There is more content marketing floating around than ever, and it makes sense why: it's no longer a walk in the park to capture someone's attention with a flashy logo or jingle. With all the noise out there, consumers are looking for something valuable: a story. If done right, content can be inherently valuable, which is why so many marketers are focusing on it (and have been for years).
But here's the problem: while many companies understand that they need to produce content in order to capture consumers' attention and build relationships, they are going about it all wrong. They might have a teen-oriented product, yet they're trying to get their prospective customers to opt in to a long-form weekly e-mail. They might have a business aimed at someone between the ages of 45 and 65, but they're spending a lot of time on Snapchat because they know it's the next big thing, and they're eschewing more age-appropriate Facebook strategies. The fact is that it's not easy to pull off a complex content marketing strategy, especially when you don't know where your ideal audience is and what they're looking for.
That's why one of the biggest friends for the successful content marketer is data. The more you know about your customers, trending topics in the marketplace, and the people who are engaging with those topics, the more you can tailor your content and your targeting to cut through the noise and connect directly with the people you want to reach.
This concept is not new to big data companies, who understand that allowing businesses to know more about their customers lets marketers tailor their content to them--very effectively. Take Madison Logic, for instance: through a mix of targeted advertising and content marketing, and driven by a vast pool of data, they can pinpoint when a given person is doing research and, based on this information, target that person with the most relevant content. It's a more nimble, more data-driven form of content marketing that can help a business get a leg-up in the noisy world of content.
"Content marketing and B2B marketing have always gone hand and hand like the boon companions they are," says Tom Koletas, SVP of Global Media at Madison Logic. "Recent trends have drawn them even closer, and soon they'll be inextricable if they're not already."
In Tom's opinion, here's what will likely happen to content marketing in the next five years:
- Data will increasingly influence content creation--There's a huge amount of data out there, but not every marketer is making use of it. Social, search trends, intent data, all these reveal what prospects are interested in. At Madison Logic, we track intent data and can see topic surges in the marketplace. We create content to match these surges. Data is essential. More marketers will start listening to surges to see what will resonate with their audience.
- Video--Younger people are entering the workforce and have completely different ways of consuming information. I don't think that long form whitepapers are going away, but we'll see an increased use of video that is both innovative and informative. Already we're seeing marketers use 360-degree video, interactive video, live video. Some say that Snapchat is going to be a big thing for B2B, we have yet to see, but the first brand to get a handle on it will probably see a huge impact.
- Mobile--Again, younger people consume information differently. A surprising amount of B2B research is being done on mobile devices at atypical times, not just the 9-5. Whitepapers won't work on a phone. But video is great for a phone; an ebook--done right--is perfect for a tablet. Marketers will have to make content that crosses all devices. I said before that I don't think whitepapers are going away. I do believe that eventually they'll become something different.
- Interactivity--If whitepapers become anything, they'll become more interactive. Already we've seen video and other tools in ebooks. This will happen to whitepapers, too. Imagine clicking on a video in a whitepaper to get the tl;dr of a five-page analysis. Information needs to be easy to consume. Do that while still conveying the essentials and you'll really have something. Content marketing is made to help, not to sell.
If someone starts to talk to you about their B2B marketing strategy and there's no content involved, you'll consider them as crazy as someone who says they love to play golf but without the golf ball. As you devise your content marketing strategy, don't ask yourself "What kind of content should I make?" but rather, "How can I make better content?"
There's no doubt that as content marketing becomes louder, slicker, and more omnipresent, the need to do it better will only continue increasing. And by gathering data on your customers, your prospects, and trends in the marketplace, companies like Madison Logic can take a lot of the guesswork out of it. Instead of trying to figure out what your prospective customers are interested in, you can take a look at exactly what they're interested in, and you can let it inform your decisions as you continue to refine your approach to content marketing.