Any messaging set in January has long been abandoned. After all, 97% of the 110 B2B CMOs that we surveyed said that they had to revise their 2020 marketing plans. They had to. Offices went entirely remote. Marketers were (and still are) being asked to do more with less. Messages that focused on winning and excellence had to be converted to messages of resilience and survival. Pivoting demanded extreme agility, especially since, on top of everything, new messaging called for completely new content.
So, what does quality content look like in 2020? What’s come in loud and clear has been something we at Renegade like to call “abundant generosity.” Abundantly generous content is content that does something for your community, employees, customers, and the world at large that’s unique to your brand. It’s content that doesn’t waste anyone’s time, isn’t tone-deaf, and isn’t behind a paywall. It’s content that’s timely and relevant; it’s information that audiences can apply today that helps tomorrow. For 5 examples of abundantly generous content marketing, take a look at the B2B brands below that have nailed it.
1. Cofense’s Coronavirus Phishing Infocenter
As Kevin Fliess, Cofense’s former SVP of Marketing, says: “Every business, regardless of the vertical you’re in, has unique insights and knowledge that is valuable to its customers and prospects.” That’s why, as a security and threat detection business, launching a Coronavirus Phishing Infocenter just made sense. The infocenter includes a searchable gallery of real COVID phishing examples, an infographic with 5 Signs a Coronavirus Email is a Phish, and a number of other reliable resources and news stories. You know you’ve hit the jackpot when you can extend your content to other channels and reach a broader audience with timely, relevant information. At Cofense, this infocenter inspired leadership webinars, a podcast interview on awareness training, and numerous blog posts detailing coronavirus misinformation.
This wasn’t Cofense’s first time paying it forward. Just six months before, there was a notable rise of sextortion threats and a lot of organizations asking what do if they suspected they’d been impacted. With a data set of 300 million emails, Cofense put together an information-packed infographic on the issue to help, successfully enabling a community of cyber-smart organizations and establishing itself as a thought leader in the industry. As Fliess says in his recent interview, “We were paying it forward to the industry by sharing all this information, but the benefit to us was it was a huge lead generation tool.”
2. Skillsoft’s Perspectives 2020 Global Digital Experience
While most businesses unsuccessfully scrambled to replace physical events this year, Skillsoft planned theirs carefully, and saw tremendously positive results. As CMO and event MC Michelle Bookoff-Bajdek explains, “We recognized early on that you can’t just take something that you would do in person and plop it into a virtual environment.” With this awareness, they carefully planned for Perspectives 2020, a free virtual event that ended up having 41,000 registrants, 14,000 attendees, and unprecedented levels of audience engagement—with 17,000 pieces of content consumed at the same time and 619 digital badges earned over the course of 24 hours. The company took digital experience inspiration from the Super Bowl, Apple’s product launches, Peleton’s community competitions, The Bachelor’s social engagement, and even the Jerry Lewis 24-hour Telethon.
Stacked with talent, attendees heard from speakers like Jez Rose, Tara Westover, Shawn Achor, and Neelam Dhawan. Forty-five-minute customer case studies were cut down to 10-12 minute TED-style talks with Q&As. In between sessions, attendees could compete against one another in a trivia game on the platform, participate in yoga breaks, or listen to Brooklyn-based talent Black Violin. Skillsoft followed up the event by giving all attendees 60-day free access to Percipio, their intelligent learning experience platform, and all of its content. University students got 90 days. Talk about abundant generosity!
3. Smartsheet’s Global Workforce Survey
In April, Smartsheet commissioned a global survey of working professionals about the challenges of transitioning to remote work during COVID-19. The results found that 81% of Gen Zers and Millennials in the US, UK, and Australia feel less connected and 70% feel less informed about what’s going on inside of their companies. This information may be a bit surprising, especially since younger employees are generally considered to be more tech-savvy than their older colleagues, but it’s valuable because it tunes leadership into a problem that may have not crossed their minds. Leaders mustn’t assume that their younger employees are having an easy time adjusting to working from home; instead, they need to adopt communication practices that activate their employees and inspire productivity.
Speaking of productivity, Smartsheet’s team ideated this campaign on a Sunday afternoon call, took it to market with a partner in two days, and had results back five days later, publishing the entire piece in just a week. CMO Anna Griffin told us about the “why” behind the survey: “It essentially came right out of the brand purpose: Is something getting in the way of your human achievement? And what can we do to help you with that? Let’s go find some facts and then figure out how to help you solve that. That’s what we want to do. Remove the barriers to achievement.”
4. Pluralsight’s #FreeApril Offer
For the entire month of April, the online tech education platform Skillsoft gave away over 7,000 courses of varying lengths for free. There was no catch—you only needed an email to sign up, no credit card required. As a publicly-traded company, Pluralsight was prepared to tell its shareholders that #FreeApril might negatively affect their top line by $5-10 million. But, in a true spirit of altruism, this was a hit they were willing to take. As CMO Heather Zynczak, explains: “Our mission is to democratize tech skills across the globe. We honestly believe the adage of ‘brilliance is equally distributed, but opportunity is not.’”
Though they were prepared to take a financial hit, the company actually exceeded revenue goals they had set at the beginning of the year. #FreeApril went viral. Paid influencers promoted the offering at Pluralsight’s annual Tech Skills Day. Authors on the platform (not employees) shared it heavily. Current customers at big companies spread it around internally. Everyone was inspired by such a generous, no-strings-attached offering, and ultimately, 1.1 million people took advantage of it.
5. SurveyMonkey’s Guide to Launching a Coronavirus Employee Survey Program
With 19+ years and 20 million questions answered daily, SurveyMonkey is in business to power the curious. The company’s survey expertise allowed it to respond quickly to a rapidly changed world. SurveyMonkey recognized the importance of supporting employees during an uncertain time, so they put together an 8-step guide to launching an employee survey program that any business can use. It’s thorough and empathetic—encouraging leaders to check in with their employees by providing strategic tips. What makes this content really special is its survey template and two pre-survey company-wide and manager-specific email templates.
This was something SurveyMonkey was well prepared for. When we spoke with CMO Leela Srinivasan in 2019, she shared that they frequently survey their own employees to “continue making SurveyMonkey a fantastic place to work and the kind of culture where every employee can feel like they belong.” This commitment to its own employees, combined with its data and vision “to help those who are putting together the next generation of surveys to do that in the most effective way possible,” is perfectly encapsulated in such a helpful guide during such a difficult time.
[To learn more about how to generate demand via great content, check out tip #2 in our guide to generating demand during a downturn.]