Content marketing isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’s getting more and more sophisticated as new formats (e.g. voice and smart audio), advanced methodologies (e.g. agile marketing), and cross-functional strategies (e.g. an integrated approach) are being employed to meet the heightened expectations customers have when it comes to the content experience.
Coming off the back of one of the industry’s largest conferences — Content Marketing World — now is the opportune time to do a roundup of the biggest shifts that marketers can expect to see in content marketing in 2019 and beyond. From how to build the best team to planning for the future of content and implementing agile strategies, these are the five trends from this year’s CMW that every marketer should pay attention to.
1. Building, growing, (and keeping) the best content team
With an entire track focused on teams and culture, building high-performing marketing teams was a big topic at CMW 2019.
According to Babbel’s Executive Producer of Content, Jennifer Jordan, executing successful, omnichannel campaigns with innovative creative all begin with building an A-team. The best way to do that is by starting with who and how you hire. Though it can be difficult to ensure from just a couple of interviews that the person you’re hiring has the knowledge and grit required, there are some ways you can safeguard against a hire that doesn’t quite fit. Jennifer, who was responsible for growing Babbel’s content team, listed some essential do’s and don’ts:
DON’T: Waste your time reading cover letters — they rarely provide information that isn’t already found in a resume and they don’t give any indication of the applicant’s quality of work.
DO: Require applicants to provide a portfolio (website, blog, YouTube, etc.), and have them complete a short assignment that will demonstrate the skills required for the role to which they’re applying.
DON’T: Hire for culture fit. Contrary to popular belief, this may not actually be in the best interest for the marketing team (or the organization as a whole). Why? It can lead to a lack of diversity, points of view, and creativity — all of which are important aspects of a well-rounded content team.
DO: Hire for potential. Review portfolios and hiring assignments to make sure skills are in line with what’s required for the role. Other indications of a good hire are qualities like having a growth mindset and grit.
Once you have your A-team, it’s important to set individual goals with each member based on their role and ensure that everyone is being given the opportunity to learn and grow. Here are a few best practices from Jennifer for content team leaders to keep in mind:
- Set expectations. Everyone on your team should know the team’s goals and mission and should be able to answer the questions: What are my priorities? How do I contribute to the business? Personalize the goals for each team member’s production (both quantity and quality), and provide them with regular feedback.
- Balance content creation. Content marketers are inherently creative people. And while producing content that drives leads and business results should be a part of your content strategy, make sure that there is sufficient opportunity for your team to create content that is interesting to them. Jennifer recommends the 80/20 rule: 80% of content should “pay the bills” (e.g. SEO, performance campaigns, etc.), and 20% should be creative experimentation (e.g. new media formats, content hack days, etc.).
- Prioritize creativity. Competition for attention in today’s content ecosystem is fierce, so creativity and innovation are paramount. Give your team a chance to get their creative juices flowing by regularly dedicating time to brainstorming sessions. You never know — this might lead to a standout campaign that will land your team on a “top content marketing” list.
The last thing to consider when heading a content marketing team is that it starts with the leader. As Jennifer mentioned at the end of her session at Content Marketing World, leaders have to model the behavior that they expect of their team.
2. Integrating teams for a better brand experience
Piggybacking off building a high-performing content marketing team, another trend for 2019 is driving organizational change within marketing — starting with content marketers. By changing the way marketing teams work — operating as collaborative, cross-functional teams rather than in silos — brands are better able to ensure consistent messaging and tone of voice across every channel in a campaign. And according to Shafqat Islam, NewsCred’s CEO, content marketers need to be the catalyst for the shift to integrated campaigns.
In his session, Shafqat pointed out that consumers have come to expect a consistent content experience. And by making the shift to integrated marketing, marketers can ensure unified messaging, build their brands, optimize resources, and improve marketing results.
Why does this fall on the shoulders of content marketers? Think about the entirety of a campaign. There are many moving parts, but the one deliverable that remains consistent (and necessary) is content. It’s the steel thread of the marketing organization, so content marketers are in the best position to drive organizational change and an integrated approach, which will ultimately better support their content efforts and influence campaign performance.
Use this template to get started creating and executing integrated campaigns.
3. Preparing for the channels of the future
Imagine a world without screens. Imagine not having to go to Google to type in a search inquiry or not having to navigate to your favorite online store in order to buy new shoes. Now, imagine doing it all by voice instead. That’s what Mitch Joel of Six Pixels Group discussed during his session around the future of content marketing and emerging technologies. And though he acknowledged we’re not quite at the point where screens will become obsolete, statistics show that we are on the cusp of shifting to a smart audio society in some capacity.
According to Voicebot.ai, smart speaker ownership is on the rise with 3.25 billion devices currently having voice technology, which is estimated to scale to 8 billion by 2024. And a Gartner report has corroborated Mitch’s prediction of the boom of smart audio, stating that in 4 years, 30% of searches will happen without a screen. So what does this mean for content marketers?
Though we shouldn’t expect actual search engine use to plummet for some time, content marketers need to begin considering how consumers might search with voice in addition to a traditional SEO strategy. For example, one might type into Google “Hi in French,” to learn how to greet someone in French. But if they were to be searching via voice and asking Alexa, one might say, “Alexa: How do you say hi in French?” Brands will need to begin to think about how they can create content that will reach their audience both on-screen and by voice.
4. Using Netflix as a content model
Netflix is repeatedly used as the golden example of content personalization. From its suggestions based on what you’ve recently watched to its algorithm that chooses the most enticing tile images for programs based on your behavior in their platform, it’s no wonder. But there’s something else marketers can take away from Netflix’s content strategy: serialized programming.
Serialized programming is the model on which TV series and podcasts are built. And according to a session presented by Mark Bornstein of ON24, these TV-like experiences are what really resonates with audiences. If consumers like the content you’re putting out, then they’re going to want more, so taking an episodic approach to content will help you build engagement and give a reason for your audience to keep coming back.
It’s easy to see this in terms of a B2C approach (think: Vogue’s YouTube series, “73 Questions Answered by Your Favorite Celebs,” that get over 10 million views each), but this model can work for B2B marketers, too. Creating a webinar series is a great way to introduce serialized content to your content marketing program. In fact, 48% of buyers prefer webinars compared to any other format, according to Demand Gen Report.
Here are some quick tips from Mark’s session for creating a successful, engaging webinar series:
- The goal should be focused on building the audience rather than generating leads
- Keep it interesting with casual “coffee talks” as a format rather than slideshow presentations
- Have a regular cadence (e.g. monthly, weekly, etc.)
- Use an established host
- Use creative branding for the webinar that’s different from your regular branding
- Integrate the experience with social (e.g. live-tweeting, stream preview clips, etc.)
- Suggest another webinar or piece content based on what the viewer has watched
5. Executing with agile marketing
Though many engineering teams are familiar with the agile methodology, how does it translate to a modern marketing organization? In NewsCred’s Shafqat Islam’s presentation, he emphasized agile marketing as a way to help marketing teams become more integrated, more collaborative, and more successful. For marketers, agility means continuously iterating on and optimizing content and campaigns and using agile methodologies powered by technology. Taking an agile approach was listed among Shafqat’s 5 traits of modern, integrated marketing, along with being collaborative, transparent, aligned, and scalable.
One of the biggest takeaways for having success with agile marketing is getting full executive buy-in and commitment from the top-down, according to Andrea Fryrear, President and Lead Trainer at AgileSherpas. She explained the importance of having everyone on board when getting started with agile marketing. And while you can expect people to be resistant to change, true agility won’t be possible if you have detractors.
That’s all for CMW 2019! Thank you to everyone who attended our CEO’s session, stopped by our booth, and drank some cold brew. If you weren’t able to make it, request a demo and one of our experts will be in touch!
Ali Hart is NewsCred’s Content Marketing Manager.