Shorter content is in, and longer content is out, according to 88% of the B2B buyers polled for Demand Gen Report’s 2016 Content Preferences Survey. But what other trends will we see in the industry this year?
I was able to track down some industry leaders to get their thoughts on the matter as they headed to Content Marketing World in Cleveland, Ohio this week.
I asked them all the same question, which will likely come up repeatedly during the conference: “When it comes to B2B content marketing in the next year, what will rise to the top, and what will fall by the wayside?”
In other words: What’s in and what’s out in B2B content marketing? Here’s what they had to say:
Two main concepts come to mind. The first is that customer-centric content is in and business-centric content is out. The marketers that will succeed next year and beyond must put the customer first, eliminate company jargon and actually speak human.
The second concept is that marketers will start to realize the lifetime value of content, not just the value of it to a particular campaign. Us B2B marketers have spent years measuring content success on a campaign-by-campaign basis. That’s a very narrow view. Content typically has a shelf life far beyond the campaign it was created for. Smart marketers are figuring out how to really project and determine the true lifetime value of a piece of content, enabling them to prioritize and produce the best content to drive ROI for their business, not just a particular campaign.
In recent years, we saw more and more companies focusing on content marketing as a means to generate new business. The main problem is how blind so many companies are with the actual effect of their content and marketing efforts on sales. A big part of the problem is that, until relatively recently, the technology hasn’t made it so easy to map the full user journey and identify the most impactful touch points towards conversion.
The trickiest part is predicting what content is most likely to be useful to an individual website visitor and presenting it at the right time. There are so many different factors that can influence what content will resonate with someone, such as the stage of the funnel that they’re currently in, the source from which they arrived from, content they have previously consumed, and the device and size of the screen they’re using. Another challenge is knowing which content to promote on which channel.
In 2017, we’ll see a significant trend toward most companies using advanced technologies to help them uncover the real value of their content marketing efforts by mapping and visualizing the user journey, with a special emphasis on the perspective of content pages and assets. This will be done by using in-depth insights to improve website performance and customer journeys in real time. As a result, marketers will be empowered by actionable insights regarding which content they should promote on which channel to maximize their ROI.
What has been in for B2B marketing (and will continue to be) is valuable, relevant content that’s about respecting where the customer is in their buyer journey or their relationship with your brand. It’s content that focuses on how to actually use all of that customer data you’re collecting to reach your prospects in more valuable ways. After all, your data means nothing if you’re not putting it to work.
What’s out? Broadcasting the same message to everyone (in any channel). It might save time, but it does more harm than good in the long run.
The volume of content produced is going to come down. Companies are realizing that a full editorial calendar isn’t enough, and that scaling back on their content production while paying closer attention to the buyer, their pains and their priorities is the key to content marketing success.
Companies are finally beginning to get a handle on measuring the performance of their content and realizing that downloads alone are not enough. When they tie content engagement to revenue, they get a better understanding of the content that works so they can scale back production to focus on what is really moving the needle.
When it comes to B2B marketing, we are still marketing to people. It’s often easy to forget, but behind the titles, corporate email addresses, professional LinkedIn profiles, etc. there are real people waiting to have their attention grabbed by content that is actually worth their time. That can come in any form — funny, personal, emotional — as long as it’s relatable to the business person behind the screen.
With this personal, more casual approach in mind, we can assume that just like all other internet users, our potential business clients' attention spans are dropping. They quickly scroll through blog posts and E-books and expect to have content diced and fed to them.
This explains a lot about the biggest B2B content marketing trend of the year, a trend anticipated to become even bigger in 2017: branded video content. As internet users — both business and consumer alike — shy away from long, attention-demanding written content, branded video content appears to be the ultimate solution for marketers to convey their message in the most hard-hitting, relatable fashion. On the other hand, lengthy and cold appeals to the business sector are officially out, replaced by a warmer, consumer-like approach to the traditional B2B marketing dynamic.
I want to thank these industry leaders for sharing their insights with Demand Gen Report. Please share your thoughts in the comments below, or, if you’re at Content Marketing World this week, track down some of these people to have an in-person conversation.