Content marketing in 2021: Build a pyramid, or think like a journalist?

December 18, 2020


Pivot. For the marketing teams of most B2B companies, this will have been the word of the year. Priorities shifted. Budgets changed. Businesses adjusted the way they buy and sell. Over the last nine months though, the one constant has been the importance of content marketing for navigating this new normal.

That investment isn’t going anywhere, so what new trends can we expect from content marketing in 2021? Well, there’s a lot of future gazing stuff I could mention. We could cover AI-driven personalisation, what’s next for video, or interactive content. But much like the argument I’m going to make in this article, it’d be better to focus on one thing and take a deeper dive into it.

So, let’s talk about long-form content and lead magnets, and how the game has changed.

The content goalposts have moved

We’ve all had a role to play in raising the content bar this year, and that’s a good thing. It means a great deal more vendor reports and whitepapers getting released are driven by first-hand data. But when more companies than before are competing at the same level, how do you differentiate?

The answer? Take a deeper dive.

Like anyone who has tried to break into a new industry, it’s easy to get caught up in trying many different things at once. Even more so when it comes to content marketing. A better idea is to focus on just a few tactics and go beyond what the competition is doing.

For long-form hero content, I call this the pyramid approach. It starts with a foundation of data you’ve already invested in. Perhaps that’s a previous report or information from an existing customer poll. Whatever it may be, this is the base of the pyramid you’re building for your next big content piece.

Next up is existing industry research. Tap into what else is already out there. Look at analyst papers, regulatory bodies, other forms of insight. Find nuggets of information that are relevant to the argument you want to make and pull those into the content you’re creating.

From there, turn your attention to first-party data. This can include an independent survey or anonymised insights from your platform. After that, interview your customers for opinions and examples of how the industry sees the problem you’re highlighting. Finally, bring it all together into a unique story that extends your narrative far beyond what the competition is putting out.

This will become the new golden tier for lead magnet content in 2021. Getting it right will also create more options for content sustainability. Or, in other words, repurposing your long-form content into at least three other forms. In doing so, not only will your campaign get seen by a wider audience, but you’ll also get the most out of your production cost for it.

Plan B: Content journalism

“But my marketing team is already stretched thin!” I hear you cry. No sweat. There’s another option.

You’ll be able to make a stronger argument if you go get your own first-party data. It’ll also give your sales teams a better platform to stand on with prospects when using this content, as well as giving you more repurposing options. But this isn’t strictly necessary.

As we’ve established from our pyramid, there’s a lot of useful insight out there already. If you take a content journalism approach, you can cut down your content development time by eliminating some of the levels we’ve spoken about.

Rather than first-hand research, interview your product experts on how this new problem is affecting the industry. Then, pair this with external data. Sprinkle in quotes from your customers and indulge in creative ways to add an extra shareability factor. One example is to get a few actionable tips from leading industry figures. All of a sudden, you’ve got a valuable content asset in half the time.

What’s right for you?

There’s no ‘right’ approach; both options are viable. What’s best for you depends on what the end goal is.

Are you trying to do more with content or are reacting to a new industry development? Go with the content journalism option. Launching a big campaign where this hero content is the central piece of a much larger, opinion-shaping puzzle? Pick the pyramid.

At the end of the day, content marketing is full of product pushes masquerading as “thought leadership”. Whatever option you choose, you need to offer something different to what’s already out there. And what you create needs to actually make your customers and prospects feel something. Otherwise it’ll fall on deaf ears.

Want a hand doing this in 2021? Drop us a line: [email protected]. We’d love to help.

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