Content Marketing in 2016
How fast is marketing changing? Content marketing in 2016 is quite different than the previous year.
Content and inbound marketing – and marketing in general – are changing so quickly that it’s challenging for even an inbound marketing agency to keep up.
The change is coming from two places. First, as an agency, we’re changing what we do to innovate and deliver better results for clients.
Second, the tools are changing daily. That means how we do what we do has to change, too. This makes keeping up very difficult. If you’re running a marketing team in-house or you’re responsible for marketing but using outside resources, this becomes even more difficult.
As a Founder/CEO of a Inbound Marketing Agency in Edmonton, my job is to lead a team of marketers and help them with activities like testing new technologies, experimenting with new inbound tactics and measuring performance. If you’re a CEO, CRO (Chief Revenue Officer), VP of Sales and Marketing, I imagine you have other, more pressing issues.
Changes in Buyer Behaviour
Look at your own buyer behaviour. How many times in the last few months have you hopped online and purchased something from a website? Many times, I’m sure. How many times have you been disappointed with your in-store experience? It happens to me almost every day. How much research do you do online before you purchase anything? I’m guessing a lot.
Now apply these concepts. Do you still watch TV commercials when you record your shows? Do you listen to commercials when you download music or access Spotify? Do you see ads on your laptop when you run an ad blocker? Do you answer your office phone if you don’t recognize the caller ID? No, no, no and no. We don’t buy like we used to, and that buyer behaviour continues to evolve. The key is getting your marketing to evolve with it.
Google And Search Changes
The search engines change their algorithms every few months – not with the business in mind, but with the searcher or the consumer in mind. They have one simple goal: get customers the best, most valuable information in the most efficient way. Their goal is to weed through tons of information and present only the best (as measured by value derived from other searchers).
So, all of your technical documents, all of your product pages and all of your keyword-stuffed landing pages are going to have less value.
What will have value is the well-written, highly educational, super creative content that people click on, share and come back for time and time again. If you’re not creating this type of content and answering questions for people searching, you’re going to be invisible to the search engines.
Social Media Changes
You might be able to sense it. Facebook and Twitter are losing momentum fast. There’s going to be a new wave of social sites that have meteoric rises and reshape the social media landscape. The best place to look for these sites is with people aged 18 to 25. You don’t have to look very hard to see them using Snapchat, Instagram and WhatsApp – three social media sites that allow them to do things the other sites don’t.
But, there are new sites coming up, too, like Medium, Hyper, Ello and Goodreads. All of these are communities that allow collaboration, sharing and ideation, and they focus on a variety of medias. Some focus on short-form blog articles, others on photos and still more on longer-form content like books.
How you get attention on social sites, how you engage with followers, how you target followers on these sites and how you build your community is going to change dramatically over the next 12 to 18 months.
Is your website more than three years old? It doesn’t take a website genius to see that sites look and act much differently today than they did even 12 months ago. I still remember clients telling us how important it was for certain information to be “above the fold.” Now we laugh at that concept.
Today, sites have long, scrolling pages that tell elaborate stories with big, bold text, pictures, video and interactive features. They have dynamic, scrolling mechanisms like parallax and anchors for key text sections. You have to be selective about what copy you want on each page, and you have to strategically map out your visitor’s journey, page-by-page, offer by offer, story by story.
And that’s not even the biggest change. Today, your website should be a living, breathing element of your marketing. If you’re not working on your website every single month, adding or optimizing it every single month and making adjustments to its performance every single month, you are limiting the overall ability of your marketing to drive business results.
Do I even need to include a section on the speed at which technology is changing the way we buy things, talk to each other and engage companies? Phones are getting smaller, and they’re being integrated into our cars, our clothes, our watches and our homes. The way we search the web today is different than 12 months ago, and it’s going to change again.
As business owners, CEOs and marketing leaders, our job is to see the future and prepare ourselves and our companies to take advantage of the changes that are coming down the pike. Now is not the time to put your head in the sand and say, “I don’t need to worry about that.” Now is the time to say, “How can we leverage that to better serve our clients and better support our prospects?”
WORKFLOW AND DATA CHANGES
Initially, this section was going to be two sections, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized these two dramatic changes are intertwined. Marketing used to be all about the creative. In fact, most of the digital agencies around today still focus solely on the creative. But, the reality of marketing now is that data rules the day. We don’t want to wait three to six months while our ads are running to know if our marketing is working or not.
Today, we launch a site, we launch a campaign, we launch a series of emails, we launch social media marketing, and in a matter of days, we have live, real-time data on the performance of those campaigns. This data drives our program from there. So, the actual prospect response to our campaign now impacts our decision-making on the rest of that campaign.
We’ll look at campaign data daily, weekly and monthly across a wide variety of tactics and plan out short, 30-day planning cycles and weekly sprints for our clients based on that information. This methodology, which we borrowed from the software development space, allows us to be much more responsive to the data, make real-time adjustments and, most important, deliver much better business results to our clients.
If your marketing is running without data or it’s still on a 12-month marketing planning cycle, it’s working with old thinking that was valid two years ago. Today, your team should be planning for the next 30 days only, and that plan should be built based on the data you get from your live marketing. Perhaps more importantly, your marketing team should be projecting performance numbers for the next 30, 60 and 90 days and working to deliver those numbers.
The days of marketing as an art are over. Today, we’re all scientists if you’re practicing marketing correctly.
Start Today Tip – How outdated is your marketing effort? Are you using data to make decisions? Do you have access to the data you need? Are you planning on shorter cycles based on this data, and are you forcing your marketing team to be accountable for measurable numbers? This is something you can fix quickly. But, what you might not be able to fix quickly is your team’s ability to execute the new inbound marketing tactics, including content, conversion, strategic website design, user flow through your site and the new search strategy. If that’s the case, you might need to consider a new team.