The Futurist’s Guide to Content Marketing

Thanks to the Internet, the age-old art of content marketing is evolving. The information superhighway has become one of the most powerful platforms for marketing, and marketers have learned that it’s not enough to embrace industry trends as they become popular. The only way to win this fast-paced game is to recognize trends before they go mainstream—or to create a trend from whole cloth.

Trendspotting or creating new trends can be done with data. Data can also help an executive determine where to put marketing budget, or help a marketing manager target her audience, or help a content creator shape content based on customer needs. And according to social media and design expert Geoff Colon, data can give marketers a glimpse into the future of content marketing.

The science of content

An effective marketing campaign requires more than creativity; it requires attention to detail and the ability to measure outcomes. In short, today’s most effective marketing has its roots in science.

As group marketing manager for Bing Ads, Geoff Colon devotes his time to researching and developing the best content and social strategies for Microsoft’s search properties. But Colon also styles himself a futurist—and sometimes, his prognostications are correct.

In the July-August 2012 issue of The Futurist magazine, Colon predicted that the “C-suite” would welcome executives who focused on content, with titles like Chief Content Officer, Chief Data Scientist, and Earned Media Officer.

Several of Colon’s imagined roles have become common at agencies and big brands, and one content marketing organization has devoted a major publication to a job he envisioned. The data scientist role has been particularly important for marketing departments and agencies, because of its focus on using data to determine how current and potential customers will behave based on their actions. Colon’s advice on how brands and agencies should allocate marketing budget could prove to be accurate as well.

The future content budget breakdown

Quality content is a relatively small part of a successful content marketing campaign. But the best content doesn’t mean much if it doesn’t get seen. With the volume of content on the Internet, it’s possible—even likely—that your content won’t reach its target audience without help. How do you reach your target readers?

“If this was 2007,” Colon says, “I would say take your marketing budget and put aside 20 percent for content. But it’s 2014…and as a result, I would put almost 60 percent of my budget into content development and marketing.”

With approximately 30 percent of B2B marketing budgets and about 24 percent of B2C marketing budgets allocated to content marketing, 60 percent represents a significant commitment. But Colon’s estimate includes much more than content creation—that 60 percent includes research, distribution, and tracking of content. Starting with research is critical.

“What is your audience talking about?” Colon asks. “How can you be a part of that conversation? What [do] you have to offer the world?”

Content distribution and tracking also represent an important part of the overall content marketing budget. Colon believes that following audiences and their behaviors around content is just as important as identifying them.

“Too many marketers create content, but don’t map out an experience to distribute that content to where it needs to go or track it to make sure it’s having a desired effect,” he says. Tracking software can be costly, but the investment can help marketing departments determine which types of content resonates with target audiences. That’s data that can help shape future content marketing campaigns.

Companies willing to invest in content marketing must now consider how they will ensure the content they create reaches its target audiences. And for many brands and agencies, the future of content promotion and distribution can impact their success today.