The Impact of COVID-19: Predictions for the Future of Content MarketingThe pandemic took existing trends such as digital transformation and the slow rise of remote work and accelerated them by years in the span of a few months.

This catapult into the future turned several emerging content marketing trends into fundamental parts of an effective marketing strategy.

In an effort to identify what motivates our customers, we recently dug into our client list spanning the past 18 months.

We found that prospects started relationships based on our capacity to help them accomplish less tangible goals such as thought leadership, but they renewed contracts thanks to concrete results in areas including SEO and lead generation.

During the 10 years that we’ve been in business, the need to demonstrate clear ROI has continuously become more important to our customers, but there’s nothing like a global pandemic and ensuing uncertainty to put every marketing dollar under a microscope.

Through our relationships with editors, we can also see that leading publications are continuing to provide space for raw, honest content based on lived experiences while rejecting the generic old platitudes that add little to the collective conversation.

Considering the trials many of us have endured over the past year and a half, it’s not all that surprising that publishers want to see content infused with relatable personal examples and plenty of emotional intelligence.

Email marketing content, a perennial high performer for marketers everywhere, has been even more of a standout during the pandemic.

When COVID-19 entered the picture and led to a steep decline in in-person interactions, internet activity grew by 50% to 70%, and some of that activity bled over into our inboxes. 

Data from Campaign Monitor shows that the additional emails sent by many companies between February and March 2020 garnered increased open rates. That trend was even more prominent in essential industries like government, where unsubscribe rates fell by 38%.

In-person events have historically been a critical component, and in a 2019 report, 95% of marketers said these events created valuable connections.

They also ate up a valuable part of the budget, with about half of companies spending 21% of marketing’s budget on hosting events of their own, 30% on exhibits or event sponsorships, and 19% on event attendance.

When in-person events disappeared virtually overnight, a massive marketing channel disappeared with them, and in many cases, brands called on content to pick up the slack.

As the pandemic subsides and events pick up steam, however, content isn’t going anywhere.

On the contrary, we will see more companies taking a diversified approach to marketing that includes a variety of tactics that work together toward common goals.

Three Content Marketing Predictions to Watch

As we continue to inch toward a post-pandemic world, here are three content marketing predictions I believe will dominate the industry in the rest of 2021 and into 2022.

More companies will invest in sales enablement content

Even as COVID-19 loosens its grip, sales teams that used to travel extensively for conferences, trade shows, and client demos are finding themselves at home more often.

The pandemic proved that many businesses can be conducted virtually and that sales enablement content allows teams to nurture prospects remotely.

Blog posts, guest-contributed articles in outside publications, and more in-depth and visually engaging content such as whitepapers are all useful tools for sales enablement.

And email drip campaigns are seeing more traction than ever.

Perhaps even more important than the type of content is the message it sends.

When our marketing and sales teams recognized that we were having trouble closing sales in specific industries, it boiled down to an overall lack of content demonstrating our expertise in those industries.

To turn things around, the marketing team began arming sales personnel with industry-specific blog posts (like this one on the healthcare industry) that could overcome objections and move the sales conversation forward by showcasing our skill in and understanding of prospects’ sectors.

Content marketing will be used to showcase leadership in the future of work

It should come as no surprise that the future of work is a hybrid one.

Companies such as Apple that are arguably desirable employers are facing criticism over inflexible working arrangements, while companies such as Facebook and Reddit are providing many employees with the option for permanent remote work.

Many of us navigated a year or more of remote work, but it’s difficult to overstate how transformative the shift to hybrid work will be.

Professional services firms will need to work hard to differentiate themselves from the competition and showcase how they can help companies enter the hybrid era, and innovations such as Microsoft Teams Rooms and Microsoft Viva are prime examples.

For people to take advantage of these types of advancements, they first need to hear about them, and that’s where a content marketing strategy comes into play.

Companies will need content to position their services as a key solution to prevalent problems faced by the hybrid workforce.

Marketing automation and the human element will work together

Marketing is a constant tug of war between two opposing forces.

On the one hand, we want to tell compelling and relatable stories, personalize interactions with customers, and generally make our brands more authentic and human.

But these efforts all take time and money.

On the other hand is automation, allowing us to reach as large an audience as possible with the least effort.

In the past few years, the pendulum has swung hard toward the automation side.

Even before the pandemic, a 2019 survey from Ascend2 revealed that 92% of agencies were investing more into automation integration.

Automation is powerful, but I believe that marketers are beginning to realize its limitations.

The next few years will feature a growing realization that automation has to be combined with the human element for maximum results.

With automation doing the heavy lifting in a content campaign, for example, sales development reps have the time to reach out to a small group of the most promising leads with highly personalized messages.

As this kind of balance becomes more common, marketers will forge stronger connections with their best prospects.

It’s always exciting to look to the future of the industry, particularly in a time of transformative change.

The upheaval of the pandemic ignited some current marketing trends, but as the pandemic’s impact begins to subside, marketing will once again undergo fundamental shifts in an effort to accomplish more with less.

Moving forward, an effective content marketing strategy will likely center on these three content marketing predictions.

Kelsey Meyer

Kelsey Meyer is the president of Influence & Co., a content marketing firm that specializes in helping companies showcase their expertise through thought leadership. Influence & Co.’s clients range from venture-backed startups to Fortune 500 brands.

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