Like almost everything else in business, there are cycles of what clients and customers want to read in blogs and in articles. In 2020, the most important development in content marketing trends is that the preferences of clients and customers are changing again. As a result, companies need to adjust their content strategy and approach to maximize the likelihood of leveraging social media and blogging to generate new relationships and new business.
Analytics we run for clients are revealing how content trends shifted in the past nine-to-12 months. “Think pieces” of roughly 1,000-to-1,300 words are gaining favor over posts that are shorter. The longer and more successful posts focus on pragmatic tips and take on a “how to do something” approach.
Content marketing trends and tactics have gone through perhaps five cycles since we invented the concept in 1992 – before anyone knew thought leadership was a thing.
- When we replaced all of the newsletters and brochures of an organization with a glossy, four-color business magazine, studies revealed that the articles getting the most reads and “letters to the editor” ran 1,200 to 1,500 words. Pieces covered emerging trends that executives needed to be thinking about for their company.
- When websites came into widespread use and some firms were writing blogs, short pieces of around 300 words became the most-widely read.
- Ten years ago, when blogs were becoming more common and search engine optimization took hold as an important tool to drive visitors and engagement, both readers and Google were happiest with content that ran roughly 1,000 words. Content was nitty-gritty and focused on decisions, regulations, new techniques and tactical steps for running a successful business.
- About the same time that businesses figured this out and began posting longer blogs, everything changed once more with viewers and search engines preferring pieces 600-to-750 words in length.
The latest shift to longer blogs means that content writers have to change what and how they write pieces their target markets really want to read.
Content Marketing Case Studies for B2B Organizations
We’ve seen the positive impact of paying attention to blogging trends in our content marketing tactics with clients. These case studies illustrate the point.
Case Study 1
We work with a corporate lawyer at a midsized firm. She had us write blogs every week about new regulations and pending laws that would impact public companies, what executives acquiring another company needed to focus on, court decisions that affected large businesses and how businesses get in trouble with employment contracts.
As we do with all clients, we tracked numerous metrics. The blogs averaged about 635 words each. Over the previous 12-18 months, we saw the number of readers slowly dwindling from a peak of around 275 per week after we’d been writing her pieces for about four months to 150 readers a week. Engagement declined as well: Few, if any, readers were leaving remarks anymore either at the website or on LinkedIn where we posted for her each time a new blog went live.
We suggested a “think piece” topic based on a slowly emerging trend in her focus area. It ran nearly 1,200 words, which made her nervous.
Yet within three days of it being optimized and going live, it attracted more than 500 readers and seven comments. Her LinkedIn promo was shared by three people, extending her reach. More crucial is that she received four queries asking for help with the issue she’d raised. That’s thousands in revenue she would not have had if she stuck to “just the facts” blogs.
Think pieces now are the focus of the content marketing strategy we implement for her.
Case Study 2
We work with a client in the green energy business. Most of the blogs we wrote for the company simplified complex financing issues or ways to offset installation and maintenance costs. They generated calls. They generated a slow but steady stream of inquiries.
As we do with all of our clients, we keep an eye out for possible topics relevant to their industry. We spotted a small item in The New York Times about an obscure EPA program that allows commercial and industrial buildings or government facilities to have almost free, totally clean electricity.
We sent a link to the client along with an outline for a blog about the program. At first, they were reluctant because they weren’t sure anyone would be interested. “Who wouldn’t be interested in nearly free electricity that reduces carbon emissions?” we replied.
Almost as soon as the “think about this” blog was optimized for SEO and was posted on their website, the company was deluged with inquiries. Recently, it participated in a ceremony unveiling the largest solar energy system installation at a government facility in its home state. It was built using the EPA program that a county executive read about at the blog. The company president was in the media of photos and video at the ribbon cutting alongside the state’s governor.
All because a blog discussed an emerging idea that would save potential customers serious money.
Case Study 3
A company that makes and sells promotional products had excellent SEO but was having trouble getting website visitors to click on “place an order.” On the surface, it wouldn’t seem that a business in its sector would find “think pieces” useful – or even possible – in motivating customers. But when we began writing blogs to accompany specific sales pages that suggested ways in which a potential buyer could use the product, there was a noticeable uptick in emails and calls to the 800 number.
Lessons for Content Marketing Strategy and Tactics
There are three broad lessons to be taken from the current trends in reader preferences.
First, you need to understand what people want to read and how they want to read it.
Second, use the information that’s available to ensure that your ideas will resonate with the people you want and need to attract.
Third, don’t be afraid to change “we’ve always done it this way” when your audience wants you to do it that way – and keep measuring the results.
It is one thing to invest the time and energy in creating content for your website and blog. But if it is not written the way your target audience wants to read it and the kind of information they find useful, then all you are doing is indulging in an intellectual exercise that won’t be as likely to get someone to pick up the phone and ask, “Can you help me with this”?