution to revenue will increase focus on interactive content. They’ll up their game, moving beyond quizzes and surveys to content that resonates by getting buyers to actively pursue conversations with the companies that get them involved in what it takes to buy with confidence.

[bctt tweet=”“Marketers who want to facilitate the end-to-end buying experience with outcomes that prove contribution to revenue will increase focus on interactive content.” — Ardath Albee @ardath421″ username=”toprank”]

2 — Ty Heath: Accelerating the ‘Right-Brain’ Movement

Tyrona Ty Heath
@tyrona

Business decisions are made on the basis of both rational and emotional factors. Too often, B2B marketers have over-indexed on the former. Ty Heath, Director of Market Engagement for LinkedIn*’s B2B Institute, anticipates a collective push toward creativity and humanization:

For a long time, marketing’s view of the world has been very left brain rational. The pandemic will accelerate the shift to a ‘right-brain’ movement.

We will see more humor, more storytelling and emotion in B2B marketing in the coming year. We expect to see more brand mascots like Salesforce’s feral raccoon-child mascot, Astro. We can look forward to more memorable B2B marketing messages that connect brand to demand. If you are a creative B2B marketer, that’s something you can get excited about!

[bctt tweet=”“We can look forward to more memorable B2B marketing messages that connect brand to demand. If you are a creative B2B marketer, that’s something you can get excited about.” — Ty Heath @tyrona” username=”toprank”]

3 — Robert Rose: Content-as-a-Strategy on the Rise

Robert Rose
@Robert_Rose

Robert Rose has always been a vocal content evangelist, so it comes as no surprise that the founder of CMI’s Content Advisory foresees a continued push to make content marketing a strategic centerpiece for businesses:

The trend of in-housing content-as-a-strategy continues and expands greatly in 2021. We’ll see big growth of content studios within brands to handle all manner of content marketing and content strategy functions.

Agencies and Media companies will still be relied on, but to fill more niche-oriented “skill positions” and initial “strategy”. As such, companies will start to demand more cross-functional skills from their content marketing teams.

[bctt tweet=”“Companies will start to demand more cross-functional skills from their content marketing teams.” — Robert Rose @Robert_Rose” username=”toprank”]

4 — Christopher Penn: “The Top Challenge? Screen Fatigue.”

Chris Penn
@cspenn

People consumed more digital content out of necessity in 2020, with little else to do amid pandemic-driven shutdowns. While this created new opportunities for brand visibility and engagement, it also contributed to a sense of burnout from living life through our computers and devices. Christopher Penn, Co-founder and Chief Data Strategist for Trust Insights, believes that overcoming screen fatigue will be an imperative for content marketers in 2021:

I have no idea what to predict for 2021 — and neither does anyone else, if we’re honest. But I can tell you what’s happening now and what we’re doing about it. We did a survey to our audience a couple of weeks ago and asked what the top challenges they’re facing heading into 2021 are.

The top challenge? Screen fatigue. No one wants more podcasts, more videos, more livestreams, more time on their devices. Literally no one. So all the marketers who pivoted in 2020 to making podcasts, videos, livestreams, etc. are facing substantially diminished audience interest.

What do people want? Content they can consume faster. Want to know what the top converting channel was for us in 2020? Our email newsletters — and not by a small margin. Email was responsible for 56% of all our conversions in 2020 — and we’re not alone.

The perennial meme is “this meeting could have been an email.” Apply that thinking to your livestreams, podcasts, vlogs, videos, interactive events, etc. Are you doing anything that REQUIRES that medium, or just doing it because it’s what all the cool kids seem to be doing?

[bctt tweet=”“The perennial meme is ‘this meeting could have been an email.’ Apply that thinking to your livestreams, podcasts, vlogs, videos, interactive events, etc.” — Christopher Penn @cspenn” username=”toprank”]

5 — Michael Brenner: “Committed Brands Are Going to Win Big”

Michael Brenner
@BrennerMichael

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, according to Marketing Insider Group CEO Michael Brenner. He suggests that content marketers who simply lock down the fundamentals and invest in success will be poised to take the lead:

Go big or go home! In 2021, committed brands are going to win big in content marketing. There’s so much noise out there. And yet, there are amazing B2B content marketing examples who have grown massive audiences and delivered marketing ROI.

What do they do differently? Just the basics:

1.) They publish keyword-focused blog posts consistently.

2.) They mix in long form and short form content.

3.) They co-create stories with customers, executives, influencers, and partners.

4.) They focus on building subscribers.

5.) They measure ROI

[bctt tweet=”“In 2021, committed brands are going to win big in content marketing. There’s so much noise out there. And yet, there are amazing B2B content marketing examples who have grown massive audiences and delivered marketing ROI.” @BrennerMichael” username=”toprank”]

6 — Melanie Deziel: “Doubling Down on Video and Live Video”

Melanie Deziel
@mdeziel

Many content marketers who were holding off on video marketing tactics, including live-streaming, took the plunge in 2020 out of necessity. Melanie Deziel, Chief Content Officer for StoryFuel, is heartened by this development and expects to see it carry over into next year:

If I had to find a silver lining of 2020 for marketers, it would be the fact that we increased our agility and adopted new ways of communicating with our audiences. I’ve been particularly impressed by how many brands have fully embraced video and live video.

I hope marketers retain this mentality in 2021, doubling down on video and live video, and exploring still more formats for communicating with our audiences: quizzes, maps, timelines and more.

[bctt tweet=”“I hope marketers retain this mentality in 2021, doubling down on video and live video, and exploring still more formats for communicating with our audiences: quizzes, maps, timelines and more.” — Melanie Deziel @mdeziel” username=”toprank”]

7 — Carla Johnson: Innovation Through Smart Risks

Carla Johnson
@CarlaJohnson

Experimentation and a willingness to learn through failure are instrumental to breaking new ground. Marketing & Innovation Strategist Carla Johnson feels that the disruption and demands of 2020 forced many content marketers to back away from taking risks, understandably, but hopes to see a big rebound next year:

Every content marketer has greater pressure to evaluate, measure and report on how, how much, when, where and why customers connected with their brands in 2020. The year was about being nimble, responsive and methodical with execution. There was no room for trial and error.

For 2021, B2B content marketing will be about taking smart risks that lead to more innovative work. They’ll take inspiration from brands that have pushed the envelope with candor, openness, empathy and even humor. With so much that didn’t work, they’ll be able to get rid of projects that don’t deliver and free up at least portions of budgets to begin to experiment. These tiny experiments will lead to more creative ways that solve problems for customers that shake the stereotype that B2B means ‘boring to boring.’

[bctt tweet=”“For 2021, B2B content marketing will be about taking smart risks that lead to more innovative work.” — Carla Johnson @CarlaJohnson” username=”toprank”]

8 — Amy Higgins: Co-Creating More Content with Customers

Amy Higgins
@amywhiggins

Amy Higgins, Director of Content Strategy at Salesforce (and TopRank Marketing alumni) sees more co-creation of content with customers as key to building brand loyalty:

Many things have changed this year — including how marketers have embraced digital channels and tapped into the emotions of our audience. Our job as B2B content marketers has always been to help fill the pipe by bringing in new audiences, keeping them engaged, and moving them toward the next step of their buyer’s journey. However, in 2021, I predict that will change.

We will focus not only on educating new audiences. But, we will expand our focus to further help our existing ones. Customer acquisition will still have a place at the table, but the guest of our honor will be our customer. This year we will co-create more content with our customers and for our customers to help strengthen loyalty and build evangelism.

[bctt tweet=”“We will co-create more content with our customers and for our customers to help strengthen loyalty and build evangelism.” — Amy Higgins @amywhiggins” username=”toprank”]

9 — Lee Odden: Optimize for Findability, Credibility and Experience

Lee Odden
@leeodden

Our CEO and co-founder Lee Odden sees an opportunity in 2021 for B2B marketers to raise the bar on their content marketing by optimizing customer experiences with more findable, credible and experiential content:

History will remember 2020 as a year many want to forget with many B2B marketers struggling to manage uncertainty and brand distrust, overloaded communication channels and a buyers’ accelerated expectations of digital experiences. And yet, some B2B marketers have not only survived 2020, but thrived – including our own agency TopRank Marketing. I predict that many of the lessons we’ve learned from creating trusted content that reaches and engages B2B customers for some of the top B2B brands in the world will become the new normal in 2021.

Findable – SEO is more important than ever for B2B content marketers as buyers increasingly rely on digital channels like search to find the information they need across the entire sales journey. Fresh topic research to reflect new buyer preferences plus content and link optimization will raise the bar on being the best answer for customers at the very moment of need.

Credible – Buyers’ increasing distrust of brand marketing and messaging plus the shift towards digital channels has accelerated the impact that subject matter experts are having with content credibility, quality and distribution. B2B brands will raise the bar on content credibility by partnering with external influencers while building the internal influence of their executives through content collaborations.

Experiential – Video has become the price of entry for B2B customer attention but there’s more to creating great marketing experiences and in 2021 successful B2B brands will raise the bar on customer experience with better virtual events, personalization, episodic brand content, more interactive content and increasingly collaborative content.

[bctt tweet=”“The lessons we’ve learned from creating trusted content that reaches and engages B2B customers for some of the top B2B brands in the world will become the new normal in 2021.” — Lee Odden @LeeOdden” username=”toprank”]

Cheers to a New Year in 2021

This is an exciting time to be in content marketing. We have an opportunity to shape the “new normal” and further solidify the function as a business strategy cornerstone.

Carve your own path in 2021, but heed the words and advice of these bright business minds who’ve seen many twists and turns in the journey of content marketing, and will help guide us through those to come.

For more 2021 B2B marketing predictions, be sure to check out 12 Top B2B SEO Trends & Predictions for 2021 and 14 Expert B2B Influencer Marketing Predictions for 2021.

*LinkedIn is a TopRank Marketing client.

The post Top B2B Marketers Share their Content Marketing Predictions for 2021 appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.