Yet there are absolutely things we can learn from the changes and mutations within our industry. And we can use these lessons to prepare for what may happen. This is why I am so grateful that our friends at the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs produce their long-standing annual report, the most recent of which –B2C content marketing benchmarks, budgets and trends: outlook for 2021– allows us to look at both this moment in time and historical trends.
If you are a B2B marketer, be sure to read my takeaways from their B2B report.
Full Disclosure: I speak often at CMI and MarketingProfs events, and MarketingProfs is a former client of my company Media Volery. However, all of the opinions in this article are my own.
As we dive headlong into 2021, let’s take a look at some key B2C content marketing statistics and trends that will help us plan for the year ahead.
1. Over 80% of B2C content marketers saw their budgets stay the same or increase in the second half of 2020.
It can be counterintuitive, but the majority of B2C content marketers have seen their budgets stay stable or even increase over the past year. My guess would be that since content marketing tends to be used more often in the case of higher priced goods and services, these consumers may have been less affected economically by the pandemic. Indeed, they may have had more disposable income to spend in 2020 with less travel and activities available.
In 2021, while I think many B2C brands may be able to spend similar budgets, I urge you to be thoughtful and flexible about how and where you spend that budget. Instead of events, you can spend that money on influencer campaigns. Instead of experiential marketing, you can focus on the fundamentals of email marketing. Things can still change in no time; having flexibility, rather than discrete line items, will make the process smoother.
2. Content marketing teams are stable; most of the teams stayed the same size or even increased.
As with budgets, we’ve seen that on the B2C side, the majority of content marketing teams have remained the same size, and over a quarter (27%) have increased in size over the past year.
This stability indicates that content marketing practices, on average, are sufficiently mature and valued within their organizations to continue to grow. Thinking about the roles and skills that would be most useful for your team in 2021 should be a key part of your budget and planning considerations.
3. 49% of B2C organizations outsource at least some content marketing activity.
In the previous point, I note that while most organizations have kept their teams the same size, 40% have made changes. This may be related to the fact that organizations are almost divided in half in terms of outsourcing marketing activities. Additionally, small businesses are a bit more likely not to outsource, perhaps choosing to hire for part-time or full-time positions.
What we are seeing with our own clients is that while adding more staff can help resolve bandwidth issues, these roles are not always the most effective at resolving challenges within the organization. Outsourcing areas where you need a higher level of expertise, such as graphic design for specific channels or event production, can help your team focus on their core competencies.
Next, what are the organizations that outsource their energies focused on?
4. Of the activities that organizations outsource, 75% outsource content creation.
This is not a surprise, but as in other years, we find that time and bandwidth is the main challenge that organizations solve.
What we see working with the big B2B and B2C brands is that content creation is a popular area to outsource due to its time intensity, but the best content takes advantage of the organization’s expertise and relationships. This is what builds trust and provides the most long-term value through content marketing, without capturing unqualified leads by searching for keywords. Therefore, smarter outsourcing – through subject matter experts and influencers your target audience trusts – can be a powerful way to increase the value of your content marketing.
5. What has changed during the pandemic? The majority of organizations have changed their targeting / messaging strategy and / or editorial calendar, but only 34% have re-examined their customer journeys.
It’s understandable that organizations change their targeting / messaging strategies in the short term, but as we enter the second year of this new way of life, adjusting our models. customer journey it’s essential.
We need to understand the new realities facing our major customers and we need to recognize that some of our customers may have entirely new considerations. Think of people who shopped in business districts and now work from home, or parents who had child care facilities and now have less time between raising their children and working. How can you stay relevant to them while respecting their time, bandwidth and priorities?
Taking the time now to re-interview your audience, organize focus groups on your top customers, and remap your customer journeys will allow you to pay more attention to the touchpoints your customers need.
6. How have the types of content changed over the past year? More videos, live streaming and virtual events compared to the previous year.
According to the report, “Virtual events /webinars/ online course increased from 27% to 39% […] Live streaming content increased from 13% to 35%. ”
The media we use to communicate with our audience has changed based on the new reality of social distancing, but my prediction would be that there is more to come.
Many of these changes will become permanent and / or have a significant impact on our audience’s expectations of how content is made available to them.
If you aren’t already investing in video and virtual event capabilities within your organization, if you aren’t training your teams to think about how IGTV or YouTube Live could be incorporated into the experiences you deliver to your audience from a content marketing perspective, you need to get on that bandwagon as soon as possible.
It’s not just the long slide to more video content; it’s about the fact that our audiences need safer ways to connect with others in their communities. This is why platforms like Clubhouse are gaining ground: the human interaction and connection that is available through them.
7. Dominant social media channels are still dominant in B2C.
According to the report, organic social media usage is similar to last year’s report, with two exceptions: “Instagram has gone from 74% to 81%. YouTube has gone from 62% to 72%. ”
This information isn’t much of a surprise considering my earlier point on human connection, but the dataset doesn’t account for collaboration / engagement-oriented channels like TikTok (which recently rolled out ads in self-service for small businesses) or Clubhouse, which can become a hit with B2C communities. Will these channels become important in your industry over the next two years? Now is the time to experiment and identify the opportunities.
8. Surprisingly, the percentage of B2C marketers using paid distribution channels for content marketing has declined from the previous year report.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Paid distribution channels are more necessary than ever to bring our content to the public. That’s the nature of the beast, as companies like Google, Facebook, and their competitors compete more aggressively for ad dollars. Yet, according to the report, “72% of B2C marketers have used paid channels to distribute content in the past 12 months, up from 85% the year before.”
What then explains the downward shift in advertising dollars among survey respondents? I guess because of the narrow wording of this question, budgets may have shifted from content promotion to direct sales-driven promotions. However, we do know that buying decisions are often supported by assets and content marketing efforts. Therefore, this change in budget could prevent purchasing decisions from being made.
That’s why my previous point on understanding changing customer journeys is more important than ever. Jay Baer, President of Convainc & Convert spoke at length on how we should rewire your business during this time, and that continues to be true.
Based on these observations on the impact of last year on the practice of content marketing, keep in mind these three guiding principles for moving forward in 2021:
- The lives of your audience are radically different and so are their behaviors and considerations. Make sure you’ve changed your basic understanding of what they need.
- It’s not just about the content you create, but how it gets your audience engaged. Your audience is looking for content that makes them feel more connected during these times of isolation.
- Make sure you’re nimble and flexible about where and how you use your content marketing budget, taking into account the needs of your audience. What has worked before cannot be a guide for the year or two to come.