How to (re)design a content marketing strategy after (or during) a pandemic: best practices for SMEs
At the beginning of 2019, two important trends were emerging in Content Marketing: the impact of distribution (that is, getting content to the company’s clients) and the centrality of formats (an effective Instagram Stories video must be designed and produced while taking into account duration, rhythm, vertical format, etc.).
Many things have changed since 2019. The pandemic has also affected marketing, exponentially accelerating the use of digital touchpoints.
Entire sections of the population have changed their communication, work, and shopping habits during the months of lockdown. Companies have enhanced the ability to acquire new customers, present products, sell, and provide after-sales service through digital touchpoints.
Sure, behaviors haven’t consolidated yet, and marketing and communication plans haven’t stiffened: the scenario is still in the making and, especially in some sectors, we discover the new normal by building it, week after week.
However, it’s clear that the digital transition has become mandatory for restarting SMEs. Every small and medium-sized business that really wants to compete needs a more generous share of digital investment compared to two years ago. Even more, every digital touchpoint requires content. (Have you ever tried to send a newsletter or launch a new site with no content?)
Therefore, I point out a series of best practices for SMEs that want to leverage content in this new normal. It all starts from really connecting strategy and business objectives.
From developing integrations to strategic support, from creating creative concepts to optimizing results.
Content along the Customer Journey, especially in the post-purchase phase
Digital contact points have made the purchase path richer during the pandemic’s central months. In some cases, they even went full digital: let’s think about purchasing an online training course or tax consultancy. Content has, therefore, gained much more centrality in building the brand and success of any business, including the presentation of products/services and the provision of after-sales assistance.
My experience as a consultant over the past years has shown me this: SMEs main goal in activating content marketing projects is the generation of new leads. New contacts are included in the funnel and cultivated, up to the sale. SMEs with active e-commerce projects mainly use content to generate new, interested contacts (even if they aren’t ready to buy), or to enhance the effectiveness of their product or service sheets in acquiring new customers.
In this lead-oriented scenario, content strategy has a great SEO vocation: content is meant to win the algorithms and climb search engines to intercept new, potentially interested customers.
Even social media advertising campaigns and related content often aim to broaden the audience of contacts and customers.
Of course, the SME sector, plus its maturity in managing the customer experience, play a big role. Generally speaking, from what I’ve seen, the part of the customer journey that follows the purchase is still less digital and more “traditional.” Quite often, the margins for improvement are huge here and recurrently pass through content marketing initiatives.
Content centrality in this phase is also reinforced by new low-touch habits. For example, sales engineers used to visit customers for product maintenance training sessions. Now, the same piece of the journey takes place digitally, especially for companies that work in foreign markets. Shortly, we’ll discuss in-person events and fairs. These have offered chances of visibility and contact with existing customers. Here, too, content is an excellent ally to maintain and strengthen the relationship in a low-touch mode.
How can I set up an effective content strategy to take advantage of this opportunity? I suggest the following method. Activate a process to map, analyze, and evaluate your own initiatives of retention, assistance, word of mouth promotion, and up/cross-selling toward “existing customers.” Which of them should be completely reconsidered and which should be empowered by leveraging content?
Here are some examples: a newsletter with tips on product use or maintenance; a magazine about innovations and the latest projects; a series of training videos to retain the existing customer base, and a webinar with influencers just for actual buyers.
As attention spans grow more and more fragmented, caring for the existing customer relationship requires new methods. Everything indicates a useful and valuable content strategy that doesn’t limit itself to acquiring new contacts but also considers the post-purchase component.
Augmented fairs and events
The other series of indications for a 2022 content strategy is about events and fairs.
Large trade fairs, corporate conventions, and even very small events for a few stakeholders have always been an opportunity to initiate and strengthen valuable relationships with customers and partners.
When companies invest in integrating physical and digital elements, these events always come with an opportunity to create a large amount of valuable content. Think of the backstage preparation, a newsletter with the invitation and some program previews, social media real-time shares of the physical happening, and the release of highlight pictures in the following days. All this is valuable content for refining brand and visibility, encouraging participation in the event itself, and taking care of public relations and the community.
A series of physical fairs and events in attendance, albeit with limitations, has resumed in the current pandemic phase. Precisely these limitations in movement and physical interaction—think of networking occasions like dinners, coffee breaks, parties, etc.—make it even more important to focus on event content strategy, whether it is full digital, 100% face-to-face, or mixed.
In my opinion, there are two key steps here:
- Start by redesigning the event experience and ask yourself: what are the wishes and needs of the participants and how can I leverage content to satisfy them? Here then, a video interview with a key guest becomes even more important to enrich the invitation.
- Go for the professionalism of photo and video content creators: the growing amount of available content may be endless. Concurrently, recent months have taught us to appreciate curated content that’s continuously improved.
Even the SMEs that managed to organize a DIY live show on Instagram in the first months of the pandemic have learned to do it better over the months.
The same holds true for many product presentations on video. In short, the average level of expectation on the quality of photo and video content has grown. So I recommend that SMEs invest in creating professional content if they really want to make the most of the content that revolves around trade fairs and events.
This doesn’t necessarily mean technical perfection. I’m talking about photos and videos by professional photographers and video makers who interpret communication objectives, know the platforms’ rules, give the right angle to the narrative, and can create emotional engagement.
Who is Miriam Bertoli?
Miriam Bertoli is a freelance Digital & Content Marketing Strategist. She published “Web Marketing for SMEs” with Hoepli, a successful manual focused on Small and Medium Enterprises.
Miriam supports companies as a consultant and trainer. She builds strategy to achieve their business objectives by optimizing their digital impact. She’s a teacher at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and IULM University of Milan. She created the Venice Lessons short video classes on digital marketing from a gondola.