Now that you've accomplished everything you wanted to for your content marketing plans (of course you have, right?) you can now take it easy, because not much will be changing for a while. I kid, I kid.
The content marketing landscape continues to evolve at such a rapid pace, that you now have a whole new set of challenges (and opportunities!) to take on.
We asked 51 marketing experts what we could expect for content marketing in 2017, and beyond. Learn where your focus should be, what changes are coming and some future trends to keep an eye on. The only constant in our industry is change, so stay current, and you'll stay ahead of your competition.
What I see being huge heading into 2017 is live streaming, and the ability to share all video in so many ways, via more apps, with story-telling and engagement at the core. You need to try these platforms. You need to jump in. You need to see how you can tell stories, create narratives, build relationships, communicate with consumers, and create learning for your organization.
This is way more than just another content fad, but rather it's online video crossing a crucial threshold... You want to know really why I think it’s gonna be huge? Not because I’m using it or Millennials and GenZ are using it... it’s because it’s making video social. Because they’re not just streaming what’s happening live. They’re allowing you to engage with those streams... you are now able to be a part of the conversation. #RonR... #NoLetUp!
Baby robots. Most marketers aren’t yet using tools, scripts and automated systems for content marketing. But by the end of 2017, millions more of us will have take baby steps toward systems driven by machine learning.
In five years our tools will be helping with research, writing, outreach, distribution and optimization.
Imagine a day when your system recommends a topic, writes an outline and reaches out to contributors. After you polish and publish, the system takes over again, testing headlines and calls to action. The content optimizes itself for clickthrough and conversion, social traction and rankings.
This next year, we’ll all move closer to machine-assisted creation and automated distribution. Look for new features in tools you already use.
2017 will see brands move to specialization, visualization, personalization, and humanization in their content marketing programs and approaches.
Specialization will see brands moving beyond trying to be everything to everyone to being something important to a highly targeted audience. Creating a niche they can own. Visual content is so important in 2017 and brands need to figure out how to be engaging, emotional, and authentic at scale.
Personalization is, in my mind, one of the biggest trends for 2017 as brands try to create the right content for the right person at the right time. Finally, Humanization is important because one of the best ways to scale content marketing without massive investment is to tap into the expertise, the authority, and the real passions of the employees, customers, partners that already sit inside the company.
Print custom magazines, as a content marketing tool, have finally hit the bottom, and more brands will launch print magazines in 2017 as a way to cut through the clutter that is proving so difficult on the web.
The future of content marketing in one word? Accountability. Both content creation and content distribution will grow increasingly strategic, with the primary goal of content being to acquire customers in a measurable, ROI-based fashion.
More and more content will be created with behavioral science principles in mind, resulting in content that does a superior job of getting noticed, consumed, remembered and acted upon.
I predict that content marketing in 2017 will be more SEO-driven and not solely customer-driven. In other words, content marketing initiatives will be better targeted to the linkerati - those influential bloggers who are authoritative in the eyes of Google (you can estimate this using domain authority or domain mozRank). Content marketers must be effective at reaching the linkerati with their campaigns in order to be successful in Google, and the standout content marketers already recognize this.
I believe there will be a big push for 3 main things in 2017, bigger and smarter use of influencer marketing, more focused content and visual 'video' content.
- I think one of the biggest things we will see in 2017 will be more use of influencer marketing to help brands get their message, content and brand pushed further.
I think the only real difference in use will be, "Less is More", working with a smaller group of quality influencers instead a large hit or miss list of influencers that I believe softens your results.
- I also think we will see a jump in better content, more personal content, content with more purpose and focus.
I don't believe EVERY piece of content you create has to be planned for a specific outcome, but I do believe you need to create content with an "overall" game plan in mind.
- For me video doesn't have to go viral to be helpful, I believe we will see more people using video more frequently, used in the same way you would a blog post, share information, be helpful, get watchers to take action.
- Businesses will start to glimpse the possibilities of using VR to improve their sales/marketing efforts: In 2017, although we certainly won't see many business dive into VR, there will be a handful of successful case studies that wake up the marketplace and get everyone saying, "Wow, I now am starting to see what's possible for my business." (This will apply just as much to small businesses as brands.
- Businesses will continue to shift more focus towards video instead of textual content. In fact, more and more companies will make the investment of hiring an in-house videographer in an effort to "show" their story better than they ever have before.
The sales team will no longer “own” the relationship with customers. 2017 will be the year that marketers step out from behind their persona documents and get to know their customers by spending face-to-face time with them. This will allow their content strategies to be informed (and refined) by real and personal customer insights.
2017 is the show me don't tell me year.
That's right, instead of telling us your products and services are different it's time to show us. In 2017, you and your brand will leverage video like never before. We will spend more and more of our marketing energy creating and consuming video on Snapchat or streaming live on Facebook (or soon LinkedIn). Our videos will be designed specifically to show our audience what we do, how we do it, who we do it for, and how passionate we are about helping our customers and clients be more successful.
2017 is the year we stop shooting videos of talking head and start crafting real video stories.
Content marketing will become purpose-driven. Rather than churning out more content for content’s sake, B2B marketers will hunker down and focus on personalization and serial storytelling to increase relevance and resonance that motivates meaningful engagement, not just drive-by views.
In making this transition, it’s important to realize that content marketing will become more challenging, not necessarily easier to execute. This is the year when content marketing will be seen as much more than random acts of publishing and embraced as a valuable corporate asset, rather than a series of one-off campaigns. The growth in measurable performance will encourage B2B marketers—and the companies they work for—that they’re on the right track.
A few years ago, I was introduced to Narrative Science, a company in my hometown of Chicago that ”writes” stories for publications using robots. At the time, I was appalled. After all, I’m a writer, author, blogger. The idea that I could so very easily be replaced is scary. Because it scared me so much, I wanted to dig in and better understand what they do. It turns out, they can write stories for things such as earnings reports and Little League baseball games—stories where the stats are more important than storytelling. That made me feel a bit better. And now I’m obsessed with artificial intelligence and how it might affect the role of the content marketer in the next five to 10 years.
While artificial intelligence won’t change the role of the content marketer in 2017, it is something we all need to be aware of and plan to embrace. It’s coming and we can’t stop it! “Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it into a fruit salad.” — Peter Kay
Content marketing next big focus area will be offline usage. Until now, content marketing has been about creating digital content for online usage. Especially with the recent trend of major e-commerce sites opening physical stores (Amazon, Warby Parker, Birchbox etc.), brands need to accelerate the integration of their online digital content experience with that of the offline physical experience. The challenge is to seamlessly integrate the online and offline experience by leveraging and hiding complicated technologies from your customers. Having a holistic view of your online and offline content needs is essential moving forward.
In addition, it's important to determine the ROI of content marketing. We all know it's very hard to "measure" the effective of one piece of content. Content can only be measured if it's part of "outbound channels" such as e-mail outreach, company websites, communities, blogs or even social media marketing. It's important to understand the metrics of your company's "outbound channels" and work with your marketing peers to co-own some of these goals.
Chief Strategy Officer, Content Marketing Institute
Sr. Contributing Consultant, Digital Clarity Group
I have a few predictions for 2017 as they relate to Content Marketing. The first is that 2017 is when we will see at least two major acquisitions in the content space. The first will be a standard product/service brand purchase a major media or publishing brand for the purpose of developing owned media experiences. The second will be a major agency or consultancy will purchase a media company to begin to expand their offering. On the more practitioner side, I predict 2017 is the first year that brands truly begin building out content-oriented departments that focus on becoming a media operation. The move from one resource - to a sizeable team will be pronounced. Finally, I’m doubling down on my previous prediction that Twitter will be acquired by Google sometime in 2017.
I'm seeing two trends that will be prevalent in 2017.
First, enterprises are investing heavily in scaling content up, i.e. creating global content strategies. Content in diverse countries and regions must both ladder up to central messaging and goals while at the same time containing enough local relevance to resonate with audiences. People processes and technologies must be coordinated and synced - easier said than done. Moreover, doing so creates efficiencies and cost-savings, as well as better content.
Second, content is moving beyond screens. Beacons, sensors, and IoT-enabled devices mean that content is more contextual, and hyper-relevant messaging can be delivered in the "phygital" world at places, times and under circumstances that are meaningful, valuable and helpful to individuals (I recently published research around this topic). Enterprises are beginning to investigate with contextual campaigns and content. Next year will be an experimental year when trials are floated in this very new and potentially very lucrative arena.
Over the next year, we’re going to see companies restructuring their digital teams to better reach omnichannel consumers. Skill-based structures (separate social, SEO, advertising, PR, or email teams) will give way to team structures built around buyer personas or funnel stages. The result? Greater efficiency in delivering the right message to advance buyers down-funnel. On a leadership level, that means CMOs and VPs need a clear understanding of the connection between top-of-funnel activities and bottom-of-funnel conversions. On an individual level, this shift puts the onus on every role in the marketing department to tie actions to business impact.
In 2017, I hope more B2B content marketers invest in attribution. More specifically, prioritize the tools, processes, and systems required to measure marketing’s impact on sales pipeline contribution and closed deals. This will require investment in attribution-focused tools but also likely a re-mix of campaign spend based on what’s having the biggest impact on pipeline contribution, not just traffic and leads.
Content marketers will accelerate their content strategies based on cognitive capabilities through artificial intelligence platforms. The days of marketers guessing, or limiting their strategy to traditional analytics are over. Now, marketers have access to a level of intelligence through cognitive content management systems that serve up the right content, the right image and the right call to action based on current circumstances, for more precise decision-making in the moment. The result will be smarter decisions in content marketing planning and execution.
In 2017, marketing leaders who want to keep their jobs will finally realize that creating CRAP content is not enough. Leaders will actually come up with a unique story strategy and share that story everywhere where it can add value to audiences.
In 2017 the majority of people will realize their content strategy is failing them if they have not already. The majority of marketers do not have a content problem but rather a content distribution problem. The average person only goes to 1.7 pages on a website, meaning if your content is there the moment they land, it will not be found. Creating more content doesn't solve this issue, only learning how to leverage better distribution will.
My content marketing predictions for 2017:
- Facebook comes out with a serious B2B offer.
- The world sees how Microsoft plans to integrate LinkedIn with Office 365.
- Google+ gets a major overhaul in a last-ditch attempt to get people to come back.
- Slideshare announces major new features (please).
- Class action suit against PowerPoint goes to the Supreme Court.
- Our new president announces a tax on infographics.
- Content teams start to merge with performance marketing teams to create right-brain-meets-left-brain revenue engines.
- New digital formats start to replace eBooks.
- VR moves into solid Early Adopter phase.
I predict (and hope) that 2017 will bring greater focus on sophisticated audience engagement strategies. Technology continues to emerge that empowers marketers with greater ability to segment audiences and then reach them with more personalized content. It is up to us as content marketing strategists to leverage these valuable tools to produce and deliver content that is far more valuable to audience members, then also measure it and continuously evolve our strategies over time.
It’s likely that many more brands will invest in some type of virtual reality campaign. It will still be considered experimental and will likely generate earned media buzz for the brand. Unfortunately, that’s about all it will do. I don’t believe virtual reality will be a well-performing channel for most brands, ever. Instead, I believe augmented reality (from Pokémon Go to Minority Report experiences) is the channel with the most potential. It’s unlikely many brands will invest in augmented reality next year.
In 2017, I think we’re going to see 2 major things that will help content marketers get ahead. The first is that they will really start documenting their strategy—not just on the content side—but also on the strategy and business objective side. That documentation will help guide them throughout the year and keep them on track. The second thing I think we will see happen is that there will be more of an emphasis on quality, evergreen content than on just blogging to blog or posting to post. Marketers will start thinking about the topics they publish about as clusters of information that should be grouped together and used to create evergreen content that shows off their products or services in a way that helps customers make better decisions faster.
2017 will be the 'Year of Consistency' in content marketing. As an agency consultant, I have seen firsthand that content marketing works for me and for my clients, but it falls apart when marketers are inconsistent. If your business has a blog that hasn't been updated in a month, should you really have a blog? If you have a Twitter account but haven't tweeted in the past week, what went wrong? Content marketing goes beyond choosing the channels that work; you need to commit to them. If you've struggled to stay committed, there's no shame in pivoting or even pulling the plug altogether on that channel. Once you're creating content that meets your audience's needs, be consistent.
In 2017 expect a massive shift in content marketing with an overarching focus on influencers. Video and live streaming will continue its strong upward trend, primarily on the Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat channels. Newer platforms such as Twitch will thrive, while Twitter’s decline in popularity progresses.
Influencer marketing will evolve into modern methods of SEO strategy, as user-generated content (UGC) becomes a fast and effective way to gain search results.
THE BAD and THE UGLY
Watch for a flood of traditional marketing agencies crossing over into the content-driven space. The overabundance of suppliers lacking adequate knowledge, will cut corners trying to compete, resulting in a tainted reputation for influencer marketing as a whole. Supply and demand of influencer cost-per-post will be driven so high that it will exceed the point of ROI.
FTC will continue raising the bar on restrictions and requirements that help everyday users differentiate between #ads and organic content.
To balance this surge, people will come to rely on sites such as SocialBlueBook to help set influencer pricing standards. An opportunity will arise for boutique legal-backed firms to manage contest promotions, review content prior to posting live for FTC adherence, issuing influencer agreements, etc.
For large brands to thrive, it will be necessary to seek out and collaborate exclusively with knowledgeable, high-reputation agencies. It is these superior agencies who will be in a position to leverage the “most wanted” talent as we see a demand for quality VS quantity of followers skyrocket.
Besides the growth of hot channels like podcasting and video marketing, I think all content marketing will significantly continue to grow as a whole in importance among brands of all sizes in 2017. We'll see more companies expand their budgets for blogging and realize the ROI (and necessity) of having an organic presence in Google through consistent content; and more research, time, and effort will be put into finding the perfect fit content creation resource (from expert writers to designers) by brands. A higher quality standard will rise for the content written on the web, and with this standard will come more volume creation and bigger spends.
To not get left in the dust of 2017, it will be crucial to find (and hold) your sweet spot in creating your best content ever. Be controversial, make a stand: voice who and what you are as a unique brand through your content. Be an early adapter to new or better standards, and strive to be the first one talking about it. And don't drop off inconsistent creation - create amazing content consistently so your readers come back continually for more.
Context remains paramount and is taken to the next level(s) with improved context sensing. For example, knowing that I just bought a pair of sandals, and I probably don’t need another pair right now, or I usually eat lunch at 11:30, so I may need a daily restaurant recommendation at this time. I also see a continued and expanded need for real content management and content strategizing. The existing trend is if you simplify the strategy process you’re more apt to do it, but I think folks are realizing that in this scenario they are also less apt to use it. Over the next few years, I see content strategies and plans moving out of manager's desk drawers and onto internal wikis, websites, or some other easy-to-access environment because successful implementation and maintenance of the strategy will be required to produce effective content. I also see the plans growing, out of necessity, to be more complex and far reaching. Content demands/expectations will only increase over the next several years.
Google will decide to no longer devalue content behind tabs and accordions on desktop, not just mobile.
In 2017, Content Marketers will have to ramp up their A game in order to stand out from the competition. By this, I mean they have to stop what they’re doing and spend the time and effort necessary to develop a strong content strategically, aligning it with the goals of their organizations. Once this is done, they have to establish viable and productive processes and put in place the infrastructure required, for creating high-value content and distributing it.
At MediaValet we use the SMART approach:
S – Strategize and develop a plan for creating, delivering and measuring high-value content that aligns with business targets
M – Make high-value content that includes compelling copy and visuals
A – Atomize content and add metadata and structure in order to increase its utility
R – Reuse (and Re-purpose) content across all channels and throughout entire organization and partner eco-system
T – Track content usage and ROI across organization, creating a feedback loop that helps refine future content strategies, campaigns, and content.
I see experienced journalists increasingly becoming content marketing leaders at forward-thinking companies, and experienced content marketing leaders increasingly joining forward-thinking media organizations. Coupled with this, I think 2017 will be the year content marketing becomes so ubiquitous that both the old guards hanging on to antiquated ways of marketing and the startups who lack the patience to see content marketing work will think it cool to hate on. Lastly, I think readers will continue their trend of choosing clean, niche-driven reading experiences over interruptive, ad-driven experiences. This shift in content consumption will further develop the blur between journalism and content marketing.
We're going to continue to see the convergence between content marketing and customer experience. Customer satisfaction and retention is key to just about every business. In the current digital age, customers expect almost immediate information and/or service. Therefore, we as content marketers have to put customer experience at the heart of our content creation decisions--adding value in new and nuanced ways.
Whether that's through content that allows customers to help themselves or through email automation designed to guide customers through the questions that they don't yet know to ask, our content marketing approach in 2017 must be guided by streamlining and adding quality to the customer experience.
2017: The Year of the Sophisticated Workflow
Work smart, not hard. A “workflow” (a fancier way of saying “automation”) may be something you’re not familiar with, but most certainly should be. Automating repetitive tasks is like having a time machine. Sophisticated workflows can be tailored to create a personal experience for a potential buyer while guiding them right down your sales funnel. Workflows will save you time and help with your daily tasks.
Automation doesn’t mean you have to be a robot. Combine a smart workflow with video and you’ve got a compelling way to tell your story. Build an emotional connection with your fans, or show your businesses personality effortlessly with video content. Engage your audiences in a new way. Nurture your leads, measure your metrics, optimize, adjust your approach, convert. Isn’t the future great?
I believe that keyword rankings in organic search will continue to lose value as a performance metric. While the credibility of keyword rankings as an ROI metric has been debatable for a while, search engines have made even more changes to put emphasis on semantically searched topics rather than keyword phrases. Google is also dictating how content should be structured with featured snippets, making it harder and harder for content marketers to play the SEO game with search engines. Instead, content marketers will start thinking about multi-platform optimization and "improving their ranks” beyond Google to optimize listings and the potential to be found in platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Amazon.
The table stakes for joining the content game are going up all the time. It’s taking better and better content to break through the noise, and the only way to get that top-tier content is to invest heavily in talent. I think in 2017, organizations who invest in their content team, give them the system they need to excel and then leave them alone while they produce epic content will start to stand out more and more. Because agile marketing aligns with these goals so nicely, I think we’ll see a direct correlation between marketing teams that embrace some form of agile methodology and those who experience an uptick in content marketing success.
And when I say “epic content” I certainly don’t just mean 2,500-word blog posts (although we still need those to be in the mix). Content teams in 2017 need far more than writers, they need video professionals, graphic designers, and content marketing managers who know how to keep creatives creating while hitting their deadlines.
Finally, what I hope this all turns out to mean for those content creators who are out there gutting it out every single day, is that there will be massive competition for content marketing talent in 2017. This prediction may be slightly premature, but I’m putting it out there anyway because it’s an optimistic time of year.
Here's my story and I'm sticking to it:
- The sales world is going to better understand the value of using content during the sales process and is going to be asking marketing for more of it.
- Now that more companies have learned how to start belching out content into the rapidly rising ocean of content, the need for a content strategy is going to be better understood and demanded.
- More companies are going to understand the need for paid content promotion because when it comes to content marketing, a "build it and they will come" approach no longer works.
- Influencer outreach will become more important and more sophisticated.
A funny thing happened to me on the way to the Forum—the MarketingProfs B2B Forum in October, that is. As an invited “expert,” I had held open office hours in which Forum attendees could approach me with any marketing question or challenge they wished. Here’s the fascinating thing: at least half of the dozen or so people who talked to me came with the same issue, regardless of industry (ranging from kitchen countertops to software services): how do I sustain multiple content streams, for multiple verticals, with my tiny marketing team?
Rubber, meet road. I think this is the big content story for 2017. It’s not about selling the virtues of content—almost all of us get that now. And it’s not about investing in marketing automation—in fact, that’s one of the levers applying pressure on marketing teams. Our content ambitions are established and the machinery is in place, now the challenge is figuring out HOW to keep these pipelines filled despite our limited budgets and resources. For practitioners on the ground, this is the reality underlying our content marketing ideals. For those of us who wish to be seen as content marketing leaders, we had best be prepared with honest, practical answers—or we’ll find that our colleagues and clients will become deeply discouraged and disappointed.
Unfortunately, my crystal ball is broken, so mine is less of a prediction and more of an “I hope we’ll see…” I’d like to see more brands in-source content. Hiring an editorial staff is the easiest and cheapest way to deliver an always-on content experience that’s always on-brand. Also, I do suspect we’ll see more pressure on brands to deliver R.O.I. from content, but we’ll probably see more vendors coming up with solutions to help prove the value of what we’re doing. It’s in their best interest, too, that this industry continues to thrive.
Those who have heard me speak know that I talk about the value of building relationships and the art of engaging as they apply to attracting clients, generating leads and networking online and off.
To be successful, you need to recognize that marketing is not about pitching, but about developing and nurturing those relationships. Yes, you have bills to pay and therefore, need to close sales. However, you’ve probably heard that while most people like to buy, they don’t want to be sold to.
As we approach 2017 and you proceed with your content marketing goals, keep this concept in mind. What your prospects and customers seek is engaging content that delivers value without the expectation of anything in return.
Therefore, when moving forward with your content marketing goals as you approach the new year, here are 3 tips to keep in mind:
- Live streaming video. The explosion of live video has brought with it impromptu streams of content. Anything from “here I am at a concert” to lengthier broadcasts sharing a lesson. If you have built an enthusiastic audience, you may find they’ll stick with you throughout a longer broadcast, but before you get started, be sure to have a goal in mind. What is the point of your live stream? Do you have tips to share that deliver value? It doesn’t have to be scripted, but stay on point.
- Tell a story. However, it’s not all about you so be sure your story ties into something your audience can relate to. Is there an obstacle you faced that your readers/viewers resonate with? Share it along with how you overcame the challenge – and they can too.
- Be relevant. Understand your audience and the challenges/issues they face on a daily basis. Then, share a message that resonates with them – one that has them thinking, “Yes, this person understands me and what I’m dealing with in my life.” When you do this, you’ll start to build a following of loyal fans who’ll come back for more.
In 2017, I predict that content marketers will realize that they need to get more creative about how they capture and keep people's attention. Unlike in the past, this isn't going to be something they pass off to the creative department, but rather it's a skill they'll need to develop. By learning how to be habitually creative, content marketers will lessen their struggle with creating content that's more engaging, and finally, break through to the promised land of becoming what people are actually interested in.
I know we all look for the golden egg that will say, "go all in on podcasting/email/events’ but I truly believe that we need to put the brakes on and concentrate on the skill sets we have now and nurture the spark that sets the framework.
If you have just started blogging and have a reason for doing it, while everyone is saying video, at least find a rhythm. Whatever we do has to tie back to the objectives and strategy for what we do.
When you dilute something you lose the essence of what it is in the first place. Adding too much water to something that originally had a lot of flavor, eventually becomes water.
I say, embrace tomorrow with the skillsets you have today. As you build confidence and audience, then the natural progression are the uncharted spaces that you become inquisitive about.
I believe 2017 will be about focus. The past few years we have gone from explaining the definition of content marketing to understanding that this is now a vital element of marketing and needs to be given attention. Now it's time to get more focused on our content marketing efforts. The most recent B2B Content Marketing Research indicates that on average, thirteen different content tactics are used by marketers. Spreading your content out too wide may not be the best way to go and with limited resources for content creation, just isn't feasible. Marketers will get better results by going deeper with fewer tactics and getting focused on the ones that are most effective for with their audience.
As we look ahead during one of the most transitional times in the marketing world--across all industries and around the world--I think we’ll see more and more CMOs demand that their teams and agencies follow well-designed and deliberate content strategies. Content volume, with little purpose, is not only unsustainable—it’s not responsible. The new content marketing strategy designs content with a purpose, fosters demand and consideration by building relationships and, ultimately, paves the way for more nimble delivery in the channels our audiences choose to use. The stronger the strategy the easier it is to follow. That’s because it’s more elastic and applicable to multiple marketing disciplines. It also makes your teams more agile because they share a north star—rather than working in silos and chasing dim trends, they’re working together on meaningful innovation.
In the next year, marketing teams will have to become more agile to keep up the pace of creating high-quality content. This adoption of Agile Marketing will require marketers to embrace new creative skills, manage their time as a team, develop and prioritize work based on the audience need and not the calendar date, and estimate their efforts. Thankfully, we have several resources to help us get there.
In an increasingly saturated marketplace, one thing is certain when it comes to differentiating yourself from others: the ability to create great, measurably effective content. Content really is king, and in 2017, marketers will need to branch out in the types of content they create, up their SEO game, and change the way they approach marketing through the different stages of the buyers’ journey. While our focus at TREW is on marketing specifically to engineering audiences in B2B markets, our predictions below apply to all marketers.
- More resources devoted to video and interactive content. At Inbound 2016 just a few weeks ago, the increasing rate of video consumption was a cornerstone topic. This has been a trend for quite some time in consumer markets, and is becoming a more and more of a key focus in B2B now too. Looking to 2017, I predict companies will greatly increase the amount of video – and interactive – as a percent of total content they produce. In today’s fast-paced world, your audience may not have time to read through an in-depth white paper, but would be willing to watch a video (or download a recorded webinar, which is similar to video in terms of the user experience) discussing the same topics. Here are a few examples to get your creative juices flowing:
Interactive Graphic: Aerospace Test – Created for our client Wineman Technology, this graphic highlights different parts of an airplane and links to relevant pages on their site where readers can go for more info.
Whiteboard Video: Next-Generation Optical Seismometer – As part of a product launch promotion plan, we worked with Silicon Audio to create an engaging, 6-minute “whiteboard animated” product overview video for use on their website and at trade shows. The team utilized a creative hand-drawn approach that would not only easily explain the featured technology but keep the audience engaged with the fast-paced drawings and resonate with the way many engineers are used to communicating: visually on a whiteboard.
Recorded Webinar: Marketing Planning 101: A Tactical Guide to Building Your Inbound B2B Marketing Plan – We held this live webinar in September, then gated the recording (with a lead form) and posted it online to continue to generate leads.
Infographic: Internet of Things – We created this infographic for our client Panduit, who was looking to differentiate their position in the IoT space amidst a market saturated with messaging on the same topic.
- More sophisticated SEO. In one of our recent blog posts, we discussed the growing efficiency and effectiveness of search engines and the concept introduced at Inbound 2016 of HEO (human enjoyment optimization). This is similar in theory to the concept Moz calls “SEO for People” that I cover in my book, Smart Marketing for Engineers: An Inbound Guide to Reaching Technical Audiences. To this end, Google is building an engagement graph as part of its algorithm to serve up the content people are most interacting with online. They’ve also added latent semantic index (LSI) keywords to the algorithm – this basically means that Google considers similar words/phrases when ranking content, not just a single word/phrase. This is a good thing! It allows for more natural phrasing when writing content, and should help content creators move away from feeling they need to robotically repeat the same phrases in hopes of bringing up their content on the SERP.
In general, while Google’s algorithm has gotten more sophisticated, it’s also gotten harder to follow the changes and keep up with best practices for content optimization. Expect to spend more time on keyword analysis, and to more frequently utilize sites like Mozcast and Algoroo to keep up with changes as they happen. To add another layer to your SEO efforts, get familiar with tools such as SEMRush to keep an eye on how your competitors are faring in search.
- Changes in how we market as the buyer's journey moves online. With our focus at TREW on marketing to engineers very specifically, last month, we released our latest study (which you can download here) focusing on engineers’ behavior and preferences through the buying process. Among the key takeaways were:
Over 80% of engineers prefer to research vendor websites - and have an average of 3-7 interactions with the company - before taking to sales
60% of engineers said a company's website has considerable impact - the highest rating possible - on their perceptions as a credible, technically competent vendor
Companies seeking to sell to highly technical audiences must take a unique, thoughtful approach to marketing and selling that places a high bar on accuracy and diversity of content and a level of patience that allows the prospect to give the buying signals before sales engages.
The old days of interrupting the prospect are over. The customer is in control, and it behooves vendors to change their marketing and sales tactics to create a win-win for them and their prospect. To do this, you’ll need to invest in a strong online presence, commit to high-quality content along the funnel, develop a pipeline management model that defines shared accountability between marketing and sales, and implement marketing and sales automation to increase speed, intelligence, and scale.
My 2017 prediction is personalized website experiences.
The idea of content personalisation isn’t new. Any content marketer with experience will know that personalisation techniques (like using merge fields in email broadcasts) can significantly boost response rates. However, in 2017, I predict that more content marketers will be tapping into more advanced website personalisation.
With tools like Optimizely, we can now customize our website experience to the unique circumstances of our individual visitor. For instance, we can show different content to users based on their location, whether they are a customer or prospect, their search or purchase history and a whole lot more.
The e-commerce giants like Amazon have been profiting from the power of personalisation for a long time. Now, with the same technology becoming affordable to the average business, we too can tap into its effects.
Here's something to "snack" on for 2017. Some context first...
This time last year, I was busy researching to purchase a gaming laptop for my son (and maybe a little for me) due to his growing interest in PC games (ex: Minecraft), programming and game design. Once Santa delivered said laptop, I downloaded and tinkered with a few games myself and actually got (admittedly) addicted to a particular game called Warframe (think space ninjas). It's great for decompressing my brain after a crazy week on the startup rollercoaster, but it's also been fascinating to experience how the game's global community is turning gamers into high-quality content producers.
It all started when I wanted to get some tips on playing the game and I jumped on YouTube. Wholly monkey! The number of "YouTubers" creating noobie tutorials and daily, "snackable" videos covering game updates and new feature releases was very eye opening. I always knew, based on my son constantly watching Minecraft videos, that popular gamers were gaining celeb status for the younger generation, but I was blown away by the quality and professionalism of some of these producers. These "kids" are taking this seriously. For many, it's their job as they are able to support themselves on YouTube ad revenue. They are consistently producing videos every day. They have recurring content themes. They are getting tons of engagement from the community (comments, likes, subscribers). And they understand their metrics.
Anyway, I guess my prediction is that we're going to start seeing more brands try to emulate this. What do I mean by that? I mean that brands, especially those who are marketing to younger audiences, will think of their video channel(s) like a TV station that needs daily or at least weekly, programming. Obviously, the content strategy and execution will vary greatly, but this vehicle has such huge potential to build an audience quickly. We all know that YouTube is A) Google and B) the second largest search engine, so a more frequent, snackable video strategy will grow legs quickly.
While already very important for marketers, creating a personalized experience for their audiences will become a must in 2017. Seventy-four percent of online consumers get frustrated when websites have content that has nothing to do with their interests. Marketers now have the technology to deliver the right content to the right people at the right time. This is something consumers have come to expect. Marketers who can’t deliver it will be left in the dust.
Account-based marketing will be the hot topic in 2017. But the greatest challenge to executing on it is the ability to create enough content to address not only market segments, but individual companies. This will be the new growth area for content marketing, and marketing and sales teams will a content engine to fuel it.
Over the past 12 months, I have seen a dramatic increase for brands using freelance writers to create content and I predict that this trend will continue. Since freelancers bring expertise in specific audiences and topics that a brand or agency may not have, this allows brands to create a much wide variety of content that really helps solve their customer's problems. This also helps brands and agencies deal with the ebb and flow of content projects without hiring additional full-time employees. Since consumers continue to get smarter about content and the bar for quality will raise, hiring the best creator at the specific type of content available instead of simply relying on the best available in house will help brands really stand out in their content.
I also predict we will begin to see more B2B brands take risks with content and move away from boring formal whitepapers and blogs. There has definitely been some movement in this direction in 2016, but there is still a way to go. I predict that the B2B brands that really stand out in 2017 are those that are able to really make even B2B customers feel – either laugh, be slightly emotional, have a lightbulb moment or think of something different.
2017 will be the year that we see brands shifting to actionable content. It will be less about entertainment and driving passive engagement behavior such as "likes", and more about converting an impression into a purchase or physical store visit. With improved targeting and retargeting opportunities, increased accuracy with location data and the peer-to-peer power of mobile media, marketers are sure to worry less about content going viral or being broadly shared. This will mean that content performance and attribution will be more directly measured by sales performance, and that's a good thing as sales should be the one metric every marketer is ultimately held accountable to drive.
We will also see messaging become more personalized and contextually relevant to the individual being targeted, and so much of the content that we experience will pull us into chat and messaging app exchanges. With this, the rise of chatbots is sure to help increase conversions by hosting quick "conversations" that qualify prospective interest in products and services, and what we ultimately sell through those exchanges.
My Prediction for 2017
My prediction for content marketing in 2017 is 3-fold. Marketers will start to put a much more intense focus on finding ways to serve up the right content at the right time, not only through email but socially as well. In addition, I see a greater movement towards documenting strategy and all the elements tied around it and predict that upwards of 60-75% of companies will have this accomplished. And finally, I think we will see an uptick in the quality of content (written & video content) as companies start to realize that putting out thin content is not doing the trick any longer.
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