Content marketing has been the buzzword du jour of the past five years in marketing circles, and it’s hard to blame CMOs or Marketing Managers for focusing on it when 84 percent of consumers expect brands to regularly create content that entertains, tells stories and provides solutions, according to research by the Havas Group. But it is not all sunshine and roses in the world of content marketing, especially when consumers feel 60 percent of content that brands produce is “just clutter.”
The sheer amount of varied content available to consumers today can make it seem like a herculean task to make a dent in the market. Content marketing as a strategy has reached a bit of an inflection point where marketers will have to decide how to move forward. To be clear, content marketing isn’t going anywhere; it’s just getting harder.
NeoMarketer.net spoke to six expert marketers via email and in-person to see what content marketing means to them and their business and what they think the future holds for brands who want to connect with their communities through content.
Jonathan Alpert is the Founder of Alpert Digital, an Israel-based boutique marketing firm that specializes in consulting and paid campaigns. To Alpert, while content marketing as a whole is here to stay, there will be big changes ahead in how brands will need to approach it.
“Content marketing isn’t a strategy, content marketing is the strategy. People want a story, people want value added to their everyday life. They’re so overwhelmed with options and information, advertising, and we’re programmed to be attracted to genuineness,” says Alpert.Jonathan Alpert, Alpert Digital
“Really good content marketing is what’s genuine. It’s not 4K, the highest quality video, the most professional-quality script or well-written article. It’s what hits home and what hits the heart. As we are evolving into a more automated world, the way to automate a content marketing strategy is to research what triggers people to engage and reverse-engineer your content that way.”
Alpert makes a strong case for content marketing as a tool for having an authentic conversation with your audience. One fact that has bewildered content creators since the advent of content marketing is the fact that production values have little bearing on whether content gains traction. Viewers are looking for genuineness in their influencers, be it an individual or brand, instead of the fanciest of visuals. Production values still matter to an extent, but the more personal the message, the more likely it will gain traction.
Indeed, the Harvard Business Review finds that the more powerful an emotion a piece of content evokes, the more likely it is to be shared or go viral. This is echoed by Luly B. Carreras, a Miami-based marketer and motivational speaker who offers professional development training for women and corporate teams and through her company, Luly B., Inc.
“Content marketing has become a beautiful way to not only market your business, but also to serve your community by sharing your expertise, experience, and perspective,” says Carreras.Luly B. Carreras, Luly B., Inc.
“Our world is demanding more and more every day for folks to step into courage and vulnerability, get on video, and share! Pull back the curtain, give us the real deal and impact us through your story.“
So in a world of sameness, the more personal you can make your brand story and your marketing, the better chance you will have of standing out in a crowded field. But will that be enough to overcome the vast quantity of content out there?
In this regard, AI may be able to lend a helping hand in identifying a target audience and target message. Machine learning can not only help marketers analyze which platform strategy is working best to determine profitable action, but also which keywords, topics and problems users are searching about, a technique known as text mining.
But even as AI positions itself to make us more clever marketers, we must remember that at the end of the day, we are trying to have human conversations with our audiences. So says Lin Humphrey, Ph.D., a faculty researcher at Florida International University’s Chapman Graduate School of Business.
“At the end of the day, AI is only as good as the modern marketer that programs it,” says Humphrey.Lin Humphrey, Ph.D.
“We have a good system of using channel-agnostic content to fuel a single voice for the brand, but we still need strategic, customer-focused marketers focused on the customer journey.”
“Only then, can we provide the right content to the right consumer to the right time in the right context based on their current needs.”
Focusing on the customer journey can mean paying extra attention to your buyer personas, fictional representations of your average customers, for which you can tailor personal experiences and effectively segment the market.
By understanding your buyer personas, and with a little AI magic on your side, you can not only deliver hyper-targeted content, but you can also deliver on that other tenet of the future of marketing: hyper-personalization.
With today’s modern CRM tools, we are more prepared than ever to make sure our content is as personalized as ever, in some cases right down to the individual. According to Lizzette Torrico, Director of Marketing at Miami Realty Brokers, this is a key to the future of content marketing.
“We are so fortunate nowadays to have the ability to learn about our customers on a deeper level. Salesforce is a prime example as it has integrated Einstein, the CRM wizard, to study customers’ needs, content, desires, and expectations throughout the customer journey,” said Torrico.Lizzette Torrico, Miami Realty Brokers
“You can now anticipate your customers’ desires via CRMs to offer a superior experience while they are moving through the entire sales process. These tools will help deliver more targeted and personalized content.”
If we are going to win the future of content marketing, we are not only going to have to create targeted, highly personal and emotional content, we are going to have to leverage our data to make sure that we are getting the right message, to the right customer, at the right time.
Speaking from the 2019 Adobe MAX convention in Los Angeles, where the software giant announced the newest tools to make creating content easier than ever, Saranya Babu, SVP of Marketing for the project-management solutions company Wrike, also sees an opportunity to leverage consumer data to do better content marketing.
“In terms of content marketing and the delivery of the content, if you look at the last ten years, it has made huge strides. Previously in terms of web content, there wasn’t a lot of variations,” said Babu.Saranya Babu, Wrike
“Now there is so much that people want to cut through the noise, and customers are tuning out. Infographics were big, then customers started tuning those out too. Then we started to see new types of things, like volumeless [text] videos on Facebook, so there’s always going to be something new.”
“In terms of AI, maybe it can help us know what type of customers are responding to what type of content so that we can then put that in front of them. Right now it’s more of a guess; we’re just putting it out there. And by being more targeted we can also avoid audience fatigue.”
Babu brings up a good point about the scattershot way that content is usually disseminated these days. Having great, relevant and useful content isn’t good enough anymore in a world where 5 percent of all content is responsible for 90 percent of consumer engagement.
Brands must increasingly focus on their niche and target their most loyal consumers. Simply creating content for an untargeted mass audience is an easy way to spend a lot of time and resources for very little or unclear ROI.
Michelle Tulande, Social Media Manager for Florida International University in Miami, suggests that while content marketing can still be a winning content strategy for brands, but focusing on the right target audience is almost as important as the act of creating itself.
“As the digital space continues to grow and become more competitive, ignoring content marketing will be detrimental to any business,” says Tulande.Michelle Tulande, M.S.
“Versus casting a wide net with content that is meant for ‘everyone,’ focusing and understanding your loyal audience and crafting content for them specifically is what will positively impact a company’s bottom line.”
“As digital marketers continue to navigate the ever-changing marketing landscape, we must continue to adapt to meet our consumers where they are with the content they’re interested in.”
So what can we gather from all these expert testimonials? Well one this is clear: in today’s world where a simple Google search for “SEO” will return more than 606M results, people have more choices than ever when it comes to the content they choose to consume, and it is no longer a viable strategy to blindly create content without a clear goal and audience in mind.
With brands doubling or even tripling their content output every year, consumers are being overwhelmed with choices, and few are going past page one in a Google search when seeking information. Abandoning content marketing as a strategy, however, is not a very feasible option since the boundaries of what defines content are so fluid. Content marketing will never become a thing of the past in the same way that, say, print ads have. It will just change in scope and tactics.
To stand a chance in this hyper-competitive landscape, brands are marketers are going to have to create highly personal and emotional content that can cut through the sameness and banality of most content out there. Marketers are going to have to use the latest AI technology to identify the most effective platform strategies for them and their business, but also to identify the right topics and keywords used by their target buyer personas.
Leveraging tools like AI and CRM databases will allow us to target, personalize and cater content like never before, and also help us deliver our content in the most contextual ways. You not only want to delight the consumer with content delivered at the right time and to the right person, but also in the right context. Content marketers must also always have their eyes to the horizon in search of the newest platforms to host content and the newest technologies that will allow us to create content in the most engaging formats.
Armed with these insights, we can design content strategies that will serve our brands well in the 2020s. After all, 75 percent of consumers claim to be interested in content that is “relevant to them,” regardless of whether it is branded or not. This represents a huge opportunity, and the appetite for content is still there. But we as marketers have our work cut out for us making sure that we are creating the right content, delivering it to the right person, at the right time, in the right place, while still making it as human as possible.