March 17, 2016: I wrote a post six months ago highlighting ten marketing trends that should influence your content strategy. While it feels like that was published yesterday, we all know today’s digital marketing trends change with the blink of an eye, whether it’s due to a new channel, updates to search algorithms, or any other factors.
Today, I want to look back at the past six months (with help from our industry news section and GIFs) and showcase some of the latest trends I’ve come across that should have a direct impact on 2016 content marketing strategies.
1. Data Management
Numbers behind this trend: An IBM report we covered earlier this month concluded that nearly half (47 percent) of “Torchbearer” CMOs said they were confident in managing today’s abundance of data. Just 27 percent of “Market Followers” said the same. Further, the expansion of marketing tools has created a need for talented data analysts as companies plan to use more digital channels in the near future.
Action content marketers should take: Take these trends personally. Successful content marketers dig into as much data as possible to analyze what’s working (and what isn’t) and better understand their target audience. If your company or team has recently invested in new technology, take it upon yourself to get comfortable with it. Doing so will enhance the quality of your work and show upper management that you’re ready to be a “torchbearing” content marketer.
2. Digital is Where the Money Is
Numbers behind this trend: Nearly three out of every four (71 percent) technical professionals visit at least six websites a week for work-related purposes, with 85 percent pinging search engines for information during the research analysis portion of the buying cycle. Additionally, B2B publishers plan on driving 21 percent of all revenue via digital resources by 2020 as income from print assets declines.
Action content marketers should take: This trend isn’t necessarily new in the past six months but the eye-opening numbers are. The truth is, a successful content strategy cannot exist without an expansive, cross-channel digital presence. If you’re new to the B2B digital content creation process, think about starting with white papers, product brochures, data sheets and video descriptions of products, as each of these assets seem to resonate well with the B2B audience and will give you a real chance of drawing visits from that 85 percent that look for information on search engines regularly.
3. Digital Content Growth
Numbers behind this trend: According to a recent Accenture report, 92 percent of marketers have more digital content today than they did two years ago. Nearly the same amount (83 percent) believe this trend will continue over the next two years. However, less than one in five marketers believe they manage their content well due to a lack of skilled talent, technology deficiencies and process issues.
Action content marketers should take: Nearly all successful content strategies are built from a solid foundation. Without a well-defined short and long-term content strategy in place, it’s possible to become overwhelmed by today’s digital heap. If you belong to an organization that isolates content within marketing, IT, or any other department, make a case for it to span the enterprise. Involving representatives from multiple departments will ensure the right message is being created and the right audience is being targeted.
4. Goodbye Price-Led Marketing. Hello Customer Experience.
Numbers behind this trend: The majority of marketers in 2016 are focusing on branding and value marketing. In fact, about 58 percent of B2B survey respondents plan to increase their efforts in selling products and services based on value to specific target audiences this year. This is up from the 39 percent that said the same last year. In addition to these findings, Econsultancy gathered that optimizing the customer experience was the most exciting marketing opportunity for the year ahead.
Action content marketers should take: Customers and prospects are the ones behind the steering wheel in today’s age of marketing. As content marketers, we need to make their digital experiences special. Offering market research or answering their most burning questions with a variety of content assets is probably a good place to start. Once you have their trust and loyalty, then you can start thinking about ways to sell your products or services.
5. Trust and Responsiveness are Key to Strong Vendor Relationships
Numbers behind this trend: An eBook from LinkedIn revealed that 52 percent of B2B buyers consider trust to be the largest force behind thriving vendor relationships. Buyers also prove to value personal relationships (45 percent) and responsiveness (45 percent). Additional data shows that 81 percent of today’s customers expect vendors to engage with them, even after the sale.
Action content marketers should take: This trend closely relates to the earlier point I made about customers and prospects being in the driver’s seat now more than ever before. It’s important for content marketers to zone in on individuals and develop relationships well before a sales pitch is made. It’s the content marketer’s job to identify the avenues that should be traveled down (social media, email, gated content, etc.) to begin the conversation and keep it going well after the sale is made. Make your customers brand advocates. Word of mouth goes a long way in today’s digitally-connected business environment.
6. Personalization is Financially Rewarding
Numbers behind this trend: B2B buyers in 2016 are expecting more from marketers and data shows engagement pays. According to a Gallup study, 71 percent of customers reported they were either indifferent or actively disengaged with their B2B vendor. However, those companies with high customer engagement scores achieve 50 percent higher revenue/sales numbers than those that don’t.
Action content marketers should take: In order to achieve significant sales gains, content marketers need to put the customer at the core of everything they do. Consider investing in technology that will make the personalization process easier, but be prepared to first show the value of personalization through engaging content.
7. Number of Linking Domains is More Important than Ever
Numbers behind this trend: Backlinko examined more than one million search results earlier this year and found there is a very small correlation between title tag keyword optimization and search ranking. However, based on the analysis, it appeared that the number of domains linked to a page correlates with higher rankings more than any other factor.
Action content marketers should take: Combining the above information with what we already know about branding’s importance in 2016, it’s critical for content marketers to develop and execute on a list of editorial opportunities. Leverage social media, online communities, forums, etc. to identify a list of publications or influencers that could provide valuable coverage. Generating links from high-quality publications will help your reputation with your customer base and search engines, killing two birds with one stone.
8. Video Effectiveness
Numbers behind this trend: The numbers behind video marketing in 2016 are quite powerful. In fact, a Regalix study showed 84 percent of B2B marketers are planning to extend their video marketing budgets in the next year and 83 percent agree that videos are effective in meeting content marketing goals.
Action content marketers should take: I highlighted the importance of “visual content” in my last trends post, but 2016 seems to be the year of video. Pilot your video strategy to gauge its effectiveness with videos that answer common customer questions or provide product overviews. Once you have some data to prove its worth, ramp up the budget and production and watch your results boost.
9. Email Needs to be Fine-Tuned
Numbers behind this trend: Gone are the days of “batch N’ blast” email marketing effectiveness. Data collected by Fluent has recently revealed that more than one-third (35 percent) of email recipients will unsubscribe from a list if they feel they’re receiving too many messages. More specifically, 41 percent of survey respondents only want to receive one marketing email or less per month from organizations.
Action content marketers should take: These numbers by no means tell us that email marketing is dead. Rather, content marketers need to ensure they are putting together the best and most targeted emails possible for their audience. Those looking to improve effectiveness should consider split testing and also study what times of the day and week are best for sending out email campaigns.
10. Content Needs to Fit Multiple Devices
Numbers behind this trend: As we all know by now, there is a seemingly infinite amount of ways to consume information in today’s day and age. Research from Adobe has shown that the average online user leverages an average of five devices. Further, their research found users are operating 2.23 devices at the same time while online.
Action content marketers should take: Your content needs to be accessible from any device, at any time of the day. Failure to do so could lead a prospect or customer straight out the door and down the road to a competitor. If your site isn’t already, now is the time to consider responsive design (website format that allows page to scale themselves to various resolutions and screen sizes).
While content marketing continues to be a critical piece of successful marketing campaigns, it’s important to pay attention to the broader trends and implement them into your strategy. I hope this post provided some valuable insight into 2016’s trends to date that could have a significant positive impact on content marketing efforts if leveraged properly.
What are some of the trends you’ve seen lately and how are you addressing them with your strategy?
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