I’ve been asked recently ‘What will the content marketing trends in 2021 be?’ Before we get into that, I feel it’s important to look back at 2020.

It’s a monumental year and not in a good way. Businesses have had to adapt literally overnight. Those who didn’t have an online presence were fast-tracked into building one and those who were already online had to up their content marketing strategy to survive during the initial lockdown and also this second one. 

We don’t know what 2021 will bring us in terms of the pandemic (better, happier times I hope!). But I feel confident that content marketing in 2021 will play an even more important role for businesses – especially small, independent businesses. 

I’d be lying if I said that content marketing is something that takes little effort. It takes time, insight and persistence – you don’t get results overnight but if you stick with it you’ll see positive things happen. 

Content marketing is a collective term for different tactics and these are some of the tactics that I think can help steer your marketing to success in 2021: 

Sales and marketing teams collaborating 

Sales and marketing teams work towards the same goals; to secure more customers and increase sales. From my experience of working in the marketing department of different organisations, management tend to treat these two departments as separate entities. 

This is an oversight and it loses the business money. Research by Hubspot shows that proper alignment between sales and marketing teams can lead to an impressive 38% increase in winning business. There are several barriers from stopping both departments working in sync with each other, these include an unwillingness to share information, lack of communication and each department working with different processes and IT platforms. These things are fixable, and I feel Covid has made businesses realise the urgency of getting their sales and marketing teams working together. 

It’s all well and good saying that the sales team and marketing department need to work together more and be more efficient, but how can they do this? Well, firstly a clear flow of communication needs to be established between each team – through meetings, slack channels, messenger etc. Sales reps get to hear directly from customers what their issues, concerns and interests are – this is valuable information for any marketing department and it should be used to shape the content plan. Sadly, often it’s not. 

Likewise, marketing departments are frequently guilty of creating new material that can benefit the sales team, such as sales brochures, case studies or whitepapers – which are then added to the website, where they sit until someone finds it and downloads it. Whereas, if they shared this news with the sales team, reps could be sending it out to their prospects. 

I feel 2021 will be the year that sales and marketing departments come together to improve customer acquisition and retention. 

Hyper-personalised email

Can you believe that email is 43 years old! 😲 The first-ever email was sent in 1978.

The emails of today are much more sophisticated and better designed than they were 40 years ago. Even though email marketing isn’t ‘new’ it’s one of the most successful forms of content marketing.  Here are some stats from Hubspot to prove how successful email marketing can be:

  • For every $1 spent on email marketing, it generates $38 in return – that’s a staggering 3,800% ROI
  • 80%of businesses believe that email increases customer retention
  • 59% of respondents believe that marketing emails influence their purchase decisions

If you’re not currently doing some sort of email marketing, it’s something you should consider for 2021.

The businesses that see the best ROI from marketing emails are those that are smart with their messages. They don’t send the same message to all their subscribers; they segment their lists and personalise the messages. This isn’t revolutionary, but in 2021, I believe businesses will be looking for platforms that allow their messages to be hyper-personalised using dynamic email content.

Dynamic email content is any part of a marketing email that can be changed based on user behaviour or data. This is achievable by segmenting subscriber lists and adding variables to these lists.

Here’s an example of a hyper-personalised email I received from Baker Ross. They know that I have kids of a certain age and from previous purchasers, they know that we’re into arts and crafts. This email they sent gives ideas for Christmas things to make at home (we’ve already done some of them!).

Brand stories

Buyers are incredibly savvy and today they are less influenced by advertising and price discounts. Before they’re willing to hand over their cash to you they want to know that you’re a trustworthy brand. And, the way to do this is with your brand story. 

The focus of your brand story isn’t on the product or service you offer. Instead, it’s a tale of why your company was born; what drove you to create it and what its mission is. Brand stories that are memorable, engaging and emotive are those that include standard storytelling elements of characters, a setting, conflict and resolution. Conflict is a problem or issue that you’re obsessed about fixing, and the resolution is how you’re doing it. 

Airbnb logo
Source: Airbnb website

On a product level, Airbnb is an online platform that lets accommodation owners rent out their property to travellers. Their brand story doesn’t tell a tale of renting properties, it builds a picture of belonging to a community where you can share experiences. This cemented in their tagline – belong anywhere and communicated by sharing user’s stories on YouTube and their social channels. 

A brand story may seem like a nice thing to have that you can stick on your ‘About Us’ page and forget about. It isn’t. As brands even more on creating digital content, a brand story that resonates with the reader will help you stand out in a landscape of similar brands. A brand story that people can connect with and are willing to share with their friends and family will boost your social followers, increase brand loyalty and translate into sales. 

Social continues to reign 

Research by Brandwatch shows that the number of people spending time on social media increased by 48% during the pandemic. This is a mind-boggling amount. The reasons for this could be that more people were working from home so they found it easier to access social media, people were using social media to keep in contact with friends and family, they were bored or they were using social media as a means of escapism. 

In 2021 and beyond, social media will be an important tool for businesses in helping them to connect with new audiences and also to stay in touch with existing customers. Brands that really understand their audience (age, gender, interests and needs) will outperform those who are trying to speak to everyone. 

Emotive content will be a driving force in social media engagement in 2021. Emotive content is content (posts, stories, video, images) that creates a connection through an emotion (e.g. amusement, joy, excitement).  This emotion then drives that person to take action – changing their perception of the brand, making them want to search up the brand online or to make a purchase – are all examples of action that can be taken. 

To build emotion into your social carefully content, consider how you write for social media, scrutinise the images you choose and think about using emojis. 👍

User-generated content 

User-generated content is fairly self-explanatory – it’s content that features your brand, which is produced by users and posted to their own social media channels, which you can share with your followers.

Why share content you haven’t produced yourself? Well, these stats from Hubspot explain why:

  • 79% of people say user-generated content highly impacts their purchasing decision
  • Consumers find user-generated context 9.8 times more impactful than influencer content 
  • Ads featuring user-generated content garnered 73% more positive comments on social media than traditional ads

The view on user-generated content is split. Some brands have embraced it and are doing it really well (in my article ‘Brands with great social media content during Covid’ I talk about how Specsavers are making great use of user-generated content). 

Example of user-generated content from Specsavers: 

Source: @Specsavers

Others, I think are nervous about doing it. A business has to be protective of its brand, and if the user-generated content isn’t top-quality or if your product or brand name is used in a way that’s in odds with your values, it could be damaging. 

A way to manage this is through being specific about the type of content you want – sit down with your social media team (if you have one) or think carefully yourself about how you want your brand to be shown. Also, have a quality check procedure that user-generated content must pass before it’s shared – this should involve researching the account of the person who produced it to be sure their other content matches your brand’s ethos.

Repurposing of content 

In my eBook, ‘Content Marketing for Busy Business Owners’ I talk a lot about the results content marketing can achieve. One that stands out for me is that ‘It’s 3 times cheaper to generate leads through content marketing than traditional marketing’ (DemandMetric). 

This is an encouraging stat but I can truthfully tell you that creating content takes a lot of time – that’s why brands I work with hire me to do it for them. If you haven’t got the resources (yet) to outsource your content creation, you can achieve more with your existing content by being creative. 

Repurposing content is a quick way to create new content from existing materials. Here are some ideas on how you can repurpose content: 

  • Take a podcast and turn it into a blog article
  • Take a series of connected articles and turn it into a downloadable eBook 
  • Take stills from a video and make a series of social media posts
  • Take key points from a whitepaper and turn them into an infographic
  • Turn social media posts into social stories
  • Refresh existing articles with new stats and add a quote from an expert
  • Take your website testimonials and make social posts from them
  • Take a case study from your website and make it into a story to use on an email marketing campaign 

If you’re thinking these ideas sound great, but are worried graphic design isn’t your thing (it ain’t mine). Don’t panic! A tool that can help you create all these materials is  Canva. It has thousands of pre-designed templates that you can modify with your own images and text.  

Start planning your 2021 content marketing strategy today 

2021 is only weeks away so there’s no time to waste in getting your 2021 content marketing strategy sorted. Need a helping hand? Then get in touch and we discuss how we can get it sorted together. 

About me: I’m Emma a copywriter and content manager based in Harrow, London. I have a passion for content and for creating amazing content for brands that have a strong sustainable, social and ethical ethos.