My favorite part of playing a sports video game is the “Create a Player” function. It gives me the opportunity to set realism aside and dream up the most legendary, dominant athletic specimen imaginable. On the basketball court, no real-life point guard would be able to match up against “Dimes McGee,” my customized 7-foot-10 wunderkind with 99 ratings for shooting, passing, ball-handling, speed, and defense. Talk about optimization!
What if you could “create a player” in B2B content marketing? Which attributes would you want to max out in order to fabricate the most successful practitioner possible? It’s a fun and interesting question to contemplate, in large part because the answers now are different than even a few years ago.
Which traits and characteristics define the most effective B2B content marketers in 2021?
Optimized: 5 Traits of the Best B2B Content Marketers
Certain requisite skills, such as being creative and a good communicator, are so obvious as to go without stating. But a new set of traits are emerging that differentiate the best B2B content marketers in this reshaped business environment.
If you’re looking to hire a content marketer (or agency), or you’re looking to grow your own skills, these are the traits worth emphasizing.
The game is changing. New innovations are disrupting the profession and many fundamentals are in flux. In charting the top B2B marketing trends for 2021, TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden envisions a massive shift toward digital-first tactics and practices, citing AI and chatbots as technologies that will help lead the way as organizations zero in on digital customer engagement.
Adapting to this revolution requires a curious and open mind. Those who are rigidly set in their ways, or committed to conventional thinking, will be in trouble. We must be willing — eager, even — to challenge our own assumptions about our audiences’ needs, and how best to meet them.
A great B2B content marketer is not someone who insists they know everything. Instead, it’s someone who readily admits what they don’t know, questions what they think they do know, and shows a fervent curiosity to learn more.
This can be a sticking point. Given that content marketers tend to be writers by trade, many of us (myself included) are averse to math. So the idea of crunching numbers and calculating metrics can feel a bit daunting. The good news is that marketing analytics tools can handle most of the math for us; it is incumbent upon B2B content marketers to take these insights and draw meaningful, actionable conclusions from them.
Put another way, being analytical means being scientific in our curiosity. Intuition and instincts are important, but they should never overshadow solid evidence in our thinking. The widespread availability of data today brings a world of opportunities to verify, validate, or revise any theory we might have.
For practical guidance on the subject, I encourage you to check out Annie Leuman’s post on how data insights can lead your B2B content marketing strategy, from benchmarking and goals to audience and personas to content mapping and more.
A critical caveat: being analytical doesn’t mean content marketers should get bogged down in a chronic state of decision paralysis. While remaining flexible, and vigilantly mindful of analytics, we should be ready to pursue our convictions decisively and take the lead.
The newly released Edelman Trust Barometer 2021 lays out a mandate for businesses and CEOs: “Act first, talk later.” With businesses currently being rated as more trustworthy than NGOs, government, or media, content marketers have a unique opportunity to speak up and solidify the credibility of their brands. Those who boldly capitalize and deliver for their audiences will separate themselves this year.
Another key directive from Edelman’s latest report: “have the courage to provide straight talk, but also empathize and address people’s fears.” This is not necessarily an easy balance to strike.
In a recent survey by Singular, CMOs identified empathy as the biggest supertrend in marketing this year after digital transformation. Nothing else came remotely close.
Content marketers are the primary conduits between a business and its potential customers. They help internal stakeholders understand the audience’s needs and values, and they shape external perceptions of how the brand is serving those needs and values. Empathy is instrumental in ensuring these two sides align.
To an extent, empathy comes naturally, but it can be honed and strengthened through a curious and analytical mentality.
“Experienced marketers are being more strategic about ways to invest in customer experiences to showcase customer satisfaction and retention in addition to complementing customer acquisition strategies,” wrote Brian Solis in a post from Forbes last year that remains highly relevant today. “By measuring the customer’s real-time and aggregated experience, marketers can learn exactly how and where to improve them, in times with-COVID and post-COVID markets.”
It was almost exactly one year ago that I laid out this top priority for B2B marketers in 2020: slow your roll. From customer experiences to strategy-setting to social media management and SEO tactics, I saw opportunities to take a beat and become more methodical.
As it turns out, we didn’t have much choice. The arrival of a global pandemic soon after forced the business world at large to slow down as budgets were reduced, employees were confined to their homes, and buying decisions were delayed. Distractions and disruptions ran rampant. LinkedIn’s State of Sales 2020 report found 44% of respondents saying their customers’ sales cycles had grown longer in the face of COVID-19.
Now, we just need to adjust. Patience will be a virtue for those B2B content marketers who thrive in the year to come: patience with coworkers, customers, business partners, and measuring results. Keeping a positive and productive mindset through a year of transition and uncertainty projects confidence and stability.
As the old saying goes: “Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.”
Bring Your Marketing ‘A Game’ in 2021
Through curiosity, analysis, boldness, empathy, and patience, B2B content marketers can be prepared for everything that comes their way in 2021. Let these traits shine and your output will do the same.
Ready for more advice on overcoming the challenges ahead? Learn which attributes will drive the most successful influencer marketing efforts this year by clicking over to Lee’s post for tips and examples.