By definition, B2B content marketing is a strategic approach to create and promote material that is
consistent, engaging and purposeful. Over time, the ultimate goal has been to drive customers to
take actions that are profitable. While the goal will remain the same in 2018, the means of getting
there will start to take quantum leaps. The asset refresh cycles of your enterprise clients may not be
dramatically changing either. However, the type of content you push to them during, before or after
pitching a sale is about to change. In fact, it already has.
“Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about 3 times as many
leads” - DemandMetric
The digital world is not consuming content the way it used to – even a few years ago. In 2018, there
will be a much stronger case made for it; from the growing dependence of marketing automation to
the emergence of newer interaction channels and smarter devices. Content marketing will strive
harder to tell interesting stories and create positive experiences. Rather than driving clients to the
point of sale by being a front-seat passenger, it will be the steering wheel – with which they can
navigate through a memorable brand journey.
Here are the top 5 milestones, which content marketers should focus upon, for the year 2018.
Use content as fuel, not fodder
In 2018, B2B digital content will further move from its role as the fodder to attract audiences, who
are potential customers or brand ambassadors, by catering to their basic expectations. It will
become the very fuel that can be used to build an audience and empower them to start the brand
journey. These days, virtually no facet of the marketing function can stand on its own without the
content being its driving force. Let’s take a quick glance at a few of them.
Social media distribution
“Almost 60% of marketers reuse content two to five times. They generate “snackable” content based on assets” - LookBookHQ
Each one has been traditionally using content as a show-and-tell piece of their overall strategy.
Recent years, though, have seen it move towards a more strategic direction. In some sense, it will
climb down from its penthouse and make a nice little home for itself in the parking lot, which
literally sounds like a downgrade but the fact is that – it goes to show the emerging role of content
as the foundation of all things marketing. Next year, it will gradually play a bigger role in formulating
sales strategies, and consequently - influence benchmarks for setting revenue expectations.
Rise of the KIRR principle
For decades, the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle that advocates narrative coherence has been imbibed into the consciousness of content writers. Whether B2B or B2C, it has been drilled into their heads to make the message as simple as possible. It has done a great job in helping content marketers keep a majority of the fluff out of content production. In 2018, though, this principle will begin to outstay its welcome in the B2B world.
“Keeping it simple” may remain as sound advice to aspiring content specialists, but as far as a daily reminder while executing B2B marketing campaigns are concerned – there is a new sheriff in town.
The ‘Keep It Real, Rascal’ (KIRR) principle.
“58% of marketers said ‘original written content’ is the most important type of content” - Social
“Keeping it real” is a pop culture adage that braves people to communicate honestly about how
they think or what they feel. In content marketing, the KIRR principle recommends that brands
should imbibe the spirit of transparency in their messaging. While the social mindset of millennials
has been progressively shifting to be more accepting of flaws in others – the truth is that they have
no time or patience for self-serving agendas while interacting with businesses. A few years ago, any
PR exercise on going green or giving back to the society had a positive impact in the minds of
customers. In today’s cynical climate, these are sniffed out as being gimmicks. Addressing service
pain points, funky-fresh product features or revenue potential of technologies during lead generation campaigns have gone through similar changes, as well. There is a growing necessity for
brands to come across as realistic agents of change, rather than inter-galactic superheroes with
magical powers to make all your problems disappear at low cost and with high ROI.
Video killed your text-y star
Recognizing the importance of video-based content has gone through various levels of acceptance.
From being a show-stealer and a game-changer, it is now a no-brainer. It has risen to the top of
content market priorities. There is simply no escaping it. There are no excuses either, considering the advancements in video production and the ease with which – stackable digital content can be created these days. Whether client testimonials, promotional material for events, product demos or
solution explainers – videos are currently ruling the roost.
Livestreaming, in particular, has been keeping a steady pace since 2015. With the advent of Facebook and YouTube Live as reliable platforms for effectively distributing content, adoption of streaming platforms is not just here to stay but it is here to leave a lasting impact.
“Every second, a million minutes, or almost 17,000 hours of video content will cross the network by
2021” - Cisco
Here is what it can do for B2B brands:
Maximizing the potential of beta testing on new products of services through expansive real-
Creating a memorable walkthrough for new customers to guide them through
implementation, troubleshooting or upselling / cross-selling
Showcasing project updates for stakeholders to have a real-time view pf pressing issues
Taking customers backstage at corporate events and giving them a first-hand experience
There is no foreseeable reason why the trend of video-based content marketing will see a slowdown in 2018. Chances are extremely high that there will be more dependence on it to drive traffic and grow audiences.
Say what? No, really... say what!
Recent studies on the usage of voice-controlled devices have one clear thing to tell content marketers – You better get onboard!
“50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020” - comscore
“By 2019, the voice recognition market will be a $601 million industry” - Technovia
“40% of adults now use voice search once per day” – Location World
In 2018, being aware of new channels of communication will only be half the battle. The onus will be on their adoption as part of your annual content strategy. With casual discourses being the main course of customer-related conversations, voice-controlled technology is moving from being a buzzword into an action item on the quintessential content marketer’s checklist. Being an early adopter and developing audio content for the B2B customers can lead to an upward swing in the momentum of your brand value.
Otherwise, your content will not reach wherever your customer chooses to be. That is a death-knell for any other efforts you make to engage your customers. They will turn around and say, “Where were you when I needed you?”
Automatic For The Marketer
Automation technologies have been one of the fastest-growing trends in marketing for close
to half a decade. According to Forrester Research, “58% of the top-performing companies
where marketing contributes more than half of the sales pipeline have adopted marketing
automation”. In 2018, content marketers will have to opt for automation tools in order to
differentiate themselves while ensuring efficiency and regularity of publication. This will also
assist brands in acquiring the interest levels of certain groups of individuals who are looking
to access content on a scheduled basis.
A recent study by Google Keyword Planner has stated that “the monthly Google searches for Marketing Automation grew from 14.800 in February 2015 to 44.200 in February 2017”. This is not a sign that marketers are scrambling hitherto to meet the expectations of their customers. It is a clear indication that they are ready to jump on the automation bandwagon to aim for better results.
The year 2018 will be as challenging for B2B content marketers as it will be exciting. As barriers turn into opportunities and challenges are seen future-proof strategies, content will remain the king of marketing. There will be no toppling the king. Certainly, not in 2018!
(The author is the content head and brand strategist, Servion Global Solutions)