Make sure your content investments deliver adequate returns for your business by following the right content marketing trends
By Susan Gunelius
We’ve reached a tipping point in content marketing where there is so much content published on a daily basis that no one can consume even a small percentage of it precisely when marketers would like them to. Content fatigue has set in, and it’s creating a very real problem for businesses that understand the importance of content marketing but can’t break through the clutter.
How do you create enough high quality content and ensure the right audiences see it to move the needle for your business? To stay ahead of the curve and be one of the businesses that can successfully leverage content marketing to increase brand awareness, sales and loyalty, you need to understand which content marketing trends you should be following.
Here are 12 content marketing trends that I believe are most important for you to follow in the coming year to ensure your content investments are delivering adequate returns for your business in the long-term.
1. Embrace machine learning
Machine learning is a subset of artificial intelligence. It involves the use of computer algorithms to gain knowledge from inputted data and information. As more data and information is collected, the machines learn and produce different outputs based on a variety of factors such as patterns and trends.
Over time, the machine collects more and more data, and as a result, its outputs become more accurate, relevant and personalized. One of the best examples of machine learning in action is a search engine algorithm such as Google. As more people conduct searches using Google, the search algorithm gets better and better at delivering the best results.
For content marketing, tools are being developed that help publishers create the most appropriate content for specific target audiences. When a business can publish perfect content and make it available to the right audience at the right time, conversions will naturally go up.
2. Leverage automation
We live in the age of automation where savvy business owners look for ways to automate every task imaginable, including tasks related to creating, publishing and promoting content. This trend won’t stop, so it’s best to get on board and start automating parts of your content marketing process as soon as possible.
Don’t feel overwhelmed by automation. Instead, start by making small changes to your content marketing workflows. For example, begin by automating aspects of your lead generation, email marketing and social media marketing initiatives.
3. Publish co-created content
Why rely on your own ability to create content and promote it when you can partner with someone else to do it? Publishing content in partnership with another person or business that can help expand your reach is a trend that any entrepreneur can benefit from.
Reach out to other companies that have the eyes and ears of your target audience and ask them if they’d like to partner with you to create and promote useful content. You’ll share the workload and double the benefits for both of you.
4. Follow the data, but target people and needs
Data is critical, but don’t let data distract you from your target audience’s wants and needs. Remember, the vast majority of purchase decisions are at least partially affected by emotions. Data can’t accurately track emotions, so it’s important that your content evokes emotions based on people’s wants and needs or you’re missing a big piece of the picture.
5. Be adaptive, not just calendar-focused
Flexibility is becoming increasingly important in content marketing. The marketplace winners will be able to quickly adapt their content to meet market changes and consumer demands. In fact, market leaders will leverage machine learning and automation to stay ahead of market changes and consumer demands. Yes, you should create a content calendar, but don’t make it so rigid that you can’t adapt and harness opportunities (or thwart threats) as they arise.
6. Invest in the long-term
Content marketing is a long-term strategy. You can support it with short-term tactics to drive immediate results, but its power in growing a brand and business comes from its ability to generate long-term, sustainable, organic growth for your company. That means you need to make a commitment to publishing quality content on a consistent basis. Don’t give up. Persistence wins when it comes to content marketing.
7. Pay to play
Successful content marketing often requires harnessing Facebook advertising as well as media and influencer outreach. Be prepared to pay to promote your best content, which means you’ll need to invest in advertising as well as in tools and manpower to reach key influencers and members of the media.
8. Create dynamic content
Dynamic content is content that you create once but it includes variable elements which change based on the audience who sees it. For example, you could run an email marketing promotion that shows a 10 percent discount offer to one segment of your audience and a 20 percent discount to another segment.
When you publish dynamic content, images, text and offers can change depending on the individual who consumes that content, but you save time and money because you only have to create the content one time. Dynamic content has become commonplace in most corporate marketing departments, and it’s easy enough and affordable enough that small businesses should be using it, too.
9. Update and refresh old content
You don’t always have to reinvent the wheel. Many companies and online publishers are having great success updating and refreshing old content. Not only does updating old content positively affect search engine rankings for that content, but it also ensures more people see it.
It takes you less time to update an old piece of content than it does to create a new piece, so review your old content and look for great pieces that you can revive with a simple refresh.
10. Align content to the buyer journey
It’s essential that you consider where your audience is in the buyer journey before you create content because people who are just starting to think they want to buy something need to see completely different content than people who are about to make a purchase. This is particularly true of products and services with long purchase decision processes such as high-ticket items.
Therefore, identify where your audience is in the buyer journey, and align those steps with their positions in the marketing funnel to create the most relevant and targeted content possible. Your results will improve when you take the time to ensure your content and the buyer journey are aligned.
11. Future-proof your content
Every company will publish some time-sensitive content, but most of your content should be evergreen, meaning it can stand the test of time. To do this, make sure your content is clear, comprehensive and factual. Ask yourself, “If someone views this content a year from now, will it still make sense? What about in five years?”
Don’t worry if you can’t future-proof a piece of content. That piece could be a perfect candidate for an update and refresh in the future (see above).
12. Go deeper
Content that provides basic information is everywhere today. If you want your content marketing to be successful and work for your business, you need to go deeper than everyone else. Think about what the next step is after someone learns or completes the basic steps. Be specific and give the audience more than they can find anywhere else.
Your next steps
By focusing your marketing plan on these 12 content marketing trends, you’ll be ahead of your competition in terms of delivering the best content to your target audience. Next, promote that content as much as possible, track your results and identify where you can make improvements. As you learned above, you need to be adaptive if you want your content marketing investments to truly work for your business.