Getting content marketing right in 2016

SUMMARY:

Content marketing isn’t about quantity – that much we know. But that doesn’t solve the problem of “return on content.” So where does that leave us for 2016?

team-solving-puzzleI’ve spent a lot of time this year writing about content marketing. It’s a hot topic and everyone is doing it (or at least says you should be doing it). But content marketing is a tough area of marketing to get right.

Content marketing is not fully understood. Many organizations start out with this idea that they simply need to produce content – a lot of content – and people will pay attention and love them. If it were that easy. there would be a lot of media brands out there making a lot of money instead of watching their business go down the tubes.

It’s never going to be about quantity.

Two core elements of content marketing

There are two things you need to get right from the beginning to do content marketing right. The first is that you need to fully understand your market and the audience(s) you want to reach. If you don’t know who they are, where they hang out online, and in the real world, who they listen to and what kind of content they read, then any plan you make is probably wasted effort.

The second thing you need to do is document your strategy. Put to paper everything you know about your audience, every piece of content you have already, every online channel you are on, and how you are currently using it. In order to best figure out where you need to go, you need to know where you are now and what you’re already doing.

While you are documenting present state, run some metrics on how your content is performing now. You may be doing things right, so don’t assume everything is starting from scratch because you now officially call it content marketing.

Now you have the core elements to start creating your go forward content strategy.

Document every aspect of your strategy and refer to it often, adjusting it as necessary. It will never be complete. You’ll always learn something new about your audience, the content you need to create and how you need to distribute it.

The many content types in content marketing

In October I presented four steps to a great content marketing plan:

  1. Define the business case
  2. Develop 1-2 key personas
  3. Map the buyer’s journey for each persona
  4. Map your content to the buyer’s journey

Marketers get caught on each of these steps, but I believe in 2016 the biggest challenge will focus on mapping the right content assets to the buyer’s journey.

When it started, content marketing was focused on text-based content – long-form, short-form, tweetable, shareable text. As it progressed, images became important, not just in B2C, but also in B2B content marketing. The big draw throughout most of 2015 was with video, because you didn’t necessary need a huge video production unit, or budget, to create and produce engaging videos. In 2016, the predictions are pointing to augmented reality (AR).

Marketers need to create content that their audiences want to consume. Just because everyone is saying video is important, doesn’t mean it’s important to your specific market or audience. The same can be said for AR. Also, although the cost of these content asset types may be slowly declining (partly because the quality doesn’t have to be super high), it’s still a lot more difficult to fix a bad video then it is to fix a bad text-based article.

The trick with getting the right mix of content types is a combination of delivering what your audience is consuming right now, and paying attention to new innovations or fads that are constantly hitting the market and seeing what’s working.

Your content marketing strategy is never going to focus solely on creating high quality content because you’re constantly under pressure to try something new that your audience suddenly starts consuming. There is always going to be a trade off between quantity, quality, and speed – you will have to figure out what that right mix is for your audience.

The right content marketing tool for the job

Another challenge in 2016 will be getting the right tool(s) in place to create, manage and distribute content quickly and efficiently.

There are hundreds of content marketing tools in a wide range of sub-categories to choose from. It’s actually amazing how fast this market has built up in the last couple of years. There are tools for writing and collaborating on content, to distributing it, personalizing it, monitoring and measuring its effectiveness and so on.

There is no one tool you will need for content marketing in 2016. To be quick to market and produce the right quantity and get it in front the right audience at the right time, you will need a few of them.

One area I think will be interesting to watch in content marketing technology in 2016 is where the web content management platform will reside. There are a few web content management vendors who are trying to make a place for their platform in the content marketing technology landscape. That makes sense when you consider the website is still the primary place for your content marketing assets. But there’s still not a lot of social media management and measurement built into, or integrated with WCM platforms and social media is a key distribution method for content.

Can the web content management platform find a place in content marketing? Will vendors focus roadmaps on the editorial and collaboration functionality required for content marketing? Or will it simply become another distribution channel?

The right mix of type, tool and audience and story

Content marketing hit its stride in 2015, but 2016 is shaping up to be a more interesting year. Marketers are going to find themselves in a constant struggle between content asset type, quality, quantity and time to market. They will also spend a lot of time trying to the find the best technology(s) to help them find and maintain that right mix.

I think in 2016, the best stories about content marketing are going to focus on what marketers are doing to figure out the right combination, the tools that get them there, and what they have to give up to be successful.

Image credit: business team solving puzzle © alotofpeople – fotolia.com

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    1. I agree that quality, not quantity, governs content marketing. The content we produce must also adjust for different levels of the marketing funnel. We must also adjust our measures of effectiveness for each funnel slice: impressions at the wide end, conversions and retention at the narrow end.