By Richard Garfield, Specialist Content Writer

Over the past couple of years, businesses have had to quickly adapt and change the way they promote their products and services. While the ever-changing marketing landscape may seem daunting, here are five key trends to keep an eye on during 2022 to ensure your content marketing plans stay on track.

#1 Empathetic marketing

Recent events have led marketing teams to take a more empathetic approach, which we are likely to see continue throughout 2022.

It’s a way of seeing your customer through their eyes and speaking to them as people and not simply as potential buyers. To do this you need to be clear who your customers are, what challenges and pain points they face and what motivates them into action. Answering these questions will be useful in producing content that evokes relatable emotions which will build trust, create better customer experiences and develop more authentic relationships.

#2 Hyper-personalisation

It’s well known that customising messages will improve customer engagement, especially when it comes to email marketing.

While this has become pretty much standard practice, a newer trend is now emerging with hyper-personalisation. This goes deeper than simply using a customers’ name as it taps into an individual’s preferences, desires and needs.

Basically, this uses data to deliver more personal and tailored products, services and information to create unique interactions with individuals. Hyper-personalisation can increase customer loyalty and create more enjoyable interactions.

#3 Shorter video content

During 2021 video content became a central part of many content strategies. TikTok alone grew by an impressive 173% and with Instagram embracing a shift towards video, so the importance of video content will surely grow in 2022.

As average times for watching videos continue to fall, short videos suit fast-paced social media platforms. According to Hootsuite just over 39% of businesses already use short video content to sell their products and services, with 30% reporting that it provides a higher ROI than their own websites.

When done well, video can create a deeper connection and capture the attention of potential customers more readily.

#4 Audio content and podcasts

Audio content has become more and more popular in part due to podcasts which are available live or on-demand. In a recent survey from HubSpot, 80% of businesses polled said they plan to invest either the same or more into podcasts and audio continue for the year ahead.

We expect this trend to continue in 2022 with more content that is directly linked to a brand being available as they are a great way to share information while listeners are doing other things such as driving to work, doing household chores, or working out.

#5 Optimising content with infographics

We expect to see the trend of consumers actively choosing content with visual displays such as infographics over content that is purely text in 2022.

Studies have shown that people can process images 60,000 times faster than text and in the same vein, people tend to remember only 10% of information through sound, while they remember up to 65% of information they see visually.

While images can be powerful on their own, when mixed with text they have even more impact, as audiences respond well to the combination of words and images. Articles with relevant images receive 94% more views compared to articles without images. Well-designed, attractive visual content, such as infographics, photos and animations, can increase visual interaction with consumers can drive emotions and help them along with their buying decisions.

Content teams must keep abreast of key marketing trends if they want to attract and retain their target audiences in 2022 as after all creating exciting content is what gets businesses and their brands noticed. However, this does not mean they can simply jump on new trends and ignore basic marketing practices, as without a unified content and marketing strategy this is unlikely to pay off in the long run. Making sure your content and marketing is aligned with the rest of your business and by clearly defining your marketing goals, will allow you to make the most of these trends.

If you have any questions or would like some help with your content marketing, get in touch with us.

It’s that time of year when the mystics grab their trusted crystal ball and take a long hard look into the future. For those of us in B2B PR & marketing, that approach just doesn’t work! Instead, we rely on educated guesses and the wise words of our experts.

We asked our Creative Director, Mark Wilson; Head of Content, Hannah Buckley; and Head of Digital and Social, Ross Walker for their take on what to expect from next year.

Mark on creative

#1 Focus on video and animation

We all had to work within the confines of the pandemic which meant finding other outlets or avenues for creative. Things like photo shoots, for example, couldn’t happen, so we had to find alternatives. Which is where video and animation shone and as a result, we can see can more of this next year. We are also going to see the use of video and animation in different media and areas, and across different platforms. Just look at the Channel 4 reality series that was produced exclusively for broadcast on Instagram.

#2 More green

Obviously there’s been a lot of focus on sustainability, not just because of the recent COP26, and I think will influence all areas next year. More brands will be shouting about their credentials and efforts next year – and will be pressed to prove it. But more than that, there’ll be pressure in the digital sphere to prove sustainability; how can digital brands be more energy efficient. If you consider the internet produces nearly 4% of the world’s greenhouse emissions, there is definite work to be done.

#3 Return of the DM

No. Not the direct message. I’m talking more old school. The direct mail. While direct mail like junk mail has had a steady presence in our lives, it will be the desk drop that is staging a comeback. This can be used as a way to get your brand to stand out, be more personalised and targeted. I think it’s just a really ripe area for creativity, especially because people are tired of receiving emails marketing emails, dozens a day. As we hopefully make a return to our offices next year and away from being in front of our screens 24/7, a physical, tangible thing will be well received.

Hannah on content

#1 Increased demand for a wider variety of content types

In today’s time-strapped environment, people are a lot more selective about what they consume, which has led to greater demand for videos and podcasts, to supplement more traditional types of marketing and PR content. These types of content are easy to digest, can be more widely shared and reach more audiences while staying true to the brand’s messaging.

#2 More data-driven content

This is really a circular thing and recognises the role content plays in the bigger picture, in terms of company goals and objectives.

With this, there will be more of a move towards data informing the types of content being created and at the same time there’s a push for content to provide tangible results that can be evidenced with hard data to show how content is helping to meet those company goals.

#3 More brands sharing more opinionated content

This is a more upfront up front way to engage with audiences, particularly as people are now a lot more discerning and know when they’re being sold or marketed to.

With that, some brands are being bolder with how they communicate with their customers and prospects to cut through the noise and make their voice heard.

This approach requires businesses to strike the right balance between being outspoken and potentially controversial, and remaining true to their brand’s messaging and values.

Ross on social and digital

#1 Employee advocacy

The term has been used quite a lot and it’s becoming more and more important for brands to adopt these programmes into their marketing. Essentially it’s about leveraging employee networks to promote the brand, ensuring they’re amplifying the messaging. But…all in a meaningful and authentic way! The obvious benefits are brand awareness and transparent engagement with target audiences. In addition, LinkedIn for example, is more inclined to push individual posts and content over those coming from corporate pages.

#2 Evolution of paid social

Next year it’s going to be more important than ever to stand out and leveraging paid social campaigns can really be beneficial, especially around brand awareness and lead generation. It’s a great way of building engagement and being more targeted. It does need to be underpinned by a solid content strategy to make sure your audience is consuming that content and interacting with your brand.

#3 Bet on organic social

With all the changes that have happened this year – enter the Metaverse! – there’s no guarantee that organic will continue to be effective; especially with the focus on paid and the fact organic reach has been steadily declining over the last few years. However, organic still has a definite role to play so we’ll see brands taking full advantage of that.

If you have any questions or thoughts on the trends, let us know! Or get in touch if you’d like to see how you can capitalise on them in 2022.

By Tom Addison, Senior Digital Marketing Executive

For a long time, digital PR and SEO operated separately, often at odds with each other. Fast forward to now, and integration between the two is vital. While some argue that a good digital PR strategy can have a bigger impact upon SEO than PPC, email marketing and other digital approaches, alignment of PR and SEO is the way forward.

Integrating PR and SEO doesn’t need to be a huge overhaul to your strategy and planning; simple collaboration and communication can drastically transform your results and enable you to see the bigger picture.

Here are three reasons you should consider digital PR when it comes to developing your SEO strategy:

Backlinking

Backlinks are where a 3rd party website links to yours. This is something that most clients want in their coverage because it’s more likely to drive referral traffic to their website. And as we all know, referral traffic is a very valuable source of visitors. This traffic typically spends the longest on the website and has a higher conversion rate than the other sources of traffic. It’s always worthwhile to take a deeper look into it on Google Analytics to see which referral link is working so you can focus your efforts on getting more backlinks that are similar.

Backlinking can also help you boost your domain authority, which can then help you rank higher. There are eight broad areas to Google’s ranking algorithm and one of them is having authoritative backlinks to your website. Moz has developed a scoring system for domain authority, which gives you a good idea of how authoritative Google thinks your website is. For example, if you get a backlink in The Guardian, which has a domain authority score of 95 then Google will consider you more of a reliable and authoritative source than someone with a backlink in a lower-scoring website. That’s not to say that one backlink in The Guardian is better than lots in a trade publication – there is a fine balance between quality and quantity.

Content creation

A large part of building out your SEO is creating a consistent stream of optimised content to help improve your organic traffic and rank on Google. Content marketing is hard work, it can take up a lot of your time or budget if you’re outsourcing it. So, you want to make sure that you’re getting your money’s worth. PR teams can work with SEO teams to help determine which content could be worth amplifying by pitching it to the media. It’s a win-win if you’re able to create one piece of content that can help drive traffic and get you coverage.

This mainly just comes down to communication between teams. If your digital PR and SEO team are integrated or have frequent meetings to make sure that their goals are aligned and they’re sharing ideas, it can eliminate duplication and improve efficiency.

Reputation management

When people are deciding to buy something they now have all the information they need at their fingertips – especially when it comes to B2B. They can quickly do a search that will tell them whether people think you’re doing a good job or not. Whether your product or service delivers on its promises, and whether your brand is trustworthy. This third party endorsement is incredibly valuable to businesses because the prospective buyer will trust what other people have to say about you much more than what you have to say about yourself.

Every company has had at least one bad review – deserved or not. So, what can digital PR and SEO do to help combat this? I would like to say though that if all your reviews are negative then you might want to look at your business practices, not PR and SEO. But to get control of your online reputation from that one pesky review that haunts you, can be done with some successful PR activity. It could be through a successful integrated campaign that has got you national coverage or in a highly regarded trade publication. The search engine results on page 1 for your brand may look a lot more appealing to a prospect – or even potential staff – something we discuss in our Whiteoaks Prodcast episode on building the employer brand.

If done right, PR and SEO can have a huge impact on your inbound lead generation. Even if it’s just increasing the communication between the teams it’s worth thinking next time you’re creating content or pitching an article how can this benefit each other.

If you want to talk more about aligning your B2B PR and SEO then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

By Bekki Bushnell, Head of Business Development

The fintech industry isn’t something that is new, it has been around for a long time. But it’s quite hard to determine the actual inception of the fintech industry. Like cloud, ERP and CRM, fintech is part of our business vernacular. But when did the term even originate? Was it the world’s first ATM in 1967? Maybe the introduction of the Nasdaq, the first electronic stock exchange in 1971? Or does it go as far back as 1866, when the first transatlantic cable was laid? Many people would claim that PayPal was the first to really kick off the rise of the fintech industry – the online payments system has brought fintech to the masses.

Today, the UK fintech industry is worth £11 billion, according to Kalifa Review published in 2021. Regardless of its origins, the industry presents a wealth of business opportunities for fintech startups. So, with such a competitive market and one that is growing rapidly – how do they capitalise on it? Beyond the obvious answer (have a great solution), fintech PR has a definite role to play in making your brand stand out and help fuel your growth.

I’ve outlined three key areas you need to consider when thinking about fintech PR:

Understanding your fintech audience

The first thing you need to do when considering fintech PR is to understand your audience and who you’re engaging with. The fintech industry has a multitude of areas to it, from mobile payments to SME financing, all these audiences have different factors that affect their buying decisions. Your digital PR agency can help you define this audience (B2B customers, B2C customers, potential investors) so that you can fully understand their needs and pain points. They can also help you split them into different buyer personas so that when you come to create your messaging it can be tailored to each persona.

Your tech PR agency can then take the messages directed at each persona and identify the channels they need to be targeting for each, whether that’s the media, social, events, or a combination. By doing so, you as the client can know that your messages are hitting the right targets at the right time.

Building trust

Confidentiality and security are vital for customers in the financial services sector, which means new entrants have to work harder than established players to build up trust and break through the perception that it’s not just those organisations with decades of experience behind them that are trustworthy. This is where fintech PR and marketing can play a key role in fostering that trust and credibility.

Customers need to have confidence in the company to deliver what they said they would. Thought leadership and customer endorsement can play a key role in this. SiriusDecisions suggests that 70% of the buying decision is now done before even speaking to a salesperson. That’s why B2B content marketing is so important now. You can build up the profile of your brand and team, giving you presence in the fintech sector and people will start to see you as the source of information when it comes to your niche.

By gaining the trust of your customers they will become much more comfortable in your ability to handle their data responsibly and provide vital services within financial services.

Learn more about how to build trust in our Question of Trust eBook.

Return on investment

Considering how competitive the fintech industry is, you must make sure every penny you spend on PR is helping you achieve your business goals and objectives. PR has long had a reputation for being hard to prove business impact, but this is not an excuse anymore. Stakeholders will want hard evidence that their PR investment is working – this is more than just coverage numbers – they want to be able to see evidence of sales leads, share of voice and website traffic to name a few.

I would recommend all fintech startups considering a PR investment not to accept the recommendations of the agency until they can prove the link between the activity they’ll be undertaking and the company’s startup strategy and goals. This is why our deliberately different approach of set fees for set deliverables, linked to clear performance commitments underpinned by a formal service level agreement, continues to resonate so well with fintech startups and firms looking for PR.

If you’d like to hear more about our approach or need help with your B2B PR, content strategy,  creative PR or digital strategy and social media, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

By Susan Richter, Marketing Communications Manager

Of course this blog is inspired by Facebook’s bold move to rebrand its holding company to Meta. Like most things Facebook does, the rebranding is not without its critics; from the reasons behind it (to divert attention from the allegations of whistleblower Frances Haugen) to the lack of translatability (meta means dead in Hebrew).

But Facebook isn’t the first brand to take the leap and it won’t be the last. The one example that sticks out in my mind is WWF (World Wrestling Federation) changing its name to WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) in 2002. This was as the result of the wrestling organisation losing a trademark lawsuit brought by the World Wildlife Fund, or the “real” WWF.

As far as reasons go, Northern Rock becoming Virgin Money also stands out. The Newcastle-based bank failed, was nationalised and eventually sold to Virgin Money and quickly rebranded.

There are a number of reasons for a rebrand; ones that don’t involve lawsuits or fixing bad reputations. M&A, brand evolution, moving into new markets, change in strategy… the list goes on.

Regardless of reason, it should be a good one; a rebrand is costly. Not just in terms of design and implementation, but also the impact it can have on your customers, investors, suppliers and other stakeholders.

Brand building is an ongoing process, and key in strengthening credibility and creating trust. Not all brands have the luxury of changing their name, garnering international media coverage and being big enough (with big enough budgets) that a name change won’t affect customer loyalty or market perception.

Although a rebrand doesn’t always equate to a complete name change. Starbucks Coffee dropped the “Coffee” and Kentucky Fried Chicken lost most of the consonants and all the vowels from its name to become KFC. Again, these are massive global brands. But what about smaller brands?

In 2018 The Whiteoaks Consultancy rebranded to Whiteoaks International. The reason? To move with the times, to reflect our evolution and to highlight our reach as an agency. Three years later we revamped our brand identity and tagline, for some of those same reasons. One step that was vital for us in both instances, was considering our audiences.

For other brands, the same is also true. How will this impact customers, staff and other stakeholders? This ties into the overriding reason for the change. Is it with the customer / end user in mind? Or is it a vanity exercise? How will the change affect reputation, market credibility? Are you staying true to your purpose as a business?

Then there’s the logistics involved in managing the change. The key to a successful rebrand is having a solid plan to roll it out – from communicating the change to internal and external audiences, to designing the assets and revealing them in all forms, including building signage, letterheads, website and social channels.

As humans, as much as we resist change, we’re all about reinvention. From a new hairstyle, to a new colour scheme in your bedroom. And who could forget the artist formerly known as Prince, proving it’s not just companies that can rebrand. In all seriousness, it’s easier for us; a trip to the hairdresser (or Boots) and a visit to Dunelm for soft furnishings and voila. For brands, it’s a little trickier because the stakes are so much higher and there are a lot more moving parts. So when it is time to think about a rebrand or a brand evolution? What is the secret to success? If the strategy behind it is well-considered and the change is well managed, the sky (fun fact: Sky One was recently rebranded to Sky Showcase) is the limit.

Trust forms the foundation for all relationships and in the B2B tech space, that’s no different. We wanted to delve into how brands approached trust building and customer loyalty as part of our The Question of Trust research. So we interviewed a range of marketing professionals from B2B tech brands to find out.

This is what Gail Cook, Head of Strategy & Insights at Glen Dimplex Heating & Ventilation had to say:

“We’ve been around for 70 years, so there’s a trust element there. We’re not a fly-by-night company. We’re not going to go out of business. That’s really important to us and building our brand and our reputation because you see it nowadays, particularly with this digital age and online, is the number of overseas manufacturers who are now able to sell into our markets. People can buy through Facebook and can buy through different channels.

They’re buying electronic equipment that’s maybe not tested, and they’re not up to our safety standards. Then you get counterfeit products. People don’t know any better, and we have a job to do to build trust with our consumers through our brand so that they know when they purchase our products, they are safe, and they can trust us as a brand.

I think more and more brand reputation is going to become even more important in the future, particularly for those end consumers”.

Q: What are the most important components of customer trust?

For us, customer trust is about building partnerships and relationships with people. That’s about us doing what we say we’re going to do, being open and honest, having two-way dialogues.

For us, we also see sustainability as part of trust building.

Many of our retailers, many of our customers are asking for specific credentials around what we’re doing to be more sustainable as a business. We have the full traceability of every product that we make and where those components and where those parts come from and where the raw materials come from, what factories have been produced in and what labour has been used. We share that information with them.

In addition, our factory is fully accredited from a health and safety point of view, and the manufacturing standards. Customers can be confident in what we say around the safety of our products, and that’s something we pride ourselves on. Safety is at the heart of everything that we make.

Q: Have you adopted any new approaches in building those relationships with customers?

Yes. Our industry is changing a lot and there’s a lot of legislation that’s coming into force and that causes uncertainty. We’ve taken the lead in understanding that legislation and supporting our customers and playing that back to bring value in that partnership with them. We’ve been doing CPDs and training sessions online. We would normally have those as face-to-face sessions. Actually, we’ve been able to get more customers coming along to those, and we’re giving those CPDs free of charge. We’re doing analysis that they don’t have time to do themselves. We’re helping them as a business. It’s some of what we’ve been doing in the past, but it’s in a different way of doing that.

Q: What role has PR and marketing played in helping you build that trust? Has it been more significant?

Definitely more significant. We’ve been supporting our sales colleagues. It’s typically our commercial colleagues who would have those direct relationships with the customers, particularly in a B2B environment. We’re supporting behind the scenes. We’ve been investigating the technologies that are available to help them have those communications. We’ve been on the sidelines supporting, making sure things run smoothly, troubleshooting for them because we want them focused on the relationship, not on the peripheral stuff around that.

We’re trying to position ourselves as a trusted expert, and that’s been received really well. We’re bringing activities that are added value to that customer’s business. We’re not just about pushing out our products to them. It’s that added value. How can we help their business grow?

Q: Where do you see the biggest opportunities for PR and marketing in building trust?

There has never been a more important time for brands to step up and talk about what they do well and build their relationships. In my 20 years of marketing, there’s never been a more turbulent time between Brexit, global supply issues, a global pandemic. This is really an unsettling time for everybody. As brands and as familiar brands, we have the rule to build people’s confidence back up that we’re still here, the world is still normal. We provide great products. It’s been unsettling, but we’re here.

Brands have values, we stand for things. As a brand, we do what we say we’re going to do, and we can communicate that out there. We have to now take that step up and bring that reassurance and that trust back to the markets in which we operate.

What does trust mean to B2B tech brands? How is it established? How is it fostered? And what challenges are businesses facing? As part of our The Question of Trust research, we spoke to marketing professionals from a range of tech companies to get their insights and experiences.

This is what Helen Aboagye, CMO at Imagen had to say:

Q: In your opinion, what are the components of consumer trust?

For me, it is that you have a quality product. It needs to do what it says on the tin. It needs to be fit for purpose, and it needs to address or does what customers need it to do. It needs to address and fixes their problems and pain points. I think that’s followed by validation preferably from external sources to your company, so customer validation, industry validation, whether that be in the form of case studies, customers allowing you to use their logos, testimonials, placement in the Gartner Magic Quadrant. I think a strong brand is critical to creating consumer trust. For me, that is a brand with a clear sense of purpose and identity. This needs to be brought to life through your marketing, your people and run through the DNA of everything a company does. I’m a big believer in people buying into you as well as buying from you. Finally getting your brand out there through brand awareness activity and PR,  so people can get to know your brand and see the customer’s validation for themselves.  If people don’t know who you are, they don’t know whether they can trust you.

Q: In the past, how have you typically built trust?

Like many companies, we used many different strategies and tactics. It was very much a multi-pronged approach. Wherever possible we reference our customers from logos on our website to testimonial usage and written and video case studies.

With so many people doing more than half their research online before they even get in touch and want to talk to a salesperson, it is more important than ever that we create the content they need, to arm them with the information they want, so that they want to ‘pick up the phone’. Content in all its forms is important, but creating content that talks to customer pain points, right the way through to independent research and data-driven, anything data-driven I think really helps to validate trusts as well.

And finally, our salespeople and account managers create a lot of trust through the relationships they build and the knowledge they have about our product and industry.

Q: How has that changed in the last 12 months?

We’ve really focused on ramping our digital marketing side of things. We’ve put more into paid search and we have been focused on developing our pages and communities across certain review sites like G2 and Capterra. We have also taken the opportunity to rethink our internal processes. We have focused on what more we can automate when it comes to our of our marketing outreach and communication.

But specifically, we have looked at how we can find the higher intent people that are essentially in the market for a solution. Historically we have put a lot of effort into really compelling pieces of content that many people will find interesting, but they are not in the market for a solution. This helps with brand awareness but doesn’t create leads that convert.

However, what we have been doing a lot more of is utilising new marketing technologies and platforms and sites like G2 and Capterra, as I mentioned, to understand who’s in the market for a solution, and then building much more tailored outreach and personalised account-based outreach.

We have also been doing a lot more videos. Short-form videos, human, a little rough around the edges. With so many people not being able to see or have contact with others during the pandemic, video is the next best thing, and people retain a lot more information from video than they do written content.

Q: Do you think your shift in focus to digital and ABM strategies will stay?

Yes, without a doubt. I still think there is value in the way we’ve done things before, but I think everyone’s moving in this direction, and the pandemic has just accelerated this, and not just in marketing.  The pandemic has also helped to blur the lines between online and physical, you just need to look at the event industry as evidence of this.  So I think we’ll just see more and more of that without a doubt. Also, we’ve been able to do a lot more with a lot less. Our budgets were cut massively, but our lead numbers are in the realm of what they were when we were spending a lot more money. I think our cost per lead has come down quite dramatically with the efforts that we’ve put into digital.

Q: From a PR and marketing point of view, where do you think the biggest opportunities will lie in building trust with customers and prospects?

I think there’s a real opportunity on the PR side of things. I mentioned the need for being genuine earlier, and I think there’s a real opportunity to hear individual voices on the PR side of things over and above like corporate press releases.

Content is still king, but I think it’s the type of content that people are consuming is changing. For example, there’s a real demand for longer white papers but people are so incredibly time-poor, they just don’t always get around to reading them. I think the more you can translate your efforts of white papers into bite-sized chunks and infographics and videos and podcasts and webinars and things like that, the greater the rewards you will reap.

We’ve seen a massive increase in video marketing and people doing lots of video content that is shot from their bedroom. Webinars and online events for thousands of people are being shot from people’s attics and that’s fine. I think people are much more accepting of less professionally shot videos, you don’t need a slick corporate video anymore when you can get your CEO to record something on her or his phone.  This makes your brand and company more human and will probably go a longer way to building consumer trust. All of which is great for a company like us that helps people produce and manage and them.

By Susan Richter, Marketing Communications Manager

The pandemic has hastened the adoption of digital marketing. Those who were already firmly rooted in it had a competitive advantage, while slower adopters ramped up budgets and efforts.

In our The Question of Trust research, the increased adoption of digital marketing was a common theme. More content, more social, more webinars. That’s not surprising because we all lived it.

However, now, as we move to some form of equilibrium, the question is: do we keep this intense focus on digital marketing? Is it still the cure-all for brands?

If the answer is yes, then the next question is how do you fight digital fatigue? How do you make sure your brand stands head and shoulders above its competitors? And if the answer is no, is it really a case of getting back to “normal”? What needs to happen next?

Looking at digital fatigue – it’s real, we’ve all experienced it to some degree. How does your brand differentiate itself when everyone is using the same tactics? How do you continue to build customer trust? Much like other marketing and PR efforts it comes down to doing what you do well. That means creating content that is valuable and informative, that can be consumed on different platforms in formats that appeal to your different audiences. Creative needs to be eye-catching, relevant and distinctive — and importantly, integrated into everything you do.

It also means you need to know your audience; who they are, what their challenges are, what they are looking for, and (of course) where they are in the buying journey. That includes your current customers, knowing their objectives and how best you can add value to their business. Inherent in all of that is the implied promise to deliver what you’re offering.

On the other hand, if getting back to normal means a return to events and more face-to-face activities surely digital marketing can work in conjunction with those tactics? The market sentiment is very much a hybrid approach to events at the moment anyway.

But here’s a thought, what if instead of fully embracing getting back to so-called normal, marketers think more retro? Whatever happened to the creative desk drop? Surely something tangible to combat those 1s and 0s would be valuable and well received? Something well thought out, valuable and memorable?

For us, the answer isn’t as easy as a simple yes or no, one or the other. Rather, it’s continuing to meet (exceed) expectations forging a new path using a new strategy based on experience, current demand and future need. Something that can be effectively executed, measured and reported on.

It also doesn’t necessarily need to be all about digital marketing in isolation. Digital marketing is a key component in a wider strategy that can incorporate traditional marketing tactics as well as PR.

So what approach will you take? We think we know the answer!

By Ross Walker, Head of Social & Digital

Remember Facebook circa 2010? Brands took to the platform and it made a significant impact. Like all things digital, Facebook has evolved since then, in fact the whole paid and organic social media landscape has. What this means is with the algorithm changes (for Facebook specifically) reach, impact and engagement isn’t what it once was.

Don’t worry though – paid social media is here to save the day.

Or is it?

Let’s be clear: organic social still has a role to play in your digital marketing strategy. It is the ideal platform to tell your brand story, it’s built around community and it’s not necessarily about target driven results.

Tied into community management, something that’s become more of a focus over the last two or three years, is employee advocacy. Your employees can be your strongest advocates and when they take to social media to convey that, it has a positive impact on your brand in terms of amplification of content, visibility, shareability and share of voice.

Organic is also the ideal testing ground for the paid side of things because you can see what content resonates with which audiences and how they are engaging with your content. Those learnings, building up a clear profile of your audiences over time, can be applied to your paid strategy.

Why should you use paid social then? It’s not just used to boost organic content. It’s a lot more targeted than that. Those strategies are built around campaigns and specific objectives and typically across B2B are designed to generate an action.

So think about targeted content like eBooks, webinars and whitepapers, leveraging your best content. You can use these to fuel your paid campaigns across platforms, such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. With LinkedIn specifically, there is the opportunity to be really targeted across things like personas, industry, job title, age, geography, company size… the list goes on. You can use it to find and engage with new audiences.

The key thing about these types of targeted campaigns is that they can be measured and you can determine your ROI. While paid gets the quick-fire results based on specific campaigns, having organic running concurrently building your brand story and presence provides longevity.

Using both paid and organic social media together makes sense. And when you’re using social as part of a larger PR and marketing strategy, they pack a powerful punch for reaching those objectives – be it lead generation, brand awareness or expansion.

If you’d like to chat about the opportunity that paid and social media can deliver to your business, please get in touch.

As part of our The Question of Trust research, we spoke to marketing leaders from a host of B2B tech businesses. We got their insights on trust building, how to do it, how to overcome any challenges and how the process of maintaining trust and customer loyalty were affected by the pandemic.

This is what Martijn Groot, VP Marketing & Strategy at Alveo Technology had to say:

“I think what we saw during the pandemic was that it is very easy to engage on a superficial level in the sense of filling up webinar rooms, at least initially.

I think during the year, there was a certain fatigue of webinars and online events.

At the same time, I think there’s this digital bombardment of mailings, and everyone is taking pot-shots at buyers or influencers in companies.

But, in that war for attention using creative subject lines as well as tactics, there have been big developments in marketing automation, in the personalisation of websites or portals that people go through.

It’s easy to send content and get reactions and get downloads and get webinar attendance. Getting one-to-one meetings, that has been hard because things were postponed during the year and there wasn’t a reason for the buyer to engage.”

Q: What are the best ways to build trust?
The brand is important. Comms are important, so try to come up with relevant content, certainly be consistent in your messaging.

The best content in my view, and I’ve also been a buyer on the other side, is case studies, testimonials, or insightful commentary on challenges that I would face as a buyer. Anything from relevant peers which is the most credible content. Together with that kind of content, it’s anything from trusted third parties.

Part of our outreach has also been to the rest of the ecosystem, so people that we have a shared interest with, for example, selection consultants, or services companies that complement what we do in adjacent fields, both from the perspective of using them to help us in direct influencing, but also to team up to offer a more comprehensive solution to target accounts. Our outreach is not only to prospects, but also to influencers in the ecosystem.

In terms of building trust, I think it’s targeted comms on what you do, what’s coming down the pipe to your clients, report on service levels. We share roadmap information, so try to be transparent and consistent. Also, of course, you have to do what you say that you will do to your clients.

To prospects, it is as I mentioned, about, if possible, show them something that one of their peers has solved using our solutions, that will work best.

Q: Did that kind of approach change at all over the pandemic?
I think it changed in the sense that, on the marketing side, which is my department, we’ve certainly done more to get more out of our marketing automation toolset. Like HubSpot and making sure we’re using the content properly.

We’ve also accelerated micro-targeting that I mentioned, using our partner network, and still trying to make it all more personable, even though it’s digital.

We also have the comms come from the salesperson and offer something like brief consulting sessions with an SME, 30-minute or an hour call, where you’re not trying to sell them something.

Overall, we tried to be relevant. Have relevant content and then build on that.

Q: What are the biggest barriers to building trust with customers and prospective customers?
It’s been harder to get meetings, again, probably because early on pre-pandemic, it was easier to just have a coffee with somebody, sit down and interact more, let’s say, informally.

On the bright side, maybe the pandemic has, I guess, changed the etiquette of business meetings a little bit, that it’s now a custom to have video chat immediately. Maybe two years ago, we would have had this conversation over the phone or in person. There was this, I would say, an intermediary step that you can look each other in the eye, but it’s still digital.

On the digital side, the biggest challenge has been gauging the intent of people. I think marketing and market automation can play a bigger role.

Q: Where do you see the biggest opportunities for PR and marketing in building trust?
For the customers, it’s clear concise communication and regular updates. Don’t bombard them. Be selective in what you send to people and be relevant. Transparency is helpful.

For the prospects, it’s pretty much the same. It’s wherever possible, of course, and this is, to me, the most valuable content. You have to make sure that you give them what they need to go to the next step or make them think, which is more the thought leadership, and make sure the lightbulb goes off and they have this aha moment and they will look at you. Maybe otherwise they would not have ever considered it.

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