Original Post by Jayson DeMers, Contributor, Forbes.com
Whether you realize it or not, chances are your business is already using content marketing as part of your overall marketing strategy.
With content marketing being arguably the most critical piece of an inbound marketing strategy, and with an estimated 60% of businesses employing some form of inbound in their marketing, we’re poised to see explosive growth in the way businesses ‘do’ marketing.
While consumers continue to tune out traditional, intrusive marketing communications, they increasingly crave the type of genuine, customer-focused information that content marketing delivers.
What is Content Marketing?
Before we get into my predictions for content marketing in 2014, let’s define content marketing. Content marketing is really about providing valuable information or content to current and potential customers for the purpose of building trust, branding, awareness, and positive sentiment. A successful content marketing campaign establishes you as an expert in your field, and that sets the groundwork for a long-term business relationship.
Simply put, its primary focus is on building the relationship, not the hard sell.
Types of content that typically form a content marketing strategy include:
- Blog posts
- Guest blog posts
- Email newsletters
- PowerPoint presentations
- Standard videos
- Micro-videos (ie, Vine)
- Social media posts
- Live presentations
- White papers
If you’re looking for more tips on building a content strategy, here are a few articles I’ve written that may help:
- How to Build a Kickass Content Strategy
- How to Execute A Converged Media Content Strategy
- How to Grow Your Personal Brand With Your Content Strategy
So, where is content marketing headed? What challenges and trends can we expect to see in 2014? Here are my predictions.
1. Businesses Will Finally be Able to Define Content Marketing
As mentioned previously, almost 60% of businesses are already using some form of content marketing as part of their overall marketing strategy.
However, I bet few of them would actually be able to define content marketing if asked to do so. Throughout 2014, I believe businesses will increasingly be able to explain what content marketing is, how it aligns with their larger business goals, and why it’s important. ‘Content marketing’ won’t just be a catch-all phrase used interchangeably with ‘marketing collateral’, but will have distinct importance within organizations.
2. The Top New Marketing Job Title Recruited and Hired will be “Director of Content”
With this increased awareness of what content marketing is and its importance, CEOs will be inclined to make investments in documented content strategies.
Greater departmental and company-wide support will mean more of the budget being designated for content creation and dissemination, and companies being willing to invest in dedicated content marketing managers.
Companies that don’t assign content creation and dissemination to specific people or departments will lose out.
According to HubSpot’s 2013 State of Inbound Marketing Report, companies that clearly define marketing and sales roles in relation to content marketing experience significantly lower customer acquisition costs than those without marketing/sales agreements.
Companies that continue to distribute responsibility haphazardly and diffusely will find their content marketing less effective and more costly than those who have a solid plan for content creation and distribution.
In June 2013, I wrote an article titled “The Job Title That You’ll Need to Hire by the End of 2013.” Unfortunately, I don’t think businesses have gotten the message yet. By the end of 2014, however, I predict most will have received it loud and clear, especially due to the recent Google algorithm changes and removal of keyword data from Google Analytics, which clearly illustrate Google’s desire to bring an end to old-school SEO efforts and necessitate content marketing strategies.
3. Mobile Content Marketing Strategies will Separate Winners from the Rest of the Pack
With the prediction that mobile will overtake desktop usage within the next 2 years, not incorporating mobile into a solid content strategy is no longer an option. Google’s recent rollout of its new algorithm, “Hummingbird,” along with the complete revocation of keyword data from Google Analytics, reinforce this prediction.
Creating content that can be read ‘on the go’ will become increasingly important, which means mobile-friendly formatting, shorter and more actionable blog posts, and considering which devices your audience will be using to access your content.
To learn about developing your own mobile content strategy, see my article Google Hummingbird: A Mobile Content Marketing Strategy Just Became Essential.
4. Calculating Content Marketing ROI Will Spawn New SAAS Software and Companies
Because the results of content marketing are often spread out over time, tracking and measuring ROI’s is difficult.
Businesses will need to come to terms with the fact that the results of inbound marketing techniques can’t always be measured on a case-by-case basis, but are often better calculated as a whole, over longer periods of time.
SAAS software and companies will emerge with various attempts at helping businesses calculate the ROI of their content marketing efforts, and many CEOs delving into content marketing for the first time will demand visibility into the profitability of their efforts. As such, these SAAS software companies will flourish.
5. Businesses Will Look for Ways to Automate Their Content Marketing, and These Efforts Will Fail
While content marketing will never be fully automated, businesses will continue to pursue ways of making it more efficient and less labor-intensive.
However, these attempts will result in lower quality content, which will cause entire strategies to backfire. Bad branding and sentiment resulting from poor-quality content will turn away customers rather than attract them. While there may eventually be a place for automation within content marketing, the strength of content marketing resides largely in its personal and customer-focused approach.
Many businesses will swing too far in the direction of automation in 2014 before finding a more balanced middle ground.
6. Google+ and Slideshare Will Become Essential for B2B Content Marketers
According to the Content Marketing Institute, B2B marketers are using social media to promote content more frequently than they did in 2012.
And with the predicted growth of Google+ in the coming year, I expect we’ll see it become an even more important tool for content dissemination and social sharing. This is largely due to its importance in Google Author Rank and Authorship, which I predict will be two of the dominant trends within the SEO industry by the end of 2014.
Slideshare will also continue to be a key player when it comes to content sharing, if it continues to follow it’s current trend: 40% of B2B marketers currently used it for content distribution, as compared to 23% the year before.
7. Location-Based Content Marketing Will Provide Huge ROI for Brick-and-Mortar Businesses
With the rise of mobile device usage, GPS-enabled smartphones will increasingly utilize location and personal-preference information to provide flash deals based on a user’s current location. While this technology already exists, it will become pervasive by the end of the 2014.
Brick-and-mortar storefronts that fail to adopt location-based content marketing strategies will see sales decline as their competitors cannibalize those sales with location-based flash deals, offers, and coupons.
Tech-savvy businesses will gain a significant upper hand in 2014 as they capitalize on the mobile device trend by implementing mobile content marketing strategies.
In 2014, businesses will need to increase their investment in content marketing. As a result, roadblocks to creating and executing content marketing strategies will continue to decline as CEOs and decision-makers more fully understand the importance of content marketing to reaching their business goals.
Where do you see content marketing going in 2014? Do you agree that businesses will be more willing to invest in content marketing strategies? Share your thoughts in the comments below!