These days, there’s no shortage of doom and gloom about business and the economy, as business pundits seem to endlessly debate the question of “Are we in a recession or not?”

What’s more, the term “headwinds” is thrown around constantly, because it is an effective term that describes a non-specific malaise that affects our journey.

If you’ll forgive the metaphor, we marketers are like pilots, tasked with bravely navigating our way across the marketing landscape. And as seasoned, professional pilots understand, dealing with turbulence and headwinds is just part of the expertise and skillset we must bring to the job. Seeing as how we are in turbulent times, with an up and down market and a seemingly uncertain future, it makes sense to revisit a crucial element in the marketer’s portfolio: content marketing.

The Marketing Turbulence Is Real

I recently attended a webinar wherein a tech VP soberly outlined the challenges ahead for the economy as a whole and for marketers specifically. His perspective is that last year (2021) was just the beginning of more significant change, with disruption and market turbulence moving forward. He cited the impact of the pandemic, the ongoing skills shortage, supply chain issues and geopolitical currents, along with factors like shifting consumer demand and the ongoing need for digital transformation as key factors in creating a big storm in the near future.

Like many experts, this observer believes that 2022 and 2023 will become even more disruptive, as individual market forces coalesce and make their impact felt across the economy. The potential for a recession is being amplified by these interwoven factors — each creating its own set of problems and concerns — and marketers must find a way to respond boldly and ensure that their companies and brands stay top-of-mind during the tumult. 

Related Article: Handling CX in an Economic Downturn

Fly Steady With Content Execution

The important thing for marketers to know is that you can indeed fly through a storm — whether literal or figurative — and that content is integral to positioning one’s organization for a successful landing. When seeking long-term marketing results, the best way to “fly steady” is to ensure that you have an outstanding content marketing program in place. Your content plans are like air traffic control, designed to provide the safest way to get through the clouds of a potential recession, while delivering a great brand experience akin to an on-time flight.

Achieving these goals means delivering content that is on-target with your buyer and influencer demographics and offering something for each individual at every stage of the sales funnel. Content that is relevant to the reader’s wants, needs and job role is critical, and it should be delivered in a similar fashion across multiple platforms, including web and mobile. What’s more, content efforts should integrate with a larger PESO (paid, earned, shared and owned) media strategy that ensures adequate coverage in terms of reaching all key audiences and demographics where they live or work.

Smart Data, Empathy and Authenticity = Content's Best Formula

Additional critical elements of any modern content program include smart use of data and the integration of empathy and authenticity. Gartner reports that CMOs who embrace “scaled judgment” — which is described as the “use of data-driven insights to act on market signals,” as well as “empathetic influence,” which is a deep understanding of customer needs — are “11% more likely to report organizational revenue growth.”

Learning Opportunities

Empathetic connections to brands are especially helpful in an era when so many products and services are at a parity level in terms of price and performance — so connection to a brand becomes a key purchase differentiator. Most times, you can’t tell one airline from the other, and today, even customer service organizations need to have a content strategy.

Messaging must go above and beyond in order to build true and lasting connections with customers. Gone are the days of purchases as mere transactions, and companies must seek to leverage content as part of an ongoing relationship, which means that they must present relevant and timely offers, not just email blasts.

In this vein, firms should leverage content to nurture customer relationships and emphasize the importance and value of each individual customer to the company’s success. Customers should feel like more than a number, and consumers and B2B customers alike should view the companies that they do business with as helpful, dependable and reliable.

Vendors should show appreciation for customers’ patronage, and vendors should use a mix of content to show that they’re out in front of customer needs and that they understand the customer’s situation. In addition to illustrating empathy as part of their customer service-focused content strategies, companies should bring together multiple elements that will help customers see themselves in a firm’s brand image and story. This long-term brand identification — driven by content — helps to retain customers, reduce churn and increase long-term profitability.

Related Article: Content Marketing: Develop Your Omnichannel Strategy in 9 Easy Steps

Take Content Risks, but Bring It in for a Safe Landing

It is always good to remember that while strong, market turbulence and disruptions are usually temporary. Just like the turbulence we experience when flying on an airplane.

And as marketing “pilots,” we must understand how to fearlessly combat prevailing conditions whatever they may be and fine-tune our approach to ensure a safe and comfortable flight. A pilot can change altitude or heading, and in a similar fashion, a well-rounded and diverse content strategy helps facilitate our journey by being agile and adaptable.

Now more than ever, content strategies need to support sustained brand awareness while enabling differentiation and loyalty that drives growth.

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