With 2015 now firmly upon us and the Christmas break a fading memory, the question everyone is asking is what will the year bring in terms of emerging trends and developments in how we reach our audiences? 2014 was the year content marketing continued its rise, establishing itself as a core element of the B2B marketer’s arsenal but nothing stands still in this world so where do we think we’ll be in 12 months time?
Let's Get Strategic
2015 will undoubtedly be the year that strategy becomes even more important as an increasing number of businesses get involved in content marketing and the battle for your audience’s attention gathers pace. According to a recent report by the Content Marketing Institute, only 42 percent of marketers feel their content activity is effective, but this figure rises to 71 percent for those who have a detailed strategy in place. Let’s face it, anyone who can write a decent article or create a interesting video can say they are practicing ‘content marketing’ but if you want to maximise the ROI of your activity, having the right strategy in place is the best way to develop and plan effective campaigns which match your business’ objectives, ensure that your content schedule is maintained and deadlines don’t slip and understand which activity delivered the best return. Creating your strategy document is time-consuming but without it, you are flying blind and all evidence suggests that it is worth the investment.
Content Marketing Extends Beyond the Marketing Department
2015 will be the year that responsibility for creating content will expand to go beyond the marketing department, introducing user-generated content, employee and management contributions in a highly strategic and carefully considered manner.
No one knows what your customers want better than those in direct contact with them. By leveraging this customer and market knowledge, sales and customer support teams can play a vital role in ensuring you are matching your customer’s enthusiasms with your content. You may still want to be talking about your latest product development or new service but in many cases, this will achieve less than a campaign centred on an industry topic which affects a larger proportion of your audience.
Co-created content will also become increasingly powerful as organisations see the benefits of working with customers, partners and prospects to engage their audience. Teaming up with related organisations and individuals will not only give your content more weight and help position the business, but it can also be far more engaging to your audience, meaning everyone wins.
Things are only Going to Get Tougher
There is no denying that content marketing is now being used by more organisations than ever before and is consuming a larger and larger slice of the marketing budget in many of those businesses. This statement is supported by countless surveys, including a new report from content software company, Curata Inc, which claimed seventy-one percent of marketers will increase their content marketing budgets this year. Yet, despite this and other impressive statistics, 53 percent of marketers feel they are failing to create content that speaks to their readers. There is definitely a lot of below-par content being pumped out, often written entirely with the business’ objectives in mind and not considering how the reader will benefit. However, poor content aside, another significant issue is ineffective content distribution and promotion strategies.
Organisations and marketing teams that believe that creating high quality, relevant content should be enough to build an engaged audience are unfortunately fooling themselves. Reaching your targets through organic social sharing and natural search alone is increasingly difficult and will limit your ROI. As previously mentioned, with competition for your audience’s attention and time increasingly fierce, it is likely you will find that discovery of your content isn’t happening as quickly or as consistently as it used to. You will need to allocate resources to creating and executing an audience-centric content distribution and promotion strategy which accepts that, in order to maximise the value of your investment in content creation, you will need to also invest in making sure the right people get the opportunity to see it. It is no good having a Ferrari if it stays in the garage.
The Nature of Content will Develop
According to the CMI’s 2015 benchmark report, 78% of UK marketers say they will be creating more content this year but what form that content takes is not specified. Increasing your mix of content types is already proven to be more effective so it is important to understand how each content type appeals to your relevant audience groups and how you can integrate each into an effective strategy.
When you are determining what sort of content will appeal most to your audience it is easy to get caught up in the idea that ‘more is more’. I personally enjoy writing long-form articles, filled with relevant detail but, whilst this may work hardest to position MTM as knowledgeable, it also involves a lot of time and effort and is potentially a turn off for a proportion of our audience. They may not have the time or the inclination to invest ten minutes reading a 1200 word feature on social engagement (or content marketing predictions for that matter). They may, however, be engaged by a short video or a series of infographics conveying the same information. It’s horses for courses.
There are too many potential content types to list within this article but there is a shorter list which we have found to work best for our clients and ourselves.
- Longform articles
- White papers
- How-to guides and top tips
- Opinion posts
- Case studies
- Podcast or webinar
- Surveys, research, and unique data
Whichever form your activity takes, ensure the quality and relevance doesn’t suffer. Engagement will only happen if the content is interesting.
The Revenge of Print
At MTM, our belief in the power of print has never waned and it seems more and more content marketing specialists are now agreeing with us. And it makes sense. As the number of organisations battling for attention in the digital sphere increases, creating and distributing content via traditional mail or by hand provides an opportunity to stand out from your competition. Digital isn’t going to go into sudden decline but the balance between modern and more traditional forms of distribution may start to be addressed in 2015 as we all look for the best mix to achieve our objectives. It is easy to see how print encourages your audience to invest more time digesting your content and good quality print has the potential to linger in the office or on your target’s desk for days or even weeks.
B2B or B2C: What's the Difference?
The line between how B2B and B2C has become increasingly blurred over the past few years and in 2015 the trend is set to continue. One factor in this developing homogony is the rise of e-commerce, which has provided traditional B2B business with the opportunity to enter the B2C arena, selling directly to customers. Even if your business is strictly B2B, the marketing strategies you use are increasingly coming from the B2C world.
Embracing the opportunities for storytelling and the value of customer experience are two areas where B2B is taking on board the strategies which have worked for B2C. B2B companies will have to accept the need to focus on creating content that’s truly compelling as well as thinking about relevant channels, tailoring content to specific audience segments.
Content Designed for the Device
Mobile and tablet will continue to dominate desktop so in 2015 it will be even more vital to think about the mobile user experience when it comes to content. This is related to the previous prediction that creating a mix of content is going to be important. As we all use a wider range of devices to digest information, as marketers, we have to ensure the content we are producing is suited to a plethora of platforms. The emergence of wearables (wearable technology) is likely to throw another element into the mix. If your audiences start to embrace smartwatches, how is that white paper going to look? A question perhaps can’t answer yet but one to keep in mind for the future.
When you think about your audience, both customers and prospects, how easy is it to segment them? It is likely your database contains geographical information, position, sex and maybe even age bracket but beyond this, what do you know about what motivates them? If the answer is ‘actually nothing’ don’t feel bad, we are all the same, data collection and management is a full-time job in itself and it is unusual for many organisations to have the resources to go out and glean really personal data. But, that said, it is going to become increasingly important that you do know more about your audience and use that information to reach them.
The first port of call is likely to be social media. It is going to be very hard to start recording individual interests and relating them back to your customer and prospect databases but you can start to discover emerging trends in the things your followers and fans are interested in. What events or exhibitions are being discussed? What media channels and topics are they sharing? What is your competitors’ audience responding to? All these things (and many more besides) can assist you in focusing your content to smaller, more specific groups.
Content marketing works. Full stop. It has the potential to drive tangible growth and deliver excellent ROI but only if you take the time to evaluate your objectives and create a strategy that keeps those objectives front and centre. Your audience is not ‘the internet’ so a scattergun approach is never going to deliver the results you want. Get to know your audience and begin to build meaningful and long-lasting relationships with them. Be consistent, be honest and most of all, be yourself, not a faceless corporation. People buy from people so get yourself and your organisation out there to meet them and 2015 could well be your year.
If you would like help to be heard amongst the noise, give MTM a call. Good luck.