We’re almost halfway through 2018, which means it’s time to reflect on all of those trend pieces we read back in January.
While we used the term trends in the headline, these aren’t flash-in-the-pan ideas. The concept at the heart of every point ties back to concepts that will never change: know your audience, give them what they’re asking for, be authentic, and use data to iterate.
No matter your marketing plans for the rest of this year, if you stick to these guiding principles, you won’t go wrong.
Break Through the Noise to Reach Your Audience
Since the beginning, content marketing has been about one thing: volume. Publish more content more often to drive more traffic to get more conversions, common wisdom said. Makes sense, right? This rapid-fire publishing system worked well — until it didn’t.
In 2018, we’re at a major turning point. We’ve reached peak content. Consumers are exposed to more than 10,000 brand messages every single day, according to the American Marketing Association.
With your audience becoming bombarded by brands at every single turn, it’s getting harder to break through the noise. Every piece of content you produce must be impactful.
So, what do you do? It sounds counterintuitive, but the solution to producing more impactful content is simple: do less. Take a second to think about it. If you’re publishing every day, making every piece a slam-dunk is next to impossible.
By publishing less often, you have the opportunity to focus more on the strategy behind the content instead of meeting daily deadlines. Dial in your keyword research to the most targeted terms, spend extra time crafting an original narrative and pull in extra sources to help tell the story.
>>>SUGGESTED READ: Think Like a Journalist <<<
Create a Personal Path Through the Buyer’s Journey
When customers visit your website, what content do they see? Is your content the same for everyone, or is there something special just for them?
Content marketing is no longer just about content. It’s about creating an experience for your customers. And the more personal you can make that experience, the better your marketing will pay off.
By 2018, businesses that have fully invested in all types of personalization will outsell companies that have not by 20%, Gartner predicted back in 2015. Now that we’ve reached 2018 and seen the technological advances along the way, we’re confident that 20% figure is much higher.
Personalization is a strategy that uses information provided by visitors to customize their experience on your website. Think Amazon recommending products based on your past purchases, or Netflix giving you recommendations for your latest binge, as Contently notes.
What does this mean for your content marketing strategy? The future is data-driven. Understanding who your customer is, analyzing behavioral data, studying engagement metrics, and using that information to improve your content strategy is key to your success.
On your own website, you can use marketing automation tools to show specific content to cookied users. Here’s a simplified version of what that could look like:
- Visitor downloads a top-of-funnel ebook from your website
- When they return, the same visitor will see other offers and content related to their download. For instance, if they downloaded a content marketing checklist, we could prominently feature middle-of-funnel webinars that show them how to create better content
- In the visitor’s eyes, your company just became more relevant. By featuring information to solve their specific pain points, they’re more likely to use you as a resource — and purchase from you when it’s time to buy
And as marketing automation gets more sophisticated, gathering the data you need and creating personal paths through the buyer’s journey will become significantly easier.
Moving Beyond Engagement Metrics
When measuring the success of your content, what metrics do you track? You can probably list your average unique pageviews off the top of your head, and you probably have a good idea of bounce rates, pages per session, engaged time, and so on.
Nearly 80% of content marketers can demonstrate, with numbers, how their efforts have grown audience engagement, but struggle to tie this engagement back to the bottom line metric: ROI.
Only 36% of B2B marketers and 34% of B2C marketers measure the ROI of their content programs, according to Marketing Profs. And of those who don’t, 40% of marketers say proving the ROI of their marketing activities is their top marketing challenge, according to Hubspot.
If you can calculate the ROI of your content program, you’ll have a more thorough understanding of whether your content program is successful, and there’s something extra in it for you. Marketers who calculate ROI are 1.6 times more likely to receive higher budgets, according to Hubspot.
Ephemeral Storytelling is Here to Stay
Pioneered by Snapchat and taken to the next level with Instagram Stories, ephemeral content is another buzzword you’ve probably heard a ton in 2018.
Limited-time content lets you tap into your audiences’ fear of missing out. This keeps your brand top-of-mind as your customers come back on a regular basis to check for new and exciting content.
In addition to the storytelling benefits, both of these social networks make it easy to drive revenue from your storytelling. Snapchat and Instagram also allow you to add links to your stories, making it easy to point viewers to a purchase point.
Time to be Transparent
If social responsibility was the trend for companies to follow in 2016-2017, transparency is even bigger in 2018.
Customers are increasingly skeptical about companies using “cause marketing” to sell products, Digiday reports. Nearly half of people who responded to a study by San Francisco agency Traction at least somewhat agreed that cause marketing is “just spin,” and a full 25 percent are already annoyed by it.
While it’s great to get that PR buzz for giving back, it’s no longer enough to be a good corporate citizen. Why not? Cause marketing has become too heavy on the marketing, and not enough on the cause, survey respondents said.
For brands, the key takeaway is to focus on building a relationship with your customer. This means remaining open and candid, and offering disclosures when appropriate.
Dive into Live Video
While live video isn’t new for 2018, the need to incorporate it into your marketing strategy has intensified.
Tying into other points in this list, live video taps into that fear of missing out and allows for authenticity and transparency. Listening to you speak live makes it easier for your audience to feel as though they have a relationship with you.
As a bonus? It’s favored by social media algorithms. On Facebook, users spent 3x more time watching live videos than a video that’s no longer live. Users also comment more than 10x more during live videos, Neil Patel writes.
Don’t Forget Distribution
The internet is a crowded place. Half of the world’s population — 3.7 billion people — are online. And they’re getting harder to reach. Between shifting social media algorithms (Facebook, anyone?) and Google’s increasingly crowded field, it’s harder than ever for potential customers to find you.
When it comes to distribution, diversity is key. While social media and SEO aren’t going away anytime soon, organic reach from these channels will continue to lead to diminishing returns.
This means two things for marketers struggling to reach their target audience:
- Leverage paid ads and take advantage of their precision targeting to cut through the noise and reach your target audience
- Renew your focus on building your email list. 86% of consumers would like to receive promotional emails from companies they do business with at least monthly, and 15% would like to get them daily, according to Hubspot. The organization also found that three-quarters of companies agree that email marketing offers “excellent” to “good” ROI. As a bonus, your email list isn’t subject to algorithm changes or any other events you cannot control.
Put Your Strategy in Writing
Documenting your content marketing strategy has appeared on similar lists for years, yet not much has changed.
In 2015, the Content Marketing Institute found only 32% of B2B marketers had a documented content strategy. Three years later, those numbers have barely ticked upward.
In 2018, only 37% of B2B marketers have a documented content strategy, according to Marketing Profs.
Why do you need a documented strategy?
- Getting alignment and buy-in at every level: A documented content strategy defines business goals and what tactics your team will use to reach those goals. Putting this in writing keeps all stakeholders on the same page with the success of your content program.
- Streamline your workflow and create room to grow: A documented content strategy creates accountability. When you outline who is responsible for what, you make it easy to scale.
- Track KPIs at every stage: A documented content strategy contains clear definitions of what success looks like. When you track what works and what doesn’t, your team can review and iterate every step of the way — leading to a higher ROI.
In addition to laying out the roadmap for success, documentation provides the accountability needed to actually reach your goals.
It’s a concept backed up by science. People who write down their goals, review them consistently, and share their goals with friends or colleagues are 33% more successful when it comes to actually achieving their goals, according to a study by Dominican University’s Gail Matthews.
What are your content marketing goals for 2018? Have you incorporated any of these trends into your strategy for this year? Share your thoughts in the comments below.