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As we reach the end of the year, there are two things we can say for certain for 2018:
There’s a reason Seth Godin calls content marketing “the only marketing left” - it’s authentic, useful, and perfectly suited for the internet generation.
But while few can doubt the effectiveness of content marketing, the channels, tactics and tools marketers use to create and distribute content will continue evolving in 2018 and beyond.
What content marketing trends should you watch out for? How should you change your marketing strategy to keep pace with these changes?
Let’s find out.
There’s something interesting afoot in advertising: display is making a comeback and outpacing growth in search.Take a look at this chart:
Total ad spending on display and search was nearly similar in 2014. Yet, by 2019, display ad spending is expected to be nearly 28% higher than search. This should be a surprise for most marketers. After all, wasn’t display supposed to be “dead”?
The reason for display’s revival is simple: remarketing.
Remarketing - showing people who’ve visited your site ads as they surf across the web - is booming. As data shows, more and more marketers are ploughing money into remarketing.
This higher spending isn’t accidental - conversion rates actually increase the more a customer sees an ad.
Your CTRs may decline over time, but people who do click on your ad after seeing it a couple of times, become twice as likely to convert.
For B2B marketers, remarketing is particularly important. As any sales veteran will tell you, it takes 6-8 touches to generate a viable lead. Remarketing is essentially a digital version of these multiple touches.
In 2018, we predict that remarketing will become the engine that drives lead generation. Marketers will continue spending money on remarketing platforms to get their offer before warm prospects and turn them into qualified leads.
Setting up a remarketing campaign isn’t very difficult if you have some existing customer data. For instance, if you have an email list of people who had clicked through on an offer without buying anything, you might create a Facebook custom audience to show them a discount coupon.
Similarly, you might have a separate custom audience for people who had read 2 or more of your blog posts without signing up for any lead magnet.
If you have existing user data, you can start a remarketing campaign using these platforms:
Interested in more? Read these:
Personalization, aka one-to-one marketing, is the key to delivering delightful customer experiences.
Consider this: you visit a landing page and enter your name and email to download an eBook on social media marketing.The next time you visit the same site, you’re greeted by name. Not only that, you are also shown more eBooks related to social media marketing.
This is the digital equivalent of the maitre’d at your favorite hotel greeting you by name and ushering you to your favorite table - it’s personal, intimate and helps you stand out in a sea of me-too competitors.
It’s kind of obvious but we predict that in 2018, we’ll see more and more marketers push towards providing highly personalized experiences.
The research backs this up:
In another survey by Forrester, 92% of marketers said that interest in personalization had increased in their companies.
It’s not just marketers who want personalization - your customers demand it as well. According to a research from Invesp, 53% of online shoppers believe that personalization is valuable and up to 57% of shoppers are willing to give away their personal information in order to benefit from personalization.
Personalization depends heavily on data. The more you know about your customers, the more personalized messages you can deliver.Start by collecting essential data from your visitors. If you’re in B2B, this might be:
You don’t have to collect all this data from the get-go. Start by targeting the “low hanging fruit” of client data - names and emails. Most visitors will be happy to share these with you in exchange for compelling content (such as an eBook).
Once you have this basic data, start a lead nurturing campaign where you offer leads access to great content in exchange for more data.
Say, in your first lead nurturing email, you might offer leads who’d downloaded a social media playbook a 1-hour social media marketing webinar. To sign-up for this webinar, leads need to enter their company size, URL and designation.
By breaking up data collection into multiple steps, you build trust, thus removing a lot of user resistance and reducing the negative impact on your conversion rates.Once you have some data, plug these into high-impact sections of your landing page, such as CTAs.
Another way would be to show different content for different users.
Here’s a real-life example; Northeast Nursery, a business using Coredna, used Coredna’s personalization functionality to allow contractors to view and receive a special price on selected products. This can be extended even further to product personalization (where some users get exclusive access to products) or showing different shipping options or rates.
Anonymous users will see a price of $190. Check it out yourself.
Personalization is extended throughout the site with contractors being presented with specific banners and calls to action targeted to that audience.
Interested in more? Read these:
As they say, “Start narrow and grow wide”.
No matter what industry you are in, you will need to create niche content if you want to thrive in 2018. For example, consider how Nerd Fitness focuses on a niche in the fitness industry - “nerds who want to get fit”.
This is a natural result of market saturation and maturity. Marketers are creating more content than ever before. In fact, according to one Kapost survey, 70% of marketers said that they are creating more or “significantly more” content than before.
This incredible amount of content production means that to stand out, you have to either:
In 2018, with more and more marketers fighting for the same audience, we’ll see a shift towards super niche content. Instead of writing about “social media marketing”, you might write about “social media marketing for bootstrapped startups”.
Start by identifying underserved sub-niches in your industry. If everyone is creating content about, say, bodybuilding, can you identify a couple of angles that have not been served well? Like, bodybuilding for over 40+ dads or bodybuilding for geeks.
This should be the starting point of your niche content creation process.
Once you’ve identified underserved sub-niches, modify your content calendar to accommodate these niches.
Interested in more? Read these:
According to Gartner’s predictions, we’re moving into a world of screen-less search. This is mainly due to voice search. You might even say that these predictions are conservative. After all, voice searches already make up 20% of all Google searches on mobiles.
Even more important, younger people - your future customers - are far more likely to use voice search. According to one study, 71% of 18-29-year-olds are using voice assistants compared to just 39% of 44-53-year-olds.
Younger people also use voice search very differently than older users. According to one study, 31% of teens use voice search to get help with homework.
At the same time, sales for voice-activated home assistants, like Amazon Echo and Google Home are skyrocketing. According to one estimate, Amazon Echo Alexa alone could add $11 billion to Amazon’s revenues by 2020.
The trend is very clear: we will be speaking more and more to Google Assistant, Alexa and Siri in the years to come. You can already see this in the way Google highlights answers to some questions at the top of the page:
Since the way we speak is very different from the way we type, your content needs to adapt to natural language search. Instead of focusing on keywords, you need to focus on answering questions the way a human being would.
Which is to say, instead of writing about “best small business marketing tools”, write about “What are the best marketing tools for small businesses?”
Here are a few things you can do:
By combining these, you’ll increase the chances of your content appearing at the top of the search result. This will not only get you more traffic to your website but also make your brand more visible.
There’s been an arms race of sorts among marketers to create longer and longer content.
As Orbit Media’s survey of 1,000 bloggers points out, the average length of a blog post has been rising steadily over the years.
This increase isn’t accidental - longer content does rank better in SERPs, as Backlinko’s study shows.
This is all well and good if your intention is to rank at the top of SERPs, but with social driving more and more traffic than search, lengthy “epic” content leaves a majority of your visitors in the cold and not to mention the attention span that is “shorter than goldfish” deal.
In fact, if your target market is millennials, you are more likely to get positive ROI from shorter, visually-rich content. As per one study of B2B buyers, millennials prefer videos and infographics (59%) for making decisions, while older buyers prefer in-depth whitepapers (78%).
I predict that we will see a “return to roots” as marketers give up the arms race for longer, fluffy content and create shorter, bite-sized content people actually want to read. Not every keyword or topic deserves a 3,000-word blog post; some ideas are better communicated in 200 words and a relevant image.
Instead of creating long-form content for every topic, mix it up with a combination of long and “snackable” content.Think of tweetable graphics like this:
Or sharable in-post graphics like this from our how to grow your email list post:
Your objective should be to reduce bloat. Whenever you’re creating any content, ask yourself: does this require 1,500 words? Can you condense the content into a simpler article or graphic?
Influencer marketing has been a marketing staple for over half a decade now. The reason is simple: influencer marketing works.
According to a report by Nielsen, 92% of people trust recommendations from individuals (even if they don’t know them) over brands. As per Twitter and Annalect, Twitter users report a 5.2X increase in purchase intent when exposed to promotional content from influencers. A blogger survey by Orbit Media found that it’s become more and more popular for driving traffic three years in a row:
Even Google Trends shows a steady increase in influencer marketing over the last few years. In fact, in terms of search interest, it seems to be closing the gap with video advertising.
While the importance of influencer marketing is unlikely to change, what will change is the way businesses use it.
I predict that instead of going wide, we will see businesses going deep with influencer marketing. This means fewer “100 blogger roundups” and more intimate, in-depth interviews and analysis, like this Grow & Convert interview with Sol Orwell.
This isn’t just a bunch of questions and answers. Instead, it’s a close look at a business with insight from the founder himself. Think of it as a written version of a Mixergy interview.
The genesis for this trend lies in the fact that:
Instead of aiming for volume, identify influencers with whom you share the same brand values and audience. You want to leverage their authority and readership to promote your brand (and vice versa) while also crafting meaningful relationships.
Your key focus should be “collaboration”. Instead of doing a simple interview, collaborate with influencers to create content that speaks to your and the influencer’s audience.
Interested in more? Read these:
Consumers are growing tired (even weary) of brand advertising. Millennials and all consumers, in general, have always preferred transparent companies. However, going forward, old tactics might not work. We call them tactics because consumers are now starting to distrust the promises and choice words which have been used in the past to reflect transparency in an organization. For instance, according to Digiday, claiming you’re “green”, brand advertising, corporate support, and giving to charity won’t be enough. “People’s BS detectors are high,” warns the publication.
In the past, brands have been weaving this into neat “cause marketing” but the post notes a common criticism facing cause advertising: That it’s too heavy on marketing because usually only a handful of the brands who claim it actually wholly embrace the causes.
“With every passing day, it’s getting harder and harder to pull the wool over people’s eyes by trying to create meaningful brand love with disconnected causes — as it should,” says Jim Moriarty, director of Brand Citizenship. “We all crave authenticity. Brands can and should change the world. And the best way to do that is to initiate, support and amplify causes that are connected to the brand’s business and mission.”
Consumers are growing weary of that and they see it as desperate at best.
This 2015 Global Trust in Advertising survey by Nielsen shows where consumers are placing their trust.
Chances are that it will hold true in 2018.
In fact, going forward, brands will need to be even more transparent. As the market grows, consumers are increasingly feeling a lack of authenticity when they hear from brands as compared to their peers.
Granted, there’s growing opportunity for influencer marketing and endorsements. However, without first cultivating a relationship with the cautious consumer, this might end up being wasted effort.
With bodies such as the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) out to protect the already cautious consumer, a close evaluation of the transparency, disclosure, and general compliance with advertising rules is necessary.
To illustrate here’s what happened to Machinima when it failed to adequately disclose paid endorsements to the YouTube influencers that produced content for the channel.
To ensure this doesn’t work against you:
Ensure All Your Content is Fully Transparent
Your content should fully disclose your partners and those you’re promoting. For instance, you might use words and phrases like, “Thank you, Brand X, for making this possible”, “Working with Brand X”, “In association with Brand X”, etc. All this to let the consumer know that there’s someone else involved in the promotion.
Always Be Up-to-Date With The Latest Regulations
Read up on the different measures taken by such consumer protection bodies to ensure compliance It’s the only way you know what’s required of you as an advertiser to avoid penalties.
Video will continue its rise in the years to come.
Between 2011 and 2015, digital video consumption grew from an average of 39 minutes to 115 minutes every day.
According to Cisco, by 2017 video will account for 69% of all consumer internet traffic. Video on demand content alone will be three times by next year. Among brand marketers, video continues to be the most preferred content type. According to an Outbrain survey, 86% of marketers prefer video.
That’s not all - how people view videos is also changing. A few years ago, vertical video was virtually nonexistent. Now, 29% of all mobile video viewing is vertical, thanks to the rise of Snapchat.
The trend is clear: if you aren’t investing in videos in 2017, you are missing out.
Start by directing a larger share of your content marketing budget towards video. This doesn’t have to be production-grade video - something as simple as a behind the scenes clip or a video of your CMO sharing insight is a good place to start.
You can use a tool like Showbox to make video production significantly easier and cheaper.
For instance, Gary Vaynerchuk’s regular “Ask Gary” live streams on Periscope regularly have 5-6k simultaneous viewers.
By sharing on Periscope, Gary Vee takes advantage of Periscope’s close integration with Twitter to reach his existing audience of 1.35M followers.
Interested in more? Read these:
Back in 2016, the digital world took note of the rapid growth of live video and over the past 2 years, this has only intensified. Currently, 80% of consumers would rather watch a live video than read a blog post. In a survey conducted by Livestream, 82% of the respondents said they preferred tuning into a brand’s live video to reading its social media posts.
Facebook, one of the most used platforms for live video in 2017, reports that users are spending up to 3 times more time watching live videos than watching traditional/recorded videos. The comments are also 10 times higher during the livestream. Yet, while almost 60% of marketers are currently investing in live video, less than 15% are actively using the medium. However, marketers have been interested in live video for a while as a study conducted by Buffer in 2016 suggests that up to 42% of marketers had a particular interest in live video at the time.
If Cisco is right, video traffic will make up 80% of internet traffic by 2019.
Why has video (especially live video) become so popular with consumers? For starters, video has always been a very interactive form of communication on the internet. Live video has made that even better––it’s made it fun. Speaking of the growth of Facebook Live, Vibhi Kant and Jie Xu (both of Facebook) say,
“This is because Facebook Live videos are more interesting in the moment than after the fact.”
The same goes for other platforms.
Also, the fact that live videos are so raw/imperfect communicates the authenticity and human nature of the host creating an intimate communication channel with the audience.
It’s worth noting that high-speed internet growth, particularly the mobile internet, has also had a lot of influence on this growth. As the speeds are expected to grow further in 2018, with full deployment of 4G LTE and 5G networks, video is set to be as standard as voice on mobile.
The best news about this trend is probably that you don’t need fancy and expensive equipment to reach your audience. For live videos, all you need is a smartphone that has a decent camera. For the coming year, we have a few ideas on how you can use live video:
Host Q&A Sessions
What better way to answer your customers’ questions than one-on-one? Just the same way you schedule Twitter chats, you can schedule a live video and let your customers know that at a particular time and date you’ll be answering all their burning questions and they might even be able to see your face.
Host Live Interviews
Instead of recording interviews with experts or customers, you can now host them live and let your audience see the unedited clips. For purposes of record keeping or sending them out to your subscribers, you can record and kill two birds with one stone.
Product Demonstrations and Unboxing
When done right, product unboxing can be a great boost to your marketing campaign. And as if unboxing on YouTube wasn’t enough, you’re now able to do it live! Why not snatch up that opportunity and give your audience an unboxing experience that will really stick with them?
Cover Events and Conferences
If your company regularly hosts conferences, trade shows, and other events, live streaming can be a great way to reach those among your target audience that didn’t attend in person.
Interested in more? Read these:
The past few years have forced marketers to look at content marketing as a broad process which isn’t just about writing or recording videos. Thus, instead of simply churning out content, effective marketers are focusing on media publishing. Meaning, they don’t just hire more writers or create infographics about everything. They look at the process to determine the most appropriate format for different types of content.
And there are various formats: Blog posts, videos, infographics, images, etc. The list is growing by the day. If you’re not keen on understanding what works at particular moments, you’ll lose big.
This change in content formats invites an equally diverse pool of professionals in the workforce. You need writers, video producers, graphic designers, audio producers, content optimizers and distributors, communication experts, and analytics experts. Show me an organization that has one guy for all that and I’ll show you one that will fail in the coming years.
Successful organizations are using a range of tactics to drive different messages. Here’s is the latest data from Content Marketing Institute showing the spread of techniques used by some of the most successful organizations:
Another important thing to note is that consumers are no longer waiting to view the content on their screens. The Internet of Things (IoT) has made sure that content can be around in a way that doesn’t require us to use our hands or even eyes. Think of technologies such as Siri, Ok Google, and Alexa. These innovations allow consumers to have content in a call-and-response format allowing them to interact with content from brands on the go.
As we speak, a number of organizations are already using Alexa to share content with a wide audience that doesn’t want to always scroll and stay glued to the screen. For instance, through Alexa, the American Heart Association (AHA) can walk you through the process of performing CPR in the event of an emergency. Included therein are warning signs of a heart attack or stroke.
The opportunities don’t just lie in a single industry. All you need to do is think of what your audience is looking for and figure out a way to infuse that into the technology so that they too are able to get insightful information the modern way.
For instance, Neil Patel and Eric Siu have developed a simple Alexa Skill that will deliver 10 minutes of actionable marketing information each day and you don’t have to sit down those 10 minutes to get it. Alexa allows you to listen at any point in your day – just when you need it.
Understand Your Audience
Before you begin creating the different types of content, you have to first know what your audience needs and wants. Then figure out how to deliver it in a way that will give them the best experience.
As a lone strategy, blogging is incredibly shallow. Going forward you need to create a range of content formats that accommodate the changing content consumption patterns.
Say No To One-Person-Does-All
As the process changes and more formats come to play, you can’t assume that your writers will do a graphic designer’s work. Similarly, you can expect the video producer to sufficiently edit your written content. Content production is now a process that needs to go through various stages before it can be successful.
A great example of a successful content creation process is Pixar. The CEO, Ed Catmull, explains the process the company takes to create Blockbusters saying, “Early on, all of our movies suck.” Easy for him to say right? However, he says that their ideas don’t begin perfectly. Rather, they start as “ugly babies” that are “awkward and unformed, vulnerable, and incomplete.” It’s an interesting 1,084-day process that you can read about on Wired.
Bottom line: The process is changing and only those who embrace and adapt to this change will survive.
Engagement is an invaluable part of sales. If done well, it can not only help you convert a prospect into a customer but also turn that into a repeat customer. To recap, it costs up to 5X more to acquire a new customer than it takes to keep an existing one. And it has increasingly become important to guard existing customers. So much so that companies have made customer retention a KPI.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has been a vital component in getting a high customer retention number. However, with the advent of marketing automation, we’ve had to redefine where this “relationship” begins. It’s becoming common with marketers to create an entire contact strategy that engages the audience through email, social media, personalization, and other traditional channels that are neatly woven together into individual life-cycles.
This enhanced consumer decision model is a great example of this kind of lifecycle:
This renewed focus by marketers to engage, convert and retain prospects and customers have led to the growth of the term Lifecycle Marketing.
Smart Insights defines Lifecycle Marketing as: Creating a managed communication or contact strategy to prioritize and integrate the full range of marketing communications channels and experiences to support prospects and customers on their path-to-purchase using techniques such as persuasive personalized messaging and re-targeting.
Obviously, the need to identify and define the most relevant forms of communication and customer experiences at different touchpoints throughout the customer buying journey has only made marketing more complex, which has made strategies such as customer journey mapping becoming more relevant.
Lifecycle marketing isn’t a complicated process. New technologies have made it possible to assemble a range of strategies and tactics into one self-sustaining process. Here’s how to make it work for you in 2018:
Create Detailed Buyer Personas By Combining Demographic and Psychographic Profiles
We wish we had something particularly new to start with, but buyer personas remain the best way to know your customer. It’s surprising that marketers are still creating incomplete and hypothetical buyer personas. In 2018, (proper) buyer persona will be based on data collected from real customers through surveys and interviews. You’ll need to go deeper than you’re used to. For instance, traditionally it made sense to collect just demographic data when building your buyer personas. But demographic-based personalization doesn’t give the full picture. If you’re to market to someone, you want to know what motivates them to buy - something demographic-based personalization doesn’t offer.
And this is where psychographic profiling comes in. To unlock the true power of lifecycle and personalization marketing, you need to combine consumer attributes (demographic) AND their intent (psychographic).
Visualize And Map The Customer Journey
As with other effective marketing strategies, lifecycle marketing works best when you can track its effectiveness and improve.
That’s why the folks at Smart Insights have developed a mind-tool that helps users identify the various touchpoints across earned, owned, and paid media and perform a gap analysis to enhance the process.
In exchange for “free access”, nearly every website you visit collects your device or IP data and tracks you using cookies. This allows the website to identify repeat visitors and offer services (or products) based on the visitors’ previous interactions. But the underlying reason why they collect your data is so they could show visitors targeted advertising.
Ads basically fund the web. However, 2018 promises to bring with it a reminder of consumer rights and privacy rules.
The more our world becomes connected, the higher the rate of data collection. Calls you make, comments you leave on social media, photos you take, and virtually everything you do on the internet is collected and stored in the digital reserves. Before you know it, we have a term like Big Data and it’s more valuable than oil!
But because personal data has proved to be so valuable, consumers have become equally as skeptical. They don’t believe the companies they give their data to are doing enough to protect it. According to a report published by the Chartered Institute of Marketing, 57% of consumers don’t believe brands are using their personal data responsibly. A 2016 study conducted by TRUSTe/NCSA also showed that 92% of online consumers are concerned about data security and privacy.
In the spirit of protecting consumer data and making them feel safe in the hands of the mighty corporation, the EU is introducing General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018. This is a new digital regulation that seeks to protect consumer data and guide decisions made by marketers in the member states.
The effect will be felt way beyond the borders, though.
Basically, the regulation will require companies to incorporate privacy settings into their digital products, including websites, and switch them on by default. It also requires them to conduct regular assessment of privacy impact, be more effective in asking for permission to use consumer data, document how they use the data, and be more effective in communicating data breaches.
While it might seem extreme, GDPR might actually be good for marketing. In fact, as a marketer, all you need to pay particular attention to is data permission, access, and focus.
Data permission is about how you manage email opt-ins. In future, you can’t just collect user information and assume they want to be contacted. They have to physically confirm that they want to.
Here’s an example of non-compliant and compliant forms:
Because of this need for consent, you’ll be able to gain insight into your customer based on their options. Thus, instead of simply getting a “yes” or “no”, you’ll get something really close to the reason why they check yes/no.
Data Access is linked to the widely talked about the right to be forgotten. GDPR allows users to access their data and even remove it from a system if they wish. As a marketer, you’ll need to make sure users can easily access and remove their data at will. This can be as easy as including an “Unsubscribe” button in the email and providing a link where the user can manage preferences. Here’s an example from Twitter:
To ensure compliance, you can have a single platform, like a CRM software, that allows you to store all permission data for all users in one place. This lets you keep track of user permission. With that data, you can retarget more effectively with more relevant campaigns.
Data focus is about collecting just as much data as you need. You know how tempting it can be to collect as much data as you can, instead of collecting as much as you need. You end up with a data reservoir of which you use just a small percentage. GDPR requires you to justify the personal data you collect. This will push you to focus on just what you need. Hence, you’re more focused on what you want from your audience.
Native advertising is set to explode in the coming years. Consider this chart for starters:
From $13.9B in 2016 to $21B in 2018 is a 51% jump in just two years.This growth is being fuelled by two facts:
Easy availability of high-quality inventory and increasing reader acceptance means that advertisers are more than willing to invest in native advertising.
It also helps that consumers respond better to native ads than they do to display ads. As per one study, consumers are 25% more likely to look at native ads. Yahoo also found that native ads lead to 3.6x lift in branded search vs. display ads.
For B2B marketers, native advertising is a simple way to solve their content distribution problems. With CPCs as low as $0.10/click and prime placement on top-tier properties, a well-performing native ad can boost traffic as well as brand recognition.
A successful native ad campaign starts with high-value content. Unless your content is share-worthy by itself, your native campaign won’t reach nearly as many people as it should. Start by investing in hyper-targeted, shareable content in your niche. This should ideally be top of the funnel content that can be used to plug leads into your sales funnel.
Next, sign-up with content distribution platforms like Outbrain and Taboola. These platforms will help you identify publishers in your niche as well as their existing inventory and rates.
After this, it’s a matter of setting your budget and measuring the impact of each click.
Interested in more? Read this:
That content marketing is here to stay is beyond question.
But what way you create and distribute content will change drastically in 2018. At the time of writing, more than 2 million blog posts are published daily.
From blog posts and social media updates, we should see a shift towards video and niche-focused, personalized content. Bite-sized content should come back into vogue and marketers will increasingly turn to remarketing to reach their audiences, especially in B2B.
Which of these trends do you think will hold? Which ones will just be fads? Let us know in the comments below.