Content marketing is an oxymoron. Think about it – what would marketing be without content? But the pain of creating content is real. Every B2B marketer will list content creation as the number one challenge. Furthermore, the requirements for content are changing at an ever-increasing pace, thanks to digitalisation. It may feel difficult to cut through the content clutter. Where should you focus on content marketing?
Based on my learnings, here are five content predictions that are shaping the B2B marketing landscape:
1. Customer journey will become the key tool for content marketing
It’s finally the end of product and channel marketing. Customer journey management will become marketing’s no 1 goal. The big driver behind this change is a shift in balance – technology allows customers to conduct their research whenever they want, meaning that marketing needs to be always on. As content ROI measurement becomes more accurate, you even start to see money being shifted heavily from tradeshows and product launches to digital channel development (that is always on).
This requires that organisations finally turn their thinking around and start to produce content that answers customers’ problems. It also means that marketing, sales and product managers need to collaborate more than ever.
2. Creative concepts will be based on customer journey and data
It’s not just web content that will be created using customer journeys. Creative concepts will be developed with customer journey as the starting point. Furthermore, creative elements will be A/B-tested and iterated continuously. This will be unbearable for many old-school creatives (since they have the “best” ideas).
This also means that the success of creative content can and will be measured – and not just in terms of brand engagement, but with ROI and customer experience.
3. Interactive content will be the king
If digital services had sex with digital marketing, the offspring would be interactive content. It will be the next frontier in B2B marketing. It increases engagement, enables you to guide customers on their journey and simultaneously collect data at each interaction.
Interactive ebooks, whitepapers, configurators and tests will replace pdf-files. Game-like experiences will add a new layer to video marketing. Previously, interactive experiences were expensive one-off projects. However, there are already scalable platforms, such as ion interactive that will decrease the cost of interactive content dramatically.
4. Account-based marketing: from pep-talk to practice
For the past year, marketing thought leaders have been raving about account-based marketing. But nobody still knows how to make it work.
In terms of content creation, it does not require anything new. All the content usually is there: value propositions for different stakeholders, industry-specific case studies and segment-level offering material.
The only thing that ABM requires is data and technology: you need to create rules for showing the right content on account and persona level. For instance, if a person from company Y lands on website, then show case study X (a simple IF-THEN rule).
This implies that content consumption will not be measured by traffic or download volumes. Instead, it is all about quality of consumption. If you have five target accounts for specific offering, it is enough to get people from these accounts to engage with relevant content.
5. Content analytics will become predictive
Yet, B2B content performance is still rarely analysed and mostly in retrospect, using exported excel sheets to measure email clicks.
The next steps in content analytics is actionable dashboards that allow marketers to act almost in real time. But it does not always have to be those next-level dashboards – even Google Analytics holds many unlocked opportunities for content analytics.
The next step is predictive analytics. Content recommendation engines already exists, but B2B marketers haven’t leveraged them yet. And it doesn’t stop there – companies like Persado are using AI and neural networks for ‘cognitive’ content generation.
How to stay ahead of the curve?
You cannot think of B2B content marketing as being just blogging and sharing content in social media. You need to understand customer journeys and value creation at each step for every buyer persona.
You also need to understand that successful content requires technology and data. You cannot have one without the others. Technology binds data and content together, allowing you to personalise, test and guide customers on their journey.