It’s that time of year! Trend pieces are starting to pop up all over — what clothes are going to be popular next year, the type of shows Netflix will release, election cycle predictions — and it’s the same in the marketing world, as well.
Content marketing is an interesting industry, where certain values always remain the same, such as keeping the customer’s needs in mind and always trying to figure out what Google is thinking, but it’s also a field where innovation is valued and flexibility is encouraged.
We’ve identified four major trends that we think should be a focus in the coming year.
Additionally, for those of you who still have some 2019 budget left, we’ve included ideas on how to spend that money now to set you up for success in 2020!
1. Customer needs continue to drive content strategy
According to Content Marketing Institute’s 2019 B2B Report, 90% of successful B2B content marketers prioritize the audience’s information needs over promotional messages.
What does this mean exactly? We’re all still businesses who have goals to hit and KPIs we’re measured on, so what does a customer-first strategy look like?
User and search intent
- No more random acts of content: Every piece of content you create should have a purpose and should be of genuine value to your target audience.
- Keyword research: Study how your clients are searching for content, what words they use, how they ask their questions, what they REALLY mean, etc. Use this data to form the strategy of what you publish.
- Audience analysis: How are your clients consuming content and where do they like to spend their time online? What sort of topics are they most interested in? What are their pain points? Spend time researching your audience and speak to each customer where they currently are at in their buyer’s journey.
- Personalization: Next, lean into what you’ve learned to create super-targeted content. Segment your email list, and then segment some more. Create different articles for your different industry targets, age groups, locations, etc. The more you break down the content you create, the more valuable it is to those who read it.
Go above and beyond with your content
- 10x content: As Rand Fishkin advises, make content that is ten times better than what’s succeeding now. Answer the initial question that your article answers, but then go a few steps further and answer what they’ll need in the future.
- Visuals are a non-negotiable: At this point in the game, if your marketing team hasn’t invested in video production and graphic design, you’re a step behind. We see high-quality visual content only increasing in value and popularity.
What to do now?
- Invest in video creation services
- Dig into your audience analysis
- Start defining and stockpiling content that fits into your strategy
- Optimize and update past content to add value
2. Omnichannel communication via multichannel tactics
From ordering takeout on UberEats to checking your bank balance to booking an apartment on Airbnb, most of what we do is from the comfort of our own smartphone. We’re an online culture now and brands need to keep up by creating a well-defined and streamlined experience for their users to make any process easier and enjoyable.
Tell the same story across all channels
- Same story, different telling: The marketing language you see on Instagram should be different from the language you see in a whitepaper or in an email newsletter. While your brand voice should remain consistent, switch up how you speak to your customers to match the tone and standards of the channel you’re using.
- Be strategic in the timing of your content: In addition, brands need to pay attention to WHEN customers use different channels — if they’re using Twitter to do some basic research, don’t go in for the kill. However, if someone downloads something from your site, you may be able to use more direct, bottom-of-the-funnel messaging.
- Create multichannel support: Grow your audience and strengthen your brand by connecting all your channels. For example, email your content out in an upcoming newsletter, advertise your email list on your podcast, and create a blog post about podcasting and mention yours.
- Find your influencers: Consumers are way more likely to trust an existing customer about a product or service than they’re willing to listen to a brand advertise itself. Encourage your clients and customers to share their thoughts and feature their content within your strategy.
- Save time in an effective way: In Convince & Convert’s 2020 trend piece, Jay Baer explained it best. He says, “User-generated content not only engages consumers but also allows you to create more content with less resources and time by tapping into your community for ideas and pieces.”
What to do now?
- Start mapping your customers’ journeys throughout all your current channels
- Define what user-generated content looks like for your brand
- Align all your content creation teams, from copywriters to video creators to social media publishers
3. Tech upgrades should focus on user experience
What’s the difference between being excited by a shiny new toy and being on the cutting edge of a game-changing new technology? Well, maybe not much.
The key is to decide how to fit these new tricks and tools into your strategy in a way that makes the most sense for your brand and to your customers. For example, just because TikTok is huge right now doesn’t mean that it applies to your company and speaks to where your customers are. Or maybe it does?
Take time with your team in 2020 to look at new advances in technology to decide if it’s something you need to invest in.
Here are some tech trends that focus on UX:
- Optimize your 10x content: Adapt your content to make it more conversational. People will ask Siri or Alexa questions in a completely different way than they’d type their search into Google, so keep that in mind when writing your content.
- Answer questions clearly: Most smart speaker searches are questions. Including the answers to common queries relating to your brand is key to ranking. You can do this by creating an FAQ or glossary, or by explicitly calling out definitions within your articles.
AI & augmented reality
- Conversational chatbots: Powered by AI, chatbots are a perfect mix of customer service, search functions and community managers. Learning over time, they can provide help at all hours of the day to most effectively answer questions and provide support. In 2020, think of how chatbots can help streamline processes for your customers.
- Use AR for sales enablement: Snapchat filters and Pokémon Go aren’t the end-all be-all of augmented reality. Those examples may not apply to your brand, but we do think that AR has a very exciting place in marketing. Could AR enhance your demos? How about training new customers?
What to do now?
- Include voice search optimization in your current and existing content
- Invest in AI — let chatbots make both your lives and the lives of your customers easier
- Start researching how AR can enhance your sales process
4. Community-based marketing and relationship building
Marketing is becoming more of a one-to-one relationship between customer and brand. Companies who continue into 2020 acting as broadcasters only will miss out on this shift in consumer behavior.
By cultivating relationships with people in your industry, along with prospective customers and current clients, your brand awareness will strengthen as your engagement grows.
- Encourage private sharing: Dark social is content shared online in private, such as via messengers, email and chat rooms. You can increase beneficial dark social shares by including messenger apps in your share buttons, creating private groups on Facebook or LinkedIn and putting an emphasis on sparking conversation.
- Slack groups: Creating your own Slack community that’s exclusive to your existing customers is a way to offer value post-purchase. By hosting discussions or question-and-answer sessions, your clients will have immediate access to your company, which will lead to a stronger sense of brand loyalty.
Events, online and off
- Hosting your own: Organizing your own marketing event doesn’t have to be a daunting task. In 2020, we expect to see more and more casual online-only events pop up, like brand-led Twitter chats, webinars and organized Slack discussions.
- Attending events: While online events are successful and engaging, IRL events are not going away. Just make sure that you take full advantage of these events! Can you create content around what you’ve learned? Post a live video after a particularly exciting session? Reach out to the contacts you’ve made with a hyper-personalized email campaign? Go into the event, whether you’re attending or running a booth, with a solid plan in place.
What to do now?
- Register for local and national events in your field, with both marketing and sales teams in mind
- Brainstorm ways you can build a community for customers in your industry
- Create valuable content for those connections you’ve made at marketing events
Here’s to another decade of content marketing!
Video, audience research, topic generation, email creation, event marketing — are you one of the lucky teams that still has some budget left this year? We’d recommend investing in these tactics now so your goals next year will be easy to hit!
If you have questions about how these trends align with your brand’s goals, we’d love to chat. Contact us today and we can start brainstorming together.