Dissecting the state of Content Marketing is no small chore.The beginning of a new year is always so refreshing. A new start. A time to start planning how to tackle your biggest goals for the year. We hope that developing high-quality content to attract and convert more customers for your business is a priority on that 2018 list. If it is, read on. If it isn’t, you should still give the below a read, it may change your mind. Every year, Content Marketing Institute releases their upcoming year’s predictions. This year, the release included 60 predictions from some of content marketing’s top thought leaders! (Here is the content marketing predictions list). Amanda and Alli, our fearless leaders in content at Two Octobers, went through all 60 of those predictions and have broken them down into a more digestible format with our own commentary on what we think will matter most for your website and brand in 2018.
Content StrategyAlli says… Up until recently, content marketing has been thought of primarily as a tactic for the top of the sales funnel. It is a way for brands to provide useful, informational content to prospective customers while also building trust and authority for the brand. It is also a way to target more relevant keywords and increase qualified organic traffic. And it works beautifully in this capacity. Joe Lazauskas, Director of Content Strategy at Contently, predicts that content marketing will become more commonplace for brands to utilize it at all stages of the sales funnel. He argues that brands will finally figure out “content is the golden thread that connects every experience in the customer journey” and content marketing will start to be utilized in materials like sales decks and case studies as well. This is such an important point — compelling, authentic stories sell your products. Content marketing principles can be applied to any content your brand produces. Sales pitches are significantly more effective when real successes are shared. Product content that makes consumers more confident in their potential purchase helps drive conversions. It will be exciting to see how much more middle and bottom-of-funnel content we produce for clients in 2018. Switching gears a little… you can’t talk about content strategy and not talk about documentation. One of the most important predictions of 2018 to me is that brands will finally document their content marketing strategies. Heidi Cohen, Chief Content Officer of Actionable Marketing Guide, predicts that content marketers will document their content marketing strategy and distribute it across their organization or get left behind. This isn’t a new concept by any means, but with more and more brands entering the content marketing space, it is more important than ever to execute it well. Creating mediocre content won’t cut it anymore. A study by Content Marketing Institute a few years ago revealed that 60% of organizations with a documented strategy consider their content efforts effective compared to only 32% of organizations with a verbal strategy. It surprises me that this isn’t more lopsided, honestly, because the process of documenting your strategy helps to ensure that all stakeholders are on the same page with the strategy. We recently underwent this process with Two Octobers and just having everyone in one room working together to agree on elements of the strategy has helped better align us all. If you don’t have a documented content strategy yet, we are able and willing to help!
Content TacticsAmanda says… Once the strategy and big picture thinking has been done, the real work begins. (Not that defining a strategy isn’t work!) Bringing to life those ideas and implementing them is key to the success of your campaigns. This year, the focus is on high-quality pieces. Whether you’re writing a blog, a gated piece of content or a how-to list, it needs to involve research and key takeaways. We’ve all been served and are familiar with pieces of content with a headline similar to, “The 6 Best Dinosaurs.” You click, you read the list, but who judged this list, what qualities and skills were assessed when ordering these wonderful reptiles? By the end, you’re either happy your dinosaur made the list or, your mad about the choices, and need more than descriptions on why each one was chosen. (Side note, brontosaurus is always #1 in my heart.) Dan Hatch, the Managing Editor at Lush Media, predicted that the short attention span is over and 2000-word blogs won’t cut it. We’ll be looking for 5,000- and 10,000-word e-books as well as “how-to” guides offering deep insights. As stated above, I think this prediction hits the nail on the head. The real trick for companies will be allowing their content team time to turn around these lengthy, research-heavy pieces. If I haven’t driven home the original, quality concept enough, “74% of B2B buyers consider original research from brands to be influential in their purchasing process.” This was a stat from Michelle Linn, the Editorial Strategy Advisor at Content Marketing Institute. This further proves that people want original, innovative pieces including a foundation from which learnings can be discovered. If anything, the current lack of this type of content will only make the good pieces stand out even more and will help position you as a thought leader.
Audience-Focused ContentAlli says…
There were eight different predictions that touched on creating content that is more audience-centric. Competition is getting fiercer every year in the content space, which means that brands need to double down on quality of content over quantity, and make their content more relevant to their audiences.
Stephanie Stahl, General Manager of Content Marketing Institute, predicts that to stand out, there needs to be “more emphasis on great writing — more creative, more personal, and even more dramatic, in some cases — to help build loyal audiences.” George Stenitzer, Founder of Crystal Clear Communications, echoes this sentiment predicting that content marketing winners “will listen intently to buyers’ questions and weave teaching into their companies’ DNA.”Both of these quotes really emphasize the importance of finding your brand’s unique angle. Your content needs to be different from what is already out there and it also needs to resonate with your target audience. Those are going to be keys to success. Listening to buyers’ questions and telling more personal stories to the brand are ways to ensure your content is unique because no one is asking the exact same questions as your buyers and no other brand has your stories. It also will ensure your content resonates and adds value for your audience. One prediction that feels very timely to what is going on with the world has to do with “fake news” and authenticity. David Meerman Scott, Marketing Strategist at Freshspot Marketing, predicts, “In a world of increasing scandal (think Wells Fargo) and people slapping ‘fake news’ labels on content with increasing frequency, success will come from telling the truth. Always.” People are becoming increasingly skeptical of sources they get their information from. This means that brands, in particular, will need to do an exceptional job of producing authentic and truly helpful content – not content that is solely self-serving. Much like journalism, content from brands should come with data to back up claims.