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Content Marketing: Is Now a Good Time to Double Down? [Coronavirus]

Buyers were taking in content before talking to sales even before the Coronavirus hit; now is a great time to double down on content marketing

Today is the last day of the first quarter of 2020. The pressure has been on for sales in most businesses to close deals. With the great Coronavirus quarantine, the phones in offices might be ringing, but there’s nobody there to answer.

As a result, some of the salespeople I know are having trouble getting prospects on the phone. But buckle up, because we are in for a couple of tough quarters and the sales shop isn’t the only business function having its world turned upside down:

  • Email marketers are wondering what to do after that dizzying round of “we’ll get through this together” messages; and
  • Digital advertising is getting destroyed; analysts estimates for ad budget cuts are all over the map – anywhere from 15% to 90% – which aptly captures the zeitgeist of uncertainty.

All this got me to thinking about an old statistic out of Forrester Research that’s been kicking around content marketing since 2013:

“Although it varies with product complexity and market maturity, today’s buyers might be anywhere from two-thirds to 90% of the way through their journey before they reach out for a salesperson.”

When I think about that statistic in today’s context – this is another moment for true content marketing.

12 Views of Content Marketing and the Coronavirus

Against that backdrop I asked a handful of marketing and PR professionals this question:

Do you think this a good time to double-down on a content marketing program – or start if you don’t have one already?

On relatively short notice, and 12 responded with food for thought. Here are their answers:

1. It’s a great time for content marketing to shine

“The answer (as you might expect) is ‘yes’. The key is that whether you’re doubling down, or just starting that you are helpful, inspirational, educational, entertaining in *context* with where your audience is. Put simply, now is not the time to teach fire safety to an audience whose house is burning down. Be mindful of your content, your tone, and your cadence. But, yes, it is time for great content marketing to shine.”

~ Robert Rose | The Content Advisory | Co-Host: This Old Marketing Podcast | Co-Author: Killing Marketing

2. Building trust

“YES! It’s time to stop advertising and start or continue building trust and sharing helpful content.”

~ Michael Brenner | Marketing Insider Group | Author of Mean People Suck

3. Plan your marketing infrastructure

Absolutely! Now is the time to strategically plan out your infrastructure marketing so that when we all come back online your company will have a competitive advantage. This is what I am doing with all of my clients and I am running full steam ahead myself!

~ Neal Schaffer | Marketing Consultant | Author of The Age of Influence

4. More people online with more time

This is a good time to work on your content marketing program. More people are online with more time on their hands. Many may be doing research on products and services they’re thinking of purchasing. Since many (most?) buyers do a lot of research online themselves before ever contacting a vendor, you want to be ready with content that helps them learn about you and what you offer. Industrial buyers are typically 70% of the way through their purchase decision process before they reach out to a supplier. Further, 80% of industrial buyers use Google to research their purchases.”

~ Michelle Garrett | Garrett Public Relations

5. Gain authority

“I’d say ‘yes’ It’s a good idea to double-down on content marketing right now because more people than ever are spending time online due to all the lockdowns, and these people are looking for human connections online. If your brand authentically offers solutions or empathy, you stand to gain authority and trust, which will ultimately garner customer loyalty.”

~ Jennifer Bridges | ReputationDefender

6. Reshuffle the budget

“I think it’s a good time to reshuffle budget line items and redirect spend, yes. For example, I will likely redirect some of our Q2 performance marketing related spend to more content generation efforts. So perhaps that’s ‘doubling down?’ And the Q2 and Q3 performance marketing spend will likely be more brand amplification and free content with less sales-driven calls-to-action.”

~ Rich Young | Fine Tune

7. Mind your tone

“It seems we’re in for at least a couple of months of this ‘new normal,’ so I’d say now could be an excellent time to begin or ramp up a content marketing program. However, I think all content needs to be adapted to this new reality and that relevance is more important than ever.

But sensitivity is in order, too. I’ve received some emails and seen posts that are surprisingly tone-deaf. People are going through a very hard time, and while useful and relevant content is likely to be more welcome than ever, marketers should be very careful about tone, and how the pandemic is referenced, in their materials. When in doubt, don’t do it.

~ Dorothy Crenshaw | Crenshaw Communications

8. “Think twice, write once”

“Now is a good time to invest more in content marketing, especially if you have unused dollars allocated for live events that you can shift over. However, getting the tone right is extraordinarily important. Hard-sell type copy is likely to not only be ineffective but actually backfire and damage your brand. You need to keep the context of our times in mind but also need to be careful not to be perceived as trying to profit from the pandemic. Focus on being empathetic and helpful. In carpentry, they say ‘measure twice, cut once.’ For content marketers in this environment, the best guidance may be ‘think twice, write once.’”

~ Tom Pick | Webbiquity

9. Consider strategy before publishing

“I’d double down on your content marketing STRATEGY, but not necessarily your publishing schedule. As CMI’s Robert Rose said, right now is a great time to get your content house in order. Ideate and plan for some big things — projects that take months, not weeks to implement. Think for the long term, creating evergreen content that’s relevant all the time. When it’s ready, keep it on reserve until the time is right. It’s hard to define precisely when the ‘right time’ comes around.”

~ Dennis Shiao | Marketing Consultant

10. Be really creative

“Yes, with two important caveats: you need to make sure the program you put together takes into account how this crisis is, directly and indirectly, affecting your clients and you need to be really, really creative. Many are going to market with similar messages. This is your chance to truly stand out.”

~ Scott Kaminski | Häfele America Co.

11. Think ahead

Of course, this is a good time to invest in content marketing. But beware, the market you are focusing on post-COVID19 will probably be a very different market than the one you came out of.

~ Jo Detavernier | Detavernier Strategic Communication

* * *

As for my view (12), as if that were ever in doubt, consider that every major event in history shapes our future. The storyline to look for isn’t about how we are managing to get by – with Zoom calls and home offices – it’s trying to understand how this change will affect things permanently. Content marketing ought to be one of those things with a permanent line item on the budget.

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Image credit: Photo by Alec Favale on Unsplash

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