As content marketing—and specifically video marketing—continues to shape the B2B marketing landscape, marketers are beginning to loosen their purse strings to make more room for the new year. A report from PulsePoint and Digiday found that by next year, content marketing, as an industry, will grow by 59 percent from last year.
This kind of authentic, real-time marketing is positioning content marketing to outpace search and social budget.
Take a look at a few must-haves in our digital marketing budget. Each of these trends are helping us to bolster reporting, close the loop between marketing and sales, prove ROI, and bring human-to-human marketing to the forefront.
1. Video and Live Streams
It doesn’t take Chewbacca Mom to show us how important visual storytelling has become. Consumers like to watch video—as many as four times as many consumers prefer to watch a video over reading text. But producing a video is hard. When you add inability to edit, limited consistency, and a lack of strategy, you’ve crafted a recipe for disaster to your brand.
UnMarketing’s Scott Stratten said Live Video is just content marketing’s latest shiny toy. “Content shouldn’t be a training bra,” he said. People can’t just try it because it looks neat. We have to have a clear plan and real strategy to return measurable KPIs if we want to be successful.
But live stream videos aren’t going anywhere. We can expect the trend to go from novelty to marketing mainstream this year. So the earlier you put a strategy in place, the better.
Technology will allow the “consumer as voyeur” model to grow. Add in a sense of urgency to watch now or miss it forever, and you’ve hooked consumers—even in the B2B space.
2. Content Marketing
It’s not exactly news to say content marketing should still dominate your digital marketing budget. Virtually every marketer is already creating content for their audience. But that means it’s getting harder to stand out in the crowd. Consumers are exposed to hundreds of advertisements a day, which means they’re faced with content fatigue.
Content needs to slow down and get real.
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We’ll see more authenticity, more personalization, and more intent as we grow as content marketers. Personalization will go further than <first_name>. Netflix and Amazon have set the bar high, and consumers expect that kind of customization and personalization. Brands will seek out the tools to build custom experiences for people that are actually personalized. Personalization will move from buzzword to fundamental.
Closely tied to personalization is journey mapping, which will become a basis for modern marketers. Brands this year need to take a step back and focus on understanding how customers flow through their journey. We need to understand content consumption, social sharing, purchase behavior, and the like and figure out patterns to suggest the next best step for each unique consumer.
3. Strategy Creation
Producing content simply to push something out the door is not a content strategy. A slew of mediocre content stemming from a lack of commitment to your content strategy will always hurt your brand far more than creating no content at all.
But here’s the problem: Most B2B content marketers don’t have a written strategy. According to the 2017 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report from Content Marketing Institute, only 37 percent of B2B marketers write out their plan for success.
We have to slow down! We need to figure out why we’re creating, not just how. We know we need to be creating content specifically designed to move people from “just browsing” to the point of the sales funnel where they become buyers and customers. But how can we do that without a clear plan?
We need to figure out who we’re reaching, what our goals are, when and where you can deliver content, and, most importantly, why it matters. Why should someone care enough about your content to read it? (Hint: Because it’s important, but why is it important?) Spend the time and put the resources in to craft a strategy and nail your KPIs.
4. Internet of Things
Welcome the Jetsons era of Connected Consumer Devises. The latest findings from ABI Research show the total number of connected devices will more than triple, reaching over 30 billion in the next three years.
Of course, smartphones and tablets are going to remain essential in building a foundation for the IoT ecosystem, but we’ve only scratched the surface on what’s to come.
Your car alerts your home thermostat when you’re 10 minutes away to raise or lower the temperature to your family’s comfort for maximum energy efficiency.
Wearable devices that monitor your blood pressure send information straight to your doctor.
Your water heater can send diagnostic reports to a customer service rep and troubleshoot issues before a breakdown occurs.
This uber-network of connectivity will offer up more data this year that can be used in actionable strategies. And it’ll lead the way to more specific insights on consumer habits and preferences, equipping marketers to target their audience more accurately.
5. Content Distribution
“If you build it, they will come,” is a myth in content marketing. In a world where 13 Potatoes That Look Like Channing Tatum is viral-worthy content, is good writing worth the effort? You bet. But good content is only noticed if sharing it is an integral piece of your marketing effort.
If you want to give your quality content a fighting chance, you need an engine to drive it. We can’t afford to make project after project after project without them ever seeing the light of day anymore. We need a way to get information in front of our most important contacts.
Marketers are looking to decentralize content, according to Hubspot’s State of Inbound 2016 Report. Many are experimenting with taking their content to new channels to see what resonates with their audience.
Paid content can give you a small boost, but 90 percent of social clicks go to organic content, and on Google, organic content commands 80 percent of clicks. Before we spend the time creating a piece of content, we need to ask ourselves, “Who cares.” Then pinpoint why, and build a network to amplify your work.
6. Cross-Device Marketing Strategies
The average consumer is connected through at least five addressable devices. That means as marketers, we’re looking at five times the work to make sure the content we’ve created is optimized for whatever platform our audience wants to digest it on. New platforms, like wearable devices, are going mainstream this year. Other platforms we haven’t even thought about will emerge. Make sure there’s enough room in your budget to invest in them before you’re left behind.
7. Account-Based Marketing
There’s been a seismic shift in marketing that’s seriously looked at new, customer-obsessed approaches which team up marketing and sales to gain long-term, high engagement revenue relationships with key accounts. ABM is literally flipping your lead funnel on its head. The method puts focus on the customers that fit your brand’s ideal persona first, and it touts more stake in post-sale customer experience for marketers with the overall goal of creating advocates to market your brand with you.
Last year, vendors and consultants hyped up ABM. This year, marketers will see the seriously positive repercussions of the new, customer-obsessed approach. According to Demand Gen Report, 69 percent of B2B buyers say the most persuasive point of a company’s website is content that speaks directly to their needs. Marketing needs to pinpoint to a specific persona and talk to their pains. Technologies like Salesloft and Salesforce (among others) help tag a list of companies that match our best-fit customer criteria, so stack them into your digital marketing budget.
8. Email and Marketing Automation
I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. Email needs a better PR agency. Everyone from Grandma Jane to little Tommy down the street uses it, but according to all the tech pundits who’ve created the next big “whatever it is,” email is dead. Again.
There are more than 2.6 billion email users across the globe, according to The Radicati Group. What’s more is, some 55 percent of company decision-makers actually prefer to communicate almost exclusively through email. Not to mention the return on investment is more than any other digital asset at a staggering 4,300 percent, according to the Direct Marketing Association. Every dollar spent on email marketing offers an average return of $44, according to my pals over at Salesforce Marketing Cloud.
Search engine optimization is evolving at lightning speed, and it’s not looking to change in the year ahead. Google’s algorithm updates will continue to keep marketing departments on their toes, while new optimization trends are expected to take shape. This year, keywords are going to mature to optimize for user intent. People today know exactly what they’re looking for, and search engines are getting a lot better at keying in on intent.
As more users begin to type full queries into search engines, data and heuristics are collected, which are then able to offer up more targeted results effectively. Figure out what questions your ideal buyer personas are asking, and target what they’re searching for that brings them to your page.
Other trends like cross-channel marketing and mobile optimization are expected to overhaul everything you thought you knew about SEO this year, too. And voice search will finally get the kinks worked out, allowing the technology to go from voice recognition to voice understanding. This evolution will change previous search data, location-based context, personalized information, and keyword research based on spoken phrases.
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