The new year is fast approaching, which means it’s time for the marketing world to get rocked with another frenzy of year-end trends lists. Not surprisingly, content marketing trends are a popular subject to include in the year’s deluge of “best,” “biggest” and “most exciting” lists. This leads me to ask the same question I have every year right about this time: Are these lists helpful for content professionals?
The Problem with Most Content Marketing Trends Lists
My pet peeve isn’t that so many of these content marketing lists exist—it’s that so many of them urge us to seemingly sit, wait and watch for new content marketing trends to take off (the phrase “content marketing trends to watch next year” generates over 99 million results right now!).
In my opinion, watching trends explode isn’t nearly as exciting as capitalizing on them when they do. That’s why this list contains five new-year content marketing tips and trends you can start taking advantage of right now, as found in the Content Marketing Institute’s latest B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report.
1. Commit to Content
If anyone ever impresses upon you a platitude about how commitment is half the battle for content marketing success, you can feel safe believing them. The Content Marketing Institute finds that 93% of top-performing content marketers rate themselves as “extremely/very committed” to the discipline. Give this stat some thought as you review your content marketing budget for next year, especially if you still need to get buy-in from key stakeholders or staff members. Just as the data illustrates, the more committed your team is to content, the better positioned you are for success.
2. Develop a Strategy
Shockingly, CMI revealed that over 62% of B2B companies don’t have a documented content marketing strategy. Not shockingly, 76% of these companies rank as the “least successful” content marketers.
As obvious as it sounds, write your strategy down before you kick off Q1. This may seem like a formality, but it’s actually an essential step to ensuring everyone who touches your content programs is on the same page about what you’re doing. If you haven’t started documenting next year’s content marketing strategy yet, now’s the time for one of those lock-everyone-in-a-room-until-it’s-done whiteboard sessions.
3. Create Personas
Another key reveal from CMI’s latest B2B content marketing report: 77% of the most successful content marketers use personas. If you’re like me, you read this statistic and did a happy dance around the office, because there’s no phrase that seems to prompt a faster eye-roll from results-focused, budget-minded executives faster than the concept of creating buyer personas. But now that the data is showing personas have real, tangible merit, those stuffy execs have no choice but to indulge us.
With this in mind, start working on your personas NOW. Developing useful, detailed buyer personas takes time, energy and collaboration, a process that can go on for months if the right people aren’t involved and the right questions aren’t asked. Words of advice for creating personas: Start early, involve everyone and leave no question unasked.
4. Improve Tech Proficiency
CMI’s study reports that one-third of the most successful B2B companies rate themselves as “expert/advanced” with content marketing technology. Adeptness with platforms like Buffer, Act-On or Klipfolio may not be proof that your content marketing will work, but it definitely means that your team has the valuable and, frankly, rare skillsets required to make your strategy a success.
Here’s some tech-related food for thought before Q1:
If you do have proficient technology resources, invite them into your year-end planning sessions and get their input on key budget items like tech stack and staffing. You want to give your high-value players the environment they need to perform, so let them tell you what type of environment they need.
If you don’t have proficient technology resources, do an inventory. Hash out the skillsets you have at your disposal, how they can contribute to your content marketing strategy and where your team has holes. The quicker you identify your skillset gaps, the faster you can plug them, whether through hiring or outsourcing.
5. Measure ROI
It’s been a long-held belief that measuring content marketing ROI is challenging. And that’s true, but companies that at least attempt to solve the content ROI Rubik’s Cube have a much greater chance of being successful. According to CMI, over 70% of the most successful B2B content marketers measure ROI. However, a mere 25% of these organizations rate themselves as “extremely/very proficient” at using selected metrics. Here lies the rub with content marketing ROI: Metrics don’t matter if they’re not the right ones.
Before Q1, take a second pass through your content marketing strategy and put your goals under the microscope. Are they measurable? If so, what metrics will you use to measure them? Do you have the capabilities to track these metrics? Can you tie these metrics to revenue? Even popular yet nebulous goals like increases in brand awareness or reputation building should be measurable and trackable. Asking the right questions upfront about your content marketing goals and how you measure them should lead you down a rabbit hole of more questions. If this happens, take comfort knowing you’re navigating the process correctly.
Start Banging That Content Marketing Drum
Hopefully these tips and trends give you some actionable insight that can help guide your content marketing for next year. If you take nothing else away from this blog post, it should be that successful content marketing requires commitment. Keep that in mind when executives are ready to pull the plug on your campaigns after a month…
Wait, here’s another free takeaway—
If you’re considering investing in a content strategy, check out this free resource to determine if now’s the right time to take the plunge.