Baseball and content marketing are two of my greatest passions. When I think about it, there are some intrinsic similarities between the two that aren’t hard to see.
Much like content marketing, baseball is rhythmic and methodical by design. Sure, there are the flashy home runs (and it helps when your favorite team *ahem* set the all-time record a year ago), but at its core, baseball is about strategy, patience, and sequencing: Accept the inevitability of failure and learn from it. Take good at-bats, call the right plays, string together base runners, manufacture runs.
Sadly there is no baseball season right now, but if there was, it’d be inching toward “the dog days of summer” – a term given to those stretches in July and August where the relentless heat and daily grind start to wear on ball players as they battle their way through a marathon 162-game schedule.
In content marketing, we don’t typically face such seasonal stresses in the summer months, but this year is a different story. Never before in my career has the state of the world been such a significant factor in every day’s conversations and decision-making. Entire business plans are shifting on a dime. Rightfully so.
All the while, external distractions tug at each of us human beings in different ways. The coronavirus pandemic isn’t going away. Personally, I feel deeply affected by the pattern of systemic racial injustice exemplified by George Floyd’s murder, about a mile from where I grew up and 20 minutes from the TopRank Marketing office. My mind drifts constantly. I know I’m far from alone. These are hard times.
But the work goes on. Dog days of summer, indeed.
To help my fellow marketers bring their A-game, and power through to better days ahead, I present my playbook for content marketing in the summer of 2020, aided by expert insights. And in honor of my beloved baseball – in its continuing absence – I’ll correlate these tips with the intricate art of manufacturing a win over the course of nine innings.
9 Tips for B2B Content Marketing in the Summer of 2020
#1: Keep knocking out those blog posts
Fun fact: On July 30th, 2010, the Colorado Rockies set a major-league record by stringing together 11 consecutive hits against the Chicago Cubs. One after another, batters came to the plate and got it done. Singles, doubles, homers, a triple … each successive hit did its part in pushing across 12 runs in a single inning.
Not each of your blog posts will be a home run, but even a base hit – a brisk and worthwhile read that sticks in the mind of your audience – will contribute to the ultimate goal. As your traffic and engagement numbers increase, it’s the equivalent of raising your batting average — eventually leading to more scoring, and bigger results when you hit the home run.
#2: Aim to entertain (and inform) your audience
Baseball isn’t the only cherished form of entertainment amiss this summer. Attending big concerts, or checking out the latest Hollywood blockbuster in a theater, are among customary staples of the season now absent. People still want enjoyable diversions, maybe now more than ever, and content marketers can help fill that need.
“A lot of people are looking to fill in the time that they’re not spending commuting,” noted TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden in a recent episode of Live with Search Engine Land. “There might be ‘infotaining’ content that your brand could put out — it’s still contextually relevant to your business, but at the same time, it’s entertaining in some way.”
#3: Cover the emotional bases with your content
When marketers talk about communicating with emotion in times like these, they’re often talking about striking empathetic tones at a time where many are feeling down. That certainly has its place as no one wants to appear tone-deaf. But don’t be averse to lightening the mood. Your audience could probably use a laugh, or a light-hearted read.
As Syed Balkhi writes at AdAge in explaining why you should add humor to your content marketing, “The way to connect with your audience is to create an emotional spark when they view your content. And humor can act as the flint that fires up more engagement.”
On that note: Why are baseball games often played at night? … Because bats sleep during the day. (Womp, womp.)
#4: Team up with influencers
One thing I love about baseball is its cooperative nature. Teamwork rules the day in a sport where nine players are in the lineup and on the field for each club. No one can do it alone. To exemplify, neither Barry Bonds nor Mike Trout — the two greatest players of the past 50 years if not ever, have won a World Series.
In content marketing, teamwork also pays major dividends — both internally and externally. We talk often on this blog about the value of influencer partnerships, and it’s only magnified right now. At a time where misinformation runs rampant and people are gravitating toward sources they know, trust, and like, credible influencers are powerful allies.
“In the current environment, a B2B brand with strong connections to influencers with a known voice for equality have an opportunity to co-create content for customers in search of answers,” Lee wrote in a blog post about always-on influence. “Of course, companies looking at their influencers and not finding many or any people of color should seriously think about diversity and their influencer program.”
#5: Bring diversity to your content marketing lineup
Lee’s final point in the quote above broaches another essential focus: highlighting and elevating diversity in your brand’s content mix. Activism taking place in our country, and world, underscores more than ever the vital need for more voices be heard and understood.
It’s an uncomfortable truth for those of us who fall into the demographic, but also an undeniable one: As I look around today’s digital marketing landscape, I see a disproportionate number of white men. I think every marketing department, agency, and brand can use this moment as an impetus for diversifying the collection of people speaking for them, or collaborating with them.
This has also been an ongoing emphasis for the game of baseball, which was criticized by the New York Times not so long ago for its “unbearable whiteness,” illustrating that there is still work to be done nearly 75 years after Jackie Robinson broke MLB’s color barrier.
In marketing, increasing diversity isn’t solely about race; aim to represent different ethnicities, genders, sexualities, and worldviews.
#6: Invest in SEO with an eye on the end game
This is a perfect time to invest budget and effort into bolstering your SEO strategy, through optimizing existing content and creating new content informed by thoughtful keyword research. It’s a cost-efficient activity with short-term and long-term benefits.
As Conductor CEO Seth Besmertnik puts it in a recent article on LinkedIn Pulse: “If you invest today, you’ll immediately start getting value. You’ll also be in the best position to capture buying activity when we emerge from this crisis.”
“This is a perfect time to invest budget and effort into bolstering your SEO strategy, through optimizing existing content and creating new content informed by thoughtful keyword research.” @NickNelsonMN Click To Tweet
#7: Ungate your best assets
The sacrifice bunt is often viewed as one of baseball’s most pure and charming plays. The selflessness of a batter giving himself up to advance a base runner and give them a better chance to score is the essence of team play.
Ungating your content assets, which may have previously sat behind a form-fill, is a good way to replicate this dynamic in your own strategy. Sure, that eBook or whitepaper might lose its opportunity to convert someone single-handedly, but it can contribute to building relationships and developing brand affinity that will pay dividends down the line.
At a time where purchase activity is down but content consumption is up, this pivot simply makes sense.
#8: Stay flexible and adaptive
Late in a baseball game, a manager will sometimes call upon a pinch-hitter to substitute for someone in their lineup. That’s because the replacement is viewed as a more suitable option based on the situation. Content marketers, too, must be ready to react and change direction quickly at a time where the circumstances around us are constantly in flux.
Consider holding daily (virtual) stand-ups with your team to reassess the plan, and to ensure everything you’re doing still makes sense and aligns with your audience’s mindset and needs. Always be prepared for a curveball.
#9: Swing for the fences with experiential content
I wrote here last month (in another baseball-themed post, naturally) that experiential content represents a home run for marketers. When you deliver a virtual experience that is infotaining, interactive, collaborative, and impactful for your business, you can really score a win-win for your company and your audience, at a time when many beloved real-life experiences of the summer aren’t available to folks.
“When you deliver a virtual experience that is infotaining, interactive, collaborative, and impactful for your business, you can really score a win-win for your company and your audience.” @NickNelsonMN Click To Tweet
Every Hit Counts
Singles and walks in baseball aren’t flashy, but if you compile enough of them you’re going to fill up the bases and eventually put plenty of runs on the board. Content marketing follows this same principle. It’s not about instant gratification — a single quality blog post won’t usually convert a customer on its own — but it all adds up, and now’s an ideal time to recenter on those fundamentals that contribute to a sustainably successful marketing strategy.
This summer, content marketers should be playing the long game.
For more guidance on how marketers can rise to this challenging occasion, I encourage you to read Lee’s inspiring post on how we can do better than words with action during turbulent times for society.