Welcome to The Make it Big Podcast, a bi-weekly audio series about all things ecommerce by BigCommerce.

In this episode, content marketing expert Ann Handley joins the Make it Big podcast to recap the most compelling 2021 content strategies. She also reveals must-know trends for what’s on the horizon in 2022. It’s a deep dive you don’t want to miss.

All episodes of The Make it Big Podcast are now available on Spotify, Apple and Google.   

The Make it Big Podcast: Episode 15

Beatriz McPherson: I want to take a moment to look back at 2021. What were some of your favorite trends?

Ann Handley: “A lot of the things that I saw last year that were my favorite trends were definitely inspired by the pandemic.

“One of those we saw was how virtual events and webinars could really be taken to the next level. Certainly you did that with your event. It was spectacular! I also think that there are a number of other companies who are really pushing the boundaries, and I loved to see that. 

“Then certainly the second thing is video. We’ve seen a whole lot of video and the evolution of video. I think we used to think about video as this standalone thing. We have case studies, and blog posts, and long articles, and white papers, and ebooks — and then we also have video. 

“Instead, I think what we’re seeing is that video is integrated throughout everything that we do in marketing. It’s not a standalone tactic anymore. We are using video as a way to connect with customers in a world where many of us have been isolated…

“I just want to mention one more because I think it’s a really fun one, and that’s that I’ve seen lots of brands, especially in the B2C space but a little bit in B2B too, leveraging more cultural moments and memes.

“I love that because I think it speaks to the rise of social platforms and creators on those social platforms, but also to brands starting to pay attention and letting a lot of their marketing almost start with creators first or audience first.” 

BM: If you had to sum up content marketing in 2021 in three words, what would they be?

AH: “I think it would be, ‘Unleash the Kraken.’ — only I’d say it really loud like, ‘Unleash the Kraken!’

“Content marketing has certainly been around forever, and in its modern iteration, it’s been around since at least 2010. So it’s been here for decades, certainly. But what I saw in 2020 and 2021 is that so many more companies really had to rethink their content marketing programs and their content marketing efforts, because content was suddenly front and center in what we needed to communicate and tell our story to our customers and our prospects. 

“So in 2020, I think we saw a lot of companies who were like, ‘Holy, wow, we better really step up our game.’ Then in 2021, I think so many companies were just killing it.”

BM: What trends do you think are going to carry over into the new year, and what new tactics are going to be really important for merchants to continue growing their content marketing?

AH: “Even in that world where there are almost limitless ways to connect with your audience, I do believe that your email newsletter is truly at the heart of your communication strategy with your own audience.

“There’s a couple of reasons why I think that. Number one, it’s you own the data, right? As much as I love TikTok — I mean, there’s nothing I love better than scrolling TikTok, and I love what brands are doing there. There’s such creativity and it’s just a fantastic platform.

“Despite all of that, I still think that the email newsletter is where you truly own the data. All those other platforms, you’re fighting an algorithm, right? The algorithm is in control. 

As a marketer, I want to be where my audience is in control.

“I want to be where my customer is in control, and I want that bar to be super high.

“For example, if I’m on the email list of a brand…and I don’t feel like they’re delivering value to me, I can unsubscribe easily, right? One click and boom, I’m gone.

“Flipping that around, as a marketer, I love that that bar is so high.You can’t just put whatever out there and call it a day. Instead, you always have to be offering value to the people who are on your list. 

“I love that the bar is so high in email newsletters. So yeah, I think email newsletters, number one, are a tactic I would put at the top of my 2022 list.”

BM: How can merchants really meet consumers where they are through content?

AH: “Everything that we do in our marketing should come through the lens of building trust, right? Building trust, number one, and secondly, of showing affinity. And what I mean by that is…make sure that everything that you publish or everything that you produce is trustworthy, right?

“So, are you building trust? Are you showing me who you are? Are you actually responding to DMs? Is it an actual person? Are you empowering that person or you to show up with your whole heart and your whole self?

“It sounds so elemental. But I can count on one hand the number of brands who I think do that super well. So make sure that you are doing that, because I can’t build trust with a product. I can build trust with a person. So make sure that you’re showing me that person. 

“Think about everything you do across every asset you publish or produce as: Are you building trust, and are you also showing affinity? So that’s really where every brand needs to be thinking about meeting customers through their content.”

BM: What are a few ways outside of social and email that you can really add that additional element?

AH: “I think focusing on the experience that you’re delivering to your prospects and your customers is so key. 

“And that word experience — how do we actually do that? I think ultimately what it really means is how do we think through things from our customers’ standpoint or from our prospects’ standpoint.

“Step into your customers’ shoes, get right inside their skin and start thinking about things from their standpoint.”

For more insights, stream full episodes of The Make it Big Podcast on Spotify, Apple and Google.

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