For all the changes that have taken place over the years, one thing is certain: Content marketing is here to stay. In fact, this time last year, it was estimated that the content marketing industry would be worth more than $400 billion by 2021.
And as content marketing continues to grow and our approaches to it become more mature, these five trends will shape the way companies (and their audiences) create and consume content in 2019.
1. Content marketing is becoming marketing.
In the midst of the daily grind, it’s easy to forget that content marketing as we know it is still a relatively new phenomenon. As recently as a few years ago, marketers handled content mostly as a side project. It was more of a bonus than an essential role — something you did when you had time because it took a backseat to more traditional marketing projects and responsibilities.
That’s changed. Where marketing of the past used to push one-sided conversations toward consumers, successful brands know that content marketing opens the door for two-way conversations and relationships with audiences unlike anything before.
Content marketing has taken over because it’s so useful to every function of marketing teams today. Content is one of the best tools you have for earning trust, building your brand, generating site traffic and qualified leads, and everything in between. Content marketing is marketing, and the brands that understand content is core to effective marketing — and, ultimately, to their entire business — will set themselves up for success.
2. Strategy will become more essential.
As content marketing matures, companies will begin to see their content less as a catchall solution and more of a tool to achieve their specific goals. Content is incredibly powerful, but it won’t solve every business goal you set on its own. These tactics need a guiding strategy to maximize their effectiveness and secure audience engagement.
Different companies have different goals, so no two content strategies work quite the same way. Still, general goals like lead generation, SEO, and thought leadership are common, and starting from there, companies can customize strategies that are specifically designed to work toward whichever goal is most important to them. With sales trends always changing, content plays a key role in attracting new customers.
According to Content Marketing Institute, 65 percent of the most successful content marketers have a documented strategy. A simple content marketing assessment can help companies identify their primary goal and design a successful content strategy to meet it. As strategy becomes more important, companies will need the right tools to align priorities and document their plans.
3. Customer success will emerge as the new frontier.
Content marketing already addresses a variety of needs and objectives for different departments. Sales teams use content to bolster pitches and improve client relationships. Brand managers turn content into goodwill and authority. Recruiters attract top talent by publishing content in places where the best candidates spend their time online. The possibilities are endless — and now, a new avenue is opening up.
Customer success refers to the ways companies help customers get the most value from products and services. In this era of personalization, it’s no longer enough to make the sale, move on to the next one, and handle complaints as they arise. Now, companies need customers to get maximum value from their purchases to encourage word-of-mouth marketing and develop stronger relationships.
In this pursuit, content helps companies equip their customers for success. Content shows buyers optimal uses for companies’ products and services, encouraging customers to see the good more than the bad. With a content strategy focused on customer success, businesses can devote fewer resources to putting out fires and more resources to growing their brands.
4. The marketing funnel will change shape.
Right now, the marketing funnel as we know it accepts just about anyone and everyone, filters them through qualification processes, then spits them out at the end without much of a parting word. Too many companies see customers as gatekeepers to wallets; meanwhile, customers feel ignored at best — and insulted at worst — when the journey ends.
A change in mindset and a library of high-quality content will replace this traditional funnel with something more sustainable (and effective). The funnel is becoming more of an ongoing cycle that prioritizes continuous engagement over transactional relationships. This increased focus on nurturing, especially post-sale, makes customers more likely to stay with you or buy again — and more likely to give recommendations to friends and colleagues.
With content, you can transition your brand from vendor to partner. To be honest, someone else in your space can almost always come in and undercut you on price. But when you continuously engage your clients, build lasting trust, and form genuine partnerships, you’ll have much greater staying power.
5. Distribution will remain a driver of success.
Even the best content is useless if no one sees it. As both offline and online worlds become more crowded, content distribution will remain a vital component of every good content marketing strategy.
Staying updated on social media trends is great, but social is just the tip of the distribution iceberg. Email marketing helps; still, brands need to dig deeper to discover the distribution channels unique to their audiences. Could you include physical copies of content with certain products? Maybe sales and marketing can work together to target specific accounts and get relevant materials directly into their hands? Or maybe a speaking engagement is the best way to share your message with your audience?
Companies need to get creative and enthusiastic about getting their content in front of the right people. Passive distribution — or, worse, distribution you do as an afterthought once you realize no one is engaging with your content — won’t cut it. Don’t let your investment in content go to waste by sitting on some of your most valuable marketing assets.
The next year promises more of the same: a continued takeover by content marketing. As brands keep refining their strategies, lukewarm content approaches will no longer suffice. Companies must adapt or fade into irrelevance, and the way marketers see and respond to trends like these will determine the fate of their organizations.