2020 Content Marketing Pivot: 3 Tactics You Can Use To Improve Your Results

Square Lights-Content Marketing PivotDid your brand make a content marketing pivot in 2020?

It’s the only tool in your marketing toolbox to meet 2020’s unique challenges.

Because quality content marketing can make your business shine by:

  • Helping your company regardless of size,
  • Serving its audience, and
  • Achieving higher aspirational goals.

HOW does content marketing do this?

  • Sets goals to reflect your organization’s unique talents. They should meet your audience’s needs and wants in the context of their choice of platforms and devices.
  • Extends beyond making profitable sales to support your broader community.
  • Uses relevant metrics aligned with your objectives. This holds you accountable to your senior management and community.

WHAT can content marketing accomplish?

  • Lead with thought leadership based on your history and willingness to support people who need you, not just paying customers. Spotlight your inclusivity and diversity within your firm and within your broader community.
  • Offer useful and “How To” content to help customers and others to use the products they had and/or can find to meet their new needs.
  • Respond quickly with limited financial and human resources.Create content by using  your existing work and re-imagine it for new audiences and to meet related needs.

2020 provided content marketers with a golden opportunity. By being there for your broader audience, you accelerated growth.

Since opportunities still exist, make a content marketing pivot.


2020’s Historic Dynamics: What You Need To Know

Due to COVID’s rapid spread and impact around the world, 2020 was a year of massive and accelerated change.

Both people and businesses have experienced major disruptions.

“We’ve seen 2 years’ worth of digital transformation in 2 months.” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella reported in a 2020 earnings call.Click To Tweet


Further, this rapid digital transformation favored the most prepared and nimble businesses. (Deloitte Research 2020)

As a result, these companies:

  • Increased customer lifetime value (aka: LTV) and had lower customer acquisition costs.
  • Yielded higher net revenue and net profit margins.

Executives from higher-maturity organizations are more likely to emphasize digital transformation's benefits for growth and innovationHigher-maturity companies reported industry-leading revenue growth and profit margins

From a marketing perspective, this advantage translates to measurable results your CFO understands.

Because you increase marketing revenue over time. This improves Customer Lifetime Value (or CLTV). Often this is attributable to improved customer on-boarding and better retention over time.

Customer Lifetime Value Chart

How marketing creates profitable sales and increased customer lifetime value.


COVID and Other Health Challenges

Unlike previous virus outbreaks, COVID wasn’t confined to a geographic region or identifiable group. This caused ordinarily healthy people around the world to worry about their health and potentially death.

In response, local governments issued shutdowns and quarantines to “Flatten The Curve” [of new infections].

The objective:
To reduce COVID cases to prevent overwhelming the medical system with new cases.

Flatten The Curve To Slow COVID Spread Chart-Shows Need for Content Marketing Pivot

During the early stages of COVID in the US, my friend and colleague, Mark Schaefer publicly shared his experience with the COVID with honesty and transparency.

Mark follows what he wrote in Marketing Rebellion:
Companies must be more human to survive and thrive going forward. ( Mark’s AMG interview is worth reading.)

In Mark’s words:
“Marketing is supposed to be “all things human,” but it is clearly not.”


How COVID Caused Economic Challenges

Due to closed businesses, the virus sped up the economic disruptions and related downturn.

As a result:

  • Non-essential workers shifted to working from home (aka: WFH) and
  • Students and teachers learned new technology for distance learning.

Further, essential work had an uneven impact on different segments of society. This included:

  • Medical professionals and related workers (often lower income women) and
  • Other necessary services such as grocery and drug retail and delivery services.

In many locations, people began panic buying. This caused short-term shortages, most notably toilet paper and flour.

Due to being confined to their homes, people’s activities and media consumption changed. In large part, this benefited the major tech companies including Amazon, Google, Facebook and Netflix.

With changing digital needs, a few startups, namely, Zoom, Shopify and Instacart, experienced fast growth. Since their products and services met customers’ new needs.

For example, Pasta Louise’s Allison Lanzilotta Arevalo made 2 small business pivots to:

  • Sell 120 pounds of homemade pasta per week via Facebook and her website.
  • Open a family-style restaurant with to-go service when the local laws allowed it.

Rainy Day Pasta Pickup

The Uneven Economic Impact of COVID:

  • 1 in 4 women had to scale back or leave their jobs to take care of children and/or aging parents. They also experienced more pressure to work, stress and burnout than men. (WeForum 2020)

Moms More Likely Than Dads to Scale Back Work Post COVID Chart shows Content Marketing Pivot


Global Warming and Environmental Changes

In some cities like New York, the COVID shutdown resulted in cleaner air due to less human activity and less or no vehicle traffic.

Despite this, across the US, extreme weather events increased in 2020. This includes tornadoes and hurricanes.


2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook

Also, on August 10th, a derecho swept across Iowa. It’s an extreme weather event similar to an inland hurricane. It moves in a line so it causes more damage. In Iowa, the derecho’s winds moved at speeds of 90 to 100 mph and was 30 to 50 miles wide at times.

In addition, the wildfires across California, Oregon and Washington burned over 5 million acres in total and killed at least 40 people.

Fire Map 2020

The damage from these weather-related events underscores the reality of global warming. Even worse, the people, property and natural resources are difficult to replace if at all.


What Does Your Audience Need Now?

Understand how your audience’s needs and expectations changed due to these disruptions. Across demographics, customers use their wallets to vote on your business practices and hold you accountable for your actions.

Embrace customer centricity! Especially since customers consider your employees more trustworthy than your CEO! (Edelman Trust Barometer 2020)

Experts and Peers Most Credible

Talk to real people in your audience. But don’t limit yourself to one person! Since this may give you a limited perspective. Also, even if you use your business’s products and services don’t assume you represent your audience.

So speak to people in your audience with different points of view. Include:

  • Current prospects,
  • Current customers especially recent buyers, and
  • Past customers who no longer purchases from you

Since the most expensive part of your marketing is acquiring a new customer. Therefore it’s more profitable to keep existing customers on-boarding and retention.

Now your customers need and want you to:

  • Be authentic.
  • Follow ethical behavior across your organization, internally and externally, and
  • Act consistency to build trust.


How Changing Customer Buying Affects Your Content Marketing

Adapt your content marketing to meet your audience’s evolving wants, needs and context based on data. (Catalyst 2020)

People of color have growing share of buying power in US


How African American Customers Use Their Buying Power

Do you pay attention to African-American consumers and their $1.2 trillion in spending power? NielsenClick To Tweet

In addition, African Americans care about what brands do and say across platforms.

  • 38% of African Americans between 18 and 34 and 41% of those 35 or older expect the brands they buy to support social causes.
  • African Americans are 44% more likely to interact with brands on social media.

Supermodel Duckie Thot (aka: Winnie Harlo) told Good Morning America:

“It’s actually insane to me by just being yourself the things that you can achieve,” she said. “I’m going to be the first model with vitiligo walking for Victoria’s Secret. It’s a door-opening for everyone. We are all the same because we’re all different.”

Duckie Thot Tweet

Duckie Thot Breaks Barriers

BUT know that African American women will call out bad brand behavior.

In April 2017 Shea Moisture, traditionally marketed to African American women, decided to expand their product to white women.

AND Shea Moisture quickly learned the purchasing and social media power of their core black customers.  They quickly responded on social media by admitting they messed up and pulled the ad.

The Buying Power of Your LGBTQ+ Audience

Does your brand discriminate against people who identify as LGBTQ+?

Did you know that LGBTQ+ buying power totaled nearly $1 trillion in 2016? according to Kantar ConsultingClick To Tweet


LGBTQ Buying powerLGBTQ+ Gender Discrimination


Are You Leaving Money On The Table By Not Targeting Millennial And Gen Z Buyers?

Base your content marketing strategy on the generational differences in earning and spending power. Since power has shifted from Baby Boomers to Millennials and Gen Z in the US.

Trend consumption growth

84.8 million millennials (aged 19 to 37) had $2.5 trillion of spending power in 2020. With $3,100 average monthly take-home pay, millennials are the largest population segment in the US. Over the next 5 year they’ll approach their peak spending years when per capita spending will increase over 10% .

Millennials 2020 spending power

25 million Gen Z teens ( aged 13 to 18) had $34 billion in spending power and $115 in average monthly spending in 2020. In the next 5 years, Gen Z per capita spend will increase over 70%.

In the US, COVID had an impact on the consumption habits of Millennials and Gen Z teens. (BCG)

Gen Z and Millennial Consumption Post COVID-BCG Chart- Influences Content Marketing Pivot


How To Make Your Content Marketing Pivot More Inclusive and Diverse


“Brands make sure your examples and research are inclusive and represent your audience” says Luvvie Ajayi JonesClick To Tweet


Katie MartellPay attention to culture and lean into it for the right reasons or people will call you out.

For example:
Katie Martell dubbed herself an “Unapologetic Marketing Truth-teller”. She says, “Accept no one’s definition of your life, define yourself.”

Further people need human interaction since we crave authenticity. So your audience needs to see your face.

“Your personal story makes you believable!” says A Lee JudgeClick To Tweet


Do one thing, even if it’s small and do it consistently so that your results are additive.

Sydni Craig HartTo go beyond customer-facing activity, listen to Sydni Craig Hart.

Show empathy by diversifying your marketing budget. Use the power of your marketing dollars to represent your audience! Examine the suppliers your business uses across all of its departments. To diversify ALL of your suppliers, not just customer-facing departments.



How B2B Content Marketers Pivoted: What The Research Reveals

Due to the disruptions from the pandemic, most B2B content marketers adjusted their strategy. (2021 Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs Research)

  • 22% of B2B content marketers made short-term strategy adjustments.
  • 66% of respondents made a combination of short and long term strategy adjustments.
  • 6% of B2B content marketers made long-term strategy adjustments.
  • 6% were unsure whether their company reacted.

2021 B2B content marketing strategy changes for COVID - Content Marketing Pivot-Chart

Given the global nature of the pandemic’s impact differed by geography and age, I’m surprised that 100% of B2B content marketers didn’t change their content marketing tactics!

  • 70% changed targeting and/or messaging strategy. But if you didn’t change your message during COVID, it sounded tone-deaf! 
  • 53% changed content distribution and/or promotional strategy. At least for owned and organic social media, changing content distribution didn’t require a lot of resources.
  • 40% changed their website since people often checked online resources for purchases and information. Also, many companies used online chatbots and IVR options to reduce under-manned call centers.

Many of the COVID tailored-ads sounded the same and often lacked branding! 

The big surprise:
Only 3 out 10 businesses talked to customers during this period.

WHY didn’t 100% of B2B businesses not talk to existing customers?

  • Marketers and sales professionals didn’t need additional monetary budget,
  • Tactic could be implement with existing technology, and
  • Customers had time AND were willing to talk because they needed human contact.

2020 B2B Content Marketing COVID changes - Content Marketing Pivot



Content Marketing Pivot: What Your Business Needs To Do

Accelerated digital adoption requires a content marketing pivot.

To help you succeed, use these 3 content marketing tactics.

1. Deliver The Content Marketing Basics Here’s What You Need To Do

Define your business and marketing goals with related metrics to show REAL results.

  • Grow an addressable audience,
  • Drive profitable sales, and
  • Support higher social objectives.


Select the one thing that you and/or your business will make your superpower. So you make great part of your company culture. says Folayo LasakiClick To Tweet


Develop your mission statement. Use Tamsen Webster’s Message Framework:
Tamsen Webster

  1. Identify and frame your audience’s question in their words, NOT yours.
  2. Create a moment of truth for your audience.
  3. Ask: “How does this relate to your audience and their want- and need- related questions and the problems you can solve for them.”
  4. Keep it simple to remember. Use one sentence.

Create an audience content consumption habit to build Share Of Audience Attention (or SOAA).

Deliver content on a consistent schedule over time.
So readers look forward to receiving and reading your content. (BTW–Ann Handley recommends email newsletters. And I’d be thrilled if you signed up for my AMG Newsletter! )

Need proof?
Check Northwestern’s research.

Reading habits based on email newsletters predict reader retention

Actionable Content Marketing Tips:


2. Customer Journey Changes: What Your Content Marketing Needs To Do

Due to quarantines, customer buying behavior changed significantly. In most cases it moved from in-person to digital purchase with home delivery or curbside pickup.

To respond to changes in the customer journey and new buying behaviors:

  • Talk with members of your audience and listen to what they want and need.
  • Then provide the products, services and content they want, how they want it, when they want it, and in the context of the devices and platforms they prefer.

In terms of B2C customers, over 40% of US customers start their digital shopping on Amazon.

Since Amazon is a:

  • Shopping search engine,
  • Social media rating and review site, and an
  • Advertising platform. (It ranks third in the US after Facebook and Google.)

Where US online shoppers start their purchase process

Further, free shipping and “one-click buying” create a “I don’t have to think” shopping option. As a result, about 1/3 of Prime Members buy at least weekly from Amazon. Or twice the rate of most US online shoppers! (NPR)

Amazon buying frequency

By contrast, 77% of B2B buyers rate their purchase experience as extremely complex or difficult. (Gartner 2019)

The new B2B Purchase Process consists of 6 tasks:

  • Problem identification,
  • Solution exploration,
  • Requirements building,
  • Supplier selection,
  • Validation, and
  • Consensus creation.

The B@B buyer process consists of 6 tasks


3. AI and Voice-First Martech: How To Improve Your Content Marketing

Does your content marketing martech stack include AI and voice-first technologies?

37% of companies have deployed some form of AI. (Gartner 2019) If your competitors use AI, they’ve got a head start over you! And they’ll continue to improve at an exponential rate to widen this gap.

Also, AI supported businesses during the pandemic (Gartner September 2020):

  • 47% of AI investments remained unchanged since the pandemic started and
  • 30% of organizations planned to increase AI investments.

During the pandemic, AI helped to power:

  • Chatbots to answer pandemic-related questions and
  • Computer vision to maintain social distancing, and
  • Modeling reopening efforts used machine learning (ML) .

5Ps Marketing Focused AI framework

Further, over 70% of US adults use voice-first technology. So voice findability across devices is a must for marketing success.

How people engage with voice-first devices

How do you add AI and Voice-First to your martech stack?
Take a seamless omni-channel approach to reach prospects and customers across platforms, devices and contexts on their timing. With AI and voice-first, model and predict customer behavior in realtime for personalization and Netflix-like content binging.

BUT your AI and voice-first use must be responsible and have related data governance. Show respect for the personal data and privacy of your visitors and customers with strong data security. So your brand and/or business isn’t creepy or pandering.



Content Marketing Pivot Example

Merrill, shows how to achieve a content marketing pivot.

In June 2020 they committed to driving systemic change within their organization walls and across the outdoor industry.

To accomplish this, Merrill focused on 4 strategic areas:

  • Internal Team and Culture (and they hired Janice Tennant as their Chief Marketing Officer in June 2020),
  • Amplifying Voices through partnerships and storytelling,
  • Reforming Outdoor Spaces to be more welcoming, and
  • Reshaping Retail and Our Industry to be more inclusive.

merrell's 4 strategic areas of focus

Key Content Marketing Pivot Question:
What will you, your brand, and/or your organization do to meet evolving your audience’s changing needs and wants?  And how will you help achieve broader societal needs?


2020 Content Marketing Pivot Conclusion

To thrive in the new normal landscape, your content marketing pivot must lay the foundation for current and future success.

Start your content marketing strategy by defining your goals. Beyond profitable sales, your brand must have a purpose and stand for at least one societal goal.

BUT talk to the people in your audience to discover their perspective related to:

  • What your business stands for,
  • How you should become more inclusive and diverse, and
  • What broader social objectives you should support.

At the same time define your success metrics.  This allows you to measure results in every element of your content plan.

Where appropriate use AI-powered and voice-first technology to deliver a better customer experience.

To achieve long-term content marketing pivot success remember:
Your audience decides what’s important with their wallets NOT YOU!

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

PS: Big tip of my hat to Stephanie Stahl, Robert Rose and Cathy McPhillips for putting together the 2020 Content Marketing World. #YouRock!

Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies.
You can find Heidi on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

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Photo Credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/ODbOdeQVF2Q  cc zero

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