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Introduction: Drew Neisser is the founder and CEO of Renegade, the NYC-based strategic marketing boutique for B2B innovators. Drew has helped dozens of CMOs unleash their inner renegade and told the stories of over 400 marketers via his AdAge column, his first book The CMO’s Periodic Table. A Renegade’s Guide to Marketing and through the #2 podcast for CMOs called Renegade Thinkers Unite.

In these changing times, we sat down with Drew to ask him why content creation is becoming essential for marketers to drive the brand narrative and build loyal communities of users.

Ques #1: What are new approaches to getting customer insights through content marketing and how is it helping to get closer to the customer in today’s environment?

Wow, what an interesting and complex question! Let’s break this down a bit. Marketers are doing lots of new things to gain customer’s insights. For example, a startup called Chatter Research uses AI-driven, conversational surveys via SMS and “interprets responses in real-time to deliver actionable insights when they matter.” In a similar fashion, bot providers like Drift are helping website visitors get the information they’re looking for in real-time which may include talking to a real human. If you include webinars in the content marketing world, then the use of polls is an increasingly common way of getting instantaneous feedback. Customized landing pages by companies like Postclick are a relatively easy way of testing content relevance. That said, I’m not sure that many marketers see content as their primary source of customer insight other than trying desperately to decipher which combination of content propels a prospect through the funnel. 

When you add “in today’s environment” this question takes yet another twist. For most marketers, this is a moment of having to do more with less. We recently surveyed 110 B2B CMOs and 55% revealed that they were facing significant budget cuts. Many are also seeing headcount reductions. With fewer media and staff to work with, these same marketers are trying to squeeze even more out of their content marketing efforts. To be clear, the only insight hungry marketers are seeking in today’s environment does the content help get us closer to a sale!

Ques #2: How can firms use content to predict what customers want and where the market is heading?

Yet another interesting question. I suspect very few marketers are actually using content right now as a means of predicting consumer wants. That said, I’m intrigued by the notion and would love to understand what you have in mind here. 

Ques #3: What is the positive impact the new normal is bringing to content marketing for B2B and B2C organizations?

Wow, you are full of easy questions. First, in my opinion, there is no new normal. The pandemic is still raging in the US and many other parts of the world. The economic impact of the pandemic is far from being predictable or normal. The US economy has been propped up by PPP, higher than normal unemployment payments, and massive infusions of capital by the Federal Reserve. When that stops, we’ll see what a new normal really is. If you’re referring to things like #WFH and the so-called Zoom economy, these are pervasive but hardly normal.  If you’re under 30, #WFH is increasingly problematic, denying regular social interactions, random collaborations, casual mentoring, and ergonomic chairs.  It should be no surprise that mental health issues among Millennials and Gen Z are on the rise.  

Having said all of that, content marketing has become more important to both B2B and B2C marketers for the simple fact that it can be more cost-effective than alternatives like advertising. Note the qualifier “can” because content often needs a media boost to get momentum AND so much of what passes as the content is really a waste of space and time. Great content is rare in good times and is likely to be rarer in the challenging days ahead. 

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