The changing online environment has forced marketers to rethink the way they use content to attract and retain users. Content marketing is not only about creating great blog posts that appeal to your desired audience, it’s about strategizing around SEO, content depth, brand messaging and also desired results. Looking at 2018, marketers need to assess their content marketing strategy and take steps to plan ahead and ultimately achieve success.
In 2017, 90% of marketers used content marketing as a primary source for lead generation. However, only 28% of these think their company content marketing strategy is mature enough to consistently yield desired results. Although content is seen as a major contributor in generating leads, marketers are not confident of their ability to actually link their content marketing strategy to results, driven also by past lack of ability on delivering such.
Looking at 2018, companies using online channels as their main way to attract new and retain existing users, need to plan ahead for their content marketing strategy to make sure no effort is wasted.
Here are 10 steps on how to stay ahead of the competition and make sure your company stays relevant for your audience:
1. Carefully Check Past Results
Starts with the basics. Check what happened in 2017 and analyze it. No plan makes sense without an in-depth analysis of past activities. Before getting into creative brainstorming and finding new cool ideas, take a look at what worked and what didn’t in your content strategy in 2017.
There are few basic questions you need to give an answer before making a plan:
- What type of blog posts generated the most lead?
- What topics generated the most engagement?
- What headlines had great CRT?
- What activities were you able to directly link to some sort of business results?
It is crucial to be honest and critically assess results. Based on this analysis, your team will need to develop the 2018 content marketing strategy.
2. Assess Again Desired Audience Interest
A consequence of checking past results is to then take into consideration if the interests of your desired audience has changed during the course of the last 12 months.
It’s important to have this in your to-do list, because in any industry there are trends that you need to follow and you cannot miss on. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Is there any new trend that is shaping your industry?
- Is your audience more sensitive to specific topics or services that didn’t exist in 2017?
- Are your competitors talking about something new you have touched upon yet?
All these questions should help you and your marketing team assess again your audience interests and craft relevant topic to today’s problems, not yesterday’s thoughts.
3. Content Marketing is an in-house matter
Although it might be tempting to use external content or outsource part of your content marketing team, you will have issues in creating those appealing piece of content we mentioned above.
Who better than your in-house marketing team can craft what matters to your audience as well as explaining correctly what your company does?
According to a 2017 research by the Content Marketing Institute, more than half of the companies out there have a centralized team that is taking care of the content marketing strategy for the entire organization, with 22% having a centralized team and only 5% having a dedicated team for specific products or brands.
If you haven’t done so yet, you need to have a team of dedicated persons that follow your content marketing strategy carefully. If you don’t, your business is missing out on clear opportunities to engage with your audience.
4. Connect Content Marketing To Desired Company Results
An important step to take in 2018 (and the years to come) is to align your content marketing strategy to your company results.
How many times have you asked yourself if the content is aligned with the overall strategy? Are you just producing content for the sake of being out there or is there a clear objective that can be traced back to your company plans?
As the same study showed, only 28% of marketers believe their marketing strategy is in a “mature/sophisticated” state, which translates in an overall poor alignment with the company goals in over 70% of the cases.
5. Enhance Content Creation
Content should be interesting as well as engaging. Design content with the idea of attracting audience attention and break through the “content noise” online.
Considering that the average users approach content online has changed over the course of the last few years, you need to make sure your company strategy is up-to-date. Mobile (including tablet) has become the most used medium for casual content consumption, for this reason, it is crucial to upgrade the content quality for such delivery.
6. Strategize The Content Delivery And Stick To It
Content marketing strategy is not only about blog post creation, but covers also distribution channels for the content created. According to HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2017, a study looking at content trends, content distribution is the 3rd priority for 47% of marketers.
With content distribution being one of the top 3 priorities looking at 2018 for almost 50% of the companies out there, you cannot afford not to have a clear distribution plan in place and stick to it for the long run.
Great content remains average if no one reads it. Strategize on how to reach your desired audience and test during the course of the year on how to keep improving your distribution channels.
According to the same research, video is still big and it’s not difficult to understand why. Video content is easy to consume and requires less commitment from a user standpoint. Almost 50% of marketers seeing Youtube and Facebook Video as their main mediums for content distribution.
7. Optimize For New Search Channels
2018 is going to be the year of testing new channels for content marketers. Users are changing the way they consume content, so you need to make sure to be on top of the game and anticipate changes that might make you lose contact with your desired audience.
Artificial Intelligence and Bots, for example, are new technologies that took a predominant position in 2017. With these two already having a big impact in other areas, like lead generation and management, some companies are already experimenting with AI and content creation.
Another important trend to keep an eye on, especially in 2018, is voice search. It has been estimated by comScore that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be voice searches.
Do you know if your audience is using voice search to find out content online? And what are they using voice search for?
As the “future” arrives, marketers need to be aware of how users habits are shifting and adapt to them. Do not let things go, just because you believe it’s not here yet. Once it arrives here, you will be late to the game.
8. Personalize Your Content Strategy
Generic content will not make you stand out in 2018. Highly personalized, targeted information is what you need to work on for this year. Account-based marketing (ABM) is going to be the key for successful content creation.
Personalization is an expected evolution in all marketing activities. Users are tired of being considered just another piece in a bigger group, they are looking for extremely relevant information and targeted campaigns to buy from. 94% of executives believe that personalization is critical to reaching customers, are you willing to missing out on your competitors?
If highly personalized content marketing strategy is too complicated for your team at this stage, then start taking the step towards creating highly targeted activities. Approaching new trends and activities can be complicated when resources are limited; however, ignoring those changes can be fatal to your business.
9. Diversify Social Media Strategy
Earned media is without any doubt the most complicated media to master. You are the mercy of 3rd party platform, that can change the rule of the game without letting you know. Although difficult to crack, marketers cannot just ignore it or simply hope things will go well.
Like anything else in business, but not only, you should never put all your eggs in one basket. It is no news that Facebook has seen a decline in organic reach, but the more content is created, the more competition there will be out there, the more difficult it will be for you to reach “for free” organic users.
Take in consideration the above point, and it becomes clear that relying only one source to reach your desired audience can be a very dangerous game. Diversification is the keyword here, not paid marketing. Social media is still one of the most preferred channels users get access to their content.
10. Think Outside Of The Box
The last part that you need to consider when planning your content marketing strategy for this 2018, is creativity. At this point, you understand that your content is competing for attention with other millions of other posts. What about creating some engagement within the content? Or perhaps looking at some interactive solutions?
Your marketing team will need to spend time on testing and finding out what’s the best strategy to align to what engagement you are looking for.
All in all, 2018 (and the years to come) are going to be more and more challenging for companies trying to reach their audience with a marketing message. Content marketing will play an even bigger role in most companies’ strategies, you should not ignore it, you should embrace the challenge and beat your competition at the game with these steps.