The world is in trouble, and the pandemic is here to stay. Most optimistic scenarios put COVID-19 to rest by early 2022. Very likely, it will happen many months and even years after this overly ambitious date.
In the meantime, we’ll continue to deal with rolling waves of outbreaks leading to shutdowns, social distancing, economic disruption, and civil unrest. No doubt, we go through a severe self-actualization process. We’ll most likely welcome the New Normal with an entirely different perspective and a new set of needs and expectations we’ll develop till that future moment, years from now. When historians will one day look back, they will eventually rate the winners and losers by how fast the formers pivoted and how long the later dawdled.
People say that it is better to have a plan and adapt in times of uncertainty instead of waiting for miracles to save you. While this might work smoothly in theory, some will freeze in real life, others will continue to drive blindly through the fog, and a few brave ones will choose to fight for a new flight.
Planning has never been easy, but it became even more challenging these days as it needs a new mindset and has to be switched from mainly instinctively to more scientifically.
Let’s have a look at some data to understand this perspective better.
Before the pandemic, only 40% of the B2B companies in the top online markets (USA and UK) invested time and resources in planning a documented content marketing strategy. In Eastern Europe, the percentage was even lower, estimated at 15% of all B2B companies active online. Most CEOs and business owners used to follow their guts when deciding which type of content to publish. While appropriate for many situations, the gut reaction is a poor fit for the pandemic as now you have to deal with an ocean of Unknown Unknowns.
You may probably want to argue that with so much uncertainty surrounding us, why bother digging into data? You may be somehow right, but in reality, the biggest enemy we have to deal with is our cognitive biases. They are the ones triggering our reactions. Unfortunately, they are not always best equipped for dealing with Unkown Unknowns.
In most cases, people tend to stick to how they used to perceive things before and plan based on their previous assumptions and positions. It’s precisely these cognitive biases that make it so difficult for most of us to step outside the box. Our excessive confidence and reluctance in either building in enough additional resources to address risks and problems or pivot quickly when needed to adjust to new conditions may lead to too many snap decisions. If you’re lucky enough, your first viable idea may also be a brilliant one, but what if you’re not? Being too optimistic without solid ground or having a preference to look for whatever supports preexisting perspectives while ignoring even accurate information that doesn’t do so is a trap some of us may fall into.
To defend your future, you will need to face the Unknown Unknowns, and what better way to do it than by eliminating the scary surprise element they contain? That’s why exploring new ways and new tools for documenting your strategies instead of just “creating” them would be an outstanding achievement and a first step into the light.
Thank God for the available data. It may not bring us happiness, but it may help us anticipate some short-term shifts, especially the ones related to how people modified their mindset and decided to look for solutions online based on their new perceptions.
Let’s see how things work. When Google began to focus on delivering results based on intent, it offered fewer data about keywords and expressions people use while searching online. Without access to internal sources, you will need to rely on SEO tools and get an outside perspective. Such platforms collect information from millions of sites and correlate them for you to get an impression of how people conduct searches on subjects you treat. You will not only be able to see how you stand online, but you will also discover if your competitors are faster and better.
With the help of SEO tools, you can identify the first “100 opportunities” that apply to your business and start creating content for them. The bigger your budget, the faster it will be for you to cover all the topics. When dealing with financial restrictions, a solution would be to extend implementation and plan for a more relaxed period of time.
These 100 opportunities will allow you to usually reach that 20% of your prospects that will probably generate 80% of your business in the end. Covering these 100 subjects will enable you to be more productive than ever because you will eliminate huge investments otherwise needed for running extensive PPC campaigns.
Even before the pandemics, about 60% to 70% of companies' online content went unused and got lost on the internet. That was mainly but not exclusively due to poor planning.
Nowadays, you’ll need to focus more and more on quality. Did you know that the average time invested in creating a blog post increased from 2 hours in 2014 to 6 years in 2020?
In the next period, more than ever, you’ll need to start working with cluster topics and develop pillow-pages to fully approach relevant subjects in ways people want to read about them and search engines like to discover for better indexing.
Podcasts and live videos are supposed to be the King and the Queen of content marketing in 2021 as long as we will still have to spend lots of time at home needing entertainment and at least virtual connections.
In the past, sales teams relied on face-to-face meetings, but with most of us being stuck at home, many offerings will have to reach us via online channels. In B2B projects, content marketing will play an even higher role as you will have to figure out how to cultivate trust and communicate effectively to become as convincing online as you would be in real life. Good content is not just about a site’s aesthetics, promotions, or unique online marketing tactics. In most cases, it refers to properly answering your audience’s questions in the right way and at the right time, according to their present expectations.
In this transition to a post-pandemic world, marketers may need to reconsider their approaches. While creating relevant content for the different stages of the buying funnel, they will also need to revisit the Maslow theory. Scott Kaufman redefined it in his book “Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization” and created a model to show that our “new” fundamental needs consist of safety, connection, and self-esteem. We will feel lost without them. We also have needs that help us achieve our full potential through personal growth or what Kaufman more clearly defined as exploration, love, and purpose. Evaluating your business, values, and offers from these lenses might give you a hint on how to create relevant content from these essential points of view.
It feels like 2021 is all about survival and figuring out what to be and how to be when the New Normal hits you.
Identifying KPIs linked to business outcomes instead of marketing outputs will help you see what really works, allowing you to sort things out for a better round of setups.
Let’s take the bounce rate, for example. Is it a metric, or is it a KPI? In most cases, it’s just a metric as there is no direct correlation between it and a clear transaction. Is it really alarming when it is high? Usually, yes, but not always. For example, it is absolutely normal to abandon a publication after reading one of its articles online. The bounce rate of media sites will usually be high, but that shouldn’t create panic in the first place. More relevant would be to focus on how much time people spent with each piece of content on your site. For instance, did they read the entire article or browse at least 80% of it? Setting this as a KPI instead of obsessing over the bounce rate will enable you to understand better what’s relevant for your audience. Furthermore, as presented in this example, reaching the level of 80% can be set as a goal in Google Analytics and considered a transaction, enabling you to analyze your media results as you would do in e-commerce.
For a better perspective about how relevant your content is on social media, use social metrics tools that aggregate the data and allow you to analyze things for all channels at once, both for you and your competitors.
Learning what people like will help you cultivate better relationships, even virtually. Good luck with the New Normal!