30 second summary:

  • Most marketers agree that content creation is a core business strategy
  • SEO can help you capitalize on the content you create and get lasting results
  • Create content on general sales complaints to improve the sales process
  • Rather than going all-in on the best-case scenario that in-person events could happen in 2021, create a plan based on what you know works now and can continue to work well into the future

With 2020 pulling the carpet out from under pretty much everyone, it’s no surprise that marketing had to postpone last year. While the focus of many organizations used to be on face-to-face meetings and events such as trade shows and conventions, today this is mainly shifting to tactics that can be used remotely.

The biggest winner from this change was undoubtedly content marketing. In the summer of 2020, I surveyed 49 B2B companies to see how they approached marketing, and more than 80 percent of them agreed that content is now viewed as a core business strategy.

Content marketing is a strategy that doesn’t require physical contact to connect with people. Content can be shared widely and consistently regardless of where people are in the world. It can help current customers better understand a company’s value and even attract new customers.

While the strategy owes much of its popularity to the pandemic, the recent dominance of content marketing is unlikely to go away after the pandemic ends. Many marketers had been pushing for a more content-centric strategy before 2020. In many ways, the past year has only created an opportunity for them to demonstrate the true worth of the strategy.

How to plan a marketing strategy for 2021

The past few months have been a time of experimentation for marketers, full of successes and failures. Weaknesses in this strategy such as poor search engine optimization and lack of budget to develop content have been uncovered at some companies even though the potential of content marketing has been demonstrated. The question for marketers now is how a content strategy can be implemented into the next year and successfully merged with a plan for a world beyond the current health crisis.

1. Focus on SEO

All of the high quality content in the world cannot help you if no one can find it. Make better search engine optimization a major goal if you want to capitalize on everything you’ve done in the past year. Do a technical website check to make sure your website is found by search engines and a keyword check to make sure your content matches what your target audience is asking. Your keyword research should not only guide your content for the future, it should also guide your updates to older content to keep it relevant. Updating old content is often the most efficient strategy you can use.

Don’t just stop at keywords, however. Dive deep into your audience’s behavior to find out exactly what they’re looking for to increase your chances of converting visits into conversions. Eventually, what you think you know about user behavior and what is actually true may turn out to be completely different. For example, according to HubSpot, popups are the most common form of sign-up, but they only manage to convert three percent of visitors. Landing pages have the highest conversion rate despite being the least popular version of the sign up form.

2. Develop more sales enablement content

Effective content can’t just be useful for marketing. It also enables sales reps to communicate better with potential customers.

Listen to sales pitches to find out which questions are most common and which are most difficult for your sales team to answer. From there, you can create sales enablement content like blog posts and infographics that the team can refer to and share with prospects. You can also use the greatest customer achievements as case studies that can help potential customers better understand your worth. This not only helps in selling customers, but also in securing internal buy-in for a content-driven strategy.

3. Don’t bet on personal events in 2021

Over 90 percent of event marketers plan to invest in virtual events next year. Even if everything is going perfectly over the next few months, and things can develop to some degree of normality in the summer or fall, you shouldn’t rely on big personal conventions and trade shows to implement your marketing strategy. Because of this, the majority of marketers are developing strategies that will work for both virtual and in-person events over the next year.

Content will still be just as effective after the pandemic ends, but what personal events will look like is still open. Instead of betting on an imaginary best-case scenario, create a plan based on what you know is working right now and could continue to work in the future.

While 2020 may have got everyone on the loop, the lessons learned this year can be applied in 2021, even if we’re not sure what the coming year will really bring. By focusing more on a content-first strategy, you can ensure that your marketing plans are not wasted in both the best-case and worst-case scenarios.

Cherish Grimm is VP of Influence & Co., a content marketing agency that helps clients achieve measurable business results through content marketing.